General Bardic Studies for Liturgists 1, #2

Compare and contrast examples from the work of three poets in one cultural tradition from at least two historical eras. (minimum 300 words of the student’s original essay material beyond the verses provided, at least one poem per poet)

I’m focusing on three poets from the Greek culture, Homer from seventh century B.C., Hesiod from around 650 B.C. so relatively close to the same time as Homer, and Sappho around 600 B.C.E.

Homeric Hymn to Athena

(ll. 1-4) Of Pallas Athene, guardian of the city, I begin to sing. Dread is she, and with Ares she loves deeds of war, the sack of cities and the shouting and the battle. It is she who saves the people as they go out to war and come back. (l. 5) Hail, goddess, and give us good fortune with happiness!

A Portion of “The Theogony” by Hesiod

(ll. 226-232) But abhorred Strife bare painful Toil and Forgetfulness and Famine and tearful Sorrows, Fightings also, Battles, Murders, Manslaughters, Quarrels, Lying Words, Disputes, Lawlessness and Ruin, all of one nature, and Oath who most troubles men upon earth when anyone wilfully swears a false oath.

I have a daughter golden by Sappho

I have a daughter, golden,
Beautiful, like a flower –
Kleis, my love –
And I would not exchange her for
All the riches of Lydia……

There appear to be more blatant differences in style between the eras of these poets.  Sappho appears to write in a more direct and personal style.  In most of her work she uses less metaphoric wordings than Homer or Hesiod, but she does attempt to use generic metaphoric wording in this particular piece, comparing a daughter to a flower.  She’s very expressive in her poetry, there is more emotional and individual touch to her thoughts and life than the prior two poets.  Here she speaks of love for a daughter and the sharing of that love with someone named Kleis.

Homer writes in a more Epic style, but in his hymns towards particular deities, like Sappho he does write from a  first person perspective.  But his style is inherently different.  He writes with less personal emotion, less direct individualism than Sappho.  His writing is more like a ritualistic praise offering than a personal expression.  In his hymn to Athena, he offers her praise for her guardianship, speaks of her influence in battle and the protection of the people.  Hymns like this helped us to understand the nature of the Gods worshipped during this time period.

Hesiod writes in the same Epic style, but expresses in a more storytelling form and with less emotional and no direct correlation like the prior two mentions.  Hesiod, like Homer, writes more lengthy stories, less direct and more intended to tell great tales than express personal events and thoughts.  He seems to write in the direction of massive metaphoric comparisons, which don’t really make some of his writing style that easy for me to read.  However he does offer a whimsical poetic style in his wording, such as another piece that reads:

And there are shining gates and an immoveable threshold of bronze having unending roots and it is grown of itself (25). And beyond, away from all the gods, live the Titans, beyond gloomy Chaos. But the glorious allies of loud-crashing Zeus have their dwelling upon Ocean’s foundations, even Cottus and Gyes; but Briareos, being goodly, the deep-roaring Earth-Shaker made his son-in-law, giving him Cymopolea his daughter to wed.

Here again he uses his epic style to put a lot of emphasis on the greatness of the lore of the Greeks.  Words like ‘glorious allies of loud-crashing Zeus’ and ‘deep-roaring earth-shaker’ to give weight to his stories.

(Word Count: 317)

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