Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad, books I, VI, XXII, XXIV; online

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Copyright, 11)00, by

M. P. 1.





IT is desirable that students should read Pope's Homer
first in large masses, with little or no annotation or dis-
cussion. The editor did this with lasting profit at about
six years. Even the present Introduction, brief as it is,
may be postponed. The paragraphs 011 the metres of
Homer and his translators, indeed, possibly other sections,
will probably be suppressed altogether by some instructors.
No apology seems needed for discussing the outward form
of a great artistic masterpiece and of its imperfect copies.

This edition is based on a study of Pope's original
edition, 1715-1720. In particular, Book I, vss. 1-2, 452-
453, are restored to a form very different from what we
may call the " modern vulgate." The latter seems more
likely to have been created by Warburton in 1750 than by
Pope, who died in 1744. At any rate, the original readings
are still unchanged in a copy of Volume I, dated 1738, which
has been substituted for the original, " Lady Masham's
copy," in the set at the Astor Library, New York City.
Other restorations of Pope's text are I, 72, fires for pyres;
274, forsook for forsake, etc. ; VI, 483, absent where distant
is a recent error.

The Notes do not attempt to explain every unusual or
antiquated use of single words. Careful readers will usually
gather this material best for themselves, and dictionaries
are within the reach of all. No real difficulty has been
intentionally passed over. Besides brief explanation of
allusions to unfamiliar matters, two subjects have been
more copiously and suggestively treated. One is the real


nature, scope, and interest of the Hellenic myths. The
other is the many-sided and frequent aberrations of Mr.
Pope from the letter and the spirit of Homer's Iliad. Like
other classical teachers, the editor hopes every pupil will
have gained his first impressions of ancient epic from a
simpler and more faithful version. Some copy of a com-
plete English Iliad should be always accessible, at least
upon the teacher's desk; for the mutilation of a master-
piece is always to be regretted, even if unavoidable.

The versions introduced in the notes are, for the most
part, attempts to combine the utmost literalness with some
approach to the dactylic rhythm. The editor's own ac-
quaintance with the lands of Homer, though now twenty
years away, has, it is hoped, given some local color to such
notes as those on Book I, vss. 568-569 and XXII, 195.

Criticisms and suggestions will be most cordially received
by the editor.

AUGUST 2,'i, 1900.




Homer and the Iliad .



Translations of the Iliad



Pope and his Age



Pope's Homer ....

. xxiv


Notes on Supplementary Reading




The Arguments ....


Book I

. 17

Book VI

. 40

Book XXII . . .

. 60


. . . .80




Homer and the Iliad

THE two great epic poems ascribed by tradition to
"Homer/ 9 the Iliad and the Odyssey, give us our earliest
picture of European life, a picture taken, as it were, by a
brilliant flashlight, centuries before the dawn of history.
As to the real biography of the poet or poets, we know
nothing. In the epics themselves, minstrels are mentioned
only as attached to royal courts, and we naturally surmise
that the maker of the Iliad was himself such a courtier.
The Odyssey is generally felt to be the work of a later, more
refined, and thoughtful age, perhaps a century younger.
Few scholars, if any, believe that either poem as it now
stands was wholly composed by any one man. Yet the Iliad
has the true unity of all artistic master works, and each
important part has been shaped for the place into which it is
fitted. Herodotus, father of history, himself living in the
fifth century B.C., estimates Homer's time to have been
four hundred years earlier. Recent students are inclined
to set still farther back the age of the chief artist who gave
the Iliad essentially its present shape.

Poetry is much older than prose. That is, man's sense
of beauty, his imagination, awakes long before the power,
or the desire, to make a sober truthful chronicle of actual
events. Homer does not even profess to describe his own
days, but only a more heroic foretime, of which he really
knows nothing. He appeals to the Muse for inspiration.
He must have invented much of the tale. Yet he sees
everything most vividly himself, and makes us, even now,


see it no less clearly, so that we forget how much is impos-

There is a peculiar freshness and charm about Homer's
scenes and people, heightened, no doubt, by their remoteness.
For though they are unmistakably Greek, as is the language
they use, there is a great chasm between them and the later
Hellenic folk of authentic history. The rude Dorians,
ancestors of the Spartans, descending into the Peloponnesus
" three generations after the Trojan war," apparently swept
away the decaying Achaean monarchies that the Homeric
poets had known. Little save the epic poems themselves
was saved from the wreck. The democratic, mercantile,
city-loving Greeks of the historical period were quite
un-Homeric in many ways.

