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rest, that he shall tell them who he is, and what were his adventures. But when the chiefs have departed, and Ulysses is left alone with the king and queen, while the attendants are clearing the supper-table, the queen Arete cannot refrain from forestalling the inquiries reserved for the next morning, inasmuch as she observes that the stranger has, somehow, got one of her best suits of apparel on his back. And when he tells his story, and Alkinous censures his daughter for not driving him straight home, he answers, with a most generous falsehood—“Do not blame the fair damsel, she wished to bring me home herself, but I objected; for I thought you might be offended at my taking such liberties.” But when the impulsive monarch proceeds forthwith to offer him his daughter in marriage, if he prefer it to being sent home, the hero, in his reply, most delicately ignores altogether the proposal, apparently regarding it as a piece of rash. hospitality, and feeling that silence would be more polite than a refusal.
I choose this incident almost at random from the narrative, and shall add but one more, which seems to me particularly poetic in its conception. Ulysses, loaded with honours and with presents among the Phæakians, is preparing for his departure. Not all the luxury of the happy island can obliterate the recollections of his home, nor can the beautiful Nausikaa efface the image of his faithful Penelope. The hero is indeed the object of so much attention among the king and his chiefs, that the poor maiden is almost forgotten. But as Ulysses is passing into the
hall, he meets her in his way, leaning against the doorpost, and she plaintively addresses him—“ Farewell, stranger, and may you remember me in your home, seeing that you owe me a debt for your safety.” In these few words Homer has painted not only the maiden's love, but a consequent feeling of jealousy at being neglected, and her disappointment at his departure. And the courtly hero, who feels his difficult position, answers—“So may the gods restore me to my country, and I will daily pay you devotions like the immortal gods; for you," he concludes, “have made me to live, O lady.” And forthwith he passes on, and takes his seat among the chiefs, and we leave Nausikaa standing at the threshold, never to behold her again. But if I read aright the spirit of the Homeric age, her further history would not have shown a form wasting with love, like that of the lily maid of Astolat; for we do not hear in those primitive days of ladies breaking their hearts for the love of their knights. To the Homeric hero sentiment was ever present, but sentimentality was unknown, and was it not well? The parting of Lancelot from Elaine is doubtless more tragic, but is it more beautiful or more true than the brighter, healthier Homeric picture ?
I have said enough to show you how perfect an idea of politeness the Homeric Greeks had among themselves, but, like many similar aristocracies in later days, this feeling was limited to particular persons and circumstances. To an enemy, to a barbarian, to an unfaithful servant, nay, even sometimes to a
mere stranger, the great men of those days often showed the most savage and cruel spirit. When this very Ulysses, for example, of whom we are speaking, returns home, and slays the wanton suitors who were wasting his substance and persecuting his family, Homer describes him, with evident satisfaction, taking fearful vengeance on his unfaithful servants. He mutilates his goat-herd, and causes twelve maidservants, with great indignity, to be hanged in a row in the palace court. And observe the solitary remark of the poet on the execution—“They kicked about with their feet for a little while, but not very long."*
In ordinary warfare, too, there were limits prescribed by the laws of honour; for example, the use of poisoned weapons is described as hateful to the gods, † and does not actually occur in any of the poems; but the mutilation of slain enemies is common, and human sacrifices are even offered up by Achilles at the tomb of his friend. The treatment, too, of captives, affords Homer material for his most pathetic descriptions. Observe the simile which he uses to express the bitterness of Ulysses' tears—“As when a woman finds her husband who has been slain before the wall of his city, warding off the evil day from his house and nation, and when she sees him gasping in death, she utters piercing cries, and falls prostrate to embrace him, but they, with rude blows of the spear upon her back and shoulders, force her away into slavery, to a life of labour and of lamentation.” So Andromache bewails in strains, which
* Odyssey, xxii. 473. Odyssey, i. 260.
even now bring tears to our eyes, the sad lot of her orphan boy, the insults and destitution to which he will be subject, because his natural protector is gone.* So, too, in very similar language does Achilles lament the condition of his father, whose advanced age disabled him from guarding against injustice and violence, and he longs to be with him, to avenge him upon the ruthless oppressor, who will plunder and dishonour him. No picture of the times is complete without these dark shadows, these glaring contrasts.
And there is yet one point which I must not omit about these heroes. Even in their noblest acts, in their generosity, in their self-denial, there appears constantly a very disagreeable shrewdness. To express the thing in suitable language, they seem always to have had “an eye to business." Great as was their hospitality when a stranger came to them, who, they exclaim, would think of inviting a man spontaneously to his house, except he were a skilled artificer? And when the chiefs give their guests handsome presents, they take care to state that they mean to reimburse themselves by levying contributions on their people. When Ulysses sees Penelope apparently consenting to the wishes of the suitors, and encouraging them to state their claims, though in great danger, he is delighted at her good sense in drawing plenty of handsome presents from them by these means, reflecting that he will presently get possession of them himself. Except in the heat of battle, the Homeric hero never thought of using such
* Lord Derby's Iliad, xxii. 557.
an expression as “thy money perish with thee.” Nay, even the murder of a brother or father could be atoned for by a pecuniary fine. There is a remarkable passage, where the Lykian hero, Glaukus, meets Diomede in battle, and in the preliminary parley-for even at this period the Greek heroes were very fond of talking and boasting-discovers that their ancestors were great friends. The hero proposes an exchange of arms, to which Diomede gladly consents. Homer's remark upon this is worthy of notice:-“The gods must have taken away the sense of Glaukus, to exchange golden arms for brass."* The idea of the Lykian chief deliberately incurring a pecuniary loss to satisfy an instinct of generosity, seems never to strike him.
You see then, in the Homeric civilization, a strange but not unnatural mixture of noble and ignoble features-a decided want of principle, and an abundance of noble emotions—a shrewd utilitarian spirit, and a chivalrous sense of honor-a deficiency in honesty, and a full measure of courtly sentiment.
II. But there is a peculiarity in the history of sentiment, which you must carefully bear in mind. It does not necessarily run parallel with intellectual or social refinement. In fact, there are grounds to think that an imperfect state of society is best suited to the development of sentiment as such. The epochs in the world's history, which seem most remarkable for this peculiarity, are the heroic in Greece, and that of mediæval chivalry-epochs also remarkable for a
* Lord Derby's Iliad, vi. 276.