The Music of Orpheus” (by Martin Cothran) and then the poem “Ode” (by Arthur O’ Shaughnessy) Assignment | Online Homework Help

Part 1 (only): Students will perform the following assignment:  For this discussion forum – first read the article “The Music of Orpheus” (by Martin Cothran) and then  the poem “Ode” (by Arthur O’ Shaughnessy); and then perform only 1 of the following 2 tasks:   1. shed light on the poem “Ode” by use of material (of your choice) in the article  “The Music of Orpheus”  OR  2. shed light on the article “The Music of Orpheus” by use of material (of your choice) in the poem “Ode.”  But only keep in mind that the essential common subject of both the article and the poem is the relation between a musical “work of art,” on the one hand, and “the [humanizing] work that art produces” in humanity and, with the case of “Ode,” in cities, on the other hand.  Use of quotes from both the article and the poem to support your aims/claims/visions (appx 300 words ). Please Chech the link it is part of the reading you have to do before you write:\”We are [not] all Greek”: The Absence Myth & Imagination in the Modern Mind”
The English poet Percy Shelley declared in his dramatic poem Hellas, “We are all Greeks,” meaning that “Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts, have their root in Greece.”
This lecture will involve the critical argument that – tragically — “We are not all Greek” for reasons which will follow.
In the drama, Hellas, to which these lines were prologue, Shelley had a Greek chorus look on this scene:
Let there be light! said Liberty,
And like a sunrise from the sea
Athens arose!—Around her born,
Shone like the mountains in the morn
Glorious states;—and are they now
Ashes, wrecks, oblivion?
The former president of France, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, said in a less poetic manner than Shelley, “Europe without Greece is like a child without a birth certificate.” The former president wished to suggest that the “glorious states…around.. Athens born”— namely the current European and Amerian states — ”are they now ashes, wrecks, oblivion?”
The naissance of the West was conceived in Greece 2½ millennia ago. We in the West have as our societal foundation the Greek mindset. The Greeks gave us the basis of all the arts like sculpture, painting, plays, and dance…and also politics and government.
In addition to the arts politics, the Greeks were the basis of architecture. Medicine was born in Greece along with an understanding of democracy, education, and philosophy.
But most importantly, Greek mythology, the basis of Greek religious sensibility, informed who we are and how we functioned or how we didn’t function well. This was done with the mythology that includes Apollo, Oedipus Rex, Prometheus, Athena, and Icarus to mention several from the Olympian host of characters.
The Golden Age of Greece (a form of Utopia known as Hellenism to many artists and scholars through the ages) was merely two centuries: from 500 to 300 BCE. And yet in those very few years, they built the foundation of all Western thought, understanding, and Weltanschauung: the German word for “worldview.”
Our author this week is Percy Bysshe Shelley.
He wrote a poem called Hellas.
It’s a title which alludes to our word Hellenism, which is that period of Greek history, a golden age, a kind of utopia (in Shelley’s mind), in which ancient Athens thrived as what some modern (and some pre-modern) critics argue is the birth of European and consequently American civilization.
Shelley feared, Shelley cried, Shelley opined that – to deleterious effect — we have drifted far far apart from our Greek origins, our aboriginal Greek origins, as civilized peoples.
So what after all makes Hellenism so special to some (not all) scholars.. those scholars who love to quote Shelley on the question of Hellenism?
For Shelley, in a nutshell, what made Hellenism so special was that it was an age that, in a simple phrase,
“managed to escape the limits imposed on thought by fact and reason.”
Hellenes, more specifically, broke the bounds of the limits of fact and reason with what we now call the “imagination” but which the Hellenes understood as poiesis.
Poiesis was to a Hellene a faculty of the Mind which they understood arguably as their greatest resource.
Poiesis was capable of creating the sort of mythology — a large treasury of highly symbolical dramatic stories for stage (theater) – a treasury of stories that alone gave birth to a civilization and which alone has made that civilization imperishably thrive: that is, we speak of a thriving that thrives not only in its own time, but which thrives (imperishably) into our own phase of post-Greek civilization.
Tragically, for Shelley, the only thing that counted as “thought” in his time and now in our own time is facts and reason(s). “Thought,” in other words, to Shelley cannot ever be reduced to facts and reason (s) without destructive social effects.
