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Eliot, in Second Norton Lecture, Discuss Elizabethan Poetry and Criticism--Outlines Campion-Daniel Strife


"An inquisitive and semi-barbarous public coupled with a group of men, as well as patrons, of letters saved the Elizabethan dramatists from the unpardonable fault of dullness," said T.S. Eliot '10, this year's incumbent of the Charles Eliot Norton Chair of Poetry, in summing up his second lecture of the series, entitled "Poetry and Criticism in the Time of Elizabeth." If it had not been for the cooperation and conflict of those two great groups of the period." Professor Eliot added, "the dramatists in the time of Elizabeth would undoubtedly have failed utterly to amuse."

Outlining the struggle between Campion and Daniel, the lecturer offered the opinion that Campion was not altogether wrong in his opinions, nor was he downed by his adversary, but that the result of the contest was to establish the fact that the Latin meters cannot be followed in our language. "Moreover," continued Professor Eliot, "the great achievement of Elizabethan verse is its development of blank verse, which it originated. The controversy derives its main importance, however, from the fact that it is one instance of a struggle between national and foreign elements; it is from this that our greatest literature derives its inspiration.

"Many poetic and dramatic geniuses flourished during this period," Professor Eliot continued, "but I regret that some of the plays are not better than they are. The desire for comic relief on the part of the audience is a craving of human nature, due to an inability to concentrate. An audience which can maintain its attention on pure tragedy is more highly civilized than any other audience. 'Racine's 'Berenice', in this respect represents a peak of human civilization.

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