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Question 2

Comment on the following passage. To what extent does it reflect or transform elements found elsewhere in the Epic tradition?

And, with a fearless mien, Sohrab replied:--
"Unknown thou art; yet thy fierce vaunt is vain.
Thou dost not slay me, proud and boastful man!
No! Rustum slays me, and this filial heart.
For were I match'd with ten such men as thee,
And I were that which till to-day I was,
They should be lying here, I standing there.
But that belovèd name unnerved my arm--
That name, and something, I confess, in thee,
Which troubles all my heart, and made my shield
Fall; and thy spear transfix'd an unarm'd foe.
And now thou boastest, and insult'st my fate.
But hear thou this, fierce man, tremble to hear:
The mighty Rustum shall avenge my death!
My father, whom I seek through all the world,
He shall avenge my death, and punish thee!"
As when some hunter in the spring hath found
A breeding eagle sitting on her nest,
Upon the craggy isle of a hill-lake,
And pierced her with an arrow as she rose,
And follow'd her to find her where she fell
Far off;--anon her mate comes winging back
From hunting, and a great way off descries
His huddling young left sole; at that, he checks
His pinion, and with short uneasy sweeps
Circles above his eyry, with loud screams
Chiding his mate back to her nest; but she
Lies dying, with the arrow in her side,
In some far stony gorge out of his ken,
A heap of fluttering feathers--never more
Shall the lake glass her, flying over it;
Never the black and dripping precipices
Echo her stormy scream as she sails by--
As that poor bird flies home, nor knows his loss,
So Rustum knew not his own loss, but stood
Over his dying son, and knew him not.
But, with a cold, incredulous voice, he said:--
"What prate is this of fathers and revenge?
The mighty Rustum never had a son."
And, with a failing voice, Sohrab replied:--
"Ah yes, he had! and that lost son am I.

(From Matthew Arnold, Sohrab and Rustum [1853])

Comment on the following passage. To what extent does it reflect or transform  elements found elsewhere in the Epic tradition?

Perhaps Æneas was not so deuout,
Nor Hector nor Achilles were so braue,
But thousands haue as honest been and stout,
And worthy by desert more praise to haue;
But those faire lands and castles out of doubt,
That their successors vnto writers gaue,
Made them so famous ouer forren lands,
Canonizd by the Poets sacred hands.

Augustus Cæsar was not such a saint,
As Virgil maketh him by his description,
His loue of learning scuseth that complaint,
That men might iustly make of his proscription;
Nor had the shame that Neros name doth taint,
Confirmd now by a thousand yeares prescription,
Bene as it is, if he had had the wit,
To haue bene franke to such as Poems writ.

Blind Homer writ how Agamemnon fought,
And won at last great Troy that long resisted;
And how Penelope, though greatly sought
By many suters, yet in faith persisted:
Yet sure (for ought you know) he might haue taught
The contrary to this if he had listed,
That Troy preuaild, that Greeks were conquerd cleane,
And that Penelope was but a queane [harlot].

On tother side, we see Queene Didos name,
That worthy was indeed to be commended,
Is subiect now to slaunder and to shame,
Because that she by Virgil is not frended.
But on this point I now more tedious am,
Then I was ware, or then I had intended,
For I loue writers well, and would not wrong them,
And I my selfe do count my selfe among them.

(Ariosto, Orlando Furioso [1532], trans. by Sir John Harington [1591], Canto XXXV)

Discuss the following passage. How does it transform incidents and motifs from earlier epics?

And euer and anone, when none was ware [aware],
With speaking lookes, that close embassage [message] bore,
He rou'd [shot glances] at her, and told his secret care:
For all that art he learned had of yore.
Ne [nor] was she ignoraunt of that lewd lore,
But in his eye his meaning wisely red,
And with the like him answerd euermore:
She sent at him one firie dart, whose hed
Empoisned was with priuy lust, and gealous dred. . . .

Now when of meats and drinks they had their fill,
Purpose was moued by that gentle Dame,
Vnto those knights aduenturous, to tell
Of deeds of armes, which vnto them became,
And euery one his kindred, and his name.
Then Paridell, in whom a kindly pryde
Of gracious speach, and skill his words to frame
Abounded, being glad of so fit tyde [time]
Him [himself] to commend to her, thus spake, of all well eyde.

Troy, that art now nought, but an idle name,
And in thine ashes buried low dost lie,
Though whilome [once] far much greater then thy fame,
Before that angry Gods, and cruell skye
Vpon thee heapt a direfull destinie,
What boots [profits] it boast thy glorious descent,
And fetch from heauen thy great Genealogie,
Sith all thy worthy prayses being blent [defiled],
Their offspring hath embaste, and later glory shent.

Most famous Worthy of the world, by whome
That warre was kindled, which did Troy inflame,
And stately towres of Ilion whilome
Brought vnto balefull ruine, was by name
Sir Paris far renowmd through noble fame,
Who through great prowesse and bold hardinesse,
From Lacedæmon [Sparta] fetcht the fairest Dame,
That euer Greece did boast, or knight possesse,
Whom Venus to him gaue for meed of worthinesse. . . .

From him my linage I deriue aright,
Who long before the ten yeares siege of Troy,
Whiles yet on Ida he a shepheard hight [was called],
On faire Oenone got a louely boy,
Whom for remembraunce of her passed ioy,
She of [after] his Father Parius did name;
Who, after Greekes did Priams realme destroy,
Gathred the Troian reliques sau'd from flame,
And with them sayling thence, to th'Isle of Paros came.

That was by him cald Paros, which before
Hight Nausa, there he many yeares did raine,
And built Nausicle by the Pontick shore,
The which he dying left next in remaine [bequest]
To Paridas his sonne.
From whom I Paridell by kin descend;
But for faire Ladies loue, and glories gaine,
My natiue soile haue left, my dayes to spend
In sewing [pursuing] deeds of armes, my liues and labours end.

