John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

. (page 2 of 29)
Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 2 of 29)
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boyhood the sentiments of the poets is that when we
are men we shall put them into practice."

These citations from Plato and Aeschines suggest
the remark that the views expressed by the Greeks in
general on the function of poetry are an interesting
confirmation of what has been said about the intimate
connection between Greek literature and life. And
the gradual change in these views reflects the gradual
change that took place in this relation. For after the
loss of national liberty at Chaeronea there came about
a disassociation of all the finer elements of Greek life
from each other, and we trace the sad development of
individualism, sectionalism, party narrowness, begun
earlier, which finally broke up the fabric of Hellenic
society. In a familiar passage in the Frogs of Aris-
tophanes there is a scene between Aeschylus and
Euripides, who are represented as engaging in a poet-
ical contest in the lower world, the victor in which is
to be released and to revisit Athens. The dialogue
opens thus : " Tell me," says Aeschylus, " for what
qualities we should admire a poet." "For wit and
useful wisdom," replies Euripides, with the approba-


tion of Aeschylus, "for making men better." The
same thought reappears in the words of the orator
Hyperides — " How can we live beautifully unless
we know the beautiful things in life ? " For is not
poetry among the most beautiful things in life ? Plato,
as is well known, would exclude the poet from his
ideal state. But even this exclusion is evidence of
the position and power of Greek poetry among the
Greek people, and it is accompanied by interesting
modifications. It is mainly, says Plato, because men
believe in the literal truth of immoral myths and
legends that they are injured by poetry. To a noble
and true poetry he raises no objection. The poet and
the law-giver are rivals, the latter striving to set in
action the noblest of dramas, and the poet must not
address the citizens in a manner out of harmony with
the institutions of the state. There must be a censor-
ship of poetry, and the poet must sing only of high
thoughts and deeds. But even in Aristotle we note
the beginning of a change of opinion as to the chief
object of poetry, — a slight but a significant change.
For him the chief use of poetry is that it affords a
"noble pleasure;" and this double view is reflected
in the sentiment of Sir Philip Sidney that the end of
poetry is "delightful teaching," poetry being the
" sweet food of uttered knowledge." A century after
Aristotle, a great scholar, — perhaps the first great
scholar in the modern sense of this word, Eratosthenes
of Cyrene, — declares with emphasis that the end of
poetry is not instruction or edification, but pleasure,
or beguiling delight. And this view leads on to the
further degradation of the conception of the office of
poetry, until men say that the chief reason for study-
ing poetry is to have something to quote !


Such was Gr6ek poetry to the Greeks themselves in
the classical age. What may it be to us ? Has it a
message for modern ears, — a message that we may
spell out in the pages of this book of selections from
Greek poetry, — and what is that message ? We may
answer this question in many ways, but mainly as
students of human achievement and as lovers of the
beautiful. The survivals of antiquity, especially the
literature of Greece, interest us and should demand

[&-' jour devotion because they are the tokens and memo-

rials of human life and spirit, brilliant, beautiful,
powerful, pregnant in meaning for later times — it
l^^ntains the future as it came out of the past ; " —
memorials of memorable epochs, bright and happy
moments in the history of humanity when the indi-
vidual was at his best and uttered himself as seldom
since, in spite — and perhaps because — of the vast

^enrichment and expansion of our modern world. As

^ / the man of science delights in nature because she
speaks of herself, so the student of literature delights
in the poetry of the Greeks because it reveals the

y^ soul of man in its radiant and wondrously gifted
youth. And so when we are asked whether modern
poetry has not much to offer that is better than
Greek poetry, and are told that it suits our times,
being ampler and deeper in sentiment, and at least
equally happy in marrying sense and verse, we can
only reply that the thoughtful really live in no one
time above another ; they are citizens of all time, and
must find their own, what they need for the enlarge-
ment and awakening of their souls, in the poetry of
Athens equally with that of Weimar and Paris and
London and Boston. And to the second contention
we can only answer that modern poetry is in no sense


a substitute for Greek poetry. It has, it is true, much
that Greek poetry has not ; so has Greek poetry much,
very much, that finds no echo nor counterpart in
modern verse. Modern poetry, modern literature, is
supplementary to that of the Greeks. And the liberal
soul that covets earnestly the best gifts, and all the
best gifts, will seek and study and cultivate them both,
with equal assiduity and strong endeavor.

