THE HOMERIC QUESTION AND THE HOMERIC THEOLOGY
Homer's " Iliad" has been called "the most famous among poems." Bryant speaks of its author as "the greatest of epic poets," and says that "the common consent of the civilized world places the 'Iliad' and the •Odyssey' at an unapproachable height of poetical excellence." Shelley declares that "as a poet, Homer must be acknowledged to excel Shakespeare in the truth, the harmony, the sustained grandeur, the satisfying completeness of his images." Keats, ignorant of Greek, looks into Chapman's translation and describes his impressions in one of the finest of English sonnets:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez—when with eagle eyes
He stared on the Pacific, and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent upon a peak in Darien.
Cuique in sua arte credendum—we may trust the poets in matters pertaining to their own art. And the popular verdict bears out that of the poets. Homer is translated into every tongue that makes pretension to be civilized. The rector of the German Gymnasium
tells his pupils that there are two things which they are expected to learn thoroughly: the first is the Bible, and the second is Homer. He speaks wisely, for these are the two great records of the early world; Homer gives us the secular record, as the Bible gives us the sacred.
Matthew Arnold has summed up for us the general characteristics of Homer's poetry. He makes them to be: first, rapidity of movement; secondly, plainness of thought; thirdly, simplicity of expression; fourthly, nobility. Ballad poetry lacks the last of these—nobility. As the writer of the article in the "Britannica" has said: "The old English balladist can stir Sir Philip Sidney's heart like a trumpet; but Homer can do more —he can refine and transmute the raw natural man." Virgil, Dante, Milton, lack the first three of the elements of Homer's greatness—rapidity, plainness, simplicity. They seem artificial and self-conscious beside Homer. Virgil has always for his underlying motive the exaltation of Rome; Dante is bent upon expounding the political and religious philosophy of his time; even Milton, in the "Paradise Lost," is theArian and the Puritan. But Homer seems free from subjective motive. No strong antipathy of race or of religion moves him. He is himself absorbed, and he absorbs us, in life. Like Shakespeare and Browning, he can say: Humani nihil a me alienum puto—everything human delights me. With wonderful ease and simplicity he depicts to us, in noble metrical form, the whole world of human action and feeling.
Homer reigns by right of possession, and both the poets and the people recognize his authority. But the critics are a peculiar race, and for a century past they
have been suggesting serious doubts whether the " Iliad" and the "Odyssey" are by the same author; whether either one was as a whole composed by Homer; whether in fact such a man as Homer ever lived at all. Before we attempt to form a judgment for ourselves, it may be well to have before us a brief sketch of the history of
J what is known as "the Homeric Question."
Antiquity has often been called uncritical. Yet antiquity was critical enough to separate the " Iliad " and the "Odyssey" from the other so-called Homeric productions, and to recognize these two as the genuine work of Homer, while it attributed the Hymns and the Cyclic poems to other authors. There were but two exceptions to the unanimity of this judgment. About the year 225 B. C., Xeno and Hellanicus of Alexandria detached the " Iliad" from the " Odyssey," and held to a dual authorship. For this reason these two otherwise obscure Alexandrian writers were called Chorizoiites, or
v Separatists. They never went so far as to suggest that the "Iliad" might be a congeries of poems by different authors, or that the "Odyssey" was a composite production. That was left for the skepticism of a far later time.
The close of the last century was an era of disintegration, of revolt against settled beliefs and institutions. Then "a man was famous, according as he lifted up axes upon the thick trees." Wolf, in Germany, pubv lished his "Prolegomena to Homer" in 1795. He held that the Athenian tyrant Peisistratus, about the middle of the sixth century B. C., finding current in his time many separate and independent lays which had for their common subject the siege of Troy, compiled these into one poem and first committed them to writing. Wolf, however, regarded the nucleus of the " Iliad" and the nucleus of the " Odyssey" as composed by Homer, or by two Homers—to this nucleus in each case Peisistratus added other lays.
Thus the long tradition of single and Homeric authorship was broken, and one modern critic set at naught a belief which, with two unimportant exceptions, had been held semper, ubiquc, et ab omnibus. The breaking of the dam was followed by a flood of destructive criticism. The German Lachmann resolved the " Iliad " into sixteen distinct and clearly defined lays. Grote, in England, considered it as an Achilleid enlarged into an "Iliad" by the addition of nearly half the poem—the " Odyssey" being a later production by a different author. Still more recently, Paley has maintained the same view, and has compared the two poems to pictures of stained glass, made up by an artistic combination of handsome bits of older windows which fortune and time had shivered.
We are fortunately able to set over against the names of these great critics another set of names, at least equally great, of men who, in spite of all the learning brought to bear in dismembering the Homeric poems, still defend their substantial integrity. It is the more interesting to observe that some of these defenders were at one time persuaded to adopt the views of Wolf and Lachmann. Goethe was one of these. He gave up at first the unity of the Homeric authorship; but afterward his juster poetical insight asserted itself and he set himself to oppose the critical theory. So it was with Nitzsch, though he continued to believe in large interpolations and additions to the primitive poems. Mure,
in like manner, was first a Wolfian; but after twenty years of study he reversed his judgment and became a zealous advocate of the unity.
Gladstone also defends the Homeric authorship, and brings to the defense what the learned Germans so often lack—a statesmanlike common sense. The latest contribution to the discussion is the article of Monro in the last edition of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," and. this too holds to the unity of each poem, though the writer regards the " Odyssey" as composed by a different and later author than the " Iliad." So the combatants are as to numbers pretty evenly balanced, while genius and learning, though at one time they seemed mainly to favor the theory of disintegration, are of late more and more arraying themselves on the side of the traditional view that both poems are substantially by the same author and that this author is Homer.
But it is desirable that we should look into the matter for ourselves. Let us briefly review the critical theory, and in reviewing it let us reverse the common order of discussion. I ask the reader to adjourn for a little the question whether the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" are each a unity, and, granting this for the sake of the argument, I ask him first to consider with me whether these two are works of the same author. There is abundant evidence, as it seems to me, why this latter question should be answered in the affirmative: the "Iliad " and the "Odyssey" are by the same hand. I argue this mainly upon the ground that the two poems exhibit a similarity of structure impossible to explain in any other way, especially when we take into account the fact that this peculiar structure is found only here in all classic literature, and that it is at the same time characteristic of the highest genius.
Jevons, in his admirable " History of Greek Literature," has pointed out that Homer's method of "painting in his background" is entirely unique yet incomparably artistic. The test of a poet's ability is his method of putting his hearer or reader in possession of the preliminary facts needful to the understanding of the action. There are three ways of doing this. Euripides is an illustration of the first: one of his characters appears upon the stage and describes the situation before the play opens; but this method forewarns the hearer or reader that the play is not reality, whereas the poet's object is so to absorb his audience that they will for the hour regard the performance not as illusion but as real life. Virgil gives us an instance of the second method: the hero of the "^Eneid" relates the preceding history to Dido; but here the speaker is too evidently talking not so much to Dido as to the reader, and so again the illusion is dispelled. The third method is that of constructing scenes necessary to the development of the plot, and yet, in the midst of the forward movement, making these very scenes explain what is behind. This is reality; this is the highest art; and this is the method of Homer. ,
Observe how all that is presupposed in the action of the "Iliad" is disclosed by the plot itself. The action lasts only some forty or fifty days. But these forty or fifty days have been preceded by nine long years of siege, during which the Greeks have shut up their enemy in Troy and have occupied themselves in ravaging the surrounding country. Some knowledge of all
this must be communicated, but only incidentally. The poem begins with the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon. It is the father of Briseis, the subject of the quarrel, from whom we learn that these chiefs are beleaguering Troy. Why, we learn from Achilles, when he says that it is for no advantage of his own, but to gain recompense for Menelaus and Agamemnon. How long the siege has continued, we learn from Agamemnon, when he tests the spirit of his men after the defection of Achilles. Just before the first engagement, Hector upbraids Paris with the remark: "Thou mayst see what sort of a warrior he is whose lovely wife thou hast." Paris is vanquished and flees to his mistress. Then first the guilty cause of the Trojan war appears in the person of Helen.
In precisely similar manner does the author of the "Odyssey" paint in the background of his story. The first four books are called the Telemacheia, and they depict the state of things which precedes the action of the poem. Telemachus, the youthful son of Odysseus, is set before us as suffering continual wrong. The insolence of the suitors for the hand of his mother is shown by bringing in Athene, a candid judge, in the guise of a stranger. Hoping to win the mother, the suitors even plot the death of the son. Thus, at the beginning, the long distress of twenty years is unfolded before us, yet all by way of incident and as a part of the plot itself. The news about Odysseus, vague at first, becomes more definite, till it stops just where the real action of the "Odyssey" begins. When Telemachus has set sail for Pylos the preparations are complete, and we enter upon the narrative of Odysseus' wanderings and of his return.
Now I submit that this similarity of structure goes far to prove the two poems the work of one author. Here are intuitive discernment of a law of literary composition and successful working in accordance with it which evince the highest genius. That two great poets should have arisen simultaneously in that early age, and that both should have constructed their poems so completely in accordance with this law of the human mind, this law of human thought, that later writers can imitate but never surpass them, this surely is a far greater demand upon our believing faculty than is the hypothesis of one author for them both.
This conviction will be strengthened by considering the development of the plot in the two poems, as we have now considered the preparation for it. We must remember that the epic appeals to wonder, just as the drama does. After the situation is set before us, there must come an entanglement which rouses our curiosity. The more complex the plot, so long as it is not confused, the more difficult the knot, so long as its intricacies can be seen, so much the greater is the interest which is raised in the reader, so much more intense is his demand for the denouement, the untying, the resolution of the theme. We have seen with what art the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" propose their subjects to us—the concrete before the abstract, synthesis before analysis, the problem before the explanation. Do they also show a common genius and follow a common principle in the evolution of their respective plots?
