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Title: Homer's Odyssey

Author: Denton Jaques Snider

Release date: August 11, 2008 [eBook #26275]
Most recently updated: January 3, 2021

Language: English

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Homer's Odyssey.

A Commentary


Denton J. Snider

The Sigma Publishing Co.
10 Van Buren St., Chicago, Ill.
210 Pine St., St. Louis, Mo.


Introduction 5
I. First Twelve Books.
Telemachiad 21
Ulyssiad 121
(1) Ocygia 129
(2) Phæacia 156
(3) Fableland 231
II. Second Twelve Books.
Ithakeiad 396
Books 13-16 Preparation) 407
Books 17-24 ( Execution) 461
(1) Wrong (17-21) 468
(2) Punishment (22) 495
(3) Reconciliation (23-4) 500
Summary 511




The Odyssey starts by organizing itself; it maps out its own structure in what may be called a General Introduction. Herein lies a significant difference between it and the Iliad, which has simply an Invocation to the Muse, and then leaps into the thick of the action. The Iliad, accordingly, does not formulate its own organization, which fact has been one cause of the frequent assaults upon its unity. Still the architectonic principle is powerful in the Iliad, though more instinctive, and far less explicit than in the Odyssey. It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that the poet has reached a profounder consciousness of his art in his later poem; he has come to a knowledge of his constructive principle, and he takes the trouble to unfold the same at the beginning. To be sure, certain critics have assailed just this structural fact as not Homeric; without good grounds, in our judgment.

The First Book, accordingly, opens with an Introduction which belongs to the entire poem, and which embraces 95 lines of the original text. This portion we shall look at separately in some detail, as it throws a number of gleams forward over the whole action, and, as before said, suggests the poetic organism. It has three divisions, the Invocation, the Statement of the Obstacles to the return of the Hero, and the Assembly of the Gods, who are represented as organizing the poem from Olympus. The Divine thus hovers over the poem from the first, starting with one grand, all-embracing providential act, which, however, is supplemented by many special interventions of deities, great and small.

The Invocation. The first line speaks of the man, Ulysses, and designates his main attribute by a word, which may be translated versatile or resourceful, though some grammarians construe it otherwise. Thus we are told at the start of the chief intellectual trait of the Hero, who "wandered much," and who, therefore, had many opportunities to exercise his gift. In the second line our attention is called to the real starting point of the poem, the taking of Troy, which is the background of the action of the Odyssey, and the great opening event of the Greek world, as here revealed. For this event was the mighty shake which roused the Hellenic people to a consciousness of their destiny; they show in it all the germs of their coming greatness. Often such a concussion is required to waken a nation to its full energy and send it on its future career.

Note that Ulysses is here stated to be the taker of Troy, and this view is implied throughout the Odyssey. Note Achilles is the final Greek hero; he perished without capturing the city, and in his hands alone the Greek cause would have been lost. The intellectual hero had to come forward ere the hostile town could be taken and Helen restored. Herein the Odyssey does not contradict the Iliad, but is clearly an advance beyond it.

But Troy is destroyed and now the second grand question of the Greeks arises: How shall we get back! Only one half of the cycle is completed by the conquest of the hostile city; the second half is the restoration. For this disjunction from Hellenic life, brought about by war, is not only physical but has become spiritual. The theme, therefore, deals with the wise man, who, through his intelligence, was able to take Troy, but who has now another and greater problem—the return out of the grand estrangement caused by the Trojan expedition. Spiritual restoration is the key-note of this Odyssey, as it is that of all the great Books of Literature.

Here at the start we note two things coupled together which hint the nature of the whole poem: "He saw the cities of many men and knew their mind." Not alone the outer habitations of people Ulysses beheld, but also their inner essence, their consciousness. This last faculty indeed is the very vision of the sage; he looks through the external sensuous appearances of men into their character, into their very soul. The poem will describe many incidents, wanderings, tempests, calamities; but in them the poetic glance is to behold a great spiritual experience. The reader of the Odyssey must himself be a Ulysses, to a degree, and not only "see the cities of many men," but also he must "know their mind." Then he, too, is heroic in his reading of this book.

But not merely knowledge the Hero is to acquire, though this be much; the counterpart to knowledge must also be his, namely, suffering. "Many things he suffered on the sea in his heart;" alas! that too belongs to the great experience. In addition to his title of wise man, he will also be called the much-enduring man. Sorrow is his lot and great tribulation; the mighty sea will rise up in wrath and swallow all, except that which is mightier, namely his heroic heart. Knowledge and suffering—are they not the two poles of the universal character? At any rate the old poet has mated them as counterparts in his hero; the thirst to know drives the latter to reach beyond, and then falls the avenging blow of powers unseen.

Furthermore, there is a third trait which is still higher, also mentioned here: he sought to save not only himself but also his companions. That wisdom of his was employed, and that suffering of his was endured, not for his own good merely, but for the good of others. He must think and suffer for his companions; a suggestion of vicariousness lies therein, a hint of self-offering, which has not yet flowered but is certainly budding far back in old Hellas. He must do for others what he does for himself, if he be truly the universal man, that is, if he be Hero. For is not the universal man all men—both himself and others in essence? So Ulysses tries to save his companions, quite as much he tries to save himself.

But he did not do it, he could not do it; herein lies his limitation and theirs also, in fact, the limitation of the entire Greek world. What did these companions do? "They perished by their own folly;" they would not obey the counsel of their wise man; they rejected their Hero, who could not, therefore, rescue them. A greater wisdom and a deeper suffering than that of Ulysses will be required for their salvation, whereof the time has not yet come. He would bring them home, but "they ate of the oxen of the sun;" they destroyed the attribute of light in some way and perished. The fact is certainly far-reaching in its suggestion; a deep glance it throws into that old heathen world, whose greatest poet in the most unconscious manner hints here the tragic limitation of his people and his epoch. It is a hint of which we, looking back through more than twenty-five centuries can see the full meaning, as that meaning has unfolded itself in the ages. Time is also a commentator on Homer and has written down, in that alphabet of his, called events, the true interpretation of the old poet. Still the letters of Time's alphabet have also to be learned and require not only eyesight but also insight.

The Invocation puts all its stress upon Ulysses and his attempt to save his companions. It says nothing of Telemachus and his youthful experience, nothing of the grand conflict with the suitors. Hence fault has been found with it in various ways. But it singles out the Hero and designates three most important matters concerning him: his knowledge, his suffering, his devotion to his companions. Enough; it has given a start, a light has been put into our hand which beams forward significantly upon the poem, and illumines the mazes of the Hero's character.

Mark again the emphatic word in this Invocation; it is the Return (nostos), the whole Odyssey is the Return, set forth in many gradations, from the shortest and simplest to the longest and profoundest. The idea of the Return dominates the poem from the start; into this idea is poured the total experience of Ulysses and his companions. The two points between which the Return hovers are also given: the capture of Troy and the Greek world. Not a mere book of travels or adventure is this; it contains an inner restoration corresponding to the outer Return, and the interpreter of the work, if he be true to his function, will trace the interior line of its movement, not neglecting the external side which has also a right to be.

The Obstacles. Two of these are mentioned and carried back to their mythical sources. All the returning heroes are home from Troy except the chief one, Ulysses, whom Calypso detains in her grot, "wishing him to be her husband;" she, the unmarried, keeps him, the married, from family and country, though he longs to go back to both. She is the daughter of "the evil-minded Atlas," a hoary gigantesque shape of primitive legend, "who knows the depths of all the sea,"—a dark knowledge of an unseen region, from which come many fatalities, as shipwreck for the Greek sailor or earthquake for the volcanic Greek islands; hence he is imagined as "evil-minded" by the Greek mythical fancy, which also makes him the supporter of "the long columns which hold Heaven and Earth apart"—surely a hard task, enough to cause anybody to be in a state of protest and opposition against the happy Gods who have nothing to do but enjoy themselves on Olympus. Sometimes he refuses to hold the long columns for awhile, then comes the earthquake, in which what is below starts heavenward. Of this Atlas, Calypso is the offspring, and possibly her island, "the navel of the sea," is a product of one of his movements underneath the waters.

Here we touch a peculiar vein in the mythical treatment of the Odyssey. The fairy-tale, with its comprehensive but dark suggestiveness, is interwoven into the very fibre of the poem. This remote Atlas is the father of Calypso, "the hider," who has indeed hidden Ulysses in her island of pleasure which will hereafter be described. But in spite of his "concealment," Ulysses has aspiration, which calls down the help of the Gods for fulfillment. Such is the first obstacle, which, we can see, lies somewhere in the sensuous part of human nature.

The second obstacle is Neptune, whom we at once think of as the physical sea—certainly a great barrier. The wrath of Neptune is also set off with a tale of wonder, which gives the origin of Polyphemus, the Cyclops—a gigantic, monstrous birth of the sea, which produces so many strange and huge shapes of living things. But Neptune is now far away, outside of the Greek world, so to speak, among the Ethiopians. This implies a finite element in the Gods; they are here, there, and elsewhere; still they have the infinite characteristic also; they easily pass from somewhere into everywhere, and Ulysses will not escape Neptune.

Such, then, are the two obstacles, both connected far back with mythical beings of the sea, wherein we may note the marine character of the Odyssey, which is a sea-poem, in contrast with the Iliad, which is a land-poem. The physical environment, in which each of these songs has its primary setting, is in deep accord with their respective themes—the one being more objective, singing of the deed, the other being more subjective, singing of the soul.

And even in the two present obstacles we may note that the one, Neptune, seems more external—that of the physical sea; while the other, Calypso, seems more internal—that of the soul held in the charms of the senses.

The Assembly of the Gods. The two obstacles to the return of Ulysses are now to be considered by the Gods in council assembled. This is, indeed, the matter of first import; no great action, no great poem is possible outside of the divine order. This order now appears, having a voice; the supreme authority of the world is to utter its decree concerning the work. The poet at the start summons before us the governing principle of the universe in the persons of the Olympian deities. On the other hand, note the solitary individual Ulysses, in a lonely island, with his aspiration for home and country, with his plan—will it be realized? The two sides must come together somehow; the plan of the individual must fit into the plan of the Gods; only in the cooperation of the human and divine is the deed, especially the great deed, possible. Accordingly we are now to behold far in advance the sweep of the poem, showing whether the man's purpose and hope be in harmony with the government of the Gods.

Zeus is the supreme divinity, and he first speaks: "How sorely mortals blame the Gods!" It is indeed an alienated discordant time like the primal fall in Eden. But why this blame? "For they say that evils come from us, the Gods; whereas they, through their own follies, have sorrows beyond what is ordained." The first words of the highest God concern the highest problem of the poem and of human life. It is a wrong theology, at least a wrong Homeric theology, to hold that the Gods are the cause of human ills; these are the consequences of man's own actions. Furthermore, the cause is not a blind impersonal power outside of the individual, it is not Fate but man himself. What a lofty utterance! We hear from the supreme tribunal the final decision in regard to individual free-will and divine government.

Not without significance is this statement put into the mouth of Zeus and made his first emphatic declaration. We may read therein how the poet would have us look at his poem and the intervention of the Gods. We may also infer what is the Homeric view concerning the place of divinity in the workings of the world.

Such being the command of Zeus, the interpreter has nothing to do but to obey. No longer shall we say that the Gods in this Odyssey destroy human freedom, but that they are deeply consistent with it; the divine interference when it takes place is not some external agency beyond the man altogether, but is in some way his own nature, veritably the essence of his own will. Such is truly the thing to be seen; the poem is a poem of freedom, and yet a poem of providence; for do we not hear providence at the very start declaring man's free-will, and hence his responsibility? The God, then, is not to destroy but to secure human liberty in action, and to assert it on proper occasions. Thus Zeus himself has laid down the law, the fundamental principle of Homer's religion as well as of his poem.

Have the Gods, then, nothing to do in this world? Certainly they have, and this is the next point upon which we shall hear our supreme authority, Zeus. He has in mind the case of Ægisthus whom the Gods warned not to do the wicked deed; still he did it in spite of the warning, and there followed the penalty. So the Gods admonish the wrong-doer, sending down their bright-flashing messenger Hermes, and declaring through him the great law of justice: the deed will return unto the doer. Zeus has now given expression to the law which governs the world; it is truly his law, above all caprice. Moreover, the God gives a warning to the sinner; a divine mercy he shows even in the heathen world.

The case of Ægisthus, which Zeus has in mind, is indeed a striking example of a supreme justice which smites the most exalted and successful criminal. It made a profound impression upon the Greek world, and took final shape in the sublime tragedy of Æschylus. Throughout the Odyssey the fateful story peeps from the background, and strongly hints what is to become of the suitors of Penelope, who are seeking to do to Ulysses what Ægisthus did to Agamemnon. They will perish, is the decree; thus we behold at the beginning of the poem an image which foreshadows the end. That is the image of Ægisthus, upon whom vengeance came for the wrongful deed.

The Gods, then, do really exist; they are the law and the voice of the law also, to which man may hearken if he will; but he can disobey, if he choose, and bring upon himself the consequences. The law exists as the first fact in the world, and will work itself out with the Gods as executors. Is not this a glorious starting-point for a poem which proposes to reveal the ways of providence unto men? The idea of the Homeric world-order is now before us, which we may sum up as follows: the Gods are in the man, in his reason and conscience, as we moderns say; but they are also outside of man, in the world, of which they are rulers. The two sides, divine and human, must be made one; the grand dualism between heaven and earth must be overcome in the deed of the hero, as well as in the thought of the reader. When the God appears, it is to raise man out of himself into the universal realm where lies his true being. Again, let it be affirmed that the deities are not an external fate, not freedom-destroying power, but freedom-fulfilling, since they burst the narrow limits of the mere individual and elevate him into unity and harmony with the divine order. There he is truly free.

Thus we hear Zeus in his first speech announcing from Olympus the two great laws which govern the world, as well as this poem—that of freedom and that of justice. The latter, indeed, springs from the former; if man be free, he must be held responsible and receive the penalty of the wicked deed. Moreover, it is the fundamental law of criticism for the Odyssey; freedom and justice we are to see in it and unfold them in accord with the divine order; woe be to the critic who disobeys the decree of Zeus, and sees in his poem only an amusing tale, or a sun-myth perchance.

But here is Pallas Athena speaking to the supreme deity, and noting what seems to be an exception. It is the case of Ulysses, who always "gave sacrifices to the immortal Gods," who has done his duty, and wishes to return to family and country. Pallas hints the difficulty; Calypso the charmer, seeks to detain him in her isle from his wedded wife and to make him forget Ithaca; but she cannot. Strong is his aspiration, he is eager to break the trance of the fair nymph, and the Gods must help him, when he is ready to help himself. Else, indeed, they were not Gods. Then there is the second obstacle, Neptune; he, "only one," cannot hold out "against all," for the All now decrees the restoration of the wanderer. Verily it is the voice of the totality, which is here uttered by Zeus, ordering the return of Ulysses; the reason of the world we may also call it, if that will help the little brain take in the great thought.

But we must not forget the other side. This divine power is not simply external; the mighty hand of Zeus is not going to pick up Ulysses from Calypso's island, and set him down in Ithaca. He must return through himself, yet must fit into the providential order. Both sides are touched upon by Zeus; Ulysses "excels mortals in intelligence," and he will now require it all; but he also "gives sacrifices to the Gods exceedingly," that is, he seeks to find out the will of the Gods and adjust himself thereto. Intellect and piety both he has, often in conflict, but in concord at last. With that keen understanding of his he will repeatedly fall into doubt concerning the divine purpose; but out of doubt he rises into a new harmony.

When the decree of the Highest has been given, Pallas at once organizes the return of Ulysses, and therewith the poem. This falls into three large divisions:—

I. Pallas goes to Ithaca to rouse Telemachus, who is just entering manhood, to be a second Ulysses. He is to give the divine warning to the guilty suitors; then he is to go to Pylos and Sparta in order to inquire about his father, who is the great pattern for the son. Thus we have a book of education for the Homeric youth whose learning came through example and through the living word of wisdom from the lips of the old and experienced man. This part embraces the first four Books, which may be called the Telemachiad.

II. Mercury is sent to Calypso to bid the nymph release Ulysses, who at once makes his raft and starts on his voyage homeward. In this second part we shall have the entire story of the Hero from the time he leaves Troy, till he reaches Ithaca in the 13th Book. As Telemachus the youth is to have his period of education (Lehrjahre), so Ulysses the man is to have his experience of the journey of life (Wanderjahre). Both parts belong together, making a complete work on the education of man, as it could be had in that old Greek world. This part is the Odyssey proper, or the Ulyssiad.

III. The third part brings together father and son in Ithaca; then it portrays them uniting to perform the great deed of justice, the punishment of the suitors. This part embraces the last twelve Books, but is not distinctly set forth in the plan of Pallas as here given.

Such is the structure of the poem, which is organized in its main outlines from Olympus. It is Pallas, the deity of wisdom, who has ordered it in this way; her we shall follow, in preference to the critics, and unfold the interpretation on the same organic lines. Every reader will feel that the three great joints of the poetical body are truly foreshadowed by the Goddess, who indeed is the constructive principle of the poem. One likes to see this belief of the old singer that his work was of divine origin, was actually planned upon Olympus by Pallas in accordance with the decree of Zeus. So at least the Muses have told him, and they were present. But the grandest utterance here is that of Zeus, the Greek Providence, proclaiming man's free will.

Very old and still very new is the problem of the Odyssey; with a little care we can see that the Homeric Greek had to solve in his way what every one of us still has to solve, namely, the problem of life. Only yesterday one might have heard the popular preacher of a great city, a kind of successor to Homer, blazoning the following text as his theme: God is not to blame. Thus the great poem has an eternal subject, though its outer garb be much changed by time. The soul of Homer is ethical, and that is what makes him immortal. Not till we realize this fact, can we be said in any true sense, to understand him.



The Introduction being concluded, the story of Telemachus begins, and continues till the Fifth Book. Two main points stand forth in the narrative. The first is the grand conflict with the suitors, the men of guilt, the disturbers of the divine order; this conflict runs through to the end of the poem, where they are swept out of the world which they have thrown into discord. The second point of the Telemachiad is the education of Telemachus, which is indeed the chief fact of these Books; the youth is to be trained to meet the conflict which is looming up before him in the distance. Thus we have one of the first educational books of the race, the very first possibly; it still has many valuable hints for the educator of the present age. Its method is that of oral tradition, which has by no means lost its place in a true discipline of the human spirit. Living wisdom has its advantage to-day over the dead lore of the text-books.

Very delightful is the school to which we see Telemachus going in these four Books. Heroes are his instructors, men of the deed as well as of the word, and the source from which all instruction is derived is the greatest event of the age, the Trojan War. The young man is to learn what that event was, what sacrifices it required, what characters it developed among his people. He is to see and converse with Nestor, famous at Troy for eloquence and wisdom. Then he will go to Menelaus, who has had an experience wider than the Trojan experience, for the latter has been in Egypt. Young Telemachus is also to behold Helen, beautiful Helen, the central figure of the great struggle. Finally, he is to learn much about his father, and thus be prepared for the approaching conflict with the suitors in Ithaca.

Book First specially. After the total Odyssey has been organized on Olympus, it begins at once to descend to earth and to realize itself there. For the great poem springs from the Divine Idea, and must show its origin in the course of its own unfolding. Hence the Gods are the starting-point of the Odyssey, and their will goes before the terrestrial deed; moreover, the one decree of theirs overarches the poem from beginning to end, as the heavens bend over man wherever he may take his stand. Still there will be many special interventions and reminders from the Gods during this poetical journey.

In accordance with the Olympian plan, Pallas takes her flight down to Ithaca, after binding on her winged sandals and seizing her mighty spear; thus she humanizes herself to the Greek plastic sense, and assumes finite form, adopting the shape of a stranger, Mentes, King of the Taphians. She finds a world full of wrong; violence and disorder rule in the house of the absent Ulysses; it is indeed high time for the Gods to come down from lofty Olympus and bring peace and right into the course of things. Let the divine image now be stamped upon terrestrial affairs, and bring harmony out of strife. Still, it must not be forgotten that the work has to be done through man's own activity.

The conflict which unfolds before our eyes in a series of clear-drawn classic pictures, lies between the House of Ulysses on the one hand and the Suitors of Penelope on the other. He who is the head of the Family and the ruler of State, Ulysses, has been absent for twenty years; godless men have taken advantage of the youth of his son, and are consuming his substance wantonly; they also are wooing his wife who has only her cunning wherewith to help herself. The son and wife are now to be brought before us in their struggle with their bitter lot. Thus we note the two main divisions in the structure of the present Book: The House of Ulysses and the Suitors.


The Goddess Pallas has already come down to Ithaca and stands among the suitors. She has taken the form of Mentes, the King of a neighboring tribe; she is in disguise as she usually is when she appears on earth. Who will recognize her? Not the suitors; they can see no God in their condition, least of all, the Goddess of Wisdom. "Telemachus was much the first to observe her;" why just he? The fact is he was ready to see her, and not only to see her, but to hear what she had to say. "For he sat among the suitors grieved in heart, seeing his father in his mind's eye," like Hamlet just before the latter saw the ghost. So careful is the poet to prepare both sides—the divine epiphany, and the mortal who is to behold it.

Furthermore, the young man saw his father "scattering the suitors and himself obtaining honor and ruling his own house." This is just what the Goddess is going to tell with a new sanction, and it is just what is going to happen in the course of the poem. Truly Telemachus is prepared internally; he has already everything within him which is to come out of him. Throughout the whole interview the two main facts are the example of the parent and the final revenge, both of which are urged by the Goddess without and by the man within.

Still there is a difference. Telemachus is despondent; we might almost say, he is getting to disbelieve in any divine order of the world. "The Gods plot evil things" against the House of Ulysses, whose fate "they make unknown above that of all men." Then they have sent upon me these suitors who consume my heritage. The poor boy has had a hard time; he has come to question providence in his misery, and discredits the goodness of the Gods.

Here, now, is the special function of Pallas. She instills courage into his heart. She gives strong hope of the return of his father, who "will not long be absent from Ithaca;" she also hints the purpose of the Gods, which is on the point of fulfillment. Be no longer a child; follow the example of thy father; go and learn about him and emulate his deeds. Therewith the Goddess furnishes to the doubting youth a plan of immediate action—altogether the best thing for throwing off his mental paralysis. He is to proceed at once to Pylos and to Sparta "to learn of his father" with the final outlook toward the destruction of the suitors. She is a veritable Goddess to the young striver, speaking the word of hope and wisdom, and then turning him back upon himself.

Here again we must say that the Goddess was in the heart of Telemachus uttering her spirit, yet she was external to him also. Her voice is the voice of the time, of the reality; all things are fluid to the hand of Telemachus, and ready to be moulded to his scheme. Still the Goddess is in him just as well, is his thought, his wisdom, which has now become one with the reason of the world. Both sides are brought together by the Poet in the most emphatic manner; this is the supreme fact in his procedure. The subjective and objective elements are one; the divine order puts its seal on the thought of the man, unites with him, makes his plan its plan. Thus the God and the Individual are in harmony, and the great fulfillment becomes possible. But if the thought of Telemachus were a mere scheme of his own, if it had not received the stamp of divinity, then it could never become the deed, the heroic deed, which stands forth in the world existent in its own right and eternal.

The Goddess flits away, "like a bird," in speed and silence. Telemachus now recognizes that the stranger was a divinity. For has he not the proof in his own heart? He is indeed a new person or the beginning thereof. But hark to this song! It is the bard singing "the sad return of the Greeks"—the very song which the poet himself is now singing in this Odyssey. For it is also a sad return, indeed many sad returns, as we shall see hereafter. Homer has thus put himself into his poem singing his poem. Who cannot feel that this touch is taken from life, is an echo of his own experience in some princely hall?

But here she comes, the grand lady of the story, Penelope, the wife of Ulysses, as it were in response to the music. A glorious appearance at a happy moment; yet she is not happy: "Holding a veil before her face, and shedding tears, she bespoke the bard: Phemius cease from this sad song, it cuts me to the heart." It reminds her of her husband and his sorrowful return, not yet accomplished; she cannot endure the anguish and she begs the bard to sing another strain which may delight his hearers.

This, then, is the sage Penelope whose character will be tested in many ways, and move through many subtle turns to the end of the poem. In this her first appearance we note that she proclaims in the presence of the suitors her undying love for her husband. This trait we may fairly consider to be the deepest of her nature. She thinks of him continually and weeps at his absence. Still she has her problem which requires at times all her female tact, yes, even dissimulation. Reckless suitors are pressing for her hand, she has to employ all her arts to defer the hateful marriage; otherwise she is helpless. She is the counterpart of her husband, a female Ulysses, who has waited twenty years for his return. She also has had a stormy time, with the full experience of life; her adventures in her world rival his in his world. But underneath all her cunning is the rock of eternal fidelity. She went back to her room, and wept for her husband "till Pallas closed her eye-lids in sweet sleep."

Nor can we pass over the answer of Telemachus, which he makes at this point to his mother. It may be called a little Homeric treatise on poetry. "Mother, let the poet sing as his spirit moves him;" he is not to be constrained, but must give the great fact; "poets are not to blame but Zeus," for the sad return of the Greeks; "men applaud the song which is newest," novelty being already sought for in the literature of Homer's time. But the son's harsh reproof of the mother, with which his speech closes, bidding her look after her own affairs, the loom and distaff and servants, is probably an interpolation. Such is the judgment of Aristarchus, the greatest ancient commentator on Homer; such is also the judgment of Professor Nitzsch, the greatest modern commentator on the Odyssey.


The other side of the collision is the party of suitors, who assail the House of Ulysses in property, in the son, in the wife, and finally in Ulysses himself. They are the wrong-doers whose deeds are to be avenged by the returning hero; their punishment will exemplify the faith in an ethical order of the world, upon which the poem reposes as its very foundation. They are insolent, debauched, unjust; they defy the established right. Zeus has them in mind when he speaks of Ægisthus, who is an example of the same sort of characters, and his fate is their fate according to the Olympian lawgiver. They too are going to destruction through their own folly, yet after many an admonition. Just now Telemachus has spoken an impressive warning: "I shall invoke the ever-living Gods, that Zeus may grant deeds requiting yours."

Still their insolence goes on; the ethical world of justice and institutions has to be cleared of such men, if it continue to exist. Who does not love this fealty of the old bard to the highest order of things? The suitors are indeed blind; they have not recognized the presence of the Goddess, yet there is a slight suspicion after she is gone; one of the suitors asks who that stranger was. Telemachus, to lull inquiry, gives the outer assumed form of the divine visitor, "an ancestral guest, Mentes of Taphos;" the poet however, is careful to add: "But he (Telemachus) knew the immortal Goddess in his mind."

The conflict with the suitors is the framework of the entire poem. The education of Telemachus as well as the discipline of Ulysses reach forward to this practical end—the destruction of the wrong-doers, which is the purification of the country, and the re-establishment of the ethical order. All training is to bring forth the heroic act. The next Book will unfold the conflict in greater detail.

Appendix. The reader will have observed that, in the preceding account of Book First, it is regarded as setting forth three unities, that of the total Odyssey, that of the Telemachiad, and that of the Book itself. We see them all gradually unfolding in due order under the hand of the poet, from the largest to the least. Now the reader should be informed that every one of these unities has been violently attacked and proclaimed to be a sheer phantasm. Chiefly in Germany has the assault taken place. What we have above considered as the joints in the organism of the poem, have been cut into, pried apart, and declared to make so many separate poems or passages, which different authors have written. Thus the one great Homer vanishes into many little Homers, and this is claimed to be the only true way of appreciating Homer.

The most celebrated of these dissectors is probably the German Professor, Kirchhoff, some of whose opinions we shall cite in this appendix. His psychological tendency is that of analysis, separation, division; the very idea of unity seems a bugbear to him, a mighty delusion which he must demolish or die. Specially is his wrath directed against Book First, probably because it contains the three unities above mentioned, all of which he assails and rends to shreds in his own opinion.

The entire Introduction (lines 1-88) he tears from its present place and puts it before the Fifth Book, where it serves as the prelude to the Calypso tale. The rest of the Telemachiad is the work of another poet. Indeed the rest of the First Book (after the Introduction) is not by the same man who produced the Second Book. Then the Second Book is certainly older than the First, and ought somehow to be placed before it. The real truth is, however, that the First Book is only a hodge-podge made out of the Second Book by an inferior poet, who took thence fragments of sentences and of ideas and stitched them together. In the Invocation Kirchhoff cuts out the allusion to the oxen of the Sun (lines 6-9) as being inconsistent with his theory.

After disposing of the Introduction in this way, Kirchhoff takes up the remaining portion of the First Book, which he tears to pieces almost line by line. In about forty separate notes on different passages he marks points for skepticism, having in the main one procedure: he hunts both the Iliad and the Odyssey through, and if he finds a line or phrase, and even a word used elsewhere, which he has observed here, he at once is inclined to conclude that the same must have been taken thence and put here by a foreign hand. Every reader of Homer is familiar with his habit of repeating lines and even entire passages, when necessary. All such repetitions Kirchhoff seizes upon as signs of different authorship; the poet must have used the one, some redactor or imitator the other. To be sure we ought to have a criterion by which we can tell which is the original and which is the derived; but such a criterion Kirchhoff fails to furnish, we must accept his judgment as imperial and final. Once or twice, indeed, he seems to feel the faultiness of his procedure, and tries to bolster it, but as a rule he speaks thus: "The following verse is a formula (repetition), and hence not the property of the author." (Die Homerische Odyssee, p. 174.)

Now such repetitions are common in all old poetry, in the ballad, in the folk-song, in the Kalevala as well as in the Homeric poems. Messages sent are repeated naturally when delivered; the same event recurring, as when the boat is rowed, the banquet prepared, or the armor put on, is described in the same language. Such is usually felt to be a mark of epic simplicity, of the naive use of language, which will not vary a phrase merely for the sake of variety. But Kirchhoff and his followers will have it just the other way; the early poet never varies or repeats, only the later poet does that. So he seeks out a large number of passages in the rest of the Odyssey, and in the Iliad also, which have something in common with passages of this First Book, especially in the matter of words, and easily finds it to be a "cento," a mixed mass of borrowed phrases.

But who was the author of such work? Not the original Homer, but some later matcher and patcher, imitator or redactor. It is not easy to tell from Kirchhoff just how many persons may have had a hand in this making of the Odyssey, as it lies before us. In his dissertations we read of a motley multitude: original poet, continuator, interpolator, redactor, reconstructor, imitator, author of the older part, author of the newer part—not merely individuals, but apparently classes of men. Thus he anatomizes old Homer with a vengeance.


The general relation between the First and Second Books is to be grasped at once. In the First Book the main fact is the Assembly in the Upper World, together with the descent of the divine influence which through Pallas comes to Telemachus in person, gives him courage and stirs him to action. This action is to bring harmony into the discordant land. In the Second Book the main fact is the Assembly in the Lower World, together with the rise of Telemachus into a new participation with divine influence in the form of Pallas, who sends him forth on his journey of education. We behold, therefore, in the two Books a sweep from above to below, then from below back to the divine influence. Earth and Olympus are the halves of the cycle, but the Earth is in discord and must be transformed to the harmony of Olympus.

Looking now at the Second Book by itself, we note that it falls into two portions: the Assembly of the People, which has been called together by Telemachus, and the communion of the youth with Pallas, who again appears to him at his call. The first is a mundane matter, and shows the Lower World in conflict with the divine order—the sides being the Suitors on the one hand and the House of Ulysses on the other. The second portion lifts the young hero into a vision of divinity, and should lift the reader along with him. Previously Pallas had, as it were, descended into Telemachus, but now he rises of himself into the Goddess. Clearly he possesses a new power, that of communion with the Gods. These two leading thoughts divide the Book into two well-marked parts—the first including lines 1-259, the second including the rest.


The Assembly of the Ithacans presupposes a political habit of gathering into the town-meeting and consulting upon common interests. This usage is common to the Aryan race, and from it spring parliaments, congresses, and other cognate institutions, together with oratory before the People. A wonderful development has come of this little germ, which we see here still alive in Ithaca, though it has been almost choked by the unhappy condition of things. Not since Ulysses left has there been any such Assembly, says the first speaker, an old man drawing upon his memory, not for twenty years; surely a sign of smothered institutional life. The first thing which Telemachus in his new career does is to call the Assembly, and start this institutional life into activity again. Whereof we feel the fresh throb in the words of the aged speaker, who calls him "Blessed."

Now the oratory begins, as it must begin in such a place. The golden gift of eloquence is highly prized by Homer, and by the Homeric People; prophetic it is, one always thinks of the great Attic orators. The speakers are distinctly marked in character by their speeches; but the Assembly itself seems to remain dumb; it was evidently divided into two parties; one well-disposed to the House of Ulysses, the other to the Suitors. The corruption of the time has plainly entered the soul of the People, and thorough must be the cleansing by the Gods. Two kinds of speakers we notice also, on the same lines, supporting each side; thus the discord of Ithaca is now to be reflected in its oratory. Three sets of orators speak on each side, placing before us the different phases of the case; these we shall mark off for the thought and for the eye of the reader.

1. After the short opening speech of the old man, Ægyptius, the heart of the whole movement utters itself in Telemachus, who remains the chief speaker throughout. His speech is strong and bold; from it two main points peer forth. The first is the wrong of the Suitors, who will not take the right way of wooing Penelope by going to her father and giving the bridal gift according to custom, but consume the son's property under pretense of their suit for the mother. The second point is the strong appeal to the Ithacans—to their sense of right, to their sense of shame, and to their fear of the Gods, who "in their divine wrath shall turn back ill deeds upon the doer." But in vain; that Ithacan Assembly contains friends and relatives of the Suitors, and possibly purchased adherents; nay, it contains some of the Suitors themselves, and here rises one of them to make a speech in reply.

This is Antinous, who now makes the most elaborate defense of the case of the Suitors that is to be found in the poem. The speech is remarkable for throwing the whole blame upon Penelope—not a gallant proceeding in a lover; still it betrays great admiration for the woman on account of her devices and her cunning. She has thwarted and fooled the whole band of unwelcome wooers for three years and more by her wonderful web, which she wove by day and unraveled by night. And even now when she has been found out, she holds them aloof but keeps them in good humor, though clearly at a great expense of the family's property, which fact has roused Telemachus to his protest. Antinous, though feeling that he and the rest have been outwitted by the woman, does not stint his praise on that account, he even heightens it.

But we hear also his ultimatum: "Send thy mother away and bid her be married to whomsoever her father commands, and whoso is pleasing to her." So the will of the parent and the choice of the daughter had to go together even in Homer's days. Of course Antinous has no ground of right for giving this order; he is not the master of the house, though he hopes to be; his assumed authority is pure insolence. Then why should the Suitors injure the son because they have been wheedled by the mother? Still they will continue to consume "his living and his wealth as long as she keeps her present mind."

But the most interesting thing in his speech is to discover the attitude and motives of Penelope. We see her fidelity, but something more than fidelity is now needed, namely the greatest skill, dissimulation, or female tact, to use the more genteel word. She has a hard problem on her hands; she has to save her son, herself, and as much of the estate as she can, from a set of bandits who have all in their might. Were she to undertake to drive them away, they would pillage the house, kill her boy, and certainly carry her off. They have the power, they have the inclination; they are held by one small thread in the weak hands of a woman, but with that thread she snares them all, to the last man. Love it may be called, of a certain sort; we see how Antinous admires her, though conscious that she has made a fool of him and his fellows. Each hopes to win the prize yet, and she feeds them with hope, "sending private messages to each man;" thus she turns every one of them against the other, and prevents concerted action which looks to violence. That wonderful female gift is hers, the gift of making each of her hundred Suitors think that just he is the favored one, only let it be kept secret now till the right time comes!

But Penelope uses this gift as a weapon, it is her means of saving the House of Ulysses, while many another fair lady uses it for the fun of the thing. Is she right? Does her end justify her means? True she is in the highest degree to Family and State, is saving both; but she does dissemble, does cajole the suitors. One boy, one woman, one old man in the country constitute the present strength of the House of Ulysses; but craft meets violence and undoes it, as always.

And yet we may grant something to the other side of her character. She takes pleasure in the exercise of her gift, who does not? Inasmuch as the Suitors are here, and not to be dismissed, she will get a certain gratification out of their suit. A little dash of coquetry, a little love of admiration we may discern peeping through her adamantine fidelity to her husband, recollect after an absence of twenty years. As all this homage was thrust upon her, she seeks to win from it a kind of satisfaction; the admiration of a hundred men she tries to receive without making a sour face. Still further she takes pleasure in the exercise of that feminine subtlety which holds them fast in the web, yet keeps them off; giving them always hope, but indefinitely extending it. Verily that web which she wove is the web of Fate for the Suitors. So much for Penelope at present, whom we shall meet again.

To this demand of Antinous to send the mother away, Telemachus makes a noble, yes, a heroic response. It would be wrong all around, wrong to the mother, wrong to her father, unless he (Telemachus) restored the dower, wrong to the Gods; vengeance from the Erinyes, and nemesis from man would come upon him for such a deed. Thus the young hero appeals to the divine order and puts himself in harmony with its behests. Boldly he declares, that if the Suitors continue in their ill-doing, "I shall invoke the ever-living Gods; if Zeus may grant fit retribution for your crimes, ye shall die within this palace unavenged." Truly a speech given with a power which brings fulfillment; prophetic it must be, if there be any Gods in the world. Already we have seen that Telemachus was capable of this high mood, which communes with deity and utters the decree from above. Behold, no sooner is the word uttered by the mortal, than we have the divine response. It is in the form of an omen, the flight of two eagles tearing each other as they fly to the right through the houses of the town. Also the interpreter is present, who tells the meaning of the sign, and stamps the words of Telemachus with the seal of the Gods.

2. Here we pass to the second set of speeches which show more distinctively the religious phase, in contrast to the preceding set, which show rather the institutional phase, of the conflict; that is, the Gods are the theme of the one, Family and State of the other. The old augur Halitherses, the man of religion, explains the omen in full harmony with what Telemachus has said; he prophesies the speedy return of Ulysses and the punishment of the Suitors, unless they desist. Well may the aged prophet foretell some such outcome, after seeing the spirit of the son; Vengeance is indeed in the air, and is felt by the sensitive seer, and also by the sensitive reader.

But what is the attitude of the Suitors toward such a view? Eurymachus is the name of their speaker now, manifestly a representative man of their kind. He derides the prophet: "Go home, old man, and forecast for thy children!" He is a scoffer and skeptic; truly a spokesman of the Suitors in their relation to the Gods, in whom they can have no living faith; through long wickedness they imagine that there is no retribution, they have come to believe their own lie. Impiety, then, is the chief fact of this speech, which really denies the world-government and the whole lesson of this poem. Thus the divine warning is contemned, the call to a change of conduct goes unheeded.

3. Then we have the third set of speeches which are personal in their leading note, and pertain to the absent Ulysses, whose kindness and regal character are set forth by Mentor, his old comrade, with strong reproaches toward the Ithacans for permitting the wrong to his house. It is intimated that they could prevent it if they chose; but they are evidently deaf to this appeal to their gratitude and affection for their chieftain.

Leiocrates, the third Suitor, responds in a speech which is the culmination of insolence and defiance of right. The Suitors would slay Ulysses himself, should he now appear and undertake to put them out of his palace. He dares not come and claim his own! Right or wrong we are going to stay, and, if necessary, kill the owner. It is the most open and complete expression of the spirit of the Suitors, they are a lot of brigands, who must be swept away, if there be any order in the world. Leiocrates dissolves the Assembly, a thing which he evidently had no right to do; the people tamely obey, the institutional spirit is not strong enough to resist the man of violence. Let them scatter; they are a rotten flock of sheep at any rate.

Here the first part of the Book concludes. The three sets of speakers have given their views, one on each side; each set has represented a certain phase of the question; thus we have heard the institutional, religious and personal phases. In such manner the sweep of the conduct of the Suitors is fully brought out; they are destroying State and Family, are defying the Gods, and are ready to slay the individual who may stand in their way. Certainly their harvest is ripe for the sickle of divine justice, upon whose deep foundation this poem reposes.

The Assembly of the People now vanishes quite out of sight, it has indeed no valid ground of being. The young men seem to be the chief speakers, and show violent opposition, while the old men hold back, or manifest open sympathy with the House of Ulysses. The youth of Ithaca have had their heads turned by the brilliant prize, and rush forward forgetful of the penalty. It is indeed a time of moral loosening, of which this poem gives the source, progress, and cure. Telemachus, however, rises out of the mass of young men, the future hero who is to assert the law of the Gods. In such manner we are to reach down to the fact that the spirit of the Odyssey is ethical in the deepest sense, and reveals unto men the divine order of the world.


We now pass to the second part of the book, which shows Telemachus accomplishing with the aid of the deity what human institutions failed to do. If the Assembly will not help him in the great cause, the Gods will, and now he makes his appeal to them.

The Ithacans had refused a ship in order that he might go and learn something about his father; that is, they will not permit his education, which is at present the first object.

He goes down to the seacoast, where he will be alone, communing with the Goddess and with himself, and there he prays to Pallas, washing his hands in the grey surf—which is, we may well think, a symbolic act of purification. Is it a wonder that Pallas, taking the human shape of Mentor, comes and speaks to him? She must, if she be at all; he is ready, and she has to appear. Her first words are but the echo of his conduct all through the preceding scene with the Assembly: "Telemachus henceforth thou shalt be wanting neither in valor nor in wisdom." She rouses him by the fame and deeds of his father, because he is already aroused. Still she is a very necessary part; she is the divine element in the world speaking to Telemachus and helping him; she shows that his thought is not merely subjective, but is now one with hers, with objective wisdom, and will rule the fact. He ascends into the realm of true vision, and from thence organizes his purpose. It is true that the poet represents Pallas as ordering the means for the voyage, as at first she ordered the work of the whole poem. Yet this is also done by Telemachus who has risen to participation in that glance which beholds the truth and controls the world.

Often will the foregoing statement be repeated; every divine appearance in Homer, of any import, is but a repetition of the one fact, which must always be re-thought by the reader. That which Telemachus says is no longer his mere wish or opinion, but it is the reality, the valid thing outside of him, hence it is voiced by the Goddess, and must take place. Thus the poet often compels his reader to rise with him into the sphere of the divine energy, where thinking and willing are one, and man's insight is just the word of the God.

The remaining circumstances of the Book group themselves around the two centers—Telemachus and Pallas—as the Goddess orders them in advance: "Go thou home and get the stores ready, while I shall engage a ship and crew among the Ithacans."

1. Telemachus goes among the Suitors, evidently to avoid suspicion, which his absence might provoke. They taunt and deride him, whereof three samples are again given. He goes his way, conscious of his divine mission, not failing however to tell them: "I shall surely make the voyage, not in vain it will be." He obtains food and wine from the aged stewardess Eurycleia, who seeks to dissuade him. Then too his mother must not know of his plan, she would keep him still a boy in the house, whereas he has become a man.

2. Pallas in the semblance of Telemachus goes through the town to secure the ship and crew. Then she pours over the Suitors a gentle sleep after their revel; she takes away their wisdom, yet it is their own deed, which just now has a divine importance. Finally she brings all to the ship, seizes the helm and sends the favoring breeze. Or, as we understand the poet, intelligence brings about these things under many guises; even nature, the breeze, it takes advantage of for its own purpose.

Thus Pallas has the controlling hand in this second part of the Book, she is above man and nature. We can say that the controlling spirit is also Telemachus, who manifests Reason, controlling and directing the world. Note the various forms which she assumes, as Mentor, as Telemachus; then again she works purely through mind, in the natural way, as for example, when Telemachus goes home and obtains his food and wine for the voyage. The poet thus plays with her shape; still she is essentially the divine intelligence which seizes upon men and circumstances, and fits them into the order universal, and makes them contribute to the great purpose of the poem. Still the Goddess does not destroy man's freedom, but supplements it, lifting it out of the domain of caprice. Telemachus willingly wills the will of Pallas.

Already it has been remarked that the Goddess is made to command nature—the breeze, the sleep of the Suitors. It is the method of fable thus to portray intelligence, whose function is to take control of nature and make her subserve its purpose. The breeze blows and drives the ship; it is the divine instrument for bringing Telemachus to Pylos, a part of the world-order, especially upon the present occasion. The born poet still talks that way, he is naturally a fabulist and cannot help himself. In his speech, the hunter does not chase the deer, but brings it before his gun by a magic power; the mystic fisher calls the fishes; the enchanted bullet finds its own game and needs only to be shot off; the tanner even lays a spell upon the water in his vat and makes it run up hill through a tube bent in a charm. But back of all this enchantment intelligence is working and assumes her mythical, supernatural garb when the poet images her control of nature.

Thus in general the Mythus shadows forth objective mind, not subjective; it springs from the imaginative Reason, and not from a cultivated Reflection. In our time the demand is to have these objective forms translated into subjective thoughts; then we can understand them better. But the Homeric man shows the opposite tendency: he had to translate his internal thoughts into the external shapes of the Mythus before he could grasp fully his own mind. His conception of the world was mythical; this form he understood and not that of abstract reflection. We may well exclaim: Happy Homeric man, to whom the world was ever present, not himself. Yet both sides belong to the full-grown soul, the mythical and the reflective; from Homer the one-sided modern mind can recover a part of its spiritual inheritance, which is in danger of being lost.

It is therefore, a significant fact that the education of the present time is seeking to restore the Mythus to its true place in the development of human spirit. The Imagination is recognized to have its right, and unless it be taken care of in the right way, it will turn a Fury, and wreak treble vengeance upon the age which makes it an outcast. Homer is undoubtedly the greatest of all mythologists, he seizes the pure mythical essence of the human mind and gives to it form and beauty. Hence from this point of view, specially, we shall study him.

In the present Book the fact is brought out strongly that little or nothing is to be expected from the Ithacan people toward rectifying the great wrong done to the House of Ulysses. In part they are the wrong-doers themselves, in part they are cowed into inactivity by the wrong-doers. Corruption has eaten into the spirit of the people; the result is, the great duty of deliverance is thrown back upon an individual. One man is to take the place of all, or a few men the place of the many, for the work must be done. The mightiness of the individual in the time of a great crisis is thus set forth in vivid reality; the one man with the Gods on his side is the majority. With truest instinct does the old poet show the Goddess Pallas directing Telemachus, who participates in the Divine and is carrying out its decree. This communion between man and deity is no mere mythologic sport, but the sincerest faith; verily it is the solidest fact in the government of the world, and the bard is its voice to all ages.

This Second Book has its import for the whole poem. It is now manifest that Ulysses, when he returns, is not to expect a grand popular reception; he must bring himself back to his own by his skill and prowess alone. The people will not help him slay the wrong-doers; rather the contrary will happen. Again the individual must work out the salvation of himself as well as of his family and his country. Telemachus has shown himself the worthy son of the heroic father; the present Book connects him intimately with the return of Ulysses, and binds the entire Odyssey into unity; especially does this Book look to and prepare for the last twelve Books, which bring father and son together in one great act of deliverance.

If in the previous Book we beheld the depravity of the Suitors, we now witness the imbecility of the People. Still the spark of hope flashes out brightly in this Ithacan night; something is at work to punish the guilty and to redeem the land.


In narrative, the present Book connects directly with the preceding Book. Pallas is still with Telemachus, they continue the voyage together till they reach Pylos, the home of Nestor. They have left Ithaca, and come into another realm; this change of place, as is often the case in Homer, carries with it a change of inner condition; the voyage is not simply geographical but also spiritual; indeed it must be so, if the young man is to derive from it any experience.

Great and striking is the difference between Ithaca and Pylos. The latter is the abode of religion primarily, the new-comers find the Pylians engaged in an act of worship, in which the whole people participate, "nine rows of seats and five hundred men in each row."

Too large a number, cry some commentators, but they have not looked into the real meaning of such a multitude. Here is sacrifice, reverence, belief in the Gods; while among the Ithacans is neglect of worship, religious paralysis, and downright blasphemy on the part of the Suitors. Furthermore, in one country order reigns, in the other is anarchy. Such is the contrast between the Second and Third Books, the contrast between Ithaca and Pylos. We can well think that this contrast was intended by the poet, and thus we may catch a glimpse of his artistic procedure.

The center of the picture is Nestor, a very old man, who, accordingly, gives soul to the Book. He is so near the world of the Gods in the present life, that he seems already to dwell with them; age brings this serene piety.

No accident is it that this Book of Nestor begins and ends with a festival of sacrifice and prayer; that is the true setting of his character. What he says to the visitors will take color and meaning from his fundamental trait; we may expect in his words a full recognition of divinity in the events of the world.

But he has been a stout fighter in his time, he was in the Trojan War, though old already at that period. He will give the lesson of his life, not during that war, but afterwards. He was one of the heroes of the Iliad, which poem the Odyssey not only does not repeat, but goes out of its way to avoid any repetition thereof. Moreover he was one of those who returned home successfully, can he tell how it was done? This is the question of special interest to Telemachus, as his father, after ten years, has not yet reached home.

Herewith the theme of the Book is suggested: the Return. Physically this was a return from the Trojan War, which is the pre-supposition of the whole Odyssey; all the heroes who have not perished, have to get back to Hellas in some way. These ways are very diverse, according to the character of the persons and the circumstances. Thus we touch the second grand Homeric subject, and, indeed, the second grand fact of the Greek consciousness, which lies imbedded in the Return (Nostos). A short survey of this subject must here be given. We have in the present Book several phases of the Return; Nestor, Menelaus, Ulysses are all Returners, to use a necessary word for the thought; each man solves the problem in his own manner.

Now what is this problem? Let us see. The expedition to Troy involved a long separation from home and country on the part of every man who went with it; still this separation had to be made for the sake of Helen, that she, the wife and queen, return to home and country, from which she had been taken. Her Return, indeed, is the essence of all their Returns. We see that through the war they were severed from Family and State, were compelled to give up for the time being their whole institutional life. This long absence deepens into alienation, into a spiritual scission, from mere habit in the first place; then, in the second place, they are seeking to destroy a home and a country; though it be that of the enemy, and the act, even if necessary, brings its penalty. It begets a spirit of violence, a disregard of human life, a destruction of institutional order. Such is the training of the Greeks before Troy. The wanton attack of Ulysses and his companions upon the city of the Ciconians (Book Ninth) is an indication of the spirit engendered in this long period of violence, among the best and wisest Greeks.

Still, in spite of the grand estrangement, they have the aspiration for return, and for healing the breach which had sunk so deep into their souls. Did they not undergo all this severing of the dearest ties for the sake of Helen, for the integrity of the family, and of their civil life also? What he has done for Helen, every Greek must be ready to do for himself, when the war is over; he must long for the restoration of the broken relations; he cannot remain in Asia and continue a true Greek. Such is his conflict; in maintaining Family and State, he has been forced to sacrifice Family and State. Then when he has accomplished the deed of sacrifice, he must restore himself to what he has immolated. A hard task, a deeply contradictory process, whose end is, however, harmony; many will not be able to reach the latter stage, but will perish by the way. The Return is this great process of restoration after the estrangement.

Many are the Returners, successful and unsuccessful in many different ways. But they all are resumed in the one long desperate Return of Ulysses, the wise and much-enduring man. In space as well as in time his Return is the longest; in spirit it is the deepest and severest by all odds. The present poem, therefore, is a kind of resumption and summary of the entire series of Returns (Nostoi). In the old Greek epical ages, the subject gave rise to many poems, which are, however, at bottom but one, and this we still possess, while the others are lost. Spirit takes care of its own verily.

The true Returner, accordingly, gets back to the institutions from which he once separated; he knows them now, previously he only felt them. His institutional world must become thus a conscious possession; he has gone through the alienation, and has been restored; his restoration has been reached through denial, through skepticism, we may say, using the modern term. The old unconscious period before the Trojan war is gone forever; that was the Paradise from which the Greek Adam has been expelled. But the new man after the restoration is the image of the complete self-conscious being, who has taken the negative period into himself and digested it. Fortunate person! he cannot now be made the subject of a poem, for he has no conflict.

But the young man beginning life, the son Telemachus, is to obtain the same kind of knowledge, not through experience but through inquiry. Oral tradition is to give him the treasures of wisdom without the bitter personal trial. It is for this reason that Pallas sends him to find out what his father did, and to make the experience of the parent his own by education; it is, indeed, the true education—to master the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the race up to date. So we are now to have the school period of the son, who is thereby not merely the physical son (which, he remarks, is always a matter of doubt), but the spiritual son of his father, whereof there can be no doubt.

The Odyssey proper, toward which we may now cast a glance, contains the wanderings of Ulysses, and is the work of the grown man who has to meet the world face to face and conquer it; thus he obtains the experience of life. The two parts are always to be placed together—the education of the young man and the experience of the mature man; they constitute a complete history of a human soul. Both are, indeed one—bud and flower; at bottom, too, both mean the same thing—the elevation of the individual into an ethical life in which he is in harmony with himself and with the divine order. True learning and true experience reach this end, which may be rightfully called wisdom.

So Telemachus the youth is to listen to the great and impressive fact of his time, containing the deep spiritual problem which is designated as the Return. Nestor is the first and simplest of these Returners; he is an old man, he has prudence, he is without passion; moreover he has not the spirit of inquiry or the searching into the Beyond; he accepts the transmitted religion and opinions without question, through the conservatism of age as well as of character. It is clear that the spiritual scission of the time could not enter deep into his nature; his long absence from home and country produced no alienation; he went home direct after the fall of Troy, the winds and the waters were favorable, no tempest, no upheaval, no signs of divine anger. But he foresaw the wrath of the Gods and fled across the wave in all speed, the wrestle with the deity lay not in him.

It is worth our while to make a little summary of these Returners in classes, since in this way the thought of the present Book as well as its place in the entire Odyssey can be seen best. First are those who never succeeded in returning, but perished in the process of it; of this class the great example is the leader himself, Agamemnon, who was slain by his own wife and her paramour. Second are those who succeeded in returning; of this class there are three well-marked divisions, which are to be sharply designated in the mind of the reader.

(1). The immediate Returners, those who went straight home, without internal scission or external trouble; unimportant they are in this peaceful aspect though they were formerly heroes in the war. Four such are passingly mentioned by Nestor in his talk: Diomed, Neoptolemus the son of Achilles, Philoctetes, and Idomeneus. Nestor himself is the most prominent and the typical one of this set who are the Returners through Hellas.

(2). The second one of those who have succeeded in getting home is Menelaus, whose sweep is far beyond that of Nestor and the immediate Greek world, taking in Egypt and the East. He was separated from Nestor, having delayed to bury his steersman; then a storm struck him, bore him to Crete and beyond, the wind and wave carried him to the land of the Nile. He is the Returner through the Orient.

(3). Finally is Ulysses, not yet returned, but whose time has nearly arrived. In comparison with the others he is the Returner through the Occident. But his Return gives name to the poem, of which it is the greater portion.

Still the universal poem is to embrace all these phases of the Return, and the son, through education, is to know them all, not by experience but by information. Thus his training is to reach beyond what the life of his father can give him; it must be universal, and in this way it becomes a true discipline. We must note too, that this poem reaches beyond the Return of Ulysses, beyond what its title suggests, and embraces all the Returns, Hellenic, Oriental, Occidental, as well as the grand failure to return.

Such are some of the thoughts which gleam out the present Book and illuminate the whole Odyssey. We can now consider structure of the Book, which falls into two distinct parts, determined by the Goddess. When she makes ready to quit Telemachus, we enter the second portion of the Book, and Telemachus continues his journey without direct divine supervision. As the previous Book was marked by the coming of the Goddess, the present Book is marked by her going. The intercourse of the youth with Nestor is the extent of her immediate guardianship; after such an experience, he must learn to make the rest of the journey through his own resources. Even the deity teaches that there must not be too much reliance upon the deity. The first portion of the Book extends to line 328, where Nestor ends his story of the Returns and suggests the journey to Menelaus for another phase thereof: "the sun set and darkness came on." The second portion embraces the rest of the Book. Again we must note that the fundamental Homeric division into the Upper and Lower Worlds is what divides the Book, thus giving to the same its organic principle.


The religious setting of Nestor's world has been noticed already. Into it Telemachus comes, out of a realm of violence; it must indicate some cure for the ills of Ithaca. But he is now to show himself a man. Pallas orders him to put aside his youthful modesty, and boldly make the inquiry concerning his father. And here the Goddess utters a remark which the student may well ponder: "Some things thou wilt think of in thine own mind, but a God will suggest others." Again the Homeric dualism—the human and the divine—and also their harmony; the two elements must come together in every high thought or action. The double relation of the individual—to himself and to the God—is necessary for all worthy speech; his own activity and that of the deity run together in true discourse as well as in true action. So the whole poem is made up of man's self-determined energy and the interference of the Gods; yet both are to be seen as ultimately one in the deed.

The new-comers are asked to pray, and we hear the famous utterance, which is characteristic of Nestor's world, "All men have need of the Gods." This is said by one of his sons. Pallas makes the prayer, a happy one, which brings forth a feeling of harmony between the strangers and all the People. The sympathy is complete, and Telemachus can proceed to ask concerning his father, after he has told who he himself is, and whence he has come. In response, Nestor begins to tell the fateful story of the Returns after the fall of Troy. In his narrative we behold the starting-point of the calamities, the difference between Agamemnon and Menelaus, followed by a series of separations in succession. "Zeus planned for them a sad Return," which, however, was their own fault, "for all were neither wise nor just." It is clear that the Greek unity is utterly broken, a spiritual disruption sets in after the capture of the city. It is, indeed, the new problem, this Return to peace and institutional order after ten years' training to violence. Such is the penalty of all war, however just and necessary; after it is over, the fighting cannot stop at once, and so the victors divide into two camps and continue the fight. Nestor gives the picture of these repeated divisions; once, twice, thrice the breach occurs; first he separates from Agamemnon, the second time from Ulysses, the third time from Menelaus. He will go directly home, and thus he has to leave the others behind; the scission is not in him as in them; he can be restored, in fact he restores himself. He has the instinctive pre-Trojan character still, being an old man; but Ulysses has lost that, and so separates from Nestor, though never before had they differed "in the Council of the Chiefs or in the Assembly of the People." But Ulysses has to return by a far different road, and now each of the two wise men takes his own way, though both have to return.

Aged Nestor manifestly does not belong to the new epoch, he seems to have no sense of the deep spiritual struggle involved. He instinctively went home, shunning the conflict; the others could not. In the Iliad the relation between the two wise men, Nestor and Ulysses, is subtly yet clearly drawn; the one—the younger man—has creative intelligence, the other—the older man—has appreciative intelligence. In the Odyssey, the relation is plainly evolved out of that described in the Iliad; the one is the boundless striver, the other rests in the established order of things.

Nestor, therefore, cannot tell much about Ulysses, who lies quite out of his horizon, at least in the Odyssey. He can only give hope that the man of wisdom will yet return. This Telemachus doubts, dropping into one of his low human moods, even in the presence of Pallas, who rebukes him sharply. It is, indeed, the great lesson; he must have faith in the reality of the Gods, this is the basis of all his future progress, the chief attainment of wisdom. The young man must not fall away into denial, he must be taught that there is a divine order in the world. Old Homer, too, had his notions about religion in education, and the Goddess herself is here introduced giving a lesson.

Nestor, though unable himself to give much information about the Return, can point to the second grand Returner, Menelaus, who has lately come from a distant land, and may have something to say. In fact Menelaus was the last to separate from Nestor, Ulysses had separated long before.

One other story Nestor tells with great sympathy, that of Agamemnon, who represents a still different form of the Return. The great leader of the Greeks can master the Trojan difficulty, can even get back to home and country, but these are ultimately lost to him by his faithless spouse. Still, after the father's death, the son Orestes restores Family and State. Therein Telemachus sees an image of himself, the son, who is to slay his mother's suitors; he sees, too, the possible fate of his father. Ulysses has essentially the same problem as Agamemnon, though he has not the faithless wife in addition; Telemachus beholds his duty in the deed of Orestes, according to Greek consciousness. We shall see hereafter how Ulysses takes due precaution not to be slain in his own land, as Agamemnon was. In disguise he will go to his own palace and carefully note the situation in advance, and then strike the blow of deliverance.

Several times Homer repeats in the Odyssey the tragic story of Agamemnon, the great Leader of the Greeks at Troy. An awe-inspiring tale of destiny; out of it Æschylus will develop his great tragedy, the Oresteia. Indeed the epos develops into tragedy with the full mythical unfolding of this story. Æschylus will deepen the motives into internal collisions; he will show the right and the wrong in Agamemnon, and even in Clytemnestra. Orestes, however beneficent his deed in avenging his father, will not escape the counterstroke; Æschylus will send after him the Furies for the guilt of having murdered his mother. Thus the double nature of the deed, its reward and its penalty, unfolds out of Homer into Æschylus, and creates the Greek drama as we know it at present.

Nestor has now told what lay in the immediate circle of his experience: the Return direct through Hellas. Again he mentions the last separation; it was that of himself from Menelaus, when the latter was swept beyond the limit of Hellas into Egypt, from which he has now returned. What next? Evidently the young man must be sent to him at Sparta in order to share in this larger circle of experience, extending to the Orient. So Greece points to the East in many ways; Nestor, the purely Hellenic soul, knows of that wider knowledge, though it be not his, and he knows that it should be possessed.

In this Book as elsewhere in the Odyssey the grand background is the Trojan war. The incidents of the Iliad are hardly alluded to, but are certainly taken for granted; the Post-Iliad is the field of interest, for in it the Returns take place. Thus the two great poems of Homer join together and show themselves as complements of each other.


Now comes the separation which marks the second portion of the Book. Pallas, in the guise of Mentor, coincides with Nestor in advising Telemachus to pay a visit to Menelaus, and then she departs, "sailing off like a sea-eagle," whereat great astonishment from all present. That is, she reveals herself; all recognize the Goddess, and probably that is the reason why she can no longer stay. She has become internal. Telemachus is now conscious, as she disappears, and he has his own wisdom; he has seen Pallas, and so he must go without her to Sparta. Hardly does he need her longer, being started upon the path of wisdom to know wisdom. At the court of Nestor, with its deeply religious atmosphere, she can appear; but she declines to go with him in person to Menelaus, though she advises the journey. All of which, to the sympathetic reader, has its significance. Still Pallas has by no means vanished out of the career of Telemachus; she at present, however, leaves him to himself, as she often does.

Nestor, too, responds to the marvelous incident in true accord with his character; he invokes her with prayer and institutes a grand sacrifice, which is now described in a good deal of detail. Just as the Book opens with a sacrifice to a deity, so it closes with one—the two form the setting of the whole description. Thus the recognition of the Gods is everywhere set forth in Nestor's world; he is the man of faith, of primitive, immediate faith, which has never felt the doubt.

It is well that Telemachus meets with such a man at the start, and gets a breath out of such an atmosphere. He has seen the ills of Ithaca from his boyhood; he may well question at times the superintendence of the Gods. His own experience of life would lead him to doubt the existence of a Divine Order. Even here in Pylos he challenges the supremacy of the Olympians. When Nestor intimates that his father will yet return and punish the Suitors, with the help of Pallas, or that he himself may possibly do so with the aid of the same Goddess, Telemachus replies: "Never will that come to pass, I think, though I hope for it; no, not even if the Gods should so will." Assuredly a young skeptic he shows himself, probably in a fit of despondency; sharp is the reproof of the Goddess: "O Telemachus, what kind of talk is that? Easily can a God, if he wills it, save a man even at a distance." Thus she, a Goddess, asserts the supremacy of the Gods, even though they cannot avert death. But the youth persists at present: "let us talk no more of this; my father never will return." But when Nestor has told the story of Ægisthus punished by the son Orestes, the impression is strong that there is a divine justice which overtakes the guilty man at last; such is the old man's lesson to the juvenile doubter. The lesson is imparted in the form of a tale, but it has its meaning, and Telemachus cannot help putting himself into the place of Orestes.

Such is, then, the training which the young man, shaken by misfortune, obtains at the court of Nestor; the training to a belief in the rule of the Gods in a Divine Order of the World—which is the fundamental belief of the present poem. It is no wonder that Telemachus sees Pallas at last, sees that she has been with him, recognizing her presence. To be sure, she now disappears as a personal presence, having been found out; still she sends Telemachus on his journey to Sparta. Thus the Third Book has a distinctive character of its own, differing decidedly from the Book which goes before and from that which follows. Here is a religious world, idyllic, paradisaical in its immediate relation to the Gods, and in the primitive innocence of its people, who seem to be without a jar or inner scission. No doubt or dissonance has yet entered apparently; Pylos stands between Ithaca, the land of absolute discord, and Sparta, the land recently restored out of discord. The Book hears a relation to the whole Odyssey in its special theme, which is the Return, of which it represents in the ruler Nestor a particular phase. It prepares the way for the grand Return, which is that of Ulysses; it is a link connecting the whole poem into unity. Moreover it shadows forth one of the movements of Greek spirit, which seized upon this idea of a Return from Troy to express the soul's restoration from its warring, alienated, dualistic condition. It is well known that there were many poems on this subject; each hero along with his town or land had his Return, which became embodied in legend and song. All Hellas, in a certain stage of its spiritual movement, had a tendency to break out into the lay of the Return. One of the so-called cyclic poets, Hagias of Troezen, collected a number of these lays into one poem and called it the Nostoi or Returns, evidently an outgrowth of this Third Book in particular and of the Odyssey in general.

Thus Telemachus has witnessed and heard a good deal during his stay with Nestor. He has seen a religious world, a realm of faith in the Gods, which certainly has left its strong impression; he has been inspired by the example of his father, whose worth has been set forth, and whose place in the great Trojan movement has been indicated, by the aged Hero. Still further, Telemachus has been brought to share in the idea of the Return, the present underlying idea of the whole Greek consciousness; thus he must be led to believe in it and to work for it, applying it to his own case and his own land. Largely, from a negative, despairing state of mind due to his Ithacan environment, he has been led into glimpses of a positive believing one; this has sprung from his schooling with Nestor, who may be called his first schoolmaster, from whom he is now to pass to his second.

The reader must judge whether the preceding view be too introspective for Homer, who is usually declared to be the unconscious poet, quite unaware of his purpose or process. No one can carefully read the Third Book without feeling its religious purport; an atmosphere it has peculiar to itself in relation to the other Books of the Telemachiad. To be sure, we can read it as an adventure, a mere diverting story, without further meaning than the attempt to entertain vacant heads seeking to kill time. But really it is the record of the spirit's experience, and must so be interpreted. Again the question comes up: what is it to know Homer? His geography, his incidents, his grammar, his entire outer world have their right and must be studied—but let us proceed to the next Book.


The transition from Book Third to Book Fourth involves a very significant change of environment. In Sparta, to which Telemachus now passes, there is occurring no public sacrifice to the Gods, but a domestic festal occasion gives the tone; he moves out of a religious into a secular atmosphere. Pylos allows the simple state of faith, the world unfallen; Sparta has in it the deep scission of the soul, which, however, is at present healed after many wanderings and struggles. Nestor, as we have seen, is quite without inner conflict; Menelaus and Helen represent a long, long training in the school of error, tribulation, misfortune. Pylos is the peace before the fall, Sparta is the peace after the fall, yet with many reminiscences of the latter. This Fourth Book reaches out beyond Greece, beyond the Trojan War, it goes beyond the Hellenic limit in Space and Time, it sweeps backward into Egypt and the Orient. It is a marvelous Book, calling for our best study and reflection; certainly it is one of the greatest compositions of the human mind. Its fundamental note is restoration after the grand lapse; witness Helen, and Menelaus too; the Third Book has no restoration, because it has no alienation.

