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

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Fought for the sake of herself, and under the hands of the war-god."

It is perhaps no accidental contrast that in a later book the
gentle Andromache, surprised at the loom also, was weav-
ing not battles, like Helen merely flowers.




" This is truth the poet sings: -
That a sorrow's crown of sorrows is remembering happier things."

Tennyson was a good Homeric scholar, but in these lines
of Locksley Hall he is probably thinking rather of Dante.

594-609 There is hardly another passage in ancient literature
where a child is treated by a poet as a modern parent
would desire. Pope is spirited, but by no means faithful.
The " reeking spoils " of vs. 611 is exactly Homeric, and
must be accepted along with the gentler touches. But vs.
609 quite reverses the modest prayer :

" May it be said some day, ' He is better by far than his father.' "
Again, the last half of vs. 607 really makes us feel that a
stout British Tory is asserting his loyalty.

627 This is in quite a different tone from vs. 570. Hector here
cheers his wife by assuring her no man can slay him until
the day of destiny comes. This fatalistic feeling is a com-
mon conviction of the soldier in any age. Such a belief is
said to aid largely in making the Turks and other Ma-
hometans so fearless in battle.

665 Paris make? a very polita speech of two lines, which Pope

679 The feeble personification of Greece which can hardly be
distinguisht from the "proud foe" of the previous line
makes an unworthy close for this splendid episode. Never-
theless, Pope has shown, on the whole, such a mastery of
clear, vigorous English as few men have ever attained.
His rhyme, also, though often a temptation to excessive
freedom, is never in itself grotesque or ignoble. He keeps
well within those canons of taste which he and his age
formulated and believed in.

We said in the Introduction it was not easy to explain the
prompt and lasting favor with which this translation was
received. A careful comparison with Chapman's version,
then its only serious rival, will go far to allay our surprise.
The student may profitably pause and study for a mo-
ment the respective renderings of this closing passage,
which is an ordinary average test. Beginning after Paris'
apology, Chapman continues :


" He answered : ' Houour'd man,
Be confident, for not myself nor any others can
Reprove in thee the work of fight, at least, not any such
As is an equal judge of things ; for thou hast strength as much
As serves to execute a mind very important, but
Thy strength too readily flies off, enough will is not put
To thy ability. My heart is in my mind's strife sad,
When Troy (out of her much distress, she and her friends have


By thy procurement) doth deprave thy noblesse in mine ears.
But come, hereafter we shall calm these hard conceits of theirs,
When, from their ports the foe expuls'd, high Jove to them hath

Wish'd peace, and us free sacrifice to all the Pow'rs of heav'n.'"

The first four pairs of rhymes are trivial, almost comic, the
other two are imperfect in sound. In all Pope's transla-
tions and original poems together no such interwoven skein
of "hard conceits," no such series of rhymes thumping
upon ludicrously unimportant words, can be found to set
beside this.

Pope, Bryant, Lang, Worsley, are alike easy and graceful, in
contrast with the Elizabethan rhymes, in such a passage.
Compare Introduction, pp. xvii-xix, and also the first note
on Book XXIV.


Again the student should read the arguments for the
omitted books (VII.-XXL), and make for himself a still
briefer outline of those incidents which are essential to the
main story. In this book, too, we must remember that
the fierce, imperious spirit of Achilles, after chafing so long
in self-compelled inaction, has been fatally embittered by
the loss of his better and gentler self, Patroclus. Over the
survivor also hangs the black shadow of close-hovering
death, foretold him long ago by his mother, whose prophecy
has just been miraculously repeated by one of Achilles'
divine horses, as they reluctantly drew him forth to his
greatest but fatal triumph, the slaying of Hector. This
book ought to be read, for the first time, at one sitting, with-
out the slightest interruption, with no reference to notes.


The sjvif t action, the repeated appeal to the strongest ^ele-
mentaTemotions, hate and love, the powerful and fit similes
from familiar natural* objects at each great crisis, show
Homer at his best ; and therB is little indeed in all literature
that is better. Athene's interference offends sadly against
our ideas of fair play, but she is perhaps merely the agent

I of Zeus, or of still mightier Fate, reminding us that Hector
is hopelessly handicapped by being on the side of wrong.

