Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

may, therefore, not unnaturally claim attention for its superior novelty. And we are not ashamed to confess that the shorter and perhaps less frequently read of Homer's epics has always possessed in our eyes superior interest to that kindled by its more lengthy rival. Here there is no rapid succession of combats, and there are few descriptions of sanguinary engagements and of the deaths of heroes, so minutely set forth and yet so difficnlt to be distinguished from one another. In place of this characteristic feature of the Iliad, we have in the Odyssey a narrative of adventure which for variety of incident and sustained movement has few or no rivals in ancient or in modern times. The management of the double plot, itself in strong contrast with the simple plot of the Iliad, requires and evinces even superior artistic skill. No meaner poet than Homer could so boldly have undertaken to weave into a single epic the adventures of Telemachus in search of his father, and of Ulysses through his diversified fortunes until he regained his throne. • To carry these parallel stories through about two thirds of the poem, until they merge in one at the meeting of the two heroes, was a perilous attempt, but was accomplished with entire success.

The opening of the Odyssey, an easier one, by the way, to render faithfully in English than that of the Iliad, Mr. Bryant expresses very well :

O Muse, of that sagacious man
Who, having overthrown the sacred town
Of Ilium, wandered far and visited
The capitals of many nations, learned
The customs of their dwellers, and endured
Great suffering on the deep; his life was oft
In peril, as he labored to bring back
His comrades to their homes. He saved them not,
Though earnestly he strove; they perished all,
Through their own folly; for they banqueted,
Madmen! upon the oxen of the Sun-
The all-o'erlooking Sun, who cut them off
From their return. O goddess, virgin-child

Of Jove, relate some part of this to me." The ten lines of the original here expand into fourteen, which perhaps is not an extravagant allowance, considering the shortness of the English line, and the general superiority of the Greek language in the way of brevity of expression. “The

" Tell me,

66

capitals of many nations” may pass as a sufficiently accurate rendering of the πολλών δ' ανθρώπων άστεα, since generally every city at that time was a quasi-independent. But the strong turn of expression in line sixth, aaa'ood Ws, is too feebly given in the words “He saved them not,” and the epithet 'virginin the last line is borne out by nothing in the Greek.

It would be easy to select many passages to prove that Mr. Bryant in his Odyssey does not in the least fall below the high standard of his Iliad, and in fact that, upon the whole, there is even an improvement. To furnish a sample of his exquisite treatment of a purely descriptive passage, we give his translation of that famous account of Calypso's island, when Mercury brought the unwilling nymph Jupiter's command to suffer Ulysses to return to his home:

"But when he reached that island, far away,
Forth from the dark-blue ocean-swell he stepped
Upon the sea-beach, walking till he came
To the vast cave in which the bright-haired nymph
Made her abode. He found the nymph within;
A fire blazed brightly on the hearth, and far
Was wafted o'er the isle the fragrant smoke
Of cloven cedar, burning in the flame,
And cypress-wood. Meanwhile, in her recess,
She sweetly sang, as busily she threw
The golden shuttle through the web she wove.
And all about the grotto alders grew,
And poplars, and sweet-smelling cypresses.
In a green forest, high among whose boughs
Birds of broad wing, wood-owls, and falcons built
Their nests, and crows, with voices sounding far,
All haunting for their food the ocean-side,
A vine, with downy leaves and clustering grapes,
Crept over all the cavern-rock. Four springs
Poured forth their glittering waters in a row,
And here and there went wandering side by side.
Around were meadows of soft green, o'ergrown
With violets and parsley. 'Twas a spot
Where even an immortal might awhile
Linger and gaze with wonder and delight.
The herald Argus-queller stood, and saw,
And marveled.”

(Bryant, Odyss. V, 69, etc.)

The description of Mercury's flight from Olympus to Calypso's isle, which immediately precedes the passage we have just quoted, occurs also in the Iliad, (Book XXIV, 339-345,) where it depicts his flight from the same mountain to carry Jove's mandate to Priam. In each case we have no less than seven consecutive lines which are the same, word for word. Were not such repetitions frequent and closely woven in the very texture of the poems, they might be regarded as interpolations; as it is, they constitute, to our apprehension, a very conclusive proof of the common authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey. The coincidences between the two poems are, however, a less striking peculiarity than the repetitions in different parts of one and the same poem. Socrates was once reproached by an impatient antagonist with continually talking of the same subjects and employing the same trite illustrations; to which he had a very apt reply in readiness: that, while others were forever making contradictory statements about the same things, he at least said the same about the same. In a somewhat different sense this is strikingly true of the great bard of Smyrna Having once satisfied himself in the selection of an