The full answer to this question would require an elaborate statement of the argument of each. This is obviously impracticable in the present essay. I must
content myself with citing a few of the curious correspondences of the two poems. In the "Iliad," Achilles is absent from the end of the first book to the beginning ! of the eighteenth—so in the "Odyssey," Odysseus is absent most of the time. In both the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," matters grow from bad to worse. In the "Iliad," the Greeks suffer untold woes, although they have for nine years confined the enemy within the walls of Troy. Achilles' absence now enables the Trojans to drive them behind the rampart they have been forced to build, and even to fire their ships; then Achilles comes forth to avenge Patroclus, the tide of battle turns, and the hero carries death and dismay before him.
So, in the "Odyssey," the servants and suitors grow reckless of duty and fearless of punishment—successive outrages intensifying our indignation—until the manywiled Odysseus, after enduring incomparable toils and dangers, appears upon the scene, proves his might by stringing his ancient bow, and from it rains upon the guilty crew the shafts of a just retribution. In both the "Iliad" and the " Odyssey," the plot leads step by step to a crisis of mond_ grandeur; in both poems this climax is followed by soothing scenes which relieve the long strain upon the feelings of the reader. We claim that the poems are too much alike in this great matter of structure to have been by different authors. Imitation will not account for the similarity; if it were so, we should have "Iliads" and "Odysseys" in plenty through the after ages. No, this secret of structure is an instinct of genius; it works spontaneously and unconsciously in the great artist; only in later times does philosophic analysis penetrate and name the mystery.
The argument from structure is so conclusive that we can afford to leave unnoticed many other evidences of a common authorship, such as the facts that each poem begins with an invocation to the Muse, and that at least two thousand lines of the " Iliad" are found also in the "Odyssey." We need only mention some of the objections to the view that one poet composed both poems. Minstrels appear in the^" Odyssey," it is said, but never in the " Iliad "; we reply that minstrels belong to the court and not to the camp. The gods, it is said, are at bitterer warfare with each other in the "Iliad" than in the "Odyssey"; yes, we answer, but in the "Iliad" there are greater strifes among men to call forth their anger.
There are differences of style and spirit between the poems, but these differences are perfectly consistent with unity of authorship when we remember two things: first, that the "Odyssey" is a sequel to the "Iliad," depicting the subsequent fortunes of the heroes of Ilium, and having its scene in European Greece and the Ionian Isles, as the scene of the "Iliad" was in Asiatic Greece and the Isles of the ^Egean; secondly, that the "Iliad" is the work of the author's youth, while the "Odyssey" is the production of his later age. Hence the hero of the first is a youthful warrior, the hero of the second an older wanderer; hence the geographical knowledge of the second is more extended than that of the first; hence the gods, in both poems a medley of vices and virtues, are on the whole more sober and moral in the " Odyssey" than in the "Iliad," as befits the more mature reflection of the author. The differences between the two poems are not greater than those UNITY OF THE "ILIAD"
between the "Paradise Lost" and the "Paradise Regained" of John Milton, or, to take more modern instances, between the earlier and the later writings of George William Curtis or Thomas Carlyle.
But my learned readers are by this time fancying that I have been choosing an easy controversy with a man of straw; while the real antagonist has been unattacked and unchallenged. I proceed, therefore, to discuss the more important question whether the "Iliad" or the "Odyssey" is in itself a unity. Was either poem the work of a single author, or are both the products of a gradual evolution, remains of a varied collection of hymns on the war of Troy and the after adventures of its heroes? Was there one Homer who composed these great epics, or are the poems we now possess a skillful combination of many ancient heroic lays? Is the present unity, or seeming unity, of each poem due to the genius of one great poet who struck out the plan of the whole at the first, or is it due to critical selection and careful compilation in subsequent ages? For the consideration of these questions I trust that what has been already said has prepared the way and has indicated the method. I would still call attention to structure, and would maintain that in the structure of each poem there are evidences of unity so marked and admirable that they point indubitably, not to many authors, but to one.
The unity of the "Iliad" has sometimes failed to be perceived for the reason that the critic has mistaken the theme of the epic. That theme is not the fall of Troy nor the fate of Achilles; for neither of these is described in the poem. In the first line of the first book we are forewarned against such misapprehensions, when the subject announced is Achilles' wrath. The first book, crowded with incident as it is, yet with scarcely a single simile, sets before us the cause of this wrath and the promise of Zeus to avenge the son of Thetis. It is only the death of the Trojan hero at Achilles' hands that sates this wrath, and therefore the climax of the poem is the slaying of Hector. All that follows after this is simply the letting down of the reader's excited feeling, and the poem ends with the line: "Such burial the illustrious Hector found," simply because the reader, without this knowledge, would have been left in painful anxiety. To this death of Hector, the sacrifice that appeases Achilles' wrath, the "Iliad" moves forward and onward from the very start. The reverses of the Greeks and the transient successes of Odysseus and Diomede, both and alike prepare the way for the day of reckoning when the son of Peleus comes to his own once more.
And yet with this note of triumph there ever mingles a sorrowful minor strain. The hero of the Greeks was the object of sympathy as well as of admiration. An evil fate hung over him. "Whom the gods love die young." Though the death of Achilles does not form the proper subject of the poem, it is yet intimated prophetically. When, in the first book, the hero appeals to Thetis, it is with a reference to his " brief span of life." In the ninth book again he says: "My returning home is taken from me." In the eighteenth, Thetis, shedding tears, admonishes him: "Straightway, after Hector, death is appointed for thee." In the nineteenth, we hear Achilles yet again: "Well know I that it is appointed me to perish here, far from my father dear and UNITY OF THE "ILIAD"
mother." In the twenty-first: "Under the wall of Troy I must die by the swift arrows of Apollo." And, finally, in the twenty-second book, Hector, with his dying breath, predicts the death of his fierce enemy: "In the day when Paris and Phoebus Apollo slay thee, for all thy valor, at the Scaean gate." Here in the successive books of the " Iliad" is the gradual unfolding of a prophecy. It reminds us of the far nobler progress in the Old Testament from the protevangelium in Genesis to the clear predictions in Micah and Isaiah. It has been well said that funeral notes mark every appearance of Achilles, and that they grow in intensity with every repetition, like a motif of Wagner's.
Now all this is indicative of an underlying design—a design which belonged to the first conception of the poem. It cannot be an afterthought, for it is part of the very warp and woof of the "Iliad." As each feature of a great picture must be in the artist's mind before he puts his brush to canvas, so the ideas of Achilles' wrath and of his fateful triumph must have been from the first in the mind of some composer of the "Iliad." In a true sense the whole antedates the parts, not the parts the whole. Each subsequent part presupposes the parts that have gone before and is unintelligible without them.
This is markedly true of that very portion of the poem which has been often held to be a mere episode—the Doloneia, or the episode in which Odysseus and Diomede made their brilliant night foray upon the camp of the Trojans. When we remember that this follows upon Achilles' rejection of Agamemnon's embassy and offer of reconciliation, and especially when we remember that it lifts the Greeks from profound discouragement and
prepares the way for the new onset which brings the whole story to its culmination, it will be plain to us that the development of the plot makes indispensable the Doloneia. And so with every other extended passage which the critics have sought to detach. The whole "Iliad" is an Achilleid, and it is vain to seek within the poem for any nucleus which has unity in itself and to which other short productions were added to make up the present whole. Even Wolf never dared to specify what the precise nucleus is. Try to separate any such part from the rest, and you find such a network of mutual reference that you are compelled to stop; there are multitudinous connections, like bloodvessels, which prevent you from cutting off any single limb without destroying the life of the whole.
If the unity of the "Iliad" is demonstrable, that of the "Odyssey" is much more so. Indeed, I do not propose to enter into the detailed proof of it. I prefer to shorten my discussion by adopting as my own the conclusion of Monro, the latest writer on the subject, when he says: "The unity of the 'Odyssey,' as a whole, is beyond the reach of existing weapons of criticism." In both poems, besides this matter of structure to which I have adverted, there is a consistent delineation of character, which sets before us the greatest variety of gods and men, yet with never a slip or mistake in the way of confounding the traits of one with the traits of another— each character preserves his peculiar identity whenever and under whatever circumstances he appears. There is a composite language—the archaic Ionian is mixed with the later and less flowing speech, leaving it flexible enough for purposes of adaptation, yet like the tongue UNITY OF THE "ODYSSEY
of Chaucer marking a period of transition and incapable of reproduction at any later time. There is a jignity ofjjtyje which belongs only to the work of a lofty mind; the adjective "Homeric" has a meaning as well defined as the adjective "Miltonic." Like every one of the greatest poets, the author of the "Iliad" and of the "Odyssey" is master of all the knowledge of his time, and this conscious mastery breathes everywhere through his verse—incedit regina. I suppose it was the convergence of all these proofs which moved Aristotle— one of the most sagacious thinkers the world has seen —to declare that the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" constitute the standard of epic unity.
Consider, for a moment, what demands the opposite hypothesis makes upon our credulity. Instead of one Homer, or even of two Homers, we are to believe in many Homers, each equal to the production of a poem which may ultimately constitute a part of the "Iliad" or the "Odyssey." Are great poets, then, so plenty in human history? The critics seem to think them thick as blackberries in August. But even the Elizabethan age has but one Shakespeare; we may count ourselves well off if one such star of poesy rises in each five hundred years. Granting that a whole galaxy of poets rose at once, is it probable that they would all choose for their theme the war of Troy, the last year of that war, Achilles among all the chiefs, and, more narrowly still, the one incident of Achilles' wrath? Would they all, with one accord, ignore the story of Troy's fall, and passing over the fates of all the other heroes, devote their genius to depicting only the wanderings and the let urn of Ulysses?
Or, if this is credible, can we believe that out of these independent lays a consistent whole could be constructed, with parts so nicely balanced, and with such unity of effect as to make it a paragon of art? As well believe that the Parthenon is the work of a multitude of successive builders, each beginning where the last left off, but without architect or plan: the rambling incongruities and incompleteness of some English cathedrals show the results of such a method. Or is the genius of the poems the genius of the patient bookmaker—some critical and selecting and combining Peisistratus, or servant of Peisistratus, five hundred years after the original composition of the separate lays? Then we have a double problem to deal with: first, why such genius should have occupied itself with work so mechanical and inglorious; and secondly, why the composer of the nucleus should not have been equally competent at the first to organize his material into the finished poem. Whatever proves such genius in the separate parts, proves ability to construct the whole; whatever proves genius in the compiler proves that compiling would never satisfy his poetical ambition.
