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literally, He (Achilles) was singing the FAMES of the Heroes. Phoenix, in his endeavours to mollify the resentment of his pupil, with great propriety, as I apprehend, both as an argumentum ad hominem, and in reference to the ideas which (from the amusement in which they found him engaged) he might suppose to be uppermost in his mind, urges upon him the example of the heroes of whom we have heard the FAMES; Οὕτω καὶ τῶν πρόσθεν ἐπευθόμεθα κλέα ἀνδρῶν Ηρώων. (II. I. 520.) kλéos, like its corresponding word Fame in English, is one of those to which, from the nature of their signification, the plural number is not applicable, and I am not aware that it occurs elsewhere, except in the Odyssey, where it is applied to the song of Demodocus, (Odyss. . 73.) Μοῦσ ̓ ἄρ ̓ ἀοιδὸν ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν, Οἴμης, τῆς τότ ̓ ἄρα κλέος οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἵκανε.
Olun being in this instance understood to signify such a portion of a long poem, as might be recited without a pause by one sustained effort, and corresponding in its signification and origin to the old minstrel term FIT, which though apparently vague and undetermined, (inasmuch as the oun, i, e. Enthusiastic impulse or Fit of recitation would necessarily vary according to the natural powers and animation of different reciters,) came nevertheless to be adopted as a precise and technical term, to denote the regular divisions or cantos (as we should call them in reference to an etymology not very different,) into which the ancient minstrel poems were divided. The words ouns, TS TOT, &c. therefore (signifying that Fit or section of the poem) imply a distinct and specific reference, which must of course presuppose the existence of the thing referred to; and our conclusion must be, that the song of Demodocus was not a poem in nubibus, like the song of Iopas in the Æneid, or that of Mopas in Prince Arthur, but a poem actually known, and popular at the time when the description of it in the Odyssey was composed.
The origin of the term κλέα ἀνδρῶν, as applied to any particular species of poetic composition, I apprehend to be this ; there were then in existence a set of lays or short poems, each of which might be called very properly and appositely, from the name of the Hero who was the subject of it, Κλέος Τυδέος, Κλέος Βελλεροφόντου, Κλέος ̓Ισλάου, or as in the present
instance Κλέος Μελεάγρου: as we had formerly the Lay of Lanval, the Lay of Tristram, the Lay of Lancelot, and others. These poems, when mentioned collectively, would of course be called in the plural number Κλέα or Κλέα ἀνδρῶν. From this origin, the term kλéa avopov appears to have migrated into the more extended sense, in which we find it employed in the Odyssey, where it is evidently applied to a long poem divided into distinct portions, and comprehending a complicated series of action, in the course of which many heroes must have had their share of celebration.
In the passage of the Iliad which is before us, the term appears more distinctly connected with the origin which we have assigned to it. Achilles is represented as singing the kλéa avspwv, and Phoenix in reference to them, as was before remarked, relates a short narrative of which Meleager is the principal personage, and which might properly enough have been called Κλέος Μελεάγρου, according to the supposed etymology before stated; and it would then be understood, that the poems with which Achilles was amusing himself, were similar to that which Phoenix recites, i. e. short narratives, or detached pieces (like the Spanish romances, each of which was a brief independent narrative of some heroic adventure,) a species of composition which should seem best calculated to оссиру the temporary attention of an hero, whose habits do not appear to have been of a sedentary nature. And here let me remark, that the comparison which I have made of these supposed poems to the old metrical Romances of Spain, affords a parallel likewise in the application of a plural to a word naturally singular; for Romance, in its primary sense, meant the Roman language or ordinary dialect commonly spoken in the provinces of the Empire, in contradistinction to the correct and classical Latin. In Spain the term was made use of afterwards, to designate the common speech of the country, as distinguished from that species of Latinity which was still the language of the Church and of the Law. Hence, a poem composed in the common language of the country, was called a Romance, to distinguish it from the Hymns of the Church, and the metrical Latin songs of the Monks; and the word in this sense became capable of a plural, as we have supposed the case to have been in the transition from κλέος to κλέα.
But without insisting farther upon the probability of this etymology, or the impossibility of accounting for so paradoxical a plural in any other way, I should conceive that this mode of interpretation gives a greater degree of pertinency and propriety to the narrative of Phoenix, than would belong to it, if we supposed Achilles to have been singing the praises of Heroes in general,-Heroum laudes imitandaque facta. Secondly, since the term kλéa avopov, as used in the Odyssey, evidently points to a known existing poem, we cannot well avoid inferring, that the same phrase must, in like manner, be understood elsewhere as denoting some specific object; and in both instances it seems contrary to the rules of good criticism, to resolve the expression into a vague indefinite sense.
