When I was young, which was before the first world war, poetry was still the fashion. Even people not specially literary quoted “ballad songs and snatches”, and lines from the more popular of the great poets, while seriously intellectual readers discussed Wordsworth, Browning and Dante. Nowadays, so far as I can gather, the vast majority of readers give little attention to poetry; many of them, indeed, positively dislike it and see no reason for its existence. Even if they have been through a course of literary history at a university, they find it hard to realise that, until well down in the Victorian era, literature, except in France, meant chiefly poetry, a fact evident enough in the corpus of criticism.
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