It remains for me to add that the selections in !
this volume were made, and the biographical and other
notes written, by Miss Clara Hitchcock Seymour,
B. A., of Bryn Mawr College, and that she had in her
task, which she has executed with both taste and
skill, the counsel of her father, the distinguished Hill-
house Professor of Greek in Yale University. My
share in the work has been merely to contribute this
brief Introduction.

October 29, 1902.


The name Homer now stands for ancient Greek epic
poetry. We know nothing of the man and his life. In
times past, scholars asked with regard to his birthplace, but
now they ask rather where epic poetry had its rise. The
earliest Greek epics seem to have been sung in Thessaly,
south of Mount Olympus, where was the fabled home of
the gods ; and the muses were called Pierian, from Pieria
in Macedonia, not far to the north. But epic poetry was
brought to its perfection by Ionian Greeks, on the western
coast of Asia Minor. Thirty years ago many scholars be-
lieved the whole story of the Trojan war, on which both the
Iliad and the Odyssey are based, to be a mere figment of
the imagination, developed perhaps from misinterpreted ex-
pressions relating to the Dawn ; but the excavations of the
last quarter of the nineteenth century showed that, rather
more than a thousand years before the beginning of our era,
powerful and wealthy cities with mighty walls stood where
Homer placed Mycenae and Troy, the homes of Agamem-
non, " king of men," and the old king Priam. So we need
not doubt that the Trojan war was a real war, though doubt-
less the poems exaggerate the numbers of those who took
part in it. Achilles and Agamemnon may have been real
men, though " Homer " was a poet and not a historian.

How much of the poems, as we have them, is due to any
one poet, no one can say. Doubtless the poet who gave
them their unity used very freely older lays and poetic ma-
terial of every sort, adapting this to his use, while the bards
who followed our Homer added verses, brief passages, or
even whole lays. Before the age when writing was used


for literary purposes, the sense of literary property was not
strong, and each bard or "rhapsode " felt at liberty to mod-
ify and to add. But that a true and great poetic genius put
the poems into essentially their present form, fewer doubt
now than a quarter of a century ago. This poet probably
lived as early as the ninth century before our era. Other
scholars would hold that the poems are the product of three
or four poets in different ages, — the later poet extending
and developing the plan of his predecessors. The earliest
of these may have lived as early as the tenth century, and
the latest in the eighth century B. c.

The translations from the Iliad are by William Cullen
Bryant ; that from the Odyssey by Philip Stanhope Worsley.


From the Sixth Book of the Hiad, verses 390-502 ; in Bryant's translation, verses


In the first of the four great battles of the Iliad, the Trojans
are hard pressed, and Hector, the bravest and mightiest of the
sons of King Priam, returns to the city from the battle on the
plain, to bid the Trojan matrons offer vows to the goddess
Pallas Athena for the safety of the city, and to urge his brother
Paris to return to the fight. From the house of Paris, Hector
turns to his own home, that he may see his wife, Andromache.

This evidently is intended by the poet to be the last meeting
between Hector and Andromache before his death, although in
the present form of the Iliad, Hector might have returned to
his home at the close of this day of battle.

Hector left in haste 505

The mansion, and retraced his way between
The rows of stately dwellings, traversing
The mighty city. When at length he reached
The Scaean gates, that issue on the field.
His spouse, the nobly dowered Andromache, 510

Came forth to meet him — daughter of the prince
Eetion, who, among the woody slopes


Of Placos, in the Hypoplacian town

Of Thebe, ruled Cilicia and her sons,

And gave his child to Hector, great in arms. 515

She came attended by a maid, who bore

A tender child — a babe too young to speak —

Upon her bosom — Hector's only son,

Beautiful as a star, whom Hector called

Scamandrius, but all else Astyanax — 520

The city's lord — since Hector sto^od the sole

Defence of Troy. The father on his child

Looked with a silent smile. Andromache

Pressed to his side meanwhile, and, all in tears,

Clung to his hand, and, thus beginning, said : 525

" Too brave ! thy valor yet will cause thy death.
Thou hast no pity on thy tender child,
Nor me, unhappy one, who soon must be
Thy widow. All the Greeks will rush on thee
To take thy life. A happier lot were mine, 530

If I must lose thee, to go down to earth.
For I shall have no hope when thou art gone, —
Nothing but sorrow. Father have I none,
And no dear mother. Great Achilles slew
My father when he sacked the populous town 535

Of the Cilicians, — Thebe with high gates.
'T was there he smote Eetion, yet forbore
To make his arms a spoil ; he dared not that,
But burned the dead with his bright armor on.
And raised a mound above him. Mountain-nymphs, 540
Daughters of Aegis-bearing Jupiter,
Came to the spot and planted it with elms. —
Seven brothers had I in my father's house,
And all went down to Hades in one day.
Achilles, the swift-footed, slew them all 545

Among their slow-paced bullocks and white sheep.


