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Epic War Poems of the Christian West

Epic War Poems of the Christian West
This class is currently archived, but if you're interested in it being taught again, you can express your interest here!
08/22/2022 - 05/12/2023
Full Year
1.0 credits in Electives
Grades 10-12

Taught by:

About the course

Epic War Poems of the Christian West is a course designed to connect students with our shared occidental heritage through the lyric and romance of epic poetry. The course will be unapologetically ahistorical and anachronistic. We will examine the conflict between ancient Norse paganism and fledgling Christianity through the rhymes of a 19th-century American poet, thrill with a fugitive Alfred the Great as portrayed by a modern Englishman, and explore the character of Roland through both French and Italian eyes. Our focus in this course will be on the ideals and values that emerged in the Christian West and held it together for so long. What can we learn from our hero’s moments of villainy? How ought men to treat women and women treat men? What is love, and how many kinds of love are there? What is worth dying for? What is the ideal man? What is it to be Christ-like?

Class will consist of guided discussion, with some reading. Most reading will be done before recitation.

The epics to be studied are:

  • Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus (translation Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • The Faerie Queen, Spenser
  • Layamon’s Brut/Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur/Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur
  • The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, Tolkien
  • The Saga of King Olaf, Longfellow
  • Beowulf
  • The Ballad of the White Horse, Chesterton
  • Song of Roland
  • Orlando Furioso, Ludovico Ariosto
  • The Song of the Cid
  • Robin Hood ballads, Child
  • Lepanto (and various war poems), Chesterton
  • The Lusiad, Camões
  • Paradise Lost, Milton

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, the student should be familiar not only with various forms of narrative poetry and lyric from the dawn of the West, but also with their history and thought-life. Poems have been selected to fully display the mixing of Latin, Celtic, and Germanic cultures that created the Christian West, and students will be able to explain that dynamic and its results. Students will develop an appreciation for the rich Western Christian heritage without confusing it with the Kingdom of Heaven or Christ’s Gospel. Most of all, students will sharpen their appetite for stories of adventure, and hopefully be resolved to live adventurously themselves.


  • .pdf packet provided by teacher.

About the teacher

Joffre Swait Joffre is married to Kimberly and has five children he is pleased with. He loves the Word, especially the Verb. He has been an independent teacher for nearly twenty years.