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

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Page 3 Calchas is the chief priest and prophet in the Greek army
besieging Troy.

Thetis, the sea-nymph, is Achilles' mother. To be near her
son, perhaps, she has left her mortal husband, and returned
to the palace of her father, in the depths of the ^Egean Sea.

Jupiter, i.e. Zeus, king of gods : Juno, Hera, his wife : Vulcan,
Hephaestus, the smith-god. It is perhaps well, even in read-
ing aloud, to substitute the true Greek names of the

4 Ulysses. Odysseus, whose home return is described in the

Odyssey. In such cases as this the Romans have not sub-
stituted another hero, but simply mispronounced the Greek
Paris. Also called Alexander; the guilty cause of the war.

5 Venus. Aphrodite, goddess of love, who especially protects

Paris and Helen. JEneas is her son by a mortal, the Tro-
jan Anchises.

Minerva. Athene or Pallas, goddess of wisdom and war, Zeus'
favorite daughter, who alone may borrow his arms.

TEneas. Kinsman and son-in-law of King Priam, second in
prowess to Hector. Homer seems to represent him as out-
living the siege, reviving the Trojan power, and founding a
long line of local kings. Virgil in the great Latin epic, the
JEneid, makes JEneas migrate to Italy, where he becomes
the progenitor of the Romans.


Mars. Ares, the war-god.

Pergamus. The citadel of. Troy, on which the temple of

Pallas and the royal palaces stand.

7 Tartarus. A dark region beneath the abode of the dead,
where Zeus holds imprisoned his own father, Kronos, and
his kinsmen, the Titans.

10 Neptune. Poseidon, Zeus' brother, lord of the sea.
16 Mercury. Hermes, the messenger of the gods. In the other
books of the Iliad, however, only Iris has this duty.


Verses 1-2 These verses have been printed in most or all editions
since Pope's death, thus :

" Achilles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring
Of woes unnumber'd, heav'nly goddess, sing."

Pope certainly did not so write in 1715, and whoever made
the change made it for the worse. The subject is announced
in the first word of the Greek text, menin : wrath. Pope
rightly imitated this arrangement. " Heav'nly goddess,"
again, is a wearisome repetition. It is pleasanter to believe
that Pope's editors made these changes after his death.
2 goddess. No doubt the Muse, who is invoked in the first line
of the Odyssey. But the number nine for the Muses, and
their names, probably first appeared in Hesiod, a somewhat
later poet. More modern epics generally have a similar
invocation. See especially the beginning of Paradise Lost,
with its combined Hellenic imagery and Christian faith.
Virgil began, " Arms and a hero I sing," invoking the Muse

7 Atrides. Son of Atreus : either Menelaus, or, as here, Aga-


8 Notice the Alexandrine, or twelve-syllable line, occasionally

used for emphasis.

The first e of sovereign is "elided." Pope does not permit
trisyllabic feet, so any superfluous vowel must be carefully
effaced. Compare vss. 13, reverend; 100, pow'r ; 208, ';
209, tli' ; etc. English poetry since Coleridge is much less

BOOK I 113

rigid as to the exact number of syllables. Indeed, Pope is
far more precise, and monotonous, than Shakespeare or
Milton. For a rare exception, see vs. 17, where the i of
suppliant could not be cut out, and we must scan

/ W W W / W / W / W / .

11 Latona, Leto. Her son by Zeus, Apollo, is always in harmony

with his father, is the god of oracles, the archer, probably
by origin a sun-god.

12 A typical example of Pope's worst rhetoric. Homer would

not mention mountains unless he really wished us to see
them. Pope saw none, but simply chose this as a resound-
ing phrase. Homer's words, " the people were perishing,"
needed no extravagant metaphor to emphasize them.

15 Chryses' speech is curt, fearless, and rather threatening than
submissive. " Lowly bending down," is merely Pope's
notion of etiquette in the royal presence. " Laurel crown "
is quite out of place. Homer knows nothing of the nymph
Daphne, wooed too ardently by Apollo and transformed
into the laurel to escape him. This is a later invention to
explain the prominence of the laurel in Apollo's worship.
Chryses, as a suppliant, simply carries his priestly fillets,
wound about his staff.

27-30 What he really says in Homer is merely :

" Ransom accept from me, and release my daughter beloved,
Dreading the wrath of the son of Zeus, far-shooting Apollo."

30 Phcebus, an epithet, often a name, for Apollo.

32 the fair. The fair lady, Chryseis. Such phrases are the

common stock of courtly gallantry, and we must not judge

Pope's personal taste too much by his free use of them.

