Vultures: Pope is more accurate than the poet he translates,
for Homer writes "a prey to dogs and to all kinds of birds. But
all kinds of birds are not carnivorous.
i.e. during the whole time of their striving the will
of Jove was being gradually accomplished.
Compare Milton's "Paradise Lost" i. 6
"Sing, heavenly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Horeb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
Latona's son: i.e. Apollo.
King of men: Agamemnon.
Brother kings: Menelaus and Agamemnon.
Smintheus an epithet taken from sminthos, the Phrygian
name for a mouse, was applied to Apollo for having put an end to a
plague of mice which had harassed that territory. Strabo, however,
says, that when the Teucri were migrating from Crete, they were told by
an oracle to settle in that place, where they should not be attacked by
the original inhabitants of the land, and that, having halted for the
night, a number of field-mice came and gnawed away the leathern straps
of their baggage, and thongs of their armour. In fulfilment of the
oracle, they settled on the spot, and raised a temple to Sminthean
Apollo. Grote, "History of Greece," i. p. 68, remarks that the "worship
of Sminthean Apollo, in various parts of the Troad and its neighboring
territory, dates before the earliest period of Aeolian colonization."
Cilla, a town of Troas near Thebe, so called from
Cillus, a sister of Hippodamia, slain by OEnomaus.
A mistake. It should be,
"If e'er I roofed thy graceful fane,"
for the custom of decorating temples with garlands was of later date.
Bent was his bow "The Apollo of Homer, it must be borne
in mind, is a different character from the deity of the same name
in the later classical pantheon. Throughout both poems, all deaths from
unforeseen or invisible causes, the ravages of pestilence, the fate of
the young child or promising adult, cut off in the germ of infancy or
flower of youth, of the old man dropping peacefully into the grave, or
of the reckless sinner suddenly checked in his career of crime, are
ascribed to the arrows of Apollo or Diana. The oracular functions of
the god rose naturally out of the above fundamental attributes, for who
could more appropriately impart to mortals what little foreknowledge
Fate permitted of her decrees than the agent of her most awful
dispensations? The close union of the arts of prophecy and song
explains his additional office of god of music, while the arrows with
which he and his sister were armed, symbols of sudden death in every
age, no less naturally procured him that of god of archery. Of any
connection between Apollo and the Sun, whatever may have existed in the
more esoteric doctrine of the Greek sanctuaries, there is no trace in
either Iliad or Odyssey."—Mure, "History of Greek Literature," vol. i.
p. 478, sq.
It has frequently been observed, that most pestilences begin
with animals, and that Homer had this fact in mind.
Convened to council. The public assembly in the heroic
times is well characterized by Grote, vol. ii. p 92. "It is an assembly
for talk. Communication and discussion to a certain extent by the
chiefs in person, of the people as listeners and sympathizers—often
for eloquence, and sometimes for quarrel—but here its ostensible
Old Jacob Duport, whose "Gnomologia Homerica" is full of
curious and useful things, quotes several passages of the ancients, in
which reference is made to these words of Homer, in maintenance of the
belief that dreams had a divine origin and an import in which men were
Rather, "bright-eyed." See the German critics quoted by
The prize given to Ajax was Tecmessa, while Ulysses received
Laodice, the daughter of Cycnus.
The Myrmidons dwelt on the southern borders of Thessaly, and
took their origin from Myrmido, son of Jupiter and Eurymedusa. It is
fancifully supposed that the name was derived from myrmaex, an
ant, "because they imitated the diligence of the ants, and like
them were indefatigable, continually employed in cultivating the earth;
the change from ants to men is founded merely on the equivocation of
their name, which resembles that of the ant: they bore a further
resemblance to these little animals, in that instead of inhabiting
towns or villages, at first they commonly resided in the open fields,
having no other retreats but dens and the cavities of trees, until
Ithacus brought them together, and settled them in more secure and
comfortable habitations."—Anthon's "Lempriere."
Eustathius, after Heraclides Ponticus and others,
allegorizes this apparition, as if the appearance of Minerva to
Achilles, unseen by the rest, was intended to point out the sudden
recollection that he would gain nothing by intemperate wrath, and that
it were best to restrain his anger, and only gratify it by withdrawing
his services. The same idea is rather cleverly worked out by Apuleius,
"De Deo Socratis."
Compare Milton, "Paradise Lost," bk. ii:
"Though his tongue
So Proverbs v. 3, "For the lips of a strange woman drop as an
Salt water was chiefly used in lustrations, from its being
supposed to possess certain fiery particles. Hence, if sea-water could
not be obtained, salt was thrown into the fresh water to be used for
the lustration. Menander, in Clem. Alex. vii. p.713, hydati perriranai,
embalon alas, phakois.
The persons of heralds were held inviolable, and they were
at liberty to travel whither they would without fear of molestation.
Pollux, Onom. viii. p. 159. The office was generally given to old men,
and they were believed to be under the especial protection of Jove and
His mother, Thetis, the daughter of Nereus and Doris, who
was courted by Neptune and Jupiter. When, however, it was known that
the son to whom she would give birth must prove greater than his
father, it was determined to wed her to a mortal, and Peleus, with
great difficulty, succeeded in obtaining her hand, as she eluded him by
assuming various forms. Her children were all destroyed by fire through
her attempts to see whether they were immortal, and Achilles would have
shared the same fate had not his father rescued him. She afterwards
rendered him invulnerable by plunging him into the waters of the Styx,
with the exception of that part of the heel by which she held him.
Hygin. Fab. 54
Thebe was a city of Mysia, north of Adramyttium.
That is, defrauds me of the prize allotted me by their
Quintus Calaber goes still further in his account of the
service rendered to Jove by Thetis:
"Nay more, the fetters of Almighty Jove
She loosed"—Dyce's "Calaber," s. 58.
To Fates averse. Of the gloomy destiny reigning throughout
the Homeric poems, and from which even the gods are not exempt,
Schlegel well observes, "This power extends also to the world of gods—
for the Grecian gods are mere powers of nature—and although
immeasurably higher than mortal man, yet, compared with infinitude,
they are on an equal footing with himself."—'Lectures on the Drama'
v. p. 67.
It has been observed that the annual procession of the
sacred ship so often represented on Egyptian monuments, and the return
of the deity from Ethiopia after some days' absence, serves to show the
Ethiopian origin of Thebes, and of the worship of Jupiter Ammon. "I
think," says Heeren, after quoting a passage from Diodorus about the
holy ship, "that this procession is represented in one of the great
sculptured reliefs on the temple of Karnak. The sacred ship of Ammon is
on the shore with its whole equipment, and is towed along by another
boat. It is therefore on its voyage. This must have been one of the
most celebrated festivals, since, even according to the interpretation
of antiquity, Homer alludes to it when he speaks of Jupiter's visit to
the Ethiopians, and his twelve days' absence."—Long, "Egyptian
Antiquities" vol. 1 p. 96. Eustathius, vol. 1 p. 98, sq. (ed. Basil)
gives this interpretation, and likewise an allegorical one, which we
will spare the reader.
Atoned, i.e. reconciled. This is the proper and most
natural meaning of the word, as may be seen from Taylor's remarks in
Calmet's Dictionary, p.110, of my edition.
That is, drawing back their necks while they cut their
throats. "If the sacrifice was in honour of the celestial gods, the
throat was bent upwards towards heaven; but if made to the heroes, or
infernal deities, it was killed with its throat toward the ground."—
"Elgin Marbles," vol i. p.81.
"The jolly crew, unmindful of the past,
The quarry share, their plenteous dinner haste,
Some strip the skin; some portion out the spoil;
The limbs yet trembling, in the caldrons boil;
Some on the fire the reeking entrails broil.
Stretch'd on the grassy turf, at ease they dine,
Restore their strength with meat, and cheer their souls with wine."
Dryden's "Virgil," i. 293.
Crown'd, i.e. filled to the brim. The custom of
adorning goblets with flowers was of later date.
He spoke, &c. "When a friend inquired of Phidias what
pattern he had formed his Olympian Jupiter, he is said to have answered
by repeating the lines of the first Iliad in which the poet represents
the majesty of the god in the most sublime terms; thereby signifying
that the genius of Homer had inspired him with it. Those who beheld
this statue are said to have been so struck with it as to have asked
whether Jupiter had descended from heaven to show himself to Phidias,
or whether Phidias had been carried thither to contemplate the god."—
"Elgin Marbles," vol. xii p.124.
"So was his will
Pronounced among the gods, and by an oath,
That shook heav'n's whole circumference, confirm'd."
"Paradise Lost" ii. 351.
A double bowl, i.e. a vessel with a cup at both ends,
something like the measures by which a halfpenny or pennyworth of
nuts is sold. See Buttmann, Lexic. p. 93 sq.
"Paradise Lost," i. 44.
"Him th' Almighty power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from th ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion"
The occasion on which Vulcan incurred Jove's displeasure was
this—After Hercules, had taken and pillaged Troy, Juno raised a storm,
which drove him to the island of Cos, having previously cast Jove into
a sleep, to prevent him aiding his son. Jove, in revenge, fastened iron
anvils to her feet, and hung her from the sky, and Vulcan, attempting
to relieve her, was kicked down from Olympus in the manner described.
The allegorists have gone mad in finding deep explanations for this
amusing fiction. See Heraclides, 'Ponticus," p. 463 sq., ed Gale. The
story is told by Homer himself in Book xv. The Sinthians were a race of
robbers, the ancient inhabitants of Lemnos which island was ever after
sacred to Vulcan.
"Nor was his name unheard or unadored
In ancient Greece, and in Ausonian land
Men call'd him Mulciber, and how he fell
From heaven, they fabled, thrown by angry Jove
Sheer o'er the crystal battlements from morn
To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,
A summer's day and with the setting sun
Dropp'd from the zenith like a falling star
On Lemnos, th' Aegean isle thus they relate."