Professor Mahaffy, in his " Problems of Greek History," has well said that, while the "Iliad" and "Odyssey " are made lip. of many different legends, their cp-ordi- f nation is_the_work of one great poet. Even the^gTeat German critic of Homer calls the "Iliad" "the Greek Bible." Yet he denies the unity of its authorship, and would break it into its component parts. He represents the innovating and destructive tendency of the modern criticism in general. Now that the same method is applied to the Hebrew Bible, and only the nucleus of the
UNITY OF THE "ODYSSEY" 19
Pentateuch is accepted as the work of Moses, we can see somewhat more clearly both the nature of the method and its results.
It would rob us of every great name of literature. It would give to the late and inferior talent which can only patch together the works of others the praise that belongs to supreme creative genius. The large design and simple elegance of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" are not the natural product of an artificial age like that of Peisistratus; they belong to the mighty childhood of the race. Moses and Homer were possibly added to and supplemented as their work passed down through generations following; Ezra in the former case and Peisistratus in the latter had doubtless a part to play in determining what was canonical and genuine. The "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" probably supplanted other and earlier poems which ceased to be read or recited and so were lost forever. But the former supplanted the latter because the former possessed a unity and majesty in which the latter were lacking.
It was a case of the survival of the fittest. Homer himself, granting that our doctrine of a single authorship is correct, may have taken many years for the complete elaboration of his poems, and during those years versions of various degrees of perfection may have been set in circulation. Some such hypothesis fully accounts for ancient diversities of reading and provides abundant work for Peisistratus, while it saves the integrity of the poems. Goethe, in one of his letters to Schiller, cites different versions of his own poems to refute the theory we are considering. He had at various times amended and enlarged them, but he did not propose on that account to concede that there was a second Goethe, or many Goethes. Wolf's "Prolegomena" itself, treated in this way, would furnish evidence that the one Wolf was many Wolfs instead. "The London Spectator" sums up the argument none too forcibly when it says: "It is as impossible that a first-rate poem or work of art should be produced without a great master-mind to conceive the whole, as that a fine living bull should be developed out of beef sausages."-l <
Here we must consider a most plausible objection proposed by Paley, the latest English representative of the Wolfian theory. He denies the original unity of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" upon the ground that it is impossible to preserve intact so long poems unwritten, and that written they could not have been. Let us take these two points in the reverse order from that in which they are stated. Both assertions are without warrant. We meet the first with the counter-assertion that the poems could have been, and probably were, written. All arguments for the unity and the internal vital connections of the poems are also arguments for the writing of them. The burden of proof rests upon those who deny that they were originally written, and the proof of such a negative as this will be found a very considerable burden.
We do not choose, however, to avail ourselves of our privilege in this matter. We rather desire to state all the important facts which make against our own view, as well as those which favor it; let the balance then be struck, and let the reader decide for himself. What was the date of Homer? or, if any dislike to put the question in that form, when was the substance' of the "Iliad"
| and of the "Odyssey" composed? We answer, Homer lived, or the poems were composed, many years after the Trojan war. This we infer from the fact that the poet speaks of the superior size and strength of the warriors who fought before Troy, as of a generation long since passed away. If then we take 1050 B. C., the traditional date of the Trojan war, as approximately correct, we may put Homer, or the rise of the Homeric poems, at 850 B. c, or four hundred years before the time of Herodotus. The question before us is therefore this: Is it probable that the Greek language was committed to writing and was used for literary purposes so early as 850 B. c.?
We must grant that no actual literary remains, unless it be the poems of Homer, have come down to us from that time. The earliest specimens of Greek epigraphy I do not antedate the middle of the seventh century before Christ. The fragmentary inscriptions of Thera, of Crete, and of Naucratis, may be assigned to 650, 640, and 630, respectively. Those of Melos and of Abou Symbel come later still, and probably within the sixth century. As the last of these is peculiarly interesting and significant, I dwell upon it at greater length.
Far up the river Nile, in modern Nubia, and at the very confines of ancient Egypt, still stand the remains of the temple of Abou Symbel. On its front is the famous row of colossal statues, seventy feet high, though each is sitting with hands upon the knees. They are awe-inspiring in their solitary grandeur. But to the archaeologist one of the most curious things about them is an inscription cut long after the statues themselves were carved out of the solid rock. That inscription is in Greek. It is upon the left leg of one of the gigantic figures, and below the knee. It is just such an inscription as an American Vandal will occasionally cut into a famous statue or edifice abroad. It records the names of certain Greek mercenaries in the employ of a certain Egyptian king, Psammeticus. The Greek characters are of antique style. The letter Omicron answers both for Omicron and Omega, and so we are assured that its date must be before the year 540—for from this time inscriptions have the Omega—Omega being the last in order of the Greek alphabet, simply because it was the last—the last letter invented and added.
If we can only learn the date of this Egyptian King Psammeticus, we can fix more narrowly the time of the inscription. There were unfortunately four Psammeticuses who might possibly be referred to. But Herodotus mentions an expedition to Ethiopia by Psammeticus the Second, and it was probably this expedition on which the Greek mercenaries were employed. Now Psammeticus the Second reigned from 594 to 589 before Christ. Sometime before 589 B. C., therefore, this specimen of Greek epigraphy must have been written. Of the mercenaries some were Ionians and some were Dorians, yet all of them used the Ionic form of the alphabet. This presupposes time for the Ionic alphabet to become generally used in Greece, and makes it certain tbat writing was a common art by the middle of the seventh century.
The argument is far stronger than this mere statement of dates would seem to indicate. We have been adducing the evidence of inscriptions upon stone or metal. But these imply the long-continued previous
ANTIQUITY OF GREEK LETTERS
existence of the easier writing upon leather or parchment. Archilochus, a poet of about 700 B. C., speaks of "a grievous scytale"—the scytale being the staff on which a strip of leather for writing purposes was rolled slantwise, so that the message inscribed upon the strip could not be read until the leather was rolled again upon another staff of the same size; since only the writer and the receiver possessed staves of the proper size, the scytale answered all the ends of a message in cypher; so we get back a hundred years earlier and still find writing among the Greeks. Hesiod dates from about 750 B. c., and Hesiod enjoins that children be not taught letters before seven years old; and yet we are a hundred years later than the time of Homer.
How can we bridge that gulf? Shall we consult Homer himself? Shall we infer from the tablet which Homer represents Bellerophon as carrying from King Proetus to lobates, that the author of the "Iliad" at least was familiar with writing? When we read that there were "written in the folded tablet many 'soulharassing things," it seems difficult to believe that any mere signs or picture-writing can be meant. Yet this is the clearest allusion to writing in the Homeric poems, and of itself it would be far from proving that the poems themselves were written. Even though this were the case, it would be rather for the help of the composer than of the reader, and the poet would not be any more likely to tell us about the mysteries of his art than the modern extemporaneous preacher or orator is apt to speak of the elaborate writing which precedes his public efforts.
We frankly confess, therefore, that we have no great amount of direct testimony to the existence of writing among the Greeks so early as 850 B. C. But there is an indirect argument from what we know of other peoples with whom the Greeks had intercourse. The Latin race was by no means so quick-witted as the Greek, yet Niebuhr tells us that there were written books under the Tarquins, that is, about 750 B. C., although the oldest Latin inscriptions are several centuries later. The most ancient Hebrew epigraphy, the inscription on the Moabite stone, does not date back farther than to two hundred years after David and seven hundred years after Moses. Yet Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and during the Egyptian nineteenth dynasty, which covered Moses' time, there were "houses of books," that is, there was literature enough to fill whole libraries.
The recent excavations of Tel el-Amarna have brought to light a multitude of clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform characters which record the correspondence of an Egyptian with a Babylonian king. We learn from them, I to quote the words of Professor Sayce, that "in the fif- I teenth century before our era—a century before the \ Exodus—active literary intercourse was going on throughout the civilized world of Western Asia between Babylon and Egypt and the smaller states of Palestine, of Syria, of Mesopotamia, and even of Eastern Cappadocia. This intercourse was carried on by means of the Babylonian language and the complicated Babylonian script. This implies that all over the civilized East there were libraries and schools where the Babylonian language and literature were taught and learned. Babylonian appears to have been as much the language of
diplomacy and cultivated society as French has become in modern times."
But after all, the common language of Egypt was Egyptian, and this use of Babylonian in the fifteenth century n. c. may be characteristic of the period of the shepherd kings, during which the old Semitic stock got possession for a time of the wealth of the Nile valley. Mr. Petrie, in his recent excavations in the Fayum, eighty miles southwest of Cairo, has unearthed a town of the nineteenth dynasty, or of the thirteenth century B. c. On the pottery of this town Cypriote or Greek letters are incised. Another town of pyramid builders, belonging to the twelfth and thirteenth dynasties, yielded pottery marked with similar Cypriote letters. He declares that all the evidence points to a use of this alphabet before 2000 B. C.
Dr. Howard Osgood, in his article entitled "The Oldest Book in the World," published in the "Bibliotheca Sacra" for October, 1888, takes us back to an earlier time, at least three thousand years before Christ, and gives the translation of a book of proverbs which might almost have formed the model for Solomon. The Proverbs of Ptah-hotep are in Egyptian. Renouf, in his "Hibbert Lectures," declares that in the fourth dynasty, as early as 3124 B. C., there was in Egypt "a universally diffused system of writing and a common use of papyrus." While Professor Hommel of Munich has found proofs of high civilization in Arabia as far back as 2000 B. c., the recent explorations of Professor Hilprecht of the University of Pennsylvania have brought to light at Nippur in Babylonia an inscription which he regards as earlier than 4000 B. C.
