Homer.

The first six books of Homer's Iliad online

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funeral of Hector.

§ 8. Concise Analysis of the Iliad.

Introduction. A. Pestilence. Assembly. Quarrel. Rest from bat-
tle. Thetis goes to Zeus on the 21st day.

I. B-H 380. First great battle, on the 22d day. Single combats
between Paris and Menelaus, Hector and Ajax.

II. Η 381-K. Burial of the dead and building of the wall, on the 23d
and 24th days. Second great battle, on the 25th day. Embassy to
Achilles. Odysseus and Diomed enter the Trojan camp.

III. K-X Third great battle, on the 26th day. Death of Patroclus.
Hephaestus makes armor for Achilles.

IV. T-X. Fourth battle, on the 27th day. Achilles kills Hector.
Conclusion. Φ, Ω. Achilles abuses the body of Hector on days

27-38. Lament for Hector in Troy on days 38-47. Burial of Hector
and erection of mound over his body, on the 48th and 49th days.



§^d. AFTER THE ILIAD. xiii

This scheme shows that the action of the lUad covers but seven
weeks. Three of these are occupied by the action of the first book, and
three by that of the last two books ; only four days are spent in fighting.

§ 9. The Story after the Action of the Iliad. For part of the last act
in the siege of Troy, indications exist in the Iliad and Odyssey. Many
other details were added by later poets.

a. After the death of Hector, the Amazons come to the help of the
Trojans. Their queen is slain by Achilles. Memnon, — a cousin of
Hector, — the beautiful son of Eos (Daum) and Tithonus, comes with his
Aethiopians. He slays' Nestor's son Antilochus, a dear friend of Achilles,
but is then himself slain by the mighty son of Thetis. Achilles is over-
come by Apollo and Paris, as he is about to force an entrance to the city
through the Scaean Gate. His mother comes from the sea, with her
sister Nereids, and bewails him. She offers his beautiful armor as a
prize to the bravest of the Greeks, and it is awarded to Odysseus. Tela-
monian Ajax goes mad in his disappointment at not receiving the armor,
and commits suicide. Paris is slain, and Helen becomes the wife of his
brother Deiphobus. Philoctetes, the bearer of the bow of Heracles, is
brought from Lemnos where he had been left (§ 6, Β 721 ff.) ; and
Neoptolemus, the young son of Achilles, is brought from the island of
Scyrus. Odysseus enters the city of Troy as a spy, in the guise of a
beggar. Athena suggests to Odysseus the building of the ' wooden
horse,' in which the bravest of the Achaeans are hidden, while the rest set
fire to their camp and sail away. The Trojans drag the wooden horse
within the city, and at night the Greeks return and Troy is sacked.

b. Agamemnon reaches home in safety, but is treacherously murdered
by his wife and her paramour, Aegisthus. Menelaus is driven from his
course by a storm. Most of his ships are wrecked on the coast of Crete.
He himself, with Helen, is carried by the wind to Aegypt, and wanders
for eight years before his return to his home at Sparta.

c. Nestor, Diomed, and Idomeneus reach home safely. Ajax, the son
of Oileus, is wrecked and drowned.

d. Odysseus is driven by the storm to the land of the Lotus Eaters,
thence to the island of Polyphemus (t), thence to the island of Aeolus,
to the land of the Laestrygonians (where eleven of his twelve ships are
destroyed)^ and to the island of Circe where he and his companions remain
during a year (κ) . Then they go to Hades (λ) to consult the old seer
Teiresias. On their return they pass Scylla and Charybdis, they come to
the island of the Sun, and (urged by hunger) kill one of his cows. They
are punished by shipwreck, from which Odysseus alone escapes. He is
borne to the island of Calypso (/x), where he remains for eight years. Then



xiv INTRODUCTION. § 1^.

he returns to his home on Ithaca, enduring many sufferings on the way.
He finds his faithful wife, Penelope, surrounded by more than a hundred
young and insolent suitors. These he kills, and regains his kingdom.

§ 10. The division of the Iliad and Odyssey, each into twenty-four
books, was not made by the poet himself, nor was it known in the classi-
cal period. It seems to have been made by the scholars of Alexandria
about 250 years B.C. The 'books' were lettered not numbered. The
large letters of the Greek alphabet (A, B, Γ, κτλ.) are used to indi-
cate the books of the Iliad; the small letters (a, β, γ, κτλ.) are used
for the books of the Odyssey.

§ 11. HOMERIC STYLE, a. Matthew Arnold enumerates four es-
sential characteristios of Homer's poetry : * Homer is rapid in his move-
ment, Homer is plain in his words and style. Homer is simple in his
ideas, Homer is noble in his manner. Cowper renders him ill because he
is slow in his movement and elaborate in his style ; Pope renders him ill
because he is artificial both in his style and in his words ; Chapman
renders him ill because he is fantastic in his ideas.'

