Слике страница
PDF
ePub

brooding mischief, the nodding brows, the smile. Even in the outward form of man and woman there is an absence of descriptive width of range and discrimination of touch.

On the other hand, in action and feeling, and all the intrinsic essence of character, the poet shows an exuberance of resource which is the very opposite of this feebleness. To say nothing of the more imposing forms of heroic life in either sex, the secondary characters, such as Menelaus, Idomeneus, Alcinoüs, Eumæus, and Melanthius, Arêtê and Euryclea, all have their distinct impressiveness and spontaneous personality. We feel their separate moral type the moment they enter upon the scene. In external portraiture they are equally indistinct, and so for the most part are the grander personages themselves. Of the Greek host Achilles is most beautiful. But we have no image which arrests us; and the rare beauty of Euphorbus is paid off in a simile.2 Hero and heroine are alike godlike in form, or are compared with some deity in respect of some personal attribute. All are beautiful and largely moulded, some more beautiful and larger than others, the gods most beautiful and largest of all. Thus two of Priam's daughters are each in turn said to be the fairest (eldos åplotn) of all,'3 while two heroes of the Greek host are similarly each the most handsome, next to Achilles. Thus the same epithet – substantial;' shall we render it?-is applied to the ‘hand' of the warrior in the shock of combat," and to that of the lady in her bower. With the same 'dear' or 'fond hands' the hero in his chariot picks up the reins from the battle-field, and the saviour-goddess Inô receives back her magic scarf. There is hardly a trace of this monotony when the poet is dealing with the brute. There he is unsurpassed in freshness and vigour.? Every attribute of his four-footed or winged studies is discri.

1 Únodpa idòv, Il. ii. 245 et al. ; ÚTÒ xlwpòv déos õpec or cide, vii. 479 et al.; åkéwy kívnoe kápn Kakà Buorodoueuwv, Od. xviii. 465, cf. viii, 273 et al.; éir' oppvớl velloe, 'i.e. ÉTÉVEVO EV 7 puoi, Il. i. 528 et al.; perdiówv, vii. 212; xxiii. 786.

% xvii. 50-60. The personal comeliness of Odysseus as enhanced by Pallas includes 'close-curled hair, like the hyacinth flower'-an unusually graphic touch of personal description ; but of his general appearance we read only that the goddess 'made him seem taller and more robust.'-Od. vi. 229-31. 3 iii. 124 ; xiii. 365-6.

4 Il. ii. 671-5; Od. xi. 469-70. 5 xelpi taxein.-II. iii. 376 et al. ; cf. Od. xxi. 6. 6 xeipegou or xepoi pingouv, Il. xvii. 620; cf. Od. v. 462.

7 We find fixed epithets, as kúves åpyoi, Bóes eupvuéTWITOL, dis nüyéveloS, and the like, but that is about all; and fixed epithets in Homer pervade all things, animate and inanimate, human and divine.

belotional humanir, as regards the irect me

minated at once—the most expressive with the greatest keenness. The single line which describes the boar charging his assailant home

With back all bristle-crested and eyes that glare out fire'l how wonderfully effective is it, and what a contrast it offers with the line a hundred times staled, which describes the human warrior 'brandishing on high and hurling forth his lance of lengthy shade.

Thus for Homeric mastery in one department there is a compensation of weakness in another. The superabundance in particular of similistic energy is the direct measure of the poet's defective sensibility as regards the traits of impassioned or emotional humanity. And the true account of this, we believe, is to be found in the fact that art-culture had trained the poet's eye and expressional power to a full mastery over the brute creation, but had as yet placed no equal resources within his reach as regards man. As regards one wide department of pictorial effect, viz. colour, Homer must be allowed to be one of the least expressive and probably least receptive of poets. Mr. Gladstone has devoted a very careful essay to the subject in his Homeric Studies, vol. iii. iv. Aoidos: Colour in Homer; and although we think he presses the negative argument a little too hard as regards some highly descriptive words of colour, yet he succeeds in establishing generally a great vagueness in their use, and concludes on the whole, we think fairly enough, that 'the organ of colour and its impressions were but partially developed among the Greeks of the heroic age.' With regard to the pathos of musical sound Homer is feebler still; as compared with Pindar, for instance. He had no materials out of which to construct such a simile as the Shakespearian

'Each under each matched like a peal of bells ;' or as that of Milton

As in an organ, from one blast of wind

To many a row of pipes the sound-board breathes.' But these departments of colour and music are beside our present purpose, save as illustrations of defects arising from the lack of cultivation at the poet's period. It remains, then, that the mirror of animal simile is the natural makeshift of a poet who feels the expressiveness of humanity, but has no

1 ppiças dopiny, rûp d'épdaluoio. dedopkos, Od. xix. 446.
2 Such as loồvedès, lóels, adinópovpos.

descriptive neument a little through

camera of art in which to catch its fully moulded image. Thus Odysseus is found among the slaughtered suitors, 'bespattered with blood and gore like a lion,' &c. How he looked we are left to feel as best we can, for the poet ‘rides off, so to speak, on the lion. Indeed, until Greece assumed the chisel—probably early in the sixth century B.C.'—the rigorous study of external humanity had hardly begun. And this defect could not but tell upon the poet, for it is the presence of the ideal which enables us to differentiate the actual, by fixing a standard and by training observation. And that object of his study was sure to suffer most from this defect in which the dominion of mind over matter is most complete, viz. in the human face and form. The brute creation suffers little comparatively from the absence of idealisation, and inanimata nature perhaps not at all. Thus, if no ideal standard of animal form was absolutely reached, an adequately vigorous and graceful copy of actual nature was likely to suffice. This latter, we see, had been realised at Mycenawhether by native or imported artists is of less importance-, and this it is which gives to the art-treasures resulting from . recent discovery a highly illustrative value in respect to Homer. The archaic samples of Mycenæ in particular show that epoch in the history of art at which the artist had fairly compassed animal delineation, but lagged far behind the mastery of the human form. How many centuries may lie between their actual date and that of the Iliad may never be exactly known, but both they and it belong to the same general period, and come under the same characteristic law.