The account of the various Returns from Troy is continued. In the preceding Book we had those given by Nestor, specially his own, which was without conflict. He is the man of age and wisdom, he does not fall out with the Gods, he does not try to transcend the prescribed limits, he is old and conservative. The Returns which he speaks of beside his own, are confined to the Greek world; that was the range of his vision.

But now in the Fourth Book we are to hear of the second great Return, in which two Greeks participate, Menelaus and Helen. This Return is by way of the East, through Egypt, which is the land of ancient wisdom for the Greek man, and for us too. It is the land of the past to the Hellenic mind, whither the person who aspires to know the antecedents of himself and his culture must travel; or, he must learn of those who have been there, if he cannot go himself. Egyptian lore, which had a great influence upon the early Greek world in its formative period, must have some reflection in this primitive Greek book of education. So Telemachus, to complete his discipline, must reach beyond Greece into the Orient, he must get far back of Troy, which was merely an orientalizing Hellenic city; he must learn of Egypt. Thus he transcends the national limit, and begins to obtain an universal culture.

But the moment we go beyond the Greek world with its clear plastic outlines, the artistic form changes; the Hellenic sunshine is tinged with Oriental shadows; we pass from the unveiled Zeus to the veiled Isis. Homer himself gets colored with touches of Oriental mystery. The Egyptian part of this Fourth Book, therefore, will show a transformation of style as well as of thought, and changeful Proteus will become a true image of the Poet. The work will manifest a symbolic tendency; it will have an aroma of the wisdom of the East, taught in forms of the parable, the apologue, with hints of allegory. The world, thrown outside of that transparent Greek life, becomes a Fairy Tale, which is here taken up and incorporated into a great poem. We shall be compelled to look thoroughly into these strange shapes of Egypt, and, if possible, reach down to their meaning, for meaning they must have, or be meaningless. We shall find that this Fourth Book stands in the front rank of Homeric poetry for depth and suggestiveness, if not for epical lucidity.

What did not Telemachus see and hear at Sparta? That was, indeed, an education. He saw the two great returned ones, the woman and the man. Helen he saw, who had passed through her long alienation and was now restored to home and country after the Trojan discipline. In her, the most beautiful woman, the human cycle was complete—the fall, the repentance, the restoration. Then the eager youth saw Menelaus, and heard his story of the Return; he is the man who seeks the treasures of the East, and brings them to Hellas in the Hellenic way. He finds them, too, after much suffering, never losing them again in the tempests of his voyage, for does he not spread them out before us in his talk? Both the man and the woman, after the greatest human trials, have reached serenity—an institutional and an intellectual harmony. The young man sees it and feels it and takes it away in his head and heart.

The present Book falls easily into two distinct portions. The first is the visit of Telemachus to Sparta and what he experiences there. Sparta is at peace and in order; the youth to a degree beholds in it the ideal land to which he must help transform his own disordered country. The second portion of the Book goes back to Ithaca (line 625 of the Greek text). Here we are suddenly plunged again into the wrongful deeds of the suitors, done to the House of Ulysses. They are plotting the death of Telemachus, the bearing of whose new career has dawned upon them. Ithaca is truly the realm of discord in contrast to the harmony of Sparta and the House of Menelaus, which has also had sore trials. Hence Sparta may be considered a prophecy of the redemption of Ithaca.

Following out these structural suggestions, we designate the organism of the Book in this manner:—

I. The visit of Telemachus at Sparta in which he beholds and converses with two chief Returners from Troy, those who came back by way of the East, Menelaus and Helen. This part embraces the greater portion of the Book and falls into three divisions.

1. The arrival and recognition of the son of Ulysses by Menelaus and Helen who are in a mood of reminiscence, speaking of and in the Present with many a glance back into the Past. The Oriental journey to Cyprus, Phœnicia, and specially Egypt, plays into their conversation, making the whole a Domestic Tale of real life with an ideal background lying beyond Hellas.

2. When the son is duly recognized and received, the father Ulysses comes in for reminiscence; with him the background shifts from the Orient to Troy, where he was the hero of so many deeds of cunning and valor, and where both Menelaus and Helen were chief actors. The literary form passes out of the Domestic Tale of the Present into the Heroic Tale of the Past, from sorrowful retrospection to bracing description of daring deeds. Helen and Menelaus, each in turn, tell stories of Ulysses at Troy to the son, who thus learns much about his father. As already said, the background of this portion is the Trojan war which was the grand Hellenic separation from the Orient. The Iliad, and specially the Post-Iliad are here presupposed by the Odyssey.

3. The Return of Menelaus is now told to Telemachus, which Return reaches behind the Trojan war into the East and beyond the limits of the real Hellas into Egypt. Thus the spatial and temporal bounds of Greece are transcended, the actual both in the Present and Past goes over into the purely ideal, and the literary form becomes a Marvelous Tale—that of Proteus, which suggests not only Present and Past, but all Time.

II. Such is the grand Return of Menelaus out of struggle and dualism into peace and reconciliation with himself and the world, barring certain painful memories. The poet next, in sharp contrast throws the reader back to Ithaca, the land of strife and wrong, in general of limits for young Telemachus, who is reaching out for freedom through intelligence, and is getting a good deal thereof. Two phases:

1. The Suitors' limits, which he has broken through; their wrath and their plan of murdering him in consequence.

2. The mother's limits, which he has also broken through; her paroxysm in consequence, and final consolation.


The first portion of the Book, as above given, is by all means the greatest in conception and in execution as well as the longest. As already indicated there are three kinds of writing in it, yet fused together into unity, which makes it a most varied, yet profoundly suggestive piece of Art. The simple idyllic, domestic strain of ordinary real life we hear at the start in the reception and recognition of Telemachus at Sparta; the scene lies in the sunshine of a serene existence, yet after mighty tempests. Thence we pass into the heroic world of Troy out of Greece and the Present, and listen to an epical story of heroism told by Menelaus and Helen, of the Hero Ulysses; finally we are brought to Egypt, and hear a prophecy concerning the same Hero, who is now the subject of the Fairy Tale. In other words, in this portion of the Fourth Book we observe a change of scene to three localities—Greece, Troy, Egypt, which correspond to Present, Past, and Future, and which attune the soul respectively to Sorrow, Reminiscence, Prophecy. In accord with this variety of place and circumstance is the variety of literary form already noted: the ordinary Descriptive Tale of the Present, the Heroic Story of the Past, and the Fairy Tale imaging what is distant in space and time.

1. As Telemachus arrives, he notes the outer setting to this noble picture of Menelaus and Helen. There is the magnificent palace with many costly ornaments of "bronze, gold, silver, amber and ivory;" it has the ideal of Greek architecture, not yet realized doubtless, still it suggests "the Hall of Olympian Zeus" to the admiring Telemachus. The new-comers happen upon a wedding-festival, which connects the place and the occasion with the Trojan war and its Hero Achilles, whose son is now to marry Helen's daughter, betrothed to him while at Troy. Moreover it is a time of joy, which brings all before us at first in a festal mood.

Nor must we pass by that astonishing utterance of Menelaus to his servant who proposed to turn away the guests: "Thou prattlest silly things like a child, verily have we come hither partaking of the hospitable fare of other men." Therefore we ought to give that which we have received. One likes to note these touches of humanity in the old heathen Greek; he too knew and applied the Golden Rule. The wisdom of life here peers forth in the much-traveled Menelaus; suffering has taught him to consider others; sorrow he has experienced, but it has brought its best reward—compassion. This sorrow at once breaks forth in response to the admiration of Telemachus for the outward splendor of his palace and possessions.

The Spartan king takes a short retrospect of life as it has been allotted him; the sighs well out between his words as he tells his story. Eight years he wandered after the taking of Troy; for he passed across the sea, to Egypt, even to Æthiopia and Lybia, which he portrays as a wonderland of golden plenty. But while he was gone, "gathering much wealth," his brother Agamemnon was slain; "therefore, small joy I have bearing rule over these possessions." But chiefly he laments the loss of one man, on account of whom "sleep and food become hateful to me when I think upon him." That man is Ulysses, who has suffered more than any other Greek. Thus a strong deep stream of sympathy breaks forth from the heart of Menelaus, and the son, hearing his father's name, holds up the purple mantle before his eyes, shedding the tear. A strong unconscious bond of feeling at once unites both.

How can we fail to notice the clear indication of purpose in these passages! The Poet brings Menelaus, as the culmination of his story, to strike the chord which stirs most profoundly the soul of Telemachus. The son is there to inquire concerning his father; without revealing himself he learns much about the character and significance of his parent. The same artistic forethought is shown, when, at this sad moment, Helen enters, the primal source of all these calamities, in a glorious manifestation of her beauty. Telemachus sees or may see, embodied in her the very essence of Greek spirit, that which had to be restored to Hellas from Asia, if Hellas was to exist. The Poet likens her to a Goddess, and places her in surroundings which are to set off her divine appearance. In her case, too, we notice the distant background: Egyptian presents she has, as well as Menelaus, "a golden distaff and a silver basket bound in gold." Mementos from far-off wonderland are woven into the speech and character of the famous pair.

Now for a true female trait. Helen at once recognizes the young stranger as the son of Ulysses, wherein she stands in contrast to her husband Menelaus, who, in spite of his thinking about his friend just at that moment, had failed to see before him the son of that friend. But no sooner had the woman laid eyes upon Telemachus than she personally identified him. When the wife had spoken the words of immediate insight and instinct, the wise husband sees the truth and gives his reasons. When the fact has been told him, he can easily prove it.

Supremely beautiful is this appearance of Helen in the Odyssey; she is the completion of what we saw and knew of her in the Iliad. Now she is restored to home and country, after her long alienation; still she has lurking moments of self-reproach on account of her former deeds. Though she has repented and has been received back, she cannot forget, ought not to forget the past altogether. The conduct of the husband is most noble in these scenes; he has forgiven her fully, never upbraiding, never even alluding to her fatal act, excepting in one passage possibly, in which there is a gentle palliation of her behavior: "Thou camest to the place, moved by some divinity who wished to give glory to the Trojans." The husband will not blame her, she acted under the stimulus of a God. The fallen woman restored is the divinest of all pictures; we wonder again at the far-reaching humanity of the old bard; to-day she would hardly be taken back and forgiven by the world as completely as she is in the pages of Homer. She is indeed a new Helen, standing forth in the purest radiance within the shining palace of Menelaus. Long shall the world continue to gaze at her there.

Telemachus is to see and to hear Helen; that is, indeed, one of his supreme experiences. But it is not here a matter of superficial staring at a beautiful woman; all that Helen is, the total cycle of her spirit's history, is to enter his heart and become a vital portion of his discipline. It is probable that the youth does not realize every thing that Helen means and is; still he beholds her, and that in itself is an education. Helen is not merely a figure of voluptuous beauty, which captivates the senses; she bears in her the experience of complete humanity; she has erred, she has transformed her error, she has been restored to that ethical order which she had violated. All of which the young man is to see written in her face, and to feel in her words and conduct, though he may not consciously formulate it in his thought. This is the true beauty of Helen, not simply the outer sensuous form, though she possesses that too. She could not be the ideal of the Greek world, if she were merely an Oriental enchantress; indeed it is just the function of the Greeks to rescue her from such a condition, which was that of Helen in Troy.

Already the heart of Menelaus is full at the thought of his friend Ulysses, and he warms toward the latter's son now present. He again utters words of sympathetic sorrow. All are touched; all have lost some dear relative at Troy; it is a moment of overpowering emotion. The four people weep in common; it is but an outburst; they rally from their sorrow, Menelaus commands: "Let us cease from mourning and think of the feast."

It is at this point that Helen again interposes. Her experience of life has been the deepest, saddest, most complete of all, she has mastered her conflicts, inner and outer, and reached the haven of serenity; she can point out the way of consolation. In fact it is her supreme function to show to others what she has gone through, and thereby save them, in part at least, the arduous way. For is not the career of every true hero or heroine vicarious to a certain degree? Assuredly, if they mean any thing to the sons and daughters of men. Helen can bring the relief, and does so in the present instance.

She fetches forth that famous drug, the grand antidote for grief and passion, and all life's ills, the true solacer in life's journey. It had been given her by an Egyptian woman, Polydamna, whom she had met in her wanderings, and it had evidently helped to cure her lacerated soul. Again Egypt lies in the background, as it does everywhere in this Book, the veritable wonderland, from which many miraculous blessings are sent. Moreover it is the land of potent drugs, "some beneficial and some baneful;" its physicians too, are celebrated as excelling all men. Still more curious is the fact that women possess the secret of medicine as well as men, and Polydamna may be set down as the first female doctor—she who gave the wonderful drug to Helen. Surely there is nothing new under the sun.

This marvelous drug, often called Nepenthe from one of its attributes, has naturally aroused much curiosity among the many-minded readers of Homer down the ages. Some have held that it was an herb, which they have pointed out in the valley of the Nile. Others hold it to be opium literally, though it does not here put to sleep or silence the company. On the other hand allegory has tried its hand at the word. Certain ancients including Plutarch found in it an emblem hinting the charm of pleasing narrative. As Helen at once passes to story-telling about Ulysses at Troy, changing from sad reminiscences of the dead to stirring deeds of living men, we may suppose that this has something to do with her Nepenthe, which changes the mind from inward to outward, from emotion to action. The magic charm seems to work potently when she begins to talk. Through her, the artist as well as the ideal, we make the transition into the Heroic Tale of the olden time, of which she gives a specimen.

2. Very naturally the Trojan scene is next taken, that greatest deed of the Greek race, being that which really made it a new race, separating it from the Orient and giving it a new destiny. Helen now tells to the company myths, particularly the labors of Ulysses. She narrates how he came to Troy in the disguise of a beggar; none knew him, "but I alone recognized him," as she had just recognized Telemachus. Thus she celebrates the cunning and bravery of Ulysses; but she also introduces a fragment of her own history: "I longed to return home, and I lamented the infatuation which Venus sent upon me." She wished to be restored to her husband who was "in no respect lacking in mind or shape." We must not forget that the husband was before her listening; she does not forget her skill. Also Telemachus was present and hears her confession of guilt and her repentance—important stages in her total life, which he is to know, and to take unto himself.

Menelaus has also his myth of Ulysses at Troy, which he now proceeds to tell. It brings before us the Wooden Horse, really the thought of Ulysses, though wrought by Epeios, by which the hostile city was at last captured. Here the Odyssey supplies a connecting link between itself and the Iliad, as the latter poem closes before the time of the Wooden Horse. Ulysses is now seen to be the Hero again, he is the man who suppresses emotion, especially domestic emotion in himself and others for the great end of the war. It suggests also the difficulty of Ulysses; he had so long suppressed his domestic instincts, and done without the life of the family, that he will have great trouble in overcoming the alienation—whereof the Odyssey is the record. In this story of Menelaus, Helen has her part too; she came to the Wooden Horse, "imitating in voice the wives of all the Greek leaders," who were deeply moved, yet restrained themselves except one, Anticlus, "over whose mouth Ulysses clapped his powerful hands, and saved the Greeks." Truly a strong image of the suppression of feeling in himself and in others.

But why did Helen do thus? Was it a hostile act on her part? Menelaus hints that it was at least very dangerous to the Greeks, though he delicately lays the blame of it on some God, "who must have inspired thee." She was testing the Greeks whom she supposed to be inside the horse. Will they answer the call of their wives? Do they still retain their affection for their families? Above all, does Menelaus love me still? Such was her test, in which we witness another of her many gifts. At any rate, she is not yet free, she is still married in Troy, though the hour of her release be near.

With these two stories, the note changes; the sad turn of the talk is transformed into a quiet earnest joy, the sorrows of the present vanish in the glorious memories of the past. The moment Troy is introduced, the narrative becomes an Heroic Tale, a sort of Iliad, with its feats of arms. Thus we hear the story of Ulysses while at Troy, giving two instances of his craft and his daring. Next we are to hear of him after his Trojan experience, this now theme will give the new poem, the Odyssey, which, however, is seen to interlink at many points with the Iliad.

But this is sufficient, night has come on, Telemachus has heard and beheld enough for one day. Helen disappears from the scene, she has contributed her share, her own selfhood, to the experience of the young man. Telemachus has seen Helen, and thus attained one supreme purpose of Greek education. Never can that face, beautiful still, yet stamped with all the vicissitudes of human destiny, pass out of his mind; never can that life of hers with its grand transformation pass out of his soul. The reader, too, has at this point to bid good-bye to Homer's Helen, the most lasting creation of a woman that has yet appeared upon our planet. A power she has, too, of continuous re-embodiment; every poet seeks to call her up afresh, that is, if he be a poet. It may be said that each age has some incarnation of Helen; the Greek myth for two thousand years, Medieval legend, even Teutonic folk-lore have caught up her spirit and incorporated it in new forms. The last great singer of the ages has in our own time, evoked her ghost once more in the shining palace of Menelaus at Sparta. Farewell, Helen, for this time, but we shall meet thee again; yesterday thou didst show thyself in a new book under a new garb, to-morrow thou art certain to appear in another. Thine is the power to re-create thyself in the soul of man with every epoch and in every country. Great is that discipline of Telemachus, which we still to-day have to seek: he has seen Helen.

3. The preceding story was the Heroic Tale, which goes back to the Past, especially to Troy, as the grand deed done by the united Hellenic race, whereof the Iliad is a sample. But now we enter a new field, and a new sort of composition, which, in default of a better name, we shall call the Fairy Tale. Helen is not now present, nor is her struggle the theme; Menelaus, the man, is to recount his experience in his return to Hellas.

The story is inspired by the desire of Telemachus to know about his father. As that father is not present the question arises, Where is he? Menelaus will undertake to answer the question by a tale which shadows forth the Distant and the Future—a prophetic tale, which casts its glance through the veil of Time and Space.

A mythical figure appears, Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea, who is to foretell to the inquiring mortal what may be needful for his safety. Not an Olympian God is Proteus, yet a supernatural shape standing between man and deity and mediating the two, the human and the divine. For it is Proteus who sends Menelaus back to the Gods whom he has neglected and offended.

The Fairy Tale which we are now to consider, is not to be looked upon as an allegory; it is a story with incident, movement, character, all in their own right, and not for the sake of something else. But we must not, on this account, imagine that it has no thought; in fact, the Fairy Tale is just the way in which primitive peoples think. It has thought, often the profoundest thought, which darts through it, not steadily, but fitfully in flashes at the important links, like electric sparks. This thought we are to catch and hold, and not rest satisfied with the mere outer form of the story.

Persons we can always find who are strongly prepossessed against seeing any meaning in the Fairy Tale, or in the Mythus. Modern usage of these literary forms, doubtless, justifies such an opinion. Still we must remember that Homer was not playing, but thinking with his Fairy Tale; he had no technical terms, and almost no abstract language for expressing thought; the day of philosophic reflection had not yet dawned upon Greece. Homer has a great and deep thought to utter, but his utterance is and must be mythical. His problem, too, he has, and it is spiritual; the Mythus is his statement, honest, earnest, final. No, he was not playing at story-telling, though it must have given him pleasure; nor was his object merely to delight somebody, though he certainly has delighted many by his song. He was the true Poet, upholding his own worth and that of his vocation; he was loyal to the Muse whose word he must sing whether it find listeners or not. Homer built his legendary structure to live in, not to play in; with all his sportiveness, he is a deeply earnest man; if his Zeus sometimes takes on a comic mask, it is because Providence is a humorist. Homer, when he mythologizes, is thinking, thinking as profoundly as the philosopher, and both are seeking to utter to men the same fundamental thought. The reader is to think after the poet, if not in the immediate mythical form, then in the mediate, reflective way.

The present Tale seeks to give an answer to the two main questions of Telemachus: Where is my father now? And, Will he return home? To answer the one question requires a knowledge of what is distant in Space; to answer the other question requires a knowledge of what is distant in Time. Can we not see that herein is an attempt to rise out of that twofold prison of the spirit, Space and Time, into what is true in all places and times? In other words, Menelaus unfolds in a mythical form, the Universal to his young pupil, and we may now see in what manner he gives the lesson.

He leaps at once into the middle of his theme; he was in Egypt and detained there by the Gods, "though longing to return home." Such is the great initial fact, he did not do his duty to the Gods. Without their aid or without their adequate recognition, he seeks to come home. This indicates the spiritual difficulty; he is indifferent to or a disbeliever in the Divine. The Gods are the upholders of the world-order, they are the law and the spirit of the reality. Clearly Menelaus could not or did not fit himself into the providential system. Neglect of the Gods—that detains him, must detain him. The result is, he and his companions are wasting away on an island, without any chance of return.

The question of the hour is, How shall I get out of the difficulty? Only in one way: Acknowledge the Gods, put yourself into harmony with their order, then the outer world and the inner man will be one, and must bring about the deed, which is the return. We are now to witness the process whereby this reconciliation between man and the Gods takes place—surely the supreme matter in life. It is told in the form of the Fairy Tale or Marvelous Legend, which shifts and changes; we, however, must cling to the essence else it will escape us, Proteus himself we must hold fast, and not be misled by his many appearances.

Menelaus begins to feel sorrow, which is a penitent condition antecedent to all help. Moreover he wanders alone, he has gone apart from his companions; behold, the Goddess steps out of the air and speaks. She reproaches him with folly, and turns him to the deity who can assist him. Who is this Goddess?

It is Eidothea, the Goddess of Appearance, yet the daughter of Proteus, the old First One, to whom she directs Menelaus, as the only means of salvation. Mark how she designates Proteus: "he is the true, the immortal; without error, without death; he knows the depths of all the sea"—the great sea of Time and Space, which envelops the poor mortal. But he must be snared and held—surely not an easy task it is to catch him.

The etymology of the names of these two deities indicates their meaning and relation. The grand dualism of the world is clearly suggested: Appearance and Substance, the Transitory and the Eternal, that which seems and that which is. Menelaus had gone astray, he had neglected the Gods, he had followed Appearance, Delusion, Negation; the result could only be death. But even Appearance points to something beyond itself, something true and eternal. So Eidothea suggests Proteus, who is her parent; that is, she is the manifestation of his being. She is the many, he is the one underneath and in the many; she is change, he is the permanent in all change. He may well be designated as her father, whose transformations she knows and declares. These transformations are called his tricks or stratagems, the shapes he puts on in the world of Appearance; they are indeed Eidothea herself along with her voice telling what is higher than herself.

When this one first principle is clearly revealed, then all is revealed; the future becomes transparent, and the distant becomes near. But you must hold fast to the one true Proteus; he will turn to fire—hold fast; he will become running water—hold fast; he will change to tree, beast, reptile—hold fast. Then he will show himself in his right shape, and will speak the fact. Hold fast; the One is under all, and is a God, who will lift the veil of Space and Time from the visage of Truth. But unquestionably the man in his desperate struggle must never forget the injunction. Hold fast to old Proteus.

We must note, too, that the poet has shown Menelaus as prepared to receive this divine revelation; the Greek wanderer has been brought to contrition by manifold sufferings. "I surely must have sinned against the Immortals," is his penitent outcry. Thus he is ready for the new truth, and the voice of the Goddess speaks, when he is internally in condition to hear it. The divine word is not forced upon him; he must do his share even toward creating the same within himself. Now, along the shore of the sea, "he prays the Gods fervently," ere he goes to his task. Egyptian Proteus he seeks to catch and to hold, for it is Proteus who is to point out to him the way of reconciliation with Zeus and the Olympian Gods.

Stress is strongly laid by the poet upon the fact that Proteus is of Egypt. Evidently, in the mind of Homer, the thought of this Fourth Book connects with the land of the Nile. What hint lies in that? The highest wisdom of Egypt, indeed, of the Orient, is just this grand distinction between Appearance and Substance, the Transitory and the Eternal, the Many and the One. What Egypt gave to Hellas is here suggested, nay, said directly. In fact, the first great step in wisdom, is still to make the above distinction, which in many ways has been handed down to us from the East.

But the Greeks united the two sides—that which appears and that which is, or the world of sense, and the world of spirit—and thereby produced art, the plastic forms of Gods and Men. Hellas brought forth to the sunlight Beauty, which Egypt never could. Even here Egyptian Proteus leads Menelaus to the Greek Gods, and becomes himself a kind of antecedent Hellenic deity. Egypt means to Greek Menelaus two things: first, it is a land of error, of alienation, of darkness; secondly, it has its light, its wisdom, which, when he finds, points him homeward to Hellas, to his own Gods.

Deeply suggestive become all these mythical hints, when we once are in touch with their spirit. We naturally pass to the Hebrew parallel, since that other great world-historical people of antiquity, the Israelites, had their experience also with Egypt. For them, too, it was a land of darkness, slavery, divine estrangement. They also sought a Return, not dissimilar to the Greek Return, to their true home. It was a long, terrible time, a wandering not on the water, like the sea-faring Hellene, but in the wilderness and desert, like the sand-faring Semite. All the companions (but two) were lost, and the leader also; moreover that leader was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, but had to get out of it and away from it, and lead his people into their own possessions. Much light Egypt with all its darkness furnished to Moses and Judea; much to Menelaus and to Hellas. So the two chief streams of human culture, the Greek and the Hebrew, are traced back to the Egyptian source in the earliest books, or Bibles of the two peoples themselves.

Moreover we find the form of the two grand experiences quite the same; there is a going into Egypt, the land of dazzling riches and power and civilization; there is the misfortune and trial in that land after a time of prosperity, finally, there is the Return home, with many wanderings and sufferings. Both peoples bring with them what may be called the Egyptian idea, yet each transforms it into its own spirit after its own fashion.

Still further we may follow this thought and behold it as universal. The form of separation and return is fundamental in human spirit; this is its inherent movement, and the shape which it imparts to the great works of literature. The very destiny of man is cast into this mould; there is, first, his estrangement, the fall from his high estate; then is his return to harmony with the divine order. The Hebrew Bible begins with the Fall of Man; that is the first chapter; the rest of the book is his rise, and marks out the path of his Return which, of course, shows many sinuosities. Such is the deepest fact of the human soul, and to image it, there springs into existence the corresponding literary form. Not that it was taken consciously by the poet or maker after much ratiocination; he has to take it, if he sees the universe as it is. This form is the form of the everlasting reality, of which he has the immediate vision, it is also the form of very selfhood, of the Ego.

Though different in many things, the Odyssey and the Bible are both, at bottom, Returns. They restore the man after alienation. Indeed we may behold the same form as fundamental in all Great Literary Books—in Homer, in Dante, in Shakespeare, in Goethe.

Many things connected with this catching and holding of Proteus are suggestive, but they are the flash of the poet into the depths, and must be seen with the poetic glance, for they bear with much loss the heavy translation into thought. How this Eidothea, the Goddess of Appearance, turns against her own father, and helps to make him reveal himself in his true shape; how Menelaus and his three comrades put on the skins of the sea-calves, and deceive the deceiver, applying the latter's art of transformation to himself, and destroying appearance with appearance; how the poor mortals almost perish through the odor of the skins of the sea-calves, thus showing their human weakness and limitation, till ambrosia, the food of the Immortals, is brought by the Goddess, which at once relieves them of their mortal ailment—these and other incidents have their subtle, far-reaching hint of the supersensible world. The whole story is illumined with one thought, how to master the material show of things and reach their spiritual inwardness.

But the chief duty of these people, now disguised to destroy disguise, is to hold the Old Man fast when they have once caught him, that shifty, ever-changing Old Man of the Sea. Let him turn to water, to a snake, to a lion, to a tree—hold him fast; he is the One under them all and will at last reveal himself. Very necessary, indeed, is it to hold fast, and never let go in the grand play of Appearances; the strength of the man is shown by his ability to hold fast, amid the fleeting shadows of Time.

Menelaus holds the Old Man fast, and asks: What God detains me from my return? The answer comes home strong: Thou hast neglected the sacrifice due to Zeus and the other deities; thou hast not recognized the Gods. Verily the heart of the difficulty; Menelaus has not placed himself in harmony with the divine order, in which he must act. What then? Go back to the beginning, back to Egypt, and start aright; commence thy return again with the new light, recognize Zeus and the Gods by sacrifice there, and thou shalt see home. Thus the Egyptian estrangement is removed, the Greek hero of wisdom must reach beyond the experience of Egypt and be restored to the Greek Gods.

At once Menelaus was ready to obey, though "his heart was broken" at the thought of recrossing the sea to Egypt, for the "way was long and difficult." Still he will do it; and next he is given a look into the Distant and Future, a glance into the soul of things separated from him by Space and Time. He will know concerning the Returners, in deep accord with the spirit of the poem. He hears of the awful death of Ajax, son of Oileus, he hears of the sad fate of his brother Agamemnon; also the Old Man of the Sea tells him a few words concerning Ulysses, who is still alive but cannot get away from the isle of Calypso. News just good enough to give hope to the son who is eagerly listening, and hears that his father still lives.

Finally, Menelaus learns of his own future existence from the Old Man, who is in person the very embodiment of what lies beyond the senses, of immortality. "The Gods have decreed thou shalt not die, O Menelaus, but shalt dwell in the Elysian Plain, at the ends of the earth." He is the husband of Helen, and coupled forever with her destiny; he is, through her, of the divine family of Zeus. Such is the promise, has it not been fulfilled?

The poet thus brings to an end his Fairy Tale, with its deep-reaching glances into Egypt as one of the antecedent sources of Hellenic civilization. We find therein hinted a double relation: first, Egypt was the giver of much wisdom to Greece especially the distinction into Appearance and the one First Principle; secondly, it was hostile to Greek spirit, which had to pass through the Egyptian stage to reach its own destiny. Homer spins, in this Book, a thread which connects the culture of Hellas with that of Egypt, So much we dare find in the present legend without much straining. The distant background of this entire visit of Telemachus to Sparta is Egyptian and Oriental, as we see from the talk of both Helen and Menelaus.

We may now be certain that Homer, the poet, had before him a thought of this kind: the inner soul of things and the outward manifestation. The story of Proteus we may call not merely a Fairy Tale, but the Fairy Tale, which images its universal self in setting forth its special theme; it has the one meaning, which, however, takes on many varieties of external shape; it is the essence of all Fairy Tales. Still you have to catch the Proteus and make him tell his secret; I can only advise you to hold fast, and finally the true form of the Old Man will reveal itself, and speak the truth of many appearances, nay, of all. In reading this poem of Homer we are only following the poet, if we seek to lay hold of its essence under its varied manifestations. The whole Odyssey is a Proteus, ever changing, assuming new forms, which will utterly bewilder the reader until he reaches its first principle. Homer probably suggests that his own Fairy Tale, nay, his own poem, is a Proteus, which must be grasped and held by the one central thought. In fact, does not the modern reader, like ancient Menelaus, in his wanderings need an Eidothea, an interpreter, to point out the Old Man of the Sea, the First One, and to tell how to catch him? In the very names of Proteus and Eidothea we feel the intention, the conscious etymology which borders on personification. Yet around this simple substrate of thought are woven so many wonders, so many suggestions, far-hinting and deep-glancing, that it becomes truly the Tale of Tales (Märchen aller Märchen).

The Fairy Tale will appear again in the Odyssey, and take possession of the whole poem for a time when we come to the wanderings of Ulysses. Now it is but a slight bubbling-up of what will be a great stream. At present it turns to the East and unfolds the Greek relation thereto; hereafter it will turn to the West, and unfold the Greek relation thereto. Both have their wise men, and the Return is from each direction to Greece. The distinction between them we may suggest in advance: the one has more of the speculative, of the spirit; the other has more of the active, of the will, though neither side excludes the other. Both men return to Hellas as the common destination; hence, we find in this Book everywhere expressed the intimate brotherhood between Menelaus and Ulysses.

It is of great interest to see the poet build his Fairy Tale, which is but one form of his mythical procedure. Instinctively he builds it, as the bee does the honey-cell. He places the God or Goddess at the center of every movement or event; by divine will it is all brought about. The sea which stands in the way of the return of Ulysses is a deity, Poseidon; Eidothea is a person, the voice of the world of Appearance, and she leads to Proteus, the Primal One. To Homer personality is at the heart of this universe. Such is truly the mythical mind; all phenomena are the product of an intelligent will, not of blind law. Not a long chain of cause and effect hovers before Homer's soul, thus his work would be prose; but he sees self-cause at once, and so cannot help being poetical, as well as religious. The culture of to-day tends too much to divest us of the mythical spirit—which is not altogether a gain. Homer, if rightly studied, will help restore that lost gift of the early ages.

But now we must turn our look to the youth for whom the tale has been told—the learner Telemachus. He hears of the Orient and its principle; the antecedents of his people, their origins, separations, their advance upon the older nations are significantly hinted. All this is an education. For its function is to bring together the scattered wisdom of the Past and to give it to the youth who is coming upon the stage of life; thus he is made the spiritual heir of all that his race has achieved in word and deed. Telemachus has learned about the history of Troy, the great event of the early Greek world; he has heard the Returns of the Heroes, and he has seen Helen. But, chiefly, he has been taught the grand distinction between Appearance and Substance; he has come to know, if he has learned his lesson, the One in the Many; he has been shown how to reach beyond the sensuous appearances of things and enter the realm of spirit. Such is still the best education to-day, though the manner of it be so different. There were no books in those days, no schools but the lips of the aged; every Greek youth, to a degree, was a Telemachus, and had a similar discipline. Tradition, song, folk-lore are also means of education; we cannot do without the mythus even now, and we are in many ways seeking to restore it to its place in the training of the child, and of the grown man too. Telemachus has graduated, he can now go home; so he asks to be permitted to depart for Ithaca, where the hardest practical problem of life is awaiting him. But mark, he carries with him the grandest of all hospitable presents: the knowledge of the true and eternal in contrast to the unreal and transitory.

In these four Books of the Odyssey the education of the Homeric youth has been given. Next we are to have the experiences of the man—those of the typical man Ulysses, as he works out his own problem. Menelaus could not tell that tale; the man himself must be seen doing, overcoming his obstacles by the deed. He will present a phase of life not known to the East, not known to Egyptian Proteus. Thus the Odyssey will be an entire book, a veritable Bible for young and old, with its complete cycle of human discipline.

The story of Proteus itself is Protean, and must be grasped in its essence through all its appearances. The whole Odyssey is veritably a Protean poem as already said, whose study is to seize the one truth which is underneath all these shifting shapes and manifold events. What are we doing now but trying to grasp Proteus in this exposition? There is no mythus in Homer which has wound itself so deeply and so variously into the literature of the world. It would be an interesting history to trace its employment by later poets, and see how it has mirrored itself in the consciousness of the ages. The last world-poet, Goethe, takes the figure of Proteus from his eldest brother, the first world-poet, and transplants it into the Second Part of Faust, where it has its place in the development of the modern man. The Mythus of Evolution the tale of Proteus becomes in Goethe's hands, and hints of Darwinism long before Darwin.

Still the most significant historical fact of this Fourth Book is the connection which it makes between Egypt and Greece. In another Greek legend, that of Œdipus, the same connection is made through the Sphinx, whose riddle the Greek hero solves, whereat the Egyptian monster destroys itself.

The Sphinx, the grand symbol of Egypt and chief product of its Art, may be taken as the Egyptian starting-point for both Greece and Judea. The Sphinx is half human, half animal; the two are put together in stone and thus stand a fixed, unreconciled contradiction. Such was just the Sphinx-riddle of humanity to the old Egyptian: man is a beast and a spirit, linked together without any true mediation. Both the Hebrew and the Greek sought to solve this grand riddle, each in his own way. The Hebrew attempted to extirpate the sensuous element; he would have no graven image, no idolatry, he would worship only the pure spirit, and obey only the divine law. The Greek reconciled the two sides, by making the sensuous element the bearer and the revealer of the spiritual. The animal must be subordinated to the spirit, then it can live, nay can have a new and higher existence. Thus Art arose in Greece, and not in Judea.

The interpretations which the story of Proteus has received are simply infinite. Probably it appeals to every reader in a somewhat different fashion; he pours into this marvelous form certain phases of his own experience and is satisfied. Indeed Proteus is not only a Form, but a Form of Forms for the human mind, hinting both the oneness and the multiplicity of the Ego itself. We may go back to the Vedas and find traces of it there in some sun-myth; we may go to the sea and find it a miraculous legend in which the Greek sailor set forth his perils and his escapes. It certainly connects Hellas with Egypt, and suggests the movement of ancient civilization. Menelaus in his voyage transcends the Greek world of the Trojan epoch, and brings back the story thereof to his country. The tale of Proteus is said to have been carried back to Egypt, where Herodotus, several hundred years after Homer, found it in a new transformation, Proteus being a king of Egypt, who took Helen from Paris and kept her till Menelaus arrived and received her from the Egyptian ruler. Thus the Fairy Tale raised the Old Man of the Sea to the royal dignity, changing sovereignty from water to land. (Herodotus, II. 112-20.) Plato makes him typical of a sophist, Schlegel of a poet, Lucian of a dancer.

We shall now take a glance backwards and give a short summary of the story, that its inner development in the hands of the poet may be more fully seen.

1. The desolation of Menelaus and his companions on the island of Pharos; no Return possible, death from hunger imminent. Moreover, disregard of the Gods, internal estrangement, a condition of separation from the Divine, truly an Egyptian condition.

2. Eidothea appears to him, just the Goddess of Appearance, and points him to a power beyond herself. Hitherto he was lost in the world of Appearance; but when he thinks of it, he separates himself from it, and sees its nullity. So the Finite points to the Infinite, the Fleeting to the Permanent, the Sensible to the Supersensible, Eidothea to Proteus, who is the First One, or the First Principle underlying all Appearance, hence her father.

3. She tells also how to catch him. When he emerges from the water, source of all Forms, indeed just the Formable (see Goethe's Faust, Part II. in the Classical Walpurgisnight), he will count by fives all his sea-calves, or sea-forms, offspring of the sea (Halosydna). This counting by fives, is significant, hinting the earliest abstraction from the sensuous through number, specially by means of the five-system, though Homer knew well the decimal system (see Od. XVI, 245. Iliad II. 126). Menelaus with his companions is to take on this sea-form, and be counted with the rest, though in disguise; then when Proteus lies down to sleep with his herds or Forms, he is to be seized; that is, seized in repose, as he is himself, not in relation to his shapes. They must continue to hold fast to this primal Form of Proteus, or the archetype, through all his changes, till he resumes his first shape, "the one in which thou sawest him in repose." Then they possess the Essence as distinct from the Phenomenon; they know that their disguise has torn off all disguise, and attained the real.

4. Proteus will now tell Menelaus the truth devoid of all delusive shows; ere the latter can leave Egypt and return to Greece he must put himself into harmony with the Greek Gods, Zeus and the rest. So he has to go back to Egypt's river and start over again in the right way. Then he will make the Return to Hellas.

5. Proteus also gives the fate of a number of Returners. Ajax he specially speaks about—Ajax, son of Oileus (not the greater Ajax), the blasphemer, who said he would return in spite of the Gods, and at once perished. The account of the death of Ajax has its meaning for Menelaus, who thought of getting home with paying due regard to the Gods. Once more Agamemnon's dire lot is told with some new incidents added. Thirdly Proteus has seen Ulysses in an ocean isle with the nymph Calypso who detains him though eager to get away. Thus the son hears the fact about his father. Finally Proteus prophesies the immortality of Menelaus, for has not the latter reached beyond Appearance into the Eternal already, just by catching and holding Proteus? So the Old Man of the Sea cannot help giving this prophecy, which lives directly in his own experience.

Though Telemachus is not told that his father is returning, still he may draw such an inference from the story of Menelaus, who was also detained on an island longing to get home. If the Gods, being duly recognized, will give their help in the one case, they will in the other; they too, will come to the aid of Ulysses, when he has placed himself in harmony with them. This is what is about to happen.

As already set forth, there are three divisions of this first part of the Fourth Book: the simple idyllic Present at Sparta, the disrupted strifeful Past at Troy, the movement out of the latter by way of Egypt. Taking the three divisions together, we note that they form the total sweep of one great Return, that of Menelaus, from unity through separation back to harmony. Thus Menelaus and also Helen are shown to have solved their problem.

But there remains the harder and deeper problem of Ithaca, which is that of Ulysses. Here enemies have possession of the man's home, and he brings back no help, only himself. It is therefore, a natural transition to introduce at this point the Ithacan condition which is seen to be more difficult than the Spartan one, for Menelaus seems to have had no enemies in his house to dispute his Return, as Agamemnon had and also Ulysses has. But Agamemnon perished, Ulysses will not.


Accordingly the affairs of Ithaca are introduced, as they happened after the departure of Telemachus. This thread is picked up from the Second Book, where he had his final conference with the Suitors and told them his mind. We must recall that Ithaca is the abode of conflict and disorder; the Suitors and Household of Penelope are the two antagonistic elements; upon both the secret departure of Telemachus explodes like a bomb, and brings the characters of each side to the surface.

Telemachus stands in relation to the Suitors as well as to his mother; both are putting their restraints upon him which he has broken through and asserted his freedom, his new manhood. One, however, is the restraint of hate, the other is the restraint of love; both stand in the way of his development. He must get his great education in defiance of Suitors and of mother. The attitudes of these two parties are described, and form the two divisions of this second part of the Fourth Book.

1. The Suitors, when they hear of the deed of Telemachus, are not only surprised but startled, and they at once recognise that a new power has risen which threatens to punish their misdeeds. The youth has plainly become a man, a man showing the skill and courage of his father, and with the sense of wrong burning in his breast. Already he has declared that he would wreak vengeance upon them, the day of reckoning seems to have dawned. Previously they despised his warnings as the helpless babble of a mere boy; now they have to meet him, returning, possibly, with help from his father's friends.

What will the Suitors do? The most audacious one, Antinous, is ready with a proposal. The boy will prove a pest, we must waylay him on his return and murder him. Such is their final act of wrong, which is now accepted by all, and the proposer gets ready to carry out his plan. Hitherto it may be said the Suitors had a certain right, the right of suit, which, however, becomes doubtful through the uncertainty about the death of the husband, and through the unwillingness of the wife. But now their guilt is brought out in strong colors, there can be no question about it. They man a boat and lie in wait for their prey on a little island which the youth has to pass in coming home.

2. The mother Penelope hears of the daring act of her boy, done without her consent or knowledge. The news is brought to her, just as she is recounting the goodness of Ulysses and the wrongs of the Suitors. This new misfortune, for so it seemed to her, is quite too great a burden to bear; she breaks out into lamentations find recites her woes: a husband lost and now a son in the greatest danger. But she is to get both human and divine consolation. Eurycleia, the old nurse, confesses to her part in the affair, and advises the queen "to put on fresh garments and to pray to Pallas, ascending to the upper chamber."

Pallas sends to the distressed mother a refreshing sleep and a consoling dream, which we may consider to have been suggested by the words of Eurycleia. Her sister who dwelt far away, appears to her and says that her son, guided by Pallas, will surely return. Doubtless we see here an expression of the deepest instinct of Penelope; the outer suggestion of the nurse and her own unconscious faith fuse together and form the phantom and give to the same an utterance. The youth who can plan and carry out such an expedition will probably be able to take care of himself. Penelope of course has some doubt, since the good Ulysses has had to suffer so much from the Gods. About him, too, she will know and so inquires of the phantom. Doth he live? But the shadowy image can tell nothing, the act of Ulysses lies not in its field of vision, it declines to speak further and vanishes.

Thus Telemachus has broken through the two restraints which held him in bondage at his Ithacan home, both keeping down his manly endeavor. The first comes from the Suitors and is the restraint of hate, which would give him no opportunity in the world of action, and in addition is destroying his possessions. The second restraint springs from love, and yet is injurious. The solicitude of the mother keeps him back from every enterprise; having lost her husband, as she deems, by his too adventuresome spirit, she is afraid of losing her boy for the same reason, and is in danger of losing him anyhow, by making him a cipher. Such are the two obstacles in Ithaca which Telemachus is shown surmounting and asserting therein his freedom and manhood. The whole is a flash of his father's mettle, he is already the unconscious Ulysses; no wonder that he inquires after his parent in Pylos and Sparta. The poet will now carry him forward to the point where he will actually meet and know Ulysses himself; the son is to advance to direct communion with his great father.

Here the Fourth Book, or rather the Telemachiad, reaches out and connects with the Ithakeiad, which begins in the Thirteenth Book. Ulysses returns to Ithaca and steals to the hut of the swineherd Eumæus; Telemachus comes back from Sparta, and, avoiding the ambush of the Suitors, seeks the same faithful servant. Thus father and son are brought together, and prepare themselves for their heroic task.

But before this task can be accomplished, the grand experience of Ulysses is to be told in the eight following Books (V-XII); that is, we are now to have the Ulyssiad, just as we have had the Telemachiad. Father and son are now separated from home and country; both are to return through a common deed of heroism.

General Observations. Looking back at the Telemachiad (the first four Books) we observe that it constitutes a very distinct member of the total organism of the Odyssey. So distinct is it that some expositors have held that it is a separate poem, not an integral portion of the entire action. The joint is, indeed, plain at this place, still it is a joint of the poetic body, and not a whole poetic body by itself. Only too easy is it for our thought to dwell in division, separation, scission, analysis; let us now turn to the opposite and more difficult habit of mind, that of uniting, harmonizing, making the synthesis of what seems disjointed. In other words let us find the bonds of connection between the last four Books and the coming eight Books, or between the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad.

1. We have already noticed the three grand Returns, rising one above the other to the culmination—that of Nestor, of Menelaus, of Ulysses. Now the first two are told in the Telemachiad; but they openly lead up to the third, which is the complete Return, and which is just the theme of the Ulyssiad. Nestor makes the immediate Return, without conflict, through Greece, but he points directly to Menelaus, and foreshadows the coming of Ulysses. Menelaus, however, prophesies the third Return, and thus directly joins his account with the Ulyssiad. In this manner we see and feel the intimate bond between these two grand divisions of the total Odyssey.

2. We notice the same general movement in the Telemachiad and in the Ulyssiad; the same fundamental scheme underlies both. There is the real Present, in the one case Ithaca, Pylos, Sparta, in the other ease Phæacia; then there is in the same heroic Past the Trojan war and its deeds of valor; thirdly there is a movement in both to an ideal world, to a Fableland, outside of Hellas and beyond even Troy; finally there is a Return in both to Greece and to the Present. Setting the stages of this movement down in definite numbers, we have, first in the Telemachiad: (1) Hellas, the Present; (2) back to Troy, the Past, in the reminiscences of Nestor, Menelaus, Helen; (3) forward to the Fairy World in the account of Proteus; (4) return to Ithaca at the end of the Fourth Book. Secondly in the Ulyssiad we may here note in advance the same general movement: (1) Phæacia, the Present; (2) back to Troy in the strains of Demodocus; (3) forward to the Fairy World of Polyphemus and Circe; (4) return to Ithaca in the Thirteenth Book. Thus we reach down and grasp the fundamental norm according to which the poet wrought, and which holds in unity all the differences between these two divisions of the poem. The spiritual basis of this movement, its psychological ground, we shall endeavor to unfold more fully hereafter.

3. In correspondence with the preceding, we can distinguish in both divisions the same kinds of style: (1) the symple Idyllic Tale of the Present; (2) the Heroic Tale recounting the Past and specially the Trojan war; (3) the Fairy Tale which introduces a supernatural realm. Each of these styles is poetic, yet with its own coloring and character. Here again we should observe the author employing his fundamental norm of composition a second time, and thus re-asserting himself as the same person in both divisions of the poem—in the Telemachiad as well as in the Ulyssiad.

4. In each division, again, there is a supreme woman at the center of domestic life—Penelope in the one, Arete in the other, each being wife and mother, each supremely faithful to her institution, the Family. This predominance and glorification of the married woman and the home constitute a common characteristic of both divisions, and show the same fundamental conception of her worth, as well as of her position in the social order. It may be doubted if Modern Literature has improved upon this Homeric representation.

5. Then the contrasts between the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad link them together. Disturbed Ithaca, peaceful Phæacia; the theoretic education of the son, the practical discipline of the father; Telemachus, the son of his father, Nausicaa, the daughter of her mother, the Ithacan boy and the Phæacian girl—such are a few of these contrasts. Finally father and son, strongly contrasted, yet having their unity in this family of which they are members, suggest the unity of the poem of which they are characters.

These bonds of connection are so strong that they overbalance all discrepancies of single passages, interpolations, and inconsistencies of detail. Still, if the mind of the critic refuses the general sweep, and insists upon prying asunder the joints, and upon looking through its microscope at the little things, it will find only separation, discord, and many small Homers instead of a single great Homer. The particular always divides, but the general unites; so the Homeric poems will have two sets of reader, the dividers and the unifiers.

The Education of Telemachus. This is another name, which we have frequently used, for the Telemachiad. The Homeric youth is also to get his training for life; he is to find and to take possession of his inheritance transmitted from the Past. The general statement of this educational fact occurs frequently in the work: Telemachus wishes to know about his father. That is his immediate inquiry, which will extend to knowing something about the fathers and what they did; then his investigation will go beyond the fathers and the Greek world, reaching over into Egypt and the East. The function of education is to put into possession of the coming man the wisdom of the Past, and specially the means for acquiring this wisdom; then he can transmit the intelligence of the race to those who are to follow him. So Telemachus has attained the age when he must know ancestral wisdom. Such is his strong instinct, he feels his limitation, he is penned up in a narrow life at Ithaca, whose barriers cramp his free spirit. This intense desire for education, for finding out something about the world in which he is placed, is the starting point for the boy. He shows his spirit by breaking through the restraint of the Suitors and his mother in order to get an education. Like many a youth to-day, he has to leave home, has to run away, in fact, that he may have his opportunity. What does he get? Or, what is the content of this education! Let us see.

1. We find that he gets a fair amount of religious training. He has been led through the misfortunes of his House to question the goodness of Providence and the superintendence of the Gods. But Minerva gives him a strong lesson, so does Nestor. He obtains a glimpse of the Divine Order, and feels the necessity of keeping in harmony with the same. The outcome of his visit must impress him with the providential side in human action.

2. He sees new countries, talks with famous men, and partakes of their wisdom. Chiefly, however, he hears of the grand Return in its manifold phases; he learns the story of those who failed, of those who reached home, like Nestor and Menelaus. Great is the lesson; this Return images the movement of the soul, the breach within and the restoration. It is remotely his own inner life outlined, and that of every man; Telemachus has just made a separation from home and country, to which he must come back and be reconciled. His own soul-form he must dimly feel in the great Return of the Heroes from Troy, and their various destinies he must recognize to be his own possibilities.

3. Telemachus the aspiring youth, is trying to recover his patrimony, which is of two kinds, physical and spiritual. The Suitors are destroying the one, and keeping it out of his hands; with them is one conflict, that of justice. But he must also inherit his father's mental riches; he has to separate from home and his mother to find this form of wealth or even to learn of its nature. So Telemachus has his Trojan expedition, not so great in itself, yet, adventurous enough for a boy. He is moving on the lines of his father when the latter went to Troy—a national affair; but his deed is a breaking loose from boyhood—the breach out of which he is to come back a man.

4. The form of this educative process of the Odyssey is very different from ours. It seizes hold of the mythical element in man, and the reader of to-day is to penetrate to the meaning by something of an effort. Telemachus is to see Helen; what does that signify in education? He is to hear the Tale of Proteus and feel its purport in relation to his own discipline. One asks: Is not this imaginative form still a vital element of education? The Odyssey has been and is now a school-book of the race.



We have now reached the second grand division of the poem, the Odyssey proper, which we have named under necessity the Ulyssiad, and which gives an account of the adventures of Ulysses before he comes to Ithaca and joins Telemachus. If the division which we have just had may be called the education of a youth, this division may be called the discipline of a man through experience of the world. The whole embraces eight Books, fifth to twelfth inclusive, with a little of the thirteenth. There is no doubt that this is the most subtly constructed piece of writing in existence, transparent in the highest degree, and yet profound as thought itself. We may therefore, look a little at the structure in advance.

The first thing to be noticed is that there are two very distinct movements in the present division. On the one hand the action moves through three separate localities—Ogygia or Calypso's Island, Phæacia, Fableland. This external movement of the poem has its inner counterpart, which the reader is to penetrate. On the other hand there is the movement of the individual, the Hero Ulysses, who begins with Fableland, passes through Ogygia and comes to Phæacia. This movement also has its corresponding internal significance. As the first movement is that of the poem, or of the world, we may call it objective; as the second movement is that of the individual man, we may call it subjective. The two together, accordingly, spin the two strands of the world and of man into the one thread of existence. Both we shall consider.


The objective sweep with its three localities is coupled with geographical names which have given to the erudite guild a great deal of trouble, with very small reward. In general these names of places may be deemed to be mythical, yet with certain far-off gleams of actual lands. Much more distinct and real is their spiritual significance. The objective movement shadows forth the movement of society, the rise of civilization, the becoming of the institutional world, which is here unfolded through three stages in the following order:—

1. Ogygia is the pure product of nature without cultivation or with very little. It is the place where the natural man must conquer his appetites, and long for, and finally seek for, a realm of order. Calypso is the concealer, she who conceals spirit in the jungle of nature. Here, then, occurs the primordial breach between the physical and spiritual, out of which an institutional world can rise.

2. Phæacia now appears, in which we behold the fundamental institutions of man, Family and State, in their primitive idyllic condition, yet transcendently pure and beautiful. The evolution of this new order from the savage Cyclops is hinted in the poem. Only after Calypso is put aside, do Arete the wife and Nausicaa the maid become possible. Upon such a foundation a social system can be developed, with commerce, navigation, etc. Still further, Phæacia can begin to mirror itself in art, as it does here in the songs of the bard, and also in games.

3. Fableland comes next, really a product of self-conscious art. In it are set forth the struggles which arise between man and the civilized order. Phæacia is the simple condition of peace; man is in complete harmony with himself and his institutional environment. But what if he falls out with both? That will be a new stage, represented by a new set of beings, who are to indicate not so much the conflict with nature as the conflict with spirit. The world of reality is transcended, marvelous shapes sweep into view, Polyphemus, Circe, the Sirens, even the supersensible realm of Hades—all of which, however, must await a special exposition. Still we should note that after this ideal realm of struggle and desperate enterprise comes the real world of strife, Ithaca, which is to be harmonized by the man who has passed through this Fableland, and has reached an ideal harmony in Phæacia.


We soon find that Ulysses has been thrown back to Calypso's Isle from Fableland, of which in a certain sense it is the continuation. The circle which he has passed through is, therefore, the following:—

This is, then, the movement of the individual, in contrast with the previous sweep of the poem as a whole, which represents the movement of the world. Both are bound together, both pass through the same stages, though in a different order. The process of social development begins with the state of Nature, with Ogygia, unfolds into a simple institutional life, into Phæacia, which then enters into certain negative phases, such as are seen in Fableland. But the man from Troy, Ulysses, begins with the last, and is whelmed back into the first, and finally rests in the second before going to Ithaca. Let us note this personal movement in a little more detail.

1. Ulysses passes into Fableland, having wantonly done a deed of violence against civilized life and order by destroying the city of the Ciconians (Book IX), as he was returning from the Trojan War. Such is the negative element in him, which has been engendered by that war, and which now appears in various manifestations, such as his doings with Polyphemus and Circe, till his career in Fableland winds up with destroying the Oxen of the Sun. This is the extreme negative act which throws him back beyond Circe's into Calypso's realm. He assaults really his own will in this last act, he undermines his own power of recovery, he puts out his own light. Circe would have sent him forward again, leaving intact his will-power; Calypso detains him lulled in the sensuous delights of her bower. He denies his own reason; how then can he rise after a fall? Indeed what use is there of rising? So he sinks down into Ogygia, the Dark Island.

2. It is no wonder, therefore, that he remained with Calypso seven years and more, draining to the dregs the cup of that life. Still he has desire to return home, must have it, he must possess reason to deny reason. He longs for what he has not, sensuous charms cannot drown his aspiration; such is the Hell in which he has placed himself. Still even here when he has passed his probation, he must be released by a decree of the Gods, who, formerly favorable to Neptune, the divine foe of Ulysses, have now become friendly to Minerva, the Hero's protectress. Why this change in the everlasting powers? When Ulysses is ready to leave Ogygia, the Gods cannot keep him there, they have to change; the divine Order must help him escape, if it be divine. This is just what happens; Zeus, voice of the Olympian law, commands his departure, and Calypso must obey.

3. Ulysses, then, comes to Phæacia, an institutional land with social, domestic, and political life. From the grot of Calypso he passes to the home of Arete; both woman and man are in an ethical relation. He sees a world of peace and harmony, he witnesses the corrective of his own negative Trojan experience. He, having taken Phæacia into himself, has a remedy for distracted Ithaca; he has beheld an ideal to which he can adjust his own land. He was not the man to bring civil order to Ithaca just after the destruction of Troy; now he has passed through his own destructive phases, has become conscious of them, has told them to the Phæacians, which long account has in it the character of a confession. All is given in a mythical form, but it is none the less an acknowledgment of error from first to last. He is the poetical confessor of himself, and the Phæacians are contemplating the grand experience in the mirror of art.

We may now see the reason why the poet began the story of Ulysses with the stay at Calypso's Isle. Thus the poem unfolds in the order of society, starting with the state of nature, passing thence to a civilized condition, and showing finally the conflicts of the same with the negative forces which develop in its own bosom. Homer could have landed Ulysses at Phæacia, and could have made the Ulyssiad start in that sphere, placing Calypso's Book just after the account of the slaughter of the Oxen of the Sun. But what a loss would that have been! No social development would thus be suggested in the movement of the poem, and the individual Ulysses would have to pass, not from institutional Phæacia, but from savage Ogygia to the reformation of Ithaca. In this way we realize to ourselves the true instinct, or perchance the profound thought which underlies the structure of this portion of the poem.

Thus we conceive the double movement of the Ulyssiad through its three main stages, in which we feel strongly emphasized the idea of development, of a genetic process. These lands and peoples are generated by the wanderer's own spirit, though they all exist in their own right and are carefully set down in Homeric geography. Ogygia is the product of Ulysses himself, and so he goes thither to the reality. The misfortunes in these lands are the very deeds of the offenders returning upon them. As the Gods are both subjective and objective, so are these poetic places and persons; they are both in Ulysses and outside of him, they are the inner change of the individual and the outer development of the world. Each, however, fits into the other, is inseparably intertwined with the other; both together form the double movement which is the fundamental structural fact of the present division of the Odyssey.

Of course our unfolding of the subject must follow the movement of the poem, but we shall not neglect the movement of the individual. Accordingly Calypso's Island, Ogygia, is the realm which is to be first considered.



In this Book the reader will observe two distinct parts, which are so often found in Homer and constitute the deepest distinction in his poems: these two parts are the Upper World of the Gods and the Lower World of Man, both of which are shown in action and counteraction. The grand dualism between the mortal and the immortal is fused into a living narrative and makes the warp and woof of Homeric poesy. The general purport of both parts is seen to be the same at bottom: it is to remove the obstacles which stand in the way of the Return of Ulysses to home and country. These obstacles arise from the Gods above and from Nature below—the divine and the physical, though the latter also is presided over by deities. Thus the Greek hero, with the aid of the higher Gods, is to put down the lower ones, or convert them into aids for his advancement towards the grand end, which is his institutional life in Family and State. In this way only can Ulysses, from his alienation, attain unto harmony with himself and with the Divine Order.

The first part of the Book gives the Council of the Gods and its consequences reaching down to the mortal who is the subject of deliberation. We shall note three stages in this movement from Olympus to Earth: (1) Zeus to Hermes, (2) Hermes to Calypso, (3) Calypso to Ulysses. Thus from the highest the decree is brought below and opens the providential way.

The second part deals with the mortal, who is brought into relation with three Gods, all representing phases of the physical element of water: (1) Neptune, the great deity of the sea, (2) Ino Leucothea, a lesser deity of the same, (3) the River-God, through whose channel Ulysses comes at last to land. It is manifest that he must rise beyond these water-divinities with their uncertain fluctuating element, and attain to the fixed earth with its life, ere he can find repose. We shall now develop these two parts of the Book with their subdivisions in the order stated above.


First then is the divine obstacle, which has to be removed by the Gods in Homer, when the individual is ready to have it removed. This obstacle is at present centered in the Goddess Calypso, the marvelous concealer and extinguisher of the Hero in her island Ogygia. Neptune is not here spoken of, though his element, the sea, is mentioned as something which must also be met and transcended; the Hero through his own will can surmount this difficulty. Verily Calypso is the grand spiritual hindrance of Ulysses, and, to help him get rid of it, the Olympians assemble and start the movement, the conditions being that he is internally prepared to be helped by the Gods. Of the latter fact we shall note a number of indications hereafter.

Of this divine activity in removing the first obstacle we may distinguish three phases:—

1. The council of the Gods on Olympus under the presidency of Zeus, and the decree there.

2. Hermes is sent by the supreme deity to Calypso, with the decree.

3. Calypso imparts the decree to Ulysses, who soon sets about doing his part.

In this brief outline we see the descent of the divine influence from Zeus the Highest, through Hermes messenger of the Gods, to Calypso, a local subordinate deity, down to the mortal Ulysses who is to get the benefit thereof. Thus the poet makes his world-order ready for the deed of the man, who is now to act with all the energy of his being, and not lie back expecting the Gods to do everything for him. Such is the situation between the divine and human sides, of which we shall elaborate the former a little more fully.

1. The council of the Gods in which the matter is now discussed, seems somewhat like a repetition of the one at the beginning of the First Book, which indeed starts the whole poem. At present we may suppose that the poet wishes to recall that first council and its decree to the mind of the reader, inasmuch as the latter is now to begin the second grand division of the poem, the Odyssey proper, or Return of Ulysses.

Pallas takes up the complaint and arraigns Providence on an ethical ground: the good king is forgotten and the good man suffers. To the face of the Supreme Ruler she draws the conclusion: "Let not any sceptered king henceforth be kind to his people and recognize justice, but always let him be harsh and work unrighteousness." Then she cites the unhappy lot of Ulysses. But Zeus throws the charge back upon Pallas, for she already had laid the divine plan that Ulysses was to take vengeance on wrong-doing suitors, and Telemachus she could save "by her skill," if so she chose. Here Pallas again hints as she did in the First Book, the two lines on which the poem moves (Telemachus and Ulysses), and she also notes the two present obstacles (Calypso and the sea) in the way of the Return of Ulysses.

The divine activity begins work at once: Zeus sends Hermes to Calypso with the Olympian decree. Ulysses, however, is to reach home "without any escort of the Gods or of mortal men;" that is, he must exercise his own free-will tremendously, there is to be no special intervention of the Gods without the corresponding human effort. Note this passage as indicating the consciousness of the poet respecting divine help; it is not to take the place of free agency, but to complement the same. The Hero will have to sail on a raft, "suffering evils;" but he will reach "the land of the Phæacians, near of kin to the Gods," where he will be "honored as a God," and will be sent home with abounding wealth, "more than he would ever have received at Troy, returning unharmed with his share of the booty." Such is the promise of the world-governor to the self-reliant man; this promise is not fate but foresight on the part of the Supreme God. "Thus is the Hero destined to see again his friends," namely by means of a small raft or float, which he alone must control in his own strength, without the help of God or man. Such is the reward of heroic endeavor, proclaimed by Zeus himself.

2. The messenger Hermes begins his flight down to Calypso, holding his magic wand, with which he puts men to sleep or wakens them, imparting the power of vision or taking it away. He reaches the wonderful island with its grot, the account of which has been a master-stroke in literature, and shows that the description of nature was not alien to the Greek poet, though he rarely indulges in it. One thinks that the passage contains a suggestion of much modern writing of the kind.

It is to be noted that this island is mostly a wild product, it has had very little training from its resident. A natural house and garden we see it to be in the main; the senses, especially sight and smell, are gratified immediately by physical objects. There is little indication of Art, possibly a beginning in the singing and weaving; rude nature may have been transformed somewhat in the four fountains and in the trailing grape-vine. But this description is not made for its own sake, as are many modern descriptions of nature; the whole is the true environment for Calypso, and suggests her character.

Her name means the concealer, concealed herself in that lone sea-closed island, and concealing others. Undeveloped she is, like nature, yet beautiful; sunken still in the life of the senses, she dwells in her little paradise without any inner scission. But it must be recollected that Ulysses is not native to the island, he has come or rather fallen hither, from a higher condition. He, therefore, has the scission in himself, he longs to leave and be restored out of this realm of mere nature.

With such a longing the Gods must coincide, for they are the Gods of culture, of the rise out of the physical. The long Journey of Hermes hints the distance between Olympus and Calypso's isle—a distance which has its spiritual counterpart. The command of the Olympians is borne to this lower Goddess; Hermes is the voice of the higher ethical divinity to the lower one of mere nature. But even the higher God has his physical counterpart, is not yet wholly a spirit; so Hermes eats his ambrosia and drinks his nectar set before him by Calypso in true Greek fashion and misses the smoke of sacrifices along his barren route.

It is curious to see how Hermes plays with polytheism, hinting ever so slyly the contradiction in the Greek Pantheon. "Why dost thou a God ask me a God why I come?" It is indeed an absurd question, for a God ought to know in advance. In numerous places we can trace a subtle Homeric humor which crops out in dealing with his many deities, indicating a start toward their dissolution. Then with a strong assertion of the supremacy of one God, Zeus, Hermes utters the unwilling word: Ulysses must depart from this island.

The answer of Calypso is significant, she charges the Gods with jealousy; "Ye grudge the Goddesses openly to mate with men," which proposition she nails by several examples. But the Gods reserve to themselves the privilege of license with mortal women. A complaint still heard, not in the Olympian but in our Lower World; men are not held to the same code of morals that women are! But Calypso yields up her lover whom she "thought to make immortal and ageless." What else can she do? It is true that she saved him once and has preserved him till the present; she is, however, but a stage which must now be transcended. Appetite may preserve man, still he is to rise above appetite.

3. Now Ulysses is brought before us. The first fact about him is, his intense longing to return home; he is found "sitting on the shore, and his eyes were never dry of tears" as he looked out on the sea toward his country; "for the nymph was no longer pleasing to him," whatever may have been the case once. Surely the hero is in bonds which he cannot break, though he would; a penitential strand we may well find in his sorrow; thus he is ready for release.

Calypso, therefore, announces to him the divine plan: he must make a raft and commit himself to the waters. She has to obey, for is she not really conquered by Ulysses? Certainly the divine order requires her to send the man away from her island. Yet the return is by no means made easy, but is to be won by hardest effort; he must grapple with the waves, with angry Neptune after leaving Calypso. No wonder that Ulysses shuddered at the proposition; truly he has the choice between the devil and the deep sea, and he manfully chooses the latter. First, however, the Goddess has to take the great oath "by Earth, by Heaven above and Styx below," the sum total of the physical universe, from whose presence the perjurer cannot escape, though a God, that she is not practicing any hidden guile against her much-desired guest. Always the doubter, the skeptic Ulysses will show himself, even toward a divinity. He must test the Gods also, as well as man. Very beautiful and humane is the answer of the Goddess: "Such things I plan and deliberate for thee as I would devise for myself, were I in so great straits. For I too have a righteous mind, and the heart within my breast is not of iron, but compassionate."

Has a change come over the Goddess through this visit from Olympus? Hardly could she have felt this before, else she would have sent away Ulysses of her own accord. Her adjustment to the divine decree seems now to be internal, and not simply a yielding to an external power. Still the separation costs her deep pangs, and she wonders how Ulysses, a mortal, can give her up, who is immortal, with all her beauty and the pleasures of her paradise.

