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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the epic.

One can say the epic is a profoundly political kind of poem, if we take political as it is derived from the Greek polis, city, and thus is concerned with the way men live in community. But we mistake this political preoccupation if we regard epic only as celebrating creation and hymning the order and goodly government of things. Epic does sing of order, but out of necessity as much as delight; for epic is profoundly aware of the forces that destroy, of the disease and savage loneliness within man that renders so much of his human effort futile. The Iliad, after all, ends with the imminent destruction of a city; the festive Odyssey culminates with a vast feast hall littered with dead bodies. And the Aeneid begins with Troy in flames and ends with another city conquered, as, in the name of fatherhood and civilization, Aeneas becomes another Achilles, and brutal Turnus another Hector, killed before a conquered town. Paradise Lost, for all the hopes and promises of redemption, ends with the solitary pair wandering past flaming swords, exiled from the garden that was a perfect earthly image of God’s city. The great civilizing passage of the son to fatherhood, of the individual to an institution, cannot be accomplished without pain and loss. “For nothing can be sole or whole,” says Yeats, “that has not been rent.”

—A. Bartlett Giamatti, Play of Double Senses:
Spenser’s F‐‐rie Queene

—posted 2638 days ago


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