Yet there are Old Testament critics who tell us that Moses, who lived about 1500 B. C., and who was educated in the court of the Egyptian king, could not possibly have known how to write; Solomon, who lived about 1000 B. c., could not possibly have been enough in advance of his time—the time required by the hypothesis of natural evolution—to write a book of proverbs. Professor Sayce, referring to those who have formed opinions adverse to the historical character of the Pentateuch, says well that "the Tel el-Amarna tablets have already overthrown the primary foundation on which much of this criticism has been built "; and Professor Hommel declares his conviction that "Arabia itself will furnish us the direct proofs that the modern destructive criticism of the Pentateuch is absolutely erroneous."
Let us apply all this to our present subject. The age of Homer was six hundred and fifty years after the time alluded to by Professor Sayce; eleven hundred and fifty years after the time mentioned by Professor Hommel; twenty-two hundred and fifty years after that spoken of by Monsieur Renouf; and thirty-one hundred and fifty years after that given us by Professor Hilprecht. The Greeks were a seafaring people, who inhabited not only the Argive peninsula with its manifold harbors, but also the islands of the .(Egean and the Adriatic; records lately recovered seem to prove that ./Egean Greeks visited Egypt as early as three thousand years before Christ; in the nature of things the winds and the waves must have driven Greeks over the sea to Egypt and Egyptians over the sea to Greece; the Homeric poems themselves speak of such intercourse, besides intimating that there was a coastwise commerce by way of PhoeWERE THE GREEKS A DULL PEOPLE? 2J
nicia; tradition declares that a certain Phoenician, 5 Cadmus by name, long before the Trojan war introduced into Greece the use of letters; the letters of the Greek alphabet are substantially the same with those of the Semitic languages, Alpha being only Aleph, and Beta being only Beth in disguise; and yet, merely upon the ground that no Greek writing remains to us of demonstrably earlier date than B. C. 650, we are asked to bevy lieve that at Jko B. C. the composer of the Homeric poems could not~pOssibly have put them into writing. This, as it seems to us, is to attribute to the Greeks a physical inertia, as well as a mental incapacity to apprehend and to appropriate, which are the precise opposites of all we know of that eager, curious, colonizing race.
We find it difficult to believe that it took two thousand years for letters to come around the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt to Greece. We prefer to think that there was some foundation for the belief of the Greeks themselves that letters among them belonged to the ante-Homeric age. Before the dawn of history the Egyptian Cecrops came, it was said, to Athens, and the Egyptian Danaus to Argos. The time of the driving out of the shepherd kings from Egypt corresponds quite well with fhese Greek traditions. And how can we explain the universal knowledge of reading and writing among the Greeks two hundred years after Homer's time, unless a very long period of instruction had gone before? In the days of Solon, six hundred years before Christ, there were laws forbidding the erasure of public inscriptions, and the practice of ostracism prevailed—the marking of a "yes " or a "no" upon a pebble of stone.
At the very time of Peisistratus, there were in existence actual commentaries upon the Homeric poems. Who ever heard of written commentaries upon an unwritten poem? The idea that Peisistratus, three centuries after Homer, first committed these poems to writing seems to us amazingly improbable. Grant that writing in Homer's time was a mystery known only to the few; that it was in possession, not of a reading public, but of a poetical and literary guild; that it was used as a private help to the bard in composing and memorizing, rather than as a means of communication to others; still the argument in favor of Homer's use of letters seems to us far to outweigh the argument against it. If the patchwork theory of the Homeric authorship takes it for granted that writing was unknown or unused among the Greeks of Homer's time, it rests upon an utterly unproved and an extremely improbable assumption.
We do not stop here, however. Even if it could be proved that Peisistratus first secured the writing out of the Homeric poems, we should not surrender the doctrine of their unity. Our adversaries declare that poems so long as these could never without writing be composed in the first place, nor afterward be transmitted intact to future generations. Here again we are compelled to meet each part in the declaration with a stout demurrer. The epic, as its very name intimates, is a poem narrated or recited, while the lyric is one sung to the accompaniment of the lyre. As the epic is intended for public recitation, so in manifold instances it has been composed without writing, preserved only in the mind, recited from memory, and, to mix metaphors, orally handed down to posterity.
COMPOSITION POSSIBLE WITHOUT WRITING 20.
The Old German epic entitled "Parsifal," is a poem of twenty-four thousand eight hundred and ten lines, very much longer than the "Iliad "—for the " Iliad" has only fifteen thousand six hundred and ninety-three —yet "Parsifal" was composed by Eschenbach, who could neither read nor write. The weird poems of the Icelandic Skalds were for two centuries transmitted without writing. The Greek festivals have to this day their blind singers who depend on memory alone to keep the thread of their story. Composition is quite possible without writing, as every public speaker can witness. Homer, even if he were blind when he composed his poems, might still have been quite equal to his task. And what was once mentally put into form could also have been mentally preserved.
To us, who in these later days depend upon books to keep our treasures for us and use our memories so little, the retention of a whole " Iliad" or a whole "Odyssey" without break or error, seems to savor of the miraculous. Memory does little for us because we give memory so little to do. We have come to cherish a sort of mild contempt for the memorizer, and we doubt the mental grasp of the man of facts and dates. Not so in the early days. Mnemosyne was then one of the Muses. Memory was cultivated, cherished, trusted, honored. Of Alexander and of Caesar it was said that they knew all their soldiers by name; the story at any rate proves that they thought such ability no disgrace to them. There were educated men in Athens who knew the whole "Iliad" and " Odyssey" by heart and could recite them straight on from any point where they were asked to begin.
And such power is not entirely wanting in recent
times. Macaulay could repeat, at fifty, long poems which he had never glanced at since he read them for the first and only time at fifteen. And Scaliger, that modern wonder of learning and scholarship, committed the whole of Homer to memory in twelve days, and all the extant Greek poets in three months. If we only now consider that in prehistoric times this composing and reciting of epic poetry was a regular trade, so richly rewarding with gifts and honors those who were its masters that memory was stimulated to put forth its highest powers, we shall rid ourselves of the last vestige of doubt whether poems as long as Homer's could have been composed without writing and then handed down substantially intact for several centuries.
We ought not to miss here the incidental advantage of our present study in furnishing a parallel to the oral transmission of the Gospel narratives. All competent investigators now agree that from twenty-five to thirtyfive years intervened between the death of our Lord and the putting into its present written form of each of the Synoptics. And there are not wanting those who declare that even in that brief time the stories of Christ's life might become so altered as to be untrustworthy.
But these critics are strangely forgetful of some very common facts. A sacred narrative, which has assumed stereotyped form and which passes from lip to lip, may be submitted to a constant process of verification. Just as many an aged saint who knows her Bible mentally corrects the slips in a young preacher's quotations, so the first disciples, we may believe, were evermore conning and correcting the oral narratives which they heard, purging them of excrescences when such appeared, and
bringing them back to the standard form. A narrative upon which the church was founded and for which Christians had to answer with their lives might conceivably have been handed down, not simply for twentyfive or thirty-five years, but for a century, without serious loss or change. The Gospel problem seems an easy one when we have once granted that the Homeric poems could ha%re been transmitted intact for more than three hundred years.
And yet we are not quite through with the objections of Paley. To all that have been mentioned he adds this last of all: Homer, he says, could not have composed poems so long as the " Iliad" and the " Odyssey," for the reason that there was no reading or hearing public to be addressed by such poems. It is the old evolutionary theory in a new guise. The simple must come before the complex. Early times have patience and attention only for poems that are brief and fragmentary. The complicated epic whole must be the result of the constructive and combining genius of later times.
Unfortunately for this theory the facts are all against it. There was just such a public as the full-fledged "Iliad" or "Odyssey" requires. It was found in the halls of the petty kings or chieftains of early Greece. There every comer was welcome and there were many guests. The numerous retainers of the household constituted of themselves a sufficient audience, and the songs of the bard were the chief amusement of the evening, as athletic games and sports were the amusement of the day.
Minstrelsy was a recognized and honored profession. In the simple days when society has emerged from barbarism, but has not yet taken on the conventional refinements of an advanced civilization, nothing so stirs the blood and rouses enthusiasm as the story of martial deeds. In " Ivanhoe," Sir Walter Scott has given us a glimpse of such entertainment in the rude halls of our Anglo-Saxon ancestry. So it was among the Greeks. Evening after evening the singer was assured of one constant audience. Instead of being compelled to tell his whole story in a single night, he was the best poet who could longest spin his tale. Provided only that part was connected with part, that there was development of plot, and all tended to a fitting climax, he might sing on for a thousand and one nights, like Queen Scheherezade.
The genuine epic, then, being only a metrical kind of story-telling, naturally has its place at the beginnings of civilization. It is history and mythology and poetry and music all in one. As the incentives to its cultivation are then the greatest, and as original genius is then most free from the fetters of precedent, it is only natural that we should find in these primitive times some of the greatest masters of spontaneous song. Patriarchal monarchy and family life afford the typical field for the development of epic poetry.
Lyric poetry just as naturally belongs to the later day of aristocracies, when a privileged class takes the place of the large family life we have described. Now, the one great house and gathering place is replaced by many and smaller mansions; meetings are of the few; we find the exclusiveness of good society; there are other means of entertainment as well; the song must be elegant, conventional, and brief.
Last of all comes the time of democracy, when power
has gotten into the hands of the people. Then the whole free population of a city must be amused. It is an audience that does not long hold together; it is the time of the rhapsodists or reciters of select portions of the old songs; the new poetry is all dramatic, suited to the entertainment in the open air of large numbers at once. This progress from epic to lyric and from lyric to dramatic poetry was a matter of actual history in Greece. When Paley tells us, then, that a reading public did not exist in Greece before the year 430 B. C., we do not simply content ourselves with denying the fact, we claim that it makes no difference to our thesis whether there was or not. There certainly was a hearing public, and precisely such a one existed in the two centuries after the Trojan war as might furnish the best opportunity and incentive to the epic genius of a Homer.
