Unit One Section F


“The Story of Daedalus and Icarus” by Ovid

Daedalus was a great Athenian architect and inventor. He was accused of murder, and imprisoned on the island of Crete by King Minos. How do his talents both save and destroy him?

Homesick for homeland, Daedalus hated Crete
And his long exile there, but the sea held him.
"Though Minos blocks escape by land or water,"
Daedalus said, "surely the sky is open,
And that's the way we'll go. Minos' dominion
Does not include the air." He turned his thinking
Toward unknown arts, changing the laws of nature.
He laid out feathers in order, first the smallest,
A little larger next it, and so continued,
The way that panpipes rise in gradual sequence.
He fastened them with twine and wax, at middle,
At bottom, so, and bent them, gently curving,
So that they looked like wings of birds, most surely.
And Icarus, his son, stood by and watched him,
Not knowing he was dealing with his downfall,
Stood by and watched, and raised his shiny face
To let a feather, light as down, fall on it,
Or stuck his thumb into the yellow wax,
Fooling around, the way a boy will, always,
Whenever a father tries to get some work done.
Still, it was done at last, and the father hovered,
Poised, in the moving air, and taught his son:
"I warn you, Icarus, fly a middle course:
Don't go too low, or water will weigh the wings down;
Don't go too high, or the sun's fire will burn them.
Keep to the middle way, and one more thing,
No fancy steering by star or constellation,
Follow my lead!" That was the flying lesson,
And now to fit the wings to the boy's shoulders.
Between the work and warning the father found
His cheeks were wet with tears, and his hands trembled.
He kissed his son (Good-by, if he had known it),
Rose on his wings, flew on ahead, as fearful
As any bird launching the little nestlings
Out of high nest into thin air.
Keep on, Keep on, he signals, follow me!
He guides him In flight--O fatal art!--and the wings move.
And the father looks back to see the son's wings moving.
Far off, far down, some fisherman is watching
As the rod dips and trembles over the water,
Some shepherd rests his weight upon his crook,
Some ploughman on the handles of the ploughshare,
And all look up, in absolute amazement,
At those air-borne above. They must be gods!
They were over Samos, Juno's sacred island,
Delos and Paros toward the left, Lebinthus
Visible to the right, and another island,
Calymne, rich in honey. And the boy
Thought This is wonderful! and left his father,
Soared higher, higher, drawn to the vast heaven,
Nearer the sun, and the wax that held the wings
Melted in that fierce heat, and the bare arms
Beat up and down in air, and lacking oarage
Took hold of nothing. Father! he cried, and Father!
Until the blue sea hushed him, the dark water
Men call the Icarian now. And Daedalus,
Father no more, called "Icarus, where are you!
Where are you, Icarus? Tell me where to find you!"
And saw the wings on the waves, and cursed his talents,
Buried the body in a tomb, and the land
Was named for Icarus.

Developing Comprehension Skills

1. Why does Daedalus invent the wings?
2. Daedalus "turned his thinking/Toward unknown arts, changing the laws of nature." What laws of nature is he changing?
3. What warning does Daedalus give Icarus about flying? 4.
The people on earth "look up in absolute amazement. .." and assume Daedalus and Icarus "must be gods." Why do the people think this?
5. Icarus thinks that flying is wonderful and leaves his father's side. What happens to Icarus?
6. Daedalus "cursed his talents" upon seeing the wings on the waves." Was he to blame?


“The Epilogue” by Ovid

The brief verse below concludes Ovid's collection of poems. What does the poet hope to achieve?

Now I have done my work. It will endure,
I trust, beyond Jove's anger, fire and sword,
Beyond Time's hunger. The day will come, I know,
So let it come, that day which has no power
Save over my body, to end my span of life
Whatever it may be. Still, part of me,
The better part, immortal, will be borne
Above the stars; my name will be remembered
Wherever Roman power rules conquered lands,
I shall be read, and through an centuries,
If prophecies of bards are ever truthful,
I shall be living, always.

Developing Comprehension Skills

1. How long does the poet hope his work will last?
2. What is the "better part" of himself that the poet refers to? How is it possible that this part of him will never die?
3. What is the poet's prediction, or prophecy? Do you think it has come true? Explain your answer.

“Martial’s Poems”

Martial wrote in the first century A.D. He was known for his witty comments about the society in which be lived. Try to decide what kind of man Martial was as you read his poems.

“A Total Abstainer”

Though you serve richest wines,
Paulus, rumor opines
That they poisoned your four wives, I think.
It's of course all a lie;
None believes less than I--
No, I really don't care for a drink.

Developing Comprehension Skills
1. What is the rumor about Paulus?
2. Does the speaker claim to believe the rumor? Do you think he or she really does? Support your answer.
3. Do you think it's ever right to say one thing when you believe another? Explain.

“To Quintus”

Your birthday I wished to observe with a gift:
You forbade and your firmness is known.
Every man to his taste:
I remark with some haste.
May the third is the date of my own.

Developing Comprehension Skills
1. The speaker wishes to give Quintus a present. Why doesn't this happen?
2. How does the line "Every man to his taste" apply to Quintus and the speaker?
3. Why do you suppose the speaker "remarks with some haste" the date of his birthday? Do you think these actions are typical of most people? Explain.

“Galla's Hair”

The golden hair that Galla wears
Is hers: who would have thought it?
She swears 'tis hers, and true she swears,
For I know where she bought it.

Developing Comprehension Skills
1. The reader is told that "the golden hair that Galla wears/Is hers." Why do you think the speaker adds "who would have thought it"?
2. What does Galla swear to?
3. Why is the last line funny? How does it tie in to the meaning of "the hair is hers"? Explain your answer.