The old warrior-kings with their submissive peoples, their
chariots, and palaces rich in gold, had passed away leaving
hardly a trace behind. In modern times, indeed, it was long
believed that Homer's men and women, like his quarrelsome
gods, were but such " stuff as dreams are made of." But
the massive foundation-walls of forts and palaces, the gold
plate and jewelry, with numberless other relics, discovered
by Dr. Schliemann at Mycenae, Tiryns, and on the hill of
Hissarlik in the centre of the Trojan plain itself, have
demonstrated that there was, on both shores of the ^Egean,
somewhat such a civilization, under Egyptian and Oriental
influences, as the Iliad depicts. This civilization is roughly
assigned to the second millennium, 2000-1000, B.C.

Whether heroes and heroines quite like Achilles and
Hector, Helen and Andromache, even bearing these familiar
names, once really lived, we shall never learn. In the ruined
prehistoric palaces no inscriptions are found. In the poems
there is no certain allusion to writing. (See Note on Book
VI. vs. 210.) Even if it was used for brief public notices, it
is likely that poetry may have been handed down for gener-
ations merely by memory. Certainly the creative imagina-


tion of Homer, or the myth-making age behind him, was no
way hampered by any historical records. We should read
the Iliad, then, at least for the first time, with a light heart,
as pure poetry. Do not ask how much of it is literally true.
Realistic natural scenery it certainly offers us, as the land-
scapes of Greece still prove. The arts, the manners, the
characters, may often be no less truthful. Homgr's men and
women, his gods and goddesses, are wonderfully alive and
human, often strangely like ourselves especially like our
boys, or " strenuous" men. But the golden thread of fable
and marvel is woven inextricably into every scene of the
great tapestry : the picture as a whole is true only to the
higher reality of ideal and imperishable beauty.

The Iliad has influenced not only Greek and Roman
literature, but all our poetry since, far more than any
other work. Perfect familiarity with the Homeric myths
is the first step in the connected study of European liter-
ature. Happily, the subject is as fascinating and delight-
ful as it is important.

The Iliad, i.e. the legend of Ilios, or Troy, like all the
best stories, is a tale of love and strife. It deals directly
with a single brief episode only, in a much larger legend :
the tale of Troy's fall, through the baleful influence of Helen.
The most beautiful woman of the age, wedded to gentle
King Menelaus in Sparta, she has eloped with her alien
guest Paris, the roving son of the old Trojan King Priam.
Therefore all the Greek princes, with their hundred thousand
men-at-arms, united as the Hellas of historical times never
was, have crossed to Asia in the pursuit. For ten long years
their ships have rotted on the Hellespontine shore. Their
commander is Agamemnon, lord of Mycenae, Menelaus'
brother. The resistless Greek champion, however, is the
Thessalian prince Achilles, son of a mortal king by Thetis,
loveliest of water nymphs. Ajax of Salamis, Achilles'
cousin on the human side, is next him in might and prowess.


Among the other chiefs old Nestor of Pylos, crafty Odysseus
(Ulysses) from the rocky isle Ithaca, Diomedes modest and
fearless, are favorite characters.

Paris' elder brother Hector is the chief defender of Troy,
" the bulwark of the city/ 7 but no one dares meet Achilles
in the open plain. Many allies from Asiatic lands have come
to Priam's aid. His walls are strong. Great stores of
wealth and provisions within the town have enabled him to
hold out thus far. But the end is drawing nigh. They who
beleaguer and they who watch upon the tower alike know
that Hector's gleaming helmet and Priam's ancient throne
must fall in the dust at last, because Paris' grievous sin is
unatoned. (See Note on XXII. 1/58.)

The Greek poet apparently imagines the Trojans as speak-
ing the same language with their foes. Indeed, the city has
been for generations a favorite of the Greek divinities, its
walls were built of old by Apollo and Poseidon, the sea god.
The Trojan customs seem to differ little from the Greek,
except, Indeed, that Priam lives in open polygamy. And
yet, something of that great contrast between Europe and
Asia, Occident and Orient, which has lasted to our own day,
appears at times to lend a larger typical meaning to the strife
in the Scamandrian plain.