The reader has doubtless concluded long since that this argument is endless, and I am myself pretty nearly of his opinion. There are a score of points, all of them important and interesting, which I might have embraced in my treatment. I have confined myself to a few which can be popularly stated. The result of the investigation may well remind us of that not too learned English student, who, being required on examination to give the present state of the Homeric question, said: "The old view was that both the poems were written by Homer, but it is now concluded that they were written by another man of the same name." However learned and plausible the theories of a later putting together of ancient poetical fragments may be, they all suffer shipwreck on this single rock—the necessity of finding in the early time of the petty kings some commanding
genius capable of gathering the traditional material, organizing it about one central theme, and determining its poetical form. This genius must have been one, not many; and it is not credulity, but simple common sense, to take for our own the well-nigh unanimous consent of antiquity, and to call that genius by the name of Homer.
I have been treating of the Homeric Question. But I have not been
Presenting Thebes and Pelops' line,
Or the tale of Troy divine,
entirely for its own sake. I have intended it to prepare the way for a succinct account of the Homeric Theology. To this latter theme I now address myself. I wish I could relieve my reader's fears by assuring him that the temple to which I introduce him is, like the temple at Jerusalem, far smaller than the portico at its entrance. But I cannot so easily part company with the principles of rhetoric. The Homeric Theology is as noble a subject, and it requires as long a treatment, as the Homeric unity. This latter question, indeed, derives much of its importance from its connection with the former. If Homer is only a name for many bards scattered in space and time, then the Homeric theology can hardly be expected to have consistency and unity. If, on the contrary, there was one Homer, and the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" were both his work, then from the poems of this great genius of the early world we may hope to learn something about that early world's religious doctrines and beliefs. That there was one
Homer, and that he composed both of the poems which after times have ascribed to him, with the possible exception of unimportant interpolations, I propose henceforth to take for granted, and I would now ask only about his theology.
It is perhaps unnecessary to say, and yet to prevent any possible misconception it may be well distinctly to declare, that I do not profess to find in Homer a characteristically religious poet. Homer never heard of the word "theology," nor did he ever write the "Iliad" or the "Odyssey" with the conscious aim of setting forth theological ideas. Not the epic poets, but the tragedians, were the religious teachers of the Greeks. The tragic stage, upon which ^schylus produced his "Prometheus Bound," and Sophocles brought out his "Antigone," was the Greek pulpit, and there we are to look for appeals to conscience and threats of the gods. The Athenian archon, under whose charge these plays were represented, was clothed for the purpose with priestly dignity, and the whole office was an office of religion. The epic, on the other hand, was more nearly a means of amusement, when instruction and amusement went hand in hand. Its place was the court of the petty king, its time the hours that followed the games and the banquet. If we could conceivably have a tragedy from the time of Homer, we should doubtless have more of religion and more of theology than Homer has given us.
Yet Homer had his theology, notwithstanding; for every poet puts together in more or less complete form the facts which he has apprehended about Deity and the relations of Deity to the universe. Se moquer de la philosophie, c'est vraiment philosopher—to mock at philosophy is to philosophize; and even when Homer satirizes the gods he shows that he has ideas about them. Theology may popularly be denned as the doctrine of God, of man, and of their mutual relations. I propose simply to ask what are Homer's ideas about God and what are his ideas about man's relations to God. God, sin, atonement, a future life—these are the determining elements of every theological system; if we can learn what Homer thinks of these, we shall have the substance of his theology.
Perhaps the first thing that strikes the thoughtfulreader of the Homeric poems is their undertone of monotheism. This may surprise some who have regarded Homer only as a polytheistic poet, yet it is nevertheless true. Though there are many gods in the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," yet they constitute a hierarchy in which Zeus is supreme. Very often we read of "the god," in the singular number, without the mention of any definite name, and in connections which seem to show that it should be translated simply "God"; in other words, it is an expression of an ineradicable belief that deity is one.
Of this god, whose name is Zeus when any name is given him, the other gods are in some sense manifestations. Some of them are his children and derive their life from him. Two of them, Athene and Apollo, are hardly more than hypostases, or personifications, of his energy; with Zeus these two constitute an inner circle and faintly remind us of the biblical Trinity—Athene being the divine wisdom and Apollo the executor of the divine will. Here, Ares, Hephaestus, Hermes, Artemis, and Aphrodite had a second rank. Then, thirdly, come
Poseidon, Hades, Dione, and Letona, and after them the whole multitude of inferior gods who preside over the forces of nature or are identified with particular rivers, winds, and groves.
And yet, even of Zeus, the head of this imposing hierarchy, as well as of all the other gods, it is true that he is but a magnified man. The only absolute distinction between gods and men is that of immortality. But this immortality of the gods is a physical immortality. They have bodies like the bodies of men, bodies dependent upon physical nutriment. Their food is ambrosia indeed, and their drink is nectar; but they must perpetually partake of these if they would not die. So they are not self-subsistent, like the God of the Bible; the ground of their being is in something outside of themselves. As this endless continuity of physical being is the only characteristic difference between gods and men, it is a bar that may be broken over. Odysseus would have become a god if he had accepted Calypso's invitation and had eaten of her promised ambrosia instead of confining himself to the food of mortals. Etymologically and symbolically, ambrosia is itself immortality, so that the gods feed on immortality, even as they wash themselves in beauty. Hence the oath by the Styx, the river of the world of the dead, is the only oath that irrevocably binds them; for physical death would be the end of their godhood.
The bodies of the gods are of great size. When Athene smites Ares with a stone on the plain of Troy, it is said that "seven roods he covered in his fall." They are of great voice; the battle-cry of Ares and Poseidon is loud as the united shout of a myriad of the Greeks. They have their fixed abodes—Poseidon in the depths of the sea at Aegae, and Ares in the land of Thrace; the temples consecrated to them are only occasional haunts; Hephaestus has built for the family of Zeus permanent habitations upon Mount Olympus. Though they are subject to these limitations of space, their movements are very rapid; Hermes, it is true, tires of his long journey to Ogygia, yet one spring of the horses of Here takes them through the haze into the distance upon the open sea. Theoretically, the gods know all things and can do all things; practically, they are ignorant of some of the matters that most concern them; can be most egregiously deceived; are obliged to take counsel before they know their own minds; have their wishes thwarted by other gods and even by mortal men, as when Poseidon's son Polyphemus is blinded by Odysseus.
This antithesis between the theoretical and the actual is one of the most significant things in Homer. Either as the remains of a primitive revelation handed down by tradition, or as the result of man's own religious nature which ever prompts him to "seek God, if haply he may feel after him and find him," the poet is continually declaring the omniscience and omnipotence of the gods, and yet, almost in the same breath, is most inconsistently attributing to them all the weaknesses and limitations of men. Again and again they are called "the blessed gods," and yet we read of their stains and pains, of their wounds and weeping and fear. Thetis sheds bitter tears over the fate of her son Achilles, and Zeus is sorely troubled about Here's anger, even when the nodding of his dark brow makes Olympus quake and assures victory to the Greeks.
There is a similar duality in Homer's representation of Fate and of Jove's relation to it. At times Zeus and Fate are one; the same things are ascribed to Zeus and to Fate; Zeus is the dispenser of the Fates. But at other times Fate appears as a Will side by side with that of Zeus, and even over Zeus and all the other gods; they must passively submit to Fate, when they are unwilling actively to employ themselves in its accomplish-, ment. Zeus is the head of an Oriental council, the master of an Oriental harem: that is Homer's method of representing the manifoldness of the divine manifestations. Fate is one, inevitable, binding both gods and men: that is Homer's effort to supplement polytheism with the inalienable consciousness of the unity and absoluteness of God. But this Fate, though it stood for the highest Homeric conception of the Godhead, never was worshiped, never could be worshiped, for it was devoid of mind and heart, and could hardly be distinguished from blind and inexorable necessity.
The idea of something done beyond that which is ordained, something surpassing Fate, is certainly, though only rarely, found in Homer; it seems once more to open the door that had been closed against divine and human freedom, and to relieve the sternness and arbitrariness of Fate. But both Fate and that which is beyond it are equally abstractions; they have no eye to pity and no arm to save. Homer's doctrine of the Godhead shows us two things: first, that human nature demands a deity free from limitations and lifted above the finite; secondly, that human imagination is utterly unable to construct for itself such a deity, and when it attempts the task succeeds only in making a huger finite being like itself. God created man at the first in his own image; the heathenism of which Homer is the noblest representative can only create a god in the image of man.
This becomes still plainer when we examine the poet's conceptions of God's moral attributes. There can be no exacter measure of the chasm that separates the Homeric from the biblical theology than the way in which they respectively treat God's attribute of holiness. The Scriptures bring this characteristic of God's nature before us more frequently than any other; this is the fundamental attribute that conditions all others; this it is that chiefly makes God to be God. But in Homer the gods never even once have this quality expressly ascribed to them—they are constantly called blessed and immortal, but they are never once called holy.
The gods have a sort of moral perception, indeed, but this is exercised only in estimating the character and acts of men. They are like some men we know of, who have a very keen conscience for other people, but very dull for themselves. The noble swineherd, Eumaeus, tells Odysseus that " it is not froward deeds that the gods love, but they reverence justice and the righteous acts of men." One of the wooers declares that "the gods, in the likeness of strangers from far countries, put on all manner of shapes and wander through the cities, to watch the violence and the righteousness of men." When the suitors have suffered their deserts, the aged Laertes can say : "Father Zeus, verily ye gods yet bear sway on high Olympus!" Zeus sends floods upon the people whose judges deliver unjust judgments.
The gods are displeased because Achilles pitilessly retains the body of Hector at the ships and will not take ransom for the dead.
But now observe how in this last instance Homer takes back again all that he has given to the gods in the way of praise. How came this pitiless spirit into Achilles' heart? Ajax tells us when he addresses the hero: "The gods have put within thy breast a spirit implacable and evil." And so the gods appear again and again as tempters to perjury and adultery, as in the violation of the truce which Zeus himself suggests, and in the unfaithfulness of Helen which Aphrodite inspires. It is not enough to say that the gods permit these things—they actually bring them about by their direct and efficient causation. How devilish, it has been well remarked, is the deception which Athene in the form of Deiphobos practises upon Hector in the hour of his extremest need, when she flatters him with a brother's voice and lures him to destruction!