Any careful reader will by this time recognize many words
and lines as evident additions by Mr. Pope's hand. They
may be classified in part as vague personifications, extrava-
gant metaphors, and forced antitheses. Many of the
examples occurring in this book may be grouped here
together. Others w T ill be easily found, especially if a more
literal version be compared with Pope's. Thus such single
words as drown (vs. 4), chain' 'd (vs. 9), torrents (vs. 126),
smoke (vs. 194), hand (vs. 454), tender slww'r (vs. 547), intro-
duce or suggest some mi-Homeric comparison. The whole
line 85 is an extended metaphor added by the translator.
In 146, 151-152, etc., Homer did not personify the " suffer-
ing country," saying merely " Some other baser man" might
malign Hector. More serious is the insertion of Fate in
228, Furies 447, Fate 449, Fates 453, etc., until the stage
soems thronged with such vague half-real shapes. The
Fates are actually mentioned only once, if at all, in the
plural by. Homer (XXIV. 63) as persons: the whole
notion of the three spinners is apparently a later myth.
The worst single line is perhaps 382, where Homer only
said, "Now an ignoble death is near, not remote."

That Pope identifies Apollo explicitly with the sun (vss. 23,
284, etc.) has been criticised before. He often improves
on the ethics of his original. Thus (vss. 69, 72) the mother
of Polydorus and Lycaon, Laothoe, is named by Homer, and
the reminder of Priam's polygamy is the more forcible be-
cause Hecuba is even now leaning over the battlements at
his side. Much picturesque paganism is piously concealed
under such words as " Heaven." Thus 172 for " that de-
termine Heav'n " the Greek says " to whom the Olympian
giveth the glory," and (vs. 242)


" Downward darting Athene passed from the crests of Olympus."

This conception of the mountain abode of the gods seems
to have been quite too crude for Pope's taste. See espe-
cially 218, where we somehow get a picture of heaven like
the upper tier of boxes in a fashionable theatre. Homer
only said " all the gods beheld them." But this very crude-
ness of Homeric thought as to the divine abode may have
an important weight in discussing the relative age of the
epics, or of different passages in the Iliad. (See note on
Book I., vs. 551. )

The eighteenth-century poet often adds detail of a more
artificial culture than Homer. Thus the "well breath 'd
beagle " (244) is just a dog, and \ve are not even told
if he tracked the fawn by sight or scent, so 247 is all gra-

Pope is especially bold in his allusions to the dead. Thus
347-348 is really fine, but impossible, because the dead,
once duly cremated, can never revisit the living, even in
dreams. (Pope's Homer, XXIII. 93-96.) Verses 457-458
are also too explicit. We are told by Homer only that

" Flitting forth from the body his soul had already departed,
Grieving over his doom, for the loss of his manhood and youth-

Again at 70-71 Homer only says, "But if already they are
dead and in Hades' abode." The notion that the body
must be duly disposed of before the soul can cross the Styx
seems here to be in Pope's mind. Patroclus 1 ghost says
nearly this to Achilles in a dream. (Pope's Iliad, XXIII.
87-92.) Everywhere else in the Iliad the souls of the slain
flit instantly to Hades 1 realm. It is curious that Pope fin-
ally closes his Iliad with a verse of his own, giving us
unique and incredible information as to the condition of
the dead. See note on XXIV. 1016.

6 The original is only " leaning shields on shoulders." Pope is
thinking of the Roman method of assault, with the shields
fitted together so as to form a complete roof, called the
" tortoise." Homer knows no such custom, and his common
soldiers hardly count at all in real contests.


39 Our names for constellations are largely ancient. The Greeks
fancied they saw in them outlines of natural objects, or
human figures. Orion is the name of a famous hunter. A
group of stars rising just ahead of it is called Canis Major,
and is supposed to be Orion's hound. The brightest star
of the group is Sirius. Our " dog days," and similar words
in other languages, recall the old belief that the rising of
Canis Major brought the sultry midsummer weather.
The comparison with the death bringing Achilles is magnifi-
cently fitting. " Xot half so dreadful " is Pope's improve-
ment on " Even as " ; but artistically he is right. The
comparison should always be subordinate to the thing it
illustrates, and must send us back with heightened interest
to the main highroad of the story. And the angry hero is
far more dreadful than any star.

90 Homer says earth, PopeyZoor. The change, if slight, is char-

105 Wholly original with Mr. Pope.

137 The heroes almost invariably speak, rather than think, even
when alone. This is part of the intensely dramatic quality
of Homer, and of nearly all Greek utterance.

140 This was the evening before, after Hector had slain Patroclus
and secured Achilles' arms. In the intervening night
Thetis had obtained from Hephaestus far more splendid
armor for her son.

