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[189] I am so far from blaming this idealizing property of his mind, that I find it admirable in him. It is his quality, not his defect. Without some touch of it life would be unendurable prose. If I have called the world to which he transports us a world of unreality, I have wronged him. It is only a world of unrealism. It is from pots and pans and stocks and futile gossip and inch-long politics that he emancipates us, and makes us free of that to-morrow, always coming and never come, where ideas shall reign supreme.1 But I am keeping my readers from the sweetest idealization that love ever wrought:—

Unto this place whenas the elfin knight
Approached, him seemed that the merry sound
Of a shrill pipe, he playing heard on height,
And many feet fast thumping the hollow ground,
That through the woods their echo did rebound;
He nigher drew to wit what it mote be.
There he a troop of ladies dancing found
Full merrily and making gladful glee;
And in the midst a shepherd piping he did see.

He durst not enter into the open green
For dread of them unwares to be descried,
For breaking of their dance, if he were seen;
But in the covert of the wood did bide
Beholding all, yet of them unespied;
There he did see that pleased so much his sight
That even he himself his eyes envied,
A hundred naked maidens lily-white,
All ranged in a ring and dancing in delight.

All they without were ranged in a ring,
And danced round; but in the midst of them
Three other ladies did both dance and sing,
The while the rest them round about did hem,
And like a garland did in compass stem.

1 Strictly taken, perhaps his world is not much more imaginary than that of other epic poets, Homer (in the Iliad) included. He who is familiar with medieval epics will be extremely cautious in drawing inferences as to contemporary manners from Homer. He evidently archaizes like the rest.

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Homer (2)
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