(Spenser, The Faerie Queene [1590-96], Book III, Canto ix)

Comment on the following passage from Elkanah Settle’s play The Conquest of China (1676), comparing Settle’s ideals of heroic with those in the epic tradition. How successful is Settle’s celebration of the heroic?

Zungteus. His Hand makes work for Graves, his Praise for Fame.
Renown in all the Miracles of this
Great day, is dumb to any Name, but His.
He and his small Brigade so fierce engage,
They've in one day made Story for an Age.
Breaking our Ranks, he Fate distributes round;
Wounds on each stroak attend, Death on each Wound.
He Kills with such a gay undaunted Port [demeanour];
Fighting seems not his business, but his Sport.
His Looks and Actions speak in different styles.
Rage frowns in others Brows, in his it smiles.
That makes him in this more than humane Task,
Seem both to act a Slaughter, and a Mask.
Theinmungus. Praising a Foe in such a stile as this,
You prove your glory in describing his.
Heroe's from Heroe's tongues, no Fame e're lost:
They give praise frankest who deserve it most.

Comment on the following passage. To what extent does it reflect or reject elements found elsewhere in the Epic tradition?

HECTOR passes

PANDARUS. That's Hector, that, that, look you, that; there's a
fellow! Go thy way, Hector! There's a brave man, niece. O brave
Hector! Look how he looks. There's a countenance! Is't not a
brave man?

CRESSIDA. O, a brave man!

PANDARUS. Is 'a not? It does a man's heart good. Look you what
hacks are on his helmet! Look you yonder, do you see? Look you
there. There's no jesting; there's laying on; take't off who
will, as they say. There be hacks.

CRESSIDA. Be those with swords?

PANDARUS. Swords! anything, he cares not; an the devil come to him,
it's all one. By God's lid, it does one's heart good. Yonder
comes Paris, yonder comes Paris.

PARIS passes

Look ye yonder, niece; is't not a gallant man too, is't not? Why,
this is brave now. Who said he came hurt home to-day? He's not
hurt. Why, this will do Helen's heart good now, ha! Would I could
see Troilus now! You shall see Troilus anon.

HELENUS passes

CRESSIDA. Who's that?

PANDARUS. That's Helenus. I marvel where Troilus is. That's
Helenus. I think he went not forth to-day. That's Helenus.

CRESSIDA. Can Helenus fight, uncle?

PANDARUS. Helenus! no. Yes, he'll fight indifferent well. I marvel
where Troilus is. Hark! do you not hear the people cry 'Troilus'?
Helenus is a priest.

CRESSIDA. What sneaking fellow comes yonder?

TROILUS passes

PANDARUS. Where? yonder? That's Deiphobus. 'Tis Troilus. There's a
man, niece. Hem! Brave Troilus, the prince of chivalry!

CRESSIDA. Peace, for shame, peace!

PANDARUS. Mark him; note him. O brave Troilus! Look well upon him,
niece; look you how his sword is bloodied, and his helm more
hack'd than Hector's; and how he looks, and how he goes! O
admirable youth! he never saw three and twenty. Go thy way,
Troilus, go thy way. Had I a sister were a grace or a daughter a
goddess, he should take his choice. O admirable man! Paris? Paris
is dirt to him; and, I warrant, Helen, to change, would give an
eye to boot.

CRESSIDA. Here comes more.

Common soldiers pass

PANDARUS. Asses, fools, dolts! chaff and bran, chaff and bran,
porridge after meat! I could live and die in the eyes of Troilus.
Ne'er look, ne'er look; the eagles are gone. Crows and daws,
crows and daws! I had rather be such a man as Troilus than
Agamemnon and all Greece.

(Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida I.ii)

Write a critical appreciation of the following passage. In what ways does it reflect or reject aspects of the epic tradition?

     She looked over his shoulder
       For ritual pieties,
     White flower-garlanded heifers,
       Libation and sacrifice,
     But there on the shining metal
       Where the altar should have been,
     She saw by his flickering forge-light
       Quite another scene.

Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
   Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
   A crowd of ordinary decent folk
   Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, all
   That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
   And could not hope for help and no help came:
   What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

     She looked over his shoulder
       For athletes at their games,
     Men and women in a dance
       Moving their sweet limbs
     Quick, quick, to music,
       But there on the shining shield
     His hands had set no dancing-floor
       But a weed-choked field.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
   Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
   That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
   Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

     The thin-lipped armorer,
       Hephaestos, hobbled away,
     Thetis of the shining breasts
       Cried out in dismay
     At what the god had wrought
       To please her son, the strong
     Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
       Who would not live long.

(From W H Auden, 'The Shield of Achilles' [1955])

Comment on the following passage. To what extent does it reflect or transform elements found elsewhere in the Epic tradition?

And now, unveil'd, the Toilet stands display'd,
Each silver Vase in mystic order laid.
First, rob'd in white, the Nymph intent adores,
With head uncover'd, the Cosmetic pow'rs.
A heav'nly image in the glass appears,
To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears;
Th' inferior Priestess, at her altar's side,
Trembling begins the sacred rites of Pride.
Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here
The various off'rings of the world appear;
From each she nicely culls with curious toil,
And decks the Goddess with the glitt'ring spoil.
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks,
And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
The Tortoise here and Elephant unite,
Transformed to combs, the speckled, and the white.
Here files of pins extend their shining rows,
Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.
Now awful Beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms,
Repairs her smiles, awakens ev'ry grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face;
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,
And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
The busy Sylphs surround their darling care,
These set the head, and those divide the hair,
Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown:
And Betty's prais'd for labours not her own.

(From Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock [1714])