I have had enough of the Victorians for a while. A long while. Let’s go for one of the other greats; Milton. In doing this, we have to deal with long poems. This is the introduction to Paradise Lost.
The trick is to read it as if it is a novel, but nothing at the same time there is the use of classical craft in the writing. It helps if you know who Adam was, and the beginning of John, because there are references to Christ from the beginning.
1 ὃ ἦν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν, περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς
John 1:1, Greek
It is worth nothing that the pagans did ask for help from their pagan Gods, and claimed to be descended from Troy.
Arma virumque canō, Trōiae quī prīmus ab ōrīs
Ītaliam, fātō profugus, Lāvīniaque vēnit
lītora, multum ille et terrīs iactātus et altō
vī superum saevae memorem Iūnōnis ob īram;
multa quoque et bellō passūs, dum conderet urbem,
inferretque deōs Latiō, genus unde Latīnum,
Albānīque patrēs, atque altae moenia Rōmae.
Mūsa, mihī causās memorā, quō nūmine laesō,
quidve dolēns, rēgīna deum tot volvere cāsūs
īnsīgnem pietāte virum, tot adīre labōrēs
impulerit. Tantaene animīs caelestibus īrae
Virgil, Aenid Book 1
Even if you don’t have Latin, read it out loud and listen to the rythym of the words. The same thing happens with Milton: he is a classicist.
Enough multilingual fun. Let’s read the beginning.
Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing heavenly 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 heavens and earth
Rose out of chaos: Or if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou Oh spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou knowest; thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast abyss
And mad’st it pregnant: What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the heighth of this great argument
I may assert eternal providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
Kea points out that you needed to have a fairly good education to enjoy this. Milton’s audience did: they all knew their Latin and the Aenid quote translation was a standard schoolboy task. With cribs.
We now need cribs to read this. How we have fallen.