158 The hearer is reminded betimes that Hector's fate is deserved.
Especially, if he has been able, by force or counsel, to
secure the restoration of Helen, it should have been done
long years ago. In Book VII., after Hector's duel with
Ajax, there is a council of Trojans, where Anterior makes
this proposal, Paris objects, and Priam, weakly siding with
his guilty son, finally sends a herald to the Greeks, offering-
back only the treasure stolen with Helen. The very herald
condemns Paris bitterly. (Pope, VII. 462-469.) Hector's
voice is not heard at all.

Here he speaks and thinks only as a warrior. His parents'
appeals, his wife's fate, seem not to be in his mind at all.
So when he passed out of the gate with Paris at the close
of Book VI., the delight of battle seized him, while all his


forebodings and reluctance were forgotten. This is all
good psychology.

180 The flight of Hector perplexes the modern reader. Perhaps
some recorded prophecy, or other famous tradition, bound
the poet to this incident, despite the gallantry elsewhere
accorded by him to the Trojan leader. Panic may, of
course, seize on brave men. Some think the passage a late
insertion by an unworthy hand. In his beautiful poem,
Helen of Troy, Andrew Lang reproves Homer for such a
slander on a gallant hero.

195 There are many springs, warm and cold, in the Trojan plain,
but the sources of the Scamander are quite twenty miles
away, high on Mt. Ida. There a current from a warm
spring does run a short way to join a larger stream of cold
water. This last has just before fallen over a considerable
precipice, is fed by marshy land above, and doubtless,
finally, by the melting snows on topmost Gargaros. The
present editor visited the spot just after heavy rains had
fallen for three days (October, 1881), and the " hot spring"
was then barely tepid. It is very doubtful if the ancients
knew these springs. They had no delight in mountain

257 Elsewhere in the Iliad dreams, even when deceitful, are actu-
ally sent to men by some divine agency. Here Homer
speaks, quite as a modern man might, of a mere nightmare.
This is said to be the only case of a dream used in a simile.

263 Muse is not in the Greek.

276 The figurative meaning is evident. Of course Pope uses the
word hell, here and elsewhere, for the whole world of
the dead.

285-286 Pope makes a very serious error here. No such scene
on Olympus could be made visible to a mortal's eyes.
Athene merely asserts, that there could now be no escape
for Hector, even if Apollo should intercede for him, ever
so frantically, in Zeus' presence. The whole activity of
Athene in this crisis seems horribly unfair, and even de-
prives Achilles of credit for that supreme triumph which
he is supposed to be fully able to win without magic
armor or foul play. We are tempted here again, as in


Book I., to allegorize her away, as a mere incarnation of
vengeful divine justice. Patroclus, however, is killed by
Hector under very similar circumstances.

340-342 Homer makes Achilles say only : " There can be no
courtesies or oaths between me and thee, ere one of us falls,
sating with his blood the fierce war-god Ares." There
really is, however, a great and bitter change, worked by
Patroclus' loss, in the nature of Achilles. He himself ex-
presses it fully to a lesser victim of his spear, in Book" XXI.
(Pope's version, vss. 109-125.) He fully realizes, and wel-
comes, his own approaching death.

405-406 It is, perhaps, too ingenious to find here an example of
" tragic irony." Homer does not call attention to the fact
that Hector is wearing the armor of Achilles himself, who
naturally knows its weakest point. It is quite in the spirit
of Attic tragedy, however, to emphasize such coincidences.
So, after the duel in Book VII., Ajax gives Hector a belt,
and receives in turn a sword. It is the later tale, not
Homer's, which adds : by that belt Hector's corpse was
dragged behind Achilles' chariot, with that sword Ajax
slew himself in frenzy at last.

430 and 432 are wholly Pope's.

451-452 Notice the clear, prophetic vision of the dying. Some
such legend as this, about Achilles' death, must have been
familiar to Homer's audience. Some stories make Achilles
meet his death when going to woo, or wed, Priam's daugh-
ter, Polyxena. Paris was to be forced to surrender Helen
as part of the general peaceful arrangement, hence his
treacherous shot. The various early " sequels " composed
for the Iliad have all perished. (See Lawton's Successors
of Homer.) From one of them this speech of Hector may
have been inserted, later, in the Iliad.

467 some. Homer says "every one." This may have been due
to the fierce blood-feud of the many whose kin Hector had

491-494 The dactylic marching movement seems essential to the
meaning here :

" Now let us sing our paean of victory, sons of Achaians,
While to the hollow ships we march, and carry the body.


Great is the glory we win : we have slain the illustrious Hector:
Like to a god throughout their city the Trojans adored him."

The last two lines seem to be part of the psean itself, to
the notes of which the triumphant Greeks march shore-

510 Cf. 218, 465. Men and gods look on in anxious suspense at
the decisive scene in the long tragedy. Only Andromache
is spared the sight.

525 See note on Book I., vs. 174.

567 The "pensive melancholy" is transferred by Mr. Pope from
Book VI., vss. 643-647.

604-605 The alliteration and assonance call attention painfully
to the least musical of English sounds. The experiment
of 543 should not have been repeated. Pope rarely per-
mits such a lapse as this. Compare note on Book L,
vss. 452-453.

610 " The astrology is Pope's." (Gentner.)

622-653 Powerful and pathetic as it is, this passage had in
ancient and modern times been criticised as inept. Asty-
anax is still a prince, grandson of Priam and heir of
Hector. Even when Troy falls, Hector's son will but share
the common lot of enslavement with his whole race. The
prevailing tradition was, however, that in the sack of the
city some Grecian chieftain flung the boy from the walls.
But this is not a moment when Andromache can be ex-
pected to utter wise or moderate words.


This book is generally believed to be by a later hand.
Certain differences, even in the language, make Mr. Lang
himself doubtful. There can be no question that this
closing scene raises the whole poem to a higher ethical and
artistic plane, by revealing the character of Achilles under
the softening influences, of bereavement, pity, and even
sympathy. The song of triumph, quoted above in the note
on XXII. l!)l-l!M, would be a possible final note for an
epic of action, and the subject, announced at the beginning


of the Iliad, had even then been fully worked out. At just
such a point the JEneid stops.

These last two books are two very different attempts,
somewhat as in the fifth act of the Merchant of Venice, to
lighten the stress of the previous scenes, and to leave a
milder final impression. Whether it was the chief poet, or
a worthy pupil, who first thought of bringing together these

1 stately figures, Achilles and Priam, in their kindred grief,
can hardly be finally demonstrated. One of the later
Homeric supplements makes Achilles conceive, and Thetis
and Aphrodite gratify, a wild desire to see Helen, whom
he had apparently never beheld, much less wooed. A
still later legend arranges a final wedding between these
two incarnations of youthful beauty, Achilles and Helen, in
the "White Island" of far Orient seas. Somewhat such
an afterthought this noble episode may have been. On the
whole, the present editor inclines to believe that the larger
lay of Achilles' wrath, and this tale of his hospitable cour-
tesy to Priam, are by quite diverse hands, and probably
appealed to different generations of men. This book is in
spirit nearer to the Odyssey than to the Acliilleid proper.

The first twenty lines are a fine example of Pope's best man-
ner. The natural antithesis at vs. 5, " ]N"ot so Achilles," adds
much force and pathos. Friendship is a subject on which
Pope thought and wrote excellently. His choice for rhyme
never falls on a trivial word. Tastes, fed, vent, do call up
needless metaphors, but doubtless most readers pass them
unnoticed. " More unobserv'd to weep " is British stoicism,
not the epic delight in full self -utterance. On the whole,
no rhymed version can greatly surpass this performance, for
it is nearly perfect. The final question is, does the rhymed
couplet, in the mass, please or stun the listening ear?
To that, Pope's age gave one answer, Tennyson's another.

The original has twelve lines, and can perhaps be packed into
so many ten-syllable English verses :

" The games were done. The folk to their swift ships
Dispersing went. Of supper and sweet sleep
They thought, to be enjoyed : Achilles wept,
Remembering his dear comrade. Nor did sleep,


The all-conquering, hold him : to and fro he tost,
Missing Patroclus' bloom and glorious might.
What toils he had wrought with him, and woes endur'd,
Cleaving the wars of men, and grievous waves,
These he recalled, and dropt a swelling tear.
Sometimes upon his side, then on his back
He lay, or face ; again he rose erect,
And madly whirl'd along the beach,"

Bryant, in fifteen lines, softens slightly to pensive melancholy
the firm Greek strokes, telling how

" The battles fought with heroes, the wild seas
O'erpassed, came thronging on his memory."

Chapman says Achilles

" Did renew

His friend's dear memory, his grace in managing his strength,
And his strength's greatness, how life rack'd into their utmost


Griefs, battles, and the wraths of seas, in their joint sufferance.
Each thought of which turn'd to a tear. Sometimes he would

In tumbling on the shore, his side," etc.