The answer of Ulysses reveals the man in his present stale of mind. He recognizes Calypso as beautiful, deathless, ever young; still he must have something more than sensuous life and beauty; though it last forever, it can never satisfy. Not to be compared with the Goddess in grace and stature, is his wife Penelope, still he longs for his home; "yea, though some God wreck me on the wine-dark deep, I shall endure." But there is no doubt the other side is also present in Ulysses; he has within himself a strong sensuous nature with which is the battle, and the poem does not disguise the matter, for he is again ready to enjoy all the pleasures of Calypso's bower, after this paroxysm of home-sickness.

Such is the deep struggle of the man; such is also the divine obstacle, which has to be removed by an Olympian interference before he can return. We see that Ulysses in spite of all blandishments of the Goddess and momentary weakness of himself, was ready for its removal; in his heart he has overcome Calypso, and wishes to get back to his institutional life in Family and State. Such a man must return, the Gods must be on his side, else they are not Gods. According to the Greek conception, Calypso is a subordinate deity who must be put down by the Olympians; appetite is not a devil, but a lower good, which must be adjusted to the higher. Note, then, that the external stream, or the world-movement represented by the Gods, now unites with the internal stream, the spirit of the individual, and brings forth the great event. As stated often before, these two streams run through all Homeric poetry.

Ulysses now makes his raft; the hero is also a ship-builder, being the self-sufficient man, equal to any emergency, in whom lie all possibilities. The boat, still quite primitive, is constructed before our eyes; It is the weapon for conquering Neptune, and prophesies navigation. Calypso aids him in every way, she even supplies him with tools, the axe, the adze, the augur, which imply a more advanced state of civilization than has hitherto appeared in the Dark Island. Whence did she obtain them? No special answer is given; hence we are thrown back upon a general answer. Calypso is the original wild state of nature; but her transformation has begun, she helps Ulysses in her new character. These tools are themselves formed from nature into means for subduing nature; the instrument of bronze in the hands of the wood-cutter is the master of the tree. At present Calypso is also such an instrument; she, the wild product of nature, is herself transformed into a means for helping Ulysses conquer the mighty physical element before him; an implement she has become in the hand of the Gods for restoring the heroic endurer, and hence she can emblematically hand him these material implements, for they are one with her present spirit. Indeed we may carry the analogy one step further, turning it inwardly: Calypso, though once the inciter to sensuous desire, now helps the man put it away and flee from it; ethically she is converted into an instrument against her former self. In like manner nature is turned against nature by the thinking artificer.

Also food and drink and raiment the Island Goddess furnishes for the voyage; with rare skill she tells him how to direct his course by the stars; she is mistress over the winds, it seems, for she sends the right one to blow. Wonderful indeed is the change; all those forces of nature, formerly so hostile, have been transformed into helpers, Calypso herself being also transformed. Thus we catch the outlines of the Fairy Tale or marvelous story, which tells, in a supernatural way, of man's mastery of the physical world, once so destructive, now so obedient.

Cloth for his sails she brought him, but we must recollect that she was a weaver at the start of the story. At last Ulysses pushes his raft down into the fair salt sea; Ogygia, the place of nature's luxuriance and delight, is left behind; he must quit the natural state, however paradisaical, and pass to the social order, to Ithaca, though the latter be poor and rocky. Still we may well recall the fact that the island and Calypso once saved Ulysses, when wrecked elsewhere, on account of the slaughter done to the Oxen of the Sun; this wild spot furnished him natural shelter, food, gratification; nay, it gave him love.

To be sure, the other side is not to be forgotten: it had to be transcended, when it kept him away from the higher institutional life. Ulysses, the wonderful, limit-transcending spirit, unfolds within even while caught in this wild jungle; he evolves out of it, as man has evolved out of it, thus he hints the movement of his race, which has to quit a cave-life and a mere sensuous existence. Such is the decree of the Gods, for all time: the man must abandon Calypso, who is herself to be transformed into an instrument of his progress.

We may now begin to see what Calypso means, in outline at least. The difficulty of comprehending her lies in her twofold character: at one time she is nature, then she is the helper against nature. But just therein is her movement, her development. She is Goddess of this Island, where she rules; but she is a lesser deity who has to be subordinated to the Olympians, as nature must be put under spirit. The Greek deified nature, not being able to diabolize it; still he knew that it must be ruled and transmuted by mind. Thus Calypso is a Goddess, inferior, confined to one locality, but having sensuous beauty as nature has. She, without ethical content, as purely physical, stands in the way of institutions, notably the Family; she seduces the man, and holds him by his senses, by his passion, till he rise out of her sway. On this side her significance is plain: she is the female principle which stands between Ulysses and his wedded wife, she not being wedded. Thus she is an embodiment of nature, from the external landscape in which she is set, to internal impulse, to the element of sex. So it comes that she is represented as a beautiful woman, but beauty without its ethical content can no longer chain Ulysses. That charm is broken, in spite of passing relapses.

Then comes the other side of Calypso's character, as already indicated: she changes, she turns and helps Ulysses put down herself and get away from her world, furnishing him quite all the means for his voyage. Not without a certain regret and parting display of her charms does she do this; still the change is real, and at the last stage we must imagine a Calypso transformed or partially so.

The enchantress on her magic island is a favorite theme with the Fairy Tale, and the situation in itself rouses curiosity and wonder. The bit of land floating on the sea in appearance, yet withstanding wave and tempest, is, to the sailor, the home of supernatural beings. The story of Calypso has the tinge of nautical fancy. In like manner the story of Robinson Crusoe is that of a sea-faring people. We see in it the ship-wrecked man, the lone island, the struggle with nature for food and shelter. But Defoe has no supernatural realm playing into his narrative—no beautiful nymph, no Olympian Gods. That twofold Homeric conception of an Upper and Lower World, of a human and divine element in the great experience, is lost; the Englishman is practical, realistic, utilitarian even in his pious observations, which he flings into his text from the outside at given intervals.

Ogygia, the abode of Calypso, means the Dark Island, upon which Ulysses is cast after the destruction of the Oxen of the Sun. Calypso, in harmony with the name of her abode, signifies the concealer—and that is what has happened to Ulysses, his light is hidden. She is the daughter of Atlas, who has two mental traits assigned to him; he is evil-minded and he knows all the depths of the sea. A demonic being endowed with his dark knowledge of things out of sight; he has a third trait also, "he upholds of himself the long pillars which keep Heaven and Earth apart" (Book I. 53). Naturally under such a burden he is not in good humor. Calypso is the daughter who, along with her grot, may be conceived to have risen out of the obscure depths of the sea, with something of her father's disposition. Doubtless Greek sailors could behold in her image the dangerous rocks which lurked unseen beneath the waters around her island. The comparative mythologist finds in her tale the clouds obscuring or concealing the Sun (here Ulysses) till the luminary breaks out of his concealment and shines in native glory. Something of truth lies in these various views, but the fundamental meaning is not physical, but ethical.


We now come to the great physical obstacle standing in the way of the Return of Ulysses, the sea, which, however, has always its divine side to the Greek mind. A series of water-deities will rise before us out of this mighty element, assuming various attitudes toward the solitary voyager. Three of them, showing themselves as hostile (Neptune), as helpful (Ino Leucothea), as saving (the River-God); all three too seem in a kind of gradation, from the vast total sea, through one of its phases, to the small stream pouring into the sea from the land. Thus the Greek imagination, playing with water, deified the various appearances thereof, specially in their relation to man. The introduction of these three marine divinities naturally organizes this second part of the Fifth Book into three phases or stages. Such is the divine side now to be witnessed.

Parallel to this runs the human side, represented by the lone hero Ulysses, who is passing through a fearful ordeal of danger with its attendant emotions of anxiety, terror, hope, despair. A very hard test is surely here applied to weak mortal flesh. We shall observe that he passes through a series of mental perturbations at each divine appearance; he runs up and down a scale of doubt, complaint, resolution. His weakness he will show, yet also his strength; dubitation yet faith; he will hesitate, yet finally act. Thus he saves himself at last through his own will, yet certainly with the help of the Gods; for both sides have to co-operate to bring about the heroic act of his deliverance.

Pallas also comes to the aid of her favorite, but in an indirect manner. The sea does not seem to be her element. She stops the winds and "informs his mind with forecast," but she does not personally appear and speak, nor is she addressed, as is the case with the water-gods. She plays in by the way in this marine emergency; her appearances now do not organize the action. But the three appearances of the water-gods are the organic principle, their element being at present the scene of the adventure. On these lines we shall note the course of the poem in some detail.

1. Neptune returning from the Ethiopians to Hellas, sees the lone sailor with his little craft from the heights of the mountain called Solyma; at once the God's wrath is roused and he talks to himself, "shaking his head." The clouds, the winds, the ocean obeyed his behest, and fell upon the voyager in a furious tempest. A huge billow whirled the raft around and threw Ulysses off into the deep; with difficulty be regained his place, and escaped death.

A vivid picture of the grand obstacle to early navigation, of which Neptune is the embodiment. Why should he not be angry at the man who seeks to tame him? The raft means his ultimate subjection. Nature resists the hand which subdues her at first, and then gracefully yields. To be sure there had to be a mythical ground for Neptune's anger at Ulysses: the latter had put out the eye of his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, which was another phase of the subjection of wild nature to intelligence. For seventeen days Ulysses had easy sailing, guided by the stars; but the sea has its destructive side which must also be experienced by the much-enduring man.

Corresponding to this outer tempest, we observe an inner tempest in the soul of Ulysses. "O me wretched! what is now to happen to me!" Terror unmans him for the time being; regret weakens him: "Thrice happy, four times happy the Greeks who fell on Troy's broad plain!" Thus he goes back in memory to his heroic epoch and wishes for death then. Too late it is, for while he is lamenting, a wave strikes him and tosses him out into the deep; now he has to act, and this need of action saves him from his internal trituration, as well as from external death.

With this renewed energy of the will, a new help appears, a divine aid from the sea. For without his own strong effort, no God can rescue him, however powerful. That toss out into the waves was not without its blessing.

2. Ino Leucothea, Ino the white Goddess, beholds him with pity in his extremity—she was once mortal herself but now is divine. Her function seems to be to help the shipwrecked mariner; her name reminds the reader of the white calm of the sea, elsewhere celebrated by Homer (Book X, 94; Nitzsch's observation). Thus she appears to represent the peaceful placid mood of the marine element, which rises in the midst of the storm and imparts hope and courage, nay predicts safety. She gives her veil to Ulysses, in which commentators trace a suggestion of the fillet or sacred cloth which was given out from a temple in Samothrace, and had the power of saving the endangered mariner, if he had tied it round his body. As it is here employed, it strangely suggests a life-preserver. At any rate Ino is the calming power opposed to angry Neptune, and she works upon both the waters and the man.

"Ill-fated man," she cries, "why hast thou so angered Neptune?" Then she changes her note: "Still he shall not destroy thee, however much he desires." She bids him give up his raft to the anger of Neptune, throw away his clinging wet garments of Calypso, and swim to the land of the Phæacians. Then she hands him the veil which he is to "bind beneath his breast," and, when he has reached land, he is to throw it back into the sea. A ritual of some kind, symbolic acts we feel these to be, though their exact meaning may be doubtful. Ino, "the daughter of Cadmus," is supposed to have been a Phœnician Goddess originally, and to have been transferred to the Greek sailor, just as his navigation came to him, partly at least, from the Phœnicians. If he girded himself with the consecrated veil of Leucothea, the Goddess of the calm, Neptune himself in wrath could not sink him.

Such was the faith required of Ulysses, but now comes the internal counterstroke: his skepticism. "Ah me! what if some God is planning another fraud against me, bidding me quit my raft!" The doubter refuses to obey and clings to his raft. But the waves make short work of it now, and Ulysses by sheer necessity has to do as the Goddess bade him; "with hands outspread he plunged into the sea," the veil being underneath him. When he quits his raft, and is seen in the water, Neptune dismisses him from view with a parting execration, and Pallas begins to help him, not openly, but indirectly.

In such manner the great doubter is getting toward shore, but even here his doubts cease not. Steep jutting cliffs may not permit him to land, the billows may dash him to death on the sharp shoaly rocks, or carry him out again to sea, or some huge monster of the deep may snap him up in its jaws; thus he is dashed about internally, on the billows of doubt. But this grinding within is stopped by the grinding he gets without; a mighty surge overwhelms him, he clutches a rock and saves himself, but leaves flakes of flesh from his hands behind on the rock. "He swam along the coast and eyed it well," he even reaches the mouth of a soft-flowing river, where was a smooth beach and a shelter from the wind. Here is the spot so long desired, here then he passes to an act of faith, he prays to the river which becomes at once to the Greek imagination a God.

3. This brings us to the third water deity, and we observe a kind of scale from the universal one, Neptune, down to a local one, that of the river. The middle one, Ino, is the humane kindly phase of the great deep, showing her kinship with man; Neptune was the ruder god of the physical sea, and, to the Homeric Greek, the most powerful and natural. No wonder that he was angry at that little raft and its builder; it meant his ultimate subjection.

The prayer of Ulysses to the River-God is, on the whole, the finest passage in the present Book. It shows him now a man of faith, humbled though he be to the last degree of misery: "Hear me, ruler, whoever thou art, I approach thee much-besought. The deathless Gods revere the prayer of him who comes to them and asks for mercy, as I now come to thy stream. Pity, ruler, me thy suppliant." Certainly a lofty recognition of the true nature of deity; no wonder that the River stayed his current, smoothed the waves and made a calm before him. Such a view of the Gods reveals to us the inner depths of the Hero's character; it calls to mind that speech of Phœnix in the Iliad (Book Ninth) where he says that the Gods are placable. As soon as Ulysses makes this utterance from his heart, he is saved, the Divine Order is adjusted to his prayer, he having of course put himself into harmony with the same. He has no longer any need of the protecting veil of the sea-goddess Ino, having escaped from the angry element, and obtained the help of the new deity belonging to the place. He restores the veil to the Goddess according to her request, in which symbolic act we may possibly read a consecration of the object which had saved him, as well as a recognition of the deity: "This veil of salvation belongs not to me, but to the Goddess." Not of his strength alone was he saved from the waves.

Such is one side of Ulysses, that of faith, of the manifestation of the godlike in man, especially when he is in the very pinch of destruction. But Ulysses would not be Ulysses, unless he showed the other side too, that of unfaith, weak complaint, and temporary irresolution. So, when he is safe on the bank of the stream, he begins to cry out: "What now am I to suffer more! If I try to sleep on this river's brink for the night, the frost and dew and wind will kill me; and if I climb this hill to yonder thicket, I fear a savage beast will eat me while I slumber." It is well to be careful, O Ulysses, in these wild solitudes; now let the petulant outburst just given, be preparatory to an act of will which will settle the problem. "He rose and went to the wood near by; he crept under two bushes that grew from the same place, one the wild and the other the tame olive." There in a heap of leaves—man's first bed—he slept under the intertwined branches of the two olives—nature's shelter against wind, rain, sun. He, with all his cultivation is quite reduced to the condition of the primitive man.

One cannot help feeling a symbolic intention in these two olive trees, one wild and one cultivated. They represent in a degree the two phases of the man sleeping under them; they hint also the transition which he is making from the untamed nature of Calypso's island to the more civilized land of Phæacia. The whole Book is indeed the movement to a new life and a new country. We might carry out the symbolic hint much further on these lines, and see a meaning in their interwoven branches and the protection they are giving at present; but the poetic suggestion flashing afar over poem backwards and forwards is the true effect, and may be dimmed by too much explanation.

Such is this marvelous storm with its ship-wreck, probably the first in literature, but often made use of since. The outer surges of the tempest are indeed terrific; but the main interest is, that along with this external description of the storm, we witness the corresponding internal heaving and tossing of a human soul. Everywhere we notice that Ulysses doubts at first, doubts Calypso, doubts Ino, doubts even his final safety when on land. He is the skeptical man, he never fails to call up the possibilities on the other side. Though a God give the promise, he knows that there are other Gods who do not promise, or may give a different promise to somebody else. It is the experience of life, this touch of doubt at first; it always accompanies the thinking man, who, like Ulysses, must be aware of a negative counterpart even to truth. Not pleasant, but painful is this doubt shooting through the soul, and keeping it in distress and often in lamentation. So even the Hero breaks out into unmanly complaint, and reveals to the full his finite nature.

Yet if Ulysses doubts, he always overcomes his doubt in the end; he sees the positive element in the world to be deeper than the negative one, after a little access of weakness. Under his doubt is the deeper layer of faith, so he never gives up, but valiantly holds on and conquers. The Gods come to his aid when he believes and acts. His intellect is doubt, his will is faith: wherein we may trace important lines which unite him with Faust, the chief character in our last world-poem. Ulysses will complain, and having freed his mind, will go to work and conquer the obstacle. He struggles with the billow, clinging to the mast, though he had just said: "Now I shall die a miserable death."

Parallel to this human side runs the divine side, which we need not further describe here, with its three water-deities. A little attention we may give to the part of Pallas. At one time she seems to control the outer world for her favorite, sending the wind or stopping it; then she is said to inform his mind with forecast, that he may do the thing in spite of wind or other obstacle; finally he often does the deed without any divine suggestion, acting through himself. In these stages we can see a transition of the Mythus. The first stage is truly mythical, in which the deity is the mover, the second is less so, the Goddess having become almost wholly internal; in the third stage the mythical is lost. All these stages are in Homer and in this Book, though the first is still paramount.

Taking into view the general character of the mythical movement of this Fifth Book, we observe that there is a rise in it from a lower to a higher form; Calypso and Neptune are intimately blended with their physical environments, the island and the sea. Though elevated into persons, they are still sunk in Nature; it is the function of the Hero, especially the wise man, to subordinate both or to transcend both: which is just what Ulysses has done. His Mythus is, therefore, a higher one, telling the story of the subjection of nature and of her Gods. This story marks one phase of his career.

The reader will probably be impressed with the fact that in the present Book the stress is upon the discipline of the will. The inner reactions of complaint, doubt, or despair turn against the deed, to which Ulysses has to nerve himself by a supreme act of volition. The world of Calypso is that of self-indulgence, inactivity, will-lessness, to which Ulysses has sunk after his sin against the source of light, after his negation of all intelligence. It is not simply sensuous gratification with the mind still whole and capable of resolution, as was the case with Ulysses in the realm of Circe, in which he shows his will-power, though coupled with indulgence. Such is the difference between Calypso and Circe, which is always a problem with the reader. In this way, too, we see how the Fifth Book before us is a direct continuation and unfolding out of the Twelfth Book. Indeed the very movement of the poem is significant, which is a going backwards; so Ulysses drops far to the rear out of that light-loving Island of the Sun, against which is his violation, when he comes to Ogygia.

But Ulysses has now, after long discipline, transcended this sphere, and has reached a new land, of which the account is to follow next.



We are now to make one of the chief transitions of the poem, we are going to pass from the Dark Island and the stormy sea to Phæacia, a bright, sunlit land, where reign peace and harmony. Moreover, we move out of the realm of nature to that of institutions. Still more significant are the central figures of the two localities, both women; one of these we have seen, Calypso, who is now to give way to Nausicaa.

This Book may, therefore, be called Nausicaa's Book, as she is the leading character in it, imparting to it a marvelous mood of idyllic beauty and womanly purity. She is the person chosen by the poet to introduce the Hero into the new realm, Phæacia, being in sharp contrast to Calypso, who detained Ulysses in dark Ogygia away from his family, and whose character was adverse to the domestic relation. But Nausicaa shows from the start the primal instinct of the true woman for the home. She is still young, but she has arrived at that age in which she longs with every throb of her heart to surrender her own separate existence, and to unite it with another. She manifests in all its attractiveness the primordial love of the woman for the Family, basis of all institutional life, as well as fountain of the deepest joys of our terrestrial sojourn.

On this account she represents the place of Phæacia in the Greek world as well as in the present poem; perhaps we ought to add, in the whole movement of civilization. That land may be called the idyllic one, a land of peace and of freedom from all struggle; the borderland between the natural and the civilized spheres. Man has risen out of the grossness of mere sensuous individualism, such as we see in Polyphemus and in other shapes of Fairyland; but he has not yet reached the conflicts of higher forms of society resulting from a pursuit of wealth, from ambition, from war. Here is a quiet half-way house on the road from nature to civilization; a sweet reposeful realm, almost without any development of the negative forces of society; a temporary stopping-place for Ulysses in his all-embracing career, also for individuals and nations in their rush forward to reach the great end. The deep collisions of social life belong not to Phæacia, nor to Nausicaa, its ideal image.

It is the virgin land, the virgin world, which now has a young virgin as its central character and representative, to mediate Ulysses with itself, the universal man who must also have the new experience. Still she is not all of Phæacia, but its prelude, its introductory form; moreover, she is just the person to conduct Ulysses out of his present forlorn condition of mind and body into a young fresh hope, into a new world. The Calypso life is to be obliterated by the vision of the true woman and her instinctive devotion to the Family. We are aware that Ulysses has not been contented with the Dark Island and its nymph, he has had the longing to get away and has at last gotten away; but to what has he come? Lost the one and not attained the other, till he beholds Nausicaa, who grasps him by the hand, as it were, and delivers him wholly from Calypso, leading him forth to her home, where he is to witness the central phase of domestic life, the mother.

The organism of the Book easily falls into two parts, one of which portrays Nausicaa at home, the other gives the meeting between her and Ulysses. Yet over this human movement hovers always the divine, Pallas is the active supernal power which brings these events to pass, introducing both the parts mentioned. She is the providence which the poet never permits to drop out. Most deeply does the old singer's sincerity herein move the reader, who must rise to the same elevation; Homer's loyalty is to faith, faith in the Divine Order of the World, for this is not suffered to go its way without a master spirit; the individual, especially in his pivotal action, is never left alone, but he fits in somewhere; the Whole takes him up and directs him, and adjusts him into the providential plan; not simply from without but through himself. Such is this poet's loyalty to his Idea; he has faith, deep, genuine faith, yet unostentatious, quite unconventional at times; a most refreshing, yes, edifying appearance to-day, even for religious people, though he be "an old heathen."

Such continual recurrence of the God's interference with the course of events—what does it mean? This is unquestionably the fundamental problem with the earnest student of Homer. Let us observe, then, first, that the poet's principle is not to allow a divine intervention to degenerate into a merely external mechanical act; himself full of the spirit of the God, he puts the divine influence inside the individual as well as outside, and thus preserves the latter's freedom in the providential order. The faithful reader will never let these movements of the deity drop into mere machinery; when he does, he has lost the essence of Homer. Doubtless it requires an alert activity of mind to hold the Gods always before the vision in their truth; they must be re-thought, or indeed re-created every time they appear. The somnolescent reader is only too ready to spare himself the poetic exaltation in which the old bard must be read, if we would really see the divinities, and grasp the spirit of their dealings with man. Speak not, then, of epical machinery in Homer, the word is misleading to the last degree, is indeed libellous, belieing the poet in the very soul of his art.

In the present Book there is not by any means as much divine intervention as in the preceding one; we pass from the lower realm of the water-gods to that of Pallas, the goddess of intelligence, who is the sole active divinity in this Book. She appears to Nausicaa at the beginning in the form of a dream, and bids the maiden look after some washing. Our first question is, why call in a goddess for such a purpose? The procedure seems trivial and unnecessary, and so it would be under ordinary circumstances. But through this humble and common-place duty Nausicaa is made a link in the grand chain of the Return of Ulysses, which is the divine plan underlying the whole poem, and is specially the work of Pallas. To be sure this had no place in Nausicaa's intention, but it does have a place in the providential scheme, which has, therefore, to be voiced by the Goddess. Yet that scheme does not conflict with the free-will of the maiden, which finds its fullest scope just in this household duty, and brings out her character. She reveals to Ulysses her nature, this is the occasion; she had to be free to represent what she truly was to the much-experienced man. An ordinary wash-day has little divinity in it, but this one is filled with the divine plan. Thus small events, otherwise immediately forgotten, may by a mighty co-incidence he elevated into the sphere of the World's History, and become ever memorable. That French soldier who threw a camp-kettle over the head of Mirabeau's ancestor and thus saved him from being trampled to death by a passing troop of cavalry, made himself a factor in the French Revolution, and was inspired by whom, demon or angel?

As already hinted, the structure of the Book is determined by the two interventions of Pallas, which divide it into two portions; these are shown in the following outline:—

I. (1.) Pallas appears to Nausicaa in a dream, and gives the suggestion.
  (2.) Nausicaa, when she awakes, obeys the suggestion and proceeds to the place of the washing.
II. (1.) Ulysses also asleep, lies in his cover not far from the same spot, when Pallas starts the plan for his waking.
  (2.) Meeting of Ulysses and Nausicaa, and the going to the city.

In both parts we observe the same general method; the divine influence, beginning above, moves below and weaves the mortal into its scheme through his own action.


First is a short introduction giving a bit of the history of the Phæacians, in which we catch a glimpse of their development. They once dwelt near the Cyclops, the wild men of nature, from whom they moved away on account of injuries received; they could live no longer in such a neighborhood. Here we note an important separation, probably a change of life which leaves the ruder stage behind. The colony is led forth to a new land by its hero, who lays the foundation of a social order by building houses, temples to the Gods, and a wall round the city, and who divides the territory. Thus a civil polity begins by getting away from "the insolent Cyclops" or savages. On the other hand, civilized enemies who might bring war, seem not to dwell near the Phæacians, beloved of the Gods. Beyond all conflict, inner and outer, lies the fortunate realm; it touches the happy mean between barbarism and civilization, though perchance on the road from former to latter; at present, however, it is without the evils which go before it and come after it. As already stated, it is an idyllic world, life appears to be one continued festival, with song and dance of youth. It is not real Greece, not Ithaca, which just now is a land of discord and conflict. What the poet says of Olympus in a famous passage a little further on in this book, seems applicable, in spirit at least, to Phæacia:

The storm-wind shakes it not, nor is it wet

By showers, and there the snow doth never fall;

The calm clear ether is without a cloud,

And over all is spread a soft white sheen.

1. Now comes the appearance of Pallas, who "like a breath of wind" approaches the couch of the maiden in slumber, and admonishes her about the washing. Some such care the Goddess does impose upon the housekeeper to this day, and if report be true, at times troubles her dreams. It is indeed an important duty, this necessity of keeping the household and its members clean, specially the men, too often indifferent. Young Nausicaa, just entering upon womanhood, is ready for the divine suggestion; plainly she has come to that age at which the Goddess must speak to her on such matters. So much for Pallas at present.

2. Therewith we touch another fact; the maiden has reached the time when she must think, of marriage, which she instinctively regards as her true destiny in life. Still it does not appear that she is betrothed though "the noblest Phæacians are wooing thee." In simple innocence there hovers in her mind the thought of Family, yet she shows a shy reserve even before her father. With that sweet thought is joined the primary household care, which naturally enough comes to her in a dream. Cleanliness is next to godliness is our modern saying; it is certainly the outward visible token of purity, which Nausicaa is going to bring into her domestic surroundings. We may reasonably think that in the present scene the external deed and the internal character mirror each other.

It must be confessed, however, that to the modern woman wash-day, "blue Monday," is usually a day bringing an unpleasant mood, if not positive terror. She will often declare that she cannot enjoy this Phæacian idyl on account of its associations; she refuses to accept in image what in real life is so disagreeable. As a symbol of purification the thing may pass, but no human being wishes to be purified too often. Nausicaa's occupation is not popular with her sex, and she herself has not altogether escaped from a tinge of disrelish.

It is curious to note how customs endure. What Homer saw, the traveler in Greece will see to-day wherever a stream runs near a village. The Nausicaas of the place, daughters and mothers too, will be found at the water's side, going through this same Phæacian process, themselves in white garments even at their labor, pounding, rubbing, rinsing the white garments of their husbands, brothers, sons. Not without sympathy will the by-stander look on, thinking that those efforts are to make clean themselves and their household, life being in truth a continual cleansing for every human soul. So Hellas has still the appearance of an eternal wash-day. (See author's Walk in Hellas, passim.)

Nausicaa obtains without difficulty wagon and mules and help of servants. After all, the affair is something of a frolic or outing; when the task is done, there is the bath, the song, and a game of ball. It is worthy of notice that the word (amaxa) here used by old Homer for wagon, may still be heard throughout Greece for the same or a similar thing. In the harbor of Piræus the hackman will ask the traveler: "Do you want my amaxa?" The dance (choros), is still the chief amusement of the Greek villagers, and, as in Nausicaa's time, the young man wishes to enter the dance with new-washed garments, white as snow, whose folds ripple around his body in harmony with his graceful movements. Many an echo of Phæacia, in language, custom and costume, can be found in Greece at present, indicating, like the Cyclopean masonry, the solid and permanent substructure of Homer's poetry, still in place after more than 2500 years of wear and tear.


The washing is done now, the sport is over, and the party is getting ready to go home; but the main object is not yet accomplished. Ulysses and Nausicaa are here to be brought together—the much-experienced man and the innocent maiden with her pure ethical instinct of Family. In many ways the two stand far asunder, yet in one thing they are alike: each is seeking the domestic relation, each will consummate the bond of love which has two phases, the one being after marriage and the other before marriage. Both are moving in their deepest nature toward the unity of the Family, though on different lines; Ulysses and Nausicaa have a common trait of character, which will be sympathetically found by each and will bring them together.

I. At this fresh turn of affairs there is an intervention of Pallas, not prolonged, but sufficient: "Thereupon Athena (Pallas) planned other things, that Ulysses should wake, and see the fair-faced maiden who would conduct him to the city of the Phæacians." The Goddess does not appear in person, as the deities so often do in the Iliad, nor does she take a mortal shape, or move Ulysses through a dream; she simply brings about an incident, natural enough, to wake the sleeping hero. Why then introduce the Goddess at all? Because the poet wishes to emphasize the fact that this simple incident is a link in the providential chain; otherwise it would have no mention. The ball is thrown at one of the servants, it falls into the stream, whereat there is an outcry—and Ulysses wakes.

Of course, the latter had at first his usual fit of doubt and complaint, just when the Gods are helping him: "Ah me! to what land have I come! What men are here—wild, insolent, unjust, or are they hospitable, reverencing the Gods? I shall go forth and test the matter"—and so by an act of will he rescues himself from inner brooding and finds out the truth.

2. Now we are to witness the gradual outer approach between Ulysses and Nausicaa, till it becomes internal, and ends in a strong feeling of friendship if not in a warmer emotion. The wanderer, almost naked, with only "a branch of thick leaves bound about his loins," comes forth from his hiding place, a frightful object to anybody, a wild man apparently.

All the servants run, but Nausicaa stands her ground before the nude monster; being a Princess she shows her noble blood, and, being innocent herself, what can she he afraid of? Thus does the poet distinguish her spiritually among her attendants, as a few lines before in the famous comparison with Diana he distinguished her physically: "Over all the rest are seen her head and brow, easily is she known among them, though all are fair: such was the spotless virgin mid her maids." Thus is hinted the outer and also the inner superiority which has now revealed itself in the Phæacian Princess.

Henceforth a subtle interplay takes place between her and Ulysses, in which we observe three main stages: First, the wild man in appearance he steps forth, yet he succeeds in touching her sympathy, wherein her charity is shown; Second, the transformed man, now a God in appearance he becomes, at whose view the maiden begins to show deep admiration, if not love; Third, the passing of Ulysses to the city to which he is conducted by the maiden, who also tells him how to reach the heart of the family, namely, the mother Arete. Thus she seeks to mediate him with her country and her hearth.

(1) Ulysses, issuing from his lair, addresses her in a speech which shows superb skill on account of its gradual penetration to the soul of the fair hearer. He praises first her external beauty with many a happy touch, yet with an excess which seems to border on adulation. This reaches her outer ear and bespeaks his good-will and gentleness at least. Then he strikes a deeper chord: he mentions his sufferings, those which are past, and forebodes those which are yet to be, perchance upon this shore. "Therefore, O Princess, have compassion, since I have come to thee first; none besides thee do I know in this land. Give me some old rag to throw around me, some useless wrappage which you may have brought hither." Pathetic indeed is the appeal; therewith comes sympathy, the man is no wild Cyclops, whom all Phæacians still remembered with terror, but a victim of misfortune.

Now comes the culmination of his speech, which shows his keen insight into human nature, as well as his own deepest longing: "May the Gods grant thy heart's desire—-husband, home, and wedded harmony." With this praise of domestic life upon his lips he has touched the profoundest chord of her heart; he has divined her secretest yet strongest instinct, and has appealed to it in deep emotion. Yet mark! in the same general direction lies his own dearest hope: he also will return home, to wife and family. Thus he has found the common meeting-place of their souls; the two strike the absolutely concordant note and are one in feeling—he the husband, she the maiden.

In her answer she expresses her strong sympathy, her words indeed rise into the realm of charity. It is no mark of baseness to be unfortunate; "but these must endure," what Zeus lays upon them. Such is the exhortation of the young maiden to the much-enduring man; she has divined too the ground-work of his character. "But now, since thou hast come to our land, thou shalt not want for garment or anything else proper for the needy suppliant." Then she recalls her attendants, reproving them for their flight, and orders them to give to Ulysses food and drink, oil to be used after bathing, and ample raiment. Nor should we pass by that other expression of hers: "all strangers and the poor are Jove's own," under the special protection of the Supreme God, who will avenge their disregard. Such is this ideal world of Phæacia, still ideal to-day; for where is it realized? The old poet has cast the imago of a society which we are still trying to embody. Well can she say that the Phæacians dwell far apart from the rest of the nations, "nor does any mortal hold intercourse with us." Thus, too, she marks unconsciously the limit of her people.

(2) The reader, along with Nausicaa, is to see the transformation of the beggarly wanderer, who, having taken his bath and put on his raiment, comes forth like a God. This is said to be the work of Pallas, "who caused him to appear taller and more powerful, with flowing locks, like the hyacinth." He becomes plastic in form, beautiful as a statue, into which the divine soul has been transfused by the artist. Such a transforming power lies within him, yet is granted also by a deity; the godlike in the man now takes on a bodily, or rather a sculpturesque appearance, and prophesies Greek plastic art.

The echo of this change is heard in the words of the maiden: "Hear me attendants; not without the will of the Olympians does this man come to us; lately I thought him unseemly, now he is like the Gods who hold the broad Heavens." Such is her lively admiration now, but what means this? "Would that such a man might be called my husband, dwelling here in Phæacia!" That note is indeed deeper than admiration.

(3) The third phase of this little play is the bringing of Ulysses to the city and home of Nausicaa. He, having satisfied his hunger, and being ready to start, receives some advice from the maiden, who seeks to conduct him at once to the center of the home. They will pass first through the outlying country, which shows cultivation; then they will go up into the city, with its lofty tower and double harbor; the seafaring character of the people is especially set forth by Nausicaa, whose name is derived from the Greek word for a ship. Particularly we must notice her fear of gossip, which also existed in Phæacia, ideal though the land was. She must not be seen with Ulysses; men with evil tongues would say: "What stranger is this following Nausicaa? Now she will have a husband." The sharp eye of Goethe detected in this passage the true motive; it is love, always having the tendency to deny itself, which dictates so carefully this avoidance of public report; the thing must not be said just because there is good reason for saying it. Her solicitude betrays her feeling. In pure simplicity of heart she pays the supreme compliment to Ulysses, likening him indirectly to "a God called down from Heaven by her prayers, to live with her all her days." Still further she intimates in the same passage, that "many noble suitors woo her, but she treats them with disdain, they are Phæacians." To be sure she puts these words into the mouth of a gossipy and somewhat disgruntled countryman, but they come round to their mark like a boomerang. Does she not thus announce to the much-enduring man that she is free, though under a good deal of pressure? All this is done in such an artless way, that it becomes the highest art—something which she does not intend but cannot help. Surely such a speech from such a source ought to repay him for suffering shipwreck and for ten years' wandering.

We cannot, therefore, think of calling this passage spurious, with some critics both ancient and modern. The complaint against it is that the young Phæacian lady shows here too much reflection, in conjunction with a tendency to sarcasm foreign to her life. But we find it eminently unreflective and naive; the very point of the passage is that she unconsciously reveals the deepest hidden thought and purpose of her heart to Ulysses. With all her being she must move toward the Family, she would not be herself unless she did; yet how completely she preserves modesty and simple-heartedness! Nor is the sarcastic tinge foreign to young girls. So we shall have to set aside the objections of Aristarchus the old Greek, and Faesi the modern German, commentator.

But the final instruction of Nausicaa is the most interesting; the suppliant is not to go to the father but to the mother. Nay, he is to "pass by my father's throne and clasp my mother's knees," in token of supplication; then he may see the day of return. Herein we may behold in general, the honored place of the mother as the center of the Family, its heart, as it were, full of the tender feelings of compassion and mercy. In the father and king, on the other hand, is the man of the State with its inflexible justice, often putting aside sympathy and commiseration with misfortune. The woman's heart may indeed be called the heart of the world, recognized here by the old poet and his Phæacians.

This mother, however, is in herself a great character; she is next to have a Book of her own, which will more fully set forth her position.

The character of Nausicaa, as here unfolded in the ancient poet, has captivated many generations of readers since Homer began to be read. The story has lived and renewed itself in manifold forms; it has that highest power of a genuine mythus, it produces itself through all ages, taking on a fresh vesture in Time. In old Hellas the tale of Nausicaa was wrought over into various shapes after Homer; it was transformed into a drama, love-story, as well as idyl. The myth-making spirit did not let it drop, but kept unfolding it; later legend, for instance, brought about a marriage between Telemachus and Nausicaa. Our recent greatest poet, Goethe, also responded mightily to the story of Nausicaa; he planned a drama on the subject, of which the outline is to be found in his published works. He did not find time to finish his poem, but there is evidence that he thought much about it and carried it around with him, for a long period. One regrets that the German poet was not able to give this new transformation of his ancient Greek brother, with whom he has manifested on so many lines an intimate connection and poetical kinship. In portions of the Italian Journey specially we see how deeply the Odyssey was moving him and how he was almost on the point of reproducing the whole poem with its marine scenery. But Nausicaa in particular fascinated him, and it would have been the best commentary on the present Book to have seen her in a now grand poetic epiphany in the modern drama of Goethe.


If the last Book was Nausicaa's, this one is Arete's; there is the transition from the daughter to the mother, from the maiden to the wife. Still it is not quite so emphatically a woman's Book, since the wife has to include the husband in her world. Ulysses now goes to the center of the Family, to its heart, that he may meet with compassion. Still she withholds her sympathy at first for a good reason; Arete is not wholly impulse and feeling, she has thought, reflection. So, after all, it is left to the men to take up the suppliant.

Very surprising to us moderns is the picture drawn by the old Greek poet of this woman, and of her position: "the people look upon her as a God when she goes through the city;" her mind is especially praised; she has a judicial character, supposed usually to be alien to women: "she decides controversies among men," or perchance harmonizes them. To be sure her position is stated as exceptional: "her husband honors her, as no other woman on earth is honored;" she is evidently his counselor as well as wife. Thus the poet would have us regard Arete not merely as a person of kind feelings and of sweet womanly instincts, but she has also the highest order of intelligence; she is united with her husband in head as well as in heart, perchance overtopping him in ability. Not domestic simply is the picture, it rises into the political sphere, even into the administration of justice.

Is the character of the woman, as thus set forth, possibly a thousand years before Christ, by a heathen poet in an uncivilized age comparatively, to be a prophecy unto us still at this late date? Certainly the most advanced woman of to-day in the most advanced part of the world as regards her opportunities, has hardly reached the height of Arete. Unquestionably a glorious ideal is set up before the Sisterhood of all time for emulation; or is it unattainable? At any rate the woman in Homer stands far in advance of her later historical position in Greece.

We may now turn to the husband for a moment, Alcinous the King, the man of civil authority who represents the State, whose function is to be the protector of the Family and of whomever the family receives into its bosom rightfully. He is the element surrounding and guarding the warm domestic center; still he seems to have stronger impulses, or probably less governed, than his wife. Distinctly is the superiority accorded to the woman in this discourse of Pallas to Ulysses; possibly the Goddess may have overdrawn the picture a little in favor of her sex, as really Alcinous becomes the more prominent figure later one.

So we catch a very fascinating glimpse of the Phæacian world. Two prominent characters representing the two great institutions of man, Family and State, we witness; thus is the spirit of the whole poem ethical. Here is no longer the realm of Calypso, the nymph of wild untrained nature, but the clear sunlit prospect of home and country, the anticipation of sunny Ithaca and prudent Penelope to the hapless sufferer. Ulysses sees his own land in the image of Phæacia, sees what he is to make out of his own island. Verily it is a great and epoch-making experience for him just before his return; he finds the ideal here which he is to realize.

Accordingly we have in line three women, Calypso, Nausicaa, Arete, through whose spheres Ulysses has passed on his way to his own female counterpart, Penelope. We may see in them phases of man's development out of a sensuous into an institutional life. Nor is the suggestion too remote that we may trace in this movement certain outlines in the progress of mankind toward civilization.

In the mythical history of Phæacia which is also here given, we can observe the same development suggested with greater distinctness. Already in the previous Book it was stated that the Phæacians at first "dwelt near the insolent Cyclops," from whom they had to make the removal to their present island on account of violence done them by their neighbors. But now we hear that both Alcinous and Arete are descended on one side from the daughter of King Eurymedon, "who ruled over the arrogant race of Giants," all of whom, both king and "wicked people," had perished. On the other side the royal pair had the sea-god Neptune as their progenitor who was also the father of the Cyclops Polyphemus. It is impossible to mistake the meaning of this genealogy and the reason of its introduction at the present conjuncture. The Phæacians likewise were sprung of the wild men of nature, and had been at one time savages; but they had changed, had separated from their primitive kindred and begun the march of civilization. The poet has manifestly before his mind this question: why does one branch of the same people develop, and another branch lag behind; why, of two brothers, does one become civilized and the other remain savage? Of this dualism Greece would furnish many striking illustrations, whereof the difference between Athena and Sparta is the best known. Here the change from the locality of the Cyclops, implying also the change in spirit, is made by a hero-king, "the large-souled Nausithous," evidently a very important man to the Phæacians. Then this respect given to the woman has often been noted as both the sign and the cause of a higher development of a people. At any rate the Phæacians have made the great transition from savagery to civilization, and thus reveal the inherent possibilities of the race.

We now begin to catch a hint of the sweep of the poem in these portions. Ulysses who has lapsed or at least has become separated from his institutional life, must travel back to the same through the whole rise of society; he has to see its becoming in his own experience, and to a degree create it over again in his own soul, having lost it. Hence the evolution of the social organism passes before his eyes, embodied in a series of persons and places.

In this Seventh Book, therefore, Ulysses is to make the transition to Family and State as shown in Phæacia, and as represented by Arete and Alcinous. We shall mark three leading divisions:—

I. Ulysses enters the city in the dark, when he is met by Pallas and receives her instructions. The divine principle again comes down and directs.

II. The external side of this Phæacian world is shown in the city, garden, and palace of the king; nature is transformed and made beautiful for man. All this Ulysses now beholds.

III. The internal side of this Phæacian world, its spiritual essence, is shown in the domestic and civil life of the rulers and nobles; of this also Ulysses is the spectator, recognizing and appropriating.

Thus we see in the Book the movement from the divine to the human, which we have so often before noticed in Homer. The three parts we may well put together into a whole: the Goddess of Intelligence informs the mind of man, which then transforms nature and builds institutions. Here Pallas simply directs Ulysses, who, however, is now to witness the works of mind done in Phæacia, to recognize them and to take them up into his spirit.


Ulysses follows the direction of Nausicaa and passes to the city stealthily in a kind of concealment; "Pallas threw a divine mist over him," the Goddess now having the matter in hand. Moreover she appeared to him in the shape of a young girl with a pitcher, who points out the house of Alcinous and gives him many a precious bit of history in her prattle. Again we must see what this divine intervention means; Pallas is in him as well as outside of him. These are suggestions of his own ingenuity on the one hand, yet also the voice of the situation; indeed he knew them essentially already from the instructions of Nausicaa. Still further, they are now a part of the grand scheme, which is in the Olympian order, and hence is voiced by the Gods.

The poet introduces his mythical forms; we hear also the fabulous genealogy of the Phæacian rulers, the meaning of which has been above set forth. They, too, Arete and Alcinous, have come from the Cyclops, and have made the same journey as Ulysses, though in a different manner. It must be remembered that he has had his struggle with the giant Polyphemus, one of the Cyclops, whereof he will hereafter give the account. But the chief matter of the communication of Pallas is to define to Ulysses the position and character of Arete, evidently a woman after her own heart. In this way the Goddess, taking the part of a prattling maid, gives the royal pedigree, and especially dwells on the importance of the queen. Also she throws side glances into the peculiar disposition of the Phæacians, needful to be known to the new-comer. They are a people by themselves, distrustful of other peoples; they too must be transcended.

It is well at this point to observe Homer's procedure in regard to Pallas. We can distinguish two different ways of employing the Goddess. The poet says that Pallas gives to the Phæacian women surpassing skill in the art of weaving. This is almost allegorical, if not quite; the Goddess stands for a quality of mind, is subjective. Again, when she endows Ulysses with forecast in an emergency, it is only another statement for his mental prevision. Many such expressions we can find in the Odyssey; Pallas is becoming a formula, indicating simply some activity of mind in the individual. But in the important places the Goddess is kept mythical; that is, she voices the Divine Order, she utters the grand ethical purpose of the poem, or makes herself a vital part thereof. Thus she is objective, truly mythical; in the other case she is subjective and is getting to be an allegorical figure. The Odyssey, with its greater internality compared with the Iliad, is losing the mythus.

There is a third way of using Pallas and the Gods which is hardly found in Homer, indeed could not be found to any extent without destroying him. This is the external way of employing the deities, who appear wholly on the outside and give their command to mortals, or influence them by divine authority alone. Thus the Gods become mechanical, and are not a spiritual element of the human soul. Virgil leaves such an impression, and the Roman poets generally. Even the Greek tragic poets are not free from it; especially Euripides is chargeable with this sin, which is called in dramatic language Deus ex machina.

Though the Homeric poems as wholes are not allegories, yet they have allegory playing into them. Indeed the mythus has an inherent tendency to pitch over into allegory through culture. Then there is a reaction, the mythical spirit must assert itself even among civilized peoples, since allegorized Gods are felt to be hollow abstractions, having nothing divine about them.

There can hardly be a doubt that a proper conception of the relation of the deities to men is the most important matter for the student of Homer. But it requires an incessant alertness of mind to see the Homeric Gods when they appear to the mortal, and to observe that they are not always the same, that they too are in the process of evolution. For instance, in the present Book as well as elsewhere, Pallas must be noted as having two characters, a mythical and allegorical, as above unfolded. Nitzsch, whose commentary on the Odyssey, though getting a little antiquated, is still the best probably, because it grapples with so many real problems of the poem, says: "It is wholly in Homer's manner to represent, in the form of a conversation with Pallas, what the wise man turns over in his own mind and resolves all to himself" (Anmerkungen zu Homer's Odyssee, Band II, S. 137). Very true, yet on the next page Nitzsch says that it is "entirely wrong to suppose that Pallas represents the wisdom of Ulysses allegorically." But what else is allegory but this embodiment of subjective wisdom? Now Nitzsch truly feels that Pallas is something altogether more than an allegory, but he has failed to grasp distinctly her mythical character, the objective side of the Goddess, and so gets confused and self-contradictory.

One of the best books ever written on Homer is Nägelsbach's Homerische Theologie, which also wrestles with the most vital questions of the poem. But Nägelsbach's stress is almost wholly on the side of the Gods, he seems to have the smallest vision for beholding the free, self-acting man in Homer. In his first chapter (die Gottheit, the Godhead) he recognizes the Gods as the upholders and directors of the Supreme Order (sec. 28); also they determine, or rather create (schaffen) man's thought and will (sec. 42). What, then, is left for the poor mortal? Of course, such a view is at variance with Homer in hundreds of passages (see especially the speech of Zeus with which the action of the Odyssey starts, and in which the highest God asserts the free-will and hence the responsibility of the man). Nägelsbach himself suspects at times that something is wrong with his view and hedges here and there by means of some limiting clauses; note in particular what he says about Ulysses (sec. 31), who is an exception, being "thrown upon his own resources in cases of extreme need," without the customary intervention of the Gods. But the man in his freedom, who co-operates with the God in the providential order, is often brought before the reader in the Iliad as well as in the Odyssey (see author's Com. on the Iliad, pp. 129, 157, 216, etc.).


We now come to one of the most famous passages in Homer, describing the palace and garden of Alcinous. First of all, we must deem it the outer setting of this Phæacian world with its spirit and institutions, the framework of nature transformed which takes its character from within. Civilized life assumes an external appearance corresponding to itself; it remodels the physical world after its own pattern. The result is, this garden is in striking contrast with the bower of Calypso, which is almost a wild product of nature. The two localities are mirrored surrounding each home respectively. Again we observe how Homer employs the description of scenery: he makes it reflect the soul as its center.

In a certain sense we may connect these Phæacian works with Pallas, who has directed Ulysses hither; they are the works of intelligence. The arts and the industries spring up through the transformation of nature. Here is first noted the palace of the king with certain hints of its materials and construction; especially have the metals been wrought and applied to human uses. Gold, silver, steel, brass or bronze are mentioned in connection with the palace and its marvelous contents. Thus an ideal sense of architecture we note; still more strongly indicated is the feeling for sculpture, the supreme Greek art. Those gold and silver watch-dogs at the entrance, "which Vulcan made by his skill, deathless and ageless for all time;" those golden boys "upon their well-built pedestals holding lighted torches in their hands" are verily indications that the plastic artist has already appeared. The naive expression of life which the old poet gives to the sculpturesque shapes in the palace of Alcinous, is fresh as the first look upon a new world, which is indeed now rising.

But not only the Fine Arts, the Industries also are touched upon. Weaving is specially emphasized along with navigation, one being the Phæacian woman's and the other being the Phæacian man's most skillful work. Other occupations are involved in these two. Thus is marked the beginning of an industrial society.

After the palace the garden is described with its cultivated fruit-trees—pear, pomegranate, apples—a good orchard for to-day. Of course the vineyard could not be left out, being so important to the Greek; three forms of its products are mentioned—the grape, the raisin, and wine. Finally the last part is set off for kitchen vegetables, though some translators think that it was for flowers. Nor must we omit the two fountains, such as often spout up and run through the Greek village of the present time.

Undoubtedly fabulous threads are spun through this description. Quite too lavish a use is made of the precious metals in the house of Alcinous, as in some fairy tale or romantic ballad; so much gold is found nowhere outside of wonderland. In the garden fruit is never wanting, some of it just ripe, some still green, some in flower. No change of season, yet the effect of all seasons; surely a marvelous country it appears; still we learn that in Campania are some sorts of grapes which produce thrice a year. A mythical garden is indeed the delight of human fancy. Eden has its counterparts everywhere. Indeed a significant parallel might be drawn between Greek Phæacia and the Hebrew Paradise; in the one, man unfolds out of savagery, in the other he is created at once by a divine act. Can we not see Orient and Occident imaging themselves in their respective ideal products? The one from below upwards, the other from above downwards; both movements, the Greek and the Hebrew, belong to man, and have entered into his civilization. The next world-poet, Dante, will unite the two streams.


Ulysses now comes to the internal element of Phæacia, to its soul as it were, manifested in the institutional life of Family and State. From this indeed is derived the beautiful world which we have just witnessed; Art builds up a dwelling-place, which images the spirit of the people to themselves and to others.

In accord with his instructions from both. Pallas and Nausicaa, he first goes to Arete and clasps her knees in supplication, begging for an escort to his country. But behold! She hesitates, notwithstanding his strong appeal to her domestic feeling and her sympathy with suffering. What can be the matter? Another Phæacian, not of the royal house apparently, but of the nobles, is the first to speak and command the stranger to be raised up and to be hospitably received. An old religious man who sees the neglect of Zeus in the neglect of the suppliant, a man of long experience, "knowing things many and ancient," is this Echeneus; him at once the king obeys, the queen still remaining silent.

Soon, however, we catch the reason of her conduct in the question: "Stranger, where did you get those garments?" She noticed Ulysses wearing the mantle and tunic "which she herself had made with her servants," and which Nausicaa had given him. Surely this is a matter which must be accounted for before proceeding further. Herein the woman comes out in her own peculiar province; no man would ever have noticed the dress so closely; Alcinous did not, and wise Ulysses in this case did not forecast so far out of his masculine domain. But the poet had made the subtle observation and uses it as a turning-point in his little drama. Now we see the queen before us: imagine a pair of dark eyes shooting indignation upon the man clothed with garments intrusted this very morning to the daughter.

Nor should we fail to scan her second question: "Do you not say that you have come hither a wanderer over the deep?" Verily the case is suspicious. Ulysses sees his plight, and at once offers the most elaborate explanation, going back and giving a history of himself for the last seven or eight years. Now we know why the poet specially praised the mind of Arete, and why her husband so honored her, and why she could be judge of disputes among men. She shows the keenest observation united with reasoning power; she stands out in contrast with the Phæacian men, who follow impulse more readily than she, as she keeps the judicial balance, though a woman, and demands evidence of truth from the uncertain stranger.

We may draw from this scene certain traits of the Phæacians, as we see here a man, a typical man probably who is outside of the royal family. An ideal humanity seems to live in them; they will receive the unfortunate wanderer and succor him to the fullest extent. More impressive still is their religious faith; they live in intimate communion with the Gods, who appear in person at the feast "sitting among us;" nor do the deities conceal themselves from the solitary wayfarer; "since we are as near to them as are the Cyclops and the wild tribes of Giants." So speaks Alcinous, hinting that kinship, which has been previously set forth; both himself and Arete are the descendants of savages, who were children of the Gods of nature. But they have risen into fellowship with the higher Gods of Olympus. The words of the king seemed to be tinged with sarcasm at those inferior deities, parents of savagery, from whom, however, they themselves are sprung. He cannot forget the Cyclops, the men of violence who once did his people wrong.

In these mythical allusions, obscure enough just here, we have already traced the rise of Phæacia into an ethical existence. The worship of the higher Gods is the emotional side of such a condition, and the treatment of the suppliant marks an advance toward the conception of an universal humanity. Still Phæacia, has its spiritual limits, genuine Greek limits, of which hereafter something will be said.

It is sufficient to state that the speech of Ulysses has its effect, it contains a great deal which appeals to the character of Arete; his leaving Calypso and his desire to return to his home-life must be powerful motives towards winning her sympathy. Then she cannot help recognizing and admiring his skill; there is an intellectual bond between them, as well as an ethical one. Not much does she say hereafter, her part being finished; her husband takes the lead henceforth. She has tested the wanderer, Alcinous can now preform the ceremonies.

We soon see that the king needs a counterpart in such a wife, he being impulsively generous; he blames his daughter for her backwardness in not coming to town with Ulysses, whereat the latter frames one of his smallest fibs in excuse of the maiden. Still further, the king in a surprising burst of admiration, wishes that Ulysses, or "such an one as thou art," might stay and be called his son-in-law. Altogether too sudden; Arete would not have said that, though the woman be the natural match-maker. Still Alcinous, in a counter-outpouring of his generosity, promises to send Ulysses to his own land, though "this should be further off than Eubœa, the most distant country." Thus overflows the noble heart of the king, but he clearly needs his other half, in the thorny journey of life.

Thus has Ulysses reached the heart of Phæacia and found its secret beat; he has felt its saving power, not simply externally but also internally; it rescues him from dangers of the sea and of himself too. The truly positive side of life begins to dawn upon him again, after his long career of struggle with dark fabulous shapes. Well may he pray Zeus for Alcinous: "May his fame be immortal over the fertile earth"—a prayer which has been fulfilled, and is still in the process of fulfillment. Arete gives the order to the servants to spread his couch for the night's repose, she has received him.

In the sweep of the present Book, many origins are suggested. The genealogy of the king and queen and people is significant, it might be called the genealogy of civilization. The woman is placed at the center; out of her springs the family, and with it come society, state, the institutional world.

Of such a world the external environment is seen in the garden, palace, and city of the Phæacians, which are built by the spirit for its dwelling-place and reflect the spirit. The Greek world of Beauty is born, and its course is foreshadowed; this ideal Homeric realm is prophetic of what Greece is to become. The plastic arts and the industrial arts are suggested, and to a degree are realized.

The artistic soul of Hellas is fully felt in Homer's Phæacia. The formative impulse is everywhere alive and at work; the instinctive need of shaping and transforming nature and life is here in its first budding, and will bloom into the greatest art-people of all time. Those two supreme Fine Arts of mature Greece, Architecture and Sculpture, are present in examples which foretell plainly Phidias and the Parthenon.

King Alcinous; thy fair palace has had fairer offspring,

Thou art ruling the world still by the beautiful form;

Out of thy mansion majestic was born in a song the Greek Temple,

Sentineled round with a choir—Titans columnar of stone,

Bearing forever their burden to hymns of a Parian measure,

Wearing out heaviest Fate to a Pindaric high strain.

Look! those boys of thy garden with tapers are moving to statues,

Seeming to walk into stone while they are bringing the light;

Hellas springs out of thy palace all sculptured with actions heroic,

Even the God we discern turning to marble by faith.

Such is the originative, prophetic character of Phæacia, which the reader must take profoundly into his soul, if he would understand the genetic history of Greek spirit. Verily the poet is the maker of archetypes and reveals in his shapes all that his people are to become.

Thou, old Homer, wert the first builder in Greece, the first carver,

Afterward she could but turn fancies of thine into stone;

Architects followed thee, building thy poem aloft into temples,

Sculptors followed thee too, thinking in marble thy line.

Nor must we forget the Industrial Arts here suggested—weaving, ship-building, the working of metals; in general, there is hinted the varied transformation of nature, which begets a civilized life. Agriculture is present, also horticulture, which the garden of Alcinous presupposes. Such, then, is the grand frame-work for the social order as here portrayed.

But the chief art of the Homeric world has not yet been given, though it is at work now, and is just that which has reproduced Phæacia with all its beauty. This is the poet's own art, which having set forth the other arts, is next to set forth itself. Accordingly we are to see the poet showing the poet in the following Book, which may, therefore, be named the Book of the Bard. Thus we pass out of the industrial and plastic arts of Phæacia, into the supreme art, the poetic, as it manifests itself in the Phæacian singer.


We observe a decided change in the present Book; it has a character of its own quite distinct from the preceding Books. Yet it is on a line of development with them, we note a further spiritual evolution which must be looked into with some attention. In general, Phæacia is now seen as an art-world, in true correspondence with Hellas, of which it is a kind of ideal prototype. In the two previous Books we saw portrayed chiefly institutional life in Family and in State. But in this Book institutional life, though present and active, is withdrawn into the background, and becomes the setting for the picture, yet also is the spirit which secretly calls forth the picture. A poetic art-world now passes before us in entrancing outlines, a world filled with song, dance, games, with all the poetry of existence.

Such an artistic development follows from what has gone before. Man, having attained culture, civilization, and a certain freedom from the necessity of working for his daily bread, begins to turn back and look at his career; he observes the past and measures how far he has come. The image of himself in his unfolding he beholds in art, specially in the poetic art, whose essence must at last be just this institutional life which has been described in Phæacia. He attains it and then steps back and portrays his attaining of it; having done the heroic deed, he must see himself doing it forever, in the strains of the bard. Art is thus the mirror of life and of institutions; it reflects the grand conflict of the times and the people; it seizes upon the supreme national event, and holds it up in living portraiture along with its heroes.

Now the great event which lies back of Phæacia at the present time, in fact lies back of all Greece for all ages, perchance lies back of all Europe, is the Trojan War. It was the first emphatic, triumphant assertion of the Greek and indeed of the European world against the Orient. The fight before Troy was not a mere local and temporary conflict between two quarrelsome borderers, but it cuts to the very marrow of the World's History, the grand struggle between East and West. Family and State are most deeply concerned in it, the restoration of the wife is the main object of the Trojan War, which the chieftains of Greece must conclude victoriously or perish. A new world was being born on this side of the Ægean, and the Greeks were its first shapers and its earliest defenders. This occidental world, whose birth is the real thing announced at Troy in that marvelous cradle-song of Europe, called the Iliad, has already begun its career, and shows its earliest period in Phæacia. It is no wonder, then, that the Phæacian people wish to hear the Trojan song, and it alone, and that the Phæacian poet wishes to sing the Trojan song, and it alone.

Thus we behold in the present Book a quiet idyllic folk on their island home out in the West listening to the mighty struggle of their race, with dim far-off anticipations of all that it involved. Nor were the women indifferent. Arete, the wife and center of the Family, is not henceforth to be exposed to the fate of Helen; think what would Phæacia be without her, or she without Phæacia; think what she would be in Troy, for instance. Strong emotions must rise in the breasts of all the people at hearing such a song.

But still stronger emotions well out of the heart of Ulysses. He is one of the heroes of the Trojan War not yet returned, a living image of its sacrifices. Of course, he is the main hero sung of by the bard in the present Book; such is the artistic adaptation of the Homeric work, clearly done with a conscious design. Ulysses has already passed through several stages—Calypso, Nausicaa, Arete; now he has reached the poet, Demodocus certainly, and perchance Homer himself, who is to sing not only of the Trojan War, but also of its consequences—this rise of man's spiritual hierarchy as here unfolded, from Nature, into Institutions, and thence into Art. After hearing Demodocus, Ulysses picks up the thread and becomes his own poet, narrating his adventures in Fairyland with the free full swing of the Homeric hexameter. Thus he acquires and applies in his own way the art of Phæacia; the arch of his life spans over from the heroic fighter before Troy to the romantic singer before the Phæacian court.

It is plain, therefore, that this Book is distinctively the Book of the Bard. In the experience of Ulysses, Demodocus is placed on a line with the three leading figures in the last three Books—they being women, while the singer must be a man. One reason is, possibly, that a Phæacian woman could not be permitted to sing such a strain as the story of Venus and Mars. At any rate, he is fourth in the row of shapes, all of which are significant. We catch many touches of his personality; he is blind, though gifted with song; "evil and good" he has received, and is therein a typical man. It is in every way a beautiful loving picture, painted with strong deep undertones of sympathy; no wonder is it, therefore, that Demodocus in all ages has been taken as a portrait of Homer by himself, showing glimpses of the man, of his station in life, and of his vocation. Later on we shall consider this point in more detail.

The three songs of the bard furnish the main landmarks for the organism of the Book. All of them will be found more or less intimately connected with the great event of the immediate Past, the story of Troy. Phæacia shows an intense interest in that story and the bard approves himself its worthy singer. Indeed the three songs stand in direct relation to the Iliad; the first deals with an event antecedent to the Iliad; the second has the theme of the Iliad, though in a changed form, inasmuch as the seducer, the wife and the husband are here Gods (Mars, Venus, Vulcan) instead of mortals (Paris, Helen, Menelaus); the third deals with an event subsequent to the Iliad. Yet the singer carefully avoids repeating anything in the Iliad. It is almost impossible not to think that he had not that poem in mind; or, rather, we are forced to conclude that the present author of the Odyssey knew the Iliad, and we naturally think that both were by the same man. Demodocus is the singer of the Trojan War, yet he shuns singing what has already been sung about it. Herein we may catch another faint reflection of Homer, the organizer, the transfigurer of old legends into his two poems. Note also that he hovers around the Iliad, before and after it, yet never into it, here and elsewhere in the Odyssey; specially in the Third Book have we observed the same fact.

In the present Book, however, is another strand; besides these songs of the bard belonging to the past are the doings in Phæacia belonging to the present, which doings have a connection and a correspondence with the songs. Thus we observe three divisions in the Book, and two threads which run through these divisions. The following outline may serve to show the general structure:—

I. There is the representation of the struggle between the physical and mental in what may be called Phæacian art; skill and strength have an encounter shown in two ways:

1. Past, heroic, ideal; the contest between Ulysses and Achilles at Troy; intelligence vs. mere courage. Sung by the bard. Pre-Iliad.

2. Present, real, not heroic; the games in which there is a contest also, and in which both skill and strength are involved, with the preponderance of the physical.

II. Now we drop to the sensuous inactive side of the Phæacian world, the luxurious, self-indulgent phase of their life, which is also imaged in their art doubly:

1. Past; an Olympian episode, a story of illicit love among the Gods, corresponding to the story of Helen on earth. Sung by the bard.

2. Present; hints concerning the sensuous life of the Phæacians who love the feast, the song, the warm bath and bed, along with dance and music, showing their pleasure in art. Return of the men from the market-place to the palace and into the presence of Arete.

III. We pass to what may be called the triumph of intelligence and the recognition thereof,—Phæacian art is again introduced, Ulysses is revealed.

1. Past, heroic, ideal; Troy is taken by skill, by the Wooden Horse, not by the physical might and courage of Achilles. Sung by the bard. Post-Iliad. This may be considered also a triumph over Venus who favored Troy.

2. Present; Ulysses weeps, his tears are noticed by Alcinous, who demands his name, country, travels. Ulysses has already in a number of ways discovered himself as connected with the past, with the Trojan War. In the next Book he tells his name, country, character, adventures.

If we scan the sweep of this outline, we observe that it opens with the conflict between Brain and Brawn, or between Mind and Might, and ends in the victory of Mind in the grand Trojan conflict. Similar has been the movement hitherto, from Calypso onwards, which, however, shows the ethical conflict. Still the intellectual and the ethical spheres have to subordinate the natural, and mind is the common principle of both.

As an introduction to the Book we have an account of the men assembling in the marketplace, where "they sat on polished stones near one another." Pallas has, of course, to be employed, though in a passing and very subordinate way; she acts as herald to call the assembly together, and thus stamps it with a divine import. We must grant to the poet his right, but the Goddess seems almost unnecessary here, as the herald could have done the same work. Once more Pallas interferes: "she sheds a godlike grace upon the head and shoulders of Ulysses," imparting to him majesty and beauty, "that he might be dear to all the Phæacians," those lovers of the beautiful in art and life. Thus, like a visible deity, he was "to be feared and to be revered;" strength also the Goddess gave him, "that he might accomplish all the contests which the Phæacians would try him with." Thus is the Hero prepared divinely.

Alcinous makes a speech to the assembly, touching the wanderer, who is again promised an escort to Ithaca; the king chooses the crew, and the ship is launched. Meanwhile, however, there is to be a sacrifice with festival, the bard is led in and his harp adjusted, his portion of food and drink not being omitted, for he is not a hired musician, but an equal at the feast.

We are now to witness two kinds of entertainment, both of which according to the Greek conception, belong to the sphere of art. The one is an heroic song, and is thrown into the past; the other is a trial of bodily skill and strength, and belongs to the present. Both kinds show contest, and this contest is mainly between the physical and the spiritual elements in man. Which is paramount? Each is necessary, yet one must be subordinate.

1. Note, first of all, the theme of the bard: "The Muse inspired him to sing the strife between Ulysses and Achilles, the fame whereof had reached high Heaven." The Trojan War lies manifestly in the background of the quarrel. When did it take place, at what period during the struggle? There is nothing to settle the question decisively, such a dispute might have arisen almost at any time. But as it is the antecedent trouble in the Greek army, a dualism which this army brings with itself in its leaders, we may reasonably put it somewhere towards the beginning. This is also the opinion of Nitzsch (Com. ad loc.), who places the scene of the dispute on the island of Tenedos, in sight of the walls of Troy and who cites the old Cypria in support of his opinion. Other ancient authorities place it after the death of Hector; not long before the fall of the city.