Homer actually makes no allusion to Chryseis here, saying

only :

"Bade him revere the priest, and accept the munificent ransom."

35 The poet usually treats Agamemnon with the respectful
tone due to a king ; but the reader will notice that his words
and acts are almost always rash, foolish, or wicked.

45 Argos is, in Homer, not a city, but an early name for the
Peloponnesus, or the greater part of it, over which Aga-


inernnon rules. His capital is Mycenae. Very early in the his-
torical period Mycenae was overthrown by its neighbor city
Argos, which "annexed" even its legends. Hence arose
much confusion, both in Greek and in modern poetry.

52 Is wholly Pope's. Apollo is apparently, by origin, a sun-
god ; but the Homeric Greeks were probably not conscious
of it, if it was so. In many relations he is entirely discon-
nected with the sun, who is called Helios and Hyperion.
In this scene his arrows seem to be suggested by the fierce
rays of the midsu miner sun, which might well breed a pes-
tilence in such a camp and on such a field of battle. But
the Greeks took a personal interest in their gods, collecting
and retelling good stories about them, which are not to be
explained away as parables from phenomena in the sky, or
in any one simple fashion. Some myths are crude, some
beautiful. Their origins are as varied as the experience and
thoughts of man. The work of savage, philosopher, poet,
historian, is embedded in them.

53-56 Smintheus is a rare epithet of Apollo. Tenedos is an island
near the Troad. The towns, Cilia and Chrysa, seem to have
been near Troy.

G5-66 Homer only says, " and like to the night he came." Even
that would be strange for a sun-god ! Here is no nature-
myth, but a being thoroughly alive and human. We can
only wish all the Homeric gods were as dignified, as right-
eous, as divine, as Apollo here appears.

72 Cremation is the ordinary custom in Homer.

74 Hera, like Pallas, always favors the Greeks. The story of the
strife of these two goddesses with Aphrodite for the prize of
beauty, which Paris awards to the goddess of love, is appar-
ently later than Homer. The one awkward and slight allu-
sion to that tale, early in Book XXIV., is pretty clearly a late
interpolation in Homer's text. See note on XXIV. 38-41.
Every direct mention of Achilles should be carefully noted,
since on his character the whole plot turns. Here we first
see him leaping forth as fearless champion for the general
safety. The whole army is called together, apparently,
though only the chief generals are expressly mentioned in
the next scene.

BOOK I 115

81-82 Thfe origin of such rhymes is far from clear. These words
may both really have had at some time the vowel sound of
far. So love and move may once have been real rhymes.
Some critics contend that an occasional imperfect rhyme is
excusable, or even desirable, as an escape from monotony.

94 Pope quite frequently omits minor statements which are, from
his point of view, uninteresting or incredible. Thus Homer
added here :

" Calchas had led the Achaians' ships to the land of the Trojans,
Thro' his prophetic power, that Phoebus Apollo accorded."

97 Calchas intimates that the truth may enrage Agamemnon.
Achilles promptly agrees to protect the priest, even against
the supreme commander.

119-120 For the rhyme, see note on vss. 81-82.

124 black-ey'd is quite wrong. The Homeric types of ideal beauty
are usually fair, not dark. The word used here probably
means either " bright-eyed," or " with quick-glancing eyes."

131 Agamemnon's folly here is especially plain. The priest is
blamed for the events he foresees, or for the feelings of the
gods, which he rsveals to blinder men ! Still the very blind-
ness, violence, and injustice of the commander give him a
very large share in the tragic story.

143 Clytaemnestra. Agamemnon's wife, who murdered him on his
return from the long war. She is fitly said to have been
Helen's sister. She is the most splendid and terrible figure
in the masterpiece of ancient tragedy, the Agamemnon of
JEschylus. The outline, at least, of her career must have
been familiar to the poet's original auditors, who would
realize that Agamemnon's shameless words in this passage
are to be fearfully atoned for. Of course there is constant
danger of applying our own ideas of morality to Homer's
magnificent but half-savage people. These ill-fated women,
Chryseis and Briseis, are thought of as the lawful spoil of
their captors. Agamemnon is simply insisting on the com-
mander's due share. Still, the poet shows an unmistakable
feeling for the doom of the captive and slave, especially of
Y helpless women ; and the vengeance of the wronged wife is
^a motive perfectly natural in any age or country. Indeed,
Agamemnon is wronging Achilles almost exactly as Paris


had injured Menelaus, and Achilles himself afterward re-
marks on this in a burst of indignant eloquence (Book IX.).
In general, Homer's characters are to be admired, or con-
demned, on broad human lines the more as they must
have been essentially created by the poet himself.