The truth is, that God and devil are confounded in Homer. The suitors look to the gods for help in their iniquities. The gods regard dnly their own honor and pleasure in the government they exercise. They are envious—Poseidon envies the Greeks their rampart, because it rivals the wall he had built for Troy, and he envies the Phaeacians their prosperous voyages, because these voyages seem to make the Phaeacians instead ol himself the lords of the sea. Not only crime, but hap piness also, is punished by the Furies.
The gods are revengeful. Here and Athene never cease to hate and to afflict the Trojans on account of the judgment of Paris, and Poseidon never ceases to pursue Odysseus even though Odysseus' only fault was this, that he had rid the earth of a monster. True gods are placable sometimes, but at other times neither a just cause nor manifold offerings can remove their anger. The Zeus of Homer is only an immortal man. The gods are only projections into space and formal embodiments of human feelings, impulses, and passions. Aphrodite is little more than a name for illicit desire; Hermes for the disposition to falsehood. So Athene at times is but a figure for the better judgment of Odysseus or Achilles; Ares stands for the warlike spirit; Apollo for presages of the future.
This brief survey has been sufficient, I trust, to convince the reader that Homer's conception of God is that of a nature-dejty, who includes in himself all the forces of the physical and moral world, whether these are good or whether they are evil. Homer's God is God, world, man, and devil, all in one. God is the sum of all hidden causes. Different names are given to his various manifestations and appearances—and so we have the nine great Olympians and the whole retinue of minor gods besides. Personality belongs to him—but then in his aspect as Fate impersonality belongs to him also. He is moral and is the source of all law among men— but then he is immoral also, and his law is an arbitrary thing, having no fixed abode in his nature and not always enforced on earth.
It is a most interesting question how such a conception of the godhead could have originated. Are these "fair humanities of old religion," so called, the offspring only of a mythologizing tendency inherent in the childhood of the race? Some writers would have us believe this.
The Greeks, they say, were natural poets. Imagination conceived of nature as alive; each natural phenomenon, each movement of the spirit within, seemed due to a separate will; supernatural beings were thought to find in human affairs everywhere a field for their activity; the artistic instinct unconsciously wrought over this material; the innocent result was the gods of Greece. Alas for the theory, Homer himself furnishes the refutation of it. There is enough of the divine unity, spir ituality, and righteousness left in his representations to show that these growths were not wholly imaginative and poetic. Ever and anon we hear the deep consciousness of God uttering its protests against the impieties with which sense and art seek to drown its voice.
This god-making was not innocent. It began in the desire of fallen humanity to rid itself of the thought of a moral God who would challenge its impurity and punish its transgressions. It transformed the one holy Will into many wills, sometimes conflicting, often malignant, but never unalterably righteous, until at last all things, without the soul and within as well, whether evil or good, were ascribed to them. Art proceeded to clothe these creations with beauty, but it was a meretricious beauty, and it led to further debasement of the idea itself; the statues of the gods became an object of idolatry. This is the genesis of heathenism. The Apostle Paul has given us the only philosophical as well as the only authoritative account of it. It is not the result of natural evolution, but of guilty degradation. It presupposes a primitive knowledge of God. The heathen are "without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasonings and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things."
And so we come naturally to examine the Homeric doctrine of sin. It is evident that with such a doctrine of God, the poet's idea of sin must equally diverge from the truth. If God is a spiritual and personal being whose will is that we be like himself in holiness, then sin will be a self-chosen unlikeness to God in character and conduct. But if God is the sum of all natural tendencies and forces, both good and evil, as Homer represents him, then sin can at its worst be only the shortsighted following of evil impulses, the origin of which can in the last analysis be ascribed to God himself. And this is actually the prevailing conception of sin in the "Iliad" and in the "Odyssey."
There is no idea in these poems more striking to the practical moralist than that contained in the word Ate. By derivation and in its practical use, it signifies a befooling. And this is the chief element in sin. Sin is not a matter of will,—the self-assertion of freedom in opposition to the will of God,—it is the error or mistake of foolishness, and this foolishness is due to the gods themselves. Agamemnon, when he gives account of the fault he committed against Achilles, declares that Zeus had bound him with might in grievous blindness of soul.
In the noble address in which Phoenix, the instructor of Achilles, labors to turn the hard heart of his old pupil,
there occurs so remarkable a description of this Ate, or Sin, that I quote it entire:
Therefore, Achilles, rule thy high spirit; neither beseemeth it thee to have a ruthless heart Nay, even the very gods can bend, and theirs withal is loftier majesty and honor and might Their hearts by incense and reverent vows and drink-offering and burnt-offering men turn with prayer, so oft as any transgresseth and doeth sin. Moreover, prayers of penitence are daughters of great Zeus, halting and wrinkled and of eyes askance, that have their task withal to go in the steps of sin. For sin is strong and fleet of foot wherefore she far outrunneth all prayers, and goeth before them over all the earth making men fall, and prayers follow behind to heal the harm. Now whosoever reverenceth Zeus' daughters when they draw near, him they greatly bless and hear his petitions ; but when one denieth them and stiffly refuseth, then depart they and make prayer unto Zeus the son of Kronos, that sin may come upon such an one, that he may fall and pay the price.
Let me quote, also, the words of Agamemnon, after Achilles had renounced his wrath. He is speaking of his own fault which had roused that wrath. He says complacently:
It is not I who am the cause, but Zeus and Destiny and Erinyes, that walketh in the darkness, who put into my soul fierce madness on the day when in the assembly I, even I, bereft Achilles of his meed. What could I do? It is God who accomplisheth all. Eldest daughter of Zeus is Ate, who blindeth all, a power of bane ; delicate are her feet, for not upon earth she goeth, but walketh over the heads of men, making men to fall, and entangleth this one or that Yea, even Zeus was blinded upon a time, he who they say is greatest among gods and men; yea, even him Here, with female wile, deceived.
Then, after describing how Ate deceived even Zeus himself, Agamemnon tells us how the father of gods and men awoke from his illusion:
Sharp pain smote him in the depths of his soul, and straightway he seized Ate by her bright-haired head in the anger of his soul, and swore a mighty oath that never again to Olympus and the starry heaven should Ate come, who blindeth all alike. He said, and whirling her in his hand, he flung her from the starry heaven, and quickly came she down among the works of men. Thus also I, what time great Hector of the glancing helm was slaying Argives at the sterns of our ships, could not be unmindful of Ate, who blinded me at the first But since thus blinded was I, and Zeus bereft me of my wit, fain am I to make amends and recompense manifold for the wrong.
So we read of Zeus himself falling into sin, and then in revenge leading men into it. Again we see that Zeus is both God and Satan.
The result is that we have no deep confessions of sin, and no deep penitence, either in the "Iliad" or the "Odyssey." How can there be either, when the blame of sin is shifted from man to Ate or Zeus or Fate? The later Greek tragedy shows much more of the workings of remorse than we find in Homer, yet even in the later Greek tragedy CEdipus declares that his evil deeds have been suffered, and not done. It was the terrors of a guilty conscience that first led men to turn the moral God into the unmoral gods—then they reaped the fruit of their error in a new depravation of their moral consciousness ; the unmoral gods became so far the authors of men's sins that the sense of guilt well-nigh disappeared.
Well-nigh disappeared, I say, but not altogether. Just as we recognized an inconsistency in Homer's representations of God, so we must recognize an inconsistency in his representations of sin. Through the mist of this self-excusing theory there gleam again and again
the inextinguishable lights of the earlier and truer faith. Conscience now and then asserts herself. Hector, when urged by Andromache not to enter the fight, speaks of the sore shame he will feel, if, like a coward, he shrinks from the battle; yet, when at last he ventures to undertake the combat with Achilles, he fears lest he has undone the Trojan host by his wantonness. Not only the desire for fame, but the sense of honor, keeps from evil deeds and prompts to bravery. Self-respect is a power in the Homeric poems; and in the assertion of the better self against the seductions of ease and pleasure, we find a remnant of fidelity to conscience.
It is true that this self-respect not unfrequently becomes exaggerated and perverted. The conscience that has no standard outside of self sometimes applauds selfseeking. Yet overweening pride and self-assertion are not only objects of dislike, but they are charged to men's account and are visited with unmistakable punishments. These are the faults of Achilles, and the fact that Zeus imbues him with pitiless revenge is not regarded as destroying his responsibility. Giving place to one's own hardihood and strength is a crime before both gods and men. Men can yield to wantonness, being the fools of their own force. Ajax might have escaped his doom at the hands of Poseidon had he not let a proud word fall in the fatal darkening of his heart, when he said that in the gods' despite he had escaped the great gulf of the sea.
Here then we have a partial corrective applied by Homer himself to that very superficial and immoral conception of sin which prevails in his poems. Sin is, after all, not wholly a deception from without, a work of the gods in which man is simply passive. Sin is also man's own act, the expression of his selfishness. It is pride and self-will, infatuated with the conceit of independence, and despising alike the ordinances of the gods and the rights of men. While sin is deception, it is selfdeception also. And so, side by side with the common disposition to excuse sin and throw the blame of it on the gods, we find an occasional word of self-reproach. In Helen, the great sinner of the Homeric story, even while she attributes her faithlessness to Fate and to Aphrodite, there ever lives a feeling of guilt and remorse; she calls herself a hateful wretch, a shameless bitch. And there is definite expectation of punishment for sin; at times "a fearful looking for of judgment."