Concerning the subject of the dispute there is little difference of opinion. The Greek commentator, Eustathius (died about 1200 A.D.) cites the following legend in reference to it: "Agamemnon, having consulted the Delphic Oracle about the result of the Trojan War, received the answer that Troy would be taken when the best men of the Greeks would begin to quarrel. At a feast a dispute arose between Achilles and Ulysses, the former maintaining that Ilion would be captured by bravery, the latter by skill and cunning." Hence the joy of Agamemnon at what would otherwise be regarded as a ground for sorrow.

The response of the Oracle was ambiguous, yet even out of its ambiguity we may read something. Achilles, the man of courage, was regarded as the hero of the Greeks, but this opinion must be contested, and wisdom must also have its place in the management of the war, before the hostile city can be taken. These two principles are represented by Achilles and Ulysses respectively. The God of Wisdom, Apollo, responds, therefore, in accord with his character, carefully, doubtfully, not taking a decisive stand on either side, uttering an oracle which itself needs interpretation. Still we can see that it means a protest against mere brute courage—a protest which Ulysses voices. The Trojan Horse, the grand successful stratagem, may be considered as the outcome.

In Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, the same subject is worked over very fully and is indeed the main pivot of the drama, in which Achilles is substantially deposed from his heroship and replaced by Ulysses. The contest between mind and might or skill and courage, is what the English poet took from his Greek elder brother in part and in part derived from later legend. The struggle between brain and brawn was indeed a vital one in the Greek camp; there was always the danger lest the spirit would got lost in its physical manifestation. Indeed the danger of the Greek world was just this, and it perished at last of the same disease which we already notice at Troy. It fell to a worship of the sensuous in life and art, and so lost its soul in a grand debauch.

2. King Alcinous has noticed that Ulysses hid his face and wept at the song of the bard. Thus strong emotion seizes him on hearing the strife at Troy, while the Phæacians listen with delight. Such is the contrast, hinting two very different relations to the song. But the king will divert him from his grief, and so calls for the games to show him "how much we excel others in boxing, wrestling, leaping and running." The quoit was also one of the games.

In like manner Achilles is diverted from his sorrows for his friend Patroclus, by an elaborate exhibition of games, which are set forth in Book Twenty-Third of the Iliad. Contests of strength and skill they are, showing the body under control of mind and manifesting the same up to a certain point. They have an artistic side and train the man physically, requiring also no little mental alertness.

When the Phæacian contestants had finished, there was an attempt to bring Ulysses into the game and have him show what he was, but he declined the courteous invitation; "cares are in my mind more than games." Then Euryalus taunts him with being a merchant, or robber, and no athlete. Ulysses makes a caustic reply, picks up the quoit, and hurls it far beyond the marks of the others; then with some display of temper he challenges any of the Phæacians present to any kind of contest. He even becomes boastful, and tells what he is ready to do in the way of games; still further, he can shoot the bow and throw the javelin in heroic fashion—which accomplishments he will employ with telling effect against the suitors hereafter.

Alcinous pacifies him with gentle words, and proceeds to withdraw all his previous claims extolling Phæacian athletic skill. The soft arts of peace are theirs; "in boxing and in wrestling we have small fame;" but on the other hand "we delight in feasts, we love the harp and dance;" new clothes are in favor, and "we like the warm bath and bed." Very different is now the call of King Alcinous from that last one: let the stranger see "how much we excel others in the dance and song," to which is strangely added seamanship. Such is the preparation for the lay of the loves of Mars and Venus.

Through these games the heroic strand in the stranger has been brought to light, somewhat in contrast with the Phæacians. As he had a contest of mind with Achilles at Troy, so he has now a contest which shows his physical might; he is no weakling in spite of his intellect. Pallas too does not fail him, she marks his superiority in the throw of his quoit, and thus inspires him with courage.


We have now reached the second song of the bard, for the way has been smoothed by the preceding description of the luxurious delights of the Phæacians. It is often called the Loves of Venus and Mars, or the Adulterers caught on Olympus. From time immemorial much doubt of various sorts, poetical, moral, philological, has been cast upon this song. Some ancient commentators have regarded it an interpolation, not a genuine part of Homer; modern expositors have not hesitated to follow the same opinion.

And indeed there are strong grounds for suspicion. Almost every reader feels at the first perusal its jar with the general character of this idyllic Phæacian world; it is decidedly adverse to the spirit of Arete and Nausicaa, as previously unfolded; the fact would almost seem impossible that, in an atmosphere created chiefly by these two women, there could be such a kind of artistic enjoyment. The most conservative reader is inclined here to agree with those who perform an act of excision upon the text of Homer. The whole passage grates too harshly upon nerves which have been attuned to the sweet innocent life depicted in the two preceding Books.

The objections to the song may be summed up in the following heads. (1) It is inconsistent and deeply discordant with the ethical tone of Phæacia already given. (2) It does not further Ulysses in any way, it shows no trait in his character, unless his faint approval signifies his liking for such songs. Nor does it seem on the surface to connect him with Troy, as do the other two songs of Demodocus. (3) It gives an unworthy view of the Gods, degrading them far below Homer's general level, reducing them to ordinary burlesque figures which violate all decency, not to speak of morality. (4) Philologists have picked out certain words and expressions peculiar to this passage, which, not being employed by Homer elsewhere, tend to indicate some other author.

Still, if the passage be an interpolation, this must have taken place early in the history of the poems. Pausanias the traveler declares that he saw the dancing scene of the Phæacians depicted upon the throne of Apollo at Amyclæ, the artist of which probably flourished about 600 B. C. The old philosopher Heraclitus, who would scourge Homer from the festivals of the Gods, doubtless had this passage in mind. Plato censures its indecency specially, and, as is well known, would exclude all Homer from his ideal Republic. The ancients thus accepted the passage as Homeric, with the exception of some of the later grammarians.

Next come the many attempts, old and new, to allegorize the Olympian scene, or to explain it away. From the fact that the sun keeps watch and is mentioned twice in this part, the latest school of mythologists, the comparative so-called, have taken much comfort, and have at once found in the whole a sun-myth. Some ancient expositors, according to Athenæus, interpreted it as a story written for the purpose of deterring the listeners from doing similar bad deeds, pointing to the punishment even of Gods herein designated; thus they sought to save the credit of Homer, treating him quite as some commentators have treated certain morally questionable stories in the Bible. Thus along down the ages to the present the loves of Venus and Mars have created trouble.

Undoubtedly the song has meaning and deserves a rational exposition. Has it any connection with the other songs of this Book, or with Homer in general? It is certainly a product of early Greek poesy; can it be organically jointed into anything before it and after it? The burlesque tone which it assumes towards certain Olympians has caused it to be connected with the Battle of the Frogs and Mice, and with the war of the Gods in the Iliad (Book Twenty-First). Let us extend our horizon, and take a new look in various directions.

In the first place this song connects with Troy and the Iliad like the other two songs of Demodocus. The cause of the Trojan War and of its poem was the deed of Paris. The seducer, the wife, the husband—Paris, Helen, Manelaus—are the three central figures of the legend. Here this legend is thrown up among the Gods themselves, who furnish three corresponding characters—Mars, Venus, Vulcan. Then there is the wrong and the punishment of the wrong in both cases. Such is the theme of the Trojan War as it appears in the Iliad. Thus the three songs of Demodocus indicate a Pre-Iliad, an Iliad, and a Post-Iliad in due order.

In the second place one asks very emphatically: Why this present treatment of the Gods on Homer's part? But here we must make an important distinction. The Supreme God, Zeus, does not appear, nor does Juno nor does Pallas, indeed none of the Goddesses except the guilty one. The disgrace falls upon two mainly: Mars and Venus. In the Iliad they are Trojan deities hostile to the Greeks, and here the Greek poet serves them up together in an intermezzo, which makes them comic. Indeed the Greek Hero Diomed fights and puts down just these two Trojan deities in the Fifth Book of the Iliad. So must every Greek Hero at Troy conquer Mars and Venus (Violence and Lust, to give a suggestion of their purport) before Helen can be restored to home and country; he must put down the hostile city and its Gods. Note too, whither the Greek poet sends each of these deities after their release: Mars flies off to Thrace, a distant, barbarous country, beyond the borders of Hellas, where he can find his own; Venus on the contrary slips away southeastward to Cyprus inhabited by peoples Oriental or Orientalizing, and therein like Troy and herself. Both rush out of Greece with all speed; they belong somewhere in the outskirts of the Greek world.

We may now see why the Phæacians, without being so very wicked, could find an element in the song which they enjoyed. To them, with the Trojan War always in mind, this was the theme: the adulterous Trojan deities caught and laughed out of Olympus—those being the two deities who first misled by desire and then tried to keep by war the beautiful Helen, the Greek woman. Throwing ourselves back into his spirit, we may also see why Ulysses, the old war-horse from Troy, "was rejoiced in his heart, hearing the song" which degraded and burlesqued the Gods whom he had fought ten years, and who were, in part at least, the occasion of his wandering ten more. Venus and Mars did not find much sympathy in the Phæacian company, we may be sure. Why then regard them as Gods? The Greek deified everything; even the tendencies which he felt himself obliged to suppress had something of the divine in them. Calypso, whom Ulysses subordinated at last to the higher principle, was a Goddess; Troy, the hostile city, had its deities, whom the Greek recognised. Now its two chief deities are involved in a common shame, and flee from Olympus, flee almost outside of the Greek world. Certainly the audience could take some ethical satisfaction in that.

Then there is a third consideration different from the two preceding, both of which seek to look at the song from the ancient Greek standpoint. But from our modern standpoint it is also to be regarded. There is no doubt that we see here the beginning of the end of polytheism; the many Gods collide with one another, some are now put out and all will be finally put out; they are showing their finitude and transitoriness. Still further, we catch a glimpse of the sensuous side of Greek life, the excess of which at last brought death. Homer is the prophet of his people, when read with insight; he tells not only what they are, but hints what they are to become.

In general, we pass in this second part of the present Book as we have divided it, to the sensuous element of the Phæacian world, the inactive, quiet, self-indulgent phase, in decided contrast to the preceding part which shows a love of manly action in games and in war. Let us still further develop the twofold way in which this fact is brought out.

1. The second song of Demodocus has the general theme of the Trojan War and suggests the grand event of the aforetime. It manifestly carries the Trojan scission into Olympus and drives out in disgrace the Trojan deities. Vulcan, the wronged husband, is the divine artificer; he makes a network of chains which could not be broken, "like a spider's web, so fine that no one could see it, not even a God;" in this snare the guilty deities are caught, exposed, punished. These invisible, yet unbreakable chains have an ethical suggestion, and hint the law which is also to be executed on Olympus, as it was below in Troy. As Vulcan is the artist among the Gods, we are prompted to find also an artistic bearing in the scene; the artist catches the wrong-doers by his art and holds them fast in a marvelous net where they still lie, and shall lie for all time; even the intercession of Neptune cannot get them free. The scene is indeed caught out of the reality and holds to-day; the dashing, finely-uniformed son of Mars (so called at present) is most apt to win the heart of the gay, fashionable, beautiful daughter of Venus, have an escapade, and cause a scandal. Oft too they are caught in our modern, most adroitly woven spider's web, which goes under the name of newspaper, and held up, if not before a seeing Olympus, at least before a reading public, which not seldom indulges in conversation very much in the style of the Gods as here set forth. We moderns do not go to the market-place to hear such a strain, but have it brought to us in the Morning Journal. One advantage the Phæacian had: Arete and Nausicaa did not go to the market-place, where this song was sung, only men were there, but the print will enter the household where are wife and daughter. At any rate, we have to pronounce the song of Demodocus typical, universal, nay, ethical in spite of its light-hearted raillery, inasmuch as the deed is regarded as a breach of divine law, is exposed and punished, and the recompense for the release of the guilty pair, the penalty, is duly stated in accordance with law. Not every modern story-teller is so scrupulous, in meting out justice to ethical violation.

2. So much for the song; we turn again to the Phæacians, who are not now engaged in athletic, but in a milder sport, the dance. Youths moved their bodies in tune to the strain; still in Greece the dance and the song often go together. Then two danced alone without the song, but employed a ball, tossing it from one to the other, for the amusement of the spectators. A rhythmical movement of the body in the dance shows more internality than the athletic game, but it is less hardy, is more indicative of luxury and effeminacy.

On account of these enjoyments, which have been unrolled before us in so many striking pictures, the Phæacians have been regarded by some writers both in ancient and modern times as the mythical Sybarites devoted simply to a life of pleasure. The love of the warm bath and clean clothes, the dance and the song, above all the second lay of Demodocus have given them a bad name. Heraclides Ponticus derived their whole polity of non-intercourse, of concealment, of sending away the stranger as soon as possible out of their island, from their desire to resign themselves more completely to their luxurious habits, without foreign disturbance. Horace expresses a similar view of this people. Nitzsch in Commentary (ad loc.) defends the Phæacians warmly against the charge, and the view that Arete and Nausicaa cannot be products of a corrupt society holds good. An idyllic people, not by any means enervated, though pleasure-loving—so we must regard them. That lay of the bard, rightly looked into, does not tell against them as strongly as is sometimes supposed. Still Heraclides touched upon a limitation of Phæacia in his criticism, it refused to join the family of nations, it sought to be a kind of little China and keep all to itself. It had solved, however, the problem of external war and of internal dissension; no dispute with neighboring nations about commercial privileges, no local strife which cannot be settled by Arete. The poet has as nearly as possible succeeded in eliminating the negative element out of this society. An unwarlike folk, but not effeminate, happy in peace, with a childlike delight in play, which is the starting-point of art, and remains its substrate, according to Schiller; truly idyllic it must be regarded, a land on the way between nature and civilization, where life is a perpetual holiday, and even labor takes on a festal appearance.

Ulysses gives the palm of excellence in the dance to the Phæacians, and with this recognition the king proposes a large number of presents—hospitable gifts, such as the host gives to his honored guest. Moreover an apology and a gift are required of that Euryalus who recently offended Ulysses. Thus reconciliation is the word and the deed. Then all are ready to return to the palace into the presence of Arete, who is the orderer, and she makes arrangements for packing up the gifts. Note the warm bath again, supposed sign of effeminacy; here it is taken by Ulysses with decided approbation. Nausicaa, too, appears in a passing glance, and simply asks to be remembered for her deed; the response of Ulysses is emphatic: when he gets home he "will pray to her as to a God day by day, for thou, O maiden, hast saved my life."

In this round of recognition, the bard must not be forgotten; he is again led in, a banquet is served, and Ulysses takes special pains to honor him "with a part of the fat back of a white-tusked boar," and to speak a strong word of commendation: "Demodocus, I praise thee above all mortals; either the Muse or Apollo has taught thee, so well dost thou sing the fate of the Greeks."


The praise of the bard naturally leads to the third portion of the Book, introduced by another song, which has its intimate connection with the preceding ones. Then its effect is noted upon Ulysses, who weeps as before, being stirred by many memories of companions lost. Verily Troy is a tearful subject. What motive for weeping? Who is this stranger anyhow? Alcinous now starts his interrogations which Ulysses answers in the following Book. Still, though nameless, he has unfolded himself quite fully through his actions in this Book. Again we hear the deeds of the aforetime sung by the poet, and see their influence in the present.

1. Ulysses himself now asks the poet to sing of the Wooden Horse which "was made by Epeius with the aid of Pallas," the Goddess here standing for skill, as it is now skill which takes Troy, not mere courage. Then mark further: Ulysses was the man who introduced it within the Trojan walls by stratagem—clearly another case of brain-work rather than brawn-work. This famous Wooden Horse was "filled with men who took Troy." Such is the song which Ulysses now calls for, mentioning himself by name—a fact which makes the announcement of his name soon after more impressive and dramatic. The Phæacians had just heard the culminating act in the taking of Troy, whereof Ulysses was the hero; behold! he stands before them, in all the prestige of song. Some critics have wondered why the name of Ulysses was withheld so long, and have imagined all sorts of interpolations; surely they have not seen the plan of the poet.

The Wooden Horse is not employed in the Iliad, but is one of the striking details of the later epics, which recounted the destruction of Troy. The song of Demodocus carries the incident back to the time of Homer, and before Homer, for it suggests antecedent ballads or rhapsodies which Homer knew, but did not use, and which poets after him developed. The Odyssey takes for granted that its hearers knew the Lay of the Wooden Horse, and also the Lay of the Strife between Ulysses and Achilles, "the fame of which had reached the broad Heavens." Thus we get a peep into the workshop of Homer and catch a glimpse of his materials, which he did not invent, but found at hand. Homer is the builder, the architectonic genius; he organizes the floating, disparate songs of his age into a great totality, into a Greek Temple of which they are the stones. Note what he does with this lay of Demodocus; he puts it into its place in the total structure of the Odyssey, and thus preserves it forever. So he has done with all his materials doubtless.

We may now see that those who cut up the Homeric poems into so many different songs or ballads simply destroy the distinctive work of Homer. They pry asunder the beautiful Greek Temple, lay its stones alongside of one another, and say: behold the poet. But this is just what he is not, and in the present Book we may see him unfolding his own process. Homer is not Demodocus, but the latter's lay he takes up and then weaves what he wants of it into the texture of the total poem. He is thus a contrast to the bard, whom, however, he fully recognizes and makes a part of his own work. Thus Homer himself really answers the Wolfian theory, which seeks to reduce him to a Demodocus, singing fragmentary lays about the Trojan War.

From the Greek poets the Wooden Horse passed to Virgil, who has made it the best-known incident of the Trojan War. It is probably the most famous stratagem of all time, due to the skill of Ulysses. Herein lies the answer to the first lay of Demodocus; in the dispute Ulysses is right, indeed he is a greater hero than Achilles, who could never have captured the hostile city. The incident took place after the action of the Iliad, and after the death of Achilles, who, heroic in courage, stood in the way of intelligence. When he is gone, the city falls, overthrown by the brain of Ulysses.

Homer does not pretend to give the song of Demodocus in full, but a brief summary of what he sang before the Phæacians. A later poet, Arctinus, took up the legend here alluded to, and developed it in a separate epic, called the Iliou-persis or Sack of Troy. Indeed a vast number of legends and lays about the Trojan War bloomed into epics, which were in later times joined together and called the Epic Cycle. Thus we distinguish two very different stages of consciousness in early Greek poetry: the ballad-making and the epical, Homer being the supreme example of the latter, and Demodocus an instance of the former.

Looking back at the three lays of the bard in the present Book we find that they all are connected together in a common theme of which they show different phases, beginning, middle and end—the conflict before the Iliad, the conflict of the Iliad, and the conflict after the Iliad, all hovering around the great national enterprise of the Greeks, namely the Trojan War, in which the deepest principle of the Hellenic world, indeed of the entire Occident, was at stake.

But Homer, in distinction from Demodocus, weaves into his poem not only the past but the present, not only Troy but Phæacia, not only the movement against the East but also the movement toward the West, of which Phæacia is simply one stage. The Hero who unites these two great movements of Greek spirit is now brought before us again.

2. Ulysses weeps at the song of the bard which recalls so many memories of friends departed and of dire calamities. These tears connect him deeply with Troy and its conflict; the Phæacians listen intently, but are outside of the great struggle, they shed no tears. Thus does Ulysses in his strongest emotions unite himself with the Trojan enterprise of aforetime. He is not simply a wanderer over the sea seeking to get home, but a returner from Troy; he has revealed himself through his feelings. He personally shares in the woes sung by the bard, because he has experienced them. Indeed the very image which the poet here employs to express sorrow, taken from the woman whose husband has been slain fighting for his city, and for his wife and his children, recalls Hector, Andromache and Astyanax as they appear in the Sixth Book of the Iliad. Ulysses is like such a woman, without home or family, alone among strangers, shedding tears. Thus he connects himself with the fateful story of Ilium.

Previously Ulysses wept at the first lay of Demodocus, now he emphasizes his sorrow by repetition. Whenever the theme of Troy is touched, he has to respond with tears; the second time of weeping at the Trojan tale is necessary in order to fix his character and identify him as a returner. Yet this repetition so vitally organic is questioned by many critics, some of whom resort to excision. It is hardly worth the while to notice them in their various attempts at destruction and construction; when we once catch the underlying motive all becomes plain. The first and last scenes of weeping unifies the Book, the bond of tears holds its parts indissolubly together in the emotions.

Alcinous has observed the stranger both times, sitting near him, while we may suppose that the other Phæacians, not noticing him, to be further off. The king sees his distress and even hears his sobs; in the first case the royal host refrained from inquiry, that being the duty of hospitality; but now the time for interrogation has arrived. The speech of Alcinous is characteristic; full of humanity, full of sympathy is the tone: "a guest, a suppliant stands for a brother even to the man of little feeling." A touch of prophetic boastfulness he shows here and elsewhere; the ships of the Phæacians he endows with supernatural powers, which fact, however, is not without meaning: "We have no pilots, no rudders even, our boats obey our thoughts, and know the cities and lands to which they come; very quickly do they shoot across the wave, hid in fog and cloud." Truly an ideal ship, which time has not yet realized, though recent navigation, with its present steam and its future electricity, is on the way thereto. Still angry Neptune threatens danger and may work damage, "smiting the ship on the dark deep." This speech of Alcinous with its miraculous, prophetic tinge, with its far-seeing hints of coming realities, almost foretelling our modern humanity and our modern mastery of the sea through science, and putting the two side by side, has given much trouble to the critics, whom we again shall have to pass by, as they simply darken the poet.

Finally comes the demand: who art thou and why didst thou weep? What is thy relation to Troy? Such is the culminating question; Ulysses has been unfolding himself more and more throughout the present Book before the king and people. The games showed his heroic strength; the dances brought out his recognizing and harmonious spirit; the lays of Demodocus have developed his connection with Troy. He clearly belongs to the past and to the present, possibly he is a bridge spanning them, which bridge he may be induced to build in wondrous rainbow colors before the eyes of the Phæacians.

Appendix. It seems never to have been noticed what an important relation the present Book sustains toward the Wolfian theory concerning the Homeric poems. The picture of Demodocus here given doubtless suggested to Wolf the first outline of his view, and has influenced other commentators who lean toward similar opinions. It is well known that Wolf in his famous Prolegomena maintains that the Iliad and Odyssey were originally a string of ballads more or less disconnected, and that Homer was only one of the many balladists, probably the best; furthermore he holds that these ballads were brought together, edited and put into their present shape by certain literary men called diaskeuastœ—revisers, redactors, professors of poetry and philology at the court of Peisistratus, about 500 B.C.

That is, Wolf regards Homer as a Demodocus, a singer and also a maker of disjointed ballads and war-songs, the latter pertaining mostly to the heroes of the Trojan War. These were sung at the festivals of the people, at the houses of the nobility, and at the courts of kings, quite as we see the bard singing here in Phæacia. This fact we may accept; but the question comes up: Is Homer such a balladist and nothing more?

Now it is clear that Homer is not a Demodocus, since the latter is not an epical builder, but a simple singer of separate lays for the occasion. Mark well that Homer in this book does not unfold the themes, "Strife between Ulysses and Achilles," and "The Wooden Horse," but simply alludes to them as well-known; he barely gives the title and a little of the argument, then drops the matter, leaving us to suppose that the Bard sang a somewhat lengthy lay, of which the effect upon the hearers and specially upon Ulysses is duly noted.

Homer, therefore, in this Book as well as in the First Book where Phemius is introduced, makes the Bard or Balladist merely one of his figures, and the song one of his incidents, while he, the veritable Homer, portrays the total environment, showing the court, the games, the household, the complete Phæacian world. Here we come upon the main distinction: Homer's eye is upon the totality of which the ballad-singer is but a small fragment; Demodocus appears in but one Phæacian Book, and is by no means all of that, though for once the leading figure.

A step further we may carry the thought. Homer is not only not a Demodocus, but he very distinctly contrasts himself with Demodocus by his poetic procedure. If he is at such pains to show himself a world-builder, and then puts into his world a ballad-singer as a passing character, he certainly emphasizes the difference between himself and the latter. It is also to be noticed that Demodocus does not sing an Iliad, though he chants lays of Troy; the Iliad is an organized work, not a collection of ballads strung together. Everything about Demodocus indicates separate songs; everything about Homer (the Iliad and the Odyssey) indicates unity of song. Hence with the separatists, dissectors, anatomizers, Demodocus is a greater favorite than Homer, indeed he has taken the place of Homer.

Moreover the poet has plainly marked another stage, a stage between himself and Demodocus. In the next Book Ulysses will begin singing and continue through four Books, giving his adventures in Fableland, which by itself possesses a certain completeness. Still it is but an organic part of the total Odyssey, whose poetical architect is Homer. Ulysses as singer is clearly higher than Demodocus; but Homer is above both, for he takes both of them up into his unity, which is the all-embracing poem.

Most emphatically, therefore, Homer shows himself not to be a Demodocus, not to be a ballad-singer, which is an essential point in the Wolfian argument. Homer himself refutes Wolf some 2,500 years beforehand, and his is still the best refutation. A careful study of this Eighth Book settles the relation between balladist and poet by a simple presentation of the facts in their proper co-ordination, and also puts the alert reader on the track of the genesis of the Wolfian Prolegomena. For there can hardly be a doubt that Wolf, consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, derived his main conception of Homer from the present Book and from the part that Demodocus, the bard, plays in it. To be sure, the idea that Demodocus, in a general way, is Homer, is old, coming down from antiquity and suggesting itself to the modern reader, who very naturally thinks that Homer is giving some traits of himself in his picture of the blind singer. So much we may grant: some traits of himself, but not all by any means; Homer doubtless upon occasion could sing a short lay of Troy for the amusement of his audience, like Demodocus; but in such a part he is only a wee fragment of the author of those magnificent works, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The total Homer builds totalities, by the very necessity of his genius.

Who, then, according to the theory, put these ballads together? Wolf, fully possessed of the notion that Demodocus is Homer, starts to account for the present form of the poems, which he assigns to the shaping hand of Peisistratus and his college of editors, critics, and poetasters. That is, the grand marvel of Homeric poetry, the mighty constructive act thereof, he ascribes to a set of men essentially barren and uncreative, for all of which he cites some very dubious and inadequate ancient authority.

Here again we may be permitted to trace the Wolfian consciousness to its origin, for origin it has in time and circumstance. Wolf was a professor in a University, and his department was philology; his ideas on Homer are really drawn from his vocation and his surroundings. Why should he not make a philologer and a professor the author of the Homeric poems? So he came to imagine that the tyrant Peisistratus 500 B.C. had under his patronage a kind of German University, or at least a philological seminary, whose professors really constructed Homer as we now have him, having put him together out of antecedent ballads which the actual Homer and many others may have made ages before. Wolf, therefore, is the founder of two philological seminaries; one at the University of Berlin, and the other at the court of Peisistratus. Great is the professor in smelling out the professor anywhere; still we cannot help thinking that what Wolf ascribed to the old Greek seminary, was done only at his German seminary, namely, the patching together of Homer out of ballads.



The movement of the second grand division of the poem, the Ulyssiad, has passed through two of its stages, which have been already considered; the third is now reached which we have called Fableland, though it may be said that the two previous lands are also fabulous. Let it then be named the Fairy World, though this term also does not state or suggest the fact with precision. Without troubling ourselves further about names, we shall proceed to seize the meaning by an exposition given in some detail.

No careful reader can doubt that the poem changes decidedly at the present juncture in color, style, environment and purpose. What reason for it? And what is the connection with the preceding portion of the poem? Four Books (IX-XII) of the same character essentially, unfold themselves before us and demand a new kind of appreciation; they are not idyllic, not epical; they form a class of a peculiar sort, which class, however, we have before noticed in the Odyssey, showing itself in short but suggestive interludes.

We shall, accordingly, first grapple with the leading facts of this new poetic order and seek to interpret them, or rather let them interpret themselves. Phæacia, which we have just seen, lies before Fableland, though the story of the latter is now told in Phæacia.

1. The first fact which strikes us is the decided contrast between the two realms. Phæacia is the land of pure idyllic delight, its supreme characteristic is peace, its happy people seem to have no conflict; Fableland, on the contrary, is one incessant course of strife, struggle and calamity, beginning with the unprovoked attack on the Ciconians. Polyphemus the savage Cyclops is the opposite of the civil ruler Alcinous; Circe, the enchantress, is the insidious foe to domestic life represented by Arete; State and Family in Phæacia are counterbalanced by an anti-State and an anti-Family in Fableland. Thus man and woman are shown in the two different places as institutional and anti-institutional. Still deeper does the opposition reach; Phæacia lies wholly in the Upperworld, with its sweet sunlight, while Fableland has a dim Underworld, beyond the sunlight, the realm of the Supersensible; finally Fableland witnesses the supreme negative act of man, typified in the slaying of the Oxen of the Sun. We may, therefore, affirm that Fableland, as compared with Phæacia, shadows forth the realm of negation; the one stands for the ideal Greek world of ethical order and harmony; the other is the denial and destruction of the same.

But we must not omit the reverse side of the contrast. In Fableland there is one continued striving of the human soul, a chafing against all limits, a moving forward from one stage to another; the spirit of man is shown transcending its bounds everywhere. In Phæacia, however, there is no striving apparently, it is contented with itself and stays with itself, seeking no neighbors; it is the land of rest, of cessation from conflict, possibly of stagnation, unless it is stirred by inner scission.

The transition from Phæacia to Fableland is, therefore, full of meaning. It is possible that Ulysses or the poet wished to show these people the struggles which were slumbering in their society, for all civilized order has the possibility of them. The negative spirit will rise hereafter in their midst; so it rose in legendary Greece after the Trojan War, so it rose in historical Greece after the Persian War. Thus we may catch a prophetic tinge in this web of marvelous tales. On the other hand, we should note also that Ulysses has reached the land of peace just through the realm of strife and negation.

2. The next important thing is to observe how the poet is going to locate, and environ this negative world. As it is the opposite of the civilized order of Hellas, he throws it outside of Hellenic boundaries. Over the Greek border somewhere it has to be placed; thus it passes easily from the known to the unknown, out of the civilized to the barbarous, out of the natural, to the supernatural.

All this we feel at once in the narrative. It is true that the first destructive deed, the attack upon the Ciconians, occurs within the limits of historical Hellas, in a region well known; but this act is the prelude and the example, the offenders are at once borne to the Lotus-eaters, who have the faintest touch of historical reality, and thence to Polyphemus who is wholly fabulous. In this realm of pure fable they stay till the end, having been cast out of Greece by the poet on account of their hostile spirit.

Moreover we should note that they move about on the sea, that most unstable element, in contrast to the fixed land; on the one there is order and law, on the other caprice and violence. Yet certain fixed points are set in this uncertain domain, namely the islands, which however, are wholly separated from Hellas and her life, and have inhabitants of their own, strangers to Hellenic influence. Ulysses and his crew will pass from island to island, each of which will show its meaning in some way antagonistic to Greek spirit. Out of the pale they all lie in the boundless billowy waters; thus the Odyssey in this part becomes a sea poem, while in the other two parts it is essentially a land poem. The Greek was and still is a native of both sea and land which are physically interwined and bound together in Greece as in no other portion of the globe. His great poetical book envisages his country as well as himself.

The main point, however, is that Fableland being negative to the Greek world is put outside of all of its known geographical limits, and thus becomes the setting for the marvelous story. It may here be added that Grimm's Tales have a similar border which lies between civilized life and the forest, since the forest was, for our Teutonic ancestors, the fairy realm, in which their supernatural beings dwelt for the most part. Out of culture back to nature the human being sometimes has to go and have strange communings with the spirits there; such is often the movement of the Fairy Tale. But who are these spirits or weird powers dwelling in the lone island or in the solitary wood?

3. This question brings us to the pivotal fact of all Fableland: it is ruled over by a new order of deities, not Olympians; the poet, throwing it out of Hellas below, throws it out of Olympus above. Indeed what else could he do? The Gods of Greece are the protectors of its institutions, State and Family; they are the embodiment of its spirit, of its civilization. But a spirit is now portrayed which is negative to Greek spirit, which denies and defies it in its very essence; the result is a new set of supernatural shapes which dominate the separated world. The negation also must be seen taking on a plastic form, and appearing before the Greek imagination.

The deities of Fableland, or its supernatural powers, are therefore opposite to the deities of Olympus. Hence their shape is changed, they can be even monstrosities, such as Polyphemus, the Læstrigonians, Scylla and Charybdis. Circe and Calypso are beautiful women, yet not natural women, in spite of their beauty; there is something superhuman about them, divine, though they be not Olympians. Shapes of wonder they all seem, unreal, yet in intimate connection with mankind. Moreover they are local, attached to a given spot, or island; they are not universal, they have no general sway like the Olympians; limited, confined, particular is their authority, which the human being can and must transcend.

At this point Olympus can descend into their world and give command. So, after all, the Greek Gods rule over the realm which is negative to them, must do so, else they were not Gods. But they are in a far-off background, namely, in civilized Hellas, beyond whose border Ulysses passes in these Books. Still Zeus, the supreme Greek God, sends his decree to Calypso, when Ulysses is ready to leave the Dark Island. Thus the Olympians exercise a final jurisdiction even here. It is to be noticed, however, that Pallas has little to do with Ulysses in Fableland; for is she not substantially negated? But when he touches Greece again, and even in Phæacia, she will not fail to be at his side. She belongs not to Wonderland, but to the clear rational realm of light and order; she cannot follow even her darling mortal through these dark mazy wanderings.

It is manifest that the epical Upper World of the Gods has receded from the place it occupies in the Iliad and in the other portions of the Odyssey; in fact, it has been largely but not wholly supplanted. A new order of deities is portrayed, subordinate, yet authoritative in their limited domain, which is cut off by the vast sea from united Hellas, and is thus made merely individual and anti-social by its situation.

What are these shapes and why? Man has created them that he may indicate his own spiritual state when he has fallen out with the established order. Really they are phases of the development of the hero, who is reaching out through disbelief, denial, defiance, toward a restoration. He is negative to the Greek consciousness, and this negation takes shape by mind, yet has to be put down by mind. The whole process he projects out of himself into two lines of movement: the first is the row of preternatural forms arranged as if in a gallery of antique sculpture, the second is himself passing through these forms, grappling with them, mastering them, or fleeing from them.

Such is this Fairy World which has crept in under the grand Olympian order in response to a true necessity. Its beings are not natural, its events are not probable; thus the poet forces us to look inward if we would see his meaning. Spirit is portraying spirit, and not externality, which is here made absurd; in this manner we are driven out of the real into ideal, or we drop by the way in reading those four Books.

4. But it must not for a moment be thought that Homer created this Fairy World or made, single-handed, these Fairy Tales. The latter are the work of the people, possibly of the race. Comparative folk-lore has traced them around the globe in one form or other. The story of Polyphemus is really a collection of stories gathered about one central person; some portions of it have been found in the East as well as the West, in Arabian and Tartar legend as well as in Celtic and Esthonian. The subtle play upon the word "nobody" as a name is known far and wide by many people who never heard of Homer. Wilhelm Grimm took the trouble to collect a lot of examples from a great variety of sources, ancient, medieval and modern, European and Asiatic, in a special treatise called the Legend of Polyphemus. Circe, the enchantress, has been discovered in a Hindoo collection of Tales belonging in the main to the thirteenth century of our era; but the witch who has the power of turning men into animals is as universal as folk-lore itself. The werewolf superstition will furnish instances without number. The descent into Hades has its parallel in the Finnish epic Kalevala, which reaches far back into Turanian legend; even the North American and Australian savages have their heroes enter the world beyond, and bring back an account of what is there. Truly one of the earliest needs of the human soul is this striving to find and to shadow forth in mythical outlines the realm of the supersensible. Dante's Journey through Inferno goes back to Virgil, Virgil goes back to Homer, and Homer to the folk-tales of his people, and these folk-tales of Greece reach out to still more remote ages and peoples. Thus into Christian legend the old heathen stories are transformed; many descents to Hell and Purgatory, as well as visions of Heaven are recorded in the Middle Ages. It may be said that folk-tales have an ancestry as old as man himself, and have followed him everywhere as his spirit's own shadow, which he casts as his body casts its visible shadow.

A collection of Fairy Tales we may, then, consider these four Books, with its giants, cannibals, enchantresses, with its bag of winds, which is still furnished by the town-witch to the outgoing sailor in some countries, if report be true. In fact, a little delving among the people, who are the great depositories of folk-lore, would probably find some of the stories of the Odyssey still alive, if not in their completeness, at least some shreds or floating gossamers thereof. Indestructible is the genuine tale when once made and accepted by the people, being of their very essence; it is also the primordial material of which all true poetry is produced, it is nature's Parian marble of which the poetic temple of Greece is built, specially this Homeric temple.

5. At this point we begin to see just what is the function of Homer who has inherited a vast mass of poetic material. He is its shaper, organizer, transformer; chiefly, however, he is the architect of the beautiful structure of song. He does not and cannot make the stone which goes into his edifice, but he makes the edifice. His genius is architectonic; he has an idea which he builds into harmonious measures. What the ages have furnished, he converts to his own use, and orders into a poetic Whole.

The store of Fairy Tales in those four Books was unquestionably transmitted to him, but he has jointed them into the Ulyssiad, and into the total Odyssey, of whose structure they form the very heart. The question arises: Did Homer find those Tales already collected? Possibly he did, to a certain extent; they seem to come together of themselves, making a marvelous romance of the sea. Some story-telling Greek sailor may well have given him the thread of connection; certainly they are sprung of nautical experience. But in whatever shape they may come to the poet, we may be certain of one thing: his constructive spirit transformed them and put them into their present place, where they fit to perfection, forming a most important stage in the grand Return.

In the development of the folk-tale, we can in a general way mark three grades. (1) There is first the story which sets forth the processes in nature, the clouds, the winds, the storms, the sun and moon, the conflict of the elements. Such is mainly the mythical character of the old Vedas. Many a trace of this ancient conception we can find in Homeric Fableland, which has a strong elemental substrate in the wrath of Neptune, in the tempests, in the winds of Æolus, in the Oxen of the Sun. Still the Odyssey has passed far beyond this phase of mythical consciousness; it cannot be explained by resolving it back into mere nature-myths, which method simply leaves out the vital fact, namely, that of development. (2) In the second stage of the Fairy Tale the physical meaning begins to withdraw into the background, and an ethical element becomes dominant; the outer conflicts of nature, if they be present, are taken to portray the spirit's struggle, in which a supreme moral order of some kind is brought to light. Here we may well place Grimm's collection of folk-tales in many ways an epoch-making book. In those simple stories of the people we observe the good and the bad marked off distinctly and engaged in some kind of a wrestle, which shows at last the supremacy of the good. Not in every case perhaps, but such is the tendency. But these Tales of Grimm, though collected, are in no sense united; the architect never appeared, though they are the material of a great Teutonic epos; they are the stones of the edifice, not the edifice itself by any means. (3) Out of this second stage easily rises the third, the poet being given; whereof the best example is just those four Books of the Odyssey. Now the folk-tale stands not alone, in widowed solitariness, but is made to take its place in the great national, or perchance universal temple of song.

We may say, therefore, that Homer not only gathered these Tales but organized them into a Whole, so that they no longer fall asunder into separate narratives, but they are deftly interwoven and form a great cycle of experience. No segment of this cycle can be taken away without breaking the totality. Moreover the entire series is but an organic part of the Odyssey.

It is now manifest that those who resolve these Tales into a disconnected bead-roll have really fallen back into the second stage before mentioned; they have undone the work of Homer. If these four Books be simply a string of stories without an inner movement from one to the other, or without any organic connection with the rest of the poem, the entire poetic temple is but a pile of stones and no edifice. And this is what Wolf and his disciples make out of Homer. In one way or other they tear asunder the structure and transform it backwards in a collection, allowing it hardly as much unity as may be found in the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer. A school more recent than that of Wolf, the Comparative Philologists, have gone still further backwards, and have reduced Homer to the first stage, to a nature-myth. The merit of both schools is that they have called attention to Homer's primitive materials; they have rendered impossible the idea that Homer created the Greek Gods or his mythology, or even his little stories. The defect of these schools is that they fail to see the architectonic Homer, the poet who builds the crude materials furnished by his people into an enduring structure of the noblest art. They recognize in the edifice the stone and also the stone-cutter, but no master-builder.

Homer, therefore, is not merely the editor, collector, redactor; he is not a Grimm, gathering his tales from the mouths of the people with a scientific accuracy. He gathered them, doubtless, but he transfigured them into an image reflecting the experience of a human soul. Our age is indeed scientific, it is collecting the folk-songs and the folk-tales from every quarter of the globe, and stringing them on a thread, like so many beads, not being able to transmute them into poetry. Wolf heralded the coming time by starting to reconvert Homer into his primitive materials, by making him scientific and not poetic, at least not architectonic. Still we may be permitted to hope that these vast collections of the world's folk-lore will yet be transmuted by some new Homer into a world-poem.

6. The careful reader will also weigh the fact that Ulysses is now the story-teller himself. The entire series of adventures in Fableland is put into his mouth by the poet. Herein, we note a striking difference from the previous Book, the ninth, in which Demodocus is the singer. What is the ground of such a marked transition? Demodocus has as his theme the war at Troy with its lays of heroes, and its famous deeds; he celebrates the period portrayed in the Iliad; his field is the Heroic Epos, or the songs of which it is composed. But he cannot sing of the world outside of the Greco-Trojan consciousness, he cannot reach beyond the Olympian order into the new set of deities of Fableland. Ulysses, however, has transcended the Trojan epoch, has, in fact, reacted against Hellenic life and institutions, though he longs to get back to them, out of his alienated condition. This internal phase Demodocus does not know, it manifestly lies beyond his art. He does not sing of the Return at all, though Phemius, the Ithacan bard, did in the First Book. A new strain is this, requiring a new singer, namely the man who has had the wonderful experience himself.

The result is, another art-form has to be employed, the Fairy Tale, of which we have already spoken. The individual now turns inward and narrates his marvelous adventures in the region of spirit, his wrestlings there, his doubts, his defeats and escapes. For Fableland is not actual like Hellas, not even like Phæacia; it is a creation of the mind in order to express mind, and its shapes have to be removed from sensuous reality to fulfill the law of their being. Such is plainly Homer's procedure. Once before he sped off into Fairyland, toward Egypt and the East, leaving Hellas and Troy behind, quite as Ulysses here does. It was the story of Menelaus in the Fourth Book, who also found Proteus and Eidothea, a new order of deities, though Olympus and Zeus lay in the distant background. Moreover, Proteus and Eidothea represent the two sides, the supersensible and the sensible, the latter of which must be transcended and the former grasped, ere return be possible.

Nestor also tells his own experience in the Third Book, but he keeps inside of Hellas and under the direct control of the Greek Gods. Hence no Faery Realm rises in his narrative, he needs none for self-expression. But Menelaus and Ulysses, wandering far over the Greek border, reach a new world, and require a new art-form for their adequate utterance. Especially is this the case with Ulysses, who has had a much larger and deeper experience than Menelaus, and who thus stands in strong contrast with Nestor, the old man of faith with his devotion to the old order, who has no devious return from Troy, and continues to live in immediate unquestioning harmony with the Olympians. There is no room in Pylos for a Circe or a Polyphemus.

Ulysses, therefore, having reached the court of Phæacia, takes a calm retrospect of the past, and recounts the same to the people there; he comes to know himself, and he uses art for self-expression, not for the praise of the external deed of war; his inner life is the theme. In other words, he has become self-conscious in Phæacia, he knows his own processes, and shows that he knows them. As already pointed out, this internal movement of his spirit is the process of the negative, he has turned denier of the old institutional order of Greece, and he has to work through into a positive world again, which he now sees before himself in Phæacia.

To be sure, the self-consciousness to which he has attained is not expressed in the language of philosophy, but in poetry, in a transcendental Fairyland. There is as yet no Greek language of philosophy; a long development will bring it forth however; Aristotle will deracinate the last image of Homer, and leave the Greek tongue supersensible.

7. The fact that Ulysses must tell his own story is deeply coupled with the following characteristic: these four Books of Fableland are essentially a confession. From beginning to end we observe it to be an account of shortcomings and their results; we find the acknowledgment of error in the very statement of the transaction. He confesses to Alcinous and the Phæacians his negative attitude to the State and the consequences thereof; he confesses to Arete in what way he has violated her institution. Here lies the necessity: this confession is absolutely needful to his soul to free it of its negative past. He has become conscious of his condition, and utters his confession to these people who are the opposite of it, and thus gets rid of his limitation. The psychologic ground of his telling his own story is that he must.

To be sure, this is all done in a mythical form, which is somewhat alien to our method of making a confession. Then Homer does not moralize by the way, he does not usually approve or condemn; he simply states the deed and its consequences. His procedure is objective, truly artistic, letting the thing speak for itself. The modern reader, however, likes to have moral observations interspersed, which will stir up his sentiments, and save him the trouble of thinking the matter out for himself.

Yet Ulysses, on the other hand, is always striving to reach out of his error, to transcend his limitation. His mistake flings him to the earth, but he gets up again and marches forward. Thus he asserts his own infinite worth; he is certain to reach home at last and accomplish the grand Return.

But he does not bring back his companions. These often seem to be lower unheroic phases of human nature, which the hero must throw off in the course of his development. In general, they may be considered to be in him, a part of himself, yet they are real persons too. This rule, however, will not always apply. Still his companions are lost, having "perished by their own folly," while he is saved; the wise man is to live, the unwise to pass away.

The pivotal sin committed by Ulysses in Fableland is against Neptune, who is angry because Ulysses put out the eye of his son Polyphemus. So the God, after the affair of the Oxen of the Sun, becomes the grand obstacle to the Return, and helps to keep the hero with Calypso. Such is the mythical statement in which three conceptions seem to blend. (1) Neptune is the purely physical obstacle of the sea, very great in those early days. (2) Nature has her law, and if it be not observed, the penalty follows, when she may be said to be mythically angry. If a man jump down from a high precipice, he violates a law of nature, gravitation, and she executes him on the spot, it may be; she is always angry and quick to punish in such cases; but he may climb down the height and escape. In like manner a man, undertaking to swim across the sea, encounters the wrath of Neptune; but he may construct a ship, and make the voyage. (3) Finally there is the ethical violation: we shall see in the narrative, how Ulysses, after appealing to humanity, becomes himself inhuman and a savage toward Polyphemus, who then curses him and invokes father Neptune with effect. So the God visits upon Ulysses the punishment for his ethical offense, which is the main one after all. In this way Fableland through the story of Polyphemus contains a leading motive of the Ulyssiad, and thereby of the whole Odyssey, and Ulysses is seen to be detained really by his own deed.

8. The general structure of these four Books is simple enough. They form a series of adventures, with three to a Book. Though the connection seems slight on the surface, there are inner threads which bind intimately together the separate adventures; one of the points in any true interpretation is to raise these threads to light. The general movement of the whole may be regarded as threefold: the sensible world (two Books), the supersensible Hades (one Book), the sensible world a second time (one Book). Very significant are these changes, but it is hardly worth while to forecast them here; they must be studied in detail first, then a retrospect can be given, as the contents of the four Books will be present in the reader's mind. We may now say, however, that this sweep from the sensible into the supersensible, and back again to the sensible, has in it the meaning of a soul's experience, and that the second sensible realm here mentioned is very different from the first.

The central fact of Fableland is, accordingly, that the man must get beyond the realm of the senses, and hold communion with pure spirit, with the prophet Tiresias, and then come back to the real world, bringing the wisdom gained beyond, ere he can complete the cycle of the grand Return.


Ulysses is now called for by Alcinous, and he is to be the singer. At first he naturally pays a compliment to his predecessor Demodocus: "A pleasant thing to hear a bard such as this," with a voice like unto that of the Gods. Then he gives a delicate touch of commendation to the whole people "sitting in a row and listening to the singer" who is chanting the famous deeds of the aforetime. But when Ulysses praises the tables laden with bread and meat, and the cupbearer filling the wine-cups of the guests, saying, "This seems to me the best thing," strong opposition has been aroused, shown even in antiquity by the sharp protest of Plato and Lucian. Still this Phæacian enjoyment is innocent enough; not ascetic is the trait, yet not sensual; to-day good people usually eat and drink without the song of bard or other spiritual entertainment accompanying the material one of gustation.

Now comes the change, Ulysses is to give a song, he is to sing his own deeds, the story of his trials, "which will wake fresh sorrow in me." Clearly this will be a different song from the preceding one of Demodocus; not now an heroic tale of Troy, but an account of the Return therefrom; a tale in which endurance is the theme rather than action. The hero is more the sufferer than the doer; he is to meet the hostile blows of Fate and to master it by his ability to bear as well as by his ability to act. A new poetic form will gradually rise out of the theme and in harmony with the same; the present movement runs counter to the Trojan story both in space and in spirit.

The first act of Ulysses in this novel procedure is to be duly noted: he declares who he is, gives his father's name and utters a hint of his own character. Very great surprise must the announcement have created among those Phæacians—a veritable sensation, as we say in these times; for Ulysses had been the real hero of the songs of Demodocus just sung; behold, that hero himself is present and has been listening all the while. The dramatic disguise, in which the interest of the hearer has centered hitherto, is thrown off, the concealed man shows himself.

Still deeper must we look into this act of self-revelation. "I am Ulysses," says the bard now, proposing to sing of Ulysses. I am myself, I know what I have done and I am the man to tell it. Really here is a statement of self-consciousness; the singer is no longer a Demodocus singing of another man, of Ulysses, at Troy, but it is Ulysses himself, now singing of himself, of his profoundest experiences, which none other but he can tell. His internal life opens, not that active heroic one; the trials of his spirit are the theme, therewith must follow a new manner of utterance, a poetic form which can express what is within and still remain in the domain of the imagination. A self-conscious art we must now be prepared for, which seeks to express just the self-consciousness of the poet going through his inner experiences, with the counterstroke from the outer world.

What new art-form, then, will Homer, the grand constructive poet, who seizes every object necessary for his temple of song, assign to Ulysses singing of himself? The Fairy Tale is taken with its strange supernatural shapes, which have no reality, and hence can only have an ideal meaning; we are ushered into the realm of the physically impossible, where we have to see the spiritually actual, if we see anything. Polyphemus is not a man, not an animal, not a direct product of nature; he is a creature of the mind made by the mind in order to express mind. Undoubtedly he has external shape, but that shape is meaningless till we catch the spirit creating him. The Fairy Tale removes the vision from an outer sensuous world, and compels an internal vision, which looks into the soul of things and there beholds the soul.

The Fairy Tale existed long before Homer, it is a genuine product of the people. The stories which here follow have been traced among the remotest races; they spring up of themselves out of the popular heart and imagination. Homer picks them up and puts them into their true place in his grand edifice, polishing, transforming them, by no means creating them; certainly he never created this art-form. His merit is that he saw where they belong and what phase of human experience they express; to this merit must be added his special power, that of poetic transfiguration. Not simply a redactor or putter together externally of odd scraps, but the true architect of the totality; thus he comes before us on the present and on all other occasions.

Ulysses, having told us who he is, proceeds to inform us of a second important fact: his soul's strongest aspiration. He longs to return to home and country. Ithaca, a small, rocky island, is the sweetest spot on earth to him; Circe and then Calypso tried to detain him, each wishing to keep him as husband; "but they could not shake the purpose of my heart." One thinks that he must, while saying this, have cast a sly glance at Arete, for whose approval it must have been intended, for she was no friend of Circe and Calypso.

It is a curious fact that Homer, in this short description, makes two mistakes in reference to the topography of Ithaca. The island can hardly be called low as here stated, nor does it lie westward of Cephallenia, but northeastward. A reasonable inference is that Homer was not an Ithacan, and did not know the island very well, though he may have seen it in a passing visit. Anaximander with his first map comes after Homer several hundred years.

The present Book has three plainly marked portions. First comes the wanton attack on the Ciconians, which connects immediately with the Trojan experience of Ulysses. Second is the country of the Lotus-eaters, to which he and his companions are driven by wind and storm. Third is the Land of the Cyclops, especially of Polyphemus, with whom he has his chief adventures. The first two portions are quite brief, are in fact introductory to the third, which takes up more than four-fifths of the Book, and is the Fairy Tale proper. We may observe the gradual transition: the Ciconians are a real people in geography and history; the Lotus-eaters are getting mythical, are but half-way historical; the Cyclops belong wholly to Fableland. Thus there is a movement out of the Trojan background of reality into the Fairy World.

Having marked the dividing lines, the next thing will be to find the connecting links between these three portions. They are not thrown together haphazard or externally joined into one Book; they have an internal thought which unifies them and which must be brought to light. The poet sees in images which are separate, but the thinker must unite these images by their inner necessity, and thus justify anew the poet.


The first sentence strikes the leading thought: "The wind, bearing me from Troy, brought me to the Ciconians." Troy is the starting-point, the background out of which everything moves. After the fall of the city Nestor gives an account of the disputes of the Greek leaders and their separation (Book III. l. 134 et seq.); Ulysses is driven alone with his contingent across the sea toward Thrace, where he finds a city in peace, though it had been an ally of Troy. "I sacked the city, I destroyed its people;" he treated them as he did the Trojans, "taking as booty their wives and property." Such is the spirit begotten of that ten years' war in the character of Ulysses, a spirit of violence and rapine, totally unfitted for a civilized life, at bottom negative to Family and State. This is the spiritual starting-point from which he is to return to home and country through a long, long, but very needful discipline.

He is well aware that he has done something for which vengeance awaits him, so he urges his companions to flee at once. But they would not obey, they stayed there "drinking much wine and slaughtering sheep and oxen along the sea-shore." Revel and feasting follow, till the Ciconians rouse the outlying neighbors and drive the Greeks to the ships, with the loss of six companions for each ship. Such is the first incident after the Trojan War, showing clearly the destructive phase thereof, which has been drilled into the character by so long a period of bloodshed.

This is not yet Fairyland, but a real people and a real conflict. The Ciconians in the later historic time of Herodotus still dwelt in Thrace. Grotius in his famous book On the Rights of Peace and War cites the present instance as a violation of international justice. The grand positive ground of attacking Troy is not found here; there was no Helen detained in wrongful captivity. The sack of Ismarus pictures the evil results which spring from all war, even the most just. Again we must affirm that this deed of wrongful violence is the start toward the great Return, and hints what has to be overcome internally by the journey through Fairyland.

Later we find a fact, not here mentioned, pertaining to the sack of the city of the Ciconians. Ulysses had saved Maron, the priest of Apollo, who in gratitude gave him the strong wine with which he overcame Polyphemus in the cave. His merciful deed thus helped him conquer the monster of nature. But in general it is plain that Ulysses, though desiring to get back to an institutional life, is not ready by any means for such a step; he is in reality hostile to the very essence of institutional life. He is too much like the suitors now to be their punisher.

All put to sea again, to be tossed on that unruly element, with their little vessels exposed to wind and wave. "They call thrice by name each one of their dead companions" ere they set out; the meaning of this invocation has been much discussed, but it probably rests upon the belief that they could thus call the souls of the deceased to go along with them to home and country. The fact that just six were lost from each ship was made the ground of an assault upon Homer in antiquity by Zoilus, famed as the Homeromastix, or Homer's trouncer.

The great sea with its tempests is now before them, heaving and tossing; after the attack upon the Ciconians we can well imagine that this storm has its inner counterpart in the soul of Ulysses. Does he not show within himself a deep scission—between his desire to return and his deed? At any rate he is borne forward; when he sought to round Maleia, the southern point of Greece (now Cape St. Angelo), and sail home to Ithaca, he was carried out to sea by the winds, beyond the Island Cythera, across the main toward the coast of Africa. Thus he is swept outside the boundaries of Hellas proper into a region dimly known, half-mythical; he cannot make the sharp turn at Maleia, inside the Greek world; he must go beyond it and there reach his final experience. Not simply physical is this description, else it would be a mere statement in geography; it is also spiritual and hence rises into poetry.


Next is the land of the Lotus-eaters, where Ulysses and his companions arrive, after being driven helplessly "across the fishy deep" for nine days (this is a favorite number in Homer) by the hostile winds. The Lotus-eaters, "whose food is flowers" use no violence, but reach to the new-comers their plant, the lotus, to satisfy hunger. Whoever has once tasted of that pleasant food, straightway forgets home and the Return, and wishes to live always among the Lotus-eaters. The will is broken, all activity is sapped; the land of idlers it is, relaxed in a sensuous dream life, in which there is a complete collapse of volition.

Now the point is to connect this country with the Ciconians, or rather to see this internal condition evolving itself out of the preceding one. For the line of conjunction must be within, of the spirit; physically the two countries are far enough apart. In the first case, we have noted a state of external violence, which really means a destroying of the will. The Greeks assailed a quiet people, assailed its will; then they were beaten and driven off, they had their negative deed served up to themselves. Now what? There follows an internal collapse of the will, a logical result of their own conduct, which is hinted by their being drifted about on the seas, apparently quite helpless. No wonder that, when they touched land again, and obtained some food, they desired to stay there, and eat of the lotus. Yet it is the consequence of their own act; that wanton destruction of the Ciconian will is at bottom the destruction of their own will; they are really assailing their own principle—a fact which is to be brought home to them by a long and bitter experience.

But there is one man among them, who, though not guiltless by any means, felt the nature of the Ciconian act, and who has still some volition left in the right direction. "By force I led back to the ship those who had tasted of the lotus, and bound them beneath the oar-benches." The rest of the companions were ordered aboard, they obeyed; off they sail again on the hoary deep—whitherward? Thus Ulysses shows himself the man of will among the will-less, and solves his part of the problem among the Lotus-eaters, setting out for the new Unknown.

This people probably lived on the coast of Lybia according to Homer's conception, though the land is outside the clear Greek geographical horizon, floating mistily somewhere on its borders, half real, half fabulous, on the way to Fairyland. We enter more distinctly the inner realm of the spirit, as the outer realm of reality becomes less distinct and demonstrable. The Ciconians were an actual people, the conflict with them also actual, quite the Trojan conflict; but the Lotus-eaters form the transition to the Wonderland of the Odyssey.

As regards the lotus, several plants were called by that name; one is mentioned in a previous Book of the Odyssey (IV. 603) which was probably a kind of clover growing in the damp lowlands of Greece and Asia Minor, and utilized for grazing. Another sort was a species of lily which grew in the valley of the Nile. But the lotus of the present passage is generally considered to be the fruit of a shrub which yields a reddish berry of the size of a common olive, having somewhat the taste of a fig. This fruit is still highly esteemed in Tripolis, Tunis and Algiers; from the last named country it has passed over to France, and is often hawked about the streets of Paris under the name of Jujube, where the passing traveler will purchase a sample, and eat of the same, testing the truth of Homer's description, but probably not losing thereby his desire for home and country.

The Lotus-eaters have had a famous history; they have caught the fancy of poets and literary men who have sought in various ways to reproduce and embellish them. Among English-speaking peoples the poem of Tennyson on this subject is a prime favorite. But in Homer the Lotus-eaters are not an isolated fact, they are a link in the chain of a grand development; this inner connecting thought is the true thing to grasp.

Let us, then, penetrate the heart of the next movement of Ulysses. The Lotus-eater gave up family and country; "chewing the lotus, he forgot the return." His will vanished into a sensuous oblivion; he was indifferent, and this indifference was a passive destruction of the Greek world to which he was returning. But now in due order the active destroyer of that world appears; behold the Cyclops, the wild man of nature, truly a monster to the Greek institutional sense, being without domestic and civil order. Thus we mark the inner transition: the active principle of that which was a passive Lotus-eater is the Cyclops, a Polyphemus. The Trojan negative result, so deeply lodged in the soul of Ulysses and his companions, cannot remain mere indifference or forgetfulness; it must proceed to action, to virulent destructive action, which is now to be bodied forth in a fabulous shape. Only a few of the weakest companions of Ulysses were ready to become Lotus-eaters, and they were easily thrust under the oar-benches and carried away. Here there is a fresh conflict, altogether the main one of the present Book.


If then we have seized the matter aright, we have reached a shape in Fairyland, which represents what is hostile, actively hostile, to the Greek institutional world, State, Family, Society. Ulysses stands in a double relation to the present condition of things. The Cyclops is really a picture of him in his negative character, a product of his destructive Trojan spirit, yet he is just the man who must put down the Cyclops, he must master his own negation or perish. Ulysses sees the natural man, or rather, he sees himself with all culture taken away, with all institutional life eliminated from his existence.

He may well be frightened at the monster, who is very real, though a dweller in Fairyland. Nor should we forget that the Cyclops also undergoes a change, he too is in the process and shows something like development under the severe tuition of Ulysses.

As already said, the present portion is altogether the longest in the Book, it is essentially the entire Book. The other two portions were hardly more than a short introduction and a brief transitional stage; now comes the full and highly elaborated tale, in which both the land and its inhabitants are fabulous, supernatural. There are two distinct divisions treating of the Cyclops: the first describes their race in general, the second gives a description of the particular grand Cyclops, Polyphemus, in his conflict with Ulysses.

I. This time there is no tempest, such as arose after leaving the Ciconians, in order to reach the land of the Cyclops; that collapse of the will seems to have pictured itself in the quiet deep. But who are the Cyclops? A race "without law, addicted to violent deeds;" they have no agriculture, "they plant not, neither do they plow;" they get their products, "trusting to the Gods," that is, trusting to nature, since the Cyclops have small regard for the higher Gods, as we shall soon see. Another mere formula this, showing that the Homeric deity was getting crystallized even for Homer. "They hold no councils" in common, are not associated together, but "they dwell in vaulted caves on mountain heights," such as the famous Corycian cavern which is near the top of a mountain on Parnassus. There "each man rules his wives and children," evidently a herding polygamous condition of the family; "nor do they (the Cyclops) care for one another." Still further, "they have no ships with crimson prows," no navigation, no commerce which seeks "the cities of men" and binds them together in the bond of society and humanity. Yet there is an excellent harbor and a good soil, "with copious showers from Zeus;" nature has surely done her part, and is calling loudly for the enterprising colonist to come and plant here his civilized order. This passage must have stirred the Greek emigrant to leave his stony Hellas and seek in the West, a new home; it suggests the great Hellenic movement for the colonization of Italy and Sicily from the 6th to the 9th century B.C. The poet has plainly been with the frontiersman, and seen the latter's giants.

The main thing to be noticed in the present account is the extraordinary number of negatives. No laws, no assemblies, no association; no plows, no ships, no intercourse with other cities; the whole civilized life of man is negated, and man himself is thrown back into a state of nature. It is worth while to search for the purpose of this negative procedure on the part of the poet. He might have given a positive description of nature, telling what it is, and telling what the Cyclops is, not emphasizing so much what he is not. But thus the meaning would not come out so plainly; the Cyclops is just the negation of the whole civilized world of Greece, which fact must be expressly imaged in the very words used in the poem. He is not so much a simple being of nature as a being antithetic to society.

At this point we can trace his connection with the great Trojan experience, which, as already set forth, has begotten a negative tendency in its participators. The war at Troy, like all war long-continued, has bred men to be anti-social; they have to destroy State, Family, Commerce, Agriculture, till destruction becomes habit, yea principle, and takes possession of their intellect. The Cyclops was generated at Ilium, and is a colossal phantasm of the spirit which prompted the attack on the Ciconians.

It should be stated here that the Cyclops of Homer are different from those of Hesiod and of other mythographers, inasmuch as the latter were represented as the demons who forged the thunderbolts of Zeus, and were connected with the volcanic agencies chiefly in Sicily and Italy. Mount Ætna belching forth its lava streams may have suggested to the Greek imagination the sick giant Polyphemus in its caverns, drunk on the red destructive wine of Ulysses.

First is a small island, "stretching outside the harbor" of the land of the Cyclops, woody, full of wild goats; there the ships of Ulysses drew to the shore. It was bare of human dwellers, the Cyclops had no boats to reach it; a good place for stopping, therefore, quite out of reach of the savages. Nor is the fountain forgotten, "sparkling water flowing from a hollow rock down to the harbor"—an adjunct still necessary to every Greek village or encampment. "Some God led us through the dark night" without our seeing the island till the boats struck it—surely a providential intervention on our behalf.

Leaving behind the other ships at this point, Ulysses takes only his own and its crew, and goes forth to "test these people, whether just or unjust, hospitable or godless." He cannot rest in ignorance, he must have the experience and know the unknown. He soon sees "a cave high up the mountain, not far from the sea, overarched with laurel shrubs;" he observes also "an enclosure, made of stones set in the earth;" these stones are not hewn (as some translators say), since the so-called Cyclopean walls so common in Greece were not built by this kind of Cyclops. In the enclosure were resting "many herds of sheep and goats"—just such a scene as can be witnessed in the rural parts of Greece to-day. This is the environment of "the man-monster," who is now to be the theme of song.

II. Polyphemus is a Cyclops but he has characteristics of his own. He has no family in his cave, he lives wholly for himself apparently; he seems to be the largest of his race, "like no man who lives by bread;" he towers alone "like the peak of a high mountain shaggy with woods;" apart from others "he plans his unjust deeds." A portentous shape with but a single eye in his head, a cave-dweller similar to the primitive man; he has too an evil disposition in his huge bulk.

This is the being with whom Ulysses is now to engage in conflict, which becomes highly dramatic. The conquest of the man of Nature by the man of Intelligence—such is the theme through its various fluctuations. This man of Nature, however, we are always to consider from his negative side, as hostile to a civilized order; so the poet has carefully represented him. He is to be put down; yet even Polyphemus has his right, he is brought to a gleam of self-knowledge, and Ulysses has to pay the penalty of his deed, which has also its curse. A very deep current runs through the poem in this part, which we shall divide into five different scenes, hoping thus to make its movement and thought somewhat more distinct.

1. Ulysses, taking twelve of his bravest companions from his ship, not forgetting a goatskin of wonderful wine, for he had a presentiment that he would meet a huge wild man, who is wont to succumb readily to civilized drink, enters the cave while Polyphemus is absent. A vivid picture of that primitive dairy with its cheese, milk, curds; the men fell to and helped themselves, as was natural. Then the companions wished to depart at once, taking what quantity of cheese they could carry, but Ulysses refused, he must "see the Cyclops and test his hospitality." Just the opposite was the case in the land of the Ciconians; there Ulysses wished to flee but his companions would not. Why this difference? He must know Polyphemus, must see the giant and subordinate him; that is just his supreme necessity now, he really can no more run away from the monster than from himself. But that attack on the Ciconians was an unjust, violent deed of which the penalty was sure to follow; this Ulysses knew and sought to escape. In the present case, however, no wrong has been done as yet, and he must meet and solve his problem, while his weaker companions would shun the trial.

Polyphemus returns with his herds in due time, and closes the mouth of the cave with a huge rock, "which not two and twenty wains could move from the threshold." Soon by the light of his fire he sees the lurking strangers and asks, "Who are you?" Ulysses replies, stating that they are returning from Troy, but have been driven out of their way by adverse winds; then he makes his human and religious appeal: We come as suppliants, receive us; "revere the Gods," specially Zeus the protector of suppliants. But the Cyclops scoffs at Zeus and the rest of the Gods: "we are their betters." Thus is witnessed in the monster the denial of the Greek religion, and an atheistic turn of mind.

Next follows in logical sequence his supreme negative act, he is a man-eater. "He seized two of my companions and hurled them against the ground as if they were dogs, then he devoured them piecemeal, swallowing all—entrails and flesh and marrowy bones." Surely Ulysses is getting some experience on the line of that Trojan deed.