For because there was to a Hellene Mind more to reality than material facts, physical-material existence.
Instead, the typical Hellene, a citizen of ancient Athens – and I mean Athens at its zenith of civilizational achievement (i.e., amid “Hellenism”) – would have given primacy to what we now call “imagination” as an integral component of reason (or “mind” or “brain”).
But here we should pause to remind that the word/concept of “imagination” did not exist to an ancient Hellene. A Hellene would have understood the faculty of the imagination simply as poiesis. Poiesis translates as “poetry-making” – which entails the art of making out of ordinary life something extraordinary. It implies that part of our cognitive life — what some people call the “life of the mind” – which processes, experiences and finally names or frames the world in ways which far exceed the limits of mere empirical or rational thinking, naming, framing.
And finally the products of poiesis are “myth” or “symbolism,” and which really are the byproducts of any Hellenic Mind: they were a myth-making, symbol-making people.
Another way of saying what I just said above is to just say that an ancient Hellene (or Athenian) would have been open to “religion and mystery” (these sorts of truths which take the imagination as an integral component of “mind” seriously)… And to a Hellenic Mind, the truths of religion and mystery would have been regarded with more seriousness than the truths of what we now in our own age know as the truths of modern science and rationalism, which are merely “material” and/or “empirical truths.”
Ancient “Hellenic” Greece (Hellas is Shelley’s word) is in its very essence “mythic” …and that means mythic by use of the imagination not as a peripheral but as a central component of “mind” – or “thought.”
Let me quote Shelley in his Preface to Hellas, for because his critique of modern society comes from the standpoint of Hellenism:
The apathy of the rulers of the [modern] civilized world to the astonishing circumstance of the descendants of that nation to which they owe their civilization [the ancient Greeks] .. is something perfectly inexplicable to a mere spectator of the shews of this mortal scene.
We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts, have their root in Greece.
But were it not for Greece, Rome, the instructor, the conqueror, or the metropolis of our ancestors, would have spread no illumination with her arms, and we might still have been savages and idolaters..
The human form and the human mind attained to a perfection in Greece which has impressed its image on those faultless productions — whose very fragments are the despair of modern art — and [this human form and the human mind attained to a perfection] has propagated impulses which cannot cease, through a thousand channels of manifest or imperceptible operation, to ennoble and delight mankind until the extinction of the race.
..The modern Greek [and every modern human] is the descendant of those glorious beings [in] whom the imagination almost refuses to figure to itself as belonging to our kind, and he inherits [i.e., we inherit] much of their sensibility, their rapidity of conception, their enthusiasm, and their courage.
If in many instances he is [we are] degraded, by moral and political slavery to the practice of the basest vices [that modern political slavery] engenders, and that below the level of ordinary degradation…
[L]et us reflect that the corruption of the best produces the worst, and that habits which subsist only in relation to a peculiar state of social institution [our rational-empirical-materialist modern institutions, which, being devoid of imagination, are devoid of mystery and religion] may be expected to cease so soon as that relation is dissolved.
For Shelley, the main public artform for the ancient Greeks, namely “tragedy” (which includes “comedy” – was a kind of religious guide for living for the average Hellene, and it grounded itself in a mythic/quasi-religious idiom that brought..
ideal worlds and actions; and real worlds and actions together.
In our own time, the novel (when at its best) locates itself both in reality, the actualities of life as it is lived in the concrete, and the realities of the ideal, the mystical philosophic ideas through which the world is to be over and over, more and more reconstructed…
The best of our novels, in other words, are byproducts of ancient Hellenic thought processes.
We speak of novelistic processes, first-rate ones, which work by two cognitive faculties at one time:
First, there are the processes of rational-reasoning and which recognize “the factual actualities of life as it is lived in the concrete,” on the one hand;
Secondly, there are processes of poiesis or the imagination, which recognize the realities of the ideal, ideal realities by which the world is to be reconstructed in the direction of an idea or ideal of re-enchantment, a mythical re-enchantment, on the other hand.
I shall say it again: the Hellenes were to Shelley, in a nutshell, that civilization who, in harnessing and celebrating the faculties of poiesis or “imagination” for the potential outcome of an enchanted (even a magical) universal human condition, had best managed to escape the limits imposed on thought [cognition] by forms of fact and reason of a rational or empirical kind.
