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Summer Examination 2003


Summer Examinations 2002-2003

The Epic Tradition

Time allowed: 3 hours, plus fifteen minutes reading time during which notes may be made (on the question paper) but NO ANSWER MAY BE BEGUN.

Candidates should answer all THREE sections, remembering to answer BOTH parts of section A.

Read carefully the instructions on the answer book and make sure that the particulars required are entered on each answer book.

You are advised to attempt Section A before Section B.

SECTION A [34 marks]

Write TWO brief comparisons, the first of passages (i) and (ii), the second of passages (iii) and (iv).  In both answers you should identify those themes in the two passages which are central to the Epic Tradition. You may also comment on any other features of the passages which are important to the Epics you have studied.

Part One

i.    ‘Do not kill me. I am not from the same womb as Hektor,
he who killed your powerful and kindly companion.'
So the glorious son of Priam addressed him, speaking
in supplication, but heard in turn the voice without pity:
`Poor fool, no longer speak to me of ransom, nor argue it.
In the time before Patroklos came to the day of his destiny
then it was the way of my heart's choice to be sparing
of the Trojans, and many I took alive and disposed of them.
Now there is not one who can escape death, if the gods send
him against my hands in front of Ilion, not one
of all the Trojans and beyond others the children of Priam.
So, friend, you die also. Why all this clamour about it?
Patroklos also is dead, who was better by far than you are.
Do you not see what a man I am, how huge, how splendid
and born of a great father, and the mother who bore me immortal?
Yet even I have also my death and my strong destiny,
and there shall be a dawn or an afternoon or a noontime
when some man in the fighting will take the life from me also
either with a spearcast or an arrow flown from the bowstring.'
So he spoke, and in the other the knees and the inward
heart went slack. He let go of the spear and sat back, spreading
wide both hands; but Achilleus drawing his sharp sword struck him
beside the neck at the collar-bone, and the double-edged sword
plunged full length inside. He dropped to the ground, face downward,
and lay at length, and the black blood flowed, and the ground was soaked with it.
Achilleus caught him by the foot and slung him into the river
to drift, and spoke winged words of vaunting derision over him.

(Iliad XXI.95-121)

ii.    The man brought down, brought low, lifted his eye
And held his right hand out to make his plea:
‘Clearly I earned this, and I ask no quarter.
Make the most of your good fortune here.
If you can feel a father's grief--and you, too,
Had such a father in Anchises--then
Let me bespeak your mercy for old age
In Daunus, and return me, or my body,
Stripped, if you will, of life, to my own kin.
You have defeated me. The Ausonians
Have seen me in defeat, spreading my hands.
Lavinia is your bride. But go no further
Out of hatred.’
        Fierce under arms, Aeneas
Looked to and fro, and towered, and stayed his hand
Upon the sword-hilt. Moment by moment now
What Turnus said began to bring him round
From indecision. Then to his glance appeared
The accurst swordbelt surmounting Turnus' shoulder,
Shining with its familiar studs--the strap
Young Pallas wore when Turnus wounded him
And left him dead upon the field; now Turnus
Bore that enemy token on his shoulder
Enemy still. For when the sight came home to him,
Aeneas raged at the relic of his anguish
Worn by this man as trophy. Blazing up
And terrible in his anger, he called out:
‘You in your plunder, torn from one of mine,
Shall I be robbed of you? This wound will come
From Pallas: Pallas makes this offering
And from your criminal blood exacts his due.’
He sank his blade in fury in Turnus' chest.
Then all the body slackened in death's chill,
And with a groan for that indignity
His spirit fled into the gloom below.

(Aeneid XII.1264-98)

Part Two

iii.    When they had made their prayer and slaughtered the oxen and skinned them,
they cut away the meat from the thighs and wrapped them in fat,
making a double fold, and laid shreds of flesh upon them;
and since they had no wine to pour on the burning offerings,
they made a libation of water, and roasted all of the entrails;
but when they had burned the thigh pieces and tasted the vitals,
they cut all the remainder into pieces and spitted them.
At that time the quiet sleep was lost from my eyelids,
and I went back down to my fast ship and the sand of the seashore,
but on my way, as I was close to the oar-swept vessel,
the pleasant savor of cooking meat came drifting around me,
and I cried out my grief aloud to the gods immortal:
‘Father Zeus, and you other everlasting and blessed
gods, with a pitiless sleep you lulled me, to my confusion,
and my companions staying here dared a deed that was monstrous.’
Lampetia of the light robes ran swift with the message
to Hyperion the Sun God, that we had killed his cattle,
and angered at the heart he spoke forth among the immortals:
‘Father Zeus, and you other everlasting and blessed
gods, punish the companions of Odysseus, son of Laertes;
for they outrageously killed my cattle, in whom I always
delighted, on my way up into the starry heav’n,
or when I turned back again from heav’n toward earth. Unless
these are made to give me just recompense for my cattle,
I will go down to Hades' and give my light to the dead men.’
Then in turn Zeus who gathers the clouds answered him:
‘Helios, shine on as you do, among the immortals
and mortal men, all over the grain-giving earth. For my part
I will strike these men's fast ship midway on the open
wine-blue sea with a shining bolt and dash it to pieces.’