"Paradise Lost," i. 738
It is ingeniously observed by Grote, vol i p. 463, that "The
gods formed a sort of political community of their own which had its
hierarchy, its distribution of ranks and duties, its contentions for
power and occasional revolutions, its public meetings in the agora
of Olympus, and its multitudinous banquets or festivals."
Plato, Rep. iii. p. 437, was so scandalized at this
deception of Jupiter's, and at his other attacks on the character of
the gods, that he would fain sentence him to an honourable banishment.
(See Minucius Felix, Section 22.) Coleridge, Introd. p. 154, well
observes, that the supreme father of gods and men had a full right to
employ a lying spirit to work out his ultimate will. Compare "Paradise
Lost," v. 646:
"And roseate dews disposed
All but the unsleeping eyes of God to rest."
Dream ought to be spelt with a capital letter, being,
I think, evidently personified as the god of dreams. See Anthon and
"When, by Minerva sent, a fraudful Dream
Rush'd from the skies, the bane of her and Troy."
Dyce's "Select Translations from Quintus Calaber," p.10.
"Sleep'st thou, companion dear, what sleep can close
Thy eye-lids?"—"Paradise Lost," v. 673.
This truly military sentiment has been echoed by the
approving voice of many a general and statesman of antiquity. See
Pliny's Panegyric on Trajan. Silius neatly translates it,
"Turpe duci totam somno consumere noctem."
The same in habit, &c.
"To whom once more the winged god appears;
His former youthful mien and shape he wears."
Dryden's Virgil, iv. 803.
` "As bees in spring-time, when
The sun with Taurus rides,
Pour forth their populous youth about the hive
In clusters; they among fresh dews and flowers
Fly to and fro, or on the smoothed plank,
The suburb of this straw-built citadel,
New-nibb'd with balm, expatiate and confer
Their state affairs. So thick the very crowd
Swarm'd and were straiten'd."—"Paradise Lost" i. 768.
It was the herald's duty to make the people sit down. "A
standing agora is a symptom of manifest terror (II. Xviii. 246)
an evening agora, to which men came elevated by wine, is also the
forerunner of mischief ('Odyssey,' iii. 138)."—Grote, ii. p. 91,
This sceptre, like that of Judah (Genesis xlix. 10), is a
type of the supreme and far-spread dominion of the house of the
Atrides. See Thucydides i. 9. "It is traced through the hands of
Hermes, he being the wealth giving god, whose blessing is most
efficacious in furthering the process of acquisition."—Grote, i. p.
212. Compare Quintus Calaber (Dyce's Selections, p. 43).
"Thus the monarch spoke,
Then pledged the chief in a capacious cup,
Golden, and framed by art divine (a gift
Which to Almighty Jove lame Vulcan brought
Upon his nuptial day, when he espoused
The Queen of Love), the sire of gods bestow'd
The cup on Dardanus, who gave it next
To Ericthonius Tros received it then,
And left it, with his wealth, to be possess'd
By Ilus he to great Laomedon
Gave it, and last to Priam's lot it fell."
Grote, i, p. 393, states the number of the Grecian forces
at upwards of 100,000 men. Nichols makes a total of 135,000.
"As thick as when a field
Of Ceres, ripe for harvest, waving bends
His bearded grove of ears, which way the wind
Sways them."—Paradise Lost," iv. 980, sqq.
This sentiment used to be a popular one with some of the
greatest tyrants, who abused it into a pretext for unlimited usurpation
of power. Dion, Caligula, and Domitian were particularly fond of it,
and, in an extended form, we find the maxim propounded by Creon in the
Antigone of Sophocles. See some important remarks of Heeren, "Ancient
Greece," ch. vi. p. 105.
It may be remarked, that the character of Thersites,
revolting and contemptible as it is, serves admirably to develop the
disposition of Ulysses in a new light, in which mere cunning is less
prominent. Of the gradual and individual development of Homer's heroes,
Schlegel well observes, "In bas-relief the figures are usually in
profile, and in the epos all are characterized in the simplest manner
in relief; they are not grouped together, but follow one another; so
Homer's heroes advance, one by one, in succession before us. It has
been remarked that the Iliad is not definitively closed, but
that we are left to suppose something both to precede and to follow it.
The bas-relief is equally without limit, and may be continued ad
infinitum, either from before or behind, on which account the
ancients preferred for it such subjects as admitted of an indefinite
extension, sacrificial processions, dances, and lines of combatants,
and hence they also exhibit bas-reliefs on curved surfaces, such as
vases, or the frieze of a rotunda, where, by the curvature, the two
ends are withdrawn from our sight, and where, while we advance, one
object appears as another disappears. Reading Homer is very much like
such a circuit; the present object alone arresting our attention, we
lose sight of what precedes, and do not concern ourselves about what is
to follow."—"Dramatic Literature," p. 75.
"There cannot be a clearer indication than this description
—so graphic in the original poem—of the true character of the Homeric
agora. The multitude who compose it are listening and acquiescent, not
often hesitating, and never refractory to the chief. The fate which
awaits a presumptuous critic, even where his virulent reproaches are
substantially well-founded, is plainly set forth in the treatment of
Thersites; while the unpopularity of such a character is attested even
more by the excessive pains which Homer takes to heap upon him
repulsive personal deformities, than by the chastisement of Odysseus
he is lame, bald, crook-backed, of misshapen head, and squinting
vision."—Grote, vol. i. p. 97.
According to Pausanias, both the sprig and the remains of
the tree were exhibited in his time. The tragedians, Lucretius and
others, adopted a different fable to account for the stoppage at Aulis,
and seem to have found the sacrifice of Iphigena better suited to form
the subject of a tragedy. Compare Dryden's "AEneid," vol. iii. sqq.
Full of his god, i.e., Apollo, filled with the
prophetic spirit. "The god" would be more simple and emphatic.
Those critics who have maintained that the "Catalogue of
Ships" is an interpolation, should have paid more attention to these
lines, which form a most natural introduction to their enumeration.
The following observation will be useful to Homeric readers:
"Particular animals were, at a later time, consecrated to particular
deities. To Jupiter, Ceres, Juno, Apollo, and Bacchus victims of
advanced age might be offered. An ox of five years old was considered
especially acceptable to Jupiter. A black bull, a ram, or a boar pig,
were offerings for Neptune. A heifer, or a sheep, for Minerva. To Ceres
a sow was sacrificed, as an enemy to corn. The goat to Bacchus, because
he fed on vines. Diana was propitiated with a stag; and to Venus the
dove was consecrated. The infernal and evil deities were to be appeased
with black victims. The most acceptable of all sacrifices was the
heifer of a year old, which had never borne the yoke. It was to be
perfect in every limb, healthy, and without blemish."—"Elgin Marbles,"
vol. i. p. 78.
Idomeneus, son of Deucalion, was
king of Crete. Having vowed, during a tempest, on his return from Troy,
to sacrifice to Neptune the first creature that should present itself
to his eye on the Cretan shore, his son fell a victim to his rash vow.
Tydeus' son, i.e. Diomed.
That is, Ajax, the son of Oileus, a Locrian. He must be
distinguished from the other, who was king of Salamis.
A great deal of nonsense has been written to account for the
word unbid, in this line. Even Plato, "Sympos." p. 315, has
found some curious meaning in what, to us, appears to need no
explanation. Was there any heroic rule of etiquette which
prevented one brother-king visiting another without a formal
Fresh water fowl, especially swans, were found in great
numbers about the Asian Marsh, a fenny tract of country in Lydia,
formed by the river Cayster, near its mouth. See Virgil, "Georgics,"
vol. i. 383, sq.
Scamander, or Scamandros, was a river of Troas,
rising, according to Strabo, on the highest part of Mount Ida, in the
same hill with the Granicus and the OEdipus, and falling into the sea
at Sigaeum; everything tends to identify it with Mendere, as Wood,
Rennell, and others maintain; the Mendere is 40 miles long, 300 feet
broad, deep in the time of flood, nearly dry in the summer. Dr. Clarke
successfully combats the opinion of those who make the Scamander to
have arisen from the springs of Bounabarshy, and traces the source of
the river to the highest mountain in the chain of Ida, now Kusdaghy;
receives the Simois in its course; towards its mouth it is very muddy,
and flows through marshes. Between the Scamander and Simois, Homer's
Troy is supposed to have stood: this river, according to Homer, was
called Xanthus by the gods, Scamander by men. The waters of the
Scamander had the singular property of giving a beautiful colour to the
hair or wool of such animals as bathed in them; hence the three
goddesses, Minerva, Juno, and Venus, bathed there before they appeared
before Paris to obtain the golden apple: the name Xanthus, "yellow,"
was given to the Scamander, from the peculiar colour of its waters,
still applicable to the Mendere, the yellow colour of whose waters
attracts the attention of travellers.
It should be "his chest like Neptune." The torso of
Neptune, in the "Elgin Marbles," No. 103, (vol. ii. p. 26,) is
remarkable for its breadth and massiveness of development.
"Say first, for heav'n hides nothing from thy view."—
"Paradise Lost," i. 27.
"Ma di' tu, Musa, come i primi danni
Mandassero a Cristiani, e di quai parti:
Tu 'l sai; ma di tant' opra a noi si lunge
Debil aura di fama appena giunge."—"Gier. Lib." iv. 19.