The quarrelsome gods, in their council upon Mt. Olympus,
devote almost their entire debate to the Trojan battlefields,
and often actually take part on either side in the fray. The
divinities of Homer, however, are drawn with little rev-
erence, and often show less dignity than his men and
women. The Greek hardly shares the Hebrew's reticence
and awe in the presence of deity. Not liable to death like
mortals, yet swayed by every human passion, these gods
and goddesses often seem mere ogres, deserving the laughter
or contempt of fearless heroic men.

The Homeric common people count for little in peace or
war. The artistic treatment of Diomedes or Hector reminds


us of those Assyrian reliefs, wherein the colossal inonarchs
tower higher than city walls among their pygmy followers.
So the Homeric host makes but an animated background for
the heroes who contend from chariots, or, dismounting, wage
stately duels on foot. Hiding on horseback is unknown
among them, though the poet once, in a simile, describes a
very skillful acrobat, managing four horses on an open road
and leaping from one to another. (Pope's Homer, XV.

In the general assembly a man of the people once raises
his voice, only to be silenced and soundly beaten by a prince,
while satirized by the poet as the ugliest and most detested
of men, at whose disgrace all the folk laugh merrily.
Except this cynical sketch of a low-born demagogue, the
commons are only heard assenting humbly to the proposals
of their leaders.

The relations between Agamemnon, the war-lord, and the
eight or ten other " kings " of the inner council are not so
easy to define. If Homer were a grave historian, we might
promptly accept Thucydides' sensible conclusion, that Aga-
memnon must have had the power to compel their submis-
sion as vassals. But in a romance more chivalric motives
may decide the action. If he was at first the voluntary
choice in a council of allies, there is at any rate no suggestion
raised of deposing him, even when he utters words of abject
cowardice and despair. Achilles certainly talks as if he
himself had come, and could depart, of his own sovereign
will.; and Agamemnon, with all his rashness of speech,
makes no threat to detain him. On the whole, it seems
probable that all the great chiefs, Achilles, Nestor, Ajax,
Odysseus, Idomeneus, Diomedes, and others, claim full inde-
pendence, yet the imperial power and wealth of Mycenae
are so great that 'no other state could aspire to the actual
leadership. As if there should be an alliance of American
republics, for instance, in which Chili or Mexico might


remain or not, but certainly could never dispute our

We must always remember, however, the isolation of the
Homeric poesy. We get only a fragmentary tale, with
hints of what came before and after. Later Greek poets
and chroniclers have indeed added for a thousand years to
the great web, but their inventions may be no more Homeric
than Tennyson's or Andrew Lang's. Even in our accepted
text some beautiful passages are undoubtedly late in origin.
The cities depicted on Achilles' shield are comparatively
modern democratic communes, such as Agamemnon could
never have dreamed of. Many even of the famous myths
in the Trojan cycle Hecuba's dream, Paris' choice,
Achilles' education, ^Eneas' wanderings are pretty cer-
tainly post-Homeric. (See especially, Art and Humanity
m Homer, pp. 243-262.)

Very few incidents are recorded which can be assigned to
the first nine years of strife. The Greeks, led usually by
Achilles, have sacked in their forays many lesser towns
about the Troad. The camp is overflowing with captives,
especially women, the men having been slain or sold in
neighboring islands. The incidents of the Iliad fill but
a few weeks altogether,, only four.xiay is of actual lighting, in
the last year of the war.

Achilles, even during his long absence from the field, is
the central figure in the Plomeric story. It is that absence
that brings swift disaster upon the Greeks. The shadow of
his approaching death, foreseen and prophesied by his horse,
by his mother, by dying Hector, gives a doubly tragic char-
acter to the whole tale. Perhaps we may fairly regard the
Iliad, on its ethical side, as the story of Achilles' education
through suffering.