Now we catch the entire sweep of this particular Cyclops. He has shown himself as the representative of three mighty negations: of civilized life, of religious life, and of human life. He destroys man, feeds on him; so negation, war, revolution, must do in the end. The horrid phantasm is the true image of the destroyer of the race. Nor does he belong to the old Greek world and to the Trojan time only; he is among us, and he can be translated into modern terms quite familiar. Polyphemus is an anarchist, an atheist, and a cannibal; the ancient poet wraps the three together in one mighty monstrosity. In the morning the Cyclops devoured two more companions for his breakfast, then drove his flocks afield, leaving the rest of the strangers shut up in the cave with the big stone in the opening.

During the day the "man of many shifts" has an opportunity for reflection in that dark recess. He dares not kill the giant outright, "with my sharp sword stubbing him where the midriff holds the liver," for how could they then get out? No, the man of nature must be saved and utilized; with all his might he is to be overborne by the man of intelligence, and made to remove the big stone.

2. The plan of Ulysses with its successful execution is the subject of the next phase of the conflict. By this plan three things must be done in order to counteract the giant and to negative his power. He must be deprived of physical vision, which becomes the more easily possible from the fact that he has but one eye; if he had two eyes like the ordinary man, he could still see though one be put out. That this purpose be accomplished, he must somehow be shorn of his physical strength; finally any resistance which might come from the rest of the Cyclops outside must be rendered nugatory. Such are the three chief points of the impending problem, which Ulysses has to meet and does meet with astonishing skill and foresight; the Cyclops is blinded, is made helpless by drink, and is befooled by a pun.

Ulysses burns out the eye of the monster with the charred end of a stick of olive wood, which he prepares beforehand; huge Round-eye (the meaning of the word Cyclops) has no eye now. Ulysses by means of that miraculous wine, product of culture, makes the giant drunk, who thus loses his physical superiority. The Ithacan evidently knew, as well as the American, the power of fire-water over the wild man; that the wine had some strength, is shown by the fact that one cup of it had to be diluted with twenty measures of water, when taken by ordinary mortals. Not without significance does the exhilarated Cyclops laud this civilized wine in contrast to that of the wild grapes of his own land.

But the third scheme of Ulysses is the most subtle of all, and touches the heart of the whole problem, though it be merely a pun. He calls himself Nobody to Polyphemus, who, without sight or insight, is the victim of a word. For a complete man must have not only a double sight from his eyes, but a double insight from his mind, seeing before and after in the latter case especially. The result is when the other Cyclops, roused by the cries of Polyphemus, ask him from outside the cave: What is the matter? he answers, Nobody is killing me. Whereat off they go, dropping a word or two of cold advice, or perchance of sarcastic humor.

We should, however, reach down to the essence of what appears on the surface as a mere trick of speech. It may seem far-fetched to say, but it is none the less the actual fact, that Ulysses is a Nobody, and a very active one to Polyphemus. That is, he has shown himself the negative power which overwhelms the giant, who is now himself quite reduced to a nobody by Mr. Nobody. Or, in abstract terms, Ulysses has negated the negation and has here suggested the subtle work of the process in doing so. Has he not negatived Polyphemus, who was himself a negative, so carefully and fully defined by the poet at the start?

Thus we come upon the deepest pun ever made, or possible to be made, a literary form which the greatest geniuses have been fond of sporting with; we can find puns in Dante, Goethe, and notably in Shakespeare. The pun of Ulysses rests upon the duplicity inherent in the negative; no-man is the man, especially to Polyphemus, whose brain cannot span the two sides of the punning idea, who is not two-eyed but one-eyed by nature, and this one eye is soon put out by the man with two eyes. Such is the earliest instance of what may be called the Play of the Negative, which is still subtly ensconced in the spoken and written word, and winds in an elusive game of hide-and-seek through all Literature. Many men, both writers and readers, are its victims, like Polyphemus.

And all these floating metaphysical gossamers are found in Homer! Yes, but not in a metaphysical form; Homer's organ is poetic, he lived in the age ere philosophers had dawned. Still he too had before him the problems of the soul and of the world. Nor would he have been a true Greek unless he had grappled with this Play of the Negative, which had some marvelous fascination for the Greek mind. It is the leaven working in the Sophists with their subtle rhetoric, in Socrates with his negating elenchus, in Plato with his confounding dialectic. Homer, as the prophet of his people, foreshadowing all forms of Greek spirit and of Greek literature, bring to light repeatedly this Play of the Negative.

The modern German, in more respects than one the spiritual heir of the ancient Greek, has not failed to give evidence of his birthright in the same direction. Kant's Critique, and Hegel's Logic are the most desperate efforts to grasp this slippery, double-doing and double-thinking Negative, infinitely elusive, verily the old Serpent. But the supreme attempt is the modern poetic one, made by Goethe in his Faust poem, in which is embodied anew the mighty Negative, who is now none other than the devil, Mephistopheles. Thus the last world-poet reaches across the ages and touches elbows with the first world-poet in a common theme.

Thus Ulysses nullifies the Cyclops, inflicting three deprivations through his three means: the charred stick takes away vision, the strong wine takes away strength, the ambiguous pun prevents help. The pun also announces covertly to Polyphemus the nature of the power which is undoing him, but he does not and cannot understand that. But the problem of Ulysses is not at an end with simply nullifying the Cyclops; he and his companions are not yet outside of the cave. Herewith we come to a new stage of process.

3. This is the escape, to which the strong giant must be made to contribute, he is skillfully turned against himself. The great stone is removed by him from the mouth of the cave, but he places himself there at the entrance, and no human being can pass. Still, the herds have to go out to their pasture. Ulysses dexterously binds three large sheep together, fastens a companion under the middle one, while he clings beneath a huge ram, and out they move together. But the giant stops just this ram and talks to it, being his favorite of the flock. The man of nature is again outwitted by the man of intelligence, allowing his enemy to slip through his very fingers. The conversation of the blind Cyclops with the dumb animal is pathetic; his one solitary friend apparently, the only creature he loved, is compelled to silent service against its master. "Why art thou last to leave, who wast always first? Dost thou long to see the eye of thy ruler, which has been put out by that vile wretch, Nobody?" So the Cyclops speaks, without seeing or knowing, yet with a touch which excites sympathy for his misfortune.

The special characteristic of this scene is that Ulysses does not now destroy, but employs Polyphemus and his property. Nature must be used by intelligence to overcome nature; the strength of the giant must be directed to rolling away the big stone; his herds are taken to bring about the escape of his foes, and he is turned into an instrument against himself. Thus he is no longer negated as in the last scene, but utilized; having been subdued, he now must serve.

Ulysses and his companions are outside the cave, having gotten rid of those dark and fearful limits which walled them in with a monster. Mind, thought has released them; soon they are on their ship in a free element. But the end is not yet; even Polyphemus, the natural man, must come to know who and what has subjected him, he too is in the grand discipline of the time.

4. Two things Ulysses is now to tell to the Cyclops in the distance. The first is the wrong and the penalty thereof: "Amply have thy evil deeds been returned to thee," namely, his treatment of men. "Zeus and the other Gods have punished thee," there is a divine order in the world, which looks after the wrong-doer. Thus Polyphemus the anarchist, atheist, and cannibal gets a short missionary sermon on justice, religion and humanity. But he does not receive it kindly, he "hurls a fragment of a mountain peak," and almost strikes the ship. The line of danger is not yet passed.

Still Ulysses must tell something else though his frightened companions try to dissuade him. But he must, he cannot help it: "If any one ask thee, say it was Ulysses, the city-destroyer, who put out thine eye." A great light this word brings to the poor blind Cyclops, almost the light of self-consciousness. He recalls, he knows his conqueror, and therein begins to know himself, to recognize his error. "Ah, woe is me! the ancient oracles about me are fulfilled!" Of old there had been prophecies concerning his destiny, but he did not understand them, seemingly did not regard them. How could he, with his bent toward the godless? The prophet Telemus had foretold "that I would lose my sight at the hands of Ulysses." How shall we consider this prophecy? A dim, far-off presentiment among the Cyclops themselves that they were to be subjected to a higher influence; their limited, one-eyed vision was to vanish through a more universal, two-eyed vision. Such a presentiment nature everywhere shows, a presentiment of the power beyond her, of the spiritual. What else indeed is Gravitation? A longing, a seeking which even the clod manifests in its fall earthward, a prophetic intimation; so the Cyclops, the natural man, had his prophet whom he now begins rightly to recognize; truly he is getting religious, quite different is his present utterance from his previous blasphemy: "we are better than the Gods." Nay, he offers to intercede with his father Neptune, praying the God to give a sending of the stranger over the sea. Moreover he recognizes his divine father as the only one who can heal him in his present distress. Possibly the words are spoken to beguile, but Polyphemus here offers to do his duty to the stranger on his shores, and he recognizes the Gods.

Manifestly we witness in this passage a striking development of the rude Cyclops under the tough discipline of experience. He acknowledges first his mistake in regard to the prophecy: "I expected to see a man tall and beautiful and of vast strength, not this petty worthless weakling who has put out mine eye." A hero of visible might, a giant like himself, not a man of invisible intelligence, he imagined he was to meet; great was his mistake. The conflict between Brain and Brawn was settled long ago before Troy, and has been sung of in the preceding Book. Here then is certainly a confession of his mistake, and, if his words are sincere, an offer to undo his wrong.

5. At this point there is a change in Ulysses, his victory has begotten insolence, he becomes a kind of Cyclops in his turn. Such is the demon ever lurking in success. Listen to his response to the confession and supplication of his wretched victim: "Would that I were as sure of taking thy life and sending thee down to Hades, as that the Earth-shaker shall never heal thine eye." The implication is that the God cannot do it—an act of blasphemy which the God will not be slow to avenge. But how true to human nature is this new turn in Ulysses, how profound! No sooner has he escaped and experiences the feeling of triumph, than his humanity, nay his religion vanishes, he sweeps over into his opposite and becomes his savage enemy. What follows? The law must be read to him too, his own law; he will hear it from the mouth of Polyphemus, and it is essentially this: As thou hast done to me, so shall it be done to thee.

Accordingly we have next the curse of the Cyclops denounced upon the head of the transgressor. This curse is to be fulfilled to the letter, the poet has fully shown the ground of it, Ulysses has really invoked it upon himself, it lies in his deed. Possibly Polyphemus, when he offered to give the dues of hospitality and to send the guest home, was merely using the words of deception, which he had just had the opportunity of learning, and was trying to get possession of his enemy's body. Doubtless it was well for Ulysses to keep out of the giant's hands. But that does not justify his speech, which was both cruel and blasphemous.

Hear then the curse of the Cyclops, which hints the great obstructing motive to the return of Ulysses, and marks out the action of the poem; "Give Ulysses no return to his home; but if he returns, may he arrive late and in evil plight, upon a foreign ship with loss of all his companions, and may he find troubles in his house." Of course Neptune heard the prayer, had to hear it, in the divine order of things. The curse lay inside of Ulysses, else it could not have been fulfilled; he himself could drop from his humane and religious mood in adversity and become a savage in prosperity. His chief misfortunes follow after this curse. But for the present he escapes to Goat Island, though another portentous rock is hurled at him by the Cyclops. There he sacrifices to the Highest God, Zeus, who, however, pays no heed—how is it possible?

Such is this far-reaching Fairy Tale, certainly one of the greatest and most comprehensive ever written. It shows a movement, an evolution both of Polyphemus and Ulysses; this inner unfolding indeed is the main thing to be grasped. It is worth the while to take a short retrospect of the five leading points. (1) The completely negative character of the Cyclops as to institutions, religion, and even the physical man. (2) This negative being is negated by the man of intelligence, who puts out his eye, nullifies his strength by drink, and thwarts all help for him by a punning stratagem. (3) He is made to help his enemies escape from his cave by the skill of Ulysses who turns the force of nature against nature. (4) The Cyclops reaches self-knowledge through Ulysses, who tells his wrong and its punishment, who also tells his own name: whereat the Cyclops suddenly changes and makes a humane offer. (5) Ulysses changes the other way, becomes himself a kind of Cyclops and receives the curse.

This curse will now follow Ulysses and drive him from island to island through Fableland, till he gets back to Ithaca with much suffering and with all companions lost, where he will find many troubles. In this manner the return of Ulysses becomes intertwined with Polyphemus and this Fableland, which furnish an underlying motive for the third Part of the Odyssey (the last 12 Books). The curse here spoken is still working when Ulysses reaches home and finds the suitors in possession. Verily his negative spirit lies deep; in cursing Polyphemus, he has cursed himself.

Thus the impartial poet shows both sides—the guilt as well as the good in Polyphemus and in Ulysses. The man of nature has his right when he offers to transform his conduct, and it shows that Ulysses still needs discipline when he scorns such an offer. Polyphemus too is to have his chance of rising, for he certainly has within himself the possibility. Has not the poet derived the noble Arete and Alcinous and institutional Phæacia from the savage Cyclops? But Ulysses negatives Polyphemus just at the start upward. The character which he showed in sacking the city of the Ciconians is in him still, he is not yet ready to return.

The Ninth Book has thus run through its three stages and has landed us in pure Fableland. These three stages—the attack on the Ciconians, the Lotus-eaters, the adventure with the Cyclops—may now be seen to be parts of one entire process, which we may call the purification of the spirit from its own negative condition. The man, having become destructive-minded (oloophrōn) must be put under training by the Gods, and sent to battle with the monsters of Fableland.

So we advance to the next Book with the certainty that there is still some stern discipline in store for the wandering Ulysses.


At the first glance we can observe a certain similarity between this Book and the last one. There are in each three distinct portions or adventures, two very short and simple, and one very long and intricate. Each Book culminates in a fabulous being with whom the Hero has a wrestle for supremacy, and in both cases he comes out victorious. We are still in Wonderland, we have to reach into the ideal realm in order to find out what these strange incidents mean. The two central figures are Polyphemus and Circe, respectively, each of whom imparts the dominating thought to the Book in which he or she appears.

The first thing we ask for is the connection, the inner thread which joins these Books together. It was stated that Polyphemus was the negation of the institutional world, he was individualistic, he belonged to neither Family nor State. No laws, no councils, no civil polity; he is a huge man of violence, hostile specially to man's social life. Circe on the contrary, is the woman hostile to woman's domestic world, the Family, first of all; she is the grand enchantress, representing the power and seductiveness of the senses; she is the enemy of what we call morals. To be sure, we shall find in her something more, whereof the full unfolding will be given hereafter.

Ulysses is the one who is to meet those negative forces and put them down. His companions give him special trouble in the present Book, they seem to represent the weaker phases of man, possibly of Ulysses himself. Already he has suppressed Polyphemus, or the institutional negation; now he is to subordinate Circe or the moral negation. The latter is a woman because she must have sensuous beauty and all the charm of passionate enticement; the former is a man because he must show strength and violence rather than the allurement of pleasure.

Nor should we forget that these forms are in Ulysses himself, and were really generated out of his Trojan life; that spirit of his, shown at the start by the attack on the Ciconians, has all these phases in its process. He is traveling through an Inferno, seeing its entire demonic brood, which he has begotten, and which he has to fight and subject. At the same time these fantastic shapes are typical, and shadow forth the universal experience of man, belonging to all countries and all ages.

As already stated, there are three different localities to which Ulysses is brought. Three islands, bounded, yet in a boundless sea, through which he moves on his ships; such is the outermost setting of nature, suggestive of much. No tempest occurs in this Book; the stress is upon the three fixed places in the unfixed aqueous element.

I. First is the island where dwells Æolus with his Family; hither Ulysses comes after putting down Polyphemus who was hostile to domestic life. In this spot the bag of winds is given into the possession of the navigator, whose companions, however, release them, and he is driven to the starting-point, with the winds at large. Æolus refuses to receive him the second time.

II. Next is the city of the Læstrigonians, where is a civil life, a State, to which Ulysses can come after subjecting the Cyclops, who had no polity of the sort. But the State is verily a giant, a cannibal to him now, with all the winds loose. Hence he has to flee for his life. Whither now does he go?

III. Not to Penelope and Ithaca, but to Circe, and her isle. She is the form which next rises before Ulysses, banished from the domestic world of Æolus, and fleeing from the civil life of the Læstrigonians.

We shall try to bring the threads of connection to light, for it is our emphatic opinion that these three islands with their shapes are spiritually bound and wound together. Still further, they reach back and interlink with the forms of the previous Book, which furnish antecedent stages of the grand total movement of Fairyland. Separated in image are these islands and their inhabitants, but they have to be united in thought. Not a mere accident is the sequence, but a necessity, a strict evolution. The work here, according our best belief, is organic, and the reader must not rest contented with his understanding of it, till he moves with the poet from place to place by the interior path of the spirit.


The first fact about the Æolian Isle is that it was afloat in the waters of the sea, as Delos and other islands of antiquity were reported to be. Not stationary then; the king of it, Æolus, has a name which indicates a changeable nature, veering about like the winds, of which he is king. The second fact pertaining to this Isle is that a wall of brass encircles it not to be broken through; "and the cliff runs up sheer from the sea." Manifestly two opposite ideas are suggested in this description: the fixed and the movable; the island within itself is bound fast, and cannot be driven asunder; yet it floats in the most unstable of elements, in the sea and winds. Such is the physical environment, clearly mirroring the meaning. Something permanent in the midst of all that is mutable we may expect to find here.

On the island dwell the King of the Winds and his wife, along with six blooming sons and daughters. He gave his daughters to his sons for wives; a custom not elsewhere found in Homer outside of the realm of the Gods; yet is claimed to have been a very ancient custom, which the Ptolomies revived in Egypt. At any rate here is the picture of the Family in its patriarchal form, wholly separated from other connections and set apart by itself, on the brass-bound precipitous island. The Family is abstracted from the rest of the world and given a dwelling-place.

At this point we begin to catch a glimpse of the significance of the story. The Family is the first power which seizes the emotions and passions and caprices of men (the winds of his soul) and starts the taming of them; the marriage tie is fixed, is not for a day; thus the Family makes itself permanent, and makes the human being stable through feeling and duty. None but married people are here; very different will it be hereafter in the island of Circe. The king of the winds is not only Æolus, but also his institution, the Family, rules here, for there is no State to be governed. Not polygamy, but monogamy, as the great Homeric principle of domestic life, do we witness—the mutual devotion of one man and one woman. Externally we found the fixed and the floating; internally also we discover the fixed and the floating, or rather, that principle which fixes the floating, and makes the world stable. Thus we see the reason why Homer puts the Family upon the Isle of the Winds.

It is no wonder, therefore, that in such a place is held up before us a picture of happiness and plenty. "All feast from day to day with endless change of meats;" why ask whence the viands come? The inner peace provides them. Even the sound of flutes is heard round about, according to one way of translating the passage; music attunes the everlasting festival. Not mere gratification is this, but happiness, the outer again mirroring the inner; domestic harmony is the matter set forth.

Hither Ulysses comes with his companions, "to the city and beautiful houses" of Æolus. A city is here, but no civil life is introduced into the story. "A whole month the monarch entertained me;" what was again the interest? "He asked me about Ilium," the eternal theme, which lies always in the background of Fairyland as well as of Historic Hellas. The Trojan war and also "the Return of the Greeks" were recounted, we may say, sung by Ulysses; the Iliad and the Odyssey, delighted also those domestic Æolians. Was not Troy destroyed because of a wrong done to the Greek Family? Finally Ulysses was gotten ready to be sent home by his host.

Æolus, the ruler of the winds, gives them into the might of Ulysses; he confines them in "a bullock's bladder," which, tied by a silver chain, he places in the ship. It is manifest that the sea, deprived of these windy powers, cannot hinder the passage. Again we behold the main fact of the island: the unstable, uncertain, capricious, is held by the fixed, the permanent; during his sojourn with Æolus, Ulysses has obtained an inner hold, an anchorage of the moral kind, which he sorely needed. This was given him by his view of the Family, which was the real security of the island. All the conditions of his return (but one) are placed in his hand, tied up in a bag. "Only the west-wind was allowed to blow," which sent him homewards.

Still the supreme condition was not, could not be given by Æolus or by anybody else, could not be tied up in a bag. The free man must be alert, he must watch, and win his own salvation; his prime duty is to keep the bag tied, and therein to exercise his will. This is just what he failed to do at the last moment. He went to sleep when in sight of Ithaca; his companions, led by curiosity and avarice (two blasts of the soul) open the bag, expecting to find gold and silver, and find the rushing winds. Of course all are driven back to the starting-point, to the island, on which they soon land.

What will Ulysses do in such extremity? "Shall I drop into the sea and perish, or shall I still endure and stay among the living?" Suicide will not solve his problem: "I remained and suffered." Herein also we trace the stamp of the hero, whose special call it is to master fate.

So Ulysses tries again to get the bladder of winds from Æolus, confessing that it was equally the fault of himself and his companions. But the opportunity is gone; the sum total of conditions, all bagged and tied up, and put into his hands, presents itself only once. Moreover the sleep of Ulysses, just at the nick of destiny, showed an internal weakness; he became careless, almost insolent under such circumstances; he manifested a similar trait to that which led to the curse of the Cyclops. Again he hears a malediction, now uttered by his former host: "Get thee out of my island quickly, most guilty of men, hated by the Gods!" Thus Æolus regards the man before him, and reinforces the curse of Polyphemus. But if Ulysses had to fall asleep by sheer fatigue (which construction the passage hardly demands), then he did not look properly after his companions, making them the sharers of his knowledge. A foolish question has been asked here and much discussed: How did Ulysses know what his companions said during his sleep? Easily enough; but the answer is not worth the candle.

Æolus, therefore, refuses to receive Ulysses and his companions a second time; they have fallen, they must experience the full meaning of their conduct; they must go to Circe, and some of them, at least, be changed into swine, till they know the nature of their deed. Æolus cannot receive them, they have destroyed his gift; they would repeat their act, if he gave all into their hands again, without the deeper penalty. The law thus is clear; they, having disregarded the fixed control of appetite and passion, which the King of the Island imparts, are swept back into brutishness.

Many have been the interpretations of this marvelous King and his children and his island. The supporters of the physical theory of mythology have maintained that the twelve sons and daughters are the twelve months of the year, six of summer and six of winter, while Æolus, the father, is the Sun who produces them. Others regard Æolus as a mortal king, who, on account of certain traits or certain deeds, was transformed into the fabled monarch of the winds. There has been much dispute over the location of Æolia; the most of those who have searched for its geographical site are in favor of one of the Lipari Islands, on the northern coast of Sicily. Finally Virgil has somewhat transformed the legend and put it into his Æneid.


Ulysses and his companions now had to use the oar on seas without wind; "their spirit was worn out," hope had fled from them toiling through the becalmed deep. They arrive at the land of the Læstrigonians, a race of giants, into whose narrow harbor surrounded by its high precipices the ships enter, with the exception of that of Ulysses, who has learned caution. A kind of cave of the Giant Despair is that harbor, reflecting outwardly the internal condition of the men, after their weary labor coupled with the repulse from Æolus.

First of all we here observe a city with a civil order; there is the place of assembly, a king over men, with a royal palace. No husbandry appears, but there are wagons fetching wood to town on a smooth road (probably a made road); shepherds are specially designated, so that we may suppose a pastoral life prevails, yet these people in their city are not roving nomads. The Family also is noticed, being composed of the king, queen, and daughter; the latter is bringing water from the town fountain—a primitive, idyllic touch. But the stress is manifestly not upon the domestic but the civil institution; the State is here in full operation, in which fact we mark the contrast with the preceding island, Æolia. Another sharp contrast may be drawn between the Læstrigonians and the Cyclops; the latter are giants also, but have no civil order.

Ulysses, therefore, witnesses the State, in due gradation after the Family. He can come to both these institutions now, and see them at least, for he has put down Polyphemus, who, we recollect, was the negation of both. But only see them, not share in them; the curse of the Cyclops is still working upon him and in him; though he destroy a destroyer, that does not make him positive; the devil destroys the wicked, but that does not make him good. Hence the State rejects him as did the Family; he is by no means ready to return to Ithaca and Penelope. Such is his experience at present.

But why should the Læstrigonians be portrayed as giants? Of course the Fairy Tale deals in these huge beings for its own purpose. Æolus and his children seem to have been of common stature. The fancy can often play into the meaning, or suggest a glimpse thereof. The State may be called the Big Man, the concentrated personality of many persons; he strikes hard, he overwhelms the wrong-doer. Therefore he seems now so terrible to Ulysses, and is really so to the latter's companions, of whom all perish here except one shipful. It is the function of the State to punish; in the sweet domestic life of Æolus, there was no punishment, only banishment; thus we behold now the penalty, at the hands of that institution which is specially to administer it. The companions did no wrong to the Læstrigonians, but note that just here judgment comes upon them. Ulysses escapes, but to him also these people appear as destroyers, as man-devouring cannibals; so the State often seems to the guilty, overwhelming the individual with its penal vengeance.

The Cyclops was also a giant and a cannibal, full of hostility; but mark the difference. He was the Strong Man of Nature, not human in shape, with that one eye in his head; his violence was against institutions, the violence of the wild barbarian, which has to be put down by man. But the Læstrigonians live in a civilized order which has to punish the transgressor; their shapes are not monstrosities of nature, but magnified human bodies. Both are giants and cannibals, both negative, but in a wholly different sense.

What is the location of the Læstrigonians? A subject much disputed recently and of old, with very little profit. Some expressions are puzzling: "The herdsman coming in greets the herdsman going out;" then again, "a herdsman needing no sleep would earn double wages," which implies apparently two periods for toil in twenty-four hours, the one "for tending cows" and the other "for tending sheep;" and this is possible, "for the paths of day and night are near" to each other, as if somehow day and night ran their courses together. What does it all mean? Some dim story of the polar world with its bright nights, which story may have come from the far North into Greece, along with another Northern product, amber, which was known to Homer, may lie at the basis of this curious passage. But we can hardly place the Læstrigonians under polar skies in spite of this polar characteristic. Others have sought their locality in the Black Sea and have even seen their harbor in that of Balaklava. All of which is uncertain enough, and destined to remain so, but furnishes a marvelous field for erudite conjecture and investigation. The certain matter here, and we should say the important one also, is the institutional order and its negative attitude toward Ulysses. That is, we must reach down and bring to light the ethical thread which is spun through this wonderful texture of Fairy Tales, before we have any real explanation, or connecting principle.


Onward the wanderer, now with his single ship, has to sail again; whither next? He arrives at another island called Ææa, "where dwells the fair-haired Circe, an awful Goddess, endowed with a singing voice, own sister of the evil-minded wizard Æætes, both sprung of the Sun and of Perse, daughter of Oceanus."

This genealogy we have set down in full, as given by the poet, on account of its suggestiveness. These names carry us back to the East, quite to primitive Arya; here is the Sun, the God of the old Vedas; here is Perse, curiously akin to Persia, which was light-worshiping in her ancient religion; then we come to Æætes, father of Medea, usually held to be of Colchis on the Eastern coast of the Black Sea, whence we busily pass to Hellas in many a legend, and from Hellas we now have traveled far westward into Fairyland. One ancient story, probably the first, placed Circe in the remote East; another, this of Homer for example, sends her to the far West; a third united the two and told of the Flight of Circe upon the chariot of the Sun from Orient to Occident, which is doubtless a much later form of the tale, though ascribed to Hesiod. Circe is of a higher ancestry than Polyphemus, though both go back in origin to the sea with their island homes; she, however, is a child of the light-giving body, and will show her descent in the end. Her name is related to the circle, and hints the circling luminary, on whose car she is said to have fled once. Here in Homer, however, we may note an inner circle of development; she passes through a round of experience, and seems to complete a period of evolution. She must be grasped as a movement, as a cycle of character, if you please; she develops within, and this is the main fact of her portrayal.

The preceding etymological intimations are dim enough, yet they point back to Asia, and to an old Aryan relationship. Not too much stress is to be put upon them, yet they are entitled to their due recognition, and are not to be thrown aside as absolutely meaningless. By Homer, himself, they could not have been understood, being traces of a migration and ethnical kinship which had been in his time long forgotten, and which modern scholarship has resurrected through the comparative study of language.

More important is the connection between Circe and the two preceding portions of this Book, Æolia and the Læstrigonians. We have just seen how both Family and State cast Ulysses off, must cast him off, since he is without moral subordination. The inner self-control demanded by an institutional life he has not been able to reach, after the alienation produced by the Trojan War; the bag of winds given into his hand by Æolus he could not keep tied. Why? Behold Circe rise up and take on shape after his twofold experience. Really she is evolved out of Ulysses in a certain sense; he sees her just now and not before, because he has created her. Why is he thus repelled by Family and State? Circe is the answer; she is the enchantress who stands for sensuous pleasure in its most alluring form; with her is now the battle.

Thus we approach another struggle of the hero, the longest and by far the most elaborately unfolded, of the present Book. In many respects it is the counterpart of the story of Polyphemus in the previous Book. There he meets and puts down the anti-institutional man; here he meets and puts down the anti-moral woman. The one represents more the objective side of man's spirit, the other more the subjective; both together image the totality of the ethical world, in its two supreme aspects, institutions and morals.

Very famous has this story of Circe become in literature. It has furnished proverbs, allusions, texts for exhortation; it has been wrought over into almost every possible form—drama, novel, poem, paramyth; from the nursery to old age it retains its charm and power. Its meaning is plain enough, especially at first; but it grows more weird and more profound as it develops; at last it ascends quite into the beyond and points to the supersensible world.

Now the main point to be seized in this tale is the movement, the development of Circe through her several stages, which are in the main three, showing Circe victorious, Circe conquered, and Circe prophetic. Ulysses and his companions move along with these stages, being also in the process; but the center of interest, the complete unfolding, is found in Circe. These three chief stages we may give somewhat more fully before entering upon the detailed exposition.

First. The island is reached; some of the companions under a leader (not Ulysses) go to Circe's abode, and are turned into swine after partaking of her food. Circe triumphant.

Second. Ulysses himself then goes, having obtained the plant moly; he subdues, enjoys; he releases his companions. He finally asks to be sent home, according to the promise she had given. Circe subordinated.

Third. Then she reveals her prophetic power and announces the future journey to Hades, ere he can return home. Thus she sends him on beyond herself, and reaches her culmination in this Book.

Of these three stages the last seems inappropriate to Circe's character, and is always a puzzle to the reader, till he probes to the thought underlying the tale. Circe, then, is to show herself a seeress, and foreshadow the world beyond the present. Why just that in her case? But before the question can be answered, we must unfold the first two stages.

I. After an introduction which names the new island and its occupant, as well as gives a bit of her genealogy, the tale takes up Ulysses and his companions. After a rest of two days and two nights, the hero goes forth to spy out the land, ascends a hill whence he sees the smoke of Circe's palace rising "through the bushes and the trees." His last experience makes him careful, his thirst for knowledge does not now drive him to go at once into her presence. He returns to his companions with his information, and on the way back he kills a high-horned stag, "which had come down from the woods to the stream to slake its thirst." The result is a good meal for all once more, and a restoration of hope.

1. In such a mood he imparts his discovery: "I have seen with mine eyes smoke in the center of the island." Terror-striking was the announcement to his companions, who at once thought of "the cannibals, Cyclops and Læstrigonians." And they had cause for fear. It may, however, be said in advance that Circe is not a man-eater, but a man-transformer; she is a new phase of the great experience, she bestializes; she is negative, not so much from without as from within, not consuming the human shape but transmuting it into that of an animal.

A curious expression here needs some explanation. "We know not where is east and where is west, not where the Sun goes under the earth, nor where he rises." Why not? There have been several ways of viewing this passage. Ulysses did not know the countries where the Sun set or rose, though he must have seen the direction. A statement from Voss may be here translated: "The side of night and of day he knew well, for he saw sunrise and sunset; but he does not know into what region of the world he has wandered away from home." One other suggestion: it may have been very foggy or cloudy weather at the time. The internal hint, however, is clear; he is astray, lost; he knows not what direction to take for his return.

But something has to be done. Accordingly Ulysses divides his crew into two portions, one commanded by Eurylochus, the other by himself. The lot decided that Eurylochus and his company should go to the house of Circe, and the lot always decides aright in the hand of Ulysses. Forth they "go wailing, two and twenty companions, and leave us behind, weeping." A tearful time for those forty-four people plus the two leaders; which numbers give a basis for calculating the size of the crew, of which six had been already destroyed by the Ciconians and six by the Cyclops.

2. Soon they reach the abode of Circe, whose picture is now drawn with characteristic touches. She is beautiful, sings with a beautiful voice, and makes beautiful things, weaving webs such as the Goddesses weave. Surely an artistic being; her palace is built of hewn stone, not of natural rock, yet it lies in the depths of the forest. Here again she shows her power: wild animals, wolves and lions, lie around—fawning upon, not attacking men, tamed by her powerful drugs. That is, she shows herself the mistress of nature, or rather the transformer thereof; her mighty spell can change character and shape.

There has been a difference of opinion from antiquity down to the present about these animals. Are they transformed men, or merely wild animals tamed? The matter is left in doubt by the poet and either view will answer for the passage. The connection, however, with the transformation of the companions of Ulysses, would suggest the first meaning. These partake of her food, with which she mingles her drug, "in order that they might wholly forget their native country." But here is something more than the indifference of the Lotus-eaters; these eaters and drinkers at once become swine as to "their heads, voices and hair," and eat the acorn and the fruit of cornel-tree, "like wallowing pigs." Yet their mind remained "firm as before."

There can be no doubt that Time has interpreted this scene in but one way, and Time is probably correct. Still it is not here expressly said that the companions indulged to excess in food and drink, though they apparently had just had a sufficiency of feasting along the sea-shore, on venison and wine, "unspeakable meat and sweet drink." We must, however, consider the whole to be a phase of that same lack of inner subordination which led these people to untie the fatal bag of winds upon a former occasion.

3. One man alone escaped to tell the story, as so often happens in such adventures; it is Eurylochus, "who remained outside the palace suspecting guile." When Ulysses hears the account, he proposes to go at once and release his comrades. Eurylochus beseeches him not to attempt it, but he persists, saying, "I shall go, a strong necessity is upon me." Possibly in his contemptuous expression, "You stay in this place eating and drinking," is hinted just that which he is now to put down, in contrast with his companions. Eurylochus is the man who is unable to solve the problem; he runs away from it, is afraid of it, and leaves his wretched associates behind. But the problem must have a positive solution, which here follows.

II. We are now to witness the dealings of Ulysses with Circe; he is to subordinate her, making her into a means, not an end; she will recognize him and submit completely, taking an oath not to do him any harm; she will release his companions and restore them to their natural forms at his behest; she will then properly entertain the entire crew, no longer turning them into swine. The world of the appetites and the senses will be duly ordered and subjected to the rational; from an imperious enchantress Ulysses changes Circe into an instrument of life and restoration. He is the transformer of her, not she of him; for she will reduce man to a beast, unless he reduces her to reason.

1. Ulysses on his way to Circe's palace is met by a seeming youth (really a God, Mercury) who warns him and gives him a plant potent against the drugs of the enchantress. It is manifest that Ulysses has a divine call; he knows already his problem from Eurylochus, the God reiterates it and inspires him with courage. In addition he receives a plant from the divine hand, whereof the description we may ponder: "The root is black, its flower white as milk; the Gods call it moly, hard it is for men to dig up." Very hard indeed! And the whole account is symbolical, we think, consciously symbolical; it has an Orphic tinge, hinting of mystic rites. At any rate the hero has now the divine antidote; still he is to exert himself with all his valor; "when she shall smite thee with her staff, draw thy sword and rush upon her, as if intending to kill her." Thus he is to assert the god-like element in himself, the rational, and subject to it the sensuous. It is clear that Ulysses is beginning to master the lesson of his experience.

2. He does as the God (and his own valor) directed, and Circe cowers down subdued. She is not supreme, there is something higher and she knows it. At once she recognizes who it is: "Art thou that wily Ulysses whose coming hither from Troy in his black ship has often been foretold to me?" Such a prophecy she must have known and felt, she had mind and was aware of a power above her, which would some day put her down, after the Trojan time. In like manner Polyphemus, the man of nature, has heard of a coming conqueror, and actually named him.

This one kind of subjection, however, is not enough, it must be made universal. Every kind of subordination of the sensuous, not merely in the matter of eating and drinking, is necessary. The next thing to be guarded against is carnal indulgence, which may "make me cowardly and unmanly." Hence Circe has "to swear the great oath, not to plot against me any harm." Thus in the two chief forms of human appetite, that of eating and drinking and that of sexual indulgence, she is subjected.

Ulysses is beginning to have some claims to being a moral hero, still he is not by any means an ascetic. He has the Greek notion of morality; we have a right to enjoy, but enjoyment must not make us bestial; rational moderation is the law. He drinks of Circe's cup, but does not let it turn him into a swine; he shares in all her pleasures, but never suffers his head to get dizzy with her blandishments. Every seductive delicacy she sets before him, mingled with the most charming flattery; "I did not like the feast." Why? This leads us to the next and higher point.

3. Lofty is the response of Ulysses: "O Circe, what right-minded man would endure to touch food and drink before seeing his companions released?" At once she goes to the sty and sets them free, restoring their shapes, "and they became younger, larger, and more beautiful than they were before." A great advantage is this to any man; it is worth the hard experience to come out with such a gain, especially as the companions must have been getting a little old, stooped and wrinkled, having gone through so many years of hardship at Troy and on the sea.

4. Thus Ulysses has transformed Circe into an instrument for restoring his fallen comrades; surely a noble act. Next she of her own accord asks Ulysses to go to the sea-shore for the rest of his men and to bring them to her palace for refreshment and entertainment. This he succeeds in doing after some opposition from the terrified Eurylochus, who has not yet gotten over his scare. Sorely did the companions need this rest and recuperation after their many sufferings on land and sea; "weak and spiritless they were, always thinking of the bitter wandering." But now in the palace of Circe "they feasted every day for a whole year," eating and drinking without being turned into swine. Even Eurylochus follows after, "for he feared my terrible threat."

Thus we catch the sweep of this grand experience of and with Circe; if she governs, she bestializes man; if she serves, she refreshes and restores. Her complete subordination is witnessed; from transforming people into swine, she is herself transformed into their helper, and she becomes an important factor in the great Return to home and country. But it is time to think of this Return again; the period of repose and enjoyment must come to an end.

III. Here, then, we behold a new phase of Circe, that of the seeress into the Beyond. Ulysses says to her at the end of the year: "Now make your promise good, send us home, for which we long." Stunning is the answer after that period of relaxation: "Ye must go another way, ye must pass into the Houses of Hades." It is indeed a terrible response. But for what purpose? "To consult the soul of the blind Theban seer Tiresias, whose mind is still unimpaired; to him alone of the dead Proserpine gave a mind to know." Clearly this means the pure intelligence without body; Ulysses must now reach forth to the incorporeal spirit, to the very Idea beyond the senses, beyond life.

The first question which arises in this connection is, How can Circe, the enchantress of the senses, be made the prophetess of the supersensible world? If we watch her development through the two preceding stages, we shall see that she not only can, but must point to what is beyond, to spirit. In the second stage she experiences a great change, no longer transforming into the lower, but herself transformed into the higher; she becomes a moral being, subordinating the sensuous to the spiritual; she has, therefore, spirit in her life and manifests it in her actions, when she is the willing means of subjecting appetite to reason.

The same transformation we may note on her artistic side, for she remains always beautiful. The first Circe is that alluring seductive beauty which destroys by catering to the senses; she is that kind of art, which debauches through its appeal to appetite and passion alone. But the second Circe is transfigured, her service is of the spirit, she releases from the bondage of indulgence, she aids the ethical Return to Family and State. It is true that she never becomes a saint or a nun, she would not be Greek if she did; moreover, according to the Greek view, she must be transcended by the typical man, who is to rise into an institutional life, which is hardly Circe's. Still the primal moral subjection is shown in her career.

The domain of morals reveals the spiritual in action, the domain of true art reveals the spiritual in representation. What shall I do with this world of the senses? was a great question to the Greek, and still is to us. In conduct subordinate it; in nature transform it into an image of the higher. The work of art is a divine flash from above into a sensuous form; this flash we separate from its material, and pass into pure spirit; then we reach Tiresias, the mind embodied, not limited in Space and Time.

Circe thus indicates her own limitation, which belongs to morals and art. She is not the Infinite, but can point to it; she hints the rise from art to philosophy. Backwards and forwards runs the suggestion in her career; the Greek can lapse to the first Circe and die in a debauch of the senses, or he can rise to the prophetic Circe, and lay the deep foundation of all future thought. The Greek world, in fact, had just this double outcome.

Ulysses, then, has to go to Hades, the supersensible realm; his heart was wrung, "I wept sitting upon the couch, I wished no longer to live nor to see the light of the sun." But after such a fit, he is ready for action: "when I had enough of weeping and rolling about, I asked Circe: Who will guide me?" Then he receives his instructions, which have somewhat of the character of a mystic ritual, with offerings to the dead, who will come and speak. Messages from the spirit world he will get, but he must pass through the Ocean stream, to the groves of Proserpine. From that point, after mooring his ship, he is to go to the houses of Hades, where is a rock at the meeting of two loud-roaring rivers; "pour there a libation to the dead" with due ceremony. In all of which is the method of the later necromancy, or consultation of the departed for prophetic purposes. Very old is the faith that the souls of deceased persons can be made to appear and to foretell the future, after a proper rite and invocation; nor is such a belief unknown in our day.

Ulysses departs from Circe's palace and tells his companions concerning the new voyage: whereat another scene of lamentation. To the Greek the Underworld was a place of gloom and terror; he liked not the spirit disembodied, he needed the sensuous form for his thought, he was an artist by nature. The Homeric Greek in particular was the incarnation of the sunny Upperworld, he shuddered at the idea of separating from it and its fair shapes. But the thing must be done, as it lies in the path of development as well as in the movement of this poem.

Ulysses must therefore go below, inasmuch as this world with its moral life even, is not the finality. There is aught beyond, the limit of death we must surmount in the present existence still; a glimpse of futurity the mortal must have before going thither. So Homer makes the Hero transcend life as it were, during life; and extend his wanderings into the supersensible world.

The reader has now witnessed the three stages of this Tenth Book—Æolus, the Læstrigonians, and Circe. The inner connection between these three stages has also been investigated and brought to the surface; at least such has been the persistent attempt. Especially has Circe been unfolded in the different phases which she shows—all of which have been traced back to a unity of character.

The intimate relation between the Ninth and Tenth Books has been set forth along with their differences. Both belong to the Upperworld of this Fableland; hence they stand in contrast with the Netherworld, which is now to follow.


The present Book is one of the most influential pieces of writing which man has produced. It has come down through the ages with a marvelous power of reproduction; in many ways poets have sought to create it over; indeed Time has imitated it in a series of fresh shapes. Virgil, not to speak of other attempts in ancient Greek epics, has re-written it in the Sixth Book of the Æneid; from Virgil it passed to Dante who has made its thought the mould which shapes his entire poem—the Divine Comedy.

It is one phase of the great Mythus of the Apocalypse, or the uncovering of the Future State, which in some form belongs to all peoples, and which springs from the very nature of human spirit. Man must know the Beyond; especially the Hero, the spiritual Hero of his race, must extend his adventures, not only over the world, but into the other world, and bring back thence the news concerning those who have already departed.

This then is the supreme Return of the Hero, the Return from beyond life, still alive; he is to conquer not only the monster Polyphemus and the enchantress Circe, but also the greatest goblin of all, Death. Common mortals have to make the passage thither without returning; the Hero must be the grand exception, else he were no Hero. Transcendent must he be, rising above all limits, even the limit of life and death.

We have, therefore, in the present Book the Greek glance into immortality. This is the essence of it, hence its prodigious hold upon human kind. That the conscious individual persists after the dissolution of the physical body is here strongly affirmed; indeed the world beyond is organized, and its connection with the world on this side is unfolded, in a series of striking pictures for the imagination. It is thus a grand chapter in the history of the soul's consciousness of its eternal portion, is in fact the middle link between the Oriental and the Christian view of immortality.

Ulysses, as the wise man, or rather as the intellectual Hero of his age, must go through the experience in question; he cannot return to home and country, and be fully reconciled with his institutional life here and now, without having seen what is eternal and abiding in the soul. The wanderer must wander thither, the absolute necessity lies upon him—and he must fetch back word about what he saw, and thus be a mediator between the sensible and supersensible, between time and eternity. In that way he means something to his people, becomes, in fact, their Great Man, helping them vicariously in this life to rise beyond life. The complete Return, then, involves the descending to Hades, the beholding the shapes there, and the coming back with the report to the living. Perhaps we ought to consider just this to be the culmination of the whole journey, the grand adventure embracing all possible adventures.

The connection with the preceding Book can not be too strongly enforced. Circe points out the way to Ulysses; her nature is to point to the Beyond, to which she cannot herself pass. In her last phase, she was spirit, but still in the sensuous form; that spirit in her, as in all true art and even in the world, points to its pure realm, where it is freed from the trammels of the senses. This gives the main characteristic of Homeric Hades; it is the supersensible world, outside of Space and Time; or, rather with its own Space and Time, since it is still an image.

Hence these mythical statements which seek to get beyond all known geographical limits. Ulysses had to cross the Ocean stream, which ran round the whole earth; to go over it was indeed to go over the border. There below is the gloomy grove of Proserpine; there too, are the four rivers of the Lower Regions, with names terribly suggestive; into Acheron the stream of pain (or lake) flow Pyriphlegethon (Fire-flames) and Cocytus (the Howler), the latter being an offshoot of Styx (Hate or Terror). Where "the two loud-sounding rivers meet" the third one (Acheron) is a rock, a firm protected spot seemingly, there with mystic rites is the invocation of the dead to take place.

Thus we see that the poet's description remains spatial in his attempt to get beyond space. He has to express himself in images taken from the sensible world, even while pushing them beyond into the supersensible. He makes us feel that the image is inadequate, though he has to use it; poetry is driven upon its very limit. At this point specially we note the kinship of the Odyssey with Romantic Art, which through the finite form suggests the Infinite. Dante comes to mind, whose great poem is one vast struggle of the limited symbol with the unlimited spirit which is symbolized. Thus the old Greek song becomes prophetic, foreshadowing the next great world-poem, or Literary Bible, written in the light of a new epoch.

Strong is the sympathy which one feels with the ancient singer in this attempt to probe the deepest mystery of our existence. He must have reflected long and profoundly upon such a theme, building in this Book a world of spirits, and laying down the lines of it for all futurity. Probably the most gigantic conception in literature: the universal Hero, ere he can round the complete cycle of experience, must pass through the Beyond and come back to the Present. It deepens the idea of the Return, till it embraces the totality of existence, by making it reach through the Underworld, which is thus a domain in the spiritual circumnavigation of the globe.

The structure of the Book is somewhat intricate and it requires quite a little search to find the lines upon which it is built. It has at the first glance a rather scattered, disorganized look; for this reason the analytic critics have fallen upon it in particular, and have sought to tear it into fragments. It is possible that some few lines may have been interpolated, but it remains an organic whole, and the final insight into it comes from viewing it in its total constructive movement.

As the Book is an effort to make a bridge between the sensible and supersensible realms, manifestly this separation into two realms will constitute the fundamental division. The diremption into soul and body, into life and death, runs through the entire narrative, also that into men and women; but the main distinction is into Past and Present. The sensible world when canceled becomes Past, the distant in Time and possibly in Space; this Past through its characters, its spirits, is made to communicate with the Present.

Moreover the Past has its distinctions. To the Greek mind of Homer's age, specially in Phæacia, the Trojan War is the grand central fact of the aforetime; thus the Past divides into the Pre-Trojan, Trojan, and immediate Past, in the Book before us. A complete sweep down into the Now is given—the sweep of the supersensible. Also the Present has two representatives: Ulysses along with his companions, and the Phæacians.

In the Past, therefore, is arranged a long gallery of souls speaking to the Present, which listens and also has its communication. The problem now is to get a structural form which will hold the idea. Let the following scheme be sent in advance, which scheme, however, can only be verified or understood at the close of the Book on a careful review.

I. The first great communication of the dead and past to the living and present, by voice and by vision; some speak, others are only seen.

1. The present and living element is made up of Ulysses and his companions who are invoking by their rites and prayers the souls of the Underworld. The companion Elpenor dead, but not yet buried, forms the transition between the Present and Past.

2. The past and dead element, Pre-Trojan, is called up in two general forms: the ancient seer Tiresias who is both Past and Future through his mind, and, secondly, the souls of Famous Women, who pass in review before the Present. The hint of a world-justice runs through both the prophecies of the seer and the destinies of some of these women.

II. The second grand communication of the dead and past, now Trojan—to the living and present, now Phæacian prominently, given by voice and vision.

1. The Present is here not only Ulysses far off in Hades, but the Phæacians in their actual sensible world. The latter demand again the grand background and presupposition of their present life—the Trojan epoch represented in its great spirits.

2. The Past, Trojan, in three typical Greek heroes, Agamemnon, Achilles, Ajax. The three typical Greek women of the Trojan epoch are also mentioned. An implicit idea of punishment, or of heroic limitation brought home to the hero, is traceable in this portion.

III. The idea of a world-justice with its universal judgment, hitherto only implied, now becomes explicit in Hades and organizes itself, showing (1) the judge, Minos, (2) the culprits in four condemned ones, (3) the saved one, Hercules, who rises out of Hades through the deed. By implication so does the living Ulysses—hence the journey is at an end, Hades is conquered.


Ulysses follows the direction of Circe, indeed he is propelled by the wind which she sends, to the "confines of the Ocean stream," to the limits of this terrestrial Upperworld. Here is the land of the Cimmerians, "hid in fog and in cloud," which veils the realm of the dead; here the sun sends no beam, either rising or setting. Again it is possible that the poet may have heard some dim account of the regions of the extreme North. But the significance of the Cimmerians is to shadow forth the dark border-land between life and death, which is here that between the limited and the unlimited. We see the strong attempt of the poet to get beyond limitation in its twofold appearance: first he will transcend the external boundary of the Homeric horizon, that of the sea stretching far to the westward; still more emphatic is his effort to transcend the limits of finite thinking and to reach an infinite realm, which is the goal of the spirit. He sweeps out of sensuous space, yet the poetic imagination has to remain in space after all, though it be a new space of its own creation. In like manner, he has to give the disembodied souls some finite nourishment in the shape of food and blood, in order that they become real. We feel in these dark Cimmerian limits his wrestle to pass over to the supersensible by thought.

I. The Present is represented by Ulysses and his companions, who now perform the rites consisting of a sacrifice and prayer to "the nations of the dead." We may find in the libation of "mingled honey, sweet wine, and water," a suggestion of the tissues and fluids of the body, while the blood of the sacrificed animals hints the principle of vitality. When the disembodied spirit tastes these elements, it gets a kind of body again, sufficient at least to be able to speak. That the sheep must be black is curiously symbolical, hinting the harmony expressed in the color of the animal and of Hades.

The souls "came thronging out of Erebus," eager to communicate. This aspiration must thus be their general condition; they wish to hear from us as much as we wish to hear from them. Hence there must be a selection, which involves a new rite, the flaying and the burning of the carcasses of the animals along with "prayer to Pluto and Proserpine" king and queen of the Underworld. Yet this choice requires activity from the hero, who has to draw his sword and keep off the crowd of spirits, till the right one comes, the Theban seer Tiresias.

Thus is the Past linked into the Present, which to receive the communications of the departed by means of a ritual, in whose symbolism we see the effort of the living to know the Beyond. Now occurs a curious incident: Ulysses beholds his companion Elpenor, dead, yet unburned, and hears his first message. This soul can still speak, and be seen; it hovers half way between the two worlds, having still a material phase of the body which has not yet been burnt. Elpenor tells the nature of his death: "some deity and too much wine" did the thing—a combination which is usually effective in Homer. An unhappy condition, suspended between matter and spirit; he begs that it be ended. But the poor fellow has another request which shows the longing of the humblest Greek—the longing for the immortality of fame. "Make a tomb beside the seashore for me, an unfortunate man, of whom posterity may hear." Thus he too will live in the mouths of men; wherein we catch possibly a gleam of Homer himself, who has certainly erected an imperishable monument to Elpenor, voicing the aspiration of the soul even in Hades.

It is the hint of a deep maternal instinct that Anticleia, "my mother deceased" comes at once to the blood and wishes communication. But Ulysses must first hear Tiresias, the strongest ties of Family are subordinate to the great purpose. Surely all are now ready to listen to the Past with its message; here comes its spirit, voiced with a fresh power.

II. We have just had the Present, and in the case of Elpenor, the immediate Past, which is not yet wholly gone. Next we take a leap to the Past of long ago, to the Pre-Trojan time, whose spirits will appear. Two sets of them, divided according to sex into man and woman, we behold. But the man here is the prophet, hence what he says belongs to the Future, into which Ulysses now gets a glimpse.

Thus both Future and Past are given their place in the supersensible realm, both being abstractions from the Present, which is the reality, the world of the senses. Yet that which is abiding and eternal knows not Past, Present, or Future, or knows them all equally, having that which is common to them all, being indeed the principle of them all. In a sense we may say that Tiresias is Past, Present and Future, he is the voice of the Past speaking in the Present foretelling the Future. Then the Famous Women come forth, whose fame causes them to appear now and to be recorded. Thus the poet takes the two ancient sets and suggests that which underlies them both and makes them ever present.

1. Tiresias, though he spans the three dimensions of Time, is essentially the prophet, and so his stress is upon the Future. His body has been long dead, but his mind is left in its untrammeled activity; he may be considered as the purest essence of spirit. No senses obstruct his vision, he sees the eternal and unchangeable law; yet he must throw it into images and apply it to special cases. What a conception for a primitive poet! We feel in this figure of Tiresias that Homer himself is prophetic, foreshadowing the pure ideas or archetypal forms of Plato, and that he, in his struggle for adequate expression of thought, is calling for, and in fact calling forth, Greek philosophy.

Tiresias speaks at first without drinking of the blood, yet he has to drink of it to tell his prophecy. This little contradiction is not vital, let it not trouble us. The prophetic announcement to Ulysses includes four special cases. First, the Hero must have his struggle with Neptune on his way homeward, the God will avenge the blinding of his son, though that blinding had to take place; every man who overcomes a great power, even a natural power, will get the backstroke of his own deed. The very ship of Ulysses, which defies Neptune, exposes itself to a conflict which it might avoid, did it not undertake to master the God's element; such is the penalty of all victory. Secondly, he must keep down appetite, particularly at the Trinacrian Isle, and not slay the Oxen of the Sun, else the penalty will follow there too. Not to keep down passion and appetite is clearly to eat of those oxen in some way, which will be more carefully scrutinized hereafter. Then, thirdly, "thou shalt avenge the violent deeds of the Suitors, when thou hast returned home."

The common ground in these three cases of prophetic insight is retribution for the act done there above on earth. The penalty is as certain in the future as it has been in the past; violation brings punishment. Ulysses has had that experience often; note it is told him, or, if you wish to think the matter in that way, he tells it to himself for his own future experience. So the Prophet sees the universal law, he knows what abides in all the fleeting appearances of the world. Ulysses also, were he to descend into the depths of his own soul, would find the same prophecy; indeed this descent into Hades is also the descent into himself, as well as into the outer supersensible world. The hero in his intellectual journey has gone far, we can now behold him near the eternal verities.

But the fourth statement of the Prophet is here too, it is the word of promise. When this last conflict with the Suitors is over, then be reconciled with Neptune by a fitting sacrifice (which means that Ulysses should quit the watery element) give hecatombs to the Immortals, recognize them and their rule. Then serene old age will take thee off remote from the sea and all struggle, among a happy people, whom thou hast made happy. Such is the promise, extending quite beyond the limits of the Odyssey, which ends not at the death of Ulysses, but with his last conflict. So there is hope amid all this struggle, hope of becoming the complete man, who has reached harmony with the Gods, with his people, and with himself.

In such fashion Tiresias calls into vision the course of the entire poem, and reaches even beyond it, embracing the whole life of Ulysses, till he too descends for the last time into Hades. Verily the prophet is Past, Present and Future; his true abode is in the realm of pure spirit. He foretells, but the Future is prefigured as the outcome of what is universal; it must be so and not otherwise, else is the world a chaos. Thus Tiresias is put at the beginning, he being the typical person of this Underworld, in which the deities, Pluto and Proserpine, do not appear, being held in the dark background. The prophet telling his prophecy is the very Figure of the Supersensible.

But again let us be reminded that these hints of pure universal thought are borne to us in images, in particular shapes, whereby ambiguity rises, and meaning runs double. Nevertheless the true-hearted reader will go down with the old poet into Hades, and there behold in these images things which lie beyond the senses; he will behold the very spirit of ancient Tiresias.

2. Having seen the Man, Ulysses is next to behold the Famous Women of the Past, which is still Pre-Trojan with one exception. Examples from all the relations of the woman in the Family are given: the mother, the maiden, the wife. Tragic and happy instances are brought before us—ideal forms taken from the ancient Mythus of Hellas, and begetting in later times a prodigious number of works of art, in poetry, sculpture and painting. Here they are put into Hades, the place of the spirit unbodied, which will hereafter take on body in the drama, in the statue, and in the picture. Ulysses witnesses these shapes in advance, and gives their idea, which is to be realized in the coming ages of Hellas. Truly is Homer the primordial Hellenic seer, he who sees and sets forth the archetypal forms of the future of his race. Undoubtedly he drew from mythical stores already existent, but he ordered them, shaped them anew, and breathed into them the breath of eternal life. No wonder the universal Greek hero must go to Hades to see these forms of the Past which are, however, to live afresh in the Future.

We must also consider the audience of the singer. Who are present? First of all, Arete, mother and wife, together with Nausicaa, the maiden, to these he is specially singing. Their importance in the Phæacian world has been already indicated; naturally they wish to hear of woman in the Family. Accordingly this portion of the Eleventh Book, the catalogue of Famous Women, or Homer's "Legende of Good Women," is organized after the relations of domestic life. Three classes are suggested: the mothers; the maidens and the wives, of the grey aforetime.

But by all means the glory and the stress of the song are given to the mothers; the other two classes are very briefly dismissed, as being essentially described in the first. Arete is indeed the grand center and end of womanhood; Nausicaa as maid is but a transitory phase, and as wife she is to become mother, and then take her supreme place in the chain which upholds and perpetuates humanity. So the old Greek poet must have thought; was he very far from right?

a. The first of these mothers to appear is Anticleia, the mother of the Hero Ulysses, of the Hero who has made this remarkable voyage to the world beyond, of its kind the supreme heroic act done by a living mortal. She, however, belongs to the immediate Past, and thus corresponds to the man, Elpenor, in the previous section, though she of course has been buried. Note, therefore, this mark of symmetrical structure.

It is the beautiful instinct of the mother, that she flits in the ghost-world to her son at once, when the chance is afforded. She has already appeared, even before Tiresias came; now she is the first after that prophet, who gives directions to Ulysses supplicating: "Tell me, O Prophet, how shall my mother recognize me as her son." Ulysses learns much from her about Ithaca, especially about his father Laertes, who now never goes to the town but stays in the fields, "with a great sorrow in his heart, desiring thy return, while old age weighs hard upon him." Such is the father, still living, whom Ulysses may yet see.

The mother died from longing for her son and "the memory of his gentleness;" still her longing brings her to him in the life beyond. The great revelation is concerning the future state: the soul is immortal, this fact Ulysses is to tell in Phæacia. The strong desire to behold the loved ones who have passed away is indeed the impulse; but they too return, though insubstantial. It is the primary groundwork of faith in immortality—this feeling of the domestic relation affirming that it is eternal and cannot be broken by death. Still the mother is but a ghost and cannot be embraced; this the son has to accept, though he would have her in flesh and blood.

b. At once there is the transition to the famous mothers of legend—"wives and daughters of Heroes" says the poet, with, an eye to his audience, which has men in it also, so he does not mention mothers, though they are the burden of his strain. Here follows a Catalogue of Women, giving them their due place in the genealogy and destiny of distinguished houses. Three groups of these mothers we may distinguish.

First is the group of mortal women who were embraced by some god, and gave birth to heroic offspring. Tyro met Neptune and brought forth Pelias and Neleus; from the latter sprang Nestor who connects the Pre-Trojan and Trojan ages, since he appears both in the Iliad and Odyssey. In the Third Book of the latter epos we have already seen Nestor sacrificing to his divine ancestor; so the present passage has its pertinence to the total poem. In the same group are Antiope and Alemena, the latter of whom was the mother of Hercules, whose father was Zeus. At the end of the present Book, Hercules himself will appear as the supreme example of the Greek Hero.

Such were three typical mothers, famed in Hellenic legend, being the women who bore Heroes, the offspring of Gods. It was deemed the highest function of the Greek mother to bring forth a Hero, the child of divinity, with an immortal portion. This view, in its purely sensuous aspect, is dubious enough to the modern ethical mind, still its real meaning must be looked at with sympathetic vision, which sees therein the divine descent into mortal flesh, a mythical utterance of the faith that the great man is the son of God. The Christian view universalizes this conception, holding that all men, and not merely the Heroes, are God's children. Yet the Christian world has also retained its faith in the Son of God, son by a mortal woman, which faith the old Greek had too, and expressed in his way. Thus we may extract out of this Homeric account something more than divine license; it has indeed a wonderful pre-Christian suggestiveness, and gives a glimpse of the movement of Universal Religion.

The second group of famous mothers are mortal women with mortal husbands. The wedded wife brings up now the domestic relation, which is passingly introduced by the spouse of Hercules, Megara, who is simply mentioned. The two chief women of the group are Epicaste and Chloris, the one supremely tragic in her motherhood, the other reasonably happy. Epicaste is mother of Œdipus, who marries her after slaying his own father who is her husband, both deeds being done in ignorance; thus the closest domestic ties are whelmed into guilt and tragedy, whereof Sophocles has made a world-famous use, in his two dramas on the subject of Œdipus. Chloris is, on the contrary, the mother of Nestor, not a tragic character by any means; also she is mother of Pero, the beautiful maiden, "whom all the people around were wooing," and who was happily won by an heroic deed. Mark the interest of those listeners, Arete and Nausicaa, mother and daughter in this tale. Thus the two women, Epicaste and Chloris, have opposite destinies, and show the sharp contrasts of life.

In the third group are two mothers who have a double honor; each has borne twins and heroic ones at that; moreover the Gods again enter the domestic relation of mortals. Leda's sons are "Castor the horseman, and Pollux the boxer," the first being mortal, the second immortal, and reputed son of Zeus, who permitted the immortal brother to share his immortality with his mortal brother; hence "every other day they both are alive, and every other day they both are dead." Again the divine gives itself to the human in the spirit of true brotherhood; the son of Zeus takes on the ills of mortality through fraternal love. The second mother of this group is Iphidameia, who declares Neptune to be the father of Otus and Ephialtes, of her monstrous twins, "who at the age of nine years threatened war upon the Gods," and proposed to storm heaven by piling Mount Ossa upon Olympus and Pelion on top of that. Such is the contrast: one set of sons is noble, worthy, and "receive honor like unto Gods;" the other set is defiant, assailing the divine order, and are slain by the arrows of Apollo "ere the down blossomed beneath their temples, and covered their chins with tender furze."

c. Such, then, is the account of the mothers, the women who have borne children famous in legend. They have taken up nearly the whole of the present catalogue; the wives and maidens now come in for brief mention, forming two groups, three persons to the group. The poet is impartial, he introduces the faithful woman, Ariadne, and the faithless woman, Eriphyle; in the one case man is the betrayer of woman, and in the other case woman is the betrayer of man. Possibly in Ariadne may be a little hint for Nausicaa, saying, Beware.

But the singer is tired and sleepy; moreover has he not told the essence of the matter in this portion of his song? He at once dismisses any further account of famous women, "wives and daughters of Heroes," whom he saw in Hades. Nausicaa and Arete have had their share, wonderful has been their interest in the struggles and sufferings of their sex; they feel in themselves the possibility of such conflicts. These ideal shapes of the olden time, product of the myth-making Imagination, are types, are the ghosts of Hades which Ulysses must see and know, ere he return to the Upperworld.


We now reach the second main division of the Book, which is marked by the introduction of the audience, the Phæacians, "who were held rapt with the charm" of the story. Observe, too, that the palace was not brilliantly illuminated, but shadowy—fit environment for fairy tales (line 334). This main division is again separated into two subordinate divisions which embrace the Present and the Past, and thus is in structure homologous with the preceding main division. Yet both the Present and the Past are not now the same as the previous Present and Past.

I. First of the hearers speaks out the mother, wife of Alcinous, Arete, in response to the compliment of Ulysses in singing of the Famous Women of Greek legend. "Phæacians, how does this man seem to you now in form, stature, and mind?" Very different does he seem from what he once did; thus she gently apologizes for her previous treatment. She appreciates the Hero; moreover, she asks that the high guest receive hospitable gifts without stint; "for much wealth lies in your halls by the bounty of the Gods."

Having thus heard from the woman, we now are to hear from the man, the representative Phæacian, king Alcinous. In the first portion of the Book Ulysses and his companions were the Present to which the Past appeared in Hades. Now the Phæacians are introduced as the Present, which is to hear the voice of the Past from Hades. Moreover, the Past is not the Pre-Trojan, but the Trojan Past, which we have already (in the Eighth Book) seen to be dear to the Phæacian heart. It is no wonder, then, that Alcinous, as soon as he can urge his request, calls for a song about the Greco-Trojan Heroes in the Underworld. "Tell us if thou didst see any of those godlike Argives who followed thee to Troy and there met their fate." Not the mother of the Hero, but the Hero himself is now to be called up; the man wishes to listen to the deeds of man. Demodocus, the Phæacian bard, always sung of some phase of the Trojan struggle, which was the popular subject of story and song in Phæacia. Thus we note again how the famous Past, stored away in Hades, is made to flow into the Present, and to contribute an ideal of heroism, and a warning also, to the living.

A touch of Homer as literary critic we should not pass by, as he does not often take that part. Alcinous, praising the tale of Ulysses, says: "Form of words is thine, and a noble meaning, and a mythus, as when a minstrel sings." Three important qualities of poetry are therein set forth: beauty of language, nobleness of content, and the fable in its totality—all of which belong to the preceding narrative. Moreover, Alcinous draws a sharp contrast with that other sort of storytellers, mere liars, "of whom the dark earth feeds many," who go about "fabricating lies, out of which we, looking into them, can get nothing," can draw no meaning. Such at least is our view of this passage (line 366) about which there is a difference of opinion among commentators. At any rate we catch a glimpse of Homeric literary criticism in Homer, who states the requirements of good poetry, and contrasts them with the "liar" or fabricator of yarns, which are certainly devoid of the noble spirit or worthy content.

So Ulysses is asked to begin his Trojan story, always more interesting than that catalogue of women, at which everybody began to yawn. "It is not yet time to go to sleep," cries Alcinous, "the night here is unspeakably long," and still further, "I would hold out till daylight," listening to thy story.

II. The Trojan Past, then, is the theme; we are to behold the ghosts of those who were famous during the War at Troy, and immediately afterwards, both men and women. But the women are not here given a special portion to themselves, but are woven into the general narrative. This part of the Book is sung for the men, the opposite sex is withdrawn into the background; still they will be duly mentioned, since the whole conflict is over a woman. Moreover Alcinous wishes to hear what the heroic men are doing in the future world, whither too he must go.

1. Three Greek shades will pass before us, Agamemnon the Leader, Achilles the Hero, and Ajax the man of strength. We shall find them placed in a certain contrast with Ulysses, who is shown greater than any of the three. All have been overwhelmed by fate through their own folly or weakness, while Ulysses still lives, the master of fate, and beholds them in Hades. Such is his triumph, which the shades themselves declare.

