Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Mentors

Expand Messages
  • louise
    ~ Robert Wood, whose *Essay on the Genius of Homer* is mentioned by Goethe as one of the books which fell into his hands when his powers were first developing
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7 10:44 AM
      ~ Robert Wood, whose *Essay on the Genius of Homer* is mentioned by
      Goethe as one of the books which fell into his hands when his powers
      were first developing themselves, and strongly interested him,
      relates of this passage [Iliad 12.322-8] a striking story. He says
      that in 1762,at the end of the Seven Years' War, being then Under-
      Secretary of State, he was directed to wait upon the President of
      the Council, Lord Granville, a few days before he died, with the
      preliminary articles of the Treaty of Paris. "I found him," he
      continues, "so languid, that I proposed postponing my business for
      another time; but he insisted that I should stay, saying it could
      not prolong his life to neglect his duty; and repeating the
      following passage out of Sarpedon's speech, he dwelled with
      particular emphasis on the third line, which recalled to his mind
      the distinguishing part he had taken in public affairs:

      oo pepon, ei men gar, polemon peri tonde phugonte,
      aiei dee melloimen ageeroo t'aathanatoo te
      essesth', oute ken autos eni prootoisi makhoimeen,
      oute khe se stelloimi makheen es kudianeiraan:
      nun d' -- empees gar Keeres hephestasin thanatoio
      muriai, haas ouk est esti phugein broton, oud' hupaluksai --
      iomen.

      His Lordship repeated the last word several times with a calm and
      determinate resignation; and after a serious pause of some minutes,
      he desired to hear the Treaty read, to which he listened with great
      attention, and recovered spirits enough to declare the approbation
      of a dying statesman (I use his own words) "on the most glorious
      war, and most honourable peace this nation ever saw." [#]
      I quote this story, first, because it is interesting as exhibiting
      the English aristocracy at its very height of culture, lofty spirit,
      and greatness, towards the middle of the 18th century. I quote it,
      secondly, because it seems to me to illustrate Goethe's saying which
      I mentioned, that our life, in Homer's view of it, represents a
      conflict and a hell; and it brings out, too, what there is tonic and
      fortifying in this doctrine. I quote it, lastly, because it shows
      that the passage is just one of those in translating which Pope will
      be at his best, a passage of strong emotion and oratorical movement,
      not of simple narrative or description.
      Pope translates the passage thus:

      Could all our care elude the gloomy grave
      Which claims no less the fearful than the brave,
      For lust of fame I should not vainly dare
      In fighting fields, nor urge thy soul to war:
      But since, alas! ignoble age must come,
      Disease, and death's inexorable doom;
      The life which others pay, let us bestow,
      And give to fame what we to nature owe.

      Nothing could better exhibit Pope's prodigious talent; and nothing,
      too, could be better in its own way. But, as Bentley said, "You
      must not call it Homer." One feels that Homer's thought has passed
      through a literary and rhetorical crucible, and come out highly
      intellectualised; come out in a form which strongly impresses us,
      indeed, but which no longer impresses us in the same way as when it
      was uttered by Homer. The antithesis of the last two lines --

      The life which others pay, let us bestow,
      And give to fame what we to nature owe

      is excellent, and is just suited to Pope's heroic couplet; but
      neither the antithesis itself, nor the couplet which conveys it, is
      suited to the feeling or to the movement of the Homeric *iomen*. ~

      # Robert Wood, *Essay on the Original Genius and Writings of Homer*,
      London, 1775, pvii.

      Extract from 'On Translating Homer', by Matthew Arnold [1822-88],
      "Essays Literary and Critical", introduction by G.K.Chesterton,
      Everyman Library, Dent & Co.

      ---------------------

      This particular essay was a great influence upon my own efforts in
      my twenties and early thirties, and the anecdote about Lord
      Granville illustrates so well for me the interface of the ethical
      imperative with the intangible fact of aesthetic inspiration.
      Statement so Latinate is perhaps dry and certainly abstracting,
      which is one reason I often post fine passages without accompanying
      comment of my own.

      Louise
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.