Thursday, February 21, 2013


Here's an interesting contrast within a parallel.

First from Rouse's translation of The Iliad.  When Hector challenges the Greeks to send forth a champion to fight him singly, he offers these conditions:
...if Apollo grant me success, and I strike him down, I will strip off his armor and take it into sacred Troy...but the body I will give back, that his friends may carry it to their camp, to give him funeral and build him a barrow beside the broad Hellespont.  Then men will say in far distant generations to come, as they sail along the shore, 'Yonder is the barrow of a man dead long ago, a champion whom famous Hector slew.'  So my fame will never be forgotten.
What a pistol.  It's a different story at the end of Beowulf when, fatally wounded by a dragon, Beowulf says:
Command the battle-warriors, after the funeral fire,
to build a fine barrow overlooking the sea;
let it tower high on Whaleness
as a reminder to my people.
And let it be known as Beowulf's Barrow
to all seafarers, to men who steer their ships
from far over the swell and the saltspray.
Funny that such a grand ambition could appear humble and unassuming compared to the hubris of Hector.  Beowulf saw his end and wanted geography to remember him.  Hector, though, his pride had not been blunted.  The gods had not inspired him to know that, though never forgotten, his fame would be as the champion whom famous Achilles slew.

No comments: