Why Homer is Important
We are by and large discouraged from either inventing new words or deploying old phrases in our writing; reading Homer, one gets the impression that he was encouraged to do both. The Homeric kunstsprach rejoices in building blocks both less than and more than the word; in the combination of individual words themselves it is less interested.
Sometimes I feel like the combination of individual words is the only area in which the language of our English letters trusts us to dabble.
(Of course, one might say that this is all a function of the “individual word” ‘s post-Homeric (and distinctively literate) invention. A.B. Lord has many interesting things to say about this. It nonetheless interests me that that narrow band of the linguistic stream we have staked out for ourselves as the “word” is the same band whose σύνταξις interested Homer least.)