First comes the soul of Agamemnon, the great King, who has the bond of authority in common with King Alcinous. He tells the story of his own murder in considerable detail, which story has been given twice already in the poem. A most impressive event to the Greek mind of Homer's age; the greatest of the rulers is wretchedly cut off from his Return by his wife Clytæmnestra and her paramour Ægisthus. This Return is what points the contrast between him and Ulysses; moreover the contrast is also drawn between the wives of the two men, one the faithless and the other the faithful woman. Still the wrong of Agamemnon is suggested by himself: "I heard the piteous voice of Cassandra, whom Clytæmnestra slew, crying for me; I, though dying, grasped for my sword," to no purpose, however. Surely the wife had her wrongs as well as the husband, out of which double guilt Æschylus will construct his mighty tragedy.

Next after the Leader, in due order comes the Hero of the Greeks before Troy, Achilles. He recognizes this descent to Hades as the greatest deed of Ulysses: "What greater deed, rash man, wilt thou plan next?" It is verily the most wonderful part of his Return, overtopping anything that Achilles did. Still Ulysses pays him the meed of heroship: "We Argives honored thee as a God, while living, and now thou art powerful among the dead; therefore do not sorrow at thy death, O Achilles." But he answers that he would rather be the humblest day laborer to a poor man than to be King of the Shades. It is not his world, he longs for the realm of heroic action, here he has no vocation. No Troy to be taken, no Hector to be vanquished down in Hades; the heroic man must sigh for the Upper World with its activity. Some consolation he gets from the account which Ulysses gives of his son, who was in the Wooden Horse and distinguished himself at Troy for bravery. Thus the father lives in his son and "strides off delighted through the meadow of asphodel." This plant is usually regarded as the Asphodelus ramosus, a kind of lily with an edible tuberous root, still planted, it is said, on graves, to furnish to the dead some food which grows in the earth. This ancient custom has been supposed to be the source of the legend of its being transplanted to Hades.

The third heroic shade is that of Ajax, son of Telamon, with whom Ulysses had a rivalry, the story of which runs as follows: After the death of Achilles, Thetis his mother offered his arms, the work of Vulcan, to the worthiest of the remaining Greek heroes. The contest lay between Ajax and Ulysses. Agamemnon would not decide, but referred the question to the Trojan prisoners present, asking them which of the two contestants had done them the most injury. They said Ulysses. Whereupon Ajax went crazy and slew himself. Now he appears in Hades, still unreconciled; it is really the most wretched lot of all. Ulysses here speaks the reconciling word, growing tender and imploring; but the hero "answered not, darting away with the other shades into Erebos." Wherein we may well see how much greater in spirit Ulysses was than his big muscular rival. He has reached in this respect the true outcome of life's discipline: to have no revenges, and to speak the word of reconciliation.

In fact the superiority of Ulysses over all these heroes is clearly manifested. He brings no captive woman home to his domestic hearth, and hence he has a right to count upon Penelope's fidelity, though certainly he shows himself no saint in his wanderings. Moreover Agamemnon lacked foresight in his Return, which Ulysses will exhibit in a supreme degree when he first touches his native soil. The second hero, Achilles, could not conquer Troy, then he could not conquer Hades; yet both are conquered by Ulysses who is thus the greater. Finally unreconciled Ajax—all are limited, incomplete, in contrast with the complete, limit-removing Hero, who has just removed even the limit of Death in the only way possible. Verily to him they have become shadows, that whole heroic world before Troy is now put by him into Hades.

Thus we see that, while the characters belong to the Trojan time, there is a movement out of that period, it is transcended. The background here is the Iliad, yet the incidents are taken from the Trojan war after the action of the Iliad is brought to a close. The fates of the three great heroes of that poem are not given in the poem; here they are given with a tragic emphasis. Thus the Odyssey carries forward the Iliad, supplements it, and forms its real conclusion, both being in fact one poem. In the full blaze of the glory of Achilles the Iliad ends; but he cannot take Troy; and still less, after his death, can Ajax; the divine armor must go to Ulysses who has brain, then can the city be taken. Even the son of Achilles will fight under Ulysses and enter the Trojan Horse, the work of Pallas, of Intelligence. Thus we catch here as in other places, glimpses of the unity of both the Iliad and the Odyssey, the great work reflecting the one national consciousness of Hellas in its complete cycle.

2. We should not fail to cast a separate glance at the three typical women of the Trojan epoch—Helen, Clytemnestra, Penelope—in contrast with the three heroes already described. They are all mentioned and compared in the speech of Agamemnon, but do not form an organic part of the Book by themselves, as do the Pre-Trojan women. They are wives, and wifehood not motherhood, as in the previous case, is the phase of the domestic relation which is the theme of song and struggle in their lives. Possible its present importance is the reason why wifehood was dismissed with so brief mention in the portion concerning the famous mothers.

Note, then, the gradation of the three: Clytemnestra is the fallen unrestored; Helen is the fallen restored; Penelope is the unfallen, who keeps a home for her absent husband during twenty years. The tragic, the mediated, the pure; or, to take a later analogy, the infernal, the purgatorial, the paradisaical; such are the three typical female characters of Homer, ranging from guilt, through repentance, to innocence. In this framework lies quite all possible characterization. Naturally Agamemnon shows a bitter vein of misogyny, with only his wife in view; but he takes it all back when he thinks of Penelope.

Two of these women, Helen and Penelope, are still alive and do not belong to the realm of Hades; the ghost of the third, Clytemnestra, does not appear. Still all three are mentioned here in the text, and stand in relation to the three Greco-Trojan heroes, none of whom were restored through the Return. Ulysses, however, is the real solution of them all; he spans all their inadequacies, masters their fates, and reaches home. The three Greek heroes above mentioned fell by the way in the course of the grand problem, and are seen in Hades, complaining, unhappy, showing their full limitation. To a degree they are suffering the penalty of their own shortcomings: which fact prepares us for the third and last phase of the Underworld.


We now come to a new division of the Book, which forms in itself a complete little poem, yet is derived directly from the preceding divisions, and is harmonious with them in thought, development and structure. Undoubtedly there is a difference here, but the difference means not absolute separation but a connected unfolding of parts. The present division has been assailed more violently by the critics and torn out of its place with greater unanimity than any other portion of the Odyssey, with the possible exception of portions of the last two Books. Let us confess, however, that our tendency is to reconcile, if this can be done, the discords and to knit together the rent garment, by threads not always on the surface, but very real to any eye which is willing to look underneath.

Unquestionably a punitive element enters now, there is guilt and punishment in Hades. But who has not felt that in the preceding division the three Greek heroes were under the inevitable penalty of their own deeds? Very natural is the transition. Indeed the three divisions of the Book show a gradual movement toward a penal view of Hades: the first (Tiresias and the Famous Mothers) has a slight suggestion of the penalty; the second (the three Greek heroes) has the idea of punishment implicit everywhere; the third makes the idea explicit and organizes itself upon the same.

Again, there is a change of style, which now is strongly tinged with the Orphic, initiatory, symbolical manner, in marked contrast with the clear-flowing narrative which has just preceded. But we noticed the same characteristic before, in the first division of the Book, where the sacrificial rites and the part of Tiresias were given. Homer has many styles, not each style has many Homers, nor is there a new Homer needed for each change of style. Note the great varieties of style in the two Parts of Faust by way of illustration. Moreover we here pass into the dim Pre-Trojan epoch, as was the case in the first division, but guilt is now flung into that time and with it the penalty. Hoary, gigantic shapes of eld do wrong to the Gods, and are put into the punitory Hades. Thus this third division returns to the first with its own new principle. In truth one may say that Homer herein shows features akin to Hesiod; well, Homer is Hesiod and many more.

We hold, therefore, that this third division is an organic part of the Book both in idea and structure; it carries to completion the thought of a world-justice, which Tiresias has already declared in his speech to Ulysses, and which is exemplified in the three Greek heroes. Thus it unfolds what lies in the first two divisions, and links them together in a new and deeper thought. For this realm of Hades, hitherto a distracted spot without any apparent order, now gets organized with its own Justiciary and its own Law. Yet here too we shall find a solution and a parallel; just as Ulysses was the true hero at Troy, standing above all the others and solving their problems, so Hercules is the great Pre-Trojan hero, saving himself at last and rising to Olympus. Finally the two careers of Ulysses and Hercules are affirmed to be identical. This division, therefore, falls of itself into three portions: (1) the Judge, (2) the condemned, (3) the redeemed. Thus the whole forms a complete little cycle within itself.

1. Minos, the Judge, was the ancient king of Crete, where he was lawgiver and suppressed wrong-doing on sea and land. Here he continues his vocation, which demands the assigning of the just penalty to the guilty. He is manifestly the type of Justice, both punishing and rewarding; as punisher he has been transferred by Dante to the Inferno. Later Greek legend united with him two other judges, his brothers, Rhadamanthys and Æacus.

2. We have next four instances of punishment, though this is apparently of different degrees. The wrong, however, is not stated except in the case of Tityos, which probably hints the general nature of the misdeeds of the three others. The poet takes for granted that his hearer could fill out each legend for himself. In every case there was evidently some violation done to the Gods, not to men—some crime against Olympus. The period is thrown back into the Pre-Trojan time, into the age of the demigods and of the free intercourse between mortals and immortals; thus it is parallel with the first division of the Book. But now judgment has entered the Houses of Hades along with the penalty.

The guilt of Orion is that of love between a mortal and a Goddess, Aurora, which violation was punished by the "soft bolts" of Artemis, protectress of chastity. This legend has already been alluded to by Calypso. (Book V. line 121.) Jealous are the Gods of that mortal man with whom a Goddess falls in love, and with good reason. Orion's punishment is an eternal chase, the hunter is compelled to hunt forever, repeating what he did in life. Perhaps not a heavy punishment for one who is fond of hunting; yet a tremendous burden, if never interrupted with rest; indeed it becomes a labor quite like the labor of Sisyphus, ever repeated. Of Tityos both the guilt and punishment are indicated; the legend is similar to and yet in contrast with that of Orion; in the one the Goddess approaches the mortal and in the other the mortal approaches the Goddess; hence, too, the severer punishment in the latter case. The second legend ought to be completed here by a fact derived from the story of Prometheus: the liver grows as fast as the vultures rend or consume it; thus again rises the idea of infinite repetition, now of suffering, not of action, for Orion is active.

The next two forms, Tantalus and Sisyphus, have also a kinship. Both had known secrets of the Gods and had betrayed them; Tantalus is also reported to have taken away nectar and ambrosia from the Olympian table after being a guest there; Sisyphus revealed to the river-god Asopus the secret that Zeus had spirited away the latter's daughter, Ægina. The penalty is that Tantalus remains perpetually hungry and thirsty, with sight of food and drink always before his eyes; he cannot reach them when he strives. The finite, with an infinite longing, cannot compass the infinite; the man loses it just when he grasps for it—a truly Greek penalty for a sin against the Greek world, which rests upon the happy harmonious unity of the spirit with the body and with nature. The Christian or Romantic longing and grasping for the Beyond is to the Greek soul a punishment of Hades. Tantalus with his hunger and thirst seems to represent more the striving of the intellect to attain the unattainable; while Sisyphus suggests the effort of the will—practical endeavor, the eternal routine of mechanical employment, which always has to begin over again. Etymology brings also a suggestion. Both names are reduplicated; in Tantalus is the root of the word which means to suffer; in Sisyphus, lurks the signification of craft; it hints the wise or crafty planner (sophos) who always pushes the act to a point where it undoes itself or must be done over again. Note the effect of this reduplication of the first syllables, which means repetition; over and over again, in an infinite series must the matter be gone through, in suffering and in doing; the very words are in labor.

Indeed this indicates the common element in these four punishments: the endless repetition of the struggle of finitude. The first two, Orion and Tityos, reached out for Goddesses, being mortals; the second two, still mortals, but in communion with deities, attempted to bring down divine secrets to earth; the one set strove to make the finite infinite, the other to make the infinite finite. Both were contrary to the nature of the Greek mind, which sought to keep the happy balance between the two sides, between body and spirit, between the temporal and eternal. Now the punishment of these people is to give them their infinite, but in the form of an infinite repetition of their finite act, which is just the spirit-crushing penalty. The power of these two types, Tantalus and Sisyphus, is shown by the fact that all ages since Homer have adopted them and wrought them over into many forms of art and poetry.

Here then is the unsolved problem of the Greek world, a problem which the Christian world has met and answered. Tantalus and Sisyphus are in pain and toil simply through themselves; man, however, must have the power to reach the apples, and roll the stone up hill, he must assert himself as limit-transcending, as infinite, for once and for all, and not caught in an infinite series, which is a veritable mill of the Gods, that is, of the Greek Gods. Now this strange fact comes to light: Homer, seer that he is, has a dim consciousness of this solution, and faintly but prophetically embodies it in a new figure, namely, that of Hercules, which we shall now consider.

3. The Homeric solution is to divide the man, or to double him, into his shade (eidolon) and his self. The former belongs to Hades and appears now; it is the finite Hercules with his striving and labors; he still has his bow and arrow, is ready to slay beasts, snakes, and birds. He is in quite the same punishment as Orion or even Sisyphus, the penalty of all finitude is upon him. Yet the other side is given, that of victory. "I, though the son of the highest God, Zeus, had to endure boundless tribulation." Strangely Christian does this sound. "I was put under service to a far inferior man to myself, who laid upon me bitter labors." The higher must serve and save the lower. "Then the mightiest labor I performed, I came down hither to Hades alive and dragged thence the dog Cerberus"—conquered the great terror of the Underworld. Thus Hercules has really transcended Hades, and so we read here that "he himself is among the immortal Gods, in bliss," that is, his infinite nature is there, while the finite part is still below in Hades. Such is the old poet's far-cast glance, reaching deep into the future and beyond the Greek world.

Still another significant word is spoken. "O Ulysses, unhappy man! Thou dost experience the same hard fate which I endured upon the earth." Thus does Hercules identify the career of Ulysses with his own—the same striving and suffering, and the same final victory, the peace of Olympus. Who cannot attain the latter is a Tantalus, seeking but never reaching the fruit. Such is the outcome and culmination of Hades; after Hercules has spoken, no further word is heard by Ulysses.

Dante, whose poem on so many lines grows out of this Eleventh Book, has also the same duplication of the person in his Paradise. The soul is in its special planet, Venus, Mars, etc., and also it is in the highest Heaven, enjoying the Vision of God. But Dante universalizes the Greek view, making it truly Christian; all men are children of God and can attain the seats of the Blessed, not merely the one man, the Hero Hercules. Still even here the inference is that Ulysses must also be transferred to Olympus, though no such declaration is made.

We hope the reader feels how inadequate Hades would be, and how incomplete the experience of Ulysses would be, if this last division of the Book were cut out. The wanderer has now gone through the total cycle of the Underworld, not only outwardly, but inwardly; he is just ready to step out of it, because he is beyond it in spirit. This last step is now to be given in Homeric fashion.

There is a danger at present rising strongly into consciousness, a danger inherent in this too-long contemplation of Hades; it is the danger of the Gorgon, the monster whose view turns the spectator into stone, taking away all sensation, emotion, life. The Greek sooner or later must quit Hades, and flee from its shapes; the supersensible world he must transfuse into the sensible, else the former will rush over into the fantastic, the horrible, the ugly. The Gorgon is down in Hades too, having been slain in the terrestrial Upperworld by a Greek Hero, Perseus, who slew the monster of the Orient which once guarded the fair Andromeda, a kind of Pre-Trojan Helen, chained in captivity, whom the heroic Hellenic soul came to release. Ulysses has now reached the Greek limit, Oriental phantasms will rise unless there be a speedy return to the reality, to the realm of sense. Hades has furnished its highest image in Hercules, beware of its worst. Already the Underworld has been in danger of running into the fantastic; then Beauty, the Hellenic ideal, would be lost. The figures of Homeric Hades hitherto have all been men and women, but the monsters are ready to come forth. So they did come forth in the later Greek world under the spur of Oriental influence; witness the Revelations of St. John in the Island of Patmos, joint product of Greek and Hebrew spirit, showing truly the dissolution of the Hellenic ideal.

Thus Ulysses, the supreme spiritual Hero of the Greeks, is shown running away from the Underworld, fearing to look upon coming shapes in Hades; about which fact two reflections can be made: first, Ulysses had to do this in order to remain a Greek; secondly, the poet clearly announces, in such an action, that there is another world lying beyond his world, that underneath the Greek Hades is another Hades, which threatens to rise into view. That Hades will burst up hereafter and become the Christian Hell. Ulysses confesses that there is a realm beyond him there, which he has not conquered, has not even dared to see, and thus he significantly points to the future. The Gorgon is a shadowy anticipation of fiends, of devils, of the infernal monsters of the Romantic Netherworld of Dante, who is to be the next great Hero, passing into the dark world beyond with a new light. To be sure, Virgil sends Æneas into Orcus, and makes such descent a Book of his poem, but Virgil too speaks of a realm beyond his Orcus, which his Hero does not enter. Thus the Roman poet shows substantially the same limits as the Greek poet, whom he has for the most part copied.

Here again we find a conception embodied in song, on which the human mind has moved through many ages. Poetry, Art, Theology, have taken from this Eleventh Book of the Odyssey many creative hints: it is truly an epoch-making work in the history of man's spiritual unfolding. As already stated, Virgil repeats it, Dante grows out of it and makes it over, in accord with the spirit of Christendom, which has many a root running back to this Homeric Hades. The present Book may be called the Greek prophecy heralding medieval Art, and shows old Homer foreshadowing Romanticism. Did he not see the limits of his world? The particular connecting link between two Literary Bibles, Homer and Dante, is just the present Book, even if Dante never read Homer. For the study of Universal Literature it is, therefore, a specially important document. A many-sided production also; its poetic, its religious, its artistic, its philosophical sides are all present in full activity and put to test the spiritual alertness of the reader.

Wherein does the negative nature of Hades lie? The question rises from the fact that Ulysses in Fableland has been declared to be passing through various negative phases; such is the expression often used already. First of all, it is a negating of the sensible world and a going into the supersensible, a seeking of the spirit without the body. Hades was quite the opposite of the Greek mind, which demanded embodiment, and hence was inherently artistic. Still the Greek mind created a Hades, and finally went over into the pure Idea in Plato and the philosophers. Even Homer seems to feel that philosophy is at last a needful discipline, that the abstract thought must be taken from its concrete wrappage, that the Universal must be freed from the Particular.

Ulysses has to pass through Hades in order to complete the cycle of his experience, and realize what is beyond the senses; he must know the spirit apart from the body in this life; he must see the Past as it is in its great disembodied minds; he must behold the famous heroes of Troy as they are in reality, not as they are in the glamor of poetry. As tested by their life and deeds he sees them below in the Netherworld; Greek souls stark naked in Hades he beholds, and then rises out of it.

Retrospect. Very important, in our judgment, is this Eleventh Book; it is really one of the sacred documents of Universal Religion, as well as a great creative idea in the World's Literature, But it has fared badly as to its friends; for interpretation it usually falls into the hands of the negative, merely critical Understanding, which has the unfortunate habit of turning Professor of Greek, commentator on Homer, and philologer generally. In order to grasp and connect its leading points more completely, we shall look back at the thought and structure of the Book once more.

First of all, there must be felt and seen the necessity of taking this journey to the Netherworld on the part of the Hero, the complete person of his time. The very conception of the universal man must include the visit to the realm of the Idea; the passage from the sensible to the supersensible, is the deepest need of his soul. Homer can give this spiritual movement only in a mythical form, hence it occurs here in Fableland. So Ulysses has to make the transition from Circe to Hades.

Having the entire Book now before us, we observe that it shows a threefold movement; that is, one movement with three leading stages. These take the shape of three communications from the realm of the dead, which includes all past Time, imparted to the living who are now present, namely the Phæacians, through Ulysses, who has had this cycle of experiences and now sings them. But that which is true in past Time must be seen to be true in all Time—Past, Present and Future. So there unfolds the idea of a World-Order, foretold at first by the Pre-Trojan prophet Tiresias, illustrated by the fate of the three Greco-Trojan heroes in Hades, and finally realized and active in the realm of Minos. The whole has, therefore, the secret underlying thought of a world-tribunal, which works through all human history; it is a kind of Last Judgment to which the deeds of men are appealed for final adjudication; it most profoundly suggests in its movement the ethical order of the Universe. Let us briefly sum up its three stages.

I. The first communication from the Hades of the Past to the real world of the Present through Ulysses is that of the prophet Tiresias, "whose mind is whole;" he may be called the pure Idea (as subjective) uttering the Idea (as objective, as principle of the world). For he beholds the truth of things as they are in their essence, he himself being the impersonation of Truth. Thus he looks through the Future and foretells; he knows that Neptune will avenge the deed done to Polyphemus, that the Oxen of the Sun constitute a great danger, that Ulysses will punish the Suitors; then he prophesies the peace and final harmony of Ulysses after his long conflict and separation from home, country, and the Divine Order.

So speaks Tiresias and is therein a kind of world-judge, prefiguring Minos of the last stage of Hades. For he prophesies according to the law of the deed; what you have done is sure to return upon you, be it good or bad. Hence he can tell what will happen to Ulysses for acts already committed (the wrath of Neptune); he can give a warning concerning things which Ulysses may do (the slaying of the Oxen of the Sun); he can affirm the certain punishment of guilt (the case of the Suitors). Thus the prophet voices a world-justice, which inflicts the penalty unflinchingly, but also bears within itself reconciliation. Such is the prophetic Idea, appearing in advance, not yet ordered and realized.

II. The second communication from Hades to the Phæacians through Ulysses comes from the Trojan Past, and is voiced by the three most famous heroes of the Iliad—Achilles, Agamemnon, Ajax (the last one, however, does not speak, but acts out his communication). All three are tragic characters, are the victims of fate, that is, of their own fatal limitations. Such is the world-judgment here, it is really pronounced by themselves upon themselves in each case. Agamemnon states his own guilt, Achilles shows his limit by his complaint, Ajax does not need to speak. Ulysses simply listens and sees; now he tells the story of Troy and its heroes anew to the Present, indicating how they have put themselves into Hades.

The intimate connection between this part and the preceding part of Tiresias is plain. The prophet has forecast the law which rules these heroes also; they are truly illustrations of his prophecy, or of its underlying principle. They expose the heroic insufficiency of that Trojan time; they are the negative, tragic phases of greatness, which have also to submit at last to the law of compensation. Thus is the illustrious Trojan epoch judged and sent down below; but mark! Ulysses, of that same epoch, survives, is present, and is singing the judgment.

III. The world-justice which ideally underlies the prophecies of Tiresias in the first part of the present Book, and which is the secret moving principle in the fates of the three Greco-Trojan heroes in the second part, becomes explicit, recognized and ordered in the third part, which is now to be given. There is first the world-judge, Minos, famous for his justice during life, distributing both penalties and rewards in the Netherworld. Secondly we see the condemned ones, Orion, Tityus, Tantalus, Sisyphus (mark the significant reduplication of the root in the names of each one of them). All four are represented as having wronged the Gods in some way; they have violated the Divine Order, according to the Greek conception; hence the tribunal of world-justice, now organized and at work in Hades, takes them in hand. To be sure, the text of Homer does not say that they were sentenced by the decree of Minos, but such is certainly the implication. These four had a common sin, to the Greek mind: they sought to transcend the limit which the Gods have placed upon finite man, hence the image of their penalty lies in the endless repetition of their acts, which is also suggested in their names. Orion has always to pursue and slay the wild beast, never getting the work done; the liver of Tityus grows and swells afresh (root from tu, meaning to swell, Latin tumor) though being consumed by the vultures; in like manner Tantalus and Sisyphus have ever-repeated labors. Such is the glimpse here of the Greek Hades of eternal punishment. Now comes the curious fact that the heroic man through labor and suffering can rise out of this Hades of finitude; he can satisfy the demand of world-justice, and rise to Olympus among the blessed Gods. Such was Hercules, and such is to be Ulysses, who now having seen the culmination of Hades and heard its prophecy of his future state, leaves it and returns to the Upperworld.

Undoubtedly these thoughts of future punishment and reward are very dim and shadowy in Homer; still they are here in this Eleventh Book of the Odyssey, and find their true interpretation in that view of the life to come into which they unfolded with time. The best commentary on this Book, we repeat, is the Divine Comedy of Dante, the grand poem of futurity, which carries out to fullness the order, of which we here catch a little glimpse.


Ulysses flees from the Underworld, there is something down there which he feels he cannot master, something which he has not seen but of which he has a vague presentiment. The Gorgon stands for much, dimly foreshadowing a Hades beyond or below the Greek Hades, with which, however, it is not his call to grapple. Hence the poet puts upon his Hero a limitation at this point, strangely prophetic, and sends him in haste back to the terrestrial Upperworld. The bark crossed the stream of the "river Oceanus," then it entered "the wide-wayed Sea" in which lay the island of Circe, "where are the houses of the Dawn, and her dances, and the risings of the Sun." Verily the Hero has got back to the beginning of the world of light, in which he is now to have a new span of existence after his experience in the supersensible realm.

From the brief geographical glances which we catch up from the voyage, as well as from a number of hints scattered throughout the Odyssey (for instance, from what is said of the Ethiopians in the First Book), we are inclined to believe that Homer held the earth to be round. We like to think of the old Poet seeing this fact, not as a deduction of science, not even as a misty tradition from some other land, but as an immediate act of poetic insight, which beholds the law of the physical world rising out of the spiritual by the original creative fiat; the Poet witnesses the necessity by which nature conforms to mind. Homer knew the spiritual Return, this whole Odyssey is such a Return, whereby the soul is rounded off to completeness, and becomes a true totality. Why should he not apply the same law to nature, to the whole Earth, and behold it, not indefinitely extended as it appears to the senses, but returning into itself, whereby the line becomes a circle and the plain a globe? Some such need lay deep in his poetic soul, to which he had to harmonize the entire universe, visible as well as invisible. Not science is this, but an immediate vision of the true, always prophetic, which observes the impress of spirit everywhere upon the realm of matter. The old Greek sages seem to have known not merely of the rotundity of the Earth, but also of its movement round the Sun and upon its own axis, both movements being circular, returns, which image mind. Did they get their knowledge from Egypt or Chaldea? Questionable; if they looked inwardly deep enough, they could find it all there. Indeed the sages of Egypt and Chaldea saw the fact in their souls ere they saw it or could see it in the skies.

So these Homeric glimpses into the realm of what is to become science are not to be neglected or despised, in spite of their mythical, ambiguous vesture. Moreover they are in profound harmony with the present poem, to which they furnish remote, but very suggestive parallels, making the physical universe correspond to the spiritual unfolding of the Hero.

Ulysses, accordingly, comes back to the sensible world and there he finds Circe again. Indeed whom else ought he to find? She is the bright Greek realm of the senses reposing in sunlight; she has been subordinated to the rational, she is no longer the indulgence of appetite which turns men to swine, nor is she, on the other hand, the rigid ascetic. Hence we need not be surprised at her bringing good things to eat and drink: "bread and many kinds of meat and sparkling red wine." Moreover, she is still prophetic, she still has the outlook upon the Beyond, being spirit in the senses. Her present prophecies, however, will be different from her former one, she will point to the supersensible, not in Hades, for that is now past, but in the Upperworld of life and experience. Such is the return of the Hero to Circe, the fair, the terrestrial, who makes existence beautiful if she be properly held in restraint; beautiful as sunlit Hellas with its plastic forms she can become, in striking contrast to the dark shapes of the sunless Underworld which leads to the Gorgon, the realm of spooks, shades, fiends, in general of romanticism.

So much for Circe in her new relation in the present Book; how about Ulysses? It is manifest that he too is prepared for a fresh experience. He has been in the Underworld and great has been the profit. There he has seen the famous men and women of old and beheld the very heart of their destiny; the Trojan and the Pre-Trojan worthies sweeping backward through all Greek time he has witnessed and in part heard; he has become acquainted with the prophet Tiresias who knows Past, Present and Future, who is the universal mind in its purity from all material dross; he has beheld the Place of Doom and its penalties, as well as the supreme Greek Hero, the universal man of action, Hercules. Nor must we forget that he has run upon a limitation, that Gorgon from whom he fled. Truly he has obtained in this journey to Hades a grand experience of the Past, of all Greek ages, which is now added to his own personal experience. So this Past, with its knowledge, is to be applied to the Future, whereby knowledge becomes foreknowledge, and experience is to be transformed into prophecy. Mark then the transition from the previous to the present Book: when Ulysses comes back to the world of sense, he will at once see in it the supersensible, which he has just behold; he must hear in the Present a prophetic voice, that of Circe proclaiming the Future.

Thus Ulysses is now ready to listen to the coming event and to understand its import. It is to be observed that up to the Eleventh Book he has had experience merely; he took everything as it came, by chance, without knowing of it beforehand; he simply happens upon the Lotus-eaters, Polyphemus, Circe, though the careful reader has not failed to note an interior thread of connection between all these adventures. As to Hades, it is pointed out to him in advance by Circe, though all is not foretold him; but in the Twelfth Book, now to be considered, he has everything in detail laid open to him beforehand. A great change in manner of treatment; why? Because Ulysses must be shown as having reached the stage of foreknowledge through his journey to Hades; hitherto he was the mere empirical man, or blind adventurer, surrendering himself to hazard and trusting to his cunning for getting out of trouble. But now he foresees, and Circe is the voice thereof; he knows what he has to go through before he starts, here in the Upperworld, to which he has come back, and through whose conflicts he is still to pass, for life has not yet ended. Such, we think, is the fruit of that trip to the Underworld, the supersensible is seen in the sensible, and the Future becomes transparent.

Accordingly Circe foretells, and Ulysses foreknows; the two are counterparts. Then he simply goes through what has been predicted, he fills up the outline with the deed.

This is the essential fact of the Book, which is organized by it into two portions, namely the prophecy and the fulfillment; Circe has one part, Ulysses the other. Moreover each part exhibits the same general movement, which has three phases with the same names: the Sirens, the Plangctæ on the one hand with Scylla and Charybdis on the other, and the Oxen of the Sun.


As soon as Ulysses, after coming back from Hades, had performed the last rites over the corpse of Elpenor, Circe appears and makes a striking address: "O ye audacious, who still living have gone down to the house of Hades—ye twice-dead, while others die but once." Such is one side of Circe, now rises the other: "But come, eat food, drink wine the whole day;" let us have a Greek festival ere new labors begin. Then Circe holds a private conference with Ulysses, she asked each thing "about the journey to Hades," which, it seems, she must know ere she can foretell the remaining part.

One cannot help feeling in this passage that the poet hints that these prophecies of Circe have some connection with what Ulysses imparts to her concerning Hades. Indeed she repeats what Tiresias had already foretold in reference to the Oxen of the Sun—a matter which she probably heard from Ulysses. Cannot the other two adventures be derived in a general way from the experiences of the Underworld? The Past seems here to furnish the groundwork for the predictions of the Future, and Circe, knowing what has been in the pure forms of the supersensible, becomes the voice of what is to be.

1. First come the Sirens, whom Ulysses will have to meet again, as he has often met them before. Indeed Circe herself was once a Siren, a charmer through the senses. The present Sirens are singers, and entice to destruction through the sense of hearing, inasmuch as "heaps of bones lie about them," evidently the skeletons of persons who have perished through their seductive song. Pass them the man must; what is to be done? He will have somehow to guard against his sensuous nature and keep it from destroying itself. Yet on the other hand he must enjoy, which is his right in this world of sensations; each good music must be heard. So Circe tells of the scheme of putting wax into his companions' ears, while he is bound to the mast. Already Tiresias warned Ulysses in the Underworld to hold his appetite in check and that of his companions, if he wished to return home. This warning Circe now repeats, indeed she repeats in a new mythical form her own experience, for she, the Siren, has also been met by Ulysses and mastered. Yet these later charmers seem to have been more dangerous. When they are passed, a new peril rises of necessity.

2. Next we behold an image, or rather two sets of images, of the grand dualism of existence. That escape from the Sirens is really no solution of the problem, it is external and leaves the man still unfree, still subject to his senses. There must be somehow an inner control through the understanding, an intellectual subordination. But just here trouble springs up again. The mind has two sides to it, and is certain to fall into self-opposition. Two are the ways after parting from the Sirens, says Circe: "I shall tell thee of both."

One way is by the Plangctæ (rocks which clasp together); here no bird can fly through without getting caught, even the doves of Zeus pay the penalty. "No ship of men, having gone thither, has ever escaped"—except the God-directed Argo: surely a sufficient warning. Then the second way also leads to two rocks, but of a different kind; at their bases in the sea are found Scylla, the monstrous sea-bitch, on one side, and Charybdis, the yawning maelstrom, on the other; between them Ulysses must pass with his ship and companions.

It is manifest that here are two alternatives, one after the other; the first is that of the Plangctæ, the Claspers, which mean Death, unless they be avoided, yet this avoidance does not always mean Life. We can trace the connection with the Sirens: the absolute resignation to the senses is license, is destruction; we may say the same thing of the opposite, the absolute suppression of man's sensuous being is simply his dissolution. Hence the extremes appear; the moral and the immoral extremes land us in the same place; they are the two mighty rocks which may smite together and crush the poor mortal who happens to get in between the closing surfaces. If we understand the image, it holds true of excess on either side; excessive indulgence is overwhelmed by its opposite, so is excessive abstinence; they co-operate, like two valves, for the destruction of the one-sided extremist. Truly Greek is the thought, for the Greek maxim above all others was moderation, no over-doing. Such then are the Plangctæ, which Ulysses must avoid wholly, if he wishes to escape. Still, even the danger is by no means over.

There is the second way which introduces a new alternative; the path of moderation has its difficulty, it too forks and produces perplexity and peril to the voyager. Here is the point where Scylla and Charybdis appear, a new set of extremes, between which the mean is to be sought, then the passage can be made. Yet even thus it costs, Ulysses will lose six of his companions; the penalty has to be paid, just the penalty of moderation. Es rächt sich alles auf Erden. Two sets of extremes always; if you shun one set and take the middle path, just this act of shunning produces a second set; cut the magnet in twain with its two poles, then each part will at once have two poles of its own. Such is indeed the very dialectic of life, the dualism of existence, which the heroic voyager is to overcome with suffering, with danger, with many penalties.

Fault has often been found with this duplication of the alternative, but when rightly seen into, it will show itself as the central fact of the entire description. It casts an image of the never-ceasing differentiation both in the mind and in the world; it hints the recurring contradiction in all thought and in all conduct, always to be solved, yet never quite solved. What else indeed has man to do? To master the contradiction gives him life, movement, energy, and it must be mastered every day. The old poet is going to the bottom of the matter. The above mentioned repetition of the alternative has its correspondence with the repetition which we have seen to be the fundamental form into which the whole Book is cast.

Plainly the Double Alternative here mythically set forth, springs out of the conflict with the Sirens, and is a deepening of the same to the very bottom. Indulgence kills, abstinence kills, in their excess; and the middle path bifurcates into two new extremes with their problem. Prophetic Circe can tell all this, for does it not lie just in the domain of her experience, which has also been twofold? Pure forms of spirit, wholly non-natural, are these figures representing the Double Alternative, created by the Imagination to express Thought.

3. The final warning of Circe is mainly a repetition of what Tiresias had told Ulysses already in the Underworld; from the latter she heard it and puts it here into its place. Beware of slaying the cattle of the Sun, oxen and sheep in two flocks, over which two bright nymphs keep guard. There can scarcely be a doubt concerning the physical basis of this myth. The seven herds of oxen, fifty to the herd, suggest the number of days in the lunar year (really 354); the seven herds of sheep suggest the corresponding nights. Lampelia (the Moon or Lamp of Night) is the keeper of the one; Phæthusa (the Radiant one) is the keeper of the other—namely the Sun as the day-bringer. Seldom has the old Aryan form of the myth been so well preserved; the whole reads like a transcript out of the Vedas.

Still stronger than the physical side is the spiritual suggestion. The slaughter of these cattle of the Sun points to the supreme act of negation in the intellectual man, to the sin against light. Ulysses and his companions now know the way to reach home, having had the grand experience with the Sirens and then with the Double Alternative; moreover the leader has heard the warning twice. If they now do wrong, it will be a wrong against the Sun, against Intelligence itself.

A certain critic finds fault with Circe because she repeats the warning of Tiresias, and he holds that some botcher or editor, not Homer, transferred the passage from one place to the other. Yet this repetition is not only an organic necessity of the poem, but gives an insight into the character of Circe: she cannot foresee of herself the great intellectual transgression, but Tiresias can; the Sirens and the Double Alternative, however, lie within her own experience. So she copies where she cannot originate, and in this way she is decidedly distinguished from Tiresias, though both are prophetic.

Such is the outlook upon the Future given by Circe, in the way of warning, whereby the warned know what is coming. In the three adventures we feel a certain connection, in fact an unfolding of one out of the other, beginning with the primary conflict of the Senses, which soon rises into the Understanding, and finally ends in a revolt against Reason itself, the source of Light. They have the character of typical forms, derived from the Past, yet they are certain to recur again, and hence can be foretold.


We now have reached the second portion of the Book, which is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the first portion; moreover we see how the forewarnings are heeded. Ulysses and his companions enter their vessel and start once more upon the sea, leaving the island of Circe, who sends them a favorable wind. We note also that Ulysses always repeats the warning to his companions, and tells to what they are coming next; they are to share in his knowledge. Three times he does this, just before each incident, and thus prepares them, though he does not tell everything. The experience with the Bag of Winds has taught him much; his companions through ignorance of its nature opened it and the fatality followed. So he received the penalty of not sharing his knowledge with his fellows; now he avoids that mistake, for his conduct at present shows that he regards his failure to impart his information as a mistake. He was the cause of the ignorance of his companions, which was brought home to him by their deed. Now he tells them, still he will not be able to save them; the fault is theirs when they transgress, and they will receive the penalty.

1. In accord with the plan already foretold, the ship approaches the island of the Sirens, Ulysses fills the ears of his men with wax and enjoys the song, being tied firmly to the mast. It is evident that he cannot control himself from within, he wishes to be loosed, but is only fastened the more tightly by his deafened associates. Foreseeing his own weakness he guards against it, yet brings out the more strongly his lack of self-mastery. He gives up his freedom in order not to perish through enjoyment. Herein we find suggestive hints concerning the natural man; he must be governed from without, till he become self-governable. Truly this is the first stage both in the individual and in history, and Ulysses is the typical personality representing both.

The song of the Sirens is given, which we did not hear in the previous prophetic portion. We may note in it touches of flattery, of enticement, of boundless promises, even of wisdom for the wise man. Then that favorite theme, the Trojan War, they claim to know, "and all that has ever happened upon the foodful earth." Such are the gorgeous promises to the man thirsty for knowledge; but mark in their meadow the bones and decaying bodies of dead men. Evidently their sweet song, promising all, lures only to destroy. Their power, however, lasts but for the moment, while the senses are tingled; when the fit is over, Ulysses is set free and he makes no attempt to return to them. Indeed another problem is upon him; he sees "a great wave and mist," to which is added a loud sound of rushing waters. Again he exhorts his companions and tells them all that he dares about the approaching dangers.

2. Now we are to witness a practical dealing with the Double Alternative, which was theoretically set forth in the previous portion. But the first Alternative, those bi-valvular rocks called Plangctæ, which clasped the sea-faring man between their valves and crushed him to death, is wholly avoided, is not even mentioned in the present passage, though it is possibly implied in one place. At any rate the grand stress is laid upon the second Alternative, Scylla and Charybdis, between which the ship is to pass.

Here again Ulysses shows his limitation. In spite of Circe's warning, he puts on armor, takes two spears, and goes on deck, like a Homeric hero, to fight Scylla. He tries to solve his problem externally, as he did in the case of the Sirens. In vain; he could not see his foe anywhere, and his eyes grew weary, peering about at the mist-like rocks.

Not thus was Scylla to be met, a monster not of mortal mould, hardly attainable by the senses. Still she was present somehow, and made herself valid. The whirling waters roared and seethed, all were intent upon the maelstrom, Charybdis, the other side; "we looked at her, fearing destruction," and destruction came just from the direction in which they were not looking. Scylla, watched, remains invisible; unwatched, she appears and snaps up six companions; external weapons can effect nothing against her. Still Ulysses gets through, scotched somewhat; he has failed to see both sides at one and the same time; mind, intelligence alone can rise out of the particular thing of the senses, and grasp the two things in opposition. As we read the story here, it suggests the man, the life-faring man, who is so drawn to one part that he neglects the counterpart, which has equal validity and soon makes itself felt by the penalty. Not the Alternative, then, Scylla or Charybdis, but the combined Scylla and Charybdis is the word of mastery. The two kept in separation destroy, the two held in unity are conquerable. Under all difference of Nature lies the Thought's oneness, which is the true synthesis of every Scylla and Charybdis. Such is the experience of Ulysses now; the Sirens, the creatures of the senses, may be thwarted by a species of external force; but not the present monsters can be so treated. The dualism exists doubtless, and we can be caught in it, but the function of mind is to overspan it, and so transform all difference, discord, diabolism into unity, harmony, deity.

Thus Ulysses disobeys Circe's command not to attempt to fight Scylla with weapons; the reason of her injunction becomes plain. Not a sensuous thing to be slain is Scylla, in spite of her animal figure; the poet hints that she is to be encountered by mind, which must here see both sides at once and so assert its supremacy over both. To be intent upon the one and disregard the other—that is the grand human danger. Hence the thought of Scylla and Charybdis has passed into the literature of the world, nay into the proverbs of the people, to express the peril of one-sidedness, as well as the inherent dualism in all conduct. Moreover the golden mean is suggested, that principle of action so familiar in later Greek philosophy. Deeper than this golden mean, however, runs the idea here; the dialectic of existence, the twofoldness which must be made one, the higher synthesis over all analysis are dimly intimated in the marvelous tale.

3. Having escaped through the two rocks, Ulysses and his companions come to "the flawless island of the Sun," the all-seeing luminary of Heaven. It is the total light beholding the totality. Is it not manifest that we have passed out of dualism into unity, out of strife into harmony? The island is represented as pastoral, peaceful, idyllic, with its herds reposing in sunlight; certainly a decided contrast to the noise and struggle in the region of Scylla and Charybdis. Or we may give the matter a psychological turn and say: Such is the transition from the Understanding with its finitude to Reason with its universality, to the all-seeing light within. Ulysses, having transcended the limit he showed in his last experience, has gone forward to the clear sunlit realm which illumines all limitations.

But just at this point danger arises. On the island are pasturing herds of oxen and sheep sacred to the Sun, things of light consecrated to light. The temptation will be to use them for the gratification of appetite, perhaps under some strong stress. Already both Tiresias and Circe have given the warning, which Ulysses now repeats to his companions and even exacts an oath from them not to harm the holy flocks. But hunger pinches, Ulysses again goes to sleep at the wrong moment, and the oxen of the Sun are slain by his men. It is true that the test is a hard one, death by starvation is impending, and they yield, not only violating their oaths but their light. Then they defiantly repeated their deed, "for six whole days they feasted, selecting the best of the Sun's oxen." When Ulysses awoke, he chid them sternly, but did not, or could not, stop them. The result was, they perished.

Already we have touched upon the physical basis which underlies this tale. The symbolism we may consider somewhat more closely. The sin against light on the part of the companions is double: they knew better because they had been forewarned, they were not ignorant as when they opened the Bag of Winds. Secondly, they destroyed objects sacred to the grand luminary, they assailed the very source of light. Ulysses has shared in the act also, he too must take his part of the penalty. He is saved, for he forbade the wrong, yet he went to sleep at the critical moment. To be sure the companions were hungry; but that is just the test; if they had had plenty to eat, there would have been no real trial of their fidelity to principle.

The ancient poet, throwing deepest glances into the soul and into the world, beholds the supreme negative act of man, and seeks to clothe it in a symbol. Mind turns against mind, when the man does what he knows is wrong, and the destructive side is doubly re-inforced when he assails light itself, and knowledge slays knowledge. When a person who knows affirms in word and deed that his knowing is a lie, his light puts out a light, he destroys the Oxen of the Sun. What then? It is no wonder that the great luminary threatens "to go down to Hades and there shine among the dead," unless the full penalty is exacted for such a deed. In fact, he is already extinguished mentally for these men, and Zeus, voicing the world-order, can only hurry them off into darkness. Very wonderful is the thought lurking in the symbolism of the old seer: intellectual negation, skepticism, denial, culminating in the negative deed, will at last drive the Sun himself out of Heaven and send him below into the Underworld. It is highly probable, however, that the negative man will be sent down there first, as is done in the present case.

After slaying the Oxen of the Sun and repeating the offense many times, Ulysses and his companions must again meet life, and accordingly they set sail upon the sea, bound for home and country. But such men have not in them the elements of the Return. Storms arise, winds blow, the helmsman is killed by the falling mast, and the ship is struck by lightning. The destructive powers of nature seem to concentrate upon these destroyers; such is the decree of Zeus, carrying out his promise to the Sun; verily the Supreme God could not well do otherwise. Ulysses alone barely saves himself upon a fragment of the mast and keel; manifestly there is a difference between him and his companions, who disobeyed his order. The text says that "the companions feasted for six days," it would seem that he did not; still he is involved in their calamity, though not fully in their guilt. Here is, then, a distinction of importance, since upon it is based the saving of Ulysses, who is yet to have a career.

While Ulysses may not have personally participated in the guilty deed, he was not active against it, he did not apparently seem to restrain the repetitions of it, he was paralyzed in energy. It was his will which was defective, not his intellect; he did not commit the offense, but he did not stop it, and try to conciliate the wrath of the Gods by sacrifices, by what we now call repentance. Hence, while he does not perish, he is still unfinished, incomplete, with a limit to be removed. A training of the Will is to be gone through next, till it be able to do what Reason commands. A new discipline therefore is in store for the Hero after the loss of his ship and his companions.

What will this discipline be? To a degree his entire career must be worked over again from the beginning. Upon his fragment of wood he floats back to Scylla and Charybdis; he falls into the old dualism in one of its phases, for he cannot stay upon the Island of the Sun, the place of unity and rest and light. Indeed have we not just seen him in the fierce conflict between knowing and doing, which he has not been able to unify in the last adventure? So he drops back between the grinding mill-stones of two opposites; one of these opposites, the maelstrom Charybdis, is sucking him in, but he clutches the branches of a large fig-tree overhanging the whirlpool, and holds fast till his mast and keel return to the surface of the water, upon which he escapes.

One cannot help feeling that the poet in this description has a conscious meaning underneath, it is more or less allegorical. The will of Ulysses was paralyzed in the Island of the Sun, he is helplessly carried forward on the sea, till the yawning gulf of Charybdis (Despair) threatens to swallow him, when he puts forth a mighty effort of will, represented in his clinging to the branches of the fig tree, which extends Hope to him, and thus he rescues himself. Now he rows his raft "with both his hands," it is indeed time to exert anew his volition. Charybdis could not take him, on account of a saving germ in him still; she has to let him pass. Whither?

Naturally the next station rearward is that of the Sirens, and this in a general way is what Ulysses reaches in his relapse. He comes to the realm of the senses, for the fact is that this was the source of the great trouble in the Island of the Sun. The companions, pressed by appetite and the needs of the body, yielded up their conviction, their intelligence; they had not reached that strength of the spirit which prefers the death of the body to a surrender of the soul. Ulysses at last acquiesced, the problem was too great for him and so he also is cast out of the Island of the Sun back into the region of the senses. But it is a new region of the senses, not that of the Sirens, not that of Circe, both of which he has transcended by an effort of will-power; it is the realm of Calypso, the Concealer, which has been reached through the collapse of the will after the sin against light. There is unquestionably an affinity between Circe, the Sirens, and Calypso, yet there is also such a difference between them that the poet has assigned to them distinct domains, It is plain, too, that Ulysses in his present paralysis will remain long with Calypso, not at once will he recover his power after such a negation. He is hidden, as it were, in her Dark Island Ogygia after that undoing of light; he passes from the sun-world of Reason to its opposite. Calypso, therefore, is reached through the grand Relapse, not through the progressive movement, which we have seen him going through hitherto.

Still Ulysses has in him the germ of betterment, of salvation. He longs to reach home and country, to return to his institutional world; that spark of aspiration has a saving power; it will not be extinguished even in the sensuous delights of Calypso's bower.

Observations. In looking back at the Twelfth Book and thinking it over as a Whole, the reader will always feel that he has not fully sounded its depths. It has not exercised so great an influence upon mankind as the Eleventh Book, but it is probably profounder. It lures specially the thinker and the psychologist, it seems not only to set forth thought but the thought of thought. Very difficult is the poetic problem in such a case, the imaginative form really is driven to its utmost limit in order to express the content.

I. The first thing to be fully grasped and thoroughly studied is the structure of the Book. For structure is the primordial fact of any work, and especially of any great work, structure has always its own meaning and far-reaching suggestiveness, and it points directly to what the Book signifies, being its inner vital organism. In the Twelfth Book we shall ponder a little the three essential facts of its structure.

(1) There is the twofold division of the Book, while the other Books of Fableland have distinctly a threefold division. Herewith is coupled the duplication of its content; the second part repeats what is contained in the first part; or the first part tells in advance what is to be done in the second part. Thus the structure images dualism: Thought and Action, Word and Deed, Idea and Reality, Prophecy and Fulfillment. Yet it also hints the oneness in the dualism.

(2) The next point in structure is the threefold subdivision of each of the two parts. That is, now the structural principle falls back into that of the preceding Books of Fableland. Each part has its three main adventures with their respective environments and shapes, quite as each Book hitherto has had. What does this suggest to the reader—this duplication of the threefold form of the Book?

(3) Finally comes the very peculiar structure of the second adventure, which we have above called the Double Alternative. The dualism of the Book we may say, is now doubled, and transformed into the middle one of the three grand trials or exploits which the Hero has to pass through. The monster Scylla is here to be noted, with its six necks and heads, three on each side of the body, wherein again the triple is duplicated, though the body is certainly one. It was this monster which did most harm to Ulysses, snapping up six of his companions in the passage.

Such are the main points in the structure of the present Book, assuredly as great a marvel as anything recorded in the same, when it is once fully beheld. That it is intimately connected with the thought of the Book, is indeed the very form and mould thereof, is felt by every careful reader. But what is this thought? Here the difference begins, and the conflict of opinion ranges over and into fields diverse and far apart.

II. It may be said that the interpretations suggested by these three adventures—with the Sirens, with Scylla and Charybdis, and with the Oxen of the Sun—belong to two extremes; those of Nature and of Mind. Readers and commentators of different character and training will differ; one set will lean to the physical view, the other to the spiritual. It is our opinion that both views can find justification in the poem. We may first look at the physical interpretation.

All these monsters have been supposed to represent perils of navigation, especially in the Italian seas, which were frequented by the early Greek navigator. They have also been located geographically, to be sure in a variety of places. The Sirens dwelt on three dangerous rocks near the island of Capræa, according to ancient authorities; or they were found on the promontory between Pæstum and Elea, or even down at Cape Pelorum in Sicily. Why should they not be indeed everywhere! Then they have been supposed to personify the secret dangers of a calm sea, and their song is the music of splashing waters. Undoubtedly a physical substrate must be granted in the case of the Sirens, and in the Mythus generally; still they are truly everywhere, not only in the Italian Sea, but also in the sea of life, and they appear not only to the professional sailor but to every human navigator. Are literal rocks passed by putting wax into the ears of the crew and by tying the captain to the mast? Surely some other peril is suggested.

In the second adventure, the Plangctæ (the Claspers, not the Wanderers, as some translations give it), have been located at the Lipari Islands in the Sicilian Sea, where there is strong volcanic action. The well-known Symplegades of the Argonautic expedition which were placed at the entrance of the Euxine, were probably patterned after this Homeric conception, and transferred to the North-east. The two terrors, Scylla and Charybdis, lie in the straits of Messina, according to the accepted view, the former on the Italian side, the latter on the Sicilian. A town named Scilla still exists in those regions, and an eddy in the straits of Messina is still called Charilla (from Charybdis doubtless.) Etymologically Scylla means a bitch, Charybdis is allied with Chaos (from a Greek word meaning to yawn). Later legend gave to Scylla a great variety of forms, which were reproduced in art and poetry. One story represents her as having been a beautiful maiden who was loved by Glaucus, and who was turned into her present monstrous shape by Circe through jealousy, for the enchantress loved Glaucus too. The sucking-in of the waters by Charybdis, and her disgorging of them has been connected with the ebb and flow of the tides. It may also be added that the Plangctæ (in the sense of wandering or floating islands) have been supposed to refer to icebergs, some report of which may have reached the Homeric world through the Phœnician sailor, who must have passed outside of the straits of Gibraltar, into the Atlantic.

III. Such are some of the physical explanations which this Book has suggested; we may now consider it in relation to certain mental phenomena. Already we have unfolded the ethical meaning which especially lies in these shapes, and the Hero's struggle with them. But they have another and deeper suggestion; they adumbrate the nature of mind itself and the process of thinking; both in form and content the whole Book strangely points to psychology, as if the poet, having created these wonders of Fableland, were going to create his own creative act and present it in an image.

(1) The division of the Book into the two parts already alluded to in which each is what the other is, in which there are both separation and identity, calls up the fundamental fact of self-consciousness, which is often expressed in the formula Ego=Ego. Mind, Ego, separates itself into two sides, yet each side is the whole and recognizes the other side as itself. This act is the condition of knowing of every kind, which always differentiates then identifies. One step more: Circe in her prophecy gave the pure form of the idea, then came its realization, so that there is suggested the primordial distinction of the mind into Intellect and Will, or the Thought and the Deed. Thus we see in this division of the Twelfth Book the exact characteristic of subject-object, and there is still further suggested the distinction between Thinking and Willing.

(2) Passing to the threefold subdivision of each of the two parts, we observe that it also calls up psychological distinctions. Three stages of the knowing mind, Senses, Understanding, Reason, may be found here, not very definitely given, still distinctly implied. The Sirens represent the Sensuous, especially in its moral aspect; the Plangctæ with Scylla and Charybdis set forth a vivid image of the divisions and conflicts of the finite Understanding; the Oxen of the Sun point to the central light, that of Reason, which, when destroyed in any way, constitutes the chief human calamity.

Another curious psychological hint may be noted in the text of Homer. The Sirens, the first or implicit stage, are sometimes spoken of in the dual and sometimes in the plural; Homer would seem to imply that they are two in number, yet they always act and sing as one. That is, the dualism or separation is as yet implicit; but in the second stage (that of Scylla and Charybdis) it will become explicit with decided emphasis. Later legend made the Sirens three in number, and gave them names, and otherwise distinguished them; but this is not Homeric and indeed has lost the Homeric consciousness.

(3) The fact that the previous Books of Fableland have a threefold division only, while this threefold division is duplicated in the Twelfth Book, has also its psychological bearing in connection with the foregoing views. In the first case, the poet was not aware of his process, he yielded to the poetic act immediately; but in the second case, he is conscious, he knows his own process and prefigures it; he holds it up before himself in advance, just as Circe holds up before Ulysses his future career. Ulysses also must know in advance, hitherto he has simply followed instinct and chance, whithersoever they led. In like manner, the poet now shows himself knowing what he will do; his threefold organic movement, hitherto more or less implicit and unconscious, has become explicit and conscious, and can be prophesied. He himself thus is an example of the Ego which both casts before and forecasts itself, in other words is self-duplicated.

(4) Here, however, we must note a distinction. In all four Books of Fableland, Ulysses is the poet himself in a sense, he is singing his own adventures to the Court of Phæacia, he is well aware of what he has passed through and to what he has come.

He is not a Demodocus chanting heroic strains of the Trojan Past; he is Ulysses telling his own spiritual experiences after the taking of Troy. It has been already unfolded (p. 246-7) that he was in a negative, alienated condition; he had fallen out with and was separated from his Hellenic world, whereof this Fableland is the record. But he arrives at Phæacia, an harmonious institutional realm, then he becomes fully conscious of his negative condition and projects it out of himself in these Tales or Songs. So all Fableland shows this consciousness in the man; but the Twelfth Book shows him conscious not only of his negative state, but of his mental process, conscious of his consciousness, we may say; he is not only Thought, but is Thought thinking Thought, or at least imaging the same; that is, Thought has itself as its own object or content. So much we are inclined to find hinted in this duplication of the movement in the Twelfth Book.

At this point we hear the cry of dissent: You make Homer too introspective, you make him a self-introverted, self-torturing nineteenth century man, whereas he is the most unreflective, unconscious of poets. Very natural is such a protest, my good reader; this sort of thing may be carried too far, and become fantastic. Still it is a great mistake to think that Homer never takes a glance at his own mind and its workings. He must have looked within in order to see his world; where else was it to be found in any such completeness? He has built it, and he must have taken some interest in the architect and in his processes. Homer himself is a greater wonder than any wonder he has created, and he probably knew it.

It is by no means the purpose to affirm in the preceding remarks that Homer intended to make an allegorical psychology. He simply had a mind, and the essence of mind is to be able to look at mind. So Homer saw himself and his own process, and set it forth in an imaginative form. Very similar is the plan of Shakespeare in the Tempest. Prospero is the poet, not only as poet, but the poet making his drama in the drama. There is also a significant duplication both of structure and character: Prospero is at one time magician, that is, poet, and commands the elements and the spirits, especially Ariel; at another time he assumes his ordinary relations as parent and as king, and is as limited as other mortals. Shakespeare made many dramas, then he saw himself making dramas, then he put into a drama himself making dramas. That is, he in the end (Tempest is usually held to be the last of Shakespeare's plays) took up his own poetic process into a poem, and thus completed the arch of his great career.

So much for the psychological aspect of these Books of Fableland. It must be stated again that abstract terms, so necessary for an exact science of mind, had not been elaborated to any extent in Homer's day. Reflective language is a later product of Greek spirit. Still the philosopher is anticipated and prophesied in the poet, and it certainly cannot be amiss to trace vague premonitions and promises of the coming Plato and Aristotle in the old poet. Homer has in him the germ of the whole Greek world, and for that matter, much of the modern world also; the best commentary upon him is the 2500 years since his time.

IV. The slaying of the Oxen of the Sun has also its searching suggestiveness, and is found in one form or other in the World's greatest Books. Mind destroying mind may be shown as light extinguishing its own luminary; some such hint lies in the symbolism both of the act and its punishment. It is indeed the culminating point of negation—spirit denying spirit. This is the real sin against the Holy Spirit, unpardonable because repentance, all possibility of pardon is denied by the doer of the deed. As I understand him, this is the essence of the sin of Dante against Beatrice, with which she reproaches him in the last part of the Purgatorio. Suggestions of the same kind of guilt may be found in the characters of Shakespeare's Hamlet and Banquo, in whose cases the violation brings on a tragic fate; indeed every true tragedy has some touches of the light-denying or light-defying deed and its penalty. Above all rises in this respect the Faust of Goethe, the theme of which is explicitly intelligence denying intelligence, whereby the human mind becomes utterly negative, begets the Devil, and enters into compact with him for a life of indulgence. While such a state lasts, repentance is impossible.

Some such intimation ancient Homer must have had, and shadowed it forth in this strange symbolic deed. Ulysses having disregarded all he had learned by his long and bitter experience, leaving unheeded the warnings and prophecies of the Supersensible and the Sensible World (Tiresias and Circe), drops back into the sphere of Calypso, and has to serve the senses seven years till will and aspiration lift him again. Such a servitude was not uncommon in Greek legend, Hercules is the very embodiment thereof; even a God, Apollo, Light itself, has to serve Admetus, a mortal, in expiation of undivine guilt.

An important element of structure is to be noted at this point: the poem bifurcates and the reader has to move in two directions. If he wishes to follow the development of Ulysses, (which is indispensable) he must return with the latter to Calypso's Island and trace him through his three grand experiences—Oyggia, Phæacia, and Fableland. But if the reader wishes to continue in the action of the poem, he must now pass out of Fableland to Ithaca in the company of the Hero. (For this double movement of the Ulyssiad, see pp. 121-8.)

But before Fableland is left behind, its full sweep may be called up once more: from the Upperworld of Earth (Ninth and Tenth Books, both belong together in a general survey), which shows the negation of Greek ethical life and its conflicts, we pass to the Underworld of Hades, which on the one hand is the negation of all Greek sensible existence, and on the other hand is the revelation of the supersensible (soul, idea, world-justice); thence we come back to the Upperworld in which the idea, obtained beyond, is seen struggling with the reality in various negative phases—Ulysses, knowing in advance, is shown in his attempt to realize his knowledge in the deed. Such then, is this grand threefold sweep of Fableland.

One more retrospect: let us glance back at the whole Twelve Books, this first half of the Odyssey, composed of the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad. Both are parts of one whole; father and son acquire each his special discipline for the coming deed. Both are brought to a recognition of the Divine Order, the son mainly through tradition, the father mainly through experience. Both reach beyond the sensible into the supersensible or ideal realm; Telemachus hears the story of Proteus, which teaches the essence in all appearance; Ulysses descends to Hades and there communes with pure mind without its terrestrial incumbrance, in the case of Tiresias and others. Such is the internal preparation; now they are to do the deed. The idea they possess, the next is to make it real.

Accordingly the action of the poem, with Ulysses as its center, moves next to Ithaca, the realm in which the idea is to be realized: wherewith we enter upon a new grand division of the poem.

(The reader who wishes to study the parallelism between this Twelfth Book and Prospero can consult the author's Commentary on Shakespeare, where it treats of the Tempest. In fact, the entire play, which is also a kind of Fairy Tale, has many correspondences with Homer's Fableland.)



Such is the designation which we have concluded to give to the last twelve Books of the Odyssey, inasmuch as a name is needed for this portion corresponding to the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad. The scene is laid wholly in Ithaca, the characters of the poem are all brought together, and the main conflict takes place. It is the country which is to be cleansed of violence and guilt; that Divine Order which father and son have learned about, each in his own way, they must now make real in the world, especially in their own land. Manifestly Ithaca represents the realm of wrong, of hostility to the social system of man; the Suitors defy Law, Family, State, Gods.

But Ulysses, before he can reform his country, has had to reform himself. When he attacked the Ciconians, he was as negative to institutional order as the Suitors themselves; he was not the man to destroy them at that time, he was too like them to undo their work. Hence the long discipline in Fableland, which has been fully explained in the preceding comments; hence too he had to see Phæacia, the ideal institutional life realized in Family and State, as well as in Industry and the Fine Arts. Let the reader note that he passes, not from Fableland, but from Phæacia, to Ithaca; having that Phæacian Idea in his soul, he can transform his own country. Thus he will truly save his companions, namely, the people, whom before he lost in Fableland.

Telemachus also in his training has seen much and brought back an ideal with him. He has heard the wise man Nestor and witnessed the religious life of Hellas in its highest manifestation. Pylos, Nestor's kingdom, is almost a Greek theocracy; the Gods appear visible at the feasts and hold communion with the people. Likewise at Sparta Telemachus saw a realm of peace and concord, in striking contrast with his own Ithaca; but chiefly he heard the Marvelous Tale of Proteus, after which he was eager to return home at once. Thus he too has had his experience of a social order, as well as his ideal instruction. Previous to his journey he had shown a tendency to despair, and to a denial of the Gods on account of the disorders of the Suitors in his house. Unquestionably he comes back to Ithaca with renewed courage and aspiration, and with an ideal in his soul, which makes him a meet companion for his father.

The third character is the swineherd Eumæus who is the great addition in this portion of the Odyssey. He too has had his discipline, which is to be recounted here; he has been stolen as a child and sold into slavery; still the most terrible calamities to himself and his master and to the House of Ulysses, have not shaken his fealty to the Gods. Thus in common with Telemachus and Ulysses he has faith in the Divine Order, and can cooperate with them in realizing the same in Ithaca. Very different has been his discipline from that of the other two, both of whom became negative and had to be sent away from home for training, but Eumæus has remained in his hut and never swerved in his fidelity to his sovereigns above and below, though he does not understand the providential reason for so much wrong and suffering.

To these three men we are to add the woman, Penelope, who has her part, perhaps the most difficult in this difficult business. She cannot resort to violence, she must use her feminine weapon, tact, with a degree of skill which makes her an example for all time. Indeed not a few of her sex declare that she has overdone the matter, and that her acts are morally questionable. But there can be no doubt that it is the part of tact to find fault with tact, and that woman will always decry woman's skill in artifice, without refraining from its employment altogether; indeed just that is a part of the artifice.

For this and similar reasons the moral bearings of this portion of the Odyssey have always aroused discussion. In general, the question comes up: What constitutes a lie? Is the disguise of Ulysses justifiable? Is the subtlety of Penelope morally reprehensible? The old dispute as to conduct rises in full intensity: Does the end justify the means? Two parties are sure to appear with views just opposite; the one excuses, the other condemns, often with no little asperity. The Odyssey has been denounced even as an immoral Book and both its hero and heroine have been subjected to a burning ordeal of literary damnation.

The poet has, however, his wrongful set, the Suitors, about whose character there is no disagreement. They are the negation of that Divine Order which is to be restored by those who believe in it—the three men who come together at the hut of the swineherd, and who have been trained by the time and circumstances just to this end. Ulysses has had to pass through his negative period and overcome the same within; now he is prepared to meet the Suitors and to destroy them without the negative recoil which came upon him after destroying the city of Troy. He can do a necessary deed of violence without becoming violent and destructive himself; he will not now re-enact the Ciconian affair.

Let us look into the inner movement of the matter here indicated. The slaughter of the Suitors by Ulysses was undoubtedly a negative act, yet the Suitors also were negative in conduct, wholly so; thus violence is met and undone by violence, or negation negates negation. What is the outcome? Manifestly a double result is possible: if a negative cancels a negative, there may remain still negation, or there may be a positive result. Ulysses has passed through the first of these stages by his discipline already recorded, after which he is master of the negative; the destruction of the Suitors will not now make him destructive, as did the destruction of Troy. It will be seen, therefore, that the poem has a positive outcome; after some trouble, Ulysses will renovate the country, will restore Family and State, in fine the whole Order which had been upset by the Suitors.

With the transition from Fableland occurs a marked change in the style of the poem. In the previous portions we have already noted the Marvelous Tale of Fairyland, the Heroic Tale of Troy, the Idyllic Epopee of the Present, the latter especially in Phæacia. But in these last twelve Books we read a story of actual social life, a story which almost strikes into the domain of the modern Novel. Still fabulous adventures will be interwoven—now more in the form of the novelette—with Phœnician and Egyptian backgrounds. Also a tone of humanity, even of sentiment, makes itself felt in various places. A new situation brings with it a new style, yet Homeric still. Hereafter these points will be more fully noticed.

We have already indicated the fact (p. 19) that Pallas starts to organize the Odyssey in Book First. Two portions she designates, the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad, which really belong together, showing the spiritual palingenesis, or internal renovation of son and father ere they proceed to the renovation of their country. Such in general are the first twelve Books, showing the two masters of destiny, the two positive men with their idea; the second twelve Books show them realizing their idea, and doing the great deed for which they have been prepared.

This second half of the Odyssey falls into two divisions. The first is located at the hut of the swineherd and brings the three men together, whose general character has been already indicated; they have been trained by life to a living realization of the Divine Order. This division consists of four Books (XIII-XVI). The second division transfers the scene from country to town, from hut to palace. Ulysses in disguise will witness personally the full course of the wrong of the suitors, against his property, his family, his state, and against the Gods. Then he becomes the minister of the world-justice which he has already seen in Hades. Finally he harmonizes the distracted institutional life of his country and the poem ends. This second division embraces the last eight Books, and has its own special stages in its movement.

