« AnteriorContinuar »
verse with this man from an oak or from a rock, as a maiden and youth, as a maiden and youth converse with each other.”
Now it is certainly not very easy to comprehend what is meant by conversing from an oak or a rock, since young men and maidens are not wont to “ breathe out the tender tale” from oaks or rocks: nor does it seem to apply well to mere friendly intercourse. The Latin version is the same, and exactly literal, both in Didymus's, and in Clarke's Homer, and therefore throws no light on the subject. The old Greek scholiast in that edition which bears the name of Didymus, has a long note upon it to this effect: “ There is no using such language towards Achilles, says Hector, as young men and women use in their conversation. The ancients when they found children who had been exposed near oaks or rocks, thought they were produced from them, and this gave rise to that opinion. For the ancients lived chiefly in the fields, and rarely possessed houses, so that the women who brought forth their children in the mountains, lodged them in the hollows of the oaks or rocks. In them they were sometimes found, and then supposed to have been produced from them. This is the account given by Didymus."
Clarke has copied this note without making any addition to it; and Eustathius, as quoted by Pope, explains the passage in the same manner, and supposes it to have been a common proverbial expression for an idle old tale, and to have been used by Hector in this manner, “ Achilles will not listen to such tales as may pass with youths and maidens.”
Pope himself renders the passage with his usual diffuseness ; aut viam invenit aut facit ; where the sense is not obvious, he uses no ceremony towards poor Homer, but gives a paraphrase of what appears to him to be the general meaning. In his version he glides smoothly over the difficulty, takes Do notice of the repetition of παρθενος ηθεος τ', translates the preposition amo at, (a sense of which I believe it is incapable) and with the utmost sang froid, by one stroke of his magic pen levels the rock into a plain. *
Harmer, with his accustomed copiousness of quotation, t has brought together a variety of passages from different authors, to shew, what would be sufficiently proved by common sense only, that it is usual in hot countries to sit in the shade; and that Homer therefore meant to allude to the meeting of persons on account of some rock or tree whose shade invites them to repose under it.
* " What hope of mercy from this vengeful foe,
# No disrespect is here meant to Mr. Harmer, to whose diligent researches the Christian world is much obliged, and many of whose explanations of the Scriptures, drawn from eastern manners and customs, are not only probable, but carry the most complete conviction with them.
* It is indeed impossible for four more contemptible verses to have proceeded from a bellman. Editor,
Harmer's interpretation depends upon the propriety of translating áto under, or on account of. of the former meaning I doubt if there be any example; of the latter there are many, some of which, in the New Testament, he has pointed out. Yet still the obscurity of the passage seems to me to remain
A young man and maiden may very naturally converse under an oak, but I am utterly at a loss to comprehend how they can converse upon account of it, or indeed how such a simile could apply to the meeting of Hector and Achilles.
But in reality it appears to me that Hector's meaning is totally different from any of these suppositions, and that the oak and the rock are men. tioned only as conveying an idea of security. He considers his antagonist as so entirely under the government of passion, * that he would be capable of killing him though a suppliant t, and unarmed. Achilles is to him as a wild beast, from whom he could not be safe unless he could converse with him from the top of an oak, or the summit of a rock. “I will not take off my armour then,” says he, “ for he would kill me though unarmed, for there is no possibility of conversing with him from an oak or a rock (that is, in perfect safety) as a young man and maiden converse with each other,” (that is, amicably and without fear.)
* Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis acer,
Hor. de Art. Poet. f. 121, &c. * Ου δε τι μ' αιδεσεθαι κλεγεει δε For the ancients esteemed the character of a suppliant as sacred. See the conduct of the same Achilles to Priam, in the twenty-fourth book.
με γυμνον εονία. .
If this conjecture be well founded, the difficulty vanishes at once; áno is translated according to its usual meaning, from ; the sense is clear, and there is no need of having recourse to the far-fetched explanation of Eustathius, which even darkens obscurity itself. The oak and rock are ideas almost unconnected with the youth and maiden, and should be separated by a comma at least, if not by a parenthesis. Still, however, the grammatical construction must be deemed harsh and the transition too sudden; and this explanation is offered rather as an endeavour to clear up this obscure passage, than as proceeding from a complete conviction, that it has succeeded in giving the true sense of the author. *
* There is no note upon this passage by Stephens ; but in the Greek MS. notes, by Aloysius, to the Florentine Homer in 1518, appended to Didymus's edition, is the following supposition. “That the heart of Achilles seemed so hard that he must have been produced from an oak or a rock.” According to this the passage may be thus rendered : “ There is no possibility of conversing with him, who must have sprung from an oak or a rock, as a young man and maiden converse with each other.” This is certainly a happy and ingenious conjecture; and it is much strengthened by part of the upbraiding speech of Patroclus to Achilles, B. xvi. I. 34 and 35, to which possibly the poet meant to allude.
Ουδε @ετις μητηρ γλαυκη οε δε λικε θαλασσα,
And so Virgil, Lib. iv. I. 365, &c. ·
-Duris genuit te cautibus horrens
Additional Observations by the Editor. The Editor has inserted with much pleasure the ingenious criticism, contained in his learned correspondent's communication. But he knows the accomplished writer's liberal mind too well, to fear that he shall displease him by frankly owning, that on the present occasion he differs very strongly from him. There appears to the Editor no difficulty in the simple and obvious construction of the passage. He conceives that it is perfectly in the spirit and letter of the Greek and Latin poetry to describe youths and maids as “ breathing out the tender tale from oaks and rocks.” He thinks, therefore, that Homer means, to make Hector say, 6. It is not possible now to converse with the same gentleness and carelessness, as a maiden and youth do, whose soft tales issue from an oak and a rock.” Cowper seems to have understood it in the samé way: « It is no time from oak or hollow rock
With him to parley, as a nymph and swain,
καταχες Την’ απο τας πετρας καταλειβεται υψοθεν υδωρ. . Again, in the twenty-sixth Idyllium, V. 10. Πενθευς δ' αλιβατω πετρας απο πάντ' εθεωρει.