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Twelve single mantles, and as many robes,
O, stranger! Thou in truth hast reach'd the soil
And violent in wrong, possess the land.'”— Od. xxiv., 231-81. Laërtes proceeds to describe the conduct of the suitors, the incorruptible fidelity of Penelope, and the grief of himself and daughter-in-law at the supposed death of Ulysses. In reply to several anxious questions, Ithacus continues— still in the character of a stranger :
66I tell thee true :
He said; but then a cloud
Laërtes, answering, spoke: "If thou, indeed,
Come now and I will name the trees which once,
He said; the old man's knees sank under him,
66 Old man,
The filial affection and tenderness evinced by Ulysses, throughout this admirable passage, would fully acquit him of the charges implied by the epithets referred to, were there no other evidence of his being generous and philanthropic, as he is everywhere represented in the Homeric poems. The terms in which he first addresses his father show at once his knowledge of human nature, his respect for old age, and his love and esteem for his father—we mean where he
says, no want of skill,” &c., but the original is much more touching, “O, old man,” &c., ('@ yɛpor) IV., 243, and the same may be said of every line in which there is most pathos.
Every one of the principal characters of Homer is distinguished, as already observed, by peculiar traits. Hector is generous, amiable, and, withal, à great warrior. Ajax, though somewhat sluggish, is full of majesty; Ulysses is patient and wise ; Andromache is tender, faithful, and affectionate ; Agamemnon is “every inch a king,” and Achilles is stern and inflexible, possessed of enormous strength and indomitable courage, all which qualities are brought into full play by stronger passions than ever moved mortal breast ; for it must be remembered that he was not of mortal birth. Achilles is not alone great in a physical sense ; his strength of intellect is equal to his strength of bone and muscle ; he is as kind and affectionate in friendship as he is noble and graceful in shape, or as he is swift to pursue an enemy in battle, and brave to attack. Had he been merely a giant, no matter what amount of animal courage he possessed, his character would not have continued at once to be a source of astonishment and instruction to mankind, as it has for three thousand years.
In this we see one of the chief points of difference between Homer and Virgil ; for the latter makes his heroes invariably large, especially his gods. Homer, indeed, sometimes
uses exaggeration—as what poet does not ?--in order to enhance effect; but Virgil often carries it to caricature. Thus, for example, he gives a breastplate to Demoleos, who is no hero, which two men together could hardly carry on their shoulders. Tasso deals still more in exaggeration, as might be shown by numerous examples; but it will be sufficient to mention one or two. Thus, Rinaldo, in the assault on the Tower in the Gerusalemme, does the work of a battering-ram, tearing down the strongest brazen gates. (Ger., c. xix., 3.) Even the gods of Homer are of moderate stature. The only exceptions are Otus and Ephialtes, of the lower regions, who, at nine years of age, when they were put to death, were fiftyfour feet high, and nine cubits broad. But it was necessary, for the sake of even poetical vraisemblance, that they should be of enormous stature, since it was they who piled the mountains up to heaven. But Otus and Ephialtes are small, even as children, compared to the Mars of Tasso, who, while seated in council in the palace of Pluto, is represented as forming a larger mass than the highest mountain. (Ger., C. iv., 6.) We take it for granted that all our readers remember the enormous size of Milton's Arch-fiend, which reminds one of the huge serpents in the second book of the Æneid.
