Thomas Jones, 7 October 2021
The illiterate performers who recited or sang epic poems in Ancient Greece did not learn them by rote. (Boris Johnson’s botched renditions of the Iliad are a double failure: failing to learn it by rote and trying to learn it in the first place.) Rather, a poet would improvise his song using formulaic words and phrases. Every performance was in some sense a new composition, but also a seamless continuation of the tradition.