Another poet, John Keats — who was a contemporary of Shelley –encapsulated what I have been narrating above as typical of the Hellenic-Mind this way, with his notion of “negative capability” (which, btw, has its own Wikipedia page):
I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason..
This [negative capability] pursued through volumes [of literature] would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet [or artist of any kind] the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.
[Next, go and see the Week 11 Discussion assignment titled “Images of the Hellenic Imagination in PB Shelley’s ‘Hellas’”]


The early Greeks had little idea of the One God of the Hebrews, and lived too early in history to know of the Trinitarian God of the Christians. But they shared with Judaism and Christianity the idea that the things of the world and the actions of men had meaning. This belief was expressed in their myths and in their music. Even though we live at a great historical distance from the ancients, we still retain the sense, not always conscious, that stories and songs tell us something important about reality.
We have talked about how stories address the most painful and tragic aspects of human life (see “Light into Darkness: How Literature Puts Evil in its Place,” The Classical Teacher, Late Summer 2016). But music, too, addresses the deep things in life, and it does so in ways similar to story and myth. This can be seen in the role music plays in stories themselves.
There is a long tradition in story and song of the power of music to confront and control the things that threaten the peace of the world. In George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, the miner boy, Curdie, scares the goblins away by singing a chant, which to the human ear is playful and teasing, but which strikes fear into the hearts of the goblins. His songs have the literal effect of a goblin repellant.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam have left the Shire and are traveling through the Old Forest, and they stop by a stream to rest. After both have fallen asleep, Sam awakes to find Frodo partly swallowed by Old Man Willow, an ancient tree with a malignant spirit growing on the banks of the stream. Sam cries out desperately for help, hoping against hope that someone will hear him. Suddenly, along comes jolly Tom Bombadil, the master of the Old Forest. He sings into the tree in much the same way that Curdie sang to the goblins. The tree immediately relents, and lets Frodo go.
Bombadil is the most poetic—and musical—being in Middle Earth. He is also, not incoincidentally, the creature who is the most impervious to evil. He is the only character in the story who is immune to the evil influence of the Ring of Power.
Bombadil is portrayed as a sort of pre-fallen Adamic figure, who speaks in songs and rhymes. As a purely poetic creature, evil does not seem to affect him.
Singing has traditionally been seen to have incantational powers. In fact, the very word “incantation” is Latin for “singing into.” Friedrich Nietzche once pointed out that when the Greek sibyls rendered their prophecies, they did so in song. The Greeks didn’t believe that the Oracles merely predicted the future, but that they actually helped to determine it.
To the Greeks, music had the power to bind Fate.
This incantatory power of music is seen even in contemporary literature. In Larry McMurtry’s Dead Man’s Walk (the third book in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove series), Gus and Woodrow are among the only survivors of a cruel game which the head of a Mexican prison uses to choose who will be selected for release. As the dead bodies of their less fortunate fellow soldiers are loaded onto a cart, a woman, covered completely in black, walks onto a second-story veranda and begins to sing. Everyone—even the perfunctory Mexican soldiers carrying the bodies—stops, in awe of what they are hearing. The song is a death song and its haunting beauty mesmerizes everyone within hearing. She is Lady Lucinda Carey, a Scottish noblewoman and a leper, whose relatives have purchased her release. She was trained to sing by Verdi himself.
She hires Gus and Woodrow as bodyguards to take her and her servants through Comanche territory to El Paso. On the third morning of their journey, they see a Comanche war party—the same one Gus and Woodrow had fought off earlier in the story with a lot more men and guns on their side than they have now.
Facing imminent death, Lady Carey calmly tells Gus and Woodrow to mount their horses. She herself mounts a black gelding, and, wearing only her hat, her black boots, and a veil on her face, she reveals her black, eroded flesh. But she is beautiful even in her ugliness. “I will be leading us through these Comanches gentlemen,” she informs them. With her son’s pet boa constrictor draped around her shoulders, she warns Gus and Woodrow, like Odysseus to his sailors, to stop their ears. She leads them straight toward the Comanches, her leprous arms extended wide, singing an aria from Verdi’s Nabucco. As she approaches the Indian warriors, she opens her throat and sings “with the full power of her lungs,” drowning out the war songs of the Comanches.