My mother, princess on the woody slopes
Of Placos, with his spoils he bare away,
And only for large ransom gave her back.
But her Diana,^ archer-queen, struck down 550

Within her father's palace. Hector, thou
Art father and dear mother now to me.
And brother and my youthful spouse besides.
In pity keep within the fortress here,
Nor make thy child an orphan — nor thy wife 555

A widow. Post thine army near the place
Of the wild fig-tree, where the city walls
Are low and may be scaled. Thrice in the war
The boldest of the foe have tried the spot —
The Ajaces ^ and the famed Idomeneus, seo

The two chiefs born to Atreus,^ and the brave
Tydides,* whether counselled by some seer.
Or prompted to the attempt by their own minds."
Then answered Hector, great in war : " All this
I bear in mind, dear wife ; but I should stand 565

Ashamed before the men and long-robed dames
Of Troy, were I to keep ajoof and shun
The conflict, coward-like. Not thus my heart
Prompts me, for greatly have I learned to dare
And strike among the foremost sons of Troy, 570

Upholding my great father's fame and mine ;
Yet well in my undoubting mind I know
The day shall come in which our sacred Troy,
And Priam, and the people over whom
Spear-bearing Priam rules, shall perish all. 575

^ Diana's arrows carried a swift and painless death to women.

2 Ajax son of Telamon and Ajax son of Oileus.

^ Agamemnon, king- of Mycenae and commander-in-chief of the
Greeks, and his brother Menelaiis, whose wife Helen was the cause of
the war.

* Diomede, the son of Tydeug.


But not the sorrows of the Trojan race,
Nor those of Hecuba herself, nor those
Of royal Priam, nor the woes that wait
My brothers many and brave — who all at last,
Slain by the pitiless foe, shall lie in dust — 580

Grieve me so much as thine, when some mailed Greek
Shall lead thee weeping hence, and take from thee
Thy day of freedom. Thou in Argos then
Shalt, at another's bidding, ply thy loom.
And from the fountain of Messei's draw 585

Water, or from the Hypereian spring.
Constrained unwillingly by some cruel lot.
And then shall some one say that sees thee weep,
' This was the wife of Hector, most renowned
Of the horse-taming Trojans, when they fought 590
Around their city.' So shall some one say.
And thou shalt grieve the more, lamenting him
Who haply might have kept afar the day
Of thy captivity. O let the earth
Be heaped above my head in death before 595

..^'"X. hear thy cries as thou art borne away ! "

So speaking, mighty Hector stretched his arms
To take the boy ; the boy shrank crying back
To his fair nurse's bosom, scared to see
His father helmeted in glittering brass, eoo

And eyeing with affright the horse-hair plume
That grimly nodded from the lofty crest.
At this both parents in their fondness laughed ;
And hastily the mighty Hector took
The helmet from his brow and laid it down eos

Gleaming upon the ground, and, having kissed
His darling son and tossed him up in play,
Prayed thus to Jove and all the gods of heaven :
" O Jupiter and all ye deities,



Vouchsafe that this my son may yet become eio

Among the Trojans eminent like me,

And nobly rule in Ilium. May they say,

' This man is greater than his father was ! '

When they behold him from the battlefield

Bring back the bloody spoil of the slain foe, as

That so his mother may be glad at heart."

So speaking, to the arms of his dear spouse
He gave the boy ; she on her fragrant breast
Received him, weeping as she smiled. The chief
Beheld, and, moved with tender pity, smoothed 620
Her forehead gently with his hand and said :

" Sorrow not thus, beloved one, for me.
No living man can send me to the shades
Before my time ; no man of woman born,
Coward or brave, can shun his destiny. 625

But go thou home, and tend thy labors there, —
The web, the distaff, — and command thy maids
To speed the work. The cares of war pertain
To all men born in Troy, and most to me."

Thus speaking, mighty Hector took again eso

His helmet, shadowed with the horse-hair plume,
While homeward his beloved consort went.
Oft looking back, and shedding many tears.


From the Twenty-second Book of the Iliad, verses 188-515 ; in Bryant's transla-
tion, verses 233-G36.

