Denton Jaques Snider.

Homer in Chios. An epopee online

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Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1891,

in the office of Librarian of Congress, Washington.



The Making of the Poet 5


The Call of the Muse. ..... 27


The Daughter of Homer 47


The Stranger of Northland. ... 63


The Travels of Homer. ..... 85


The Pedagogue Chian. . * . . . 113


The Singer of Ascra 131


The Songstress of Lesbos 149


The Psalmist of Israel 173


The Marriage. ... c ... 201



The Making of The Poet.



HOMER, the poet, having returned in old age to
Chios, his birth-place, an island not far from the coast
of Asia Minor, tells the story of his early life to his
pupils. Two chief influences wrought upon his child
hood. The first ivas that of the smith, Chalcon, who
was both artisan and artist both vocations in early
times ivere united in one man and who revealed to
the budding poet the forms of the Gods. The second in
fluence was that of his mother, Cretheis (name given
by Herodotus, Vita Horn). She was the depository of
fable and folklore, which she told to her boy in the spirit
of a poet, and which are the chief materials of his two
great poems. So Homer reaches back to his earliest
years by the aid of Mnemosyne (memory), who accord
ing to Hesiod (Theogou. 915) was the mother of the
Nine Muses.


66 Fair was the day when I first peeped into the

workshop of Chalcon,
Chalcon, the smith, who wrought long ago in the

city of Chios ;
Now that day is the dawn of my life, which I yet

can remember,

All my hours run back to its joy as my very be
And one beautiful moment then let in the light

of existence,
Starting within me the strain that thrills through

my days to this minute !
Still the old flash I can see as I peeped at the

door of the workshop,
Memory whispers the tale of the rise of a world

that I saw there
Memory, muse of the past, is whispering faintly

the story.



Chalcon the smith, far-famed in the sun-born

island of Chios,
Stood like a giant and pounded the bronze in the

smoke of his smithy,
Pounded the iron until it would sing in a tune

with the anvil,
Sing in a tune with the tongs and the anvil and

hammer together,
Making the music of work that rang to the ends

of the city.
Figures he forced from his soul into metal, most

beautiful figures,
Forced them by fury of fire beneath cunning

strokes of the hammer;
As he thought them, he wrought them to loveliest

forms of the living,
Wrought them to worshipful shapes of the Gods,

who dwell on Olympus.
That was when I was still but a child in the home

of my mother,
Sole dear home of my life, the home of Cretheis

my mother !
Only two doors from his shop with its soot stood

her clean little cottage,
Vainly she strove to restrain her clean little boy

from the smithy,
But he would slip out the house and away, as

soon as she washed him,
Off and away to the forge just where the smutch

was the deepest.


How I loved the great bellows puffing its breath

on the charcoal !
And the storm of the sparkles that lit up the

smithy with starlight !
And the hiss of the iron red-hot when thrust into

water !
Greatest man in the world I deemed at that time

to be Chalcon,
And his smithy to me rose up a second OLvm-

Where the Gods and the Heroes I saw move forth

into being;
Him too deemed I divine, like Hephaestus, a God

in his workshop.
As he thought, so he wrought he pounded and

rounded the metal
Till it breathed and would move of itself to a

corner and stand there,
Till it spoke, and speaking would point up beyond

to Immortals.
Bare to the waist and shaggy the breast of the

big-boned Chalcon,
As it heaved with an earthquake of joy in the

shock of creation;
Thick were the thews of his arm and balled at

each blow till his shoulder,
At the turn of his wrist great chords swelled out

on his fore-arm,
One huge hand clasped the grip of the tongs in

its broad bony knuckles,


Th other clutched hold of the sledge and whirled

it around by the handle ;
Shutting his jaws like a lion, and grating his

teeth in his fury,
Whirled he the ponderous sledge to hit in the

heat of the iron ;
While the veins underneath would heave up the

grime on his forehead,
Smote he the might of the metal with all the grit

of a Titan ;
Working mid flashes of flame that leaped out the

belly of darkness,
Smote he and sang he a song in response to the

song of his hammer."