Those who love such quaint conceits will look not in vain
on any page of Chapman. He is himself a real poet, of
which we are reminded far oftener than in Pope's com-
pany, as witness the half-line italicized by us. The man-
ner, even there, however, is quite un-Horneric.

33 The " golden shield," or segis of Zeus, is elsewhere intrusted
only to Athene. Is it really in origin the sun's disk ? Zeus,
Pallas, Apollo, are often named together in a form of oath,
which even in Homer sounds archaic. They are more clearly
natural forces in origin than are most of the Olympian
divinities : the cloud-wrapt sky-father, his blue-eyed helpful
daughter, who even wields his bolts, his radiant life-giving-
son. See, however, the note on Book I., vs. 52.

38-41 A crude version of an awkward original. The poet tells
how to these gods holy Ilios was hateful :

" Priam as well, and his people, because of the madness of Paris ; "

the last phrase occurs repeatedly elsewhere, always as an
allusion to Paris' escapade with Helen. But this time two
verses are added :


"Who did the goddesses anger when they had entered his courtyard ;
Her he approved who indulged his fatal wantonness for him."

A famous poem, the Cyprian Epic, was composed, after
the Iliad, expressly to give adequate explanation how the
great strife around Troy came to begin. The quarrel of
the three goddesses over the apple inscribed " for the fair-
est," with the bribery of the umpire Paris by Aphrodite
through the promise of a most lovely wife, must have been
prominent in that tale, whether then invented or part of an
older tradition. The present passage seems an inept inter-
polation alluding to that story. It will be noticed that it
leaves Poseidon's anger wholly unaccounted for. The author
of the Iliad probably never heard the apple story.

50-57 The philosophic maxim intruding here is a borrowed line
from Hesiod. The two meanings of " shame " are seen in
our " I am ashamed to do it," and " I am ashamed of doing
it." In one case we are restrained from the sin, in the
other we are guilty and remorseful. But Achilles, or his
poet, never uses language for such dialectic purposes.

61-69 Except the misleading " Heav'n " and " God," the Greek is
fairly rendered here. It is the only passage where Fates
(,1/o/ra/) are mentioned in the plural. Notice that even
here no spinning is mentioned. Homer says only :

" The fates bestowed on men a spirit able to endure."

Compare the introductory note to Book XXIL, p. 137.

78-83 The procession of the great gods going to Thetis' wedding
is a favorite subject of Greek art, beginning with the fa-
mous and very ancient Fran9ois vase. Catullus' longest
poem has the most detailed literary description. Hera's
fondness for Thetis is not indicated in other books of Homer,
and at the close of Book I. we had the opposite impression
as to her feeling. Later accounts explain that Hera was
grateful to her rival for rejecting Zeus' suit.

96 It is Pope who tints Thetis " azure " and her sister's hair
"blue," because they have marine abodes.

99 Iris is the usual divine messenger in the Iliad, Hermes in the
Odyssey. Both of them, and Thetis besides, are used in the
rather elaborate "machinery" of this book. The notion


that Iris is sent especially on malicious errands cannot be
maintained. That she is the personal messenger of Zeus
and Hera is more plausible. See especially the note on Vss.
132-133. That Iris is originally the rainbow can hardly be
questioned, though, e.g. in vs. 115, Homer only says "fleet
Iris." Hermes is closely associated with clouds, as Shake-
speare saw him

"New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill."

103-104 Islands of the Northern JEgean. " Samos " is the classi-
cal Samothrace. N"otice that the poet is here thinking dis-
tinctly of Thessalian Olympus as the divine seat, and knows
his local geography perfectly.

129 Homer says only, " They found wide-seeing Zeus." The epic
lightning is not used for mere illumination or diversion.

132-133 In the eastern section of the great Parthenon frieze,
Zeus sits with Hera on one side, and Pallas Athene is really
on the other, though a group of mortals apparently comes
between. A corner of the Zeus-block, missing for centuries,
was found when the Acropolis was excavated down to the
bed-rock. A graceful feminine head upon it was promptly
recognized by Dr. Waldstein as Iris. So no figure of our
present group is now absent from the group in the frieze,
except the reluctant guest, Thetis.

193-194 Homer's Zeus speaks with full knowledge here as usual :

" Nowise foolish is he, nor yet malicious, nor thoughtless;
Nay, to a suppliant man he will mercy accord, as is fitting."

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Online LibraryHomerPope's translation of Homer's Iliad, books I, VI, XXII, XXIV; → online text (page 12 of 13)