On the third great day of battle, Patroclus, the comrade and
dearest friend of Achilles, is slain by Hector. This leads
Achilles, who has been " sulking in his tent," to return to the
fray. Our scene opens near the close of the fourth day of bat-
tle, on the twenty-seventh day of the action of the Iliad. Hec-
tor is pursued by Achilles. The other Trojan warriors have


been slain or have fled into the city walls. Hector's aged father
and mother, Priam and Hecuba, are standing on a tower by the
Scaean gate, looking on.

Still, with quick steps, the fleet Achilles pressed
On Hector's flight. As when a hound has roused
A fawn from its retreat among the hills, 235

And chases it through glen and forest ground,
And to close thickets, where it skulks in fear
Until he overtakes it, Hector thus
Sought vainly to elude the fleet pursuit
Of Peleus' son. As often as he thought, 240

By springing toward the gates of Troy, to gain
Aid from the weapons of his friends who stood
On the tall towers, so often was the Greek
Before him, forcing him to turn away.

When the twain had come
For the fourth time beside Scamander's springs, 260
The All-Father raised the golden balance high,
And, placing in the scales two lots which bring
Death's long dark sleep, — one lot for Peleus' son.
And one for knightly Hector, — by the midst
He poised the balance. Hector's fate sank down 265
To Hades, and Apollo left the field.

The blue-eyed goddess Pallas ^ then approached
The son of Peleus with these winged words :

" Renowned Achilles, dear to Jupiter !
Now may we, as I hope, at last return 270

To the Achaian army and the fleet
With glory. Hector slain, the terrible
In war. Escape he cannot, even though
The archer-god Apollo fling himself

^ Pallas was hostile to the Trojans because of the slight put upon
her charms by Paris, in awarding the golden apple to Aphrodite.


With passionate entreaty at the feet 275

Of Jove the Aegis-bearer. Stay thou here
And breathe a moment, while I go to him
And lure him hither to encounter thee."

She spoke, and he obeyed, and gladly stood
Propped on the ashen stem of his keen spear ; 280

While, passing on, Minerva overtook
The noble Hector. In the outward form
And with the strong voice of Dei'phobus,^
She stood by him and spake these winged words :

" Hard pressed I find thee, brother, by the swift 235
Achilles, who, with feet that never rest,
Pursues thee round the walls of Priam's town.
But let us make a stand and beat him back."

And then the crested Hector spake in turn :

" Dei'phobus, thou ever hast been dear 290

To me beyond my other brethren, sons
Of Hecuba and Priam. Now still more
I honor thee, since thou hast seen my plight.
And for my sake hast ventured forth without
The gates, while all the rest remain within." 295

And the blue-eyed Pallas spake again :

" Brother, 't is true, my father, and the queen
My mother, and my comrades, clasped my knees
In turn, and earnestly entreated me
That I would not go forth, such fear had fallen 300
On them all ; but I was grieved for thee.
Now let us combat valiantly, nor spare
The weapons that we bear, and we shall learn
Whether Achilles, having slain us both.
Will carry to the fleet our bloody spoil, 305

Or die himself, the victim of thy spear."

The treacherous goddess spake, and led the way ;
^ Hector's brother, who wedded Helen after Paris' death.


And when the advancing chiefs stood face to face,
The crested hero, Hector, thus began :

" No longer I avoid thee as of late, 310

O son of Peleus ! Thrice around the walls
Of Priam's mighty city have I fled,
Nor dared to wait thy coming. Now my heart
Bids me encounter thee ; my time is come
To slay or to be slain. Now let us call 315

The gods to witness, who attest and guard
The covenants of men. Should Jove bestow
On me the victory, and I take thy life.
Thou shalt meet no dishonor at my hands ;
But, stripping off the armor, I will send 320

The Greeks thy body. Do the like by me."

The swift Achilles answered with a frown :

" Accursed Hector, never talk to me
Of covenants. Men and lions plight no faith.
Nor wolves agree with lambs, but each must plan 325
Evil against the other. So between
Thyself and me no compact can exist.
Or understood intent. First, one of us
Must fall and yield his life-blood to the god
Of battles. Summon all thy valor now. 330

A skilful spearman thou hast need to be,
And a bold warrior. There is no escape.
For now doth Pallas doom thee to be slain
By my good spear. Thou shalt repay to me
The evils thou hast done my eduntrymen, — 335

My friends whom thou hast slaughtered in thy rage."

