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Hellenic blood. In later times, the mythus of Medea was localized at Corcyra, transferred, says Welcker, from Corinth by the colony from that city ; yet Müller has shewn that the same mythus was already in Thesprotia at the date of the poem, and how much earlier does this imply,—long before the date of the Corinthian colony in the 5th Olympiad, and the same causes would carry it to Corcyra.18 Corcyra was ever renowned, as indeed it remains, for the wonderful fruitfulness that is so poetically represented in the gardens of Alcinous ;19 its chief city, like that of Scheria, had and has a double port: a remarkable rock in the sea, from its resemblance to a ship under sail, has given rise, in modern superstition, to a story of the punishment of a sacrilegious pirate, the reflection of the old poetic myth. Poseidon and Athene were the chief gods of the Corcyræans, who, by their nautical habits, attained an extraordinary pitch of maritime power, and these habits in a population are more apt to suggest nautical legends than to be acquired in order to justify their import.
With what degree of definiteness and consistency the poet chose to conduct his allusion, is matter for inquiry; and that we may be called upon to make considerable allowance for the requirements and caprices of poetry, may be judged beforehand from the confused geography and topography of Ithaka and Troy, and the embellishment that is bestowed on a locality so unequivocal as the residence of Menelaus. On the other hand, a purely imaginary picture appears to be as contrary to the genius of the poet as a strict adherence to bald matter of fact; from the entire current of his works, it is scarcely to be expected of him that he should abstain from addressing some national sympathies, and heightening the interest of his poetry, by recalling local associations. This is the plan that we have seen is adopted in the description of the interview with Teiresias; the scene is certainly not the historical Thesprotia, yet Homer assuredly had Thesprotia in his mind. To deny this on grounds of topographical or ethnographical discrepance, would be to commit oneself to the decision, that the story of Robinson Crusoe originated independently of the adventure of Alexander
18 Müller, Append. Proleg. p. 301.
19 On the type of the gardens of Alcinous, on the coins of Corcyra, I have made some remarks in an essay on
“ Chorographical Greek coins," in the last number of the Numismatic Chronicle.
Selkirk at Juan Fernandez, and that the philosophers of the Royal Society are guiltless of suggesting the satires of Swift and Peter Pindar.
No one contends that Corfu will be found to have, or to have had, the miracles of Scheria, and just as little need we trouble ourselves to identify every point of domestic manners or local scenery that Homer may have transferred thither from Ionian Asia, or Attica, or anywhere else. The question at issue is one of degree, and it does not controvert the degree contended for that Corcyra, unlike Scheria, (as it is argued?) is an island; that Phæacians are unknown in history; that such refinement in the neighbourhood of the rude or fierce Liburnians and Thesprotians, is incredible and surprising. A surprising, piquant delineation was intended, and Homer assuredly would have smiled at the naiveté of a critic, who should have denied that Corcyra furnished him with any materials whatever for his picture, because it was self-evident that it did not furnish bim with all.
In simple truth, it is precisely in his management of the blending light and intermingling outlines of truth and fiction, that the genius of Homer, in the treatment of earlier mythical materials, is to be admired. As an illustration by broad contrast, we may compare the effect he achieves, with the riotous comedy of Aristophanes, in which satire, general and personal, representation of the events of a day, and adumbration of the laws that govern all time, are inextricably interwoven, and the fun, the point, the admirable art, consist in the constant surprise and stimulus afforded by the changeful lights and shades of the glorious mystification,
An inscription furnishes a hint that a hero Phaiax was honoured at Corcyra; in the absence of more exact information in this quarter, we may examine the position and character of his namesake, who was an object of worship in Attica, and indeed associated with Nausithous, also a Phæacian name. Phaiax and Nausithous were in origin Salaminian; they were the steersmen of Theseus in his voyage to Crete, in the vessel which was afterwards the sacred Salaminian galley, the theoris appropriated to sacred missions, and especially to conducting
20 Argued inconclusively, in the opi with my doubts, and enjoy them for nion of Dr Thirlwall, Hist. of Greeoe, once with a very agreeable sense of im11. 6,) who thus affords a salient angle, punity, where I willingly ensconce myself along
the sacred theoria to Delos. Here, then, we find the galley of Phaiax connected with the service of Apollo, as its voyage commenced after the priest of Apollo had crowned its prow; like the vessel of the Homeric Phæacians, therefore, the convoy of Ulysses, it is a boat of Apollo,--of the Sun god: It may be observed, that even the voyage of Theseus is, in strictness, a theoria, the youths he conducted answering to the chorus carried in historical times by the Salaminian galley to Delos.
It is further remarkable that the ship of the Panathenaic procession, to which the peplus was attached as a sail, was brought in sacred procession to the temple of Apollo Pythius, the same as the Apollo Patrous, so remarkable in Attic worship as forming, in association with Zeus and Athene, a triad of especial sanctity. On this subject the notes of Müller on the Eumenides are full, pointed, and interesting. Thus introduced, the ship of the Panathenaic procession appears to be, like that of Ulysses, a type of the voyage of the sun-god, of Apollo, at the conclusion of his periodic course.