Astonished at the beauty and power of her song, the Comanche warriors, notoriously cruel and fearless in battle, are stricken with terror. The sound of the song and the sight of the “Death Woman” causes even the greatest of the Comanche warriors to drop the arrows in his hand and flee.
In many ways the scene is strange, but Lady Carey has sung a song which to the good is perceived as piercingly beautiful, but which the Comanches, in their malice, hear as the declaration of their own doom.
Beauty has conquered evil; music has put death to flight.
This power inherent in music is most famously related in the legend of Orpheus, the poet and prophet of Greek legend, whose music was reputed to have been so powerful that it could charm even the stones. When, one day, this “father of songs” came upon the dead body of his beloved wife Euridice, killed by the bite of a viper, he sang a song so sad that the gods themselves are said to have wept. At their suggestion, says the legend, Orpheus traveled to the Underworld, where the heart of Hades himself, the King of Hell, was so softened by his song that he allowed Orpheus to take his beloved Euridice back to the world of the living.
Hell itself was opened through the power of a song.
This incantatory power of music is evident not only in how music operates as an element in a story, but in the very structure of music itself. Stories not only contain songs, but songs contain stories.
Evil and death and suffering are an introduction of chaos into an otherwise morally ordered world. They put the world, so to speak, out of joint. Like stories, music puts these events into a higher context—it helps us to see that the events that most trouble us because of their apparent randomness are a subordinate part of some more fundamental and transcendent order.
Like a story, every song involves a conflict that is resolved in some higher resolution. The original unity is threatened by something that introduces disorder. Melodic tension is heightened until at some point it is broken in a climax and resolved in a restitution of the original order. In a good song—as in a good story—the dissonance doesn’t merely just go away, but is subsumed under some higher unity we did not see before.
In his book Howards End, E. M. Forster describes a scene in which a young woman, Helen, and her family attend a concert to hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Forster describes how Helen sees it in terms of a battle between the forces of meaning (Beethoven, its author) and the forces of metaphysical disorder (“the goblins”):
The music started with a goblin walking quietly over the universe, from end to end. Others followed him. They were not aggressive creatures; it was not that that made
them so terrible to Helen. They merely observed in passing that there was no such thing as splendour or heroism in the world … Panic and emptiness! Panic and emptiness!
In her vision of the meaning of Beethoven’s great symphony, Helen perceives the goblins announcing that beauty and purpose, honor and meaning, are lies—that there is no moral order in the world, no real unity. But then something happens:
For, as if things were going too far, Beethoven took hold of the goblins and made them do what he wanted. He appeared in person. He gave them a little push, and they began to walk in major key instead of in minor, and then—he blew with his mouth and they were scattered! Gusts of splendour, gods and demi-gods contending with vast swords, colour and fragrance broadcast on the field of battle, magnificent victory, magnificent death! Oh, it all burst before the girl, and she even stretched out her gloved hands as if it was tangible. Any fate was titanic; any contest desirable; conqueror and conquered would alike be applauded by the angels of the utmost stars. And the goblins—they had not really been there at all! They were only the phantoms of impulse and unbelief? One healthy human impulse would dispel them?
Beethoven confronts a question that all of us must confront—Which is better: for evil never to have existed? Or that it exist and be defeated? Beethoven chooses the second option:
The goblins really had been there. They might return—and they did. It was as if the splendour of life might boil over and waste to steam and froth. In its dissolution one heard the terrible, ominous note, and a goblin, with increased malignity, walked quietly over the universe from end to end. Panic and emptiness! Panic and emptiness! Even the flaming ramparts of the world might fall.
Beethoven chose to make all right in the end. He built the ramparts up. He blew with his mouth for the second time, and again the goblins were scattered. He brought back the gusts of splendour, the heroism, the youth, the magnificence of life and death, and, amid the vast roarings of a superhuman joy, he led his Fifth Symphony to its conclusion. But the goblins were there. They could return. He had said so bravely, and that is why one can trust Beethoven when he says other things.
Beethoven has cast a vision in music of the order of the universe and what happens when it is threatened by darkness. The very structure of his music—in fact, all music—reflects reality. Like Beethoven, the Author of the Music of the World allows the entrance of evil into His creation. But He doesn’t just allow it, He engineers its defeat by entering His own symphony and dispelling it Himself.
Maybe this was what Dostoevsky was getting at when he said, “Beauty will save the world.”

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