Day five of my wallpaper challenge pays homage to that ancient storyteller Homer, revered for thousands of years. In the first paragraph of the Iliad he asks the First Literary Question:
So, which one of the gods was it who impelled the two to fight with each other in strife?
Who made them do it? That is the very the first question in the very first recorded piece of literary art in the whole history of us. Totally mind boggling that the same question is still being asked thousands of years later. It’s a variation on ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse for bad behaviour.
Anger, goddess, sing it, of Achilles, son of Peleus – disastrous anger that made countless pains for the Achaeans, and many steadfast lives it drove down to Hādēs, heroes’ lives, but their bodies it made prizes for dogs and for all birds, and the Will of Zeus was reaching its fulfillment – sing starting from the point where the two – I now see it – first had a falling out, engaging in strife … So, which one of the gods was it who impelled the two to fight with each other in strife? It was Apollo the son of Leto and of Zeus.
My favourite Apollo is in the centre of The Archibald Memorial Fountain in Sydney, Australia. It was intended as a war memorial to commemorate the association of Australian and French troops in World War One.
Homer has his narrator ask the question of a goddess. A muse, a goddess of infallible memory. It’s a terrific structural device. Homer’s epic poetry has an unbroken line all the way from him, or whatever version of ‘him’ you accept, to us. It was not something lost then re-found. Totally mind boggling that Homer’s Iliad is still being read and discussed thousands of years later.
I first read Homer way back during the Gulf War. Another thrift shop find in the days I thought I should read ‘proper literature’. It hooked me on the first paragraph. I loved it passionately and still do.
Anger, Goddess sing it …
Makes my spine tingle every time.
Harvard’s EdX course The Ancient Greek Hero, known to all as HeroesX has just started its current iteration, number fourteen. It’s a online MOOC. I recommend it. You can participate for free. Although you can pay and get a certificate.
Here’s the blurb:
Discover the literature and heroes of ancient Greece through the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey, the tragedies of Sophocles, the dialogues of Plato, and more. Explore what it means to be human today by studying what it meant to be a hero in ancient Greek times.
This poem was my reaction to my first exposure to HeroesX.
Voice of The Goddess
Anger – I get angry
Me, one among the multitude
We all get the anger
Goddess – Her swan song.
The time of men is coming
yet still it is She
alone in the cosmos
whose voice holds power
Sing – the hora is upon us
so three makes
Sing, Goddess, sing
Sing to Me.
I’ll be going again this time round. I have some questions about Ulysses. If you have covid time on your hands I can think of no better way to use it.
Tell me, Oh Muse …