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Friday, January 23, 2015

10, 100, 1,000 Tongues

I have made it a challenge to myself this year to read (and in some few cases) re-read the classics of western civilization.  So far I’ve read The Iliad and The Odyssey and I have just begun The Aeneid, and already I have begun noticing connections between them and to other works of literature (which just means that my reading list continues to expand.)

Here’s something I thought of today.

In The Iliad when Homer (or the narrator) launches into a 250 line catalog of the many ships and heroes that set out for Troy:

“But should I seek the multitude to name,
Not if ten tongues were mine, ten mouths to speak,
Voice inexhaustible, and heart of brass,
Should I succeed, unless, Olympian maids,
The progeny of aegis-bearing Jove,
Ye should their names record, who came to Troy.” The Iliad 2: 484 - 492

In The Aneid during Aeneas’ journey through the underworld the Sibyl describes the various kinds and types of sinners:

“No, not if I had a hundred tongues and a hundred mouths
and a voice of iron too – I could never capture
all the crimes or run through all the torments,
doom by doom.” The Aeneid 6: 724 – 727

And then I thought of Charles Wesley’s hymn:

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

If only he would have included a reference to mouths and some sort of metal (brass / iron) this would have been perfect.

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