It is, I believe, an established axiom among critical antiquarians, that the poets of a barbarous age (such as that of Homer) are in no respect more uniformly distinguishable, than in the absence of those general forms, both of expression and description, which result from a more enlarged view of society and manners; while the fastidiousness of a more refined age, dissatisfied with the objects which surround it, imposes upon its contemporary poets the necessity of resorting to a mode of expression more vague and indefinite, the terms of which presuppose the existence of such general knowledge. The translator of Homer, for instance, was censured for having used the words House of Lords in some lines addrest to his friend Murray. The expression, in the opinion of the Critics of that age, was not sufficiently dignified. The same idea ought to have been conveyed in some more general form: the Senate probably would have been deemed unexceptionable. But in Homer we may be assured, that every thing is called by the name which properly and specifically belonged to it; and we may conclude, e converso, that no term is employed without a reference to something which in art, nature, or popular imagination and belief, might be endowed with a separate and specific existence.
Extending the same observation from words to images, we find Voltaire censured for having introduced too specific a description in his lines on the battle of Fontenoy:
Et le vieux nouvelliste, la canne a la main,
He defends himself with great ingenuity by saying, truly enough, that a similar image, if found in an ancient author, would have been considered as eminently classical. He might have added, that the contemporaries of Homer proceeded upon a different principle, and were rather pleased than disgusted at recognizing, in the verses recited to them by their bards, the same objects and images which were familiar to them in daily life. It is not, I apprehend, too much to assume, that in examining the works of poets who existed in an uncultivated age, we should in general lean to a specific and definite mode of interpretation. An English antiquary, if he were to find in an old metrical Chronicle or Romance, that the King or Hero was reading the Gestis of the Romans, would understand what was said not generally as referring to the study of Roman History, but specifically, as signifying the perusal of the particular work called Gesta Romanorum, which was popular in the middle ages. In the same manner, though we know that the praises of heroes have in all ages and nations been the subject of poetry and song, it seems more natural to suppose, that Homer, in mentioning the kλéa avopov, referred to something which was familiar to his audience, instead of trusting to their knowledge of the general habits of human nature.
If you should allow any degree of weight to the observations above stated, and feel disposed to admit the probability of the existence of such a description of Poems as has been above supposed, this probability will be strengthened by the discovery of any peculiarities of metre in the narrative, which Phoenix is supposed to recite from his recollection of one of them; and reciprocally it will appear probable, that such peculiarities are not the effects of accident, when they are discovered in the very spot which our previous speculations had induced us to explore. The nature of this peculiarity will be best explained by the following arrangement of the lines themselves. (Il. I. 525.) Κουρῆτές τ ̓ καὶ Αἰτωλοὶ μενέχαρμοι
καὶ ἀλλήλους | ἐνάριζον·
Καὶ γὰρ τοῖσι
χρυσόθρονος | Αρτεμις
a line is here marked as wanting; for Tolo according to the construction should refer to Κουρῆτες, whereas the sense evidently applies it to the Ætolians, whose chief, Meleager, had incurred the vengeance of the goddess. It should seem, that the line, which is now wanting, mentioned the injury suffered by the Curetes from the Ætolians, without which we are somewhat at a loss to account for the origin of the war; and that the sense of the remaining line, as connected with that which is lost, should run thus; “they too they too” (the Ætolians, who had inflicted this injury on the Curetes) "had themselves suffered from a calamity which Diana inflicted upon them."
The next line is Dactylic:
Χωσαμένη, ὅ οἱ οὔτε θαλύσια γουνῶ ἀλωῆς
The following line,
δαίνυνθ ̓ | ἑκατόμβας Διὸς κούρη μεγάλοιο.
*Ἢ λάθετ ̓, ἢ οὐκ ἐνόησεν· ἀάσατο δὲ μέγα θυμῷ. is Dactylic.
Throughout the rest of the narrative, I have detected only one perfect instance of the species of parallelism above noted, and the couplet is preceded and followed by lines which are dactylic with the exception of the first foot. (v. 572.)
Ἐξελθεῖν καὶ ἀμῦναι ὑποσχόμενοι μέγα δῶρον
And here it may be observed in general, that in those passages in which a dactylic metre appears to be affected, the spondees, where they occur, will be found more frequently in the first foot than in any other. There are however many passages which approach so nearly to it, as to make it probable that they were composed with a view to the same species of metrical effect. Thus (v. 542.) Τόσσος έην, πολλοὺς δὲ ̔Η δ ̓ ἀμφ' αὐτῷ θῆκε Κουρήτων τε μεσηγὺ Οφρα μὲν οὖν Μελέαγρος | ἀρηΐφιλος Τόφρα δὲ Κουρήτεσσι
κακῶς ἦν, οὐδ ̓
πυρῆς ἐπέβησ ̓
ἀλεγεινῆς. καὶ αὐτήν. μεγαθύμων. πολέμιζε, ἐθέλεσκον.