So spake aged Homerus, the bard, as he sat in

his settle,
W T here grew a garden of fruit, the fig and the

pear and the citron,
Grapes suspended in clusters and trees of the

luscious pomegranate.
He had returned to his home with a life full of

light and of learning;
Wandering over the world, he knew each country

and city,
Man he had seen in the thought and the deed, the

Gods he had seen too ;
Home he had reached once more, the violet

island of Chios,
Blind, ah blind, but with sight in his soul and a

sun in his spirit.


Youths were standing around him and hearkened

to what he was telling,
Bright-eyed youths, who had come to his knees

from each region of Hellas,
Homerids hopeful of song, the sons of the genius

of Homer,
By the new tale of Troy inspired, they sought to

make measures,
Striving to learn of the master to wield the

hexameter mighty,
As high Zeus the thunderbolt wields in a flash

through the Heavens,
Leaping from cloud unto cloud and leaving long

lines of its splendor,
Rolling the earth in its garment of resonant

Luminous too was the look of the boys, lit up

by the Muses,
Eager they turned to the sage, and begged for

the rest of his story ;
Soon into musical words he began again spinning

his life-thread:

" Chalcon, the smith, was the maker of Gods

in the smoke of his smithy !
Out of darkness he wrought them, out of chaos

Striking great blows that lit up the night with

the sparks of creation


Which would flash from his mind into metal

through strokes of the hammer.
Aye, and the maker of me in his Gods he was

also that Chalcon;
He perchance did not know it the world he

was mightily making.
All the Graces he wrought into shape, and loved

as he wrought them,
And the Fates he could form in his need, though

he never did love them,
But the snake-tressed Furies he banished in hate

from his workshop.
I could always forecast what he wrought and

whether it went well,
Whether full freely the thought ran out of his

soul to the matter,

For he would sing at his work an old Prome
thean ditty.
Tuneful, far-hinting it poured from his soul into

forms of his God-world,
Strong deep notes which seemed to direct each

sweep of the hammer,
Just at the point where a stroke might finish the

work of the master,
Or a blow ill-struck might shatter a year of his

Then bright notes would well from within as he

filed and he chiseled,
Seeking to catch and to hold in a shape the

gleam of his genius.


Battles he pictured in silver and gold on the

shield of the warrior,
Corselets he plaited in proof and swords he

forged for the Hero,
Many a goblet he made wreathed round with the

frolic of Bacchus,
All the Gods he could fashion to life, in repose

and in motion,

Their high shapes he could call from his soul, to
gether and singly,
Call with their godhood down from the heights of

the radiant Heavens,
Till the dingy old smithy shot into Olympian

Chalcon, Oh Chalcon, me thou hast formed in

forming Immortals,
And the song of thy hammer I hear in the ring

of my measures,
Oft I can feel thee striking thy anvil still in my

Which are forging my strains like thee when thou

smotest the metal,
Till it rang and it sang the strong tune of the

stress of thy labor.
Chalcon, thy workshop went with me in every

turn of my travel,
Through the East and the West of wide Hellas,

through island and mainland,
Through the seas in the storm, through mount
ains rolling in thunder,


With me it went in my wandering, e en to the

top of Olympus:
Never thy shapes shall fade from the sight of my

soul, Oh Chalcon."

Quickly the poet turned round in his seat and

said to his servant:
" Come, Amyntas my boy, now bring some wine

in my goblet,
Chian wine in my goblet wrought by the cunning

of Chalcon,
Which he gave to me once when I sang him my

earliest measures,

Eound which are dancing the youths at the tast
ing the must of the wine-press,
While tlie God overgrown with leaves and with

vines looks laughing;
Chalcon gave it me once as a prize when I sang

in his workshop,
Sang him my earliest measures in tune to the

strokes of his hammer."

Beardless Amyntas, the cup bearer, brought the
chalice of Chian,

Choicest of wine, that sparkled and danced on
the rim of the chalice,

Draught of the sea, and the earth, and the sun
shine together commingled,

Liquid poesy, stealthily sung in each drop by the


Softly the singer sipped off the glittering beads

of the beaker,
Touching his lip to the line where the rim and

the brim come together,
Where flash twinkles of joy and laugh in the eye

of the drinker.
That was the essence of Chios distilled from

the heart of her mountains,
Tempered hot in the fires that smoulder still in

the soil there,
Drawn by the grape into drops that shoot into

millions of sparkles,
Generous vintage of Chios, renewing the heart of

the singer.