The strongest and noblest personal tie, in ancient Greece,
the spur to all chivalric accomplishment, was felt to be not
love for woman, but devoted friendship between man and


man. In this respect the Iliad is thoroughly Hellenic.
The princess Briseis was to have been the honored wife of
her captor Achilles ; at least his friend Patroclus had often
so assured her. When Agamemnon takes her by violence,
Achilles refuses to fight longer under such a lawless tyrant.
Yet Patroclus' pleadings induce Achilles at least to let him
fight, in his mightier comrade's panoply. The death of his
friend effaces from Achilles 7 mind the former grievance. In
his thirst for vengeance upon Hector he instantly condones
Agamemnon's injustice, and also ignores the repeated warn-
ing :

" Quickly for thec after Hector by destiny death is appointed."

It is especially important to remember this preference of
the Greeks for manly friendship over wedded love, for
instance in reading the Sixth Book. Andromache's tears
may well call forth our own ; but all the sentiments inher-
ited from the centuries of Christian chivalry are aiding their
power over 113. Certainly the Greek poet, while painting
with force the misery of woman's lot in war, is merely using
her, like all figures of the legend, in due subordination
within a great unified picture. Troy is drifting to deserved
and utter shipwreck on the reef of Justice. The moral
lesson, as in every supremely great artistic work, is wrought
into the whole plot of the Trojan epic, not attached any-
where as a tag.

Translations of the Iliad

Whether poetry as such is translatable at all is an ever-
debated question. Of course, the peculiar harmonies of each
great human language, like its idioms, can be fully felt by none
save the native born, and understood by the alien only through
painful year-long effort. No copy can reproduce the merits of
the masterpiece. Faust, the Commedia, the ^Eneid, the Iliad,
are well worth all the toil it costs to read each in the original.


Nevertheless, the case of the Homeric poems is somewhat
unique. They may almost be said to exist only j; transla-
tions. Even our Greek text is a late Attic copy, with an
alphabet, spelling, accents, etc., that Homer never knew.
The original form can never be recovered We have little
idea how the verses sounded when firs., recited. Probably
no people ever spoke, at any one time, what we call the epic
dialect, in which contracted and protracted forms of the.
same words, colloquial idioms and evident archaisms, stand
side by side much as in the Faerie Queene. The meaning
of many words the Greeks guessed from the connection, and
we must often do the same.

Only a small minority even among the educated can first
master Attic Greek, and then gain, by years of special study,
the imperfect knowledge attainable of the epic dialect. The
real question is therefore, Through what translations shall
the overwhelming majority make Homer's acquaintance?
The first, and many good critics add, the best, of all Euro-
pean poems, the Iliad and Odyssey should, in some form, be
among the familiar treasures of every household.

There is a widespread tendency in our own time to
demand of the translator merely a faithful rendering of the
thoughts, to renounce all attempt at indicating the metrical
or other artistic form, of his original. Most Hellenists, for
instance, would put first into the English reader's hands
the deservedly popular recent translation of the Iliad by
three English scholars, Messrs. Lang, Leaf, and Myers. The
present editor cordially agrees that this book should at least
be within the reach of every careful student, and should
serve constantly to remind him how much has been added,
distorted, or removed, by the freer metrical translator.

But the one indispensable and constant feature in a poem
is the line or verse, which should in any language correspond
closely in length to the average sentence or clause. A trans-
lation which gives us no idea where the original verse ended


deprives us of a most important element in that original.
Is such a loss inevitable ?

The Iliad consists of fifteen thousand lines, all in dactylic
hexameter. This verse is entirely too long for a single
clause in Greek or English, nor can it be spoken or chanted
in one breath. It is, in fact, a couplet, the so-called caesura
marking the union of two true verses, e.g. :

" If you would have it well done,||

I am only repeating your maxim
You must do it yourself, ||

You must not leave it to others."

To compose such verses at all in English is very difficult,
chiefly because our language has a well-marked iambic move-
ment. To produce an harmonic effect closely resembling
the Greek'is simply impossible, because our words contain
more than twice as many consonantal sounds. Thus the
first line of the Iliad has only eleven non-vocalic elements,
five even of these liquids. In English letters it reads :
Menin aeide thea, Peleiadeo Achileos. Longfellow's lines
just quoted have twenty -three and twenty -four consonant
elements. Such a verse as this Homeric one probably could
not be put together out of English words at all.

The most popular German version of the Iliad, by the poet
Voss, is in hexameters, and follows Homer almost perfectly
line by line, from the first verse,

" Singe den Zorn, o Gottin, des Peleiaden Achilleus"
to the quiet close,

" Also bestatteten jene den Leib des reisigen Hektor."

The same attempt has been made in English twice, at
least, with unsatisfactory results. There is still reason,
perhaps, to hope that a great master of rhythm, like Mr.
Swinburne, may produce an English hexameter version quite
equal to that of Voss. The English reader should notice


that in all languages the close of this long verse is pretty
clearly marked, by the short final foot of two syllables only ;
but the medial pause is not so unmistakable, may be double,
as in

" You are a writer, || and I am a fighter, || but here is a fellow,"

or again is hardly to be located at all. While offensive in
English to most scholars, because so diverse in melody from
its classical prototype, this movement is a favorite with the
many, as the extreme popularity of Evangeline indicates.

The form generally used for sustained epic or dramatic
composition by our poets is " blank verse," i.e. a ten-syllable
unrhymed iambic line. But this is dangerously near to
prose. It gives a very placid, slow effect, wholly unlike the
dactyl's buoyant step. The meaning of an Homeric verse
cannot usually be packed into one such line, still less can it
be stretched over two. Hence we shall find, in every such
version, that the unit of the thought is broken up. The
translator must make from a third to a half more lines than
in the Greek Iliad. The especial melodic weakness of this
unrhymed iambic line is, that its close is absolutely un-
marked metrically. While Lord Derby's translation is
perhaps the most scholarly in this form, the well-known one.
by our American poet, William Culleii Bryant, is particularly
musical, and always dignified. But the lack of unity in the
line, the extreme slowness of the movement, are both world-
wide from Homer. The noble opening verses of Thana-
topsis, for instance, are always divided, read, and heard, as
prose rather slow and heavy prose, too. Poetry should
always have some share in the swiftness and lightness of
song. Tennyson felt the necessity of lyrics in other metres,
with wealth of rhyme, to vary the monotonous movement
of the Princess, and of the great Arthurian cycle. Shake-
speare closes his scenes with rhymed couplets. Even Para-
dise Lost is by no means light reading.


End-rhyme is in some languages, notably in Italian, so
natural and recurrent as to be 110 fetter at all for the poet.
In English it is a grievous burden, often an insuperable bar
to fittest expression. Even in brief lyric, we may hope it
will yet come to be regarded as merely one form of orna-
ment, or rather of emphasis, to be used only when peculiarly
appropriate. Tennyson himself in Tears, Idle Tears,
Merlin and the Gleam, etc., has escaped altogether from
rhyme. In long epic and dramatic compositions, both
English and German, unrhymed verse is the rule, as it
should be. The Homeric translator has one additional
difficulty. He cannot freely omit, insert, or rearrange his
matter. He is expected, more or less literally, to follow his
copy. By a recurring obligatory rhyme his attempt is made
a hopeless struggle from the beginning.

To all these difficulties Philip Worsley bade lightest-
hearted deliance, choosing as the form for his translations
the elaborate Spenserian stanza of nine lines, with its system
of interwoven rhymes. This stanza of course introduces a
second and larger unit of measure, to which nothing in
Homeric metre or thought corresponds. Its luxurious lei-
surely harmony becomes wearisome in great mass. Few men
have read the Faerie Qneene without nagging. Worsley
completed the Odyssey, but died when the Iliad was half
rendered. He varies, of course, constantly, from the letter,
not rarely from the spirit, of his original. Nevertheless,
this is one of the most exquisite masterpieces of trans-
lation in the language, and should always be prominent
in any shelf of English Homers. The versatile genius of
Professor Coningtoii added the remaining twelve books of
the Iliad in the same metre, almost as skillfully handled.

All the English renderings thus far mentioned are of
the nineteenth century. Pope's chief predecessor was the
Elizabethan poet, Chapman, whose Homer has been made
doubly famous by the enthusiastic sonnet of Keats. We


do not believe Chapman has now, or will ever again have,
many readers. He is spirited, swift in movement, seems

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Online LibraryHomerPope's translation of Homer's Iliad, books I, VI, XXII, XXIV; → online text (page 1 of 13)