"The Catalogue is, perhaps, the
portion of the poem in favour of which a claim to separate authorship
has been most plausibly urged. Although the example of Homer has since
rendered some such formal enumeration of the forces engaged, a common
practice in epic poems descriptive of great warlike adventures, still
so minute a statistical detail can neither be considered as
imperatively required, nor perhaps such as would, in ordinary cases,
suggest itself to the mind of a poet. Yet there is scarcely any portion
of the Iliad where both historical and internal evidence are more
clearly in favour of a connection from the remotest period, with the
remainder of the work. The composition of the Catalogue, whensoever it
may have taken place, necessarily presumes its author's acquaintance
with a previously existing Iliad. It were impossible otherwise to
account for the harmony observable in the recurrence of so vast a
number of proper names, most of them historically unimportant, and not
a few altogether fictitious: or of so many geographical and
genealogical details as are condensed in these few hundred lines, and
incidentally scattered over the thousands which follow: equally
inexplicable were the pointed allusions occurring in this episode to
events narrated in the previous and subsequent text, several of which
could hardly be of traditional notoriety, but through the medium of the
Iliad."—Mure, "Language and Literature of Greece," vol. i. p. 263.
Twice Sixty: "Thucydides observes that the Boeotian
vessels, which carried one hundred and twenty men each, were probably
meant to be the largest in the fleet, and those of Philoctetes,
carrying fifty each, the smallest. The average would be eighty-five,
and Thucydides supposes the troops to have rowed and navigated
themselves; and that very few, besides the chiefs, went as mere
passengers or landsmen. In short, we have in the Homeric descriptions
the complete picture of an Indian or African war canoe, many of
which are considerably larger than the largest scale assigned to those
of the Greeks. If the total number of the Greek ships be taken at
twelve hundred, according to Thucydides, although in point of fact
there are only eleven hundred and eighty-six in the Catalogue, the
amount of the army, upon the foregoing average, will be about a hundred
and two thousand men. The historian considers this a small force as
representing all Greece. Bryant, comparing it with the allied army at
Platae, thinks it so large as to prove the entire falsehood of the
whole story; and his reasonings and calculations are, for their
curiosity, well worth a careful perusal."—Coleridge, p. 211, sq.
The mention of Corinth is an anachronism, as that city was
called Ephyre before its capture by the Dorians. But Velleius, vol. i.
p. 3, well observes, that the poet would naturally speak of various
towns and cities by the names by which they were known in his own
"Adam, the goodliest man of men since born,
His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve.'
—"Paradise Lost," iv. 323.
AEsetes' tomb. Monuments were often built on the
sea-coast, and of a considerable height, so as to serve as watch-towers
or land marks. See my notes to my prose translations of the "Odyssey,"
ii. p. 21, or on Eur. "Alcest." vol. i. p. 240.
Zeleia, another name for Lycia. The inhabitants were
greatly devoted to the worship of Apollo. See Muller, "Dorians," vol.
i. p. 248.
Barbarous tongues. "Various as were the dialects of
the Greeks—and these differences existed not only between the several
tribes, but even between neighbouring cities—they yet acknowledged in
their language that they formed but one nation were but branches of the
same family. Homer has 'men of other tongues:' and yet Homer had no
general name for the Greek nation."—Heeren, "Ancient Greece," Section
vii. p. 107, sq.
"Marking the tracts of air, the clamorous cranes
Wheel their due flight in varied ranks descried:
And each with outstretch'd neck his rank maintains,
In marshall'd order through th' ethereal void."
Lorenzo de Medici, in Roscoe's Life, Appendix.
See Cary's Dante: "Hell," canto v.
Silent, breathing rage.
Breathing united force with fixed thought,
Moved on in silence."
"Paradise Lost," book i. 559.
"As when some peasant in a bushy brake
Has with unwary footing press'd a snake;
He starts aside, astonish'd, when he spies
His rising crest, blue neck, and rolling eyes"
Dryden's Virgil, ii. 510.
Dysparis, i.e. unlucky, ill fated, Paris. This alludes to
the evils which resulted from his having been brought up, despite the
omens which attended his birth.
The following scene, in which Homer has contrived to
introduce so brilliant a sketch of the Grecian warriors, has been
imitated by Euripides, who in his "Phoenissae" represents Antigone
surveying the opposing champions from a high tower, while the
paedagogus describes their insignia and details their histories.
No wonder, &c. Zeuxis, the celebrated artist, is said
to have appended these lines to his picture of Helen, as a motto. Valer
Max. iii. 7.
The early epic was largely occupied with the exploits and
sufferings of women, or heroines, the wives and daughters of the
Grecian heroes. A nation of courageous, hardy, indefatigable women,
dwelling apart from men, permitting only a short temporary intercourse,
for the purpose of renovating their numbers, burning out their right
breast with a view of enabling themselves to draw the bow freely; this
was at once a general type, stimulating to the fancy of the poet, and a
theme eminently popular with his hearers. We find these warlike females
constantly reappearing in the ancient poems, and universally accepted
as past realities in the Iliad. When Priam wishes to illustrate
emphatically the most numerous host in which he ever found himself
included, he tells us that it was assembled in Phrygia, on the banks of
the Sangarius, for the purpose of resisting the formidable Amazons.
When Bellerophon is to be employed in a deadly and perilous
undertaking, by those who prudently wished to procure his death, he is
despatched against the Amazons.—Grote, vol. i p. 289.
Antenor, like AEneas, had always been favourable to
the restoration of Helen. Liv 1. 2.
"His lab'ring heart with sudden rapture seized
He paus'd, and on the ground in silence gazed.
Unskill'd and uninspired he seems to stand,
Nor lifts the eye, nor graceful moves the hand:
Then, while the chiefs in still attention hung,
Pours the full tide of eloquence along;
While from his lips the melting torrent flows,
Soft as the fleeces of descending snows.
Now stronger notes engage the listening crowd,
Louder the accents rise, and yet more loud,
Like thunders rolling from a distant cloud."
Merrick's "Tryphiodorus," 148, 99.
Duport, "Gnomol. Homer," p. 20, well observes that this
comparison may also be sarcastically applied to the frigid style
of oratory. It, of course, here merely denotes the ready fluency of
Her brothers' doom. They perished in combat with
Lynceus and Idas, whilst besieging Sparta. See Hygin. Poet Astr. 32,
22. Virgil and others, however, make them share immortality by turns.
Idreus was the arm-bearer and charioteer of king Priam,
slain during this war. Cf. AEn, vi. 487.
Scaea's gates, rather Scaean gates,
i.e. the left-hand gates.
This was customary in all sacrifices. Hence we find Iras
descending to cut off the hair of Dido, before which she could not
"This said, his feeble hand a jav'lin threw,
Which, flutt'ring, seemed to loiter as it flew,
Just, and but barely, to the mark it held,
And faintly tinkled on the brazen shield."
Dryden's Virgil, ii. 742.
Reveal'd the queen.
"Thus having said, she turn'd and made appear
Her neck refulgent and dishevell'd hair,
Which, flowing from her shoulders, reach'd the ground,
And widely spread ambrosial scents around.
In length of train descends her sweeping gown;
And, by her graceful walk, the queen of love is known."
Dryden's Virgil, i. 556.
Cranae's isle, i.e. Athens. See the "Schol." and
Alberti's "Hesychius," vol. ii. p. 338. This name was derived from one
of its early kings, Cranaus.
The martial maid. In the original, "Minerva
Alalcomeneis," i.e. the defender, so called from her temple at
Alalcomene in Boeotia.
"Anything for a quiet life!"
Argos. The worship of Juno at Argos was very
celebrated in ancient times, and she was regarded as the patron deity
of that city. Apul. Met., vi. p. 453; Servius on Virg. AEn., i. 28.
A wife and sister.
"But I, who walk in awful state above
The majesty of heav'n, the sister-wife of Jove."
Dryden's "Virgil," i. 70.
So Apuleius, l. c. speaks of her as "Jovis germana et conjux,
and so Horace, Od. iii. 3, 64, "conjuge me Jovis et sorore."
"Thither came Uriel, gleaming through the even
On a sunbeam, swift as a shooting star
In autumn thwarts the night, when vapours fired
Impress the air, and shows the mariner
From what point of his compass to beware
Impetuous winds."—"Paradise Lost," iv. 555.
AEsepus' flood. A river of Mysia, rising from Mount
Cotyius, in the southern part of the chain of Ida.
Zelia, a town of Troas, at the foot of Ida.
Podaleirius and Machaon are the leeches of the
Grecian army, highly prized and consulted by all the wounded chiefs.
Their medical renown was further prolonged in the subsequent poem of
Arktinus, the Iliou Persis, wherein the one was represented as
unrivalled in surgical operations, the other as sagacious in detecting
and appreciating morbid symptoms. It was Podaleirius who first noticed
the glaring eyes and disturbed deportment which preceded the suicide of
"Galen appears uncertain whether Asklepius (as well as Dionysus) was
originally a god, or whether he was first a man and then became
afterwards a god; but Apollodorus professed to fix the exact date of
his apotheosis. Throughout all the historical ages the descendants of
Asklepius were numerous and widely diffused. The many families or
gentes, called Asklepiads, who devoted themselves to the study and
practice of medicine, and who principally dwelt near the temples of
Asklepius, whither sick and suffering men came to obtain relief—all
recognized the god not merely as the object of their common worship,
but also as their actual progenitor."—Grote vol. i. p. 248.
"The plant she bruises with a stone, and stands
Tempering the juice between her ivory hands
This o'er her breast she sheds with sovereign art
And bathes with gentle touch the wounded part
The wound such virtue from the juice derives,
At once the blood is stanch'd, the youth revives."
"Orlando Furioso," book 1.
Well might I wish.
"Would heav'n (said he) my strength and youth recall,
Such as I was beneath Praeneste's wall—
Then when I made the foremost foes retire,
And set whole heaps of conquer'd shields on fire;
When Herilus in single fight I slew,
Whom with three lives Feronia did endue."
Dryden's Virgil, viii. 742.
Sthenelus, a son of Capaneus, one of the Epigoni. He
was one of the suitors of Helen, and is said to have been one of those
who entered Troy inside the wooden horse.
Forwarn'd the horrors. The same portent has already
been mentioned. To this day, modern nations are not wholly free from
Sevenfold city, Boeotian Thebes, which had seven gates.
As when the winds.