161-162 One of Pope's best insertions. Notice the alliteration
and the neat antithesis between tyrants and slaves. The
rhyme is agreeable in sound, and falls on words important
enough to bear it. As rhetoric it is masterly. Pope smiled.

174 In such a line Pope's printer uses capitals very effectively :

" A Treasure worthy Her and worthy Me."

In general, the capital letters are often helpful to emphasis
or sense. Thus, in vs. 210, the adjective is used substan-

tively :

" But thine, Ungrateful; "

and see especially XXII. 525, a rather blind line, where
the reading,

" Strong Affliction gives the Feeble Force,"

makes more clear the true meaning, viz. that desperation
lends strength even to feeble mortals.

177-178 Like King Creon's in Sophocles' Antigone, Agamem-
non's violent threats go far beyond even his rash actions.
Here he defies, in a breath, the three most dangerous men in
the entire host.

185 See note on vs. 32. " Sable " is Pope's finer word for
" black," a favorite epithet for the Homeric ships.

187 Creta's king is Idomeneus, next in age to Nestor among the
chiefs of the council. See Introduction, p. xi.

199 The " decree " is not Homeric. We cannot answer the ques-
tion. Our knowledge is too fragmentary. Later myth
made all the princes old suitors of Helen, bound by oath
beforehand to accept, and protect in all his rights, which-
ever of them should be selected as her husband. Achilles
here gives the impression that he came of his own free will,
from some chivalric or friendly feeling, to help regain
Helen. Even so, desertion might be treason when once war
had been joined. Homer more probably thought of Achilles
as a sort of feudal vassal to Agamemnon, owing him mili-

BOOK I 117

tary service, but with full independence within his own do-
main, which includes, of course, his actual camping-ground.
Scott has a similar set of characters in the Talisman, Rich-
ard of England being the Achilles.

The longing for home in this passage is a broadly human
touch. It appears again, with the added mention of
Achilles' loving, helpless old father, waiting in vain for
his son's return, in the grand scene where Achilles and
Priam meet, XXIV. 671-682.

208-209 See note on vs. 8.

210 See note on vs. 174.

221 Here Pope's love for antithesis leads him to insert a line
Achilles could never have uttered. Of course Homer also
uses antithesis, when it adds natural force to his statements.
For instance, in vss. 217-218 the translation is entirely
justified by the Greek text.

249-250 Wholly Pope's. The kings in Homer are "Zeus-nour-
ished," " Zeus-descended," etc., but Achilles no less so than
Agamemnon. The latter simply threatens to prove in mem-
orable fashion " How much stronger am I than thou."

258 The contest in Achilles' mind is Homeric : the " rising tem-
pest " is wholly modern or last-century taste, as the reader
by this time will understand. When an Homeric tempest
rises, we shall all see the whitening billows, or the fields of
low-bending grain.

261 Pallas Athene is most happy in this her first appearance.
More than Apollo himself she stands, even in Homer, for
enlightenment; is the patroness of all the noblest arts, in
which glorious war has a high place, perhaps the highest.
Since no one else sees her, we are tempted to think the poet
has here consciously personified the mere wiser second
thought of his hero. But such explaining away of personal
divinities is always dangerous. (See, however, infra, vss.
555-559, with note.)

266 Pope adds the cloud. Homer's gods appear or vanish at
their own will.

282-284 Hera's prophecy, or message, is not so explicit as Pope
makes it. Homer says only :

" Threefold glorious gifts shall yet unto you be proffered."


Hera's knowledge of the future is limited. She complains
later because Zeus conceals his plans from her. In general,
she is oftener a jealous, querulous, much-injured, and tricky
wife, than a dignified goddess. Pallas acts with her against
Troy, but, more nearly than other gods, from a steadfast
sense of justice,
298 Pope comes very close to the impetuous Homeric outburst :

" Wine-heavy ! Eyes of a dog hast thou, and heart of a deer ! "

But presently the " horrid front of war " is a relapse to
faint personification and rhetoric.

309 This sceptre has probably just been put into Achilles' hand
by the herald, as a sign of formal right to speak. To dash
it angrily on the ground as he ceases is doubtless a gross
and rather boyish affront to Agamemnon. The latter
has himself a peculiarly sacred ancestral sceptre, which he
takes solemnly in hand, as soon as he is dressed, at the be-
ginning of the clay, in Book II. That sceptre, however, is
silver-studded, while the one here mentioned is " starr'd with
golden studs " (326). So perhaps in the present scene Aga-
memnon still holds his own sceptre (like our Speaker's
gavel), while another passes into the hand of him who
"takes the floor." Our information on any such point of
Homeric etiquette is almost always fragmentary, as later
usage is a most unsafe guide, even if we happen to know
it any better than we do epic manners.

311 The parenthesis is Pope's. Homer is wholly intent, as he
should be, on making us see the sceptre. The whole vs.
316 is another insertion, and of course " bleeding Greece " is
modern taste. Verse 320 is still farther afield. This whole
speech is an extremely good example of Pope's stylistic
merits and faults. Such bitter invective was only too fa-
miliar in the fierce politics and abusive satire of his own
people. He undoubtedly felt that he had greatly improved
on his copy. The student may very profitably compare
these lines (297-324) with the prose version of Mr. Leaf, or
with Bryant's blank verse, which is here no less faithful to
the Greek.

347-350 It is not merely an old man's fancy that the heroes of

Nestor's youthtime overshadow the generation which carries
on the Trojan war. Theseus, in particular, the mythical
founder of the Athenian state, like his friend Heracles, is a
dominant figure in Greek legend. IMany an epic glorified
the exploits of both, but chance, or the survival of the fittest,
has deprived us of them. Pirithous, king 'of the Thessalian
Lapithse, was aided by Theseus. The other three heroes
mentioned are clansmen of Pirithous. (Of course Poly-
phemus is no kin of his more famous namesake, the Cyclops,
blinded by Odysseus on his adventurous homeward voyage.)
The " Centaurs " were a savage rival clan in the Thessalian
highlands, destroyed by the Lapithse; but the notion that
they were half-horse, half-human in figure seems to be de-
veloped later than Homer. The belief in such creatures
doubtless arose in some Greek race when they first saw their
enemies on horseback. The sculptures of the old temple at
Assos have the awkward earlier form of the centaur, a
man complete, with a sort of hobby-horse springing from
his back. In this passage, indeed, Homer mentions no
" Centaurs " of any kind, merely speaking of a fight against
" beasts with mountain lairs."

355-357 The reader should notice such occurrences of threefold
rhyme. The third verse in such cases is often an Alexan-
drine. The variation from the couplet is agreeable, provided
the rhyme itself is musical and seems unforced, while both
the rhyming words and the passage, as a whole, can bear the
especial emphasis.

363 " Common suffrage " was misleading in Queen Anne's time,
and is still more now. See Introduction, p. xi. The coun-
cil of chiefs doubtless allotted the prizes, though Homer
does not here mention the matter at all.

370-371 Notice the rhyme, and see note on vss. 81-82. This
may have been quite a close rhyme in Pope's day, as it still
is in some dialects of English.

392-399 What Homer makes Achilles say is quite different.
Freely paraphrased, it might run : " Ye my peers, not
Agamemnon alone gave me Briseis : ye take her from
me. A soldier submits. But if the commander, or any
other, should invade my tents and ships, where I am su-


preme, seizing anything indeed my own, his blood shall
flow about my spear-head." So speaks a loyal, knightly cam-
paigner, who is also a haughty, independent ruler. Surely
Richard of England might so have addressed the emperor
in Palestine. Verse 395 is an unwelcome gift of Pope.
Certainly Achilles has fought gladly for Helen, and jus-
tice, and love of battle. Now Brise'is, and injustice, and
the fierce delight of bearding his overlord in full council,
sway him no less promptly. But no question as to any
woman is here raised by Homer.

The dialogue that ends here is quite as dramatic as anything
in Attic tragedy, w 7 hose founder, JEschylus, called his plays
" bits from the banquet of Homer." Even the descent of
Pallas Athene, to guide the hero's action, is a favorite de-
vice of the dramatists. But indeed, every great poet of
Europe is more or less included among the pupils of Homer.
Two brief incidents of pacific and commonplace nature are
fitly inserted (vss. 404-409, 410-417), before the stress of
the quarrel is renewed by the demand for Briseis.

402 is the first mention of Achilles' gentle and loyal friend, whose
death is soon to cut the knot just tied by Agamemnon's
and Achilles' pride. Homer names him here merely as the
" Son of Menoetias." This seems to prove that the outline,
at least, of the famous tale was perfectly familiar to those
for whom Homer chanted the lay. On the prominence of
manly friendship in the Greek imagination, see Introduc-
tion, pp. xii-xiii. The excellent commentary of Mr. Gentner
cites Horatio, Pythias, Jonathan, Pylades. The latter's
friendship is the closest parallel, because nearest to Homeric

410 The cause of the pestilence has been discovered, and removed
by Chryseis' departure. Leaf suggests that the Greeks sat
mourning, with dust on their heads, unwashed, during the
plague. The actual lifting of the ban by Chryses and his
god is to be described vss. 588-598. -

422 Agamemnon had declared he would come in person to seize
the woman (vs. 176). Does the poet quietly intimate thus
his monarch's violence of speech, and caution in act?

437 With Achilles' self-restraint and courtesy here, contrast


BOOK I 121

Agamemnon's rage at the priest Calchas, an equally inno-
cent and yet more sacred -personage. The heralds repre-
sent the u Zeus-nourished " king they serve, and share his
inviolable character.

445 " Pretty poetry, Mr. Pope," perhaps.

452-453 Since 1750 this couplet has been printed :

" Pass'd silent, as the herald held her hand,
And oft look'd back, slow-moving o'er the strand.'*

Compare the note on vss. 1-2, and the preface. The
present passage was a favorite with Pope, who added a
note intimating his satisfaction with his own imitation of
Homer's " numbers." Whoever substituted the four gasp-
ing initial 7*'s in 452 had lost, or never had possessed, the
ear and good taste of Pope in his prime. Homer merely
remarks, "With them reluctant the woman went."

458 The real Homer has just " bath'd " his host, adequately and
fitly, in the sea. He is incapable of such bathos as this.

462 There is no allusion in this book to any choice open for
Achilles between a glorious and a prolonged life. Perhaps
his own spirit cut him off from the ignobler alternative.
In Book IX., generally thought a later addition to the poem,
that form of the legend is mentioned ; Achilles himself
there says his mother gave him such a choice. (Pope's
translation, Book IX., vss. 532-537.)

468 if. More than any other character in Homer, perhaps in

ancient literature, Thetis has " the tender grace of divine
motherhood." "The strong-souled warrior is again but a
weeping boy at that mother's knee." (Art and Humanity
in Homer, where see pp. 86-91.) Homer's heroes have
no instinct of self-control. They weep, laugh, threaten,
boast, as freely as little children. But the Romans, when
they recast Greek dramas, suppressed such outbursts as
unmanly. The Anglo-Saxon also represses all utterance of
violent feeling, at least in real life. On the stage we per-
mit more of Hellenic naturalness.

469 Ocean is an error here. Oceanus is the god of the riverlike

stream or the stream itself that lies remote, encircling
all lands of earth. Thetis is a Mediterranean, an ^Egean,
divinity. Her father is unnamed, being merely alluded


to in Homer as the "aged sire," or the "ancient of the
sea." Later poets call him Nereus, and his lovely daughters,
the Nereids, became such favorites in legend that the name
is now applied in the Greek Levant to nearly all the kindly
creatures of fairyland. (Cf. the note on vs. 555.)

478-479 Thebe is the native town of Hector's wife, Andromache.
Ee'tion was her father. The sack is described more fully,
Book VI., vss. 524 if. How Chryses' daughter happened
to be there we cannot know. The situation of all these
Homeric towns can only be guessed.

In repetitions like this passage Homer uses exactly the
same words, even to the third time. Pope usually feels
compelled to vary his phrases. See, in any complete edition,
Book II., vss. 11-18, 33-40, 83-90.

515 The whole story is a crude and savage tale, agreeing ill with
Zeus' own claims of resistless strength. No allusion is
made to it again by the poets. Such monsters as the
hundred-handed Briareus are not elsewhere brought for-
ward by Homer. The myth is doubtless one received
from savage forefathers. Perhaps Thetis embroidered it
freely as a nursery tale for her boy. When she actually
makes her appeal to Zeus (infra, vss. G44 ff.) she is too
shrewd to bring to his mind any such mortifying memories.

518-519 i.e. Hera, Pallas, Poseidon.

523 Such a mention of twofold names occurs repeatedly. Perhaps
the divine name is the one used by some haughty race of
conquerors, the other by their subjects. Compare Wamba's
wise words, Ivarihoe, Chap. I.

525 Poseidon, the sea-god. Homer says he is father of Briareus,
who was doubtless suggested to some myth maker originally
by a cuttlefish, or by some less real marine monster. Pope
had no right to call Briareus a Titan. The Titans. are
Zeus 1 uncles, now imprisoned by their reigning monarch,
with his own father Kronos, in deepest Tartarus.
This legend is one of many which indicate that the Greeks,
or at least many insular and sea-loving clans, regarded the
marine powers as the mightiest of all divinities. Even in
the " orthodox " Olympian theology, Poseidon, the " earth-
shaker," is Zeus' elder brother, claiming full freedom in his

BOOK I 123

own demesne, and rarely coming to sit as an inferior in
Zeus' council hall.

551 The real Olympus is a mountain in Thessaly, more than nine
thousand feet high, so always snow-capt. Like the Thes-
salian birth of Achilles, this local abode of the gods is among

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