When his thirst he had slaked and his thought

had returned to his thinking,
Sweetly he lowered his voice to the note of a mu
sical whisper,
And he bent forward his body as if he were

telling a secret :
" Once, I remember, Chalcon was making a group

of the Muses,
Sacred givers of song, to be borne to a festival

Where each singer had in their presence to

sing for the laurel.
What do you think he did as I stood with him

there in the smithy?


Me he turned into bronze, and put me among the

Nine Sisters,
As if I their young brother might be, their one

only brother ;
In the center he placed me, aye in the heart of

the Muses,
Sweet Calliope kissed me there in the workshop

of Chalcon,
Even in bronze I could feel her embrace on that

day I now feel it
And I could hear her soft breathings that told of

the deeds of the Heroes.
Still I can feel, e en though I be old, the kiss of

the Muses,
And at once I respond to their music in words of

my measures,

Yielding my heart and my voice to their prompt
ings and gentle persuasion.

good Chalcon, memory keeps thee alive, as I

love thee !
Keeps thee working in me as the maker who is

the poet;
Ever living thou art in thy glorious shapes of

Though thou, a mortal by Fate, hast gone to the

Houses of Hades,
Whither I too must soon go the call I can

hear from the distance,

1 too a mortal by Fate must pass to the shades

of my Heroes."


There he paused on the tremulous thought of a

hope and a sorrow,
And the sweet word died away on his lips thrown

far in the future.
Hark! the voice of a song creeps into the house

of Homerus,
Filling his home with love and with life to the

measure of music,
Fresh from the youth of the heart, the fountain

of hope everlasting.
Though unseen the sweet singer, hidden in

leaves of an arbor,
All the youths well knew who it was, and stood

for a moment,
Bating the breath and bending the head to listen

the better,
And to quaff each note to the full, for the voice

that was singing
Poured out the soul of a maiden, the beautiful

daughter of Homer,
Whom those boys were more eager to hear than

to study their verses,
Aye, more eager to hear the daughter than

hearken the father.

He, when the strain had ceased, with a sigh

broke into the silence:

"Ah! the fleet years! how like is that note to
the note of my mother,


As she hymned to her work or sang me to sleep

on her pallet !
Early my father had died, his face I no longer

But the voice which speaks when I speak from

my heart is always
Well do I know it the voice of my mother,

Cretheis my mother !

Overmastered a moment by tears, he soon

All of the weaker man in himself, and thus he

" I was telling the tale of the wonderful work
shop of Chalcon,

Where I saw all the deities rise into form in
a rapture,

Coming along with their sunshine to stand in the
soot of the smithy,

Happy Olympian Gods who once fought and put
down the dark Titans.

Bearing their spell in my soul, I always went
home to my mother,

And I would beg her to tell me who were the
Gods and the Muses,

All this beautiful folk whom Chalcon had brought
from the summits,

From free sunny Olympus down into the smoth
ering smithy.


She would begin with a glow in her eyes and tell
me their story,

Meanwhile plying the distaff she never could
help being busy

All of their tales she knew, by the hundreds and
hundreds she knew them,

Tales of the beings divine, once told of their
dealings with mankind,

When they came to our earth and visibly mingled
with mortals.

New was always the word on the tongue of
Cretheis my mother,

Though she dozens of times before had told the
same story,

Still repeating when I would call for it, ever re

For a good tale, like the sun, doth shine one day
as the other.

What a spell on her lip when up from her lap I
was looking,

Watching her mouth in its motion, whence drop
ped those wonderful stories !

Oft I thought I could pick up her word in my
hand as it fell there,

Keep it and carry it off, for my play a most beau
tiful plaything,

Which I could toss on the air when I chose, like
a ball or an apple,

Catch it again as it ^f ell in its flight, for the word
wa,s a thing then.


Mark! what I as a child picked up, the old man

still plays with :
Words made of breath, but laden with thought

more solid than granite,
Pictures of heroes in sound that lasts, when

spoken, forever,
Images fair of the world and marvelous legends

All of them living in me as they fell from the

lips of my mother."