Pectora quorum inter fluctus arrecta, jubæque
Sibila lambebant linguis vitrantibus ora. Æn. II., 206–11. “Whose breasts are elevated among the waves, and their bloody crests rise above the billows; the remaining part of each sweeps the sea behind, and winds their huge backs in folds. A sound is made in the foaming sea ; their glaring eyes are spotted with blood and fire, and they lick their hissing mouths with quivering tongues.” Nowhere does Homer seek to astonish by mere size. The stature of Achilles is not described at all. We do not remember a single instance, either in the Iliad or Odyssey, in which he is designated by the epithet méyas (large). Homer understood art as well as nature too well to place much stress upon mere size and extent of surface as a means of producing the sublime. No one among the moderns was better qualified to give an opinion on this branch of the subject than Edmund Burke ; and it is as true now as when he wrote that, “ there is an
erroneous principle which is extremely general in the present age, and is a principal cause of our faulty taste—it is the confounding greatness of size with greatness of manner, and imagining that extent of canvas or weight of marble can contribute towards making a picture or statue sublime. The only kind of sublimity which a painter or sculptor should aim at is to express, by certain proportions and positions of limbs and features, that strength and dignity of mind, and vigor and activity of body, which enable men to conceive and execute great actions. Provided the space in which these are represented is large enough for the artist to distinguish them clearly to the eye, at the distance from which he intends them to be seen, it is large enough. A space, that extends beyond the field of vision, only serves to distract and mislead the eye, and to divide the attention. The representation of gigantic or monstrous figures has nothing of sublimity, either in poetry or painting, which entirely depend on expression. When Claudian describes a giant taking a mountain on his shoulders, with a river running down his back, there is nothing sublime in it, for there is no great expression, but merely brute strength; but when Homer describes Achilles advancing to the walls of Troy, clad in celestial armor, like the autumnal star that brings fevers, plagues, and death, we see all the terrible qualities of that hero, rendered still more terrible by being contrasted with the venerable figure of Priam standing upon the walls of Troy, and tearing his white hair at sight of the approaching danger. This is the true sublime, all else is trick and quackery. Any madman can describe a giant striding from London to York, or a ghost stepping from mountain to mountain ; but it requires genius, and genius experienced in the ways of men, to draw a finished character with all the excellencies and excesses, the virtues and infirmities of a great and exalted mind, so that we by turns admire the hero and sympathize with the manexult and triumph in his generosity, shudder at his rage, and pity his distress. This is the Achilles of Homer, a character everywhere to be seen in miniature, which the poet drew from nature, and then touched and embellished according to his own exalted ideas. Had he drawn him with great vices and abilities, without great passions, the character would have been unnatural, and of course uninteresting; for a vigorous mind is as necessarily accompanied with violent passions, as a great fire with great heat.”
All this is fully illustrated in the character of Achilles,
from the time he hears of the death of Patroclus until Priam returns to Troy with the dead body of his son, the noble Hector. It was not until the former event occurred that the wrath and resentment of the son of Peleus attained their full force. A whole army flies before his single arm—the Trojans have been driven, like hunted fawns, into the town. On the hero alone every eye is fixed from the Trojan ramparts, until Hector issues from the Scæan gate to meet him and give him battle. The imagination can hardly conceive a more awful moment to the doomed city than this—especially to King Priam and his family, whose chief dependence for safety was in the mighty Hector. The startling interest of the scene is greatly heightened by the appearance of Apollo, who tries, but tries in vain, to dissuade Achilles from his terrible purpose. Even the god he would have attacked, had he persisted in thwarting his way.
" Achilles ! mortal thyself,” says Apollo, “why pursuest thou me, immortal î” “Of all the Supernals ! to me most adverse, Archer of the skies! Thou hast defrauded me of great renown; and would that on thee-sun-god as thou art—I might have my revenge.” Meantime Priam, Hecuba and Andromache exert their best efforts, in turn, to induce Hector to forego the combat with Achilles; but are no more successful than is Apollo with his antagonist. The appearance of Achilles and the terror it occasioned are thus described in Pope's version :
"Then to the city, terrible and strong,
So glowed his fiery mail.” The prevailing sentiment awakened by Achilles is one of terror and grandeur; that by Hector, or rather by his aged parents, wife and child—by all who loved him so well—is one of the deepest sadness. More striking pictures of grief and anguish have never been drawn. The struggle of Hector between love and duty-between his pity for those whose all he was, and the fear of seeing his honor gone and