[Milton-L] Final lines -- an observation

Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net
Wed Feb 23 22:39:15 EST 2011


A very interesting observation, Carrol.  Your comments started me musing on 
these endings.  It will be interesting to know if the last line in the Iliad 
is a formula and where else it is found.  Its style seems to be Biblical. 
However, I do see a big difference between the two endings.  In PL, the 
couple are still protected by Providence as their guide.  The world is open 
to them,  evil and all, but there is also the coming of Christ, a way to the 
"inner Paradise." The ending of the Iliad is more human centered, filled 
with the sorrow of Troy and a burial that will bring only temporary relief, 
for Achilles is at the gate with the Trojan horse.  The Trojans are 
abandoned, and they will have to face disaster on their own.  They will bury 
others in the future leading up to the death of Turner by Aeneas, and so on. 
. .all a cycle of conflicts and burials that will never end.
The ending of the Iliad is very sorrowful  and implies that suffering, 
sometimes man made and sometime made by the gods, is the fabric life.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Salwa

Salwa Khoddam, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Emerita
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder
OKC, OK  73106
Phone:  405-208-5127
Email:  skhoddam at cox.net
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carrol Cox" <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
To: "'John Milton Discussion List'" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 8:29 PM
Subject: [Milton-L] Final lines -- an observation


>I have been thinking about the marvelous final line of the Iliad, a line of
> great power even in translation:
>
> And so the Trojans buried Hektor breaker of horses.
>
> What first strikes me is the use of a formula in the final line of a long
> epic. I'm not a classical scholar, and it is many years since I read
> anything on the use of such formulae. But it seems to me that in the final
> line it can't really be serving merely a metrical purpose: the bard surely
> had plenty of time to compose the line without help of a formula. He must
> have wanted it there! It is precisely, it seems, the commonplace, 
> deliberate
> commonplace, of this  last line that is so striking. And it raises for me 
> an
> interesting resemblance between the Iliad and PL. Both poems are stuffed 
> as
> it were with immortal actors; in both poems the immortal actors disappear 
> as
> we approach the close, and we are left not only with mere mortals, but 
> mere
> mortals engaged in the most commonplace of activities: seeking shelter for
> the night or burying the dead.
>
> And these musings led me to Johnson's final 'summing up' of PL: It is 
> second
> to the Iliad among epics only because it was not the first. And why should
> this matter in literary judgment? I think the answer is that this dramatic
> commonplace of the endings of the two poems, however striking the second
> time around may be, and Milton's ending is certainly striking, that it 
> calls
> up its great predecessor makes a difference.
>
> Mere musing, but perhaps someone will also find it interesting.
>
> Carrol
>
>
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