The whole course of the two poems is proof that the unsophisticated moral sense of mankind demands reparation for wrong-doing. On the one hand, Achilles' inordinate anger is punished by the slaying of Patroclus, his dearest friend; on the other hand, the sin of Paris and of his countrymen who abetted it meets its just retribution in the death of Hector and the predicted fall of Troy. Through ten years of outrage and insolence at the hands of the wooers, Telemachus has no resource but his trust in the avenging righteousness of the gods. Warnings only harden these evil-doers. They have fearful premonitions of their doom, but they only banish them with laughter. The gods are represented as arranging circumstances in such a way as to bring their iniquity to a head and to occasion its most flagrant manifestation. Their sin is punished by involving them in more aggravated wickedness, until at length persuasions and entreaties are useless, for their appointed
day of vengeance has already come. When the arrows of Odysseus strike the suitors at the very culmination of their villainy, those arrows are the very thunderbolts of Zeus. The hero proclaims himself to be the executor of the divine judgments when he says : "These hath the destiny of the gods overcome and their own cruel deeds."
Sin is ill-deserving; sin puts the sinner in antagonism to God; sin is sure to be punished; the infatuation of sin is itself a part of its punishment—these great truths stand fast in Homer, in spite of the easy shifts by which he commonly relieves the conscience and dims the holiness of God. The doctrine of Scripture is purer than Homer's, for while Scripture tells us that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, it does not fail, in close connection therewith, to tell us that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and so to intimate that the divine operation is not immediate or causative, but only permissive and indirect, through the circumstances which God ordained and the means of enlightenment which he gave, but which Pharaoh's evil disposition seized upon as an occasion for the manifestation of his own heart's iniquity. There are no permissive decrees in Homer, and this is the chief defect in his doctrine of sin. At the best, the responsibility for transgression is divided between man and God, and conscience has the force of her accusations partly broken. Yet even Homer teaches that sin deserves death, and that punishment is a debt due to the gods. The " Iliad" and the "Odyssey" are everlasting witnesses to the fundamental postulates of natural religion.
Homer, as we have seen, recognizes that sin deserves
death and that punishment is a debt due to the gods.
Can there be remission of penalty and pardon of the guilty? Is there any way by which man may be just with God? Has God ever made himself known as the Helper and Saviour of sinners? These are questions which we have still to ask our poet. The answer to them will constitute the Homeric doctrine of atonement.
There are burnt-offerings and sin-offerings in both the "Iliad" and "Odyssey." The most striking of them all occurs in the first book of the former poem. The fatal shafts of Apollo are falling thick and fast in the Grecian camp, and men are everywhere dying under the infliction. The god is angered at the insult offered to his priest and temple, by the capture of Chryseis, the priest's daughter. Reparation must be made. Odysseus is made the captain of a ship of twenty oarsmen, in which Chryseis is taken to her father, and with her an offering to the god. When they reach Apollo's temple they purify themselves and cast the defilements into the sea, and sacrifice unblemished hecatombs of bulls and goats, and the sweet savor arises to heaven eddying amidst the smoke. Then speaks Odysseus to the priest: "Chryses, Agamemnon, king of men, sent me hither to bring thy daughter, and to offer to Phoebus a holy hecatomb on the Danaans' behalf, wherewith to propitiate the king that hath now brought sorrow and lamentation on the Argives." So Chryses lifts up his hands and prays aloud for them: "Hearken to me, god of the silver bow, that standest over Chryse and holy Killa, and rulest Tenedos with might; even as erst thou heardest my prayer, and didst me honor, and mightily afflictedst the people of the Danaans, even so now fulfill DOES IT INVOLVE SUBSTITUTION? SI
me this my desire: remove thou from the Danaans forthwith the loathsome pestilence." Thus he speaks in prayer, and Phoebus Apollo hears him.
The object of this sacrifice is expressly said to be propitiation, and propitiation is the turning away of anger. The anger of the god has been incurred by sin, and this sin has involved guilt and defilement. The defilement is symbolically put away by the washing of Odysseus' company and by the casting into the depths of the sea of the water that has removed their stains. The guilt is atoned for by the shedding of the blood and the burning of the flesh of animals offered in sacrifice. Satisfaction is in this way rendered to the offended majesty of the god, and pardon is secured for the offenders. No one can read Homer without perceiving that this element of satisfaction to the deity enters into every sacrifice of every sort.
In the sacrifices of the Bible there is another element of equal importance—that of substitution. Satisfaction by substitution makes up the full conception of the offering there. Is this element of substitution found in Homer? Not so plainly, we grant, as it is found in later Greek poetry, where Hermes declares to Prometheus that he shall not be released until some god appear as a successor to his sufferings, one willing to go down to Hades and Tartarus for him; not so plainly as the Latin poets declare it, when Ovid bids the gods take the heart and flesh of the victim for the heart and flesh of the offerer, and Virgil says of the sacrifice: "One head shall be given for the many." But even in the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" there is evidence that the idea of substitution is by no means wholly absent. The shedding of the blood of the brute is an alternative set over against the shedding of the blood of the sinner.
When Agamemnon has slain the lambs before the single combat of Paris and Menelaus, he pours forth wine with their blood before the gods, and the Achseans pray: "Zeus, most glorious, most great, and all ye immortal gods! which folk soever be first to sin against the oaths, may their brains be so poured forth upon the earth even as this wine, theirs and their children's." All through the "Odyssey" there is the continual premonition of coming doom in the declaration that the evil deeds of the suitors are unatoned for; the offerings which they make are devoid of any power to avert or postpone their fate; when they die at the hands of Odysseus, they themselves pay to the gods the penalty which they fain would have escaped by sacrifice.
The Old Testament shows us a system of sacrifice much more fully developed, and one which enables us to understand the .offerings of the Homeric poems. In the scapegoat, we have the analogue of the defilements which Odysseus casts into the sea; while the burning of the slain beasts is in both cases the same. The Hebrew conception of God as holy and of man as personally guilty, made the bloody offering of the Old Testament a recognized picture of the ill-desert of sin and of vicarious satisfaction for it; the death of the animal took the place of the death which the offerer had incurred by his transgression and restored him to the divine favor. We are persuaded that the sacrificial language of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" can never be explained except by supposing that it is the relic of an age when the race had a better understanding of God and of sin.
Men in Homer's time have forgotten God's holiness and have blinded themselves to the fact of their own guilt, so that at last much of the meaning of the sacrifices which they traditionally offer has dropped out; at times they seem to be regarded as in themselves a sufficient compensation for the offense committed; at times the sensuous gratification of the god appeases his anger. But the outward forms still remain, and, whenever conscience revives, it puts into them more or less of their old significance. Sacrifice is evermore a vivid, because a divinely appointed picture, of sin's desert of death and of the divine intention that man's guilt shall be removed by the laying of it upon another and so make perfect satisfaction to the law and justice of God. Homer retains the element of satisfaction to God's justice; he only occasionally, and then vaguely, suggests substitution.
Let us not blame Homer too much. Those were the times of ignorance, which God in his forbearance overlooked. Christ had not yet come. Not even the Jew was yet aware that God himself was to provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, and that all this paraphernalia of sacrifice was only a mute prophecy of the atoning work of the Son of God. To the Homeric age the gods were far away. They had mingled with men long before the war of Troy, but that intercourse had ceased. There were no present communications either in the way of teaching or command. The will of the gods could be learned only by inference from the history of the past, or by the obscure leadings of natural insight. As the Scripture declares, God suffered men to walk in their ways and to demonstrate the inability of human nature, left to itself, to find the way of peace or holiness.
Homer's doctrine of sacrifice can give no peace to a guilty conscience, for it is a merely human offering; none can say whether the gods will accept it; they may indeed be moved to pity and forgiveness, but then they may not; the result is wholly arbitrary and uncertain. Hecuba offers an embroidered robe, if perchance she may induce the goddess to spare Hector, but Pallas Athene denies the prayer. Odysseus slays the ram to secure pardon for his killing of the Cyclops, but Zeus heeds not the sacrifice. These are examples of attempted expiation that accomplish nothing. The most Homer can assure us of is the possibility of forgiveness. The gods determine arbitrarily the limits of their anger, and humanity lives without the certainty of mercy.
Let this examination of the Homeric doctrine teach us the immeasurable superiority of the Christian scheme. Here we have what natural religion and philosophy cannot give—a sure word of God, a voice from out of the darkness and the silence, declaring that there is forgiveness with him that he may be feared; that if the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and will turn unto the Lord, he will have mercy upon him, and unto our God, he will abundantly pardon. And if this assurance seem, in view of God's holiness and our sin, too great to be believed, we have made known to us the immutable foundation upon which the promise is based, the provision of grace in accordance with which God can be just and yet justify the believer in Jesus.
In the Christian system there is an atoning sacrifice provided not by man but by God himself, a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than any offered upon
heathen or Jewish altars, even the sacrifice of the Son of God himself. God has come down to earth again and has joined himself to humanity in more perfect manner than ever Homer fabled of Aphrodite or of Zeus, in order that he might lift man up to heaven in more perfect manner than Homer fabled of Hercules when he married Hebe, the daughter of eternal youth. Aye, God in the person of his Son has put his own great shoulders under the burden of our guilt and has himself suffered as an atonement to his own violated holiness, in order that the sinner may be saved Heathenism tells us that the gods have certain favorites whom they love, sometimes without regard to morals or to justice, but it never tells us that they love man everywhere, even in his sins, and that they love him so greatly that they are willing to die, and actually die, in his behalf. Christianity alone shows us that the glory of God isjn^dfj^acnfice, that the lifting up of the Godhead above humanity and the coming down of the Godhead into humanity are one and the same thing. Heathenism is the vain attempt of man, by self-moved and selfdependent works and sacrifices, to lift himself up to God. Christianity is God's coming down in mercy and grace, to do what man can never do for himself, namely, to redeem man from his sins and to lift him up to God.
A few words with regard to Homer's ideas of the future life must complete our view of the Homeric theology. The reader will be able to anticipate the most that we can say, if he will but remember how far Homer is from recognizing the independence of the human will, and how completely he makes immortality depend upon the continued existence of the body. After the soul has left its earthly tenement, it wanders desolate on the shores of the other world, but being bodiless, it is destitute of full personality. Memory and hope are alike obliterated. Only when the shadowy dead drink the blood of the sacrifices to which Odysseus invites them, do they recover their recollection of the past and their ability to recognize the living.