"Thus, when a black-brow'd gust begins to rise,
White foam at first on the curl'd ocean fries;
Then roars the main, the billows mount the skies,
Till, by the fury of the storm full blown,
The muddy billow o'er the clouds is thrown."
Dryden's Virgil, vii. 736.
Like Teneriffe or Atlas unremoved;
His stature reach'd the sky."—"Paradise Lost," iv. 986.
The Abantes seem to have been of Thracian origin.
I may, once for all, remark that Homer is most anatomically
correct as to the parts of the body in which a wound would be
AEnus, a fountain almost proverbial for its coldness.
Compare Tasso, Gier. Lib., xx. 7:
"Nuovo favor del cielo in lui niluce
E 'l fa grande, et angusto oltre il costume.
Gl' empie d' honor la faccia, e vi riduce
Di giovinezza il bel purpureo lume."
"Or deluges, descending on the plains,
Sweep o'er the yellow year, destroy the pains
Of lab'ring oxen, and the peasant's gains;
Uproot the forest oaks, and bear away
Flocks, folds, and trees, an undistinguish'd prey."
Dryden's Virgil ii. 408.
From mortal mists.
"But to nobler sights
Michael from Adam's eyes the film removed."
"Paradise Lost," xi. 411.
The race of those.
"A pair of coursers, born of heav'nly breed,
Who from their nostrils breathed ethereal fire;
Whom Circe stole from her celestial sire,
By substituting mares produced on earth,
Whose wombs conceived a more than mortal birth.
Dryden's Virgil, vii. 386, sqq.
The belief in the existence of men of larger stature in
earlier times, is by no means confined to Homer.
Such stream, i.e. the ichor, or blood of the
"A stream of nect'rous humour issuing flow'd,
Sanguine, such as celestial spirits may bleed."
"Paradise Lost," vi. 339.
This was during the wars with the Titans.
Amphitryon's son, Hercules, born to Jove by Alcmena,
the wife of Amphitryon.
AEgiale daughter of Adrastus. The Cyclic poets (See
Anthon's Lempriere, s. v.) assert Venus incited her to
infidelity, in revenge for the wound she had received from her
Pherae, a town of Pelasgiotis, in Thessaly.
Tlepolemus, son of Hercules and Astyochia. Having left
his native country, Argos, in consequence of the accidental murder
of Liscymnius, he was commanded by an oracle to retire to Rhodes. Here
he was chosen king, and accompanied the Trojan expedition. After his
death, certain games were instituted at Rhodes in his honour, the
victors being rewarded with crowns of poplar.
These heroes' names have since passed into a kind of
proverb, designating the oi polloi or mob.
"Veil'd with his gorgeous wings, upspringing light
Flew through the midst of heaven; th' angelic quires,
On each hand parting, to his speed gave way
Through all th' empyreal road; till at the gate
Of heaven arrived, the gate self-open'd wide,
On golden hinges turning."—"Paradise Lost," v. 250.
Waked by the circling Hours, with rosy hand
Unbarr'd the gates of light."—"Paradise Lost," vi, 2.
Far as a shepherd. "With what majesty and pomp does
Homer exalt his deities! He here measures the leap of the horses by the
extent of the world. And who is there, that, considering the exceeding
greatness of the space would not with reason cry out that 'If the
steeds of the deity were to take a second leap, the world would want
room for it'?"—Longinus, Section 8.
"No trumpets, or any other instruments of sound, are used in
the Homeric action itself; but the trumpet was known, and is introduced
for the purpose of illustration as employed in war. Hence arose the
value of a loud voice in a commander; Stentor was an indispensable
officer... In the early Saracen campaigns frequent mention is made of
the service rendered by men of uncommonly strong voices; the battle of
Honain was restored by the shouts and menaces of Abbas, the uncle of
Mohammed," &c.—Coleridge, p. 213.
"Long had the wav'ring god the war delay'd,
While Greece and Troy alternate own'd his aid."
Merrick's "Tryphiodorus," vi. 761, sq.
Paeon seems to have been to the gods, what Podaleirius and
Machaon were to the Grecian heroes.
Arisbe, a colony of the Mitylenaeans in Troas.
Pedasus, a town near Pylos.
Rich heaps of brass. "The halls of Alkinous and
Menelaus glitter with gold, copper, and electrum; while large stocks of
yet unemployed metal—gold, copper, and iron are stored up in the
treasure-chamber of Odysseus and other chiefs. Coined money is unknown
in the Homeric age—the trade carried on being one of barter. In
reference also to the metals, it deserves to be remarked, that the
Homeric descriptions universally suppose copper, and not iron, to be
employed for arms, both offensive and defensive. By what process the
copper was tempered and hardened, so as to serve the purpose of the
warrior, we do not know; but the use of iron for these objects belongs
to a later age."—Grote, vol. ii. p. 142.
Oh impotent, &c "In battle, quarter seems never to
have been given, except with a view to the ransom of the prisoner.
Agamemnon reproaches Menelaus with unmanly softness, when be is on the
point of sparing a fallen enemy, and himself puts the suppliant to the
sword."—Thirlwall, vol. i. p. 181
"The ruthless steel, impatient of delay,
Forbade the sire to linger out the day.
It struck the bending father to the earth,
And cropt the wailing infant at the birth.
Can innocents the rage of parties know,
And they who ne'er offended find a foe?"
Rowe's Lucan, bk. ii.
"Meantime the Trojan dames, oppress'd with woe,
To Pallas' fane in long procession go,
In hopes to reconcile their heav'nly foe:
They weep; they beat their breasts; they rend their hair,
And rich embroider'd vests for presents bear."
Dryden's Virgil, i. 670
The manner in which this episode is introduced, is well
illustrated by the following remarks of Mure, vol. i. p.298: "The
poet's method of introducing his episode, also, illustrates in a
curious manner his tact in the dramatic department of his art. Where,
for example, one or more heroes are despatched on some commission, to
be executed at a certain distance of time or place, the fulfilment of
this task is not, as a general rule, immediately described. A certain
interval is allowed them for reaching the appointed scene of action,
which interval is dramatised, as it were, either by a temporary
continuation of the previous narrative, or by fixing attention for a
while on some new transaction, at the close of which the further
account of the mission is resumed."
With tablets sealed. These probably were only devices
of a hieroglyphical character. Whether writing was known in the Homeric
times is utterly uncertain. See Grote, vol ii. p. 192, sqq.
Solymaean crew, a people of Lycia.
From this "melancholy madness" of Bellerophon, hypochondria
received the name of "Morbus Bellerophonteus." See my notes in my prose
translation, p. 112. The "Aleian field," i.e. "the plain of
wandering," was situated between the rivers Pyramus and Pinarus, in
His own, of gold. This bad bargain has passed into a
common proverb. See Aulus Gellius, ii, 23.
Scaean, i e. left hand.
In fifty chambers.
"The fifty nuptial beds, (such hopes had he,
So large a promise of a progeny,)
The ports of plated gold, and hung with spoils."
Dryden's Virgil, ii.658
O would kind earth, &c. "It is apparently a sudden,
irregular burst of popular indignation to which Hector alludes, when he
regrets that the Trojans had not spirit enough to cover Paris with a
mantle of stones. This, however, was also one of the ordinary formal
modes of punishment for great public offences. It may have been
originally connected with the same feeling—the desire of avoiding the
pollution of bloodshed—which seems to have suggested the practice of
burying prisoners alive, with a scantling of food by their side. Though
Homer makes no mention of this horrible usage, the example of the Roman
Vestals affords reasons for believing that, in ascribing it to the
heroic ages, Sophocles followed an authentic tradition."—Thirlwall's
Greece, vol. i. p. 171, sq.
Paris' lofty dome. "With respect to the private
dwellings, which are oftenest described, the poet's language barely
enables us to form a general notion of their ordinary plan, and
affords no conception of the style which prevailed in them or of their
effect on the eye. It seems indeed probable, from the manner in which
he dwells on their metallic ornaments that the higher beauty of
proportion was but little required or understood, and it is, perhaps,
strength and convenience, rather than elegance, that he means to
commend, in speaking of the fair house which Paris had built for
himself with the aid of the most skilful masons of Troy."—Thirlwall's
Greece, vol. i. p. 231.
The wanton courser.
"Come destrier, che da le regie stalle
Ove a l'usa de l'arme si riserba,
Fugge, e libero al fiu per largo calle
Va tragl' armenti, o al fiume usato, o a l'herba."
Gier, Lib. ix. 75.
Casque. The original word is stephanae, about the
meaning of which there is some little doubt. Some take it for a
different kind of cap or helmet, others for the rim, others for the
cone, of the helmet.
Athenian maid: Minerva.
Celadon, a river of Elis.
Oileus, i.e. Ajax, the son of Oileus, in
contradistinction to Ajax, son of Telamon.
In the general's helm. It was customary to put the
lots into a helmet, in which they were well shaken up; each man then
took his choice.
God of Thrace. Mars, or Mavors, according to his
Thracian epithet. Hence "Mavortia Moenia."
Grimly he smiled.
Grinn'd horribly a ghastly smile."—"Paradise Lost," ii. 845.
"There Mavors stands
Grinning with ghastly feature."—Carey's Dante: Hell, v.
"Sete o guerrieri, incomincio Pindoro,
Con pari honor di pari ambo possenti,
Dunque cessi la pugna, e non sian rotte
Le ragioni, e 'l riposo, e de la notte."—Gier. Lib. vi. 51.
It was an ancient style of compliment to give a larger
portion of food to the conqueror, or person to whom respect was to be
shown. See Virg. AEn. viii. 181. Thus Benjamin was honoured with a
"double portion." Gen. xliii. 34.