If poets and masters have thus failed, clearly it is no easy achievement
to translate Homer well, to be at the same time rapid, plain, simple, and
noble, — ου ττως αμχχ -πάντα δυντ/σεαι αΰτο? ελεσ^αι. The beginner can at
least be simple ; he should aim to attain the other qualities also.

b. Pope says in his preface : ' That which in my opinion ought to be
the endeavour of any one who translates Homer, is above all things to
keep alive that spirit and fire which makes his chief character. In par-
ticular places, where the sense can bear any doubt, to follow the strongest
and most poetical, as most agreeing with that character. To copy him
in all the variations of his style and the different modulations of his
numbers. To preserve in the more active or more descriptive parts, a
warmth and elevation ; in the more sedate or narrative, a plainness and
solemnity ; in the speeches, a fulness and perspicuity ; in the sentences
[sententiae'], a shortness and gravity. Not to neglect even the little figures
and turns on the words, nor sometimes the very cast of the periods.
Neither to omit or confound any rites or customs of antiquity. ... To
consider him attentively in comparison with Vergil above all the ancients,
and with Milton above all the moderns.'

'The story of the Iliad is the Anger of Achilles, the most short and
single subject that was ever chosen by any poet. Yet this he has supplied
with a greater number of councils, speeches, battles, and episodes of all
kinds than are to be found even in those poems, whose schemes are of the
utmost latitude and irregularity. The action is hurried on with the most
vehement spirit, and its whole duration occupies not so much as fifty



§ 11 d. HOMERIC STYLE. XV

days. Vergil, for want of so warm a genius, aided himself by taking in
a more extensive subject, as well as a greater length of time, and contract-
ing the design of both Homer's poems into one which is but a fourth
part as large as his.' Pope, Translation of Homer.

c. Cowper says in his preface : * My chief boast is that I have adhered
closely to the original, convinced that every departure from him would
be punished with the forfeiture of some grace or beauty for which I could
offer no substitute. ... It has been my point everywhere to be as little
verbose as possible. ... In the affair of style, I have endeavoured
neither to creep nor to bluster, for no author is so likely to betray his
translator into both these faults as Homer, though himself never guilty
of either. . . . The passages which will be least noticed . . . are those
which have cost me abundantly the most labour. It is difficult to kill a
sheep with dignity in a modern language, to flay and to prepare it for the
table, detailing every circumstance of the process. Difficult also, with-
out sinking below the level of poetry, to harness mules to a wagon, par-
ticularizing QYQvy article of their furniture, straps, rings, staples, and even
the tying of the knots that kept all together. Homer, who writes always
to the eye, with all his sublimity and grandeur, has the minuteness of a
Flemish painter.' Cowper, Translation of the Iliad.

d. Two passages from the great Gernlan critic, Lessing, are worthy to
be remembered in this connection : ' The picture of the plague. What
do we see on the canvas? Dead bodies, the flame of funeral pyres, the
dying busied with the dead, the angry god upon a cloud discharging his
arrows. The profuse wealth of the picture becomes poverty in the
poet. . . . Now let us turn to Homer himself [A 44-53]. The poet
here is as far beyond the painter as life is better than a picture. Wrath-
ful, with bow and quiver, Apollo descends from the Olympian towers.
I not only see him, but hear him. At every step the arrows rattle on the
shoulders of the angry god. He enters among the host like the night.
Now he seats himself over against the ships, and with a terrible clang of
the silver bow sends his first shaft against the mules and dogs. Next he
turns his poisoned [deadly] darts upon the warriors themselves, and un-
ceasing blaze on every side the corpse-laden pyres. It is impossible to
translate into any other language the musical painting heard in the poet's
words.* Laocoon xiii. (Miss Frothingham's translation.)

* When Homer wishes to tell us how Agamemnon was dressed, [B 42 ff.]
he makes the king put on every article of raiment in our presence : the
soft tunic, the great mantle, the beautiful sandals, and the sword. When
he is thus fully equipped he grasps his sceptre. We see the clothes while
the poet is describing the act of dressing. An inferior writer would have



xvi INTRODUCTION. § 11 e.

described the clothes down to the minutest fringe, and of the action we
should have seen nothing. . . . How does he manage when he desires
to give a more full and minute picture [B 101 ff.] of the sceptre, which
is here called only ancestral and undecaying, as a similar one in another
place is only χρνσίοις ηΧοισι ττετταρ/αενον ? Does he paint for us, beside
the golden nails, the wood, and the carved head? He might have done
so had he been writing a description for a book of heraldry, from which
at some later day an exact copy was to be made. Yet I have no doubt
that many a modern poet would have given such heraldic description in
the honest belief that he was really making a picture himself, because he
was giving the painter material for one. But what does Homer care how
far he outstrips the painter? Instead of a copy, he gives us the history
of the sceptre. First we see it in the workshop of Yulcan ; then it shines
in the hands of Jupiter ; now it betokens the dignity of Mercury ; now it
is the baton of warlike Pelops ; and, again, the shepherd's staff of peace-
loving Atreus. . . . And so at last I know this sceptre better than if a
painter should put it before my eyes, or a second Vulcan give it into my
hands.' Laocoon xvi.

e. Direct Discourse. Like the writers of Holy Scripture, and as
in the simple style of ballads and fairy tales and the conversation of chil-
dren and unedlicated persons, the Homeric poet avoids the use of indirect
discourse; he has no long passages in oratio obliqua, in the manner of the
reported speeches in Caesar's Commentaries. He passes quickly from
indirect to direct discourse. Contrast 6 yap ήλθε θοα



Online LibraryHomerThe first six books of Homer's Iliad → online text (page 2 of 54)