(Odyssey XII, 359﷓88)

iv.                To Heav’n their prayers
Flew up, nor missed the way, by envious winds
Blown vagabond or frustrate: in they passed
Dimensionless through heav’nly doors; then clad
With incense, where the golden altar fumed,
By their great intercessour, came in sight
Before the Father's throne: them the glad Son
Presenting, thus to intercede began.
‘See Father, what first-fruits on earth are sprung
From thy implanted grace in Man; these sighs
And prayers, which in this golden censer mixed
With incense, I thy priest before thee bring;
Fruits of more pleasing savor, from thy seed
Sown with contrition in his heart, than those
Which, his own hand manuring, all the trees
Of Paradise could have produced, ere fallen
From innocence. Now therefore, bend thine ear
To supplication; hear his sighs, though mute;
Unskilful with what words to pray, let me
Interpret for him; me, his advocate
And propitiation; all his works on me,
Good, or not good, ingraft; my merit those
Shall perfect, and for these my death shall pay.
Accept me; and, in me, from these receive
The smell of peace toward mankind: let him live
Before thee reconciled, at least his days
Numbered, though sad; till death, his doom, (which I
To mitigate thus plead, not to reverse,)
To better life shall yield him: where with me
All my redeemed may dwell in joy and bliss;
Made one with me, as I with thee am one.’

(Paradise Lost XI.1-31)

SECTION B [32 marks]

Write a critical account of the passage below. In what ways does it reflect, transform, or reject aspects of the Epic Tradition?

JOAN: You are a dead man! You were born of an English mother.

MONTGOMERY: (Falling at her feet.) No! Stop! You cannot murder a defenceless man.
I threw away my sword and shield. I am unarmed,
and begging you, falling at your feet, for mercy.
Leave me the light of life, and take a ransom fee.
My father is a rich man, he has property at home,
in Wales, that lovely country, where the silver Severn
snakes through green fields, and fifty villages
acknowledge him as their lord. He will send gold, much gold, to free
a son he loves, if he finds out I'm still alive,
a prisoner of the French. .  . . .

JOAN:    You lost, deluded fool! . . .

MONTGOMERY: It is hard to die unmourned, and in a foreign land

JOAN: Who asked you to that land, to lay waste to the crops,
growing in our fields, to drive us from our homes,
to throw the firebrand of war into the peace
and sanctity of our cities? You cherished the illusion
you could reduce the free-born French to abject slavery;
that you could harness this great country, like a dinghy,
behind your mighty man-of war--Well, you are fools!
The royal arms of France hang near the throne of God:
and you will sooner snatch a star from the Great Bear,
than a village from this country, for it stands eternal,
united, indivisible. The day of vengeance
is near at hand; and you shall not return alive
across that sacred channel God has placed
to set a frontier between our countries, and which you
have blasphemously overstepped.

MONTGOMERY:    Oh, I must die!
Death's terror seizes me already.

JOAN:    Die, then, friend!
Why timidly draw back from Death, which is the fate
none of us may avoid? Look at me, now. Look!
I am nothing but a girl, a shepherdess by birth
these hands of mine are quite unused to hold a sword,
they never carried anything more harmful than a crook;
yet, torn away from all the places of my homeland,
my father's arms, my sisters', I must here, I must--
the voice of Heav’n drives me on, not my own will--
rage like an angry spirit, to do you bitter harm,
no joy to me, dealing out death, and at the last,
falling myself a victim to him. I shall not
see the day when I come home again in joy.
I shall bring death to many of you yet, I shall
make many widows still, but, finally, I shall
be killed myself , and so I shall fulfil my destiny.
Now you must fulfil yours. Take up your sword again,
and we shall fight together for the prize of life.

MONTGOMERY: (Standing.)  If you are mortal like myself, if weapons can
wound you perhaps it is my arm that is predestined
to send you down to Hell, and end the woes of England.
I lay my fate in God's all-merciful hand. Now, witch!
Call up your devils to your aid! Fight for your life!

(He snatches up his sword and shield and attacks her. Military music sounds in the distance. After a short struggle, MONTGOMERY falls.)

JOAN: Your foot was set upon the road to Death--then go there!

(She moves away from him, and stands thoughtfully.)

Oh, Blessed Virgin, you have worked a miracle in me!
You give the strength to my unwarlike arm, and arm
this heart of mine with stern implacability.
My soul melts into pity and my hand draws back,
as if it was encroaching on some holy shrine,
from violating the young bodies of my foes.
I shudder at the very sight of naked steel,
but when the need is there, there also is the strength,
and in my trembling hand, the sword unerringly
moves of  its own accord, as if it were alive.

(Friedrich Schiller [1759-1805], The Maid of Orleans [Joan of Arc] [1801], Act II)

SECTION C [34 marks]

Write an essay on ONE of the following subjects.

1.    Discuss the treatment of ONE of the following themes in ONE or TWO epics: wrath; defeat; exile; victory; death; the city; the future; the past.

2.    How do Virgil or Milton transform one or more Homeric characters or gods?

3.    With reference to TWO epics, discuss one of the following subjects: the quest; the underworld; fathers and ancestors; war, sex, patriarchy, the temptress.

4.    ‘Homer portrays the best sort of men’ (Aristotle). Discuss.

5.    ‘Monster of piety!’ (Dido, in Hector Berlioz’ opera The Trojans [1858]). Discuss this view of Aeneas.

6.    ‘Thy humiliation shall exalt’ (Paradise Lost III.313). Discuss the meaning of pride and self-abasement in Paradise Lost.