Embattled walls. "Another essential basis of mechanical
unity in the poem is the construction of the rampart. This takes place
in the seventh book. The reason ascribed for the glaring improbability
that the Greeks should have left their camp and fleet unfortified
during nine years, in the midst of a hostile country, is a purely
poetical one: 'So long as Achilles fought, the terror of his name
sufficed to keep every foe at a distance.' The disasters consequent
on his secession first led to the necessity of other means of
protection. Accordingly, in the battles previous to the eighth book,
no allusion occurs to a rampart; in all those which follow it forms a
prominent feature. Here, then, in the anomaly as in the propriety of
the Iliad, the destiny of Achilles, or rather this peculiar crisis of
it, forms the pervading bond of connexion to the whole poem."—Mure,
vol. i., p. 257.
What cause of fear, &c.
"Seest thou not this? Or do we fear in vain
Thy boasted thunders, and thy thoughtless reign?"
Dryden's Virgil, iv. 304.
In exchange. These lines are referred to by Theophilus,
the Roman lawyer, iii. tit. xxiii. Section 1, as exhibiting the most
ancient mention of barter.
"A similar bond of connexion, in the military details of the
narrative, is the decree issued by Jupiter, at the commencement of the
eighth book, against any further interference of the gods in the
battles. In the opening of the twentieth book this interdict is
withdrawn. During the twelve intermediate books it is kept steadily in
view. No interposition takes place but on the part of the specially
authorised agents of Jove, or on that of one or two contumacious
deities, described as boldly setting his commands at defiance, but
checked and reprimanded for their disobedience; while the other divine
warriors, who in the previous and subsequent cantos are so active in
support of their favourite heroes, repeatedly allude to the supreme
edict as the cause of their present inactivity."—Mure, vol. i. p 257.
See however, Muller, "Greek Literature," ch. v. Section 6, and Grote,
vol. ii. p. 252. The armies join battle: Jupiter on Mount Ida weighs in
"As far removed from God and light of heaven,
As from the centre thrice to th' utmost pole."—"Paradise Lost."
"E quanto e da le stelle al basso inferno,
Tanto e piu in su de la stellata spera"—Gier. Lib. i. 7.
"Some of the epithets which Homer applies to the heavens seem to imply
that he considered it as a solid vault of metal. But it is not
necessary to construe these epithets so literally, nor to draw any such
inference from his description of Atlas, who holds the lofty pillars
which keep earth and heaven asunder. Yet it would seem, from the
manner in which the height of heaven is compared with the depth of
Tartarus, that the region of light was thought to have certain bounds.
The summit of the Thessalian Olympus was regarded as the highest point
on the earth, and it is not always carefully distinguished from the
aerian regions above The idea of a seat of the gods—perhaps derived
from a more ancient tradition, in which it was not attached to any
geographical site—seems to be indistinctly blended in the poet's mind
with that of the real mountain."—Thirlwall's Greece, vol. i. p. 217,
"Now lately heav'n, earth, another world
Hung e'er my realm, link'd in a golden chain
To that side heav'n."—"Paradise Lost," ii. 1004.
His golden scales.
"Jove now, sole arbiter of peace and war,
Held forth the fatal balance from afar:
Each host he weighs; by turns they both prevail,
Till Troy descending fix'd the doubtful scale."
Merrick's Tryphiodorus, v 687, sqq.
"Th' Eternal, to prevent such horrid fray,
Hung forth in heav'n his golden scales,
Wherein all things created first he weighed;
The pendulous round earth, with balanced air
In counterpoise; now ponders all events,
Battles and realms. In these he puts two weights,
The sequel each of parting and of fight:
The latter quick up flew, and kick'd the beam."
"Paradise Lost," iv. 496.
And now, &c.
"And now all heaven
Had gone to wrack, with ruin overspread;
Had not th' Almighty Father, where he sits
... foreseen."—"Paradise Lost," vi. 669.
Gerenian Nestor. The epithet Gerenian either
refers to the name of a place in which Nestor was educated, or merely
signifies honoured, revered. See Schol. Venet. in II. B. 336; Strabo,
viii. p. 340.
AEgae, Helice. Both these towns were conspicuous for
their worship of Neptune.
As full blown, &c.
"Il suo Lesbia quasi bel fior succiso,
E in atto si gentil languir tremanti
Gl' occhi, e cader siu 'l tergo il collo mira."
Gier. Lib. ix. 85.
Ungrateful, because the cause in which they were
engaged was unjust.
"Struck by the lab'ring priests' uplifted hands
The victims fall: to heav'n they make their pray'r,
The curling vapours load the ambient air.
But vain their toil: the pow'rs who rule the skies
Averse beheld the ungrateful sacrifice."
Merrick's Tryphiodorus, vi. 527, sqq.
"As when about the silver moon, when aire is free from winde,
And stars shine cleare,
to whose sweet beams high prospects on the brows
Of all steepe hills and pinnacles thrust up themselves for shows,
And even the lowly valleys joy to glitter in their sight;
When the unmeasured firmament bursts to disclose her light,
And all the signs in heaven are seene,
that glad the shepherd's heart."
This flight of the Greeks, according to Buttmann, Lexil. p.
358, was not a supernatural flight caused by the gods, but "a great and
general one, caused by Hector and the Trojans, but with the approval of
Grote, vol. ii. p. 91, after noticing the modest calmness
and respect with which Nestor addresses Agamemnon, observes, "The
Homeric Council is a purely consultative body, assembled not with any
power of peremptorily arresting mischievous resolves of the king, but
solely for his information and guidance."
In the heroic times, it is not unfrequent for the king to
receive presents to purchase freedom from his wrath, or immunity from
his exactions. Such gifts gradually became regular, and formed the
income of the German, (Tacit. Germ. Section 15) Persian, (Herodot.
iii.89), and other kings. So, too, in the middle ages, 'The feudal aids
are the beginning of taxation, of which they for a long time answered
the purpose.' (Hallam, Middle Ages, ch. x. pt. 1, p. 189) This fact
frees Achilles from the apparent charge of sordidness. Plato, however,
(De Rep. vi. 4), says, "We cannot commend Phoenix, the tutor of
Achilles, as if he spoke correctly, when counselling him to accept of
presents and assist the Greeks, but, without presents, not to desist
from his wrath, nor again, should we commend Achilles himself, or
approve of his being so covetous as to receive presents from
It may be observed, that, brief as is the mention of Briseis
in the Iliad, and small the part she plays—what little is said is
pre-eminently calculated to enhance her fitness to be the bride of
Achilles. Purity, and retiring delicacy, are features well contrasted
with the rough, but tender disposition of the hero.
Laodice. Iphianassa, or Iphigenia, is not mentioned
by Homer, among the daughters of Agamemnon.
"Agamemnon, when he offers to transfer to Achilles seven
towns inhabited by wealthy husbandmen, who would enrich their lord by
presents and tribute, seems likewise to assume rather a property in
them, than an authority over them. And the same thing may be intimated
when it is said that Peleus bestowed a great people, the Dolopes of
Phthia, on Phoenix."—Thirlwall's Greece, vol. i Section 6, p. 162,
Pray in deep silence. Rather: "use well-omened words;" or,
as Kennedy has explained it, "Abstain from expressions unsuitable to
the solemnity of the occasion, which, by offending the god, might
defeat the object of their supplications."
Purest hands. This is one of the most ancient
superstitions respecting prayer, and one founded as much in nature as
It must be recollected, that the war at Troy was not a
settled siege, and that many of the chieftains busied themselves in
piratical expeditions about its neighborhood. Such a one was that of
which Achilles now speaks. From the following verses, it is evident
that fruits of these maraudings went to the common support of the
expedition, and not to the successful plunderer.
Pthia, the capital of Achilles' Thessalian domains.
Orchomenian town. The topography of Orchomenus, in
Boeotia, "situated," as it was, "on the northern bank of the lake
AEpais, which receives not only the river Cephisus from the valleys of
Phocis, but also other rivers from Parnassus and Helicon" (Grote, vol.
p. 181), was a sufficient reason for its prosperity and decay. "As
long as the channels of these waters were diligently watched and kept
clear, a large portion of the lake was in the condition of alluvial
land, pre-eminently rich and fertile. But when the channels came to be
either neglected, or designedly choked up by an enemy, the water
accumulated in such a degree as to occupy the soil of more than one
ancient islet, and to occasion the change of the site of Orchomenus
itself from the plain to the declivity of Mount Hyphanteion." (Ibid.)
The phrase "hundred gates," &c., seems to be merely
expressive of a great number. See notes to my prose translation, p.
Compare the following pretty lines of Quintus Calaber
(Dyce's Select Translations, p 88).—
"Many gifts he gave, and o'er
Dolopia bade me rule; thee in his arms
He brought an infant, on my bosom laid
The precious charge, and anxiously enjoin'd
That I should rear thee as my own with all
A parent's love. I fail'd not in my trust
And oft, while round my neck thy hands were lock'd,
From thy sweet lips the half articulate sound
Of Father came; and oft, as children use,
Mewling and puking didst thou drench my tunic."
"This description," observes my learned friend (notes, p. 121) "is
taken from the passage of Homer, II ix, in translating which, Pope,
with that squeamish, artificial taste, which distinguished the age of
Anne, omits the natural (and, let me add, affecting) circumstance."
"And the wine
Held to thy lips, and many a time in fits
Of infant frowardness the purple juice
Rejecting thou hast deluged all my vest,
And fill'd my bosom."—Cowper.
Where Calydon. For a good sketch of the story of
Meleager, too long to be inserted here, see Grote, vol. i. p. 195,
sqq.; and for the authorities, see my notes to the prose translation,
"Gifts can conquer"—It is well observed by Bishop
Thirlwall, "Greece," vol. i. p, 180, that the law of honour among the
Greeks did not compel them to treasure up in their memory the offensive
language which might be addressed to them by a passionate adversary,
nor to conceive that it left a stain which could only be washed away by
blood. Even for real and deep injuries they were commonly willing to
accept a pecuniary compensation."
