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The Vagabond

BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST?

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Troy town, city famous in antiquity, fell victim to two of the prime sins of society and perished. The sins, paradoxically, were love and jealousy.

Although the legend of Troy exerts less influence on the imaginations of men in the present day and age than perhaps for many decades, nevertheless the most illiterate school-child is familiar with the fundamentals of the story,--the struggle of the Goddesses for the Golden Apple, its award by Paris to Venus, the faithlessness of Helen to her Greek King-husband Menelaus, and the subsequent war on the windy plains, and ultimate disaster. These are the events told by Homer in lines that for the few who still can taste them in this apostate age are the ultimate in poetic fare. No poetry of succeeding ages has rivaled them on this or even any other subject; no poetry, save perhaps the lines of the Hebrew Old Testament, have shed such influence on English literature.

In the light of the contribution of Homer, it is hard to believe that the first great poet in English literature wrote an epic about the Troy story without seeing a line of Homer, or even knowing a line in translation. Yet this poet, called "father of English poetry," and to those who know him second only to Shakespeare in genius, left us an epic poem, a psychological novel done in Fourteenth Century terms, about several of the figures of the Trojan contest, a novel which is as full of the lusty breath of Old England as it is of the wind that swept across the Trojan plains.

Troilus and Cressida is the tragedy of the daughter of a soothsayer who was faithless to his native city and was banished to the Greek lines for his unfavorable interpretation of the oracle. While he was gone, his daughter, beautiful beyond compare,

So aungelik was hir natif beaute,

That lik a thing Inmortal seemed she, fell in love with Troilus, one of the local heroes, and accepted him in all the convention of courtly love. The stage is set for a blissful fade-out, when from the Greek lines comes the request from the girl's father that she be traded for some of the prisoners. At the mob's insistence, Cressida goes to the Greeks, swearing eternal fidelity to her lover Troilus.

The tragedy is swift. In twelve days the lusty Diomede, Grecian Lothario, has won her heart and soul. Only once before, in Helen, had woman proved so faithless, yet never was woman so, pathetic as Cressida. In the heat of her remorse for what she had done to Troilus she swears she will at least be faithful to her new lover:

To Diomede aigato I wol be trewe.

Can woman, once false, be true in love? The answer is no more known today than in the Fourteenth Century. But the Vagabond is willing to listen to reason, and this morning he will go to Emerson A at 9.00 o'clock to hear Fred N. Robinson, Gurney Professor of English Literature, read from and talk about the Troilus and Criscyde.

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