The mystic mythus that gave form and plan to the Odyssey being thus to a certain extent revealed, creates a presumption that a similar germ was developed in the Iliad ;—is the Odysseus Helios of one epic paralleled by an Achilles Helios in the other? The story of the Iliad, in its general outline, as the angry retirement of a dominant power, consequent disaster and distress, supplication, obduracy, pride, ultimate return and mixed chastisement and triumph,-has most analogy in mythic parallels to the retirement of Demeter, indignant at the abduction of her daughter, (and Briseis, as the name of a goddess or nymph, has many points of resemblance to Kore,) the disorder of the world torpid in her absence, the interceding gods, and her ultimate return. A solar mythus parallel to this, is that of Helios retired and recusant in indignation at the death of Phaethon; or we may bring into comparison the symbolical representation of the absence of the sun in the lower hemisphere. Certain it is that we get solar symbolism connected with the hero, not only in the well-known instance of his shield, but elsewhere, and most especially, in the images and figures that embellish the description of his equipment and re-appearance in arms.
The moral of the whole appears to be this, that the definition of the mythus, as laid down by Müller, and too generally accept
ed, is essentially unsound; in the words of Welcker, “naive as the old poet may be, he is at least equally shrewd ;" consciousness pervades and guides his operations on pre-existing materials, and he is fully alive to the nature of the process to which he subjects them. Wherever a link is left out in the chain of obvious motives, a step in the series of sufficient reasons, we may be sure that he omitted nothing in the way of matter of fact that he did not know would be supplied by symbolism, and it was his desire and intent that it should be so supplied. These half glimpses into a world beyond, scenes of mystery visible through the web of the highly-wrought curtain of poetry, and yet blending with and heightening its imagery and import, are the triumph of the art of the poet; and how much of the effect of this is necessarily lost to the modern reader who lacks the associations they appealed to,—the sympathies of legend and religion, of local character and natural tradition, on the responsiveness of which the poet relied, and to the tone of which he adjusted the spirit and current of his song!
Hitherto we have chiefly regarded the position of Homer, in respect of earlier poetry and quasi-religious mythology; thus regarded, his poems are most important, as well as most wonderful historical facts, events; consequences modified by how much that had gone before, causes destined to modify how much and how importantly, that was destined to follow after. But he has relations as important to the literature as to the matter of history, to the records as to the recorded. The sequence of mythic story is interrupted at the death of the last Homeric hero, and breaks off—in general terms it may be said entirely, at the return of the Herakleids. Previous to this epoch all events in the history of the nation of any importance, appear to have been chronicled by the nation in mythic form. The varieties of climate and natural productions of Greece in its various very distinct divisions, the leading phenomena of its meteorology, the features of its natural geography, and the boundaries of its political,--are all expressed in its mythology with such general accuracy, that from this source alone might be recovered no unimportant description of the country, had the whole of it been swallowed up in the middle ages, with the exception of a single district to help us to the discovery of the key, and the principles of its use and application.
The labours and elucidations of learned men-we are bound
to say for the most part German-exercised not only on the literature of the country, but with results of equal interest on its monuments, especially the painted vases, have rendered it certain, that as the actions of the personified river were metaphorical expressions of the course or irregularities of the actual stream, so the personification of the people on its banks, and the actions ascribed to it, bore a certain relation to the character and vicissitudes of the people, and to that extent is truly historical. It is late in the day now to assume credit for singular sagacity in tilting against the factitious personality of Lelex or Pelasguş. Every one concedes that Lelex and Pelasgus are to be regarded as no more distinct historical personages than Cithæron and Asopus; but it is a different question, and to be answered differently, whether they are not quite as much 80; whether the Greek who invented the mythus, or in whose mind it took form, had not a positive object answering to his idea; a population in one case, as distinct and certainly as important a matter of fact, as a river or a mountain in the other. If this be the case, as it is proved to be in hundreds of instances by the most absolute demonstration, it will not do to throw aside Greek quasi-historical legend as baseless fiction, as having no historical value whatever.21
The evolution of the pure history, the separation of the literal fact from the poetical and other alloy and amalgam, is daily proceeding, in multitudinous detached investigations, until the time shall be ripe for well-considered summary and general deduction of the historical product derivable from a mass of records that profess to be continuous upwards to the very creation and chaos.
The present point for our attention is, that the downward course of the connected traditions terminates just before the age of Homer; at that distance from him, we may say, that may be regarded as ordinarily intervening between the historical event and the formation of a mythic representation of it.
Why did the operation come to an end, and why precisely at this time? Did historical events take form and course unmanageable even by the flexibility of mythus, at least in any form
See the pointed and pertinent observations of Müller, in his review of Preller's Demeter and Persephone, re
printed among his Kleine Schriften, vol. 11. p. 97-99.