"The boon of sleep."-Milton
"All else of nature's common gift partake:
Unhappy Dido was alone awake."—Dryden's Virgil, iv. 767.
The king of Crete: Idomeneus.
Soft wool within, i e. a kind of woollen stuffing,
pressed in between the straps, to protect the head, and make the helmet
"All the circumstances of this action—the night, Rhesus
buried in a profound sleep, and Diomede with the sword in his hand
hanging over the head of that prince—furnished Homer with the idea of
this fiction, which represents Rhesus lying fast asleep, and, as it
were, beholding his enemy in a dream, plunging the sword into his
bosom. This image is very natural; for a man in his condition awakes no
farther than to see confusedly what environs him, and to think it not a
reality but a dream."—Pope.
"There's one did laugh in his sleep, and one cry'd murder;
They wak'd each other."—Macbeth.
"Aurora now had left her saffron bed,
And beams of early light the heavens o'erspread."
Dryden's Virgil, iv. 639
Red drops of blood. "This phenomenon, if a mere fruit
of the poet's imagination, might seem arbitrary or far-fetched. It is
one, however, of ascertained reality, and of no uncommon occurrence in
the climate of Greece."—Mure, i p. 493. Cf. Tasso, Gier. Lib. ix. 15:
"La terra in vece del notturno gelo
Bagnan rugiade tepide, e sanguigne."
"No thought of flight,
None of retreat, no unbecoming deed
That argued fear."—"Paradise Lost," vi. 236.
One of love. Although a bastard brother received only
a small portion of the inheritance, he was commonly very well treated.
Priam appears to be the only one of whom polygamy is directly asserted
in the Iliad. Grote, vol. ii. p. 114, note.
"Circled with foes as when a packe of bloodie jackals cling
About a goodly palmed hart, hurt with a hunter's bow
Whose escape his nimble feet insure, whilst his warm blood doth flow,
And his light knees have power to move: but (maistred by his wound)
Embost within a shady hill, the jackals charge him round,
And teare his flesh—when instantly fortune sends in the powers
Of some sterne lion, with whose sighte they flie and he devours.
So they around Ulysses prest."—Chapman.
Simois, railing, &c.
"In those bloody fields
Where Simois rolls the bodies and the shields
Of heroes."—Dryden's Virgil, i. 142.
"Where yon disorder'd heap of ruin lies,
Stones rent from stones,—where clouds of dust arise,—
Amid that smother, Neptune holds his place,
Below the wall's foundation drives his mace,
And heaves the building from the solid base."
Dryden's Virgil, ii. 825.
Why boast we.
"Wherefore do I assume
These royalties and not refuse to reign,
Refusing to accept as great a share
Of hazard as of honour, due alike to him
Who reigns, and so much to him due
Of hazard more, as he above the rest
High honour'd sits."—"Paradise Lost," ii. 450.
Each equal weight.
"Long time in even scale
The battle hung."—"Paradise Lost," vi. 245.
"He on his impious foes right onward drove,
Gloomy as night."—"Paradise Lost," vi. 831
Renown'd for justice and for length of days, Arrian.
de Exp. Alex. iv. p. 239, also speaks of the independence of these
people, which he regards as the result of their poverty and
uprightness. Some authors have regarded the phrase "Hippomolgian,"
i.e. "milking their mares," as an epithet applicable to numerous
tribes, since the oldest of the Samatian nomads made their mares' milk
one of their chief articles of diet. The epithet abion or abion, in
this passage, has occasioned much discussion. It may mean, according as
we read it, either "long-lived," or "bowless," the latter epithet
indicating that they did not depend upon archery for subsistence.
Compare Chapman's quaint, bold verses:—
"And as a round piece of a rocke, which with a winter's flood
Is from his top torn, when a shoure poured from a bursten cloud,
Hath broke the naturall band it had within the roughftey rock,
Flies jumping all adourne the woods, resounding everie shocke,
And on, uncheckt, it headlong leaps till in a plaine it stay,
And then (tho' never so impelled), it stirs not any way:—
This book forms a most agreeable interruption to
The continuous round of battles, which occupy the latter part of the
Iliad. It is as well to observe, that the sameness of these scenes
renders many notes unnecessary.
Who to Tydeus owes, i.e. Diomed.
Teneri sdegni, e placide, e tranquille
Repulse, e cari vezzi, e liete paci,
Sorrisi, parolette, e dolci stille
Di pianto, e sospir tronchi, e molli baci."
Gier. Lib. xvi. 25
Compare the description of the dwelling of Sleep in Orlando
Furioso, bk. vi.
"Twice seven, the charming daughters of the main—
Around my person wait, and bear my train:
Succeed my wish, and second my design,
The fairest, Deiopeia, shall be thine."
Dryden's Virgil, AEn. i. 107, seq.
And Minos. "By Homer, Minos is described as the son
of Jupiter, and of the daughter of Phoenix, whom all succeeding authors
name Europa; and he is thus carried back into the remotest period of
Cretan antiquity known to the poet, apparently as a native hero,
Illustrious enough for a divine parentage, and too ancient to allow his
descent to be traced to any other source. But in a genealogy recorded
by later writers, he is likewise the adopted son of Asterius, as
descendant of Dorus, the son of Helen, and is thus connected with a
colony said to have been led into Creta by Tentamus, or Tectamus, son
of Dorus, who is related either to have crossed over from Thessaly, or
to have embarked at Malea after having led his followers by land into
Laconia."—Thirlwall, p. 136, seq.
Milton has emulated this passage, in describing the couch of
our first parents:—
"Underneath the violet,
Crocus, and hyacinth with rich inlay,
'Broider'd the ground."—"Paradise Lost," iv. 700.
He lies protected,
"Forthwith on all sides to his aid was run
By angels many and strong, who interpos'd
Defence, while others bore him on their shields
Back to his chariot, where it stood retir'd
From off the files of war; there they him laid,
Gnashing for anguish, and despite, and shame."
"Paradise Lost," vi. 335, seq.
The brazen dome. See the note on Bk. viii. Page 142.
For, by the gods! who flies. Observe the bold
ellipsis of "he cries," and the transition from the direct to the
oblique construction. So in Milton:—
"Thus at their shady lodge arriv'd, both stood,
Both turn'd, and under open sky ador'd
The God that made both sky, air, earth, and heaven,
Which they beheld, the moon's resplendent globe,
And starry pole.—Thou also mad'st the night,
Maker omnipotent, and thou the day."
Milton, "Paradise Lost," Book iv.
So some tall rock.
"But like a rock unmov'd, a rock that braves
The raging tempest, and the rising waves—
Propp'd on himself he stands: his solid sides
Wash off the sea-weeds, and the sounding tides."
Dryden's Virgil, vii. 809.
Protesilaus was the first Greek who fell, slain by Hector,
as he leaped from the vessel to the Trojan shore. He was buried on the
Chersonese, near the city of Plagusa. Hygin Fab. ciii. Tzetz. on
Lycophr. 245, 528. There is a most elegant tribute to his memory in the
Preface to the Heroica of Philostratus.
His best beloved. The following elegant remarks of
Thirlwall (Greece, vol. i, p. 176 seq.) well illustrate the character
of the friendship subsisting between these two heroes—
"One of the noblest and most amiable sides of the Greek character, is
the readiness with which it lent itself to construct intimate and
durable friendships, and this is a feature no less prominent in the
earliest than in later times. It was indeed connected with the
comparatively low estimation in which female society was held; but the
devotedness and constancy with which these attachments were maintained,
was not the less admirable and engaging. The heroic companions whom we
find celebrated partly by Homer and partly in traditions which, if not
of equal antiquity, were grounded on the same feeling, seem to have but
one heart and soul, with scarcely a wish or object apart, and only to
live as they are always ready to die for one another. It is true that
the relation between them is not always one of perfect equality; but
this is a circumstance which, while it often adds a peculiar charm
to the poetical description, detracts little from the dignity of the
idea which it presents. Such were the friendships of Hercules and
Iolaus, of Theseus and Pirithous, of Orestes and Pylades; and though
These may owe the greater part of their fame to the later epic or even
dramatic poetry, the moral groundwork undoubtedly subsisted in the
period to which the traditions are referred. The argument of the Iliad
mainly turns on the affection of Achilles for Patroclus, whose love for
the greater hero is only tempered by reverence for his higher birth and
his unequalled prowess. But the mutual regard which united Idomeneus
and Meriones, Diomedes and Sthenelus, though, as the persons themselves
are less important, it is kept more in the back-ground, is manifestly
viewed by the poet in the same light. The idea of a Greek hero seems
not to have been thought complete, without such a brother in arms by
his side."—Thirlwall, Greece, vol. i. p. 176, seq.
"As hungry wolves with raging appetite,
Scour through the fields, ne'er fear the stormy night—
Their whelps at home expect the promised food,
And long to temper their dry chaps in blood—
So rush'd we forth at once."—Dryden's Virgil, ii. 479.
The destinies ordain.—"In the mythology, also, of the
Iliad, purely Pagan as it is, we discover one important truth
unconsciously involved, which was almost entirely lost from view
amidst the nearly equal scepticism and credulity of subsequent ages.
Zeus or Jupiter is popularly to be taken as omnipotent. No distinct
empire is assigned to fate or fortune; the will of the father of gods
and men is absolute and uncontrollable. This seems to be the true
character of the Homeric deity, and it is very necessary that the
student of Greek literature should bear it constantly in mind. A strong
instance in the Iliad itself to illustrate this position, is the
passage where Jupiter laments to Juno the approaching death of
Sarpedon. 'Alas me!' says he 'since it is fated (moira) that Sarpedon,
dearest to me of men, should be slain by Patroclus, the son of
Menoetius! Indeed, my heart is divided within me while I ruminate it in
my mind, whether having snatched him up from out of the lamentable
battle, I should not at once place him alive in the fertile land of his
own Lycia, or whether I should now destroy him by the hands of the son
of Menoetius!' To which Juno answers—'Dost thou mean to rescue from
death a mortal man, long since destined by fate (palai pepromenon)?