Survey of Books Thirteenth to Sixteenth. In this portion we are to witness the leading transition of the poem, that of Ulysses and Telemachus to Ithaca, the transition from the long and elaborate preparation for the act to the act itself, which is the supreme one of man, that of asserting and realizing the Divine Order. In these four Books is the gathering of the chosen forces into one spot and into one purpose—which forces have been hitherto separately developed; here it is that we behold the practical preliminary movement for destroying the Suitors. Hence arises the feeling which most readers express on a sympathetic perusal, that these four Books of the Ithakeiad, which is the name already given to the present division of the Odyssey, have enough in common to cause them to be grouped together in an organic survey of the poem. They have, first of all, unity of locality—the hut of the swineherd—to which, round which, and from which their incidents move. To be sure there is a glance at the enemy, the Suitors, who are at a different point; but even this glance serves to emphasize the setting common to these four Books, which is the abode of Eumæus. Very humble it is, but it stands in every way as the contrast to the palace.

This unity of place naturally suggests unity of action as to what is going on in that place. All the forces in opposition to the Suitors are secretly gathering there and organizing. It is the center of attraction which is drawing out of the universe every atom of congenial energy for punishing the transgressors. It has brought Ulysses from Phæacia, Telemachus from Sparta, and possesses already the faithful Eumæus in its own right. This is the fortress, and these are the three men who make the attacking army. They are now getting themselves together. All three have passed through a grand discipline just for the present end, which is to be the great deed of deliverance.

Moreover the place has a character of its own, a peculiar atmosphere in sympathy with its purpose. Its strength we feel, its adamantine fidelity to the House of Ulysses. It is a secluded spot in contrast to the palace; its occupant is a slave in contrast to the kings who are suitors; his business is to be the companion of swine in contrast to the regal entertainment at court. The highest and the humblest of the social order are here placed side by side; with what result? The unswerving rock of loyalty is the hut and the heart of the swineherd; upon it as the foundation the shattered institutional world of Ithaca is to be rebuilt. The lowest class of society is, after all, the basis of the edifice; if it remain sound, then the superstructure can be erected again after the fiery purification. But if it be utterly rotten, what then? Such, however, is not the case in Ithaca, as long as there exists a man like the swineherd. From his rock, then, and, still more, from his spirit, is to issue the energy which is to transform that perverted land of Ithaca.

Still, here too Ulysses is the pivot, the central character; the hero both in thought and action, for whom Eumæus furnishes a spatial and spiritual environment. The hut of the swineherd is but a phase, one landing-place in the career of Ulysses. An idyllic spot and forever beautiful; who but Homer has ever gotten so much poetry out of a pig-sty? We witness the transfiguration of what is the very lowest of human existence into what is the very highest, veritably the Godlike on earth.

Ulysses, however, has to remain in disguise even to his most faithful servant; not out of distrust we must think, but out of prudence. Knowing his master, the swineherd would be a different person in the presence of the Suitors; he has an open, sincere, transparent heart, and he would probably let the secret be seen which lay therein. The gift of disguise he possesses not, as Ulysses has clearly observed in his conversation; in this respect he is the contrast to the Hero himself. But Telemachus will get the secret, for he has craft, is the true son of his father; has he not just shown the paternal trait in cunningly thwarting the Suitors who are lying in wait for him, by the help of Pallas, of course?

In these four Books, accordingly, we behold one stage of the great preparation for the deed which is the culmination of the poem. Not now the disciplinary, but the practical preparation it is, when one is ready and resolved internally, and is seeking the method and means. Both Ulysses and Telemachus have had their training; now it must pass into action.

We behold, first, Ulysses making the transition from Phæacia to Ithaca, and thence to the fortress of loyalty, from which the movement is to be made. Secondly we see all the instruments getting together, and being prepared for the work, particularly the three heroes of the attack. Finally we observe Ulysses inquiring and learning all about the situation in Ithaca; he obtains everything that information at second hand can give. But hearsay is not enough; he must see at first hand. Thus we pass to the palace, and out of the first series of four Books, which we are next to consider separately.



In general, we have in this Book the grand transition from Phæacia to Ithaca, in both of its phases, physical and spiritual. The sea is crossed from land to land in a ship; the idyllic realm is left behind, and the real world with its terrible problem is encountered. Phæacia was quite without conflict. Ithaca is just in the condition of conflict and discord. Phæacia, moreover, was a land of looking back at the past, of reminiscence and retrospection; Ithaca is the land of looking directly into the face of the future, with the deed to follow at once; it is the field for action and not contemplation. Not only spatially, but also in thought we must regard this transition.

Ulysses has both these worlds in him; he is the man of thought and the man of action. Hitherto in his career the stress has been upon the former; henceforth it is to be upon the latter. In this Book, which is the overture marking the change in the key-note of the poem, we have three distinct facts brought out prominently and through them we can grasp the general structure. There is, first, the departure of Ulysses from Phæacia and arrival at Ithaca; secondly, when this is finished, there is the glance backward, on the part of the poet, to the miraculous voyage and to Phæacia itself, in which glance Neptune plays an important part; thirdly, there is the glance forward, which occupies most of the Book, taking in Ithaca and the future, in which glance Pallas, the Goddess of foresight, gives the chief direction, and Ulysses is her mortal counterpart. This is, accordingly, to a large extent a Book of divine suggestion; two deities appear, the Upper World plays into the Lower World, yet in very different manners. The God of the Sea seems to be an obstructionist, a reactionary, with look turned behind, an old divinity of Nature; while Pallas always has her look turned forward, and is furthering the great deed of purification, is wholly a divinity of Spirit. These three phases of the Book we shall note more fully.

I. We have a glimpse of the court at Phæacia; Ulysses has ended the long account of his experience, the time of action has arrived. The formal yet hearty farewell is described; the gifts of the host are given, and the guest is sent on his way. Nor must we forget the bard Demodocus, still singing at the banquet, but the theme of his song is not now mentioned; evidently it was some tale of Troy, as before, and this stage of song has been far transcended by Ulysses. Very eager the Hero was to start; "often he turned his head toward the all-shining Sun" to see how far away the hour still remained. He wishes to listen to no more lays of the Past, sweet though they be, nor does he desire to tell any tales himself.

Moreover we hear the great longing of his heart: "May I, returning, find at home my blameless wife!" In like manner he wishes domestic joy to the king, as this whole Phæacian world partakes more of the Family than of the State. Of course, he cannot leave without going to the heart and center of the Family, namely, Arete, wife, mother, and even judge of the people. So we hear from the lips of Ulysses a final salutation to her in her threefold character, "Within thy household rejoice in thy children, thy people and thy husband the king." She looks to the domestic part on the ship for Ulysses; she sends servants bearing bread, wine and garments for the passage. Nausicaa we feel to be present in the last interview, but not a word from her or from the departing guest to her; self-suppression is indeed the law for both, for is not Penelope the grand end of this voyage?

The ship of the Phæacians in which the passage is made is a miraculous one, and yet prophetic; it is gifted with thought and flies more fleet than a falcon, swiftest of birds. Again the mythical account prefigures the reality, and this little marvelous story of the sea hints, yes, calls for the speed of modern navigation. It is not a matter to be understood; Ulysses, the wise man, knows nothing about it, he is sunk in sleep while making the passage. But the wise man is to come to knowledge hereafter.

He has arrived in Ithaca, and entered a safe port; he, still deep in slumber, is laid on the shore with all his goods and gifts, when the mariners turn back. At this point we have an interesting description of the surroundings, wherein we may observe the poet's employment of nature as a setting for the returned Ulysses. There is the secure haven shutting off the winds and waves of the sea; at the end of the haven stands the olive tree, product of culture, and hinting the civilized world, which Ulysses now enters; it was a tree sacred to Pallas in later Greek legend, and, doubtless, in Homer's time also. Next came the cave of the Nymphs called Naiads, with its curious shapes of stone, the work of the Nymphs to the old Greek eye, but named stalagmites and stalactites in modern speech. Two are the entrances, one for Gods and one for men; both human and divine visitors come thither, it is indeed a point of meeting for the two influences, which is its essential suggestion. Ulysses, lying with his goods beneath the olive tree and near the cave, is under divine protection, which here Nature herself is made to declare. This scenery is not introduced for its own sake, but for the divinity in it, whereof another example is to follow in the case of Neptune.

There have been repeated attempts to identify the locality described by the poet with the present geography of Ithaca. Travelers have imagined that they have found the haven and cave, notably this was the case with Sir William Gell; but the more common view now is that they were mistaken. Homer from his knowledge of Greece, which has everywhere harbors, caves and olive-trees, constructed an ideal landscape for his own purpose, quite as every poet does. He may or may not have seen Ithaca; in either case, the poetic result is the same.

II. The physical transition from Phæacia to Ithaca is accomplished; while Ulysses is asleep, the poet casts a glance backward at the marvelous ship and at the marvelous land which has just been left behind. Both are henceforth to be forever closed to the real world and its intercourse; the realm of fable is shut off from Ithaca, and from the rest of this poem.

The matter is presented in the form of a conflict between the Phæacians and Neptune, between the sea-faring people and the sea; clearly it is one of the many struggles between Man and Nature which the Greek Mythus is always portraying, because these struggles were the ever-present fact in Greek life. The God has been circumvented by the speed of the navigators; Ulysses without suffering, without a storm, has reached Ithaca. "No more honor for me from mortals or Gods," cries Neptune, "if I can be thus defied?" He makes his appeal to the Highest God, and we hear the decision: "Turn the ship to a stone and hide the city with a mountain." The first is accomplished in view of the Phæacians; the second is possibly prevented by their speedy sacrifices to Neptune, and the new decree of the ruler, which forbids their giving further escort over the sea to strangers. At any rate Phæacia is shut off from the world, and has not been heard of since; there have been no more transitions thence since that of Ulysses. The marvelous ship and the marvelous city vanish forever by a divine act, even by the will of Zeus. Yet, on the other hand, they eternally remain, crystallized in these verses of Homer, more lasting than the rock of Neptune.

Why this interference from above? Wherein is the escort by the Phæacians a violation of the divine order as voiced by the Supreme God? Note that Ulysses has escaped, which is the will of Zeus; note, too, that the Phæacians are punished for helping him escape, which is also the will of Zeus. The sailors bring the wanderer to his home without trouble, but they are smitten by the God while returning.

For the primal suggestion of the legend, may we not say that the sea, that enormous force of Nature with many reserved energies in its vast bosom, though bestrid and subdued by a ship, at times breaks loose and destroys, in spite of skillful navigation and perfect machinery? Still to-day the sea has a residue of the uncontrollable, and probably will have for some ages to come. Neptune has not ceased from his wrath against the man of thought, who tries to straddle and ride him, and Zeus still supports at times the Sea-god's appeal for honor, when his prerogative is violated. Yet not always by any means, for Zeus belongs to the true Olympians, deities of intelligence, who once put down the old Gods of Nature.

Still Nature has its right, nay, its law with the penalty. The poet looks upon the sea as a great deity demanding sacrifice and honor. Furthermore, for every conquest made over it, there is the counterstroke, the resistance, which is the vengeance of the God. Thus says Zeus: "If any man, trusting in his own strength, refuses to give unto thee honor, always vengeance is thine afterwards."

We have already noticed the creed of the poet to be that every action has its penalty; the deed, even the good deed, is the fruit of a conflict and puts down something which has its might, aye its right, which is soon to make itself felt in counteraction. Es rächt sich alles auf Erden, sings our last world-poet in full harmony with his eldest brother.

It is not surprising that Alcinous at this point remembers an "ancient God-spoken oracle," which had uttered in advance the wrath of Neptune and the present penalty. In like manner, Polyphemus, in his crisis, remembered a similar oracle. It is indeed the deep suggestion of Nature which the sages have heard in all times. The poet takes his thought and works it into a mythical shape, in which, however, we are to see not merely the story but the insight into the world order.

Ulysses now leaves the sea, after having been chiefly in a struggle with it for years, ever since he sailed from Troy. It was the element in his way, the environment always hostile to him; Neptune was the deity who was angry and made him suffer. Still the God of the sea could not prevent his Return, such was the will of Zeus. Thus we cast a glance back at the Phæacians who vanish, and at Neptune who also vanishes.

The poem henceforth quits the sea, after marking the fate of the sea-faring people of Phæacia. That great mysterious body of water, with its uncertainties of wind and wave, with its hidden rocks and magic islands, is now to drop out of the horizen of the Odyssey. It is the great sea-poem of the Greeks, yes of the world; the sea is the setting of its adventurous, marvelous, illimitable portion. It comes out the sea, with its realm of wonders; henceforth it is a land poem in the clear finite world. Ulysses the Hero must turn his face away from the briny element; not without significance is that command given him that he must go till he find a people who take an oar for a winnowing-fan ere he can reach peace. So the fairy-ship ceased to run, but the steam-ship has taken its place in these Ithacan waters. Still the poetic atmosphere of the Odyssey, in spite of steam, hovers over the islands of western Greece to-day; the traveler in the harbor of Corfu, will look up at the city from the deck of his vessel and call back the image of Phæacia, and if he listens to the speech of the Greek sailors, he will find words still in use which were employed by old Homer, possibly were heard by the poet in this very harbor.

III. Next comes the most important and longest portion of the Book, turning the glance forward to Ithaca and the future, also to the great deed of the poem. A new deity appears when Neptune vanishes, not a hostile power of Nature but a helpful spirit of Intelligence—it is the Goddess of Wisdom, Pallas. This divine transition from the one God to the other is the real inner fact, while the physical transition is but the outer setting and suggestion.

Accordingly, the theme now is the man and the deity, Ulysses and Pallas in their interrelation. We are to have a complete account of the human unfolding into a vision of the divine. The movement is from a complete separation of the twain, to mutual recognition, and then to co-operation. Pallas has had little to do with Ulysses during his great sea-journey, and since he left Troy. That long wandering on the water was without her, lay not at all in her domain, which is that of clear self-conscious Intelligence. That misty Fableland is the realm of other divinities, though she appeared in Phæacia.

The question, therefore, is at present: How shall this man come into the knowledge of the Goddess? How shall he know the truth of the reality about him in his new situation, how understand this world of wisdom? The sides are two: the man and the deity, and they must become one in spirit. The supreme thing, therefore, is that Ulysses hear the voice of Pallas, and develop into unity with her; indeed that may be held to be the supreme thing in Religion and Philosophy: to hear the voice of God. Even in the business of daily life the first object is to find out the word of Pallas.

Such is the dualism in the world, which must be harmonized; but in the individual also there is another dualism which has to be harmonized. Ulysses is mortal, finite, given over to doubt, passion, caprice, is the unwise man, subjective; but he is also the wise man, has an infinite nature which is just the mastery of all his weakness; he has always the possibility of wisdom, and will come to it by a little discipline. He will rise out of his subjective self into the objective God. This is just the process which the poet is now going to portray; the Hero overwhelmed in his new situation and with his new problem, is to ascend into communion with Pallas, is to behold wisdom in person and hear her voice, and then is to advance to the deed. This process we may look at in four different stages, as they unfold on the lines laid down by the poet.

1. First we have quite a full picture of Ulysses before he reaches the recognition of the Divine, and of his gradual climbing-up to that point. At the start he is asleep, is not even conscious of the external world about him, he has indeed entered a new realm, yet old. As long as the Phæacian spell is upon him, he can do nought but slumber. Then he wakes, he sees but does not recognize his own country. He doubts, he blames the Phæacians wrongfully, in his distrust of them he counts over his treasures. He is now the unwise, capricious man; he has no perception of Pallas; not only the land is in disguise to him, he is in disguise to himself, to his better self.

Yet the poet is careful to mark the providential purpose just in this disguise. The Goddess threw a mist over things, that he might not know them, or make himself known till all was in readiness for the destruction of the Suitors, till she had told him what he had to do. Still it is his own act or state that he cannot at first hear the voice of the Goddess.

The next step is that he recognizes the country, it is described to him and named by Pallas. But she is in disguise now; she has appeared, but not in her true form; she is not yet wisdom, but simply identifies the land, telling him: "This is Ithaca." Thus he recognizes the external landscape, but not the Goddess, who is as yet but a simple shepherd describing things.

Now what will he do? He also will disguise himself to the shepherd, because he does not recognize who it is. He makes up a fable to account for his presence and for his goods. Both are now in disguise, the man and deity, to each other. They are doing the same thing, they are one, with that thin veil of concealment between them.

Then comes the mutual recognition. She tears away the veil, laughs at his artifice, and calls out her own designation: Pallas Athena. She had previously named Ithaca, which brings the recognition of the outer world; now she names herself, which brings the recognition of the divine world. Thus Ulysses has rapidly passed from sleep through a series of non-cognizant states, till he beholds the Goddess.

2. Both the deity and mortal have now reached the stage of mutual recognition, and thrown off their mutual disguise, which was a false relation, though it often exists. Does not the man at times conceal himself to the God, by self-deception, self-excuse, by lying to his higher nature? In such case is not the God also hidden, in fact compelled to assume a mask? Thus the poet brings before us the wonderful interplay between the human and divine, till they fully recognize each other.

At once Pallas changes, she assumes a new form, the outward plastic shape corresponding to her Godhood in the Greek conception, that of "a woman beautiful and stately." Nor must we forget that Ulysses has also changed, the two transformations run parallel, in the spirit of the man and in the form of the Goddess. This unity of character also is stated by Pallas; "both of us are skilled in wiles; thou art the best of mortals in counsel and in words; I am famed among the Gods for wisdom and cunning." Hence her argument runs, let us throw off disguise to each other, for we have a great work before us.

It is also to be noted by the reader that each, the man and the Goddess, ascribes to the other the credit of skill and forethought, specially the credit of coming to Ithaca in disguise to discover the true situation. Says Pallas: "Another man would have rushed to see wife and children in his house, but thou wilt first test thy wife." Here the Goddess gives the thought to the man. Says Ulysses: "Surely I would have perished in my own palace, like Agamemnon, if thou, O Goddess, hadst not told me everything aright." Here the man gives the thought to the Goddess. This is not a contradiction, both are correct, and the insight is to see that both are one, and saying the same thing at bottom. The deity must be in the man, as well as in the world; and the man must hear the deity speaking the truth of the world ere he attain unto wisdom.

Even the mist which hung over the landscape at first, has now completely vanished; Ulysses recognizes all the local details—the haven, the olive-tree, the grot of the Nymphs, and the mountain; all the Ithacan objects of Nature come back fully. But chiefly he recognizes the Goddess, whereupon both can pass to the great matter in hand—the deed.

3. This deed has been often mentioned before—the purification of Ithaca, chiefly by the slaughter of the Suitors, "the shameless set, who usurp thy house and woo thy wife." Sitting on the roots of the sacred olive, the two, the man and the deity, plan destruction to the guilty. Verily those double elements, the human and the divine, must co-operate if the great action be performed. The eternal principle of right, the moral order of the world, must unite with the free agency of the individual in bringing about the regeneration of the land. Thus after their complete recognition and harmony, which takes place out of separation, Ulysses and Pallas look forward to the impending deed, which is their unity realized and standing forth as a fact in the world.

4. Finally we have the manner of doing the deed, the plan is laid before us. Pallas tells Ulysses that he must again assume his disguise, both in the hut of the swineherd and in the palace at Ithaca. She does not propose to do his work for him; on the contrary it must be his own spontaneous energy. In fact, Pallas is in him making this suggestion, yet outside of him, too, speaking the voice of the situation.

The scheme shows the structure of these four Books (XIII-XVI), organized of course by Pallas. Ulysses is to go to the swineherd who is loyal, and will give shelter. Telemachus is to be brought to the same place by Pallas, not externally, as we shall see, but through the free act of Telemachus himself. Thus the three chosen men are gathered together in their unsuspected fortress. Two things we must note in regard to these movements: they are wholly voluntary on part of the persons making them, yet they belong in the Divine Order, and thus are the work of the deity. Free-Will and Providence do not trammel each other, but harmoniously co-operate to the same end. So carefully and completely is this thought elaborated that we may consider it fundamental in the creed of the poet.

In such manner the weak, finite Ulysses is brought into communion with the immortal Goddess. Yet he, the poor frail mortal, drops for a moment even here. When Pallas speaks of Telemachus having gone to Sparta, to learn about his father, Ulysses petulantly asks: "Why did not you, who know all things, tell that to him" without the peril of such a journey? The answer of Pallas is clear; I sent him in order that he might be a man among men, and have the good fame of his action. Telemachus, too, must be a free man; that is the education of Pallas. The Goddess will help him only when he helps himself. Divinity is not to sap human volition, but to enforce it; she would unmake Telemachus, if she allowed him to stay at home and do nothing, tied to his mother's apron strings.

And here we cannot help noting an observation on Homer's poetry. It must be in the reader ere he can see it in the book. Unless he be ready for its spirit, it will not appear, certainly it will not speak. There must be a rise into the vision of Homeric poetry on the part of the reader, as there is a rise into the vision of the Goddess on the part of Ulysses. The two sides, the human and the divine, or the Terrestrial and the Olympian, must meet and commune; thus the reader, too, in perusing Homer, must become heroic and behold the Gods.


The Book begins with another transition in place; Ulysses passes from the sea-shore, with its haven, grot, and olive-tree up into the mountain, to the hut of Eumæus. We have quite a full description of the latter's abode; there is a lodge surrounded by a court and a wall; within this inclosure are the sties, and the droves of swine over which he is the keeper, with four assistants. Nor must we omit the fierce dogs, savage as wild beasts. Such is the new environment which Ulysses enters, and which has at its center a human being who gives character to this little world. Again we catch a clear quick glimpse of the Greek landscape in one of its phases.

The spiritual transition is, however, the main thing. Ulysses passes from Pallas, the deity of pure wisdom, to Eumæus, the humblest of mortals in his vocation. Yet this poor man too has the divine in him, and manifests it in a supreme degree, not, however, in the form of reflective wisdom, but in the form of piety, of an immediate faith in the Gods. Still this faith has its sore trial. Such is the contrast between the two men. Ulysses has brought with him the Goddess of Wisdom, whose words he has heard, and with whom he has held communion. Hardly does Eumæus know Pallas, he has not the internal gift of seeing her in her own shape. Thus both these men share in the divine, but in very different ways.

From this difference in the two men spring both the character and the matter of the Book. It is a play, a disguise; a play between Wisdom and Faith, in which the former must be in disguise to the latter, yet both have the same substance at bottom. For Faith is Faith because it cannot take the form of Intelligence, yet may have in its simple immediate form all the content of Intelligence.

Eumæus has an open single-hearted piety; he cannot play a disguise, he hates it for he has been deceived by it when assumed by lying fablers. For this reason he is not intrusted with the secret of his master's return till the last moment, he would have to dissemble, to violate his own nature, and then perhaps he would not have succeeded in his attempt. So Ulysses with a true regard for his man withholds the great secret, and has to play under cover in order to get the needful information.

Accordingly the present Book has a decided tinge of comedy. There is, on the one hand, the disguise, external and internal—in garments and in identity; on the other hand, there is the error which takes one person for another, and produces the comic situation. Thus the Book is prophetic of a great branch of Literature, and may be considered as a starting-point of Greek Comedy, yes, as one of the origins of Shakespeare. To be sure, it is not mere fun or amusement; it is the Comedy of Providence, who often is in disguise bringing his blessing. Eumæus in his piety has just that which he thinks he has not; his loyalty has brought to him just that which he most desired; his mistake is in reality no mistake, but a mere appearance which will vanish in the end.

It is true that this sport of comic disguise began in the previous Book with Pallas. But can the mortal hide himself from the deity, specially from the deity of wisdom? Hence the Goddess tears away the mask with a smile, and there follows the recognition. But at present it is the mortal who is the victim of disguise, by virtue of his limitations. Still the mortal, when he cannot see, can believe, and so transcend these same limitations. Thus it is with Eumæus, his mistake is a comic nullity.

In the hut of the swineherd, there is no domestic life, the woman is absent. This condition is specially ascribed to the present state of things in Ithaca. Eumæus, though he be a slave, could have a household, "a dwelling and ground and wife," if his old master were at home. Even now he has his own servant, bought with his own wealth. Slavery was not a hard condition in the house of Ulysses; it was domestic in the best sense probably. Indeed the slaves were often of as high birth as their masters, who in turn might be slaves in the next fluctuation of war. Eumæus himself was of kingly blood, and he retains his regal character in his servitude.

Ulysses has now reached the fortress which is to be the rallying-point of his army of three heroes, and from which he is to issue to the work of the time. But that is hereafter. In the present Book, we have his play with Eumæus, his disguise, which assumes three main attitudes. First, he is passive, chiefly asking and listening; thus he gets out of Eumæus what information he wishes; then he plays an active part in his disguise, telling his own history under the mask of fiction; finally he assumes an open disguise, that is, he tells of one of his artifices at Troy, and then states his present object in telling it. The simple Eumæus, however, does not suspect him in all these transformations. Still we may notice in the swineherd a strong feeling of oneness with the stranger, an unconscious presentiment of who he is.

I. The approach of Ulysses to the lodge of Eumæus is an experience which one may have in the mountains of Greece to-day. We can find the same general outline of a hut with its surrounding fence and court, in which domestic animals are penned, particularly during the night. Then there is that same welcome from the dogs, which issue forth in a pack with an unearthly howling, growling and barking at the approaching stranger, till somebody appear and pelt them with stones. Often must the wandering Homer have had such a greeting! The hospitable swineherd, Eumæus, the poet must have met with in his travels; the whole scene and character are drawn directly from real life. A similar reception we have had in a remote pastoral lodge, dogs included. But the modern pedestrian will hardly employ the ruse of Ulysses, that of sitting down on the ground and letting his staff drop out of his hand. He will use his weapon and grasp for a stone everywhere present on the Greek soil, though the fight be unequal. Still the sentence of Pliny (Nat. Hist. VIII. 61) deserves always to be cited in this connection: impetus eorum (canum) et sœvitia mitigatur ab homine considente humi; as if dogs in the height of their rage might be touched with the plea of piety.

The character of the swineherd straightway shows itself by his conduct toward this poor hungry stranger, a vagabond in appearance. To be sure, hospitality was and is a common virtue in Greece; but Eumæus saw at once in the wretched looking man his master "wandering among people of a strange tongue, needing food." Therefore come, old man, and satisfy yourself with bread and wine. Such is the strong fellow-feeling warming the hearth of that humble lodge. Misfortune has not soured the swineherd, but he has extracted from it his greatest blessing—an universal charity. This is not a momentary emotion, but has risen to a religious principle: "All strangers and the poor are of Zeus;" such is the vital word of his creed. He is a slave and has not much to share; "our giving is small but dear to us;" very dear indeed, a mite only, but it is as good as a world. Well may we call him, with the poet, in the best sense of the title: "the divine swineherd." We should note too that the poet addresses Eumæus in the second person singular, with a tone of loving familiarity very seldom employed elsewhere in his two poems. Was there some intimate personal relation figured in this character which we still seem to feel afar off there in antiquity?

At any rate the picture of the swineherd has the most modern touch to be found in Homer. It shows the feeling of humanity developed quite to its supreme fullness; it has modern sentiment, nay, it borders at times upon modern sentimentality. It recalls the recent novel, which takes its hero from the lowest class and garnishes him with regal virtues. Strange old Homer, prophetic again! He seems to have anticipated the art-forms of all the ages, and to have laid down the lines on which the literary spirit must move forever. Otherwise, indeed, it could not be; he has in him the germs of future development; the last novel is contained in the first, which is the tale of Eumæus.

In the character of the swineherd, the central point is his loyalty, adamantine as the rock of his humble home. It is loyalty in a double sense: to his divine and to his human master, to God and to man, Zeus and Ulysses. The same trait it is, in a terrestrial and a celestial manifestation. Both sides of this loyalty are just now under the sorest trial; there is every temptation to fall away from God and man and become wholly disloyal. Many have yielded but he will not; in his solitary abode he keeps piety and patriotism aflame with the breath of his spirit. Hence he furnishes the rock on which the new order can be built; without this loyalty in the humble class, no restoration would be possible, even with the presence of Ulysses.

First we may notice that he is loyal to his human master though he believes that the latter is dead and cannot return. Still he does not pass over to the side of the Suitors, who are doing that master and his house the great wrong. Secondly, the swineherd is loyal to Zeus and the Divine Order of the World. Hear him: "The Gods love not deeds of violence; they honor justice and the rightful works of men." Such is his faith; still this faith is passing through the ordeal of fire: why should the Gods, being good, keep the good Ulysses away from his Return? The simple swineherd cannot fathom the ways of Providence, still he believes in that Providence; he is divinely loyal. His allegiance does not depend upon prosperity, not even upon insight. Zeus may rule the world as he pleases, I shall still have faith: "Though he slay me, I shall believe in him."

Now we may turn for a moment to Ulysses. He is a passive learner from the swineherd, calling forth information by subtle inquiry; much, indeed, has he learned from the humble, pious man. First, he has seen a shadow of his own doubt, and how it may be dispelled. Then he has discovered loyalty in this representative of the people, who must still possess it in their hearts, though suppressed in the present, untoward time. Also he hears again of the Suitors and their guilty deeds, viewed with a loyal eye. Finally he plays the prophet to Eumæus and foretells the return of Ulysses. This is the height of his disguise, wherein he rises to the humor of Providence, who has brought to the swineherd the realization of his strongest wish without his knowing it. His prayers have come to pass, could he but see. Herein Ulysses suggests the part of Providence in disguise, bringing the fulfillment of his own prophecy.

II. It is now the turn of Ulysses to give some account of himself in answer to the swineherd's pressing questions. He tells a famous story, a fiction of his own life, yet it has in its disguise the truth of his career. The outer setting is changed, but the main facts are the same. Still there is enough difference to prevent it from being a repetition. It is the Odyssey told over again with new incidents, and variations upon an old theme. We behold here the conscious storyteller, clothing the events of life in the garb of a marvelous adventure. Ulysses had in mind his own experience in this account, and he adapts it to the time and place.

The main points of its contact with himself we may note. First, there is the pre-Trojan period, a time of roving and marauding, which is true of that age in general, and may have some touch of Ulysses in particular. Second is the Trojan war, the epoch of heroic conflict to which all had to go, so strong was the public sentiment. Third comes the post-Trojan epoch, with the wanton attack on the Ægyptians, very much like the attack upon the Ciconians in the Ninth Book. From these attacks in both cases the grand calamity results, which causes the long wandering. The Phœnician episode, however, has no counterpart in the career of Ulysses. Fourth is the storm at sea, with the clinging to the mast, and the landing upon the coast of the Thesprotians, all of which is a transcript of the experience of Ulysses in getting to Phæacia from Calypso's isle. Fifth is the arrival at Ithaca, which shows the actual fact, with changed circumstances. Thus we may say that the true Ulysses in disguise tells the true story of his life in disguise. This gift is what makes him the poet.

Indeed we are compelled to think that Homer here suggests his own poetic procedure. What he narrates is his own experience, in the form of art. His poetry is and must be his own life, though in disguise. Goethe has said something similar: All that I have written is what I have experienced, but not quite as I experienced it. In this story we may hear in an undertone the old Greek poet telling one of his secrets of composition.

Moreover, it is a tale of providential escapes; thrice has the so-called Cretan been saved specially, in Ægypt, from the Phœnicians, from the Thesprotians. Thus the story aims to encourage Eumæus, and to answer his doubt; it affirms the return of Ulysses, and tells even the manner thereof; it is a story of Providence appealing to the swineherd's faith. On this line, too, it touches the ethical content of the Odyssey, as the latter was sung to the whole Greek world.

Looking at the external circumstances of the story we note that it takes them from the social life of the time. There is universal slavery, with its accompaniment, man-stealing; the pirate and the free-booter are still on the seas and furnish incidents of adventure, yet commerce has also begun; the perils of navigation turn the voyage into a series of miraculous escapes. It is a time of dawn in which many distinctions, now clear, have not yet been made.

We may also see the lines, though they be faint, of the movement of the world's culture in this story. Crete, on the borderland between East and West, is the home of the daring Greek adventurer who attacks Troy on the one hand and Ægypt on the other. From Crete we pass backwards to Phœnicia, as well as to the land of the Nile, and we catch a glimpse of the current of Oriental influence flowing upon Greece. Already we have seen the spiritual gift of Egypt to the Greek mind shadowed forth in the story of Menelaus in the Fourth Book. In these latter Books of the Odyssey the Phœnician intercourse with Hellas is more strongly emphasized, with glances into their art, their trade, their navigation. All this Phœnician development the Greek looks at in a wondering way as if miraculous; he is reaching out for it also. To be sure the Phœnician has a bad name, as a shrewd, even dishonest trader. Still he is the middleman between nations, and a necessity.

Thus it appears that the Greeks have lost their Aryan connection, and have become the heirs of a Semitic civilization. Homer does not seem to know his Indo-European kinship, but he does connect Hellas with Phœnicia and Egypt in many a spiritual tie. These ties take, for the most part, a mythical form, still they must have been a great fact, else they could not have influenced the mythology of the Greek race. So the present tale through the fiction of the myth-maker, hints the chief social fact of the time.

The fiction in the previous Book, which Ulysses began to tell to Pallas, also started in Crete, looked back at the Trojan war, and connected with Idomeneus, the great hero of Cretan legend in the affair of Troy. The Phœnican trader in his ship comes in there too. But that tale is cut short by the Goddess, who knows the disguise. In the present case, however, the swineherd makes no such discovery. The next Book will also have its corresponding tale.

Ulysses has thus told all about himself to the swineherd, has even hinted in one place his disguise. He speaks of Ulysses having gone to Dodona to consult the sacred oracle "whether he should return to Ithaca openly or secretly, after so long an absence." He runs along the very edge of discovering himself. But the swineherd will not believe; "the Gods all hate my master" is still his view. Already a lying Ætolian had deceived him with a similar tale, which also introduced Idomeneus and the Cretans. Ulysses has before himself a new picture of doubt, and its blindness; quite a lesson it must have been to the skeptical man.

The story, in its deepest suggestion, hints the manner of providential working, as seen by the old bard. Eumæus has already had his prayers for the return of his master fulfilled, though he does not know it, and believes that they never will be fulfilled. Still he never gives up his divine loyalty and turns atheist. By his charity and piety he has helped, indeed has brought about the return of Ulysses unwittingly. The man, if he follow the law, is always helping, though he may not see that he is, may even think that he is not. This ethical order of the world underlies the tale, and is what the ancient listener must have felt so that Homer's poems became a bible to him. Providence in disguise is its title, here represented by the Hero in disguise.

III. The supper and its preparation are quite fully described; it is the second meal of pork in this Book. This we may pass over, to note the stratagem of Ulysses to obtain a cloak from the swineherd. The stranger tells his stratagem once upon a time at Troy for the same purpose; whereat the swineherd takes the hint and says: "Thou shalt not lack for a garment or anything else which is befitting a suppliant." Thus Ulysses obtained his cloak, and slept warm by the hearth.

But the other hint the swineherd did not take, the hint of the disguise. He sees the artifice of his guest to obtain the cloak, but never thinks in his own mind: This is Ulyssess himself, the man of wiles trying to get the cloak again tonight. Yet Ulysses has gone far toward telling him just that. The swineherd cannot suspect, it is foreign to his nature; this is just his beauty of character and its limitation.

But Ulysses has to disguise in order to do his work. He is in his own land, on his own territory, yet he dares not appear as he is. This is not his fault. His whole object is to get rid of this necessity of disguise, so that he may be himself. The time will not permit candor, hence his call is to correct the time. Violence is met by disguise, as it always is; fraud destroys itself; the negation negates itself. Such is the process which we are now beholding.


In contrast with the previous Book, the present Book has not so much disguise; Ulysses falls somewhat into the background, and several undisguised characters came forward. Still there are points in common, the most striking of which is the tale of Eumæus, the correspondence of which with the tale of Ulysses in the Fourteenth Book impresses itself upon every careful reader.

But the main fact of the present Book is the bringing together of the various threads for the grand final enterprise, which is the punishment of the guilty Suitors. Ulysses and Eumæus are already on hand; to them now Telemachus is to be added, who comes from Sparta, whither he had gone for the completion of his education. Thus the present Book goes back and connects with the Fourth Book in which we left Telemachus. Still further, the Ithakeiad is linked into and continues the Telemachiad (the first four Books), inasmuch as we now see the purpose of that famous journey of the son to the courts of Nestor and Menelaus. It was the training for a deed, a great deed which required knowledge, skill, and resolution, and which was to show the youth to be the son of his father.

Such is another organic link which binds the whole Odyssey together. The two threads, separately developed hitherto, are now united and interwoven with a third, that of Eumæus. Telemachus has seen two Trojan heroes and heard their varied history, he has learned about his father whom he is prepared in spirit to support. So the son has his Return also, a small one, yet important, be returns to Ithaca after the experience at Pylos and Sparta and is joined to the great Return of his father.

But just here with these evident marks of unity in the poem, occurs a slip in chronology which has given the most solid comfort to those who wish to break up the Odyssey and assign its parts to different authors. In the Fourth Book (l. 594) Telemachus proposes to set out at once for home, he will not be detained even by the charm of Menelaus and Helen. That was the 6th day of the poem, whereas we find him here leaving Sparta on 36th day of the poem, according to the usual reckoning. Two inferences have been drawn from this discrepancy, if it be a discrepancy. The Wolfian School cries out in chorus: two different poets for the two different passages; it would have been impossible for old Homer singing without any written copy thus to forget himself, whatever a modern author might do with the manuscript or printed page before him. The other set of opinions will run just in the opposite direction: the connection between the Fourth and the Fifteenth Books is perfect, as far as thought, narrative, and incident are concerned; the ancient listener and even the modern reader could pay no attention to the intricate points of chronology in the poem, especially when these points lay more than ten Books or 5,000 lines apart from each other. There is no real sign of discrepant authorship, therefore, but rather a new indication of unity.

The general theme of the Book is, accordingly, the Return of Telemachus, and his uniting with his father and the swineherd, who are still further characterized in their relation. The structure of the Book falls easily into three portions: first is the separation of Telemachus from Menelaus and Helen till his departure on the ship; second is the end to which he is moving just now, the hut of Eumæus, where are Ulysses and the swineherd, the latter of whom tells his tale of discipline and is seen to be a hero too in his sphere; the third part is the coming of Telemachus.

I. In the departure of Telemachus from Sparta, we witness the divine and human elements again in co-operation. The former is represented by Pallas who came down to Sparta to "remind the son of Ulysses of his Return(nostos)." She appears to him in the night as he lies awake full of care; he is ready to see her plan and so she appears on the spot and tells it, not in the form of a dream. In the first place, he is to hasten home in order to save his substance, which is threatened with new loss through the possible marriage of Penelope with one of the suitors, Eurymachus. The son (through the mouth of Pallas) here shows some bitter feeling toward his mother, whose mind be manifestly does not understand; she is altogether too subtle for her own boy, who has not seen through her disguises. In the second place Pallas warns him against the ambush of the Suitors, which was no doubt his own forecast of the situation. In the third place, the Goddess sends him to the hut of the faithful swineherd, whose character he must have already known. In this speech of Pallas we feel everywhere the subjective element; she is certainly the voice of Telemachus, yet also the voice of the situation; the divine and human side easily come together, with a stronger tinge of the human than is usual in Homer. Still we must not forget that Pallas, Goddess of Intelligence, suggests the processes of mind more directly than any other deity. Thus we again see that Pallas is the organizer of the poem; she brings its threads together through her foresight; she sends Telemachus where he unites with Ulysses and Eumæus.

The separation from Menelaus and Helen is told in the style of lofty hospitality. Menelaus brings as his present a wine-bowl wrought by divine skill, "the work of Vulcan," which was given him by the king of the Sidonians—another glance back to Phœnicia and its art. Helen gives a garment of her own making, which thou shalt preserve as "a keepsake of Helen" till the day of thy marriage, "when thy bride shall wear it." A most beautiful motive, worthy indeed of Helen and of Helen's art; Telemachus is to transfer to his bride, and to her alone, his "keepsake of Helen," his memory of her, his ideal gotten during this journey. Finally Helen appears as prophetess and foretells the total destruction of the Suitors at the hands of returning Ulysses. Such is the last appearance of Helen to Telemachus, giving strong encouragement, suggesting in her two acts a new outlook for the youth both upon Family and State. No wonder his words to her rise into adoration: "Zeus so ordering, there at home I shall pray unto thee as unto a God."

Telemachus in his return will not pass through Pylos lest he be delayed by the importunate hospitality of good old Nestor. And indeed what can he gain thereby? He has already seen and heard the Pylian sage. So he sends the latter's son home while he himself goes aboard his ship. But just before he sets sail, there comes "a stranger, a seer, a fugitive, having slain a man." Theoclymenus it is, of the prophetic race of Melampus, the history of which is here given. The victim of a fateful deed now beseeches Telemachus for protection and receives it; the prophet hereafter will give his forewarnings to the Suitors. Yet he could not save himself from his own fate in spite of his foresight; so all the seers of the family of Melampus have a strain of fatality in them; they foreknow, but cannot master their destiny.

II. The scene shifts (l. 301) to the hut of the swineherd, which is the present destination of Telemachus. The reader beholds a further unfolding of the character of Eumæus, in fact this portion of the Book might be called his discipline or preparation to take part in the impending enterprise.

Ulysses still further tests the charity and humanity of the swineherd by offering to go to town in order to beg for his bread among the Suitors, as well as to do their menial tasks. Whereat Eumæus earnestly seeks to dissuade him, reminding him of the insolence of those men and of their elegant servants in livery, and assuring him that "no one here is annoyed at thy presence, neither I nor the others." Well may Ulysses respond to such a manifestation of charity. "May thou be as dear to Zeus, the Father, as thou art to me!"

The stranger now tests the swineherd's interest in and devotion to Laertes and Eurycleia, who are the parents of Ulysses, the old father and mother of the house. So Eumæus gives an account of his relation to them, as well as to Ktimene, sister of Ulysses; "with her I was reared, and was honored by her mother only a little less." Eumæus will soon tell how he came so young to the family of Laertes. Indeed Ulysses is moved by his narrative to ask just this question. It is to be noted that the report of the swineherd about Penelope is not so certain; "from the queen I have had no kindly word or deed, since that evil fell upon her house—the haughty Suitors." Here lies one motive why Ulysses must go to the palace and test Penelope. Thus Eumæus shows his love for the family of Ulysses, and responds deeply to the test of universal charity.

Very naturally rises the question as to the history of his life. What experience has called forth such a marvelous character? Eumæus now gives his fateful story. The Phœnician background is again employed, with its commerce in merchandise, with its stealing and selling of free, high-born people into slavery, with its navigation. The pith of the story is, a Phœnician female slave, who had been stolen and bought by the king of the country, plays false to her master, steals his child and what valuables she can carry off, and escapes on a Phœnician trading vessel after an intrigue with one of its crew. The captive woman avenged her wrong, but was struck on "the seventh day by Diana, archer-queen," for her own double guilt. Eumæus was that child, also stolen and enslaved, but he is her emphatic contrast; he has been able fully to digest his fate. The Phœnician galley came to Ithaca, "and there Laertes purchased me." The swineherd is of royal birth and retains his more than royal character; in being the humblest he can rise to the highest.

Interesting touches of the Phœnician traders are given: "Sharp fellows, having myriads of trinkets in their ship:" surely it is the ancient Semitic retailer of jewelry, going from town to town in his boat. Then note specially "the cunning man who came to my father's house, showing a golden necklace strung with amber beads;" this amber was obtained doubtless through commerce from the Baltic, by the Phœnicians, whose workmanship is also suggested. "The palace servants and my mother took the trinket into their hands, turning it over and over; they kept gazing at it haggling about the price;" the same scene can be witnessed today in our own country towns when the Jewish peddler appears in the household. In the present case, however, it was part of the scheme of stealing the child.

Eumæus says that his father ruled a city in the island of Syria. But where is this Syria? Some think it is conceived by Homer as lying in the extreme West, "where the Sun turns;" but the Sun turns anywhere. Rather is its position eastward toward Phœnicia; the Taphian pirates who stole the Sidonian woman and sold her into Syria, dwelt not far from Ithaca and preyed upon Phœnician commerce, stealing and selling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Certainly they could find little business of their kind in the West. Some vague idea of the actual land of Syria must have flashed in Homer's mind; no more definite description is possible.

It is plain, however, that the poet makes Eumæus a foreigner, not a Greek, whose birth-land lies beyond the Hellenic boundary to the East. But he is not a Phœnician, his character is different, and his people seem not to have been sea-faring. His fundamental trait is religiosity; he lives in the eternal presence of the Divine Ruler of the World. His character is that of the Old Testament; some of his utterances are strong reminders of the Psalms. We cannot help reading in him something of David and of Job; misfortune he here has had, but he retains an unshaken faith in the deity; intense wrestling he shows, but it has been with him the process of purification. He is not a Greek at all; he has a Hebrew character, not of the modern mercantile type, which resembles more the Phœnician, but of the old Hebrew strain. In those times of man-stealing, Homer could easily have met him in one of the Greek islands, a slave yet a spiritual prince, have drawn his portrait, and have heard his story substantially as here given.

Indeed we think we can trace in the swineherd's thoughts and sometimes in his expressions a marked monotheistic tendency. Undoubtedly Eumæus speaks fluently of the Greek Gods, as Diana and Apollo; especially does he mention and honor Zeus, the supreme God; still he is prone to employ the word Gods in the unitary sense of Providence, and he repeatedly uses the singular God without the article, as in the passage: "God grants some things and withholds others at his will, for he is all-powerful" (XIV. 444). And it is characteristic that he does not like Helen, for thus he says in an outburst of anti-Greek spirit: "O would that Helen and her tribe had utterly perished, for whose sake so many fell!" (XIV. 68.) Striking is his contrast herein with the Phæacians, and with their love of the Trojan conflict.

We have already stated that this entire Ithakeiad resembles the novel, giving pictures of the social life of the time, and elevating the humblest man into heroship. In like manner, this story of Eumæus might almost be called a novelette, truly an Homeric novelette interwoven into the greater totality of the novel here presented in the Ithakeiad, and finally into the entire Odyssey. It has its correspondence with the Fairy Tale of the previous portions of the poem, yet stands in sharpest contrast. Here is no supernatural world far away, but it is the present, it is human life just now, and the hero lives before us. Here are no superhuman beings, like Calypso, Circe, Polyphemus, Proteus; the environment, the coloring, the art-form are totally changed. Nor is it an heroic tale of Troy, with its order of Gods, descending and interfering in human affairs; no grand exploits of arms, no mighty mustering of glorious warriors. Not high and magnificent Achilles in all the pride of his colossal individuality, but humble Eumæus, a slave and a swineherd, has become the Homeric hero. Surely a new style, and a new world-view; yet surely Homer's, not the work of any other man.

It has been already made plain that we have passed from the Idyl, and Heroic Epos, and the Fairy Tale of the first portions of the Odyssey into the Social Romance, which takes the picture of society as its setting. Every human being can now be made a slave; man-stealing, woman-stealing, child-stealing, give the motives for the strangest turns of destiny. Already Ulysses in his fictitious tale of the previous Book has become a maker of the novelette; but Eumæus tells a true tale of his own life, it has no disguise; he knows his past, he is aware of his origin. Thus he is an example, showing how the man is still a fate-compeller in such a state of society. Though a slave externally, he can still be a king within; though struck by the hardest blow of destiny he can still remain loyal to the Divine Order and obtain its blessing.

It is interesting to note the significance of this Phœnician background, with its universal commerce. The Phœnician traded already in remote antiquity with the extremes of the Aryan race, from India in the East to Britain in the West, including the whole intervening line of Aryan migration, Persia, Greece, Italy, Gaul. The Aryan race is indeed a separative, self-repellent, distracted race, always on the move out of itself, without returning into itself. The Phœnician, on the contrary, in his farthest voyages, came back home with news and merchandise; the remotest Phœnician settlements kept up their connection with the mother country. Deep is the idea of the Return to the parent city in the Semitic consciousness for all time; the Phœnician returned anciently to Tyre and Sidon; the Arab Mahommedan returns to-day to Mecca, home of the Prophet; the Jew experts to return to Jerusalem, the holy city of his fathers. The entire Odyssey may well be supposed to show a Semitic influence, in distinction from the Iliad, for the Odyssey is the account of many returns and of the one all-embracing Return to home and country. It is, therefore, very suggestive that the Odyssey has this Phœnician background of a world-commerce, which is only possible for a city whose people, going forth, come back to it as a center. Moreover this world-commerce is a kind of unification of the ever-separating Aryan race, a bond created through the exchange of commodities. Thus the Semitic character has always shown itself as the unifier and mediator of Aryan peoples, first through an external tie of trade, which was the work of Phœnicia, and, secondly, through the far deeper spiritual tie of religion, which was the later work of Judea. The Semitic mind has always been necessary to the inherently centrifugal Aryan soul in order to bring it back to itself from its wanderings, inner and outer, and to reconcile itself with itself and with the Divine Order. The Semite has been and still is the priest to all Arya, by the deepest necessity of the spirit.

Another word we may add in this connection. The Semitic race has also separated itself, and shown three main branches—Phœnician, Hebrew, Arab—a sea-people, a land-people, and a sand-people. In all three cases, however, they have a returning and therewith a mediating character. In their wildest wanderings, on water, and in the desert, and in the soul, they have the power of getting back; and that which they do for themselves, they aid others in doing.

So much by way of tracing the universal relations of this poem with its Phœnician background of commerce as well as with its Semitic character of Eumæus. For, somehow, we cannot help seeing in this latter certain traits of the old Hebrew.

III. The last part of the Book returns to Telemachus and his ship; he has escaped the men in ambush, and has reached the Ithacan shore at a distance from the palace; he sends the vessel to the town while he goes to the hut of the swineherd in accord with the plan of the Goddess.

But he has on his hands the seer Theoclymenus, whom he first thinks of sending to one of the Suitors; but when the seer utters a favorable prophecy, Telemachus sends him to one of his own friends for entertainment. A curious touch of policy; it was well to have the prophet in a friendly house, where he might be ready for service; even prophetic vision can be colored by personal attachments.


This Book connects directly with the preceding Book, and brings about not only the external meeting and recognition of father and son, but their spiritual fusion in a common thought and purpose. The scene is still laid in the swineherd's hut, but the swineherd himself must be eliminated at this point. The question rises, Why does the poet hold it so necessary to keep the matter secret from Eumæus? The care which Homer takes with this object in view, is noteworthy. Evidently the swineherd was not ready to participate, or would endanger the scheme. Yet of his fidelity there could be no question.

We have already stated our opinion on this subject. Various external reasons may be suggested but the real reason lay in the character of Eumæus. He was too sincere, open-hearted, transparent for those wily Greeks; he might let out the great secret in pure simplicity of mind; he is their contrast just herein, he is not a Greek. The situation demanded disguise, dissimulation, possibly downright lying; Eumæus was not the man for that. Such is his greatest honor, yet such is also his limit; if Ulysses and Telemachus were such as he, they would have all died nobly in their cause, but the Suitors would have triumphed, and the institutional world of Ithaca would have gone to the dogs. At least its rescue could not have taken place through them. Such is the moral contradiction which now rises, and will continue to rise more and more distinctly to view throughout the rest of the poem.

There are the two strands in the Book which are the main ones of the poem, that of the father and son, and that of the Suitors. Both are here put together and contrasted with new incidents, which are leading inevitably to the grand culmination. These two strands we shall now briefly follow out in order. There is also a third portion, the return of Eumaeus from the palace to the hut, which portion is short and unimportant.

I. Telemachus arrives at the hut of the swineherd, the dogs give him a friendly greeting in contrast to that which they give to Ulysses—a fact which shows that the youth must have been in times past a good deal with Eumæus. Also the affectionate meeting of the two suggests the same thing. Herein we note a reason for Pallas sending him hither—the Goddess and the youth coincided. Of course the conversation soon turns toward the stranger present, the disguised Ulysses. Now occurs a subtle movement between father and son who are to be brought together.

(1) First they are in a state of separation, but the disguised Ulysses holds the bond of unification in his power. Eumæus first tells to Telemachus the fictitious Cretan story concerning the stranger; then Ulysses gives a note of his true self: "Would that I were Ulysses' son or the hero himself!" What then? "I would be an evil to those Suitors." Thus the father secretly stirs the spirit of the son, in fact spiritually identifies himself. The son sends off the swineherd on an errand to Penelope, in order to announce his safe arrival from his journey to the mainland. In this way one obstacle is removed—the swineherd; now the second obstacle, the disguise is to be stripped away.

(2) Herewith occurs a divine intervention, hinting the importance of the present moment. Pallas appears to Ulysses, "but Telemachus beheld her not;" Why? "For not by any means are the Gods manifest to all men." As already stated, Ulysses has the key of the situation, and sees what is now to be done; Telemachus does not see and will not see till his father's disguise be removed. So again the Goddess Pallas appears to the wise man and addresses him because the two are one in thought; no other person not in this oneness of the human and divine can see her. In like manner Pallas appears to Achilles, "seen by him alone," in the First Book of the Iliad; similar too is the case of Telemachus when Pallas comes to him among the Suitors under the form of Mentes in the First Book of this Odyssey (see p. 26).

But just here is added a fact in strangest contrast with the foregoing view; "The dogs (as well as Ulysses) saw the Goddess; they barked not, but ran off whining through the gate in the opposite direction." In the old Teutonic faith (and probably Aryan) the dog can see a ghost, hence his unaccountable whine at times. The lower animals and even the elements recognize the approaching deity by some unusual commotion. But mark the contrast: the dogs ran in terror from the presence of the Goddess; Ulysses, observing her, "went out of the house and stood before her alongside the wall of the court." The rational man, beholding, must commune with the deity present, and not run off like a dog. If he does not see the Goddess, as in the case with Telemachus here, he is simply outside of her influence.

Pallas gives to Ulysses the strong promise of help, reflecting his own internal condition. She transforms him, he appears a new man, nay a God to his son, "some divinity whose home is the broad heaven." Then the recognition follows, with its various doubts and its emotional ups and downs. "In the breasts of both rose the desire of tears; they wept shrilly, and louder their screams than those of the eagle whose young have been stolen from its nest." Lamentation is a trait of the Homeric hero; in the present case it asserts its fullest right. But enough! let us pass from heroic tears to heroic deeds.

(3) Next comes the general plan of action. What have we to encounter? Telemachus gives a catalogue of the Suitors; they reach the surprising number of 108 persons plus 10 attendants, including the bard and the herald. We now begin to appreciate the greatness of the task. The Ithacan people are helpless or hostile, the Suitors have friends and relatives everywhere, yet they must be punished, they cannot be allowed to escape. But the aid for such an enterprise—whence? asks Telemachus, and also the reader. Listen to the answer of Ulysses: "I shall tell thee, and thou bear it well in mind; think whether Pallas with her father Zeus be not sufficient for us, or shall I look about for some other defender?" Such a believer has the skeptic become; he now has faith in the Gods, and in a World Order. It is also a lofty expression of belief in his divine mission; the spirit of Eumæus, which dwells in that humble hut, has entered the heart of the hero. Such are the two allies: Pallas, wisdom, and Zeus, fountain of the world's justice, which had been deeply violated by the Suitors. Telemachus in response, assents to his father's words, and acknowledges the supremacy of the Gods. He also lays aside his doubt and shows himself in a spiritual harmony with his father, which must be antecedent to the deed.

The next part of the plan is that Ulysses in disguise shall go to the palace and see for himself the wrongs done to his House, and experience some of these wrongs in his own person. Then too he can make preparations on the spot and select the time for striking. Also he wishes to test a little further the wife Penelope. Another period of disguise is necessary in order to get rid of the necessity of disguise and vindicate the right. Zeus is with him, he is the bearer of universal justice, which he is to establish anew; but Pallas must also be with him in the act, for it requires all his skill and cunning and forethought.

Thus the father and son are united in spirit; the last obstacle, which was the disguise, is removed, and they behold each other as they are in truth. The recognition is not merely an external one of face and form, or even of the tie of kinship and affection; it is in both a recognition of the Divine Order of the World, which they are now called upon to maintain in their own persons, and to re-stablish in their country.

II. The scene passes from the hut of the swineherd to the palace, where the Suitors soon hear of the safe return of Telemachus. Antinous also comes back, foiled and evidently angered; he proposes to the Suitors that they should slay Telemachus "in the fields or on the highway" wherever found, or renounce the suit for Penelope in the palace: "Let each one woo her from his own house with gifts."

It is clear that such a violent measure as the assassination of the royal heir in his own territory finds small response even among the Suitors. Antinous says that the people are no longer friendly; he thinks, when they hear of the recent ambush, that they may rise and drive out the aggressors. Still they do not rise, and probably Antinous tried to frighten the Suitors into his drastic method. But he did not succeed, Amphinomus clearly voices their sentiment, and the council dissolves.

Soon it is seen that Antinous has lost his cause. Penelope appears and gives him a thorough tongue-lashing, in which she also tells his antecedents. "Thy father came to us, a fugitive from the people," who were angry at him on account of his piratical misdeeds; "they wanted to kill him, and tear out his heart, and pillage his large wealth" evidently gotten unlawfully. "But Ulysses restrained them," and now this is your gratitude: "you waste his property, woo his wife, slay his son, and worry me to death." Antinous is true to his ancestry, he is still a pirate. Strong words are these, which call forth a hypocritical reply from another Suitor, Eurymachus, which she probably saw through, for she goes into her upper chamber, where "she weeps for her dear spouse Ulysses, till blue-eyed Pallas cast upon her eyelids sweet sleep."

The internal weakness of the Suitors is exposed; it is manifest that they are divided among themselves. In fact, how can they have any unity? Each wishes to win the fair prize, which can belong only to one; hence every other man is his rival, whom he tries to thwart. Hence come jealousy and suspicion. The single bond they have in common is their wrong-doing, which they feel cannot much longer continue, with Telemachus so active.

III. On the other hand, we pass to the hut of the swineherd, where the father and son show a complete unity of spirit and purpose. Eumæus returns from his errand; he brings no news specially except that the Suitors who formed the ambush have come back to the town. But he is not yet to be admitted into the grand secret; so Pallas stood again near Ulysses, "striking him with her staff she made him an old man in wretched rags." He resumes his disguise "lest the swineherd might recognize him and hasten to announce the fact to Penelope, instead of keeping the secret looked in his bosom." So the kind-hearted, sincere Eumæus cannot yet be entrusted with the important secret.



The time has arrived for this exposition of the Odyssey to be brought to a close with some degree of rapidity. It has already expanded itself beyond its original purpose; it, too, like Ulysses, has asserted itself as limit-transcending. We shall try to indicate the general character of these remaining eight Books, to find their place in the total organism of the poem, and then give a brief outline of each Book separately.

It has already often been stated that the Odyssey is a Return, an outer, but specially an inner Return from the Trojan War and from the alienation and disruption produced by the same. This Return, narrated in the twenty-four Books of the poem, divides itself into two equal halves, each containing twelve Books. The first half moves about two centers, Telemachus and Ulysses; the former is to be trained out of his ignorance, the latter is to be disciplined out of his negative attitude toward institutional life, and thus be prepared to rescue institutional life. The first twelve Books are, therefore, the getting rid of the destructive results caused by the Trojan War and all war, in the human soul.

Still Ulysses, with Telemachus, is to do a deed of destruction, he is to destroy the Suitors, who are themselves destructive of institutional order in Ithaca. In a general way they are like the Trojans, they are assailing the domestic and political life of the Greek world; they too must be put down at home by the hero, as Troy was put down abroad by him. But at Troy he became negative through the long training of a ten years' war, the spirit of which he must get rid of before he can slay the Suitors, for he is too much like them to be their rightful destroyer. This, then, is the discipline of the first twelve Books: through the experience of life to get internally free of that destructive Trojan spirit, to overcome the negative within, and then proceed to overcome it without.

Now this overcoming of the negative without (embodied in the Suitors) is just the work of the last twelve Books of the Odyssey, which we have called the Ithakeiad, as the scene is laid wholly in Ithaca. Internally both Ulysses and Telemachus are ready; they have now externally to make their world conform to their Idea. The trend of the poem is henceforth toward the deed which destroys the outer negation, as hitherto the trend was toward the deed which overcame the inner negation. To be sure, the destruction of the Suitors has hovered before the poem from the beginning; but in the second half it is explicit, is the immediate end of the action.

This second half divides itself into two distinct portions. It being the direct movement toward the deed shows in the first portion the preparation of the instruments, which takes place at the hut of the swineherd. Ulysses is alone, he must find out upon whose aid he can rely; his helpers must show not only strength of limb, but strength of conviction. Two persons appear—his son and his swineherd; they believe themselves to be the bearers of a Divine Order as against the Suitors; they are the army of three to whom the cowherd is to be hereafter added on manifesting his loyalty. This part of the poem has been unfolded in the preceding four Books.

The second portion of this second half of the poem, consisting of eight Books, we are next to consider. Ulysses has hitherto only heard of the excesses of the Suitors; he is now to see them directly and to experience their violence in his own person. He is in disguise and gets full possession of the fact before he proceeds to the deed. The insolent, destructive conduct of the Suitors is set forth in all fullness, as well as the subtle attempt of the wife to thwart them; then the blow falls which sweeps them and their deeds out of existence. Restoration follows after this terrible act of vengence; Ulysses, having done his great destructive work, is to show himself constructive, not simply the destroyer, but the healer and restorer.

How can we best see the sweep of these eight Books and their organic connection with the total Odyssey? No mere formal division will answer, nor any external separation into parts. The inner movement of the thought is to be found and shown as the organizing principle. On the whole the joints of the structure are not so manifest as in the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad; still they exist. Already it has been often said that the essential character of the Suitors is that of destroyers; Ulysses is the destroyer of these destroyers; but in destroying destruction he is also the restorer. Now just these three stages of the movement of the inner thought are the three organic divisions of the last eight Books; that is, the thought organizes the poem. Let us look more closely.

I. The first five Books (XVII-XXI) are devoted to revealing the Suitors as destroyers to Ulysses in person, though he be disguised. Three strands are interwoven into the texture, which we may separate for the purpose of an examination.

1. The Suitors are destroying what may in general be called the institutional world in its three leading forms: (1) Property, (2) Family, (3) State. To these may be added their disregard and even open defiance of the Gods, who are the upholders, or rather the personified embodiment of all institutional life. Hence the statement may be made that the Suitors are, as far as their deeds go, the destroyers of the Divine Order of the World; they are spiritually negative.

2. The second strand is that of Ulysses (to whom Telemachus and the swineherd can be added) who is to behold with his own eyes, to experience in his own person, the character and acts of the Suitors; then he is also to plan and prepare for their destruction. As he has overcome his own negative condition inwardly, in the spirit, he must be able to overcome the same condition outwardly, in the world.

3. The third strand is that of Penelope, the wife, who is seeking to thwart the attempt of the Suitors to make her marry one of themselves; thus she is heroically preserving the Family. She, with the loyal part of her household, co-operates with Ulysses, though not aware who he is. Between the second and third strands are many interweavings, both being opposed to the Suitors. Penelope, to delay her marriage, proposes the Bending of the Bow, which gives the weapon and the opportunity to Ulysses. (Book XXI.)

II. The second stage of the grand movement is given in one Book (XXII). This is the single bloody Book of the poem, it makes up all deficiencies in the way of sanguinary grewsomeness. The destroying Suitors are themselves destroyed by Ulysses, who therein is destroyer. Hence the blood-letting character of the Book and of the deed; 116 men skin, 12 women hung, and one man mutilated unto death.

III. But the destroyer Ulysses destroys destruction, and so becomes positive; in the last two Books he is shown as the restorer of the institutional order which the Suitors had assailed and were undermining. He restores the Family (Book XXIII), and the State (Book XXIV). This is, then, the end of the Return, indeed the end of the grand disruption caused by the Trojan War, to which Ulysses set out from Ithaca twenty years before. The absence of the husband and ruler from home and country gave the opportunity for the license of the Suitors. But the Return has harmonized the distracted condition of the land; institutions, Family and State, are freed of their conflict; even the Gods, Zeus and Pallas (authority and wisdom) enforce the new order, bringing peace and concord.

Still, despite the bloody death of the Suitors, there runs through this portion of the Odyssey (the last eight Books) a vein of charity, of humanity, sometimes even of sentiment, which seems to link the poem with our own age. Yet the other side is present also; there is little pity for the unrighteous, and justice is capable of becoming cruel. The Suitors and their set of servants are represented as unfeeling and inhuman; Penelope and the whole loyal household on the other hand show sympathy with poverty and misfortune. Such, indeed, has been their discipline, that of adversity, which softens the heart toward the victims of hard luck.

The disguise of Ulysses is continued, and also the craft of Penelope. The moral questioning which these two characters have always roused does not diminish. The hardest practical problem of life comes to the front in their case. Both are willing to meet unjust violence with dissimulation, till they get the power to act openly. They put down a dishonest world with dishonesty, and then proceed to live honestly. It is another phase of that subtle play of the Negative, with which Ulysses had to grapple repeatedly in Fableland, and of which the Odyssey is full. Every situation seems to have its intricate ethical problem, which the reader has to solve as he solves such questions in actual life. Our opinion upon this element in the poem we have already given, and need not repeat it here.

We must note that Ulysses still keeps up his romancing in order to explain his presence in Ithaca and his beggarly appearance. He introduces a kind of story, which we have called the Novelette in distinction from the Fairy Tale. The scene is usually thrown back eastward to Crete, the Trojan War furnishes the background, the famous Cretan hero Idomeneus is usually in some way connected with the stranger who is speaking. No less than five such Novelettes are found in the last twelve Books—some long, some brief. He tells one to Pallas (XIII. 256), to Eumæus the longest one (XIV. 199), to Antinous a short interrupted one (XVII. 425), to Penelope (XIX. 172), finally one to his father Laertes (XXIV. 304), in which the scene seems to be changed to the West from the mention of Sicania.


For the reader who may wish to follow out in detail these eight Books, we append a general survey of each, in which the thought and the structure are suggested, yet by no means elaborated. We have in the preceding pages given quite fully what we deem the main points of the Odyssey; there remains only this winding-up of the work in a rapid summary.

Book Seventeenth. We now pass from the country and the hut of the swineherd to the town and the palace of the king. This is an important transition, and evidently marks a turning-point in the last twelve Books of the Odyssey. The change of location brings us to the scene of the forthcoming deed, and into the presence of the two conflicting sides. The structure of the Book moves about two centers, Telemachus and Ulysses.

I. Telemachus is first to start for the city, where he arrives, and is received with great joy by the household. The mother asks him whether he has obtained any tidings from his father. But he shuns her question, bids her make fresh vows to the Gods, and goes off to look after his guest, the prophet Theoclymenus. The Suitors throng about him, but do him no harm; a number of his friends are near at hand, and the Suitors are divided among themselves.

After his return to the palace, Telemachus tells his mother the story of his journey. First he went to Pylos and "saw Nestor there," and held intercourse with the wise old man of the Greeks, which was certainly a memorable event in the life of the youth. But Nestor could tell him nothing about the present condition or dwelling-place of Ulysses, so the son was sent onwards to Sparta, to Menelaus, where "I saw Argive Helen, for whose sake the Greeks and Trojans suffered many evils by will of the Gods." Menelaus tells Telemachus the words of Proteus concerning his father Ulysses, gently touching the story of the nymph Calypso, whereat the queen was deeply moved. His news is that his father cannot return.