There he stopped for a moment and passed his

hand to his forehead,
As if urging Mnemosyne now for the rest of

the story;
Soon came the Muse to the aid of the poet, and

thus he continued :
* How she loved the songs of old Hellas, and

loved all its fabling !
Well she could fable herself and color her speech

with her heart-beats.
I have known her to make up a myth which

spread through all Chios,
Thence to island and mainland wherever Hellenic

is spoken.
Once I heard far out by the West in a town of

At a festival one of her lays, which I knew in

my cradle,


Sung by the bard of the town as his guerdon of

song from the Muses.
Ana now let me confess, too, my debt, the debt

of my genius !
Many a flash of the fancy is hers which you read

in my poems,
Many a roll of the rhythm, and many a turn of

the language,
Many a joy she has given, and many a tear she

has dropped there,
Merciful sighs at the stroke of grim Fate on the

back of the mortal
All are remembrances fallen to me from the lips

of my mother."

For a moment he ceased, till he gathered his

voice into firmness,
Smoothing the tremulous trill that welled from

his heart into wavelets,
Smoothing and soothing the quivering thoughts

which Memory brought him :
" Hard was her lot, she had to work daily

through Chios by spinning,
For herself and her boy she fought the rough

foes of existence,
Making her living by toil that flew from the tips

of her fingers,
Deft and swift in the cunning which gives all

its worth unto labor.


Yet more cunning she showed in spinning the

threads of a story
Till they all came together forming a garment of

Than in twirling the distaff and reeling the yarn

from the spindle.
But she too, my poor mother, was laid in the

earth, as was fated,
For the Fates span out the frail thread of her

life at their pleasure."

Here again the old man made a stop with a

gaze in his features
As if prying beyond to behold the unspeakable

But he came back to himself with a joy in his

look and continued :
66 It was she who gave me the love and the lore

of the legend,
Training my youth to her song which throbbed

to the best of the ages
All the great men of the Past and great women,

the mothers of Heroes.
Do you know it was she who first told me the

story of Thetis
Thetis the Goddess-Mother, whose son was the

Hero Achilles ?
Tenderly told she the tale of the boy who was

born to do great things,


Who from his birth had in him the spark divine

of his mother,
Though he had to endure all the sorrow of being

a hero,
Suffer the pang that goes with the gift of the

Gods to a mortal.
Then in a frenzy of hope she would clasp me

unto her bosom,

Dreaming the rest of her dream in the soft in
spiration of silence,
Yet you could see what it was by the light that

was lit in her presence,
See it all by the light of her soul that shone from

her visage.

Once in her joy she arose with her arms out
stretched mid her story,
Showing how Thetis arose from the deeps in a

cloud o er the billow,
That she> the Goddess, might secretly take her

son to her bosom,
To impart what was best of herself : the godlike

And to arouse in him too the new valor to meet

the great trial.
O fond soul of my mother, how well that day

I remember,
When thou toldest the tale of the bees that flew

to my cradle,
Dropping out of the skies on a sudden along with

the sunbeams,


Humming and buzzing through all of the house

as if they were swarming,
Till they lit on my lips as I slept but never once

stung me,
Never stung thee, though running around in thy

fright to defend me,
Smiting and slashing with stick or with rag or

whatever came handy,
Scorching at last their leathery wings with their

own waxen tapers !
But ere they flew, in spite of the fire and fight of

the household,

They had left on my lips their cells of the clear-
flowing honey,
Honey clear-flowing and sweet, though bitter the

struggle to give it;
Even the bees had to pay for giving the gift of

their sweetness.

Thenwertthou happy, Cretheis, then wertthou
sad too, my mother,

Pensive, forethinking afar on what the God had

Who had sent the dumb bee to speak as a sign
unto mortals.

What thy son was to do and endure flashed into
thy vision,

Double that flash of the future, joyful, sorrow
ful also,


And them didst say to thyself and the God, bend
ing over to kiss me :

* Let it fall the lot of his life ; I feel what is
coming :

He must distil from the earth into speech all the
sweetness of living,

He must pour from his heart into song all the
nectar of sorrow ;

Let it fall the lot of his life; though hard be
the trial,

Always there will be left on his lips the hive of
its honey/


The Call of The Muse.



