The Iliad of Homer

Page: 351

"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.

"And death
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. Æn. 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.

"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, sq.

"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.


Ægae, 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