The English Gawain
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"The history of a people can be read truly only in the light of its ideals." This statement from Constance Rummons’ Ethnic Ideals of the British Isles holds the key to our interest in the people of a past age. Our concern is not with the bare chronicles of dates and events, but with the striving expressed in them — the striving of people such as we are, against obstacles comparable to those we too encounter. Because history so often recounts only man’s actual success or failure in his struggle toward perfection, we turn to another source to understand the force behind the deed, to the universal history of civilization, to the tale of man as he would be, to literature. The literature of any age, in any country and any language, will reflect at once the ideal then in ascendance, and either explicitly or by inference the ideals that have been outgrown.
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