You may do it—but we, the rest of the gods, do not sanction it.' Here
it is clear from both speakers, that although Sarpedon is said to be
fated to die, Jupiter might still, if he pleased, save him, and place
him entirely out of the reach of any such event, and further, in the
alternative, that Jupiter himself would destroy him by the hands of
another."—Coleridge, p. 156. seq.
Thrice at the battlements. "The art military of the
Homeric age is upon a level with the state of navigation just
described, personal prowess decided every thing; the night attack and
the ambuscade, although much esteemed, were never upon a large scale.
The chiefs fight in advance, and enact almost as much as the knights of
romance. The siege of Troy was as little like a modern siege as a
captain in the guards is like Achilles. There is no mention of a ditch
or any other line or work round the town, and the wall itself was
accessible without a ladder. It was probably a vast mound of earth with
a declivity outwards. Patroclus thrice mounts it in armour. The Trojans
are in no respects blockaded, and receive assistance from their allies
to the very end."—Coleridge, p. 212.
Ciconians.—A people of Thrace, near the Hebrus.
"Fast by the manger stands the inactive steed,
And, sunk in sorrow, hangs his languid head;
He stands, and careless of his golden grain,
Weeps his associates and his master slain."
Merrick's Tryphiodorus, v. 18-24.
"Nothing is heard upon the mountains now,
But pensive herds that for their master low,
Straggling and comfortless about they rove,
Unmindful of their pasture and their love."
Moschus, id. 3, parodied, ibid.
"To close the pomp, AEthon, the steed of state,
Is led, the funeral of his lord to wait.
Stripp'd of his trappings, with a sullen pace
He walks, and the big tears run rolling down his face."
Dryden's Virgil, bk. ii
Some brawny bull.
"Like to a bull, that with impetuous spring
Darts, at the moment when the fatal blow
Hath struck him, but unable to proceed
Plunges on either side."—Carey's Dante: Hell, c. xii.
This is connected with the earlier part of last book, the
regular narrative being interrupted by the message of Antilochus and
the lamentations of Achilles.
Far in the deep. So Oceanus hears the lamentations of
Prometheus, in the play of AEschylus, and comes from the depths of the
sea to comfort him.
Opuntia, a city of Locris.
Quintus Calaber, lib. v., has attempted to rival Homer in
his description of the shield of the same hero. A few extracts from Mr.
Dyce's version (Select Translations, p. 104, seq.) may here be
"In the wide circle of the shield were seen
Refulgent images of various forms,
The work of Vulcan; who had there described
The heaven, the ether, and the earth and sea,
The winds, the clouds, the moon, the sun, apart
In different stations; and you there might view
The stars that gem the still-revolving heaven,
And, under them, the vast expanse of air,
In which, with outstretch'd wings, the long-beak'd bird
Winnow'd the gale, as if instinct with life.
Around the shield the waves of ocean flow'd,
The realms of Tethys, which unnumber'd streams,
In azure mazes rolling o'er the earth,
Seem'd to augment."
On seats of stone. "Several of the old northern Sagas
represent the old men assembled for the purpose of judging as sitting
on great stones, in a circle called the Urtheilsring or gerichtsring"—
Grote, ii. p. 100, note. On the independence of the judicial office in
The heroic times, see Thirlwall's Greece, vol. i. p. 166.
Another part, &c.
Were horrid wars depicted; grimly pale
Were heroes lying with their slaughter'd steeds
Upon the ground incarnadin'd with blood.
Stern stalked Bellona, smear'd with reeking gore,
Through charging ranks; beside her Rout was seen,
And Terror, Discord to the fatal strife
Inciting men, and Furies breathing flames:
Nor absent were the Fates, and the tall shape
Of ghastly Death, round whom did Battles throng,
Their limbs distilling plenteous blood and sweat;
And Gorgons, whose long locks were twisting snakes.
That shot their forky tongues incessant forth.
Such were the horrors of dire war."—Dyce's Calaber.
A field deep furrowed.
"Here was a corn field; reapers in a row,
Each with a sharp-tooth'd sickle in his hand,
Work'd busily, and, as the harvest fell,
Others were ready still to bind the sheaves:
Yoked to a wain that bore the corn away
The steers were moving; sturdy bullocks here
The plough were drawing, and the furrow'd glebe
Was black behind them, while with goading wand
The active youths impell'd them. Here a feast
Was graved: to the shrill pipe and ringing lyre
A band of blooming virgins led the dance.
As if endued with life."—Dyce's Calaber.
Coleridge (Greek Classic Poets, p. 182, seq.) has diligently
compared this with the description of the shield of Hercules by Hesiod.
He remarks that, "with two or three exceptions, the imagery differs in
little more than the names and arrangements; and the difference of
arrangement in the Shield of Hercules is altogether for the worse. The
natural consecution of the Homeric images needs no exposition: it
constitutes in itself one of the beauties of the work. The Hesiodic
images are huddled together without connection or congruity: Mars
and Pallas are awkwardly introduced among the Centaurs and Lapithae;—
but the gap is wide indeed between them and Apollo with the Muses,
waking the echoes of Olympus to celestial harmonies; whence however, we
are hurried back to Perseus, the Gorgons, and other images of war, over
an arm of the sea, in which the sporting dolphins, the fugitive fishes,
and the fisherman on the shore with his casting net, are minutely
represented. As to the Hesiodic images themselves, the leading remark
is, that they catch at beauty by ornament, and at sublimity by
exaggeration; and upon the untenable supposition of the genuineness of
this poem, there is this curious peculiarity, that, in the description
of scenes of rustic peace, the superiority of Homer is decisive—while
in those of war and tumult it may be thought, perhaps, that the
Hesiodic poet has more than once the advantage."
"This legend is one of the most pregnant and characteristic
in the Grecian Mythology; it explains, according to the religious ideas
familiar to the old epic poets, both the distinguishing attributes and
the endless toil and endurances of Heracles, the most renowned
subjugator of all the semi-divine personages worshipped by the
Hellenes,—a being of irresistible force, and especially beloved by
Zeus, yet condemned constantly to labour for others and to
obey the commands of a worthless and cowardly persecutor. His
recompense is reserved to the close of his career, when his afflicting
trials are brought to a close: he is then admitted to the godhead, and
receives in marriage Hebe."—Grote, vol. i. p. 128.
"The blue-eyed maid,
In ev'ry breast new vigour to infuse.
Brings nectar temper'd with ambrosial dews."
Merrick's Tryphiodorus, vi. 249.
"Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.
He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth
upon nothing. He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the
cloud is not rent under them." Job xxvi. 6-8.
"Swift from his throne the infernal monarch ran,
All pale and trembling, lest the race of man,
Slain by Jove's wrath, and led by Hermes' rod,
Should fill (a countless throng!) his dark abode."
Merrick's Tryphiodorus, vi. 769, sqq.
These words seem to imply the old belief, that the Fates
might be delayed, but never wholly set aside.
It was anciently believed that it was dangerous, if not
fatal, to behold a deity. See Exod. xxxiii. 20; Judg. xiii. 22.
"Ere Ilium and the Trojan tow'rs arose,
In humble vales they built their soft abodes."
Dryden's Virgil, iii. 150.
Along the level seas. Compare Virgil's description of
"Outstripp'd the winds in speed upon the plain,
Flew o'er the field, nor hurt the bearded grain:
She swept the seas, and, as she skimm'd along,
Her flying feet unbathed on billows hung."
Dryden, vii. 1100.
The future father. "AEneas and Antenor stand
distinguished from the other Trojans by a dissatisfaction with Priam,
and a sympathy with the Greeks, which is by Sophocles and others
construed as treacherous collusion,—a suspicion indirectly glanced at,
though emphatically repelled, in the AEneas of Virgil."—Grote, i. p.
Neptune thus recounts his services to AEneas:
"When your AEneas fought, but fought with odds
Of force unequal, and unequal gods:
I spread a cloud before the victor's sight,
Sustain'd the vanquish'd, and secured his flight—
Even then secured him, when I sought with joy
The vow'd destruction of ungrateful Troy."
Dryden's Virgil, v. 1058.
On Polydore. Euripides, Virgil, and others, relate
that Polydore was sent into Thrace, to the house of Polymestor, for
protection, being the youngest of Priam's sons, and that he was
treacherously murdered by his host for the sake of the treasure sent
"Perhaps the boldest
excursion of Homer into this region of poetical fancy is the collision
into which, in the twenty-first of the Iliad, he has brought the river
god Scamander, first with Achilles, and afterwards with Vulcan, when
summoned by Juno to the hero's aid. The overwhelming fury of the stream
finds the natural interpretation in the character of the mountain
torrents of Greece and Asia Minor. Their wide, shingly beds are in
summer comparatively dry, so as to be easily forded by the foot
passenger. But a thunder-shower in the mountains, unobserved perhaps by
the traveller on the plain, may suddenly immerse him in the flood of a
mighty river. The rescue of Achilles by the fiery arms of Vulcan
scarcely admits of the same ready explanation from physical causes. Yet
the subsiding of the flood at the critical moment when the hero's
destruction appeared imminent, might, by a slight extension of the
figurative parallel, be ascribed to a god symbolic of the influences
opposed to all atmospheric moisture."—Mure, vol. i. p. 480, sq.
Wood has observed, that "the circumstance of a falling tree,
which is described as reaching from one of its banks to the other,
affords a very just idea of the breadth of the Scamander."
Ignominious. Drowning, as compared with a death in
the field of battle, was considered utterly disgraceful.
Beneath a caldron.
"So, when with crackling flames a caldron fries,
The bubbling waters from the bottom rise.
Above the brims they force their fiery way;
Black vapours climb aloft, and cloud the day."
