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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
 
The Earthly Paradise
William Morris (1834–1896)
 
Earthly Paradise, The (1868–79), a poem by William Morris. One of the most beautiful of nineteenth-century romances, it was written, as the author says, to furnish a doorway into the world of enchantment, that land beyond the “utmost purple rim” of earth, for which many are homesick. Yet ‘The Earthly Paradise’ has about it the melancholy which pervades the pre-Raphaelite literature, and seems the fruit of unfulfilled desire,—of the state of those who must create their romance, in an age unproductive of such food of the soul. The poem is a collection of the tales of Golden Greece, and of the dim, rich, mediæval time. Certain gentlemen and mariners of Norway having considered all that they had heard of the Earthly Paradise, set sail to find it. They come at last, world-weary old men, to a strange Western land, and to a “strange people,” descendants of the Greeks, the elders among whom receive them graciously. They agree to feast together twice a month, and to exchange stories: the Norwegians telling tales of “the altered world” of the Middle Ages; the Greeks, of their own bright time when men were young in heart. For a year they tell their tales: in March, Atalanta’s Race, and The Man born to be King; in April, The Doom of King Acrisius, and The Proud King; in May, The Story of Cupid and Psyche, and The Writing on the Image; in June, The Love of Alcestis, and The Lady of the Land; in July, The Son of Crœsus, and The Watching of the Falcon; in August, Pygmalion and the Image, and Ogier the Dane; in September, The Death of Paris, and The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon; in October, The Story of Accontius and Cydippe, and The Man who Never Laughed Again; in November, The Story of Rhodope, and The Lovers of Gudrun; in December, The Golden Apples, and The Fostering of Aslaug; in January, Bellerophon at Argos, and The Ring Given to Venus; in February, Bellerophon in Lycia, and The Hill of Venus.  1
  In these tales the author draws upon Greek mythology, upon the ‘Gesta Romanorum,’ the Nibelungenlied, the Eddas; indeed, upon the greatest story-books of the world. He has woven them all together in one beautiful Gothic tapestry of verse, in which the colors are dimmed a little. From “his master,” Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet has borrowed the three styles of his metre, the heroic, sestina, and octosyllabic. The music of the verse is low and sweet, well adapted to tales of “old, unhappy, far-off things, and battles long ago.” His Prologue and Epilogue are especially beautiful.  2
 
 
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