. appropriate form of words for the expression of a particular thought, he seems loth to abandon it, and certainly never avoids the repetition through fear lest his hearer or reader may be less pleased with it than if another expression were substituted.* The repetitions extend to long passages in close proximity to each other. When in the ninth book of the Iliad the envoys of Agamemnon enumerate the splendid gifts which the king stands ready to present to Achilles if he will but be reca onciled and return to the camp, they employ through thirtysix consecutive lines the very words used by Agamemnon in his instructions to them less than a hundred and fifty lines earlier in the same canto. They merely change the person of the verb and pronoun where it becomes necessary. (Lines 122-157 and 263–299.)

not, of course, mean affirm that the poet allows himself no freedom in this matter. Occasionally he strikes out in an entirely different track, or com. bines what he has said before with something new. Thus the famous couplet of the Iliad (Book IX, 32 and 313):

'Εχθρός γάρ μοι κείνος όμως Aίδαο πύλησιν,
ός χ' έτερον μεν κεύθη ενί φρεσίν, άλλο δε είτη-
“ Him as the gate of hell my soul abhors,

Whose outward speech his secret thought belies,” (Derby) – reappears with the second line modified in the Odyssey (Book XIV, 156–7):

'Εχθρός γάρ μοι κείνος όμως 'Αίδαο πύλησιν
γίγνεται, ός πενίη είκων απατήλια βάζει-
“For as the gates of hell do I detest
The man who, tempted by his poverty,
Deceives with lying words."

(Bryant, Odyssey XIV, 187-190.)

* We

3

Now this will hardly be asserted by any one to arise from any reluctance of Homer to try the resources of his wonderful creative power. The profusion of illustrative imagery, often employed to what we would consider an unnecessary extent, forbids the supposition. We ought rather to regard the commonplaces of Homer as having their origin in the peculiar circumstances of the composition and recitation of his poems, which were intended for the diversion of the people at the public festivals and on the days consecrated to the worship of the gods. A familiar and frequently-recurring line as the preface to a speech, or several lines describing the well-known rites of the sacrifice or the incidents of the meal, afforded a slight rest alike to the rhapsodist and to his listeners. The former could collect his thoughts for the ensuing passage, the latter could relax their close attention. Besides, these more unstudied verses served an excellent purpose in setting off those loftier sentiments of which they were the frame.

So singular a feature in the original onght, we think, to have obtained more recognition from his translators. If Homer is to be presented faithfully to English readers, he should be allowed to repeat himself in the translation wherever he repeats himself in the Greek. Mr. Bryant has not thought this a necessity, preferring to give to his work a variety which does not exist in the original. For instance, the swine-herd Eumæus, inquiring who Ulysses is and whence he comes, uses the same playful language that Telemachus addresses to Minerva when, in the form of Mentes, she presented herself to him in the palace (Odyssey I, 170-3):

Τίς, πόθεν εις ανδρών; πόθι τοι πόλις ήδε τoκήες;

όπποίης δ' επί νηός αφίκεο; πως δε σε ναυται, κ. τ. λ. In the first book Mr. Bryant translates with the context as follows:

"But now, I pray,
Tell me, and frankly tell me, who thou art,
And of what race of men, and where thy home,

[ocr errors]

And who thy parents ; how the mariners
Brought thee to Ithaca, and who they claim
To be, for well I deem thou couldst not come
Hither on foot."

(Lines 208–214.)
In the fourteenth book the same words read thus:

" And now, old man,
Relate, I pray, thy fortunes. Tell me true,
That I may know who thou mayst be, and whence
Thou camest; where thy city lies, and who
Thy parents were; what galley landed thee
Upon our coast, and how the mariners
Brought thee to Ithaca, and of what race
They claim to be; for I may well suppose
Thou hadst not come to Ithaca on foot.(Lines 231–9.)

[ocr errors]

The only advantage of the second over the first translation is that it inserts a rendering for οπποίης δ' επι νηός αφίκεο, which the other omits entirely.

Another illustration of the same thing may be found in the same books. In the first, Telemachus bewails the unfortunate disappearance of his father:

" I should not grieve
So deeply for his loss if he had fallen
With his companions ou the field of Troy,
Or midst his kindred when the war was o'er.
Then all the Greeks had built his monument,
And he had left his son a heritage
Of glory. Now has he become the prey
Of Harpies, perishing ingloriously,
Unseen, his fate unheard of, and has left

Mourning and grief, my portion.” (Lines 293-302.) And in the fourteenth book we have the same lament, but this time placed in the mouth of Eumæns:

“The gods all hate
My master, since they neither caused his death
In the great war of Troy, nor, when the war
Was over, suffered him to die at home,
And in the arms of those who loved him most;
For then would all the Greeks have reared to him
A monument, and mighty would have been
The heritage of glory for his son;
But now ingloriously the harpy brood
Have torn him."

(Lines 446-455.) As in the last instance, the words in italics are those which translate the same Greek verses. We think that it will be

« ПредишнаНапред »