Dryden's Virgil, vii. 644.
"This tale of the temporary servitude of particular gods, by
order of Jove, as a punishment for misbehaviour, recurs not
unfrequently among the incidents of the Mythical world."—Grote, vol.
i. p. 156.
Not half so dreadful.
"On the other side,
Incensed with indignation, Satan stood
Unterrified, and like a comet burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
In the arctic sky, and from his horrid hair
Shakes pestilence and war."—Paradise Lost," xi. 708.
"And thus his own undaunted mind explores."—"Paradise
Lost," vi. 113.
The example of Nausicaa, in the Odyssey, proves that the
duties of the laundry were not thought derogatory, even from the
dignity of a princess, in the heroic times.
Hesper shines with keener light.
"Fairest of stars, last in the train of night,
If better thou belong not to the dawn."
"Paradise Lost," v. 166.
Such was his fate. After chasing the Trojans into the town,
he was slain by an arrow from the quiver of Paris, directed under the
unerring auspices of Apollo. The greatest efforts were made by the
Trojans to possess themselves of the body, which was however rescued
and borne off to the Grecian camp by the valour of Ajax and Ulysses.
Thetis stole away the body, just as the Greeks were about to burn it
with funeral honours, and conveyed it away to a renewed life of
immortality in the isle of Leuke in the Euxine.
Astyanax, i.e. the city-king or guardian. It is amusing
that Plato, who often finds fault with Homer without reason, should
have copied this twaddling etymology into his Cratylus.
This book has been
closely imitated by Virgil in his fifth book, but it is almost useless
to attempt a selection of passages for comparison.
Thrice in order led. This was a frequent rite at
funerals. The Romans had the same custom, which they called
decursio. Plutarch states that Alexander, in after times,
renewed these same honours to the memory of Achilles himself.
And swore. Literally, and called Orcus, the god of
oaths, to witness. See Buttmann, Lexilog, p. 436.
"O, long expected by thy friends! from whence
Art thou so late return'd for our defence?
Do we behold thee, wearied as we are
With length of labours, and with, toils of war?
After so many funerals of thy own,
Art thou restored to thy declining town?
But say, what wounds are these? what new disgrace
Deforms the manly features of thy face?"
Dryden, xi. 369.
Like a thin smoke. Virgil, Georg. iv. 72.
"In vain I reach my feeble hands to join
In sweet embraces—ah! no longer thine!
She said, and from his eyes the fleeting fair
Retired, like subtle smoke dissolved in air."
"So eagerly the fiend
O'er bog, o'er steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet pursues his way,
And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies."
"Paradise Lost," ii. 948.
"An ancient forest, for the work design'd
(The shady covert of the savage kind).
The Trojans found: the sounding axe is placed:
Firs, pines, and pitch-trees, and the tow'ring pride
Of forest ashes, feel the fatal stroke,
And piercing wedges cleave the stubborn oak.
High trunks of trees, fell'd from the steepy crown
Of the bare mountains, roll with ruin down."
Dryden's Virgil, vi. 261.
He vowed. This was a very ancient custom.
The height of the tomb or pile was a great proof of the
dignity of the deceased, and the honour in which he was held.
On the prevalence of this cruel custom amongst the northern
nations, see Mallet, p. 213.
And calls the spirit. Such was the custom anciently,
even at the Roman funerals.
"Hail, O ye holy manes! hail again,
Paternal ashes, now revived in vain."
Dryden's Virgil, v. 106.
Virgil, by making the boaster vanquished, has drawn a better
moral from this episode than Homer. The following lines deserve
"The haughty Dares in the lists appears:
Walking he strides, his head erected bears:
His nervous arms the weighty gauntlet wield,
And loud applauses echo through the field.
* * * *
Such Dares was, and such he strode along,
And drew the wonder of the gazing throng
His brawny breast and ample chest he shows;
His lifted arms around his head he throws,
And deals in whistling air his empty blows.
His match is sought, but, through the trembling band,
No one dares answer to the proud demand.
Presuming of his force, with sparkling eyes,
Already he devours the promised prize.
* * * *
If none my matchless valour dares oppose,
How long shall Dares wait his dastard foes?"
Dryden's Virgil, v. 486, seq.
"The gauntlet-fight thus ended, from the shore
His faithful friends unhappy Dares bore:
His mouth and nostrils pour'd a purple flood,
And pounded teeth came rushing with his blood."
Dryden's Virgil, v. 623.
"Troilus is only once named in the Iliad; he was mentioned
also in the Cypriad but his youth, beauty, and untimely end made him an
object of great interest with the subsequent poets."—Grote, i, p.
Milton has rivalled this passage describing the descent of
Gabriel, "Paradise Lost," bk. v. 266, seq.
"Down thither prone in flight
He speeds, and through the vast ethereal sky
Sails between worlds and worlds, with steady wing,
Now on the polar winds, then with quick fan
Winnows the buxom air. * * * *
* * * *
At once on th' eastern cliff of Paradise
He lights, and to his proper shape returns
A seraph wing'd. * * * *
Like Maia's son he stood,
And shook his plumes, that heavenly fragrance fill'd
The circuit wide."
Virgil, AEn. iv. 350:—
"Hermes obeys; with golden pinions binds
His flying feet, and mounts the western winds:
And whether o'er the seas or earth he flies,
With rapid force they bear him down the skies
But first he grasps within his awful hand
The mark of sovereign power, his magic wand;
With this he draws the ghost from hollow graves;
With this he drives them from the Stygian waves:
* * * *
Thus arm'd, the god begins his airy race,
And drives the racking clouds along the liquid space."
In reference to the whole scene that follows, the remarks of
Coleridge are well worth reading:—
"By a close study of life, and by a true and natural mode of expressing
everything, Homer was enabled to venture upon the most peculiar and
difficult situations, and to extricate himself from them with the
completest success. The whole scene between Achilles and Priam, when
the latter comes to the Greek camp for the purpose of redeeming the
body of Hector, is at once the most profoundly skilful, and yet the
simplest and most affecting passage in the Iliad. Quinctilian has taken
notice of the following speech of Priam, the rhetorical artifice of
which is so transcendent, that if genius did not often, especially in
oratory, unconsciously fulfil the most subtle precepts of criticism, we
might be induced, on this account alone, to consider the last book of
the Iliad as what is called spurious, in other words, of later date
than the rest of the poem. Observe the exquisite taste of Priam in
occupying the mind of Achilles, from the outset, with the image of his
father; in gradually introducing the parallel of his own situation;
and, lastly, mentioning Hector's name when he perceives that the hero
is softened, and then only in such a manner as to flatter the pride of
the conqueror. The ego d'eleeinoteros per, and the apusato aecha
geronta, are not exactly like the tone of the earlier parts of the
Iliad. They are almost too fine and pathetic. The whole passage defies
translation, for there is that about the Greek which has no name, but
which is of so fine and ethereal a subtlety that it can only be felt in
the original, and is lost in an attempt to transfuse it into another
language."—Coleridge, p. 195.
"Achilles' ferocious treatment of the corpse of Hector
cannot but offend as referred to the modern standard of humanity. The
heroic age, however, must be judged by its own moral laws. Retributive
vengeance on the dead, as well as the living, was a duty inculcated
by the religion of those barbarous times which not only taught that
evil inflicted on the author of evil was a solace to the injured man;
but made the welfare of the soul after death dependent on the fate of
the body from which it had separated. Hence a denial of the rites
essential to the soul's admission into the more favoured regions of the
lower world was a cruel punishment to the wanderer on the dreary shores
of the infernal river. The complaint of the ghost of Patroclus to
Achilles, of but a brief postponement of his own obsequies, shows how
efficacious their refusal to the remains of his destroyer must have
been in satiating the thirst of revenge, which, even after death, was
supposed to torment the dwellers in Hades. Hence before yielding up the
body of Hector to Priam, Achilles asks pardon of Patroclus for even
this partial cession of his just rights of retribution."—Mure, vol. i.
Such was the fate of Astyanax, when Troy was taken.
"Here, from the tow'r by stern Ulysses thrown,
Andromache bewail'd her infant son."
Merrick's Tryphiodorus, v. 675.
The following observations of Coleridge furnish a most
gallant and interesting view of Helen's character—
things are more interesting than to observe how the same hand that
has given us the fury and inconsistency of Achilles, gives us also the
consummate elegance and tenderness of Helen. She is through the Iliad a
genuine lady, graceful in motion and speech, noble in her associations,
full of remorse for a fault for which higher powers seem responsible,
yet grateful and affectionate towards those with whom that fault had
committed her. I have always thought the following speech in which
Helen laments Hector, and hints at her own invidious and unprotected
situation in Troy, as almost the sweetest passage in the poem. It is
another striking instance of that refinement of feeling and softness of
tone which so generally distinguish the last book of the Iliad from the
rest."—Classic Poets, p. 198, seq.
"And here we part with Achilles at the moment best
calculated to exalt and purify our impression of his character. We had
accompanied him through the effervescence, undulations, and final
subsidence of his stormy passions. We now leave him in repose and under
the full influence of the more amiable affections, while our admiration
of his great qualities is chastened by the reflection that, within a
few short days the mighty being in whom they were united was himself to
be suddenly cut off in the full vigour of their exercise.
The frequent and touching allusions, interspersed throughout the Iliad,
to the speedy termination of its hero's course, and the moral on the
vanity of human life which they indicate, are among the finest
evidences of the spirit of ethic unity by which the whole framework of
the poem is united."—Mure, vol. i. p 201.
Cowper says,—"I cannot take my leave of this noble poem
without expressing how much I am struck with the plain conclusion of
it. It is like the exit of a great man out of company, whom he has
entertained magnificently; neither pompous nor familiar; not
contemptuous, yet without much ceremony." Coleridge, p. 227, considers
the termination of "Paradise Lost" somewhat similar.}