Monday, November 16, 2009

Survival of a Hundred Defeats

Hot salt tears burned my cheeks as I read the following:

"If the world becomes pagan and perishes, the last man left alive would do well to quote the Iliad and die.

But in this one great human revelation of antiquity there is another element of great historical importance; which has hardly I think been given its proper place in history. The poet has so conceived the poem that his sympathies apparently, and those of his reader certainly, are on the side of the vanquished rather than of the victor. And this is a sentiment which increases in the poetical tradition even as the poetical origin itself recedes. Achilles had some status as a sort of demigod in pagan times; but he disappears altogether in later times. But Hector grows greater as the ages pass; and it is his name that is the name of a Knight of the Round Table and his sword that legend puts into the hand of Roland, laying about him with the weapon of the defeated Hector in the last ruin and splendour of his own defeat. The name anticipates all the defeats through which our race and religion were to pass; that survival of a hundred defeats that is its triumph."

GK Chesterton, in The Everlasting Man, p 80

Amen and Amen to Homer and Chesterton!


Teri said...

I love these Chesterton quotes. His prose is poetry.

Phil said...

I recently bought the Iliad, it's been in my bag for a few weeks daring me to start. One of those things I always thought I'd try and now (twenty years later!) it's right next to me!

maninder said...

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