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Where we have traditional poetry there will be epithets and metrical devices which are the offspring of no single human temperament; wherever we have ancient poetry at all, there will be language which was commonplace to the writers but which time has turned into beauty; wherever we get misunderstanding – as in the common, beautiful, mistranslation of Virgil’s lacrimae rerum – there will be poetry that no poet wrote. Every work of art that lasts long in the world is continually taking on these new colours which the artist neither foresaw nor intended. We may, as scholars, detect and endeavor to exclude, them. We may, as critics, decide that such adventitious beauties are in a given case meretricious and trivial compared with those which the artist deliberately wrought. But all that is beside the purpose. Great or small, fortunate or unfortunate, they have been poetically enjoyed. And that is enough for my purpose. There can be poetry without a poet.

From The Personal Heresy

The Personal Heresy: A Controversy. Copyright © 1939 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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