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tail, the indications, that the Phaeacians were strictly a mythical people; that the original mythus in which they bore part had a certain distinct significance not unconnected with the legends of the islands of the blest, and that the poet, in working up the fable into the story of the Odyssey, kept this significance in view, and allowed it, by ingenious combination, to influence his allusions and heighten his effects. In the mythus, however, which he selects as the prototype, he is not so happy, —the story related by Tzetzes and Procopius of a tribe on the shore of the German Ocean, who ferried over by night the invisible souls of the dead to an island between Thule and Britain. The coincidences of this legend are worth examination, but placed beside one more apt, and of purer Hellenic derivation, would not require extended analysis, though its pretensions had obtained more general favour among critics than appears to have repaid the energetic advocacy of its patron.” I confess he appears to me little more successful in his attempt to controvert the venerable opinion, that the Corcyraeans were entitled to consider their country as alluded to in a particular manner, in the description of the Phaeacians and their city; somewhat he does disprove, and very successfully, but I think nothing that even a zealous supporter of the claim of Corcyra need care to hold or insist on. All antiquity was in favour of the claim, and Welcker himself infers that Hesiod gave countenance to it in the Great Eoiai. Even at the present time, when the correspondence of the poem with local characteristics and population is naturally more obscure, a very strong presumptive case may be made out-indeed presents itself. The Odyssey nowhere makes other mention of the remarkable and beautiful island, though frequently of the neighbouring Thesprotia, which even seems to be brought into communication with Phaeacia, (XIX. 271,) yet the rich fund of Hellenic mythus and worship that we have seen was already flourishing in Ambracia and Thesprotia, necessarily involves the settlement of Corcyra by some tribes, whether pure or mixed, of
” Otherwise, that a Scandinavian Smith; a translation of it, together with illustration of Greek legend is not ne- Oehlenschläger's amplification of the cessarily far-fetched, may be seen in legend, forms a charming little book, the dissertation by MM. Depping and lately issued under the always elegant Michel, on the tradition of Wayland editorship of my friend Mr Singer.
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.” Corcyra was ever renowned, as indeed it remains, for the wonderful fruitfulness that is so poetically represented in the gardens of Alcinous;" 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 Corcyraeans, 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 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 Phaeacians 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 him 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 Phaeacian 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 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 Phaeacians, 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 accepted, 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
* Müller, Append. Proleg. p. 301. “Chorographical Greek coins,” in the
* On the type of the gardens of Al- last number of the Numismatic Chrocinous, on the coins of Corcyra, I have nicle. made some remarks in an essay on
* Argued inconclusively, in the opi- with my doubts, and enjoy them for nion of Dr Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, once with a very agreeable sense of in11. 6,) who thus affords a salient angle, punity. where I willingly ensconce myself along