In all this we have testimony to great truths, though these truths are most dimly apprehended. That the eidojon, or shade, continues to exist after death, even although separated from the body it once inhabited, shows that Homer was no materialist after all; at the risk of an inconsistency, he will recognize the spiritual nature of man. But this shadowy existence is hardly to be called existence—it is devoid of all that renders life desirable. When Odysseus in the house of Hades assures the shade of Achilles that the Achseans give him honor with the gods and count him a prince among the dead, the hero only answers: "Nay, speak not comfortably to me of death, great Odysseus. Rather would I live upon the soil as the hireling of another, with a landless man who had no great livelihood, than bear sway among all the dead that are no more."
And the longing for the renewal of physical life explains the strange eagerness with which the ghosts crowd about Odysseus, and clamor for the draught of blood which will even momentarily reanimate their powers and give them back again the consciousness which death had taken from them. It is Homer's way of telling us that man is a two-fold being; that an intermediate state in which the soul is sundered from the body is an abnormal state; that the truest life is LIFE INCOMPLETE WITHOUT THE BODY 57
impossible except in a state where soul and body are joined together. As there is only a shadow of man's being in that other world, so that world itself is but the shadow of a world. Orion drives the wild beasts over the mead of asphodel, and Minos wields a golden sceptre, giving sentence from his throne to the dead; but both the mead of asphodel and the golden sceptre, like Orion and Minos themselves, are shadows.
Yet in that under-world, on the other side of Oceanus, in the sunless West, there are those who punish men, and the heavier crimes meet their just desert. How all this is possible in a world where the bodiless soul is incapable of thought or memory, we must not too narrowly inquire. The spirit at any rate still lives. It is regarded as in some sense freed from the limitations of sense. Invisible, its existence is somewhat like that of the gods. It can have libations made to it, and can be addressed in prayer. In the last book of the " Iliad," Achilles draws wine from a golden bowl and pours it forth upon the earth, calling meantime upon the spirit of hapless Patroclus. In the last book of the Odyssey, Odysseus makes a drink-offering and entreats with many prayers the strengthless heads of the dead. The reader cannot fail to perceive that we have here, not in Scripture, the origin of the invocation of the saints. The divi manes became in the Roman Catholic church the canonized departed, and this very term divi was used to characterize them. The apotheosis which lifted Leucothea and Ganymede from earth to heaven was held to have its Christian counterpart in the act by which God makes men partakers of the divine nature and causes them to sit with him upon his heavenly throne.
Yet this idea of future reward for the righteous has very narrow and meager expression in Homer. Of Menelaus alone is it declared that he is not ordained to die, but that the deathless gods will convey him to the Elysian plain and to the world's end where life is easiest for men. No snow is there, nor yet great storm, nor any rain; but alway ocean sendeth forth its breezes to blow cool on men. As there is no distinct statement of punishment for all the wicked, but only for the most outrageous transgressors, so there is no distinct promise of happiness for the good, but only for a few exceptional favorites of the gods. The doctrine of future rewards and punishments was in later times far more fully developed—only the germs of it do we find in Homer. Indeed he cannot develop it, for the one means by which, in accordance with his general system, blessedness could be assured to the departed has never occurred to him. Consciousness and happiness are dependent on the possession of a physical organism. True life can be ours only by joining body and soul once more together. But Homer nowhere tells us of a resurrection; he knows no way of rescue from the power of the grave; life and immortality have not yet been brought to light by the gospel. Here is another truth which Moses knew, and the Egyptians long before him, but which became so lost out of the beliefs of the Greeks,' that when Paul proclaimed Jesus and the resurrection to the men of Athens, they only mocked at him, and thought his story too silly for a hearing.
And as for hope in death, Homer has nothing of this either. The golden fabric of life is shot with many a thread of sorrow. Outwardly the world is fresh and THE HUMAN INTEREST PREDOMINATES 59
young, and it rejoices in its youth, but the joy is superficial—listen intently and you will hear a sound of wailing over the instability and brevity of earthly things. Age finds death welcome, for death puts an end to pains of body and the caprice of fortune; but, when death comes, it only ushers the soul into a cheerless region of wandering and retribution, where there are indeed bitter punishments for the wicked, but no sure rewards for the righteous. There is no rest for the weary in this present world, and there is still less rest for the weary in the world to come. How strangely incongruous with the whole tenor of the " Iliad " and the "Odyssey " would be an interpolation of that verse from John's Gospel, " I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die"; or this from the Apocalypse, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them."
If there is any one lesson which, more than any other, is taught us by this study of Homer, it is man's need of a special divine revelation. We see humanity blindly groping after the truth with regard to God, sin, atonement, the future life, but utterly unable to reach it. These great poems do not teach us so much of divinity as they do of humanity. They set before us in vivid pictures the ideas of coujage.and. endurance which make the ideal man, when once God's ideal of humanity has faded out of sight. It is this Jn^mariinterest which makes both the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" great; in each there stands forth a living man ; Achilles represents the grandeur, as Odysseus represents the virtue, of the | heroic character. In each poem the hero is made to 1 speak out, and to act out, an inner life peculiarly his own: the fiery wrath of Achilles and the fiery love that conquers it, the patient faithfulness of Odysseus and his many devices—these, and not mere external incidents, are the subjects which the poet is intent upon developing. How different from the Christian standard of humility and mercy is the warlike grandeur of Achilles! How different from the Christian standard of simplicity and truth is the wily wisdom of Odysseus! Heathen doctrine has begotten heathen morality—the stream cannot rise higher than its fountain.
Yet these natural virtues, half-barbaric as they are, have a splendid vigor in Homer's pages, and they will never cease to captivate the world. And Homer's women, with what slight touches, yet how masterly and sure, are these selected types painted upon the canvas! I do not speak of Helen, whose imperishable beauty through all the vicissitudes of war and conquest subdues both friend and foe, even though alternate self-reproach and easy indifference reveal the shallowness of her nature. I do not speak of Nausicaa, that picture of pure Jtgirlishness, in which naiveti and dignity, sagacity and modesty, innocent curiosity and womanly promise, so exquisitely blend. I speak rather of Andromache, the ] y, heroine of the " Iliad," the tender wife and mother, whose I grief at Hector's loss so crushes her that she has not even one word of anger or reproach for those who slew him. And I speak of Penelope, the heroine of the "Odyssey." As Andromache is the model of passive, \ so Penelope is the model of active, suffering. Here is'
SPLENDOR OF THE HOMERIC POETRY 61
marital fidelity, which through the long and lonely years solaces itself indeed with weeping, yet ever weaves anew the web of hope and planning for her lord's return. In the depicting of these characters, so individual all and so distinct, Homer, more than any other poet except Shakespeare, absorbs himself; the creator is lost in his creations; we know much about Ajax and Thersites, about Circe and Eumaeus, but we know very little about Homer himself.
There is a spontaneity and exuberance of imagery, moreover, an endless fertility of invention, a largeness and roundness of conception, a dewy sparkle and freshness of phrase, that befit the early morning time of history. How unconventional and yet how graphic, how ornate and yet how simple, how definite and yet how sublime, is the poetry of Homer! Physical health breathes through it; more than any other epics, these are the poems of out-of-doors. The earth, the sky, and the loud-resounding main are here. On the plain of Troy we catch the dazzling gleam of the innumerable bronze, as the serried ranks of the Greeks move forward to the fray. On the waters we hear the shrill west wind whistling through the cordage and singing over the wine-dark sea. By day the Achseans fight like unto burning fire, saying that one omen is best, to fight for one's country. By night the watch-fires of the Trojans are countless as the stars when the air is windless and all heaven opens to the view and the shepherd's heart is glad. Apollo is made known by the dread clanging of his silver bow ; the lame Hephaestus hobbles about to dispense the nectar amid the unquenchable laughter of the blessed gods. Upon their hinges groan
the gates of heaven whereof the Hours are the warders, to whom are committed great Heaven and Olympus, whether to throw open the thick cloud or to shut it to. The persuasive words of Odysseus are like the snowflakes of the early winter, so softly do they fall; there is something awe-inspiring in every word of Achilles, as when he opens his mouth to say: "Hateful! to me as the gates of hell is he that hideth one thing in his "K heart and uttereth another." Is it wonderful that Xenophanes called the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey"! "the primary source of all education," and that ^Eschylus called his own tragedies but "fragments from the great banquet of Homer "?
Whether for good or evil, Homer has been one of the world's chief teachers. Every later poet has formed his poetic style more or less upon Homer's model; where the influence has been unconscious, it has been none the less real. Like the Colosseum at Rome, the " Iliad" and the "Odyssey" have been a quarry, from which later builders have drawn a large part of their material. Subtract from the "^Eneid," from the "Divine Comedy," from the " Paradise Lost," what of substance or expression they indirectly or directly owe to Homer, and you would hardly recognize your Virgil or Dante or Milton. We cannot doubt that Providence ordained these poems to be a great factor in the education of mankind.
Hegel makes the godlike Achilles fierce but brave, impulsive but generous, the type and incentive of Greek civilization. Who can measure the influence which Homer has exerted, not only on the literature and liberty of Greece, but on the literature and liberty of SPLENDOR OF THE HOMERIC POETRY 63
the world! His poems have in them an inexnaustible vitality, and no device of criticism can tear from his
- brow "his crown of indivisible supremacy." Even now, as we look back upon the past which poetry has peopled with heroic figures, we descry far in the distance, but still towering above the rest, the form of great Achilles, and "through the music of the languid hours we hear, like Ocean on a western beach, the surge and thunder of the Odyssey." A single poet in a narrow sphere has succeeded in catching the ear of all generations, and we learn the lesson that man's influence is not measured by his small surroundings, and that this world and the drama enacted here may be the source of good to all the universe. There is a theory of evolution which provides a place for such a wonder, as it provides for other new beginnings, by the assumption of an immanent and divine Intelligence who works out his plan in varied ways, at times by sudden leaps, though commonly by slow gradations. But God would seem to have given the death-blow to any theory of impersonal and atheistic evolution by ordaining at the very dawn of human history
(, that the greatest of epic poets should also be the first.