At this point the prophet comes in with his prophecy. "I declare that Ulysses in his own land again, sitting or creeping about in secret; he is taking note of these evil deeds just now, and plans destruction for the Suitors." The response of Penelope shows her mind. "May thy prophetic word be fulfilled!" It is well to note the art with which this prophet has been brought to the palace of Ulysses to foreshadow the coming event.

Moreover this whole passage connects with the Third and Fourth Books, which recounted the Journey of Telemachus to Pylos and Sparta. Of course the school of dissectors have sought to show the entire narrative here to be an interpolation by a later hand. One says that the brief allusion to the trip is tiresome to the reader. As if Homer composed for readers! But what reader ever found these few lines tiresome? The whole account of the son to the mother is one of the links which bind the Odyssey into unity, hence the wrath against it in certain quarters.

II. The second part of the present Book gives the movements of Ulysses, and is more important and more fully elaborated than the preceding part. The hero is in disguise, he is to take his first glimpse of the state of affairs in his palace. He will experience in his own person the wrongs of the Suitors and their adherents; he will apply a test to bring out their character. This test is that of humanity, of charity toward a beggar; how will the Suitors behave toward him?

While he is on the way to the city with Eumæus, he has his preliminary skirmish. They meet the goatherd Melanthius, who at the sight of the beggar breaks out into abuse. There is an inhuman note in his speech, which we may regard as one result of the present disorder of the country. Doubtless the swineherd and the goatherd were rivals, and showed a professional jealousy; but Melanthius had extracted from his humble calling a disposition quite opposite to that of Eumæus, and had become disloyal to his master's House.

The approach to the palace is indicated by the song of the bard and the noise of feasting guests. Still the disguised Ulysses is recognized by one living object: his old dog Argo, who dies on the spot out of joy at seeing his master again. Full of sentiment and tenderness is the description; it has a modernity of touch which will be often noticed in this second half of the Odyssey. Much comment has been bestowed upon the incident; but its most striking characteristic is its symbolism. The old dog, neglected now, full of vermin, hardly able to crawl, yet loyal in his heart; why should he not receive the praise of Eumæus, who tells of his former skill in the chase! The dog Argo images the House of Ulysses at present; to such straits has fidelity come. A famous statement here by Eumæus cannot be passed over: "The day which makes the man a slave, Zeus takes half his worth away." True generally of men, but not of the slave who utters it, he being the fate-compeller.

Ulysses now applies his test of charity to the Suitors. He goes around to them, asking for alms, like a beggar, that he might observe them all, and "know who was better and who was worse." But in the end not one of them was to be spared. Such was the supreme test, that of charity; how will the Suitors treat the poor beggar? Will they behave toward him as Eumæus has? Not by any means; the test calls out the worst suitor of the lot, Antinous, who finally hurls a stool at the supposed intruder. The other Suitors give something, not their own; still they share in the guilt. Is this test of charity, selected by the poet here, a true test of such characters? One result of the present violation of law and order is inhumanity, cruelty, disregard of the fellow-man. Especially marked is their contrast with Eumæus, who, in response to the harshness of Antinous, says: "The famous men of earth (such as the seer, the doctor, the builder, the bard) are invited to the feast; no one would invite a beggar to an entertainment." Still the beggar is here to be invited. A ring of modern sentiment is surely heard in this passage; the subjective element of Christendom seems embodied in that swineherd a thousand years before its time.

The poet does not leave out of this Book the previous tendency of Ulysses to romancing. In the talk with Antinous he begins another tale or rather the old one, with Egypt and Cyprus in the background. It is, in substance, the story of the attack on the Ciconians, which Ulysses cannot help telling when he looks back toward his Trojan period. Here again it is truth in the form of fiction.

Meantime the uproar has called forth Penelope, who desires to see the strange beggar. The wish is conveyed to Ulysses, who artfully requests that the interview be deferred till night-fall; the wife might see through his disguise. The time for this recognition has not yet come. She wishes to hear of her husband, thinks of him in some such pitiable plight as this beggar is in; she shows sympathy. A charitable disposition is indeed a characteristic of the whole household, nurses and all; misfortune has brought its blessing. Herein the contrast with the Suitors is emphatic, they are a stony-hearted set, trained by their deeds to violence and inhumanity.

Eumæus praises the minstrel talent of Ulysses; the poet endows his hero with the gift of song in this poem; compare the praise given by Alcinous to the singer of Fableland. So Achilles in the Iliad was found by the embassy singing the glory of heroes. Nor must we pass by that deeply-grounded belief in the good-luck which comes from a sneeze. Telemachus sneezes at the right moment, and Penelope interprets the omen, with a smile, however, which hints a touch of humorous incredulity. Finally we may reflect upon that true Homeric view of the world indicated in the words of Telemachus: "All these matters will be cared for by myself and the Immortals." These are the two sides working together throughout the poem.

Book Eighteenth. Ulysses, as beggar, has now gotten a foothold in his own house. He has made the transition in disguise from the hut to the palace; he has tried his preliminary test upon the Suitors, the test of charity, and found out their general character. He is not recognized, on account of external disguise in part; yet this disguise has its internal correspondence.

The present Book is one of warnings; on all sides the Suitors are admonished of the day of wrath which is coming. In Homeric fashion they are told to change, to repent, to cease their wrong-doing. We observe three parts: first is the conflict with the beggar Irus, foreshadowing the conflict and outcome with the Suitors; second is the appearance of Penelope, the female Ulysses in craft and in disguise, here hoodwinking the Suitors; third is the male Ulysses, in craft and in disguise, observing, testing, planning fate for the guilty.

I. Ulysses has assumed the part of a beggar, but he finds a real beggar on the ground ready to dispute his right. Irus, this mendicant, has a character on a par with the Suitors, violent, inhuman, insolent; he is, moreover, one with the Suitors in taking other people's property for nothing. There is no doubt that the poet casts an image of the Suitors in the portrait of Irus, who acts toward Ulysses the beggar, as they do toward Ulysses the ruler. It is manifest by word and deed that his humble life has not given him the training to charity.

The result of the competition between the real and the disguised beggar is a fight, which is urged on by the Suitors for the sport of the thing; Antinous is specially active in this business, which is a degraded Olympic contest. Homer too shows his love of the athlete by his warm description of the body and limbs of Ulysses, who "showed his large and shapely thighs, his full broad shoulders, his chest and sinewy arms," when he stripped for the contest.

There can be only one outcome of such a fight under such circumstances, especially in an heroic poem. But is not Ulysses himself inhuman and uncharitable toward his poor beggar rival? Certainly he does not deal with him gently, and the modern reader is apt to think that Ulysses ought now to have his own test of charity applied to himself. Still his defense is at hand: Irus sided with the Suitors, had their character, Telemachus says they favored him; he is harsh and merciless to his seeming fellow-beggar, and so he gets his own, though Ulysses at first warns him, and wishes to be on good terms with him: "I do not speak or do thee any wrong, nor do I envy thee getting alms; this threshold is large enough for both of us; thou art a beggar as well as I. So beware my wrath." Surely a sufficient warning, which, if unheeded, draws down the fateful consequences.

But the chief justification of the poet lies in the fact that this contest with Irus is sent before the main conflict as a prototype and a warning. The Suitors looked on and saw the miserable beggar completely undone; "they threw up their hands and nearly died laughing;" a case of blind fatuity, for they were soon to be in the place of Irus, every one of them. A little later Telemachus suggests the connection: "Would that the Suitors might droop their heads overcome in our house, as now Irus sits at the hall gate with drooping head like a drunken man, and cannot stand erect or walk home, since his dear limbs have been loosened."

Another note of warning is given specially to Amphinomus, who had extended a very friendly salutation to Ulysses after the victory, and who was the most honorable man of the Suitors. Ulysses again resorts to fiction in order to convey his lesson, "Many were the wrongs I did;" hence my present condition. "Let no men ever work injustice," such as these Suitors are guilty of; the avenger "I now declare to be not far away from his friends and his country." Hence the warning: "May some God bring thee home" at once, for bloody will be the decision. But Amphinomus does not obey, though "his mind foreboded evil;" he remained in the fateful company and afterwards fell by the hand of Telemachus.

II. The real person for whose possession this whole contest is waged is now introduced—Penelope. She appears in all her beauty; Pallas interferes divinely in order to heighten the same, making her "more stately in form and fairer than the ivory just carved." She is indeed the embodiment of all that is beautiful and worthy in that Ithacan life; loyalty to husband, love of her child, devotion to family, the strongest institutional feeling she shows, with no small degree of artifice, of course. Just now she reproves her son for having permitted the recent fight: "thou hast allowed a stranger guest to be shamefully treated." Thus she shows her secret unconscious sympathy with her husband in disguise.

Then she turns her attention to the Suitors. She alludes to the parting words of her husband as he set out for Troy: "When thou seest thy son a bearded man, marry whom thou wilt and leave the house." The time has come when she has to endure this hateful marriage; how the thought weighs upon her heart! But we catch a glimpse of her deeper plan in the following: "The custom of Suitors in the olden time was not such as yours; they would bring along their own oxen and sheep and make a feast for the friends of the maiden whom they wooed, and give her splendid gifts; they consumed not other folk's property without recompense." What does all this mean?

One result takes place at once. The Suitors all hasten to bring her their presents, and thus conform to the good old time and to her opinion. Great was the hurry: "Each dispatched his herald to bring a gift." Does the poet hint through a side glance the real state of the case? Hear him: "Ulysses wad delighted when he saw her wheedling the Suitors out of their gifts and cajoling their mind with flattering speech, while her heart planned other things." Cunning indeed she has and boundless artifice; what shall we make of her? As already often said, craft is her sole woman's weapon against man's violence, and she uses it with effect for the defense of her home and her honor. Is she justified? Is such deception allowable under the circumstances? Thus the poem puts the test to the modern reader, and makes him ponder the moral problem of life.

One other point we should note in this speech of Penelope to the Suitors. She says that their method of wooing was not the accustomed way; they had no right to expect such entertainment for such a body of men. They had the right of suit, but it must be conducted in a lawful manner. Thus they are violating custom, or making it a pretext for doing injustice. But she meets violence with cunning, and rude force with craft.

III. Ulysses now takes note of another phase of the wrong done to his household by the Suitors; they debauch the female servants, of whom Melantho is an example. The seeming beggar wishes to stay all night by the fires kindled in the palace, and take care of them, instead of the maids who usually looked after them. This plan of his evidently interferes with an existing arrangement, hence the abusive words of Melantho toward him first, and then the scoffing speech of Eurynomus, her lover, who lets fly at him a footstool which hits the cupbearer. General confusion results, in the midst of which Telemachus commands order which is seconded by Amphinomus. After a cup of wine, all retire to their homes. But Ulysses has got an inkling of what is transpiring between the Suitors and some of the maid-servants. Hereafter we shall see that both share in the punishment.

Book Nineteenth. This is a strong Book of its kind. Penelope is the center, her difficulties are shown anew, moreover they are about to reach their culmination. The husband disguised here tests the wife, and finds out by his own personal observation her fidelity. Her womanly instincts are still intact, in spite of the dissolute surroundings. Ulysses discovers that he is not to meet with the fate of Agamemnon on his return home.

From the preceding Book, which was occupied with the external conflicts in the palace, we move in the present Book more and more to the heart of the business, which is the union in the hearts of husband and wife. The oneness of the Family after long separation of its two members is the ethical theme, showing that such union is eternal, as far as the eternal can be shown in Time. Two divisions we shall mark: Ulysses and his son Telemachus first, then Ulysses and his wife Penelope.

I. The two men, father and son, are seen preparing for the conflict which is drawing on—just that being the duty of men. The weapons which were hanging on the walls of the banqueting-room are removed in the absence of the Suitors and of the servants. Also a pretext is framed for their removal. Moreover "Pallas, holding before them her golden lamp, made very beautiful light." Certainly the Goddess was there, the scene shows her in every part; "Such is the wont of the Olympians," says Ulysses; divine illumination descends upon a work of this kind.

II. But by far the longest portion of the Book is devoted to the interview between Ulysses and Penelope. Telemachus goes off to his chamber to rest for the night; Ulysses is now received by his wife at the hearth. The various turns of this lengthy account we shall throw into four divisions.

1. By way of introduction, the faithless handmaid Melantho again shows her character in a harsh speech to Ulysses, "Get out, you beggar! Will you still keep sneaking through the house by night to spy out women?" So she reveals plainly what she is, and even mentions the test which she cannot stand. Ulysses in his reply enforces charity: "I was once rich, but I gave the poor wanderer alms." Beware of the day of reckoning: such is his repeated warning to all these people.

Penelope also gives a sharp reproof to the shameless handmaid, and intimates the fate impending: "Thou hast done a deed which thy head shall atone for." It is again to be noted that the guilty are the inhuman, while the faithful have charity. Penelope specially shows this trait in the present Book, though her threat to Melantho is not gentle. Quite as Ulysses served Irus, Penelope is ready to serve Melantho; both can become uncharitable toward the uncharitable; both can meet evil with evil, and fight the negative with negation.

2. The main purpose of this portion of the interview is to furnish Penelope with hope. She seems on the point of giving up the long contest, she has played her last stratagem against the Suitors. Now she must choose one of them, her parents urge it, her son demands it; there seems no escape, though she hates the marriage like black Death. In such a frame of mind, the disguised Ulysses is to divert her thoughts with a story, to gain her confidence in his honesty, and to give a strong promise of her husband's speedy return. The manner in which he puts these three points in succession is worthy of study.

First, he must give some account of himself, of his lineage and of his connections. Here he employs his old fiction, he feigns a tale, putting the scene into Crete, and allying himself with the famous stock of Minos, as well as with the well-known Cretan hero Idomeneus so often celebrated in the Iliad, whose brother he claimed to be. "There I saw Ulysses and entertained him." This story of his life has an analogy to what he told Eumæus (Book XIV. 199) and Antinous (Book XVII. 425). All three differ in details, being adjusted to the person and the occasion; still all are cast into the same general mould, with the scene placed in the East on the borderland toward Phenicia and with the Trojan war in the background. It is another Homeric novelette suggesting a life of adventure on sea and land, and showing sparks of that enterprising Greek spirit, of which the Odyssey is the best record. But the poet adds: "So he went on fabricating lies like truth;" which indicates that he told more than is in the text and completed his story.

In the second place, Penelope applies her test, for she is not so credulous as to believe every wandering story-teller: "Describe me the garments he had on." Truly a woman's test. It is needless to say that Ulysses responds with great precision. She, however, had no suspicion, which might arise from such a complete account. It is no wonder that Penelope proposed to entertain this beggar guest, one who has been so hospitable to her husband, of whom she declares in an outburst of despair: "I never shall behold him returning home."

At this point the disguised Ulysses makes his third and principal speech to his wife, imparting to her the hope that Ulysses will return. This completes his story, introducing the Thesprotians again (as in other tales) and the oracle of Dodona. He almost lets the secret out: "He is alive and will soon be here; not far off is he now, I swear it." Not much further could disguise be carried. Still Penelope remains skeptical: "I must think he will not come home." Her hard lot, however, has not hardened her heart, but softened it rather; she reveals her native character in the words here spoken (Bryant's Translation):—

Short is the life of man, and whoso bears

A cruel heart, devising cruel things,

On him men call down evil from the gods

While living, and pursue him when he dies,

With scoffs. But whoso is of generous heart,

And harbors generous aims, his guests proclaim

His praises far and wide to all mankind,

And numberless are they who call him good.

3. Having been brought so near to a discovery, we next come to an actual discovery by the nurse Eurycleia. She is commanded by Penelope to bathe the beggar's feet, which she does with no little sympathy and lamentation. The character of the nurse is in a certain sense the echo of that of Penelope, the echo in emotion, and in fidelity, if not in intelligence. She gives way to her feelings, she recalls the image of Ulysses, whom she nursed, and addresses him as present. She beholds in the stranger the resemblance at the start. "I have never yet seen any one so like Ulysses as thou art in body, voice and feet." We now observe that Ulysses really selects Eurycleia, "a certain old woman, discreet, who has endured as much as I have: she may touch my feet" (line 346). He sought for some confidant among the servants, one who might be needed for important duties before and during the fight; Eurycleia is chosen, since Ulysses knew that she would discover the scar on his foot and thus recognize him. All of which takes place, Ulysses exacts secrecy, and she replies, giving a hint of her character as well as the reason why she was chosen: "Thou knowest my firmness, I shall hold like the solid rock or iron."

There is a long narrative pertaining to the manner in which Ulysses received the wound which caused the scar. Much fault has been found with this story for various reasons, but it gives a certain relief as well as epical fullness to the movement of the Book. It is, however, one of those passages which may have been interpolated—or may not, and just there the argument stands. It traces the character of Ulysses back to his grandfather Antolycus, the most cunning of mortals, and also gives the etymology (fanciful probably) of the name of Ulysses. (Odysseus, the Greek form of Ulysses, is here derived from a Greek word meaning to be angry.)

4. After the bath Ulysses returns to the hearth where Penelope is still sitting. She tells her dream of the eagle which destroyed her geese, and which then spoke by way of interpretation: "The geese are the Suitors and I, once the eagle, am now thy husband." Such is the deep-lying presentiment of Penelope, indicated by the dream, which crops out in spite of her declared skepticism. Note that she dreams not only the dream but also dreams its interpretation; surely she is conscious of some hope now.

The legend at the end of the Book, which tells of the two Gates of Dreams, one of ivory and one of horn, has roused much curiosity among readers about its purport, and has inspired much imitation from later poets. Through the Gate of Horn (dimly transparent) comes the true dream; through the Gate of Ivory (polished on the outside, but letting no light through) comes the false dream. Such is the more common explanation, but Eustathius derives the whole story from two puns on Greek words for horn and ivory. At any rate there are the two sorts of dreams, one getting the impress of the future event, the other being merely subjective.

But Penelope has another suggestion, which is found widely scattered in folk-lore, the Bending of the Bow. This incident, however, is developed in a later Book. It is one of her schemes to defer the hated marriage, after the new hope given by the stranger. She will not yet give up.

Book Twentieth. This book is devoted to describing more fully the situation in the house of Ulysses just before the slaying of the Suitors. The guilty and the guiltless are indicated anew, with fresh incidents; especially the fatuity of the Suitors is set forth in a variety of ways. The scene is in the palace.

The Book may be divided into three portions, which deal with (1) the royal pair, (2) the servants faithful and faithless, (3) the Suitors at their banquet.

I. Ulysses is lying on the porch, restless, unable to sleep; he sees the disloyal women of the household come forth to the embraces of the Suitors. He commands himself: "Endure it, heart; thou hast borne worse than this." Pallas has at last to come and to answer his two troublesome thoughts: "How shall I, being only one, slay the Suitors, being many?" And still, that is not the end. "How shall I escape afterward, if I succeed?" Wherein we may note already a hint of the last Book of the Odyssey. Pallas reproves him, yet gives him assurance. "If fifty bands of men should surround us," still we shall win, "for I am a God, and I guard thee always in thy labors." Whereupon Ulysses at once went to sleep.

The wife Penelope is also having her period of anxiety and of weeping for her husband; she prays to Diana and wishes for death, being awake. But when asleep, her unconscious nature asserts itself: "This very night a man like him lay by me, my heart rejoiced, I thought it no dream." Such is the contrast between her waking and her sleeping state; in the one her skepticism, in the other her instinct manifests itself.

II. We now pass to quite a full survey of the servants of the household. Female slaves have to grind the corn to make bread for the Suitors; one of these slaves is still at her task, though past daybreak, she being the weakest of all. Standing at her hand-mill she utters the ominous word: "O Zeus, ruler, fulfill this wish for me wretched: may the present feast of the Suitors be their last, they who have loosed my limbs with painful toil in grinding their barley meal!" Thus the prayer of the poor overworked slave-woman calls down the vengeance of the Gods, giving the word of friendly omen to the avenger. Certainly a most powerful motive; but again we think, how modern it sounds! Yet ancient too the thought must have been, for here it stands in Homer truly prophetic of many things.

Eurycleia is the controlling power among the handmaids, of whom there was a large number; "twenty went to the spring to fetch water, while others were busy about the house," preparing for the coming banquet. The swineherd Eumæus came with three fat porkers; his disloyal counterpart, Melanthius, also appeared with goats for the feast; both again show their character to Ulysses. The cowherd Philœtius is now introduced, in a full account; he is one of the faithful, has charity for the beggar, and shows his fidelity in a number of points. The beggar assures him: "Ulysses will return, thou shalt see him slaying those Suitors," whereupon Philœtius volunteers his aid.

Thus the forces are assembling; the two sides, loyal and disloyal, are separating more and more, preparatory to the grand struggle. Ulysses in his disguise has discovered those upon whom he can depend. But the banquet is ready, the Suitors, who have been plotting against the life of Telemachus, enter; they are divided among themselves, and can show no concerted action.

III. This banquet is noticeable, inasmuch as Telemachus asserts the mastery in his own house and defies the Suitors. He honors the beggar as his guest, and gives warning that nobody insult the poor stranger, "lest there be trouble." A number of Suitors show their ill feeling; one of them, named Ktesippus, flings a bullock's foot at Ulysses "for a hospitable present," at which the latter "smiled in sardonic fashion," but said nothing. Telemachus, however, reproves the agressor with great spirit, and asserts himself anew against all deeds of violence. One of the more reasonable Suitors, Agelaus, makes a speech, which commends Telemachus but insists upon his ordering his mother "to marry the man who is best and who will give most presents." In reply Telemachus declares that he does not hinder the choice of his mother, but that he will not force her to marry. "That may God never bring about." (Theos without article.)

Now follows a series of miraculous signs, prodigies, mad doings, which prefigure the coming destruction. Insane laughter of the Suitors, yet with eyes full of tears, and with hearts full of sorrow: what does it all forbode? Here comes the seer Theoclymenus with a terrible interpretation uttered in the true Hebrew prophetic style: "The hall I see full of ghosts hastening down to Erebus; the sun in Heaven is extinguished, and a dark cloud overspreads the land." The Suitors bemock the prophet, who leaves the company with another fateful vision: "I perceive evil coming upon you, from which not one of you Suitors shall escape." More taunts are flung at Telemachus who now says nothing; he, his father, and his mother, witness the mad banquet, which is a veritable feast of Belshazzar, and which has also its prophet. The Hebrew analogy is striking.

Book Twenty-first. The test presented in many a tale is here introduced at the turning-point of destiny. The Bending of the Bow and skill in the use thereof are incidents in the folk-lore of every people. The theme is naturally derived from a social condition, in which the bow and arrow are the chief weapons of defense and offense, employed against human foes and wild animals. Hence the strong man, the Hero, is the one able to bend the strong bow and to use it with dexterity. Such a man uses the chief implement of his time and people with the greatest success, hence he is the greatest man. So we have the test of bending the bow, which simply selects the best man for the time and circumstances.

In recent interpretations of mythology, this employment of the bow and arrows has been connected with the sun and its rays. Ulysses is declared to be really a sun-god, a form of Apollo, deity of archery; he shoots his arrows which are sunbeams and destroys the Suitors, who are the clouds obstructing his light, and wooing his spouse, the day or the sky. It is also noteworthy that on this very day of the slaughter of the Suitors, there is a festival in Ithaca to Apollo, god of light and archery. This is usually regarded as the New Moon (Neomenios) festival. Antinous refers to it (l. 259) and proposes to defer the contest on that account. But Ulysses is made to shoot on the festal day of the sungod.

There is no doubt that mythology is closely connected with Nature, out of which it develops. In the Vedic hymns we see this connection in the most explicit manner, and threads of the old Aryan Mythus can often be picked out in Homer. Still we must recollect that it was the archer man who first projected the archer god out of himself, and it is no explanation of Ulysses to say that he represents the sun-god; rather the sun-god represents him. Moreover, the ethical purpose of Ulysses in slaying the Suitors is the soul of the poem, which is to find its adequate interpretation in that purpose and in that alone. The incident of Bending the Bow is wrought into a grand scheme of indicating the ethical order of the world.

The three divisions of the Book we shall briefly note, observing how the bow rejects the unfit, and selects the right man.

I. It is Pallas (not Apollo, the archer) who started in the mind of Penelope this scheme of testing the Suitors. Why a Goddess here? It is first a chance thought of the woman, but then it becomes an important link in the movement of divine nemesis; hence the poet, according to this custom, traces the inspiration of the idea to a deity. The history of the famous bow is given with an especial delight in details. Penelope herself goes to the room where the armor of the house was kept, gets the bow, and announces the contest to the Suitors.

The man who can bend the bow and send the arrow through the twelve rings, is to bear her away as his bride. The trial is made, no Suitor is able to bend the weapon. Interesting is the prophet among the Suitors, Leiodes, who tries his hand, yet gives the warning: "This bow upon this spot will take from many a prince the breath of life." He foresees and forewarns, but still acts the transgressor; he prophesies death to the Suitors, but remains himself a Suitor, and so perishes in accord with his own prophecy.

II. Ulysses, going to one side with the cowherd and swineherd (Philœtius and Eumæus), whose loyalty has been so conspicuous, now discloses himself to them, and assigns their duties in the approaching conflict. "I know that you alone of the servants (men) have desired my return." He will give them wife and property if he conquers the Suitors, "and to me ye shall be as companions and brothers of Telemachus." Deserving to be adopted into the royal house of Ulysses they both are, being of this little army of four against more than a hundred enemies. Eumæus is to put the bow into the hands of Ulysses, after the Suitors have tried the test; Philœtius is to fasten the gates that none escape.

III. After the Suitors have failed to bend the bow and a delay is proposed, Ulysses, the beggar, comes forward and asks to make the trial. Violent opposition rises on part of the Suitors, but Penelope in two speeches insists that he shall try. Here again we must ascribe to her unconscious nature some strong affinity with the ragged man before her. She praises the form of the stranger and notes his noble birth, though she denies the possibility of herself becoming his bride. Still she shows a deep attraction for him, which she cannot suppress.

Telemachus now takes the matter in hand, orders his mother out of the way somewhat abruptly (since the fight is soon to start), and bids the bow to be carried to Ulysses in face of the outcries of the Suitors. Eurycleia, the nurse, is commanded to fasten the doors of the house; now we see why Ulysses let her recognize him by the scar. Meanwhile Philœtius fastens the gates of the court. Apparently there is no escape for the Suitors; Ulysses has the bow; he has tested its quality and possesses a quiver full of arrows.

Such is the famous deed of Bending the Bow, which is a symbolic act pointing out and selecting the Hero. Ulysses is revealed by it to the Suitors even before he calls out his name and throws off his disguise; he performs the test, he shoots through the rings without missing, he has strength and skill for the emergency. If hitherto stress has been laid upon his mind and cunning, now his athletic side is brought to the front. But it required all his intelligence to reach the point at which his will is to act.

We have now gone through what may be called the first stage of this final part of the Odyssey. The Suitors have fully shown their destructive spirit, disregarding property, family, state, the Gods. Ulysses has seen and felt in person their wrongs; their negative career has reached its last deed, he has the bow in his hands and is ready for the work of retribution. Such is the general sweep of the last five Books; but now the destructive deeds of the Suitors are to meet with a still mightier destruction.


Book Twenty-second. The final act of justice, the Day of Judgment, perchance the Crack of Doom; such conceptions have long been familiar to man and still are; in the present Book they find one of their most striking embodiments. That for which so long preparation has been made, is now realized: the vindication of the Ethical Order of the World. There is, however, little feeling for that charity and humanity before noticed; stern, inflexible, merciless justice is the mood and meaning of this piece of writing.

The Book has essentially two parts: the punishment of the guilty men (Suitors and Servants) with the sparing of the innocent, and the punishment of the guilty women (servants) with the sparing of the innocent. Thus in both parts there is the penalty, yet also the discrimination, according to the deed.

I. The first part is mainly a battle, an Homeric battle, and reminds the reader of many a combat in the Iliad. Of the conflict with the Suitors here described we can discern three stages, which are marked also by the use of different weapons, the bow, the spear, and the sword.

(1) The first stage of the battle opens with the slaying of Antinous, the ringleader of the band, who is pierced by an arrow from the bow of Ulysses. The crowd threatens Ulysses, who now utters to them what may be called their last judgment, announcing who he is, and his purpose to punish their crimes: "Dogs! you thought I would not come back from Troy, and therefore you devoured my substance, debauched my maid-servants; and wooed my wife while I was still alive. You feared not the Gods, nor the vengeance of man afterwards; now destruction hangs over you all." This may be taken as a statement of the ethical content of the poem from the mouth of Ulysses himself at the critical moment. The Suitors feared not the Gods, were violators of the Divine Order, for which violation man was to punish them. Again the two sides, the divine and human, are put together. In vain Eurymachus, a spokesman for the Suitors, offers amends, guilt cannot now buy itself free when caught. Ulysses answers: "If thou shouldst offer all that thou hast and all that thy father has, and other gifts, I would not desist." So Eurymachus, perishes by the second arrow and still another Suitor, Amphinomus is pierced by the spear of Telemachus. Thus three leaders are slain in this preliminary stage.

(2) The second stage of the conflict begins by Telemachus bringing a shield, two spears, and a helmet for his father, whose arrows are not enough for the enemies. Also he brings armor for the cowherd and swineherd, as well as for himself; thus the four men get themselves fully equipped.

But in order to make a fair fight, it is necessary that the Suitors be armed, in part at least. Melanthius, the goatherd, finds his way to the chamber where the arms are deposited. Arms for twelve he brings, and then goes for more, when he is caught. But now Pallas has to appear in the form of Mentor, in order to put courage into the heart of Ulysses. The first armed set of Suitors advance and throw their javelins without effect, while the four on the side of Ulysses kill four men. Four more Suitors are slain in a fresh onset, then two more; now their store of weapons is exhausted. Thirteen mentioned here by name have fallen beside those unnamed ones whom the arrows of Ulysses slew. The most prominent Suitors are weltering in their blood, there are no more weapons, the result is a panic.

(3) This is the third stage of the battle. A large majority of the Suitors, probably 80 or more out of the 108 plus 10 attendants are still alive, though without weapons and completely paralyzed with terror. "Pallas held from the roof her man-destroying ægis, their hearts trembled with fear, they fled through the palace like a drove of cattle." The four men now use their swords upon the terrified, defenseless crowd, and cut them down. Leiodes, the soothsayer of the Suitors, begs for mercy and recounts his attempts to restrain their violent deeds; vain is his prayer, he perishes with his company of brigands, "for if thou wert their soothsayer, thou must often in my palace have prayed the Gods against my return" and for the Suitors. Thus the priestly man too is involved in the net, he knew the wrong, yet remained the chaplain of that godless company.

Two, however, are saved, the guiltless. The bard, who "sings for Gods and men" is spared, because he sang "by necessity for the Suitors, and not for sake of gain;" also Telemachus intercedes for the herald Medon, who "took care of me as a child," a beautiful gleam on this ghastly scene. From Ulysses, however, we hear the moral of the event proclaimed, which the reader may take unto himself: "From this thou mayst know and tell to another how much better well-doing is than evil-doing." So speaks the slayer over these corpses, which utterance we may at least regard as an attempt of the poet once more to enforce the ethical purpose of his work. Not a single living Suitor or attendant can be found skulking anywhere, and none have escaped.

II. Having completed his task in regard to the guilty men, Ulysses now turns his attention toward the guilty women of his household. For this purpose Eurycleia is called, and is brought to him; when she sees the deadly work, she shouts for joy. Ulysses restrains her: "It is an unholy thing to exult over the slain." Here again the ethical nature of this act is emphasized: "The decree of the Gods and their own evil deeds overwhelmed these men; they paid respect to no human being, high or low, who approached them." Yet there are modern writers who can see no ethical purpose in the Odyssey.

Eurycleia gives her report: out of fifty serving maids in the palace, "twelve have mounted the car of shamelessness." These latter are now called, are compelled to carry out the dead (among whom are their lovers), and to make clean the place of slaughter. Then they are led out and hung: such was the ancient fate of the prostitute in the household.

A still harsher and more ignoble punishment awaits the goatherd Melanthius, a cruel mutilation is inflicted upon him, horrible to the last degree, but it grades his punishment according to his offense. A fumigation with sulphur we find here, as old as Homer. Then all the rest of the handmaids are summoned along with Penelope, to witness the deed and to see the hero.

Such is this terrible Book in which destruction is fully meted out to destroyers. According to our count 129 people are here dead, all of them guilty. A doomsday spectacle for that household, and for all readers and hearers since; it shows the return of the deed negatively upon the negative doer. But Ulysses, the hero sitting amid these corpses, is simply the Destroyer, the very picture and embodiment thereof. Is there to be no positive result of such bloody work? Yes; that is the next thing to be shown forth in the two following Books; Ulysses is also the restorer, wherewith his career and this poem will terminate.


Book Twenty-third. The essential fact of this Book is the reunion of husband and wife after twenty years separation. The eternal nature of the bond of the Family is thus asserted as strongly as is possible in the world of Time. This is the deep institutional foundation upon which the Odyssey reposes. Still the wife also has to be conquered, that is, she has to be convinced that the beggar is her husband. All along we have seen the struggle between her instinct and her intellect; her understanding persists in thinking that Ulysses will not come back, yet she dreams of his restoration, and she feels a strange sympathy with the old man in rags. Thus the two opposing elements of female nature have been in a conflict with each other; her instinct tries to surge over her intellect, but does not succeed; she demands the complete test of identity and gets it in the present Book. The old nurse, her son, and finally Ulysses himself become impatient with her delay and her circumspection, still she holds out against them all, though she has, too, her own inner emotions to combat. The gradual unfolding of this scene to the point of recognition must be pronounced a masterpiece of character evolution.

The book may be divided into two portions—before and after the Recognition, which culminates when Penelope accepts the test of the secret bed which was once made by Ulysses.

I. The movement up to the Recognition shows Penelope undergoing a double pressure, from without and from within. Yet it shows too a corresponding double resistance on her part. First Eurycleia goes to her chamber, and tells her in great glee that the Suitors are slain and her husband has returned. She can accept the slaughter of the Suitors, that could have been done by some God, angry at their injustice; but she will not believe that Ulysses is really in the palace. The nurse cries out: "Truly thou hast ever had a disbelieving mind," and then tells of the scar. Still incredulous; but she goes down to the court, and there sees Ulysses in his rags. No sufficient proof yet, though she has a strange inner struggle not to run up to him that she might clasp his hands and kiss him. But her understanding conquers, she keeps at a distance, scrutinizing, till Telemachus, impulsive youth, breaks out into a reproach: "Mother, thy heart is harder than a rock." But Ulysses himself speaks to his son: "Suffer that thy mother test me;" she is like himself, he understands her better than the son does. Finally Ulysses takes the bath and puts on fresh garments, while Pallas gives him fresh grace and majesty, and increased stature; he comes before Penelope again; still no yielding. Ulysses himself is now forced to exclaim: "Above all women the Gods have given thee a heart impenetrable." Thus the nurse, the son, the husband in turn have failed to shake her firmness, she must have an absolute test, which is "known to him and me, and to us alone."

This is that strange bed, which Ulysses is unconsciously provoked by his wife to describe. Penelope commands the nurse: "Bring the bed out of the chamber which he made." But really it could not be removed, it was constructed of the trunk of an olive tree rooted in the soil and its construction was the secret of himself and wife. Very strong is the symbolism of this bed, and is manifestly intended by the poet. It typified the firm immovable bond of marriage between the two; their unity could not be broken. Mark the words of Ulysses: "Woman, thou hast spoken a painful word," when she commanded the bed to be removed; "who hath displaced my bed?" In it there was built "a great sign" or mystery; "now I do not know if my bed be firm in position, or whether some other man has moved it elsewhere, cutting the trunk of the olive tree up by the roots." Such is his intense feeling about that marriage bed, deeply symbolic, truly "a sign," as here designated.

Now this is just the test which Penelope wanted, a double test indeed, not only of the head, but also of the heart. He reveals to her not merely that he knows about the bed, but how strongly he feels in reference to it, and to what it signifies. For he might be the returned Ulysses, and yet not be hers. But now she has yielded, she explains the reason of her hesitation, defends herself by the example of Helen who was cozened by a stranger. She used her craft to defend the unity and sacredness of the Family, against Suitors and even against husband. After some talk, the servant lights them to their chamber, "they in great joy take their customary place in their ancient bed."

II. With the line just quoted (296 of the original) the Alexandrian grammarians, Aristarchus and Aristophanes, concluded the Odyssey, and declared the rest to be a post-Homeric addition. Still, this part of the poem must have been in existence and accepted as Homer's long before their time. Both Aristotle and Plato cite portions of it without any declared suspicion of its genuineness. What reason the old grammarians had for this huge excision is not definitely known; we can see, however, that they wished to end the poem with complete restoration, outer and inner, of the domestic bond between husband and wife. Certainly a very noble thought in the poem, but by no means a sufficient end; beside the domestic, the political bond also must be restored, and the ethical harmony be made complete both in Family and in State. Ulysses, moreover, has spoken of the duty laid upon him by Tiresias in Hades: he must carry an oar till he comes to a land whose people take it for a winnowing fan; there he is to plant it upright and make an offering to Neptune. So there is a good deal yet to be done, which the poem has already called for.

But just now she tells him her story, quite briefly; then he tells her his story, more at length. This has the nature of a confession, with its Circe and epecially Calypso, which she has to hear and he to make. Through it all runs his yearning to reach home and wife.

But with the sun risen, new duties press upon him. First he will seek some compensation for his property taken by the Suitors; secondly, he will have to meet the vengeance of their relatives and friends. So the army of four, himself, Telemachus, swineherd and cowherd, march forth in arms from the palace gate, through the city to the country.

Book Twenty-fourth. This is another Book over which there has been much critical discussion. Its thought, whatever may be said about its execution, is absolutely necessary to bring the Odyssey to an organic conclusion, and make the poem a well-rounded totality. There is the political trouble generally, and specially the blood feud caused by the slaying of the Suitors, which has to be harmonized. Repeatedly hitherto we have had hints of this coming difficulty; Ulysses thought of it, and made his plan concerning it before the slaughter took place. (XX. 41.)

In fact the complete restoration of Ulysses is both to Family and State, the two great institutions which form the substructure of the Odyssey. His country was quite as deeply distracted and perverted as his household; both had to undergo the process of purification. In Book Twenty-third we had the restoration of Ulysses to Family, in Book Twenty-fourth we are to have essentially his restoration to State; then he will truly have returned to prudent Penelope and to sunny Ithaca, and the poem can end. Moreover his restoration to Family and State involves the restoration of Family and State; the rightful husband and the rightful ruler heals the shattered institutions.

But it is undeniable that this Book is the most poorly constructed of any Book in the Odyssey. There is undue repetition of previous matters, yet certainly with important additions; there is unnecessary expansion in the earlier parts of the Book, and too great compression and hurry at the end. In general, the subject-matter of the Book is completely valid and necessary to the poem, but the execution falls below the Homeric level, specially in its constructive feature. Still we see ino reason why it may not be Homer's; he too has his best and worst Books.

Of the present Book there are two parts: the Underworld and the Upperworld.

I. The Suitors have been sent down to the realm where Ulysses in the Eleventh Book found the souls of the Trojan Heroes, Agamemnon, Achilles, Ajax. These three again are introduced with some others. The death of Achilles is described quite fully, when the souls of the Suitors arrive, and one of them, Amphimedon, recapitulates the story of the Odyssey. It tells of the craft and fidelity of Penelope, and of the return of Ulysses and his destruction of the Suitors. The words of Agamemnon recognize the pair, Ulysses and Penelope, as the supreme Greek man and woman, as those who have mastered the greatest difficulties of their epoch. The Trojan cycle is now complete, the separation caused by the war is bridged over, both Family and State are restored after the long disruption. In striking contrast was the case of Agamemnon and Clytæmnestra, both of whom perished without restoration. Thus by means of the ghosts of the Suitors, the famous careers of Ulysses and Penelope are taken up into the realm of the Supersensible, of ideal forms, whose fame is to last forever.

This part of the Book (the so-called second Nekyia) in which Hades appears the second time, has been sharply questioned both by ancient and modern critics on a number of grounds. These we shall not discuss, only stating that they are by no means conclusive against the genuineness of the whole passage. The general idea of it belongs here; the dead Suitors represent the grand end of the Trojan movement, and its reception into the Hades of famous deeds done and past, and very significantly Agamemnon voices the praise of Ulysses and Penelope, the great winners in the long struggle. Still the repetitions of previous portions of the Odyssey are to our mind unnecessary and prolix, though the literary skill manifested just herein has been highly lauded by Saint Beuve and Lang.

II. Coming back to the Upperworld we find a series of incidents following one another both slowly and hurriedly. These we shall throw in groups for the sake of a rapid survey.

1. Ulysses with his three companions comes to the country seat of his father Laertes. With him, too, he plays the same disguise as heretofore with Penelope, Eumæus and others, though its necessity is not now so plain. "I shall test my father, to see if he will know me;" how fond Ulysses is of this! So we have more fictions, masquerading, and final recognition by the scar and other proofs. Also an old servant here, Dolius, is recognized.

2. Now the scene passes to the city. The friends of the Suitors have called an assembly; a strong party rises in opposition to Ulysses, though two men, Medon and Halitherses, speak on his side. The result is, a band under Eupeithes, father of Antinous, marches forth to wreak vengeance upon Ulysses.

3. Hereupon a divine interference. Zeus decrees that there must be no blood-feud between the relatives of the slain and the House of Ulysses, but a league of friendship. Revenge must no longer beget revenge.

4. Still a fight occurs in which Laertes and Dolius with his six sons, take part. Old Laertes is now to have his warlike meed, be kills old Eupeithes, so that the male members of the House of Ulysses for three generations—son, grandson, grandfather—have each killed his man.

5. Pallas hereupon stops the conflict, and the last lines of the poem announce the peace which she makes under the form and voice of Mentor. Surely the work of wisdom (Pallas) as well as of supreme law (Zeus)—to stop the self-repeating blood-feud. Thus is the deep rent in the State healed by aid of Zeus and Pallas. It should be observed that Pallas at the end of the Eumenides of the poet Æschylus released Orestes, who is pursued by the Furies, from the guilt of his mother's blood, by casting the decisive ballot in the court of Areiopagus. Here we find another link between Homer and Æschylus.

Very hurried are these later incidents of the Book, but they are necessary to complete the poem. The blood-feud is harmonized, the Gods again make themselves valid in the land by introducing peace and harmony, which had been undermined by the Suitors. Property, Family, State, are restored, and the Divine Order of the World in the person of the Gods is recognized. Only with this conclusion is the negative conduct of the Suitors completely undone, and a positive institutional life becomes possible. It is true that in the hurry of coming to an end, the poet says nothing of the journey enjoined by Tiresias in Hades, the journey to a distant people who would take an oar for a winnowing fan. Still we may suppose that it was performed, and that angry Neptune, the great enemy of Ulysses among the Gods, was also reconciled. But, chiefly, Ulysses has above on this earth realized the idea of a world-justice, which we found running through all Hades, in the statements of Tiresias, in the fates of the great Greek heroes, in the punitory portion presided over by Minos. From this point of view the Odyssey may be truly regarded an image of the working of the Spirit of History, and the poem holds good for all time.



In concluding these lengthy studies of the Iliad and the Odyssey, we shall try to grasp each of the poems as a whole, and then the two together is one great totality sprung of one people and of one consciousness. The central fact out of which both poems arise, to which and from which both poems move, is the Trojan War. This War, whether mythical or historical, is certainly the most famous, and probably the most significant that ever took place on the earth.

As to the Odyssey, the first thing to be seized is the complete career of its Hero Ulysses. This career has naturally two parts: the going to Troy from Ithaca, and the coming back from Troy to Ithaca. Every Greek hero had a similar career, wholly or in part; many, of coarse, never returned. The two parts together constitute a total movement which begins at a certain point and returns to the same; hence it may be called a cycle, and its two parts may be designated in a general way as the Separation and the Return.

The Odyssey has as its theme the second half of the cycle, though, of course, it presupposes the first half, namely the going to Troy and the stay there. The poem, accordingly, does not give the entire life of Ulysses; what may be called the Trojan half must be looked for elsewhere, mainly in the Iliad. Of course there are in the Odyssey many allusions to incidents which belong to the first half of this career.

The Ulysses of the Iliad is one of the great leaders and one of the great heroes, but he is neither the chief leader nor the chief hero. Already he appears in Book First as a member of the Council, and an epithet is applied to him which suggests his wisdom. Thus at the start of the Iliad he is designated as the man of thought, of intelligence, of many resources. But in the Second Book he shines with full glory, he is indeed the pivot of the whole Book. On account of a speech made by Agamemnon, their leader, the Greeks start at once for home, they are ready to give up the great enterprise of the restoration of Helen, they act as if they would abandon their cause. It is Ulysses who calls them back to themselves and restores order; he shows himself to be the only man in the whole army who knows what to do in a critical emergency. He suppresses Thersites, he exhorts the chieftains, he uses force on the common people. He finally makes a speech to the entire body of Greeks in the Assembly, which recalls the great national purpose of the War, and is the true word for the time. Nestor follows him in a similar vein, and the Greek host again takes its place in line of battle and prepares for the onset upon Troy. Here we have a typical action of Ulysses, showing his essential character, and revealing the germ out of which the Odyssey may well have sprouted.

Other matters may also be noticed. Pallas, the Goddess of Wisdom, appears to him in the midst of the tumult, and gives him her suggestion. She will remain with him ever afterwards, manifesting herself to him in like emergencies till the end of the Odyssey. Telemachus is mentioned in this Book of the Iliad. The distinction between Ulysses and the aged Nestor is drawn: the latter has appreciative wisdom, that of experience, while Ulysses has creative wisdom, that of immediate divine insight, coming directly from Pallas. This distinction also will show itself in the Odyssey. Ulysses is the real hero of the Second Book of the Iliad; he appears in other Books with the same general character, but never so prominently again.

In the Post-Iliad, or that portion of the Trojan war which lies between the Iliad and Odyssey, Ulysses will become the chief hero. After the death of Achilles, there will be a contest for the latter's arms between him and Ajax; Ulysses wins. That is, Brain not Brawn is to control henceforth. Under the lead of Intelligence, which is that of Ulysses, Troy falls.

The Odyssey, then, deals with the return of Ulysses from the Trojan War, and lasts ten years, as the account runs. But the poet is not writing a history, not even a biography, in the ordinary sense; he does not follow step by step the hero's wanderings, or state the events in chronological order; we shall see how the poem turns back upon itself and begins only some forty days before its close. Still the Odyssey will give not merely the entire return from Troy, but will suggest the whole cycle of its hero's development.

The first half of the cycle, the going to Troy and the stay there, lasted ten years, though some accounts have made it longer. The Iliad, though its action is compressed to a few days, treats generally of the first half of the cycle and hence it is the grand presupposition of the Odyssey, which takes it for granted everywhere. The Iliad, however, is a unity and has its own center of action, which is the wrath of Achilles and his reconciliation also; it is in itself a complete cycle of individual experience in the Trojan War.

We now begin to get an outline of the Unity of Homer. In the first place the Iliad is a unity from the stand-point of its hero Achilles, who has a completely rounded period of his life portrayed therein, which portrayal, however, gives also a vivid picture of the Trojan War up to date. As an individual experience it is a whole, and this is what makes it a poem and gives to it special unity. But it is only a fragment of the Trojan cycle—a half or less than a half; it leaves important problems unsolved: Troy is not taken, Achilles is still alive, the new order under the new hero Ulysses has not yet set in, and chiefly there is no return to Greece, which is even more difficult than the taking of Troy. Hence the field of the second poem, the Odyssey, which is also an individual experience—has to be so in order to be a poem—embraces the rest of the Trojan cycle after the Iliad.

Thus we may well hold to these unities in Homer: the unity of the Iliad, the unity of the Odyssey, and the unity of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Both together make one grand cycle of human history and of human consciousness; they portray a complete world in its deed and in its thought, as well as in manners and institutions.

Here is, then, the highest point of view from which to look at these poems: they are really one in two parts, written by one epoch, by one consciousness, and probably by one man. The Iliad as a poem is a complete cycle of individual experience, but as an epoch is only half a cycle. In like manner the Odyssey as a poem is a complete cycle of individual experience, but as an epoch is the second half of the cycle of which the Iliad is essentially the first. Both together constitute the one great movement usually called the Trojan War.

Much time has been spent in discussing the question whether the Trojan War was historical or mythical. We make bold to affirm that it was both—both historical and mythical. It began long before the dawn of history and it exists to this day. For the Trojan War is the conflict between Orient and Occident, starting in the twilight of time, and not yet concluded by any means. The conflict between Orient and Occident runs through all Greek Mythology, is indeed just the deepest, tone-giving element thereof. It also runs through all Greek history from the Persian War to the conquests of Alexander, and lurks still in the present struggle between Greek and Turk. The true Mythus gives in an image or event the events of all time; it is an ideal symbol which is realized in history.

We have above said that the Trojan War was a complete cycle, of which the two poems portray the two halves. Still further can the matter be carried. The Trojan cycle, complete in itself as a phase of Greek consciousness, is but a fragment, a half of a still larger cycle of human development. The Iliad and the Odyssey give the Greek half of the grand world-movement of the Trojan epoch; there is also an Oriental half which these poems presuppose and from which they separate. Thus the grand Homeric cycle, while a unit in itself, is really a separation from the East, a separation which rendered the Occident possible; the woes before Troy were the birth-pangs of the new-born child, Europe, now also grown a little old.

The reader naturally asks, will there be any return to the Orient after the grand Greek separation, first heralded on the plains of Ilium? It may be answered that Europe has often returned to the East in the course of history—Alexander, Rome, the Crusades; at present, western Europe seems bent on getting to the far East. But the true return of the Occident to the Orient will be round the globe, by way of America, and that will be complete. The recent war between Japan and China is really a stage of the great new epoch in the world-historical return to the Orient.

Such is the more external, the historical phase of the Iliad and Odyssey. But they have also a deep internal ethical phase, they show two sides of one grand process of the human soul which has been called self-alienation, the sacrifice of the immediate self in order to gain true self-hood. The Greeks had to immolate their dearest ties, those of home and country, in order to preserve home and country, which had been assailed to the very heart by the rape of Helen. They had to educate themselves to a life of violence, killing men, women, even children, destroying home and country. For Troy also has Family and State, though it be a complete contradiction of Family and State by supporting Paris. But when the Greeks had taken Troy, they were trained destroyers of home and country, they were destruction organized and victorious, yet their whole purpose was to save home and country. Thus their self-alienation has deepened into absolute self-contradiction, the complete scission of the soul.

Now this is the spiritual condition of which they are to get rid, out of which they are to return to home and country. As before said it may be deemed a harder problem than the taking of Troy, which was simply a negative act, the destroying the destroyers of home and country. But the great positive act of the Trojan heroes is the restoration, not merely the outer but the inner restoration, to home and country.

With these considerations before the mind of the reader, he is now ready to grasp the full sweep of the Odyssey and understand its conflict. It springs from the separation caused by a war, here the Trojan War. The man is removed from his institutional life and thrown into a world of violence and destruction. Let us summarize the leading points of the process.

I. The absence of Ulysses leaves his family without a head, his country without a ruler, and his property without an owner. All these relations begin to loosen and go to pieces; destructive forces assail the decaying organism; the Suitors appear, who consume his property, woo his queen, and seek to usurp his kingly authority. Such are the dissolving energies at work in Ithaca. Also his son Telemachus is left without paternal training.

II. Next let us glance at the individual. Ulysses, released from domestic life and civil order, gives himself up to destroying domestic life and civil order, though they be those of the enemy. For ten years he pays no respect to Property, Family and State in Troy; he is trained into their annihilation, and finally does annihilate them. Yet his object is to restore Helen, to vindicate Family and State, and even Property.

III. Troy is destroyed because it was itself destructive; it assailed the Greek domestic and civil institutions in the rape of Helen. So the destroying city itself is destroyed, but this leaves Ulysses a destroyer in deed and in spirit; home and country he is not only separated from but is destructive of—he is a negative man.

The previous three paragraphs contain the leading presuppositions of the Odyssey, and show the first half of the life of Ulysses. They indicate three phases of the working of the negative—in Ithaca, in Troy, and in Ulysses. But now that Troy is destroyed, how will Ulysses return to institutional life, which he has destroyed in Troy, in himself, and, through his absence, in Ithaca?

IV. The Return must in the first place be within himself, he must get rid of the destructive spirit begotten of war. For this purpose he has the grand training told in his adventures; he must put down the monsters of Fableland, Polyphemus, Circe, Charybdis; he must endure the long servitude under Calypso; he must see Phæacia. When he is internally ready, he can go forth and destroy the Suitors, destroy them without becoming destructive himself, which was his outcome at Troy. For the destruction of Troy left him quite as negative as the Suitors, of which condition he is to rid himself ere he can rid Ithaca of the Suitors. This destruction thus becomes a great positive act, now he restores Family and State, and brings peace and harmony.

One result of separating from the Family is that the son Telemachus has not the training given by the father. But the son shows his blood; he goes forth and gets his own training, the best of the time. This is told in the Telemachiad. Thus he can co-operate with his father.

The movement overarching the Odyssey. The reader will note that in the preceding account we have tried to unfold the movement of the Odyssey as the return from the Trojan War. But as already stated, it is itself but a part of a larger movement, a segment of a great cycle, which cycle again suggests a still greater cycle, which last is the movement of the World's History. Recall, then, that the Odyssey by itself is a complete cycle as far as the experience of its hero is concerned; but as belonging to an epoch, it is but half of the total cycle of the Trojan War. Then again this Trojan War is but a fragment of a movement which is the total World's History. Now can this be set forth in a summary which will suggest the movement not of the Odyssey alone, but also the movement underlying and overlying the poem? Let us make the trial, for a world-poem must take its place in the World's History, which fact gives the final judgment of its worth.

I. In the prehistoric time before Homer, there was an Orient, but no Occident; the spiritual day of the latter had not yet dawned. Very early began the movement toward separation, which had one of its greatest epochs in the Trojan War.

1. Greece in those old ages was full of the throes of birth, but was not yet born. It was still essentially Oriental, it had no independent development of its own, though it was moving toward independence. The earliest objects dug out of the long buried cities of Greece show an Oriental connection; the famous sculptured lions over the gate of Mycenæ last to this day as a reminder of the early Hellenic connection of European Greece with the Orient, not to speak of Cyprus, Crete, and the lesser islands of the Ægean.

2. Then came the great separation of Greece from the Orient, which is the fundamental fact of the Trojan War, and of which the Homeric poems are the mighty announcement to the future. Troy, an Orientalizing Hellenic city in Asia, seizes and keeps Greek Helen, who is of Europe; it tears her away from home and country, and through its deed destroys Family and State. Greek Europe restores her, must restore her, if its people be true to their institutional principles; hence their great word is restoration, first of their ideal Helen, and secondly of themselves.

So all the Greeks, in order to make the separation from the Orient and restore Helen, have to march forth to war and thus be separated themselves from home and country, till they bring back Helen to home and country. The deed done to Helen strikes every Greek man till he undoes it. The stages of this movement may be set down separately.

(a) The leaving home for Troy—Achilles, Agamemnon, Ulysses; all the heroes had their special story of departure. Ulysses had to quit a young wife, Penelope, and an infant son, Telemachus. For if Helen can be abducted, no Greek family is safe.

(b) Stay at Troy for 10 years. This is also a long training to destruction. Ulysses is an important man, but not the hero. Here lies the sphere of the Iliad.

(c) Destruction of the city and the restoration of Helen to her husband, both of which are not told in the Iliad but are given subordinately in the Odyssey. Thus is the separation from the Orient completed on its negative side, that is, as far as destruction can complete it.

3. The return to Greece of the survivors. The question is, How can they truly get back after so long a period of violence? The Odyssey has this as its theme, and will give an account of all the returns. Here, too, we observe various stages.

(a) Leaving Troy for home. This means a complete facing about and a going the other way, not only in geography, but also in conduct. The Greeks must now quit destruction and become constructive.

(b) It is no wonder that the journey home was very difficult. Quarrels arose at the start (see Nestor's account Book III., and that of Menelaus Book IV.). Many perished on the way; some were lost in a storm at sea, Agamemnon was slain on the threshold of his own palace.

(c) Those who reached home, the successful returners, were of three main kinds, represented by Nestor, by Menelaus, and by Ulysses. These were restored to home and family, and brought peace and harmony. Such is the positive outcome of the Trojan War, and the completion of its cycle.

II. But this rounding-off of the Trojan cycle is, on the other hand, a final separation from the Orient; the scission is now unfolded, explicit, quite conscious. When Ulysses comes back to Ithaca, and re-establishes Family and State, Greek life is independent, distinct, self-determined. The Hellenic world rises and fulfills its destiny in its own way; it creates the Fine Arts, Literature, Science; it is the beginning of the Occident.

Still the thought must come up that the Orient is also a part of the grand movement of the World's History, whose cycle embraces both Occident and Orient. The Odyssey has many glimpses of this higher view. The first 12 books move westward and have their outlook in that direction, the last 12 books have their outlook eastward toward Egypt, Phœnicia, and the Oriental borderland. The earlier fairy tales of Ulysses have their scene in the West, while the later romances or novelettes interwoven in the last 12 Books have their scene in the East, with one exception possibly.

The main fact, however, of the Trojan cycle is the great separation, deepest in history, between Orient and Occident, through the instrumentality of Greece. The civilization of Europe and the West is the offspring of that separation, which is still going on, is a living fact, and is the source of the vexed Eastern question of European politics.

III. We are living to-day in that separation; our art, science, education, poetic forms, our secular life largely come from ancient Greece. Oriental art, customs, domestic life, government, we do not as a rule fraternize with; the Greek diremption is in us still; only in one way, in our religious life, do we keep a connection with an Oriental people. But is this separation never to be overcome? Is there to be no return to the East and completion of the world's cycle?

The Cycle. We have often used this word, and some may think that we have abused it; still our object is to restore the Greek conception of these poems, as they were looked at and spoken of by Hellas herself. The idea of the cycle was fundamental in grasping the epics which related to the Trojan War, and this War itself was regarded as a cycle of events and deeds, which the poets sang and put into their poetic cycle. Let us briefly trace this thought of the cycle as developed in old Greece.

I. In two different passages of his Organon, Aristotle calls the epic a cycle and the poetry of Homer a cycle. Now both passages are employed by him to illustrate a defective syllogism, hence are purely incidental. But no instance could better show the prevalence of the idea of a cycle as applied to Homer and epic poetry, for the philosopher evidently draws his illustration from something familiar to everybody. It had become a Greek common-place 350 B.C., and probably long before, that an epic poem, such as the Iliad or Odyssey, is cyclical, and that both together make a cycle.

II. But this idea develops, and expands beyond the Iliad and Odyssey, which are found to leave out many events of the Trojan Cycle. Indeed the myth-making spirit of Greece unfolds new incidents, deeds, and characters. The result is that many poets, after Homer had completed his cycle, began filling the old gaps, or really making new ones that these might be filled by a fresh poem. Hence arose the famous Epic Cycle, which has been preserved in a kind of summary supposed to have been written by Proclus, not the philosopher, but a grammarian of the time of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Meantime, let us carefully distinguish some of our Cycles. The Trojan Cycle is one of events and deeds, in general is the going to and the returning from Troy. The Homeric Cycle is Homer's account, in his two poems, of this Trojan Cycle. Finally the Epic Cycle is the expansion of Homer and includes a number of Epics, which fill out to ultimate completeness the Trojan Cycle. The latter, according to Proclus, is made up of six Epics beside the Iliad and Odyssey, to which they stand in the following relations.

1. The Cypria, which deals with events antecedent to the Iliad, such as the apple of Discord, the visit of Paris at Sparta and the taking of Helen, the mustering at Aulis, the sacrifice of Iphigeneia, and many incidents at Troy. Ulysses, to avoid going to the war, feigns madness (his first disguise) and ploughs the sea-sand; but he is detected by Palamedes who lays his infant Telemachus in the track of the plough. The name Cypria comes from Kypris, Venus, who caused the infatuation which led to the war.

2. Four different epics fill in between the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Æthiopis takes up the thread after the death of Hector, introducing Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, and Memnon, son of the Dawn, both of whom are slain by Achilles who is himself slain and is buried with funeral games. After the death of Achilles, the Little Iliad continues the story, installing Ulysses as hero over Ajax in the contest for the arms of Achilles. This is the grand transition from Brawn to Brain in the conduct of the war. The Wooden Horse is made, and the Palladium is carried out of Troy—both deeds being the product of the brain, if not of the hand, of Ulysses. Next comes the Sack of Troy, whose name indicates its character. Laocoon and Sinon appear in it, but the main thing is the grand slaughter (like that of the Suitors) and the dragging of women and children into captivity; the city is burned. Then follows the epic called the Nostoi or the Returns, really an elaboration of the Odyssey, specially of the Third Book, which tells of these antecedent Returns. Then comes the great Return, which is the Odyssey.

3. After the Odyssey follows the Telegonia written by Eugammon of Cyrene in two Books. It continues the life of Ulysses; he now goes to that people who take an oar for winnowing fan, and there he makes the offering to Neptune, enjoined by Tiresias in Hades. Other incidents are narrated; the final winding-up is that Ulysses is unwittingly slain by Telegonus, his and Circe's son, who appears in Ithaca and takes Telemachus and Penelope to Circe, who makes them immortal. The grand Epic Cycle concludes with the strangest set of marriages on record: Telegonus marries Penelope, his step-mother, and Telemachus marries Circe who is also a kind of step-mother.

III. After such a literary bankruptcy, it is no wonder that we find the later Greek and Roman writers using the words cyclic and cyclic poet as terms of disparagement. The great Mythus of Troy had run its course and exhausted itself; the age of imitation, formalism, erudition had come, while that of creation had passed away. Still it has preserved for us the idea of the cycle, which is necessary for the adequate comprehension of Homer, and which the Greeks themselves conceived and employed.

Structure of the Odyssey. A brief summary of the structural elements of the poem may now be set forth. It falls into two grand divisions, both of which are planned by Pallas in Book I and XIII respectively. In the main these divisions are the following:—

I. The first takes up about one-half of the Odyssey—twelve Books, which have as their chief object instruction and discipline—the training for the deed. This training has two very distinct portions, as it pertains to a young man and a middle-aged man—Telemachiad and Ulyssiad.

1. The Telemachiad, or the education of Telemachus, who has been left without the influence of his father, when the latter went to Troy. But he has his father's spirit, hence he must know; from Ithaca he goes to Nestor and Menelaus for instruction. Four Books.

2. The Ulyssiad, or the discipline of Ulysses, who must have been a man over 40 years old. He is to be trained out of the negative spirit which he imbibed from the Trojan war. Herein lies his analogy to Faust, who is also a middle-aged man, and negative, but from study and thought.

Both the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad are essentially one great movement in two phases, showing the bud and the flower, the young and the mature man. Father and son reveal an overcoming of limitation; Telemachus overcomes his limit of ignorance, Ulysses overcomes his limit of negation—the one by the instruction of the wise, the other by the experience of life. Both are trained to a belief in an ethical order which rules the world; therein both are made internally ready for the great act of delivering their country. The training of both reaches forward to a supreme practical end—the destruction of the Suitors and the purification of Ithaca. (For the further structure of these two parts—the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad—see preceding commentary under these titles.)

II. The second grand division of the Odyssey is the last twelve Books. The scene is laid in Ithaca, where the great deed, to which the poem hitherto has looked forward, is to be done. The wanderings of the father have ceased, the son returns from his schooling; every movement is now directed toward action. Again Pallas (XIII. 393-415) plans two subdivisions, without the Council of the Gods however.

1. The hut of the swineherd. Here the forces hostile to the Suitors gather in secret and lay their plan. Ulysses, Telemachus, Eumæus, the gallant army of three, get ready for the execution of the deed. Four Books.

2. The palace of the King. Ulysses in disguise beholds the Suitors in their negative acts; they are as bad as the Trojans, assailing Property, Family, State, the Gods; they are really in their way re-enacting the rape of Helen. Ulysses, as he destroyed Troy, must destroy them, yet not become merely destructive himself. Eight Books, in which we can discern the following movement: (1) Suitors as destroyers—five Books; (2) Ulysses as destroyer—one Book; (3) Ulysses as restorer—two Books. Thus the outcome is positive..

The career of Ulysses is now complete, and with it the Homeric Cycle has rounded itself out to fullness. The Epic Cycle in the Telegonia will expand this conclusion, but will deeply mar its idea.

Note that the structure of the two grand divisions of the Odyssey are symmetrical, each a half of the poem; then each half subdivides into two parts, and each of those parts is symmetrical, being composed of four and eight Books each. To be sure, the joint is not so plain in the second division as in the first, which has the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad. Pallas is the orderer of both divisions, and she orders them in a symmetrical manner.

For both divisions the grand horizon is the Trojan War, yet both reach beyond it, the one toward the West, the other toward the East. The one weaves into its regular narrative the Fairy Tale, the other takes up into its text what we have called the Romantic Novelette. The former looks toward the West and the Future, the latter looks back at the East and the Past. Hence the Fairy Tale is prophetic and has supernatural beings, the Novelette is retrospective, giving the experiences of life without supernatural agencies. In scenery also the contrast is great: the one is largely a sea poem, the other is a land poem.

Structural analogy between Iliad and Odyssey. We have before said, and we may repeat here at the end, that the final fruit of Homeric study is to see and to fully realize that the Iliad and Odyssey are one work, showing national consciousness, and unfolding one great epoch of the World's History. Just here we may note the fundamental analogies of structure between the two poems.

I. Both poems have the dual division, separating into two symmetrical portions. The Iliad has two Wraths of Achilles, and also two Reconciliations; thus each division is subdivided:

1. His first attitude or cycle of conduct toward the Greeks.

(a) His wrath—both rightful and wrongful.

(b) His reconciliation with Agamemnon and his own people.

2. His second attitude, or cycle of conduct toward the Trojans.

(a) His wrath—both rightful and wrongful.

(b) His reconciliation with Priam and the Trojans.

Such is the general organism of the Iliad which is seen to be perfectly symmetrical within itself. (For a fuller account see author's Commentary on the Iliad, pp. 36-8.) Note that the negative attitude of Achilles is that of wrath; in his anger he will destroy his people and his cause, and finally, in the dragging of Hector's corpse, he disregards the Gods. Yet be overcomes both these negative attitudes in himself and becomes reconciled.

II. The Odyssey has two phases of Negation, both of which the heroes (father and son) must overcome.

1. The negative spirit caused by the Trojan War and its overcoming.

(a) The ignorance of the son and its overcoming.

(b) The destructive tendency of the father and its overcoming.

2. The negative spirit abroad in Ithaca (Suitors) and its overcoming.

(a) The hut of the swineherd (preparation).

(b) The palace of the King (execution).

That is, Ulysses and Telemachus have the double problem, which organizes the Odyssey: they must conquer their own internal negation, then proceed to conquer that of the Suitors. Both poems divide alike; both have the same fundamental thought: the individual as hero is to master his own negative spirit and that of the world, and then be reconciled with himself and the world. The Iliad has essentially but one thread of movement, that of Achilles; the Odyssey has two such threads, if not three—father, son, and perchance wife, making the total Family as the unit of movement.

Thus the Iliad and Odyssey are one poem fundamentally, showing unity in thought and structure, and portraying one complete cycle of national consciousness, as well as one great phase of the World's History.




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