Homer now tells the third chief influence ivhich helped
make him a poet. This influence was the bard of the
toivn, Ariston, who sang on the borderland between
East and West, but was not able to sing of the great con
flict between Troy and Greece. It was Ariston who
suggested this theme to Homer, and bade the youth go
out to the sea-shore, where was the cave of the Muses,
and listen to the voice which would speak to him there.
Calliope, the epic Muse, appears to him, tells him what
he must do and suffer, and inspires him with his great
vocation. He goes home to his mother and tells her
what the Muse has said to him; his mother after a short
internal struggle, bids him goat once and follow the call
of the Muse.


Thus to the whisper of fleeting Mnemosyne,

mother of Muses,
Homer was yielding his heart and shaping her

shadowy figures.
While he was speaking, rose up the roar of the

sea in the distance,
Which an undertone gave to his measures, mighty,

Wreathing the roll of its rhythm in words of the

tale he was telling,
Giving the musical stroke of its waves to the

shore of the island,
Giving the stroke for the song to the beautiful

island of Chios.

All the sea was a speech, and spoke in the lan
guage of Homer,



Aye, the ^Egean spoke Greek, and sang the re
frain of great waters,

All the billows were singing that day hexameters

Rolling afar from the infinite sea to the garden
of Homer.

Stopped in the stretch of his thought the poet

lay back in his settle,
Seemingly lost in the maze where speech fades out

into feeling ;
He was silent awhile, though not at the end of

his story.
Aged and blind he was now, recalling the days

of his boyhood,
When he saw all the world of fair forms, as it

rose up in Hellas,
Eise from the hand of the smith and rise from

the lips of his mother,

Saw too- himself in the change of the years be
coming the singer.

Soon spake a youth at his side, it was the best

of his pupils,
Called Demodocus, son of Demodocus, Ithacan

Who belonged to an ancestry born into song from

old ages :
"Did you have no bard of the village, no teacher

of measures,


Who could melt the rude voice of the people to

rhythm of music?
Men of that strain we have in our Ithaca, they

are my clansmen.
Still I follow the craft, and to thee, best singer,

I come now,
That I be better than they, far better in song

than my fathers."

Here he suddenly stopped and glanced out into

the garden,
For there flitted an airy form of a maid in the

Going and coming amid the flowers the

daughter of Homer,
Whom Demodocus loved and sought as the meed

of his merit,
He would carry away not only the verse of the

But would take, in the sweep of his genius, also

the daughter.
Yet the maiden held off, declaring the youth was


But the father in words of delight replied to

his scholar:
" Well bethought ! a good learner ! thou thinkest

ahead of the teacher !
Just of the bard I was going to speak, he rose in

my mind s eye


Suddenly with thy question the face and the
form of Ariston.

Every day I went to the place of the market to
hear him

Deep-toned Ariston, the singer of praises to Gods
and to Heroes,

Chanting the fray and the valorous deed in the
ages aforetime,

While the crowd stood around in reverent si
lence and listened.

He was the bard of the town, he knew what had
been and will be,

Knew the decree of Zeus and could read it out of
the Heavens,

Knew too, the heart of man, and could tell every
thought in its throbbing.

At the festivals sang he through all of the ham
lets of Chios,

He was the voice of the isle, the mythical hoard
of old treasures ;

Song and story and fable, even the jest and the

All were his charge and his choice, by the care
and the call of the Muses.

High beat his heart as he poured out its music
singing of Heroes,

Every word of his voice was a tremulous pulse-
beat of Hellas,

Doomf ul the struggle he saw in the land and fate
ful its Great Men.


Often he sang the sad lot of Bellerophou, hero
of Argos,

Who once crossed to the Orient, leaving the
mainland of Europe,

Quitting his home in the West for the charm of
a Lycian maiden,

Daughter fair of the king who dwelt by the ed
dying Xanthus.

Many a demon he slew, destroying the shapes of
the ugly,

Savages tamed he to beautiful law, and the law,
too, of beauty.

Monsters, Chimeras, wild men and wild women
he brought to Greek order,

Amazons haters of husbands, and Solymi mount
aineers shaggy.

But the Hero, for such is his fate, sank to what
he subjected,

In the success of his deed he lapsed and fell under

Hateful to Gods is success, though much it is
loved by us mortals,

Victory is the trial, most hard in the end to the

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