By Charles Rowan Beye
Charles Rowan Beye's seriously acclaimed interpretive advent to the epic poetry and poets of historical Greece, Rome, and Assyria is right here reprinted in an multiplied moment variation with a brand new preface, new bankruptcy on Gilgamesh, and an Appendix of additional interpreting 1993-2005. for hundreds of years the beginnings of the literary heritage of the West have been outlined by way of the Hebrew Bible what most folks name the outdated testomony and Homer's epic poems, the Iliad and Odyssey. those texts have been as soon as naively alleged to have occur in greatest isolation both as a miracle of divine construction or the spontaneous combustion of the 'Greek genius'. The robust circulate 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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Additional info for Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer, Apollonius, Virgil with a Chapter on the Gilgamesh Poems
Aristotle congratulates H om er for focusing on a small time span in the grand schem e of the Trojan War w hile m anaging through allusion to remind his audience of all the events before, during, and after the ten-year war. The poets of the Epic C ycle had no talent for such sophisticated narration, it seems; their aim w as the simpler, more straightforward one of furnishing a chronicle. Certainly the last, Eugam m on of Cyrene, m anages to tie the strands of saga into a m arvelous bow . His Telegonia is the story of O d ysseu s's son by Circe, Telegonus, w h o goes in search of his father.
Works and Days is a m élange of m axim s, fables, agricultural lore, rural calendars— all bound together in dactylic hexam eters to serve the greater end of a disquisition on the nature of justice. It is consid erably more overtly philosophical than anythin g the reader w ill find in the Hom eric narratives, yet the instinct to render experience in axiom atic or epigram m atic sayings is not u nknow n to the narrators of the Iliad or the Odyssey. Heroic poetry, sung in praise of fam ous m en, could conceivably have had im m ense social value, first, in a culture that had no access to w ritten archival records and had to get its history from those w h o claim ed to rem em ber, and second, for those m en w h o se justification for existence cam e from their hopes of posthum ous fame.
The pitch accent of ancient G reek, unlike the stress accent of English, m arked one syllable o f a w ord in w h ich the pitch either rose, rose and fell, or rem ained constant. A s an y singer w ill tell you, changing the pitch of a w ord slightly but inevitably changes the quality of the vow els. This helps explain the m arked m usicality o f Greek. Since vo w els are held either long or short and are sounded w ith either normal pitch or raised pitch, the range of variation is great. The chanting poet then w o u ld be using time, beat, and pitch, just as m od em m usicians do.