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Source: Introduction to Hesiod's The Poems and Fragments done into English Prose with Introduction and Appendices by A.W. Mair M.A. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908).
I. THE HESIODIC EPOS
1. ‘Poetry is earlier than Prose’ is a familiar dictum of historical literary criticism, and the dictum is a true one when rightly understood. It has been a difficulty with some that prose—prosa oratio, or direct speech—the speech which, like Mark Antony, ‘only speaks right on,’ should be later in literature than verse. But all that is meant is merely this: that before the invention of some form of writing, of a mechanical means in some shape or other of recording the spoken word, the only kind of literature that can exist is a memorial literature. And a memorial literature can only be developed with the help of metre.