Friday, October 5, 2007

The Humility of Homer

Sing, Goddess, sing of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus—
that murderous anger which condemned Achaeans
to countless agonies and threw many warrior souls
deep into Hades, leaving their dead bodies
carrion food for dogs and birds—
all in fulfillment of the will of Zeus.
Every great epic begins with an invocation, a call for the Muse to sing her song through the pen of the poet. Homer was writing the epoch of tales, a tale larger than his mortal hands could probe, and thus he begged immortal aid. Thus Milton in his quest to transform the Classical styles into a Christian epic of the true epoch of tales begins Paradise Lost the same way, calling instead upon God the Holy Spirit as his Muse:
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos…
So I wonder now, as a poet who likes to put my own thoughts and ideas from my self-important life to verse, why I never take a cue from the writers of epic. If our own lives are caught up in an epic tale of Redemption that is broader than the scope of our own narrow eyes to see, then should we not have the humility of Homer to ask a wiser voice to tell our tale?

As I look back upon the tale of my life, there are many different ways of telling the tale, many different lenses through which I can see the events. I pray that God may give me the ears to hear his telling of my tale. In a culture of protest, infatuated with its rights, I pray I may allow the words to be written by Grace—Grace that, like Homer’s Muses, had been present to events that I had not seen and is therefore more fit to tell the tale.

Sing, O Heavenly Muse of Grace!

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