Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer, Apollonius, Virgil with a by Charles Rowan Beye

By Charles Rowan Beye

Charles Rowan Beye's severely acclaimed interpretive advent to the epic poetry and poets of historical Greece, Rome, and Assyria is right here reprinted in an increased moment version with a brand new preface, new bankruptcy on Gilgamesh, and an Appendix of extra studying 1993-2005. for hundreds of years the beginnings of the literary background of the West have been outlined by way of the Hebrew Bible what most folks name the previous testomony and Homer's epic poems, the Iliad and Odyssey. those texts have been as soon as naively alleged to have occur in appropriate isolation both as a miracle of divine construction or the spontaneous combustion of the 'Greek genius'. The effective movement of phrases down over the millennia to our personal time are such a lot of generations of offspring nonetheless one way or the other beholden to their preliminary begetters.

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O ne m ay com pare the scene in the Odyssey (O d. 173) w h en A thena chides O d ysseu s (w ho is part of the mob scene as the m en rush to the ships) w ith a similar rhetorical question. The verbal parallels as w ell as the sim ilarity in situation raise real questions for the reader about the relationship of the tw o poem s— but only for a reader, a reader w h o has copies of the tw o poem s for study. This historical truth seem s to rule out the Oral Poetry · 33 possibility of there being any consciously m eaningful relation betw een the tw o poem s.

It is doubtful that an auditor w ould have noticed. 271-97)? To a reader her w ords seem so m uddled, so inconsistent. But can w e assum e an entirely different response from those hearing the poem in perform ance? The instructions in effect offer a direction for the plot in the next several thousand lines. A s a program they m ay be follow ed, or for purposes of suspense and surprise they m ay be overturned, but they are so contradictory that no action could possibly result. A thena tells Tele­ m achus to sum m on the suitors to a public m eeting, to tell each to go to his hom e, to send his mother hom e to her parents w h o will arrange a new marriage for her; then she tells him to sail to the mainland to seek new s of his father and, if he hears that O d ysseu s is dead, to return to pay funeral honors to his father and give his m other a new husband; and finally after all this is done he is to consider the m eans to kill off the suitors w h o throng in the palace.

E . O r the fifth for that matter. The notion of persons m anaging to read long texts w ritten on the materials available at the time, let alone going back and forth in these cum bersom e texts to locate allusions or significant repeated passages, is truly ludicrous. M any w ill object that the auditors I hypothesize here are a group o f people incapable of attending to nuance or subtlety or allusion in poetry, dem eaned by a critic w h o will not grant that they are as intelligent as a hypothetical audience o f readers.

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