The result is that we have from Mycenæ a series of designs which closely reflect the Homeric animal simile, and have the same rationale underlying them. The same sort of scenes or groups are fixed upon. Lions in pursuit or in repose, stags, oxen, swans, eagles, the cicala, the cuttlefish, whether moulded, or in repoussée, or in intaglio.

In the women's tomb at Mycenæ was a golden ornament showing for device an ox attacked by two lions. We have the very same picture in the Homeric shield of Achilles. We feel sure that if the assortment were larger we could almost match the similes or their members individually. We see the same attitude of eager and successful attention fixed on the brute creation in the poet and in the artist; we find the same inadequacy of grasp when it is turned on man.

1 Thus the body of the statue of Apollo at Amyclæ, which may probably have been wrought in the seventh century, was a bronze column, with human head, feet, and hands; showing exactly how the typical Athenian Hermes originated. Pausan. II. xix, 2.

2 In Chios and the Asiatic mainland there were earlier efforts, but prelusive and tentative only. But until the Athenian school of sculpture and painting of the late fifth century the means of ästhetic culture, as the world has since known them, did not exist.

3 II. xviii. 579 foll.,

Æsop's fables, again, illustrate the same period in respect to ethical observation. Here the simile and the thing compared run into each other, like the two sides of a stereoscope, and give a moral solidity on which the imagination fastens. The simple artifice consists in investing with such moral traits as lie on the surface of human nature such creatures as are sufficiently familiar and suitable vehicles of them. Thus the fox is the type of cunning, the lion of courage, and the like. And philosophy in its advanced forms has so feeble a hold on the many, that these fables are sure to be popular while the world lasts. For children they have an especial charm. They spring from the infancy of humanity, and therefore speak sympathetically to infancy in all ages.

With the one wide exception of the religious element, we see the same general aspect of social life in Mycenæ and when Homer sang. Instead of the Olympian theomorphism, we find indications of brute worship. Whatever denomination be fixed on the objects called 'cow-idols' or ‘Hera-idols' by Dr. Schliemann, they certainly are not human. A number of them, e.g. some on Mycena, p. 106, have heads like geese or snakes, while others more resemble the type of the familiar hook-handled umbrella. One on p. 104 has a long stilted neck like a deer, another on p. 101 more resembles a duck. There is no adequate reason for referring all to one intended type, any more than for referring all the idols of Egypt to the form of the Apis bull. It was a bold and to a great extent a successful prophecy of Dr. Schliemann, when, on digging up what he thought was the owl-headed Athênê' at Hissarlik, he ventured to say that, if he went to explore Mycenæ, he should expect to find the cow-headed Hera.' It is the more remarkable because we cannot say we believe he has proved the existence of a single owl-headed form amongst the Hissarlik collection ; while, unless his illustrations in his Mycena are unusually imaginative, he has found there an object or class of objects to which the supposed 'cow-headed Hera' and .owl-headed Athênê' seem alike to have a very close relation. The interpretation which he fixes on these two obscure goddess-epithets seems very likely to be true, and is not the less valuable, although it is less easily provable, because he was led to it by an original error. The owl-head,

and with bronze plated wilarge cow-hendes

which looks suspicious as we glance over the representations in Troy and its Remains, vanishes at once when we come face to face with the originals, as the British public had lately the opportunity of doing at South Kensington. As regards the 'cow-headed Hera,' the bovine type of some at any rate of the smaller images figured in the Mycena seems unquestionable; while that of the large cow-head, ox-head, or bull's head, of bronze plated with silver and gilded at the mouth, and with golden horns, speaks of course for itself. It is indifferent to our argument whether it be bull, ox, or cow. The fact of Mycenæ being the well-known site of Hera worship in historic times, and of Mycenæ being named as one of her favourite cities by Homer, leads us to seek an interpretation of the poet's fixed epithet for her on the spot. This is furnished by the zoomorphic idol forms, as they almost certainly are, brought to light by Dr. Schliemann, and is confirmed by the many testimonies and analogies in ancient literature and legend alleged by him in his note on the subject, Mycena, pp. 19–22. It seems likely then that the 'Hpn Bowmis of the poet was originally 'cow-headed, but that when, under the influence of Olympian anthropomorphism, the original hieratic type was lost, the epithet remained current. And if this be true of the Boôtis epithet, it is a strong presumption in favour of the yłauk@mis having the same solution, even although there be not a single beak traceable in the whole Hissarlik collection.

But to pass from the hieratic question, we find at Mycenæ the same articles of value in general esteem to which the Homeric Poems testify-a large class of many groups—which makes the evidence the stronger. The social atmosphere seems permeated by the same habits, Besides the warlike articles, which will receive a more detailed notice further on, we find at Mycenæ splendid cups of varied shape, vast size, and sumptuous material, copper tripods, caldrons, and bath-vessels of various make and dimensions, a lavish outlay of gold in weapon-mounting and decorative accoutrements, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and brooch-pins of massive form and rich device, every one of which is a social feature of Homeric life. There are very few articles, if we except those of perishable kind, mentioned in the Iliad and the Odyssey which do not receive illustration from either the Mycenæan or the Hissarlik treasures, or both. The great exception is the shield of Achilles in Iliad xviii., for analogues to which we must look elsewhere. Many indeed have received adequate illustration before, and will claim a briefer notice.

« ПретходнаНастави »