In his 7th symphony, English composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams uses music he composed for the 1948 film, Scott of Antarctica
, which documents Robert Scott's disastrous 1912 attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. The expedition was a double failure: The Norwegian expedition led by Roald Amundsen reached the Pole before Scott's group and, on the return journey, Scott's whole party perished. Vaughan-Williams captures the essence of the heroic spirit both in the music and in the literary citations that precede each movement. In the Prelude, he quotes the last lines of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound
To suffer woes which hope thinks infinite,
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night,
To defy power which seems omnipotent
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent:
This ... is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and...
Beyond the Book
Tanis Rideout's Above All Things
is part of an important tradition in human history and literature. The deaths of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine continue the fascination we have with glorious failures and heroic misadventures.
The Iliad's Hector
The Iliad, one of the first works of Western Literature, celebrates the death of Hector, a man of integrity and clearly superior to those who defeat him and his people. Hector shows a mercy and compassion lacking in the Greek leaders, Agamemnon and Menelaus, and even in the...