He spake, and brandishing his massive spear
Hurled it at Hector, who beheld its aim
From where he stood. He stooped, and over him
The brazen weapon passed and plunged to earth. 34c
Unseen by royal Hector, Pallas went


And plucked it from the ground, and brought it back
And gave it to the hands of Peleus' son,
While Hector said to his illustrious foe :

" Godlike Achilles, thou hast missed thy mark ; 345
Nor hast thou learned my doom from Jupiter,
As thou pretendest. Thou art glib of tongue.
And cunningly thou orderest thy speech.
In hope that I who hear thee may forget
My might and valor. Think not that I shall flee, 350
That thou mayst pierce my back ; for thou shalt send
Thy spear, if God permit thee, through my breast
As I rush on thee. Now avoid in turn
My brazen weapon. Would that it might pass
Clean through thee, all its length 1 The tasks of war
For us of Troy were lighter for thy death, 356

Thou pest and deadly foe of all our race ! "

He spake, and brandishing his massive spear
Hurled it, nor missed, but in the centre smote
The buckler of Pelides. Far awa}'' 360

It bounded from the brass, and he was vexed
To see that the swift weapon from his hand
Had flown in vain. He stood perplexed and sad ;
No second spear had he. He called aloud
On the white-bucklered chief, Deiphobus, 365

To bring another ; but that chief was far,
And Hector saw that it was so, and said :

" Ah me ! the gods have summoned me to die.
I thought my warrior friend, DeVphobus,
Was by my side ; but he is still in Troy, 370

And Pallas has deceived me. Now my death
Cannot be far, — is near ; there is no hope
Of my escape, for so it pleases Jove
And Jove's great archer-son, who have till now
Delivered me. My hour at last is come ; 375


Yet not ingloriously or passively

I die, but first will do some valiant deed,

Of which mankind shall hear in after time."

He spake, and drew the keen-edged sword that
Massive and finely tempered, at his side, aso

And sprang — as when an eagle high in heaven.
Through the thick cloud, darts downward to the plain
To clutch some tender lamb or timid hare,
So Hector, brandishing that keen-edged sword,
Sprang forward, while Achilles opposite ass

Leaped toward him, all on fire with savage hate,
And holding his bright buckler, nobly wrought.
Before him. On his shining helmet waved
The four-fold crest ; there tossed the golden tufts
With which the hand of Vulcan lavishly 390

Had decked it. As in the still hours of night
Hesper goes forth among the host of stars.
The fairest light of heaven, so brightly shone,
Brandished in the right hand of Peleus' son,
The spear's keen blade, as, confident to slay 395

The noble Hector, o'er his glorious form
His quick eye ran, exploring where to plant
The surest wound. The glittering mail of brass
Won from the slain Patroclus ^ guarded well
Each part, save only where the collar-bones 400

Divide the shoulder and the neck, and there
Appeared the throat, the spot where life is most
In peril. Through that part the noble son
Of Peleus drave his spear ; it went quite through
The tender neck, and yet the brazen blade 405

Cleft not the windpipe, and the power to speak

^ Hector when he slew Patroclus stripped him of his armor, which
had been given him by Achilles, and put it on himself.


Remained. The Trojan fell amid the dust,
And thus Achilles boasted o'er his fall :

" Hector, when from the slain Patroclus thou
Didst strip his armor, little didst thou think 410

Of danger. Thou hadst then no fear of me.

• ••••••••

Foul dogs and birds of prey shall tear thy flesh ;
The Greeks shall honor him with funeral rites."
And then the crested Hector faintly said :
" I pray thee by thy life, and by thy knees,
And by thy parents, suffer not the dogs 420

To tear me at the galleys of the Greeks.
Accept abundant store of brass and gold.
Which gladly will my father and the queen
My mother give in ransom. Send to them
My body, that the warriors and the dames 425

Of Troy may light for me the funeral pile." ^
' The swift Achilles answered with a frown : V^7

" Nay, by my knees entreat me not, thou cur,
Nor by my parents. I could even wish
My fury prompted me to cut thy flesh 430

In fragments, and devour it, such the wrong
That I have had from thee. There will be none
To drive away the dogs about thy head,
Not though thy Trojan friends should bring to me
Tenfold and twentyfold the offered gifts, 435

And promise others, — not though Priam, sprung
From Dardanus, should send thy weight in gold.
Thy mother shall not lay thee on thy bier.
To sorrow over thee whom she brought forth ;
But dogs and birds of prey shall mangle thee." 440

1 Burial was regarded by the Greeks as a sacred duty. The soul

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 2 of 29)