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Homeric Poems.

Discordances in Details.


verent and offensive; and in this case we are convinced that they would never have been introduced. If, on the contrary, they were so adapted, — if the audience for whom alone Homer sang, saw nothing incongruous or profane in thus ascribing to the deities the passions and foibles of human beings, - it is surely the simplest and most natural explanation, to admit that the poet himself did not in this respect rise above the conceptions of his contemporaries. *

To the numerous evidences thus furnished by the Homeric poems themselves in favour of their original unity of design and composition - derived both from the mutual interconnexion of their several parts and from the consistent development of character, as well as from the general uniformity of style,- it has been the fashion of the Wolfian critics to oppose the fact of the occurrence in each poem of certain incongruities and discrepancies in regard to points of detail. Such inconsistencies in matters of fact, they allege, cannot by possibility have proceeded from the mind of one and the same writer. Of the frequent instances of such alleged discordance, which have been detected by their minute ingenuity, some disappear on a calmer and fairer consideration of the passages in question, and many do not exceed that amount of poetical licence which has been accorded in all ages to writers of fiction, but others unquestionably are discordances; and the inference derived from them can be met only as Colonel Mure has met it, - by boldly denying that such petty discrepancies of detail afford any legitimate ground of argument against unity of authorship. Should such a line of proof be once admitted, he has shown that it may be applied with at least equal force to the Æneid as to the Iliad — to Milton as well as to Homer — to the romantic fictions of Cervantes and Sir Walter Scott, as well as to the heroic poetry of the early ages of Greece. One of the most striking instances of such discrepancy occurs in the 'Antiquary' of the great novelist, the scene of which is laid on the east coast of Scotland, and yet in the

One passage, however, at which Colonel Mure takes reasonable umbrage, as Aristarchus and Montaigne had done before him,- the lines in the fourteenth book (v. 317-327.) where Jupiter goes through the catalogue of his illicit amours, -admits, we think, of another explanation, namely, that it is not Homer's at all. We entirely concur with the judgment of the Alexandrian grammarians in rejecting these lines as a later interpolation; they appear to us to bear the manifest stamp of the mythological and genealogical school of poetry which grew out of that of Hesiod. To suppose them, with Colonel Mure, to be satirical, may avoid in some degree the theological impropriety; but in our apprehension, it only enhances the poetical one, which we look upon as far the most important of the two.

adventure of the storm on the beach, the sun is described as setting in the sea. Such a discordance as this in a plain matter of fact would, on the principles of the Wolfian school, prove conclusively that the fine scene in which it occurs could never have formed part of the original novel. We believe the fact to be, that such occasional oversights and negligences have in all ages been the inevitable accompaniments of great works of genius. The minute diligence which can alone guard against them belongs rather to the . æqualis mediocritas' of an Apollonius, than to the lofty inspirations of Homer. On the other hand, these flaws and blemishes are precisely of such a character as might have been easily removed by subsequent emendation. If the Homeric poems had really been patched together in the manner supposed by Wolf, it appears to us incredible that Pisistratus and his assistants, or the Alexandrian grammarians who succeeded them, would have allowed these petty discrepancies to remain when they might have been so easily removed by the interpolation or omission of a line or two here and there. We can easily fancy such trifling details to have been overlooked or forgotten by the bard himself; but they are exactly what the grammarian or compiler would not have failed to notice.

But our limits warn us that we must conclude; and we can do no more than briefly allude to one other topic: it is so immediately connected with the Homeric controversy that the whole question was at one time thought to turn principally upon it. We mean the period at which the art of writing was introduced, or at least came into general use among the ancient Greeks. Whether the Iliad and Odyssey were originally written or not, was assumed by Wolf and his immediate followers to be a question almost identical with that of the existence of the poems in a complete and connected form. Accordingly there is no part of the controversy which has been more warmly debated : and while the discussion of it has thrown much additional light upon the subject itself, it has led, we think, to a very general belief, that the importance of the point has been overrated. Colonel Mure has devoted the last two chapters of the present volumes to a very careful and elaborate investigation of the whole subject, embracing not only the question of the application of writing to literary purposes, but that also of the period and extent of its employment for monumental inscriptions. It is with the first question alone that we are here concerned; and, — while we fully acknowledge the value and importance of his researches, as a contribution to the literary history of Greece,

we must confess that he has failed to convince us either that the poems of Homer were originally written, or that there is


Were the Iliad and Odyssey written or not?


any necessity for supposing them to have been so. Startling as it may appear to our modern habits of thought, to conceive poems of such extent to have been composed and preserved without the aid of writing, - yet the instances which have been brought forward from various quarters conclusively demonstrate the possibility of such a supposition. And the whole analogy of early Greek literature appears to point to it as a fact. We know that oral recitation continued, down to a comparatively late period, to be the only mode by which poetry was promulgated, or, if we may use the term, published, in Greece. Can we suppose the Homeric poems, at a period so much more remote, to have been communicated to the public in any other manner? And does not this necessarily require that the poet himself at least, if not his successors, should have been able to recite the whole? For the present purpose, it is of very little use to admit that Homer himself possessed the art of writing, unless we suppose the use of it to have been extended and familiar, to a degree for which the most sanguine advocate will scarcely contend. The bare existence of one or two written copies of the Iliad or Odyssey would not dispense with the necessity of a continuous succession or school of Homerids, in case the poems were to be kept alive in the popular mind, as we know in fact they were, by oral recitation alone. And if once the existence of such a peculiar guild or fraternity devoted to this especial object be admitted, we can see no difficulty in supposing the poems to have been transmitted from one generation to another by the unaided power of memory.

Numerous as are the other subjects of interest connected with the name of Homer, into which we would gladly follow Colonel Mure, our limits preclude us from entering upon them. Still less can we attempt to accompany him into that brilliant period of Greek literature which forms the subject of his third volume: we can only express our hope that we may be able at no very distant time to recur to this portion of the subject. The ric poetry of Greece requires indeed to be considered and examined as a whole; and bright as are the names which adorn the pages now before us, we are not unwilling to postpone the consideration of them until those of Anacreon, of Pindar, and Simonides, are added to the constellation of which they are such conspicuous luminaries. That Colonel Mure may speedily afford us the advantage of his guidance throughout this domain of criticism is a wish, in which we feel sure of the hearty sympathies and concurrence of every scholar.

ART. V. -1. The Expedition for the Survey of the Rivers

Euphrates and Tigris, carried on by Order of the British Government in the Years 1835, 1836, and 1837 ; preceded by Geographical and Historical Notices of the Regions situated between the Rivers Nile and Indus. In Four Volumes, with Fourteen Maps and Charts, and embellished with Ninetyseven Plates, besides numerous Woodcuts. By LieutenantColonel CHESNEY, R.A., F.R.S., F.R.G.S., Colonel in Asia, Commander of the Expedition. By Authority. Vols.

I. II. London: 1850. 2. Report from the Select Committee on Steam Navigation to

India ; with the Minutes of Evidence, Appendix, and Inder. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 14th July,

1834. Sessional Paper, No. 478. 3. Copies or Extracts from Communications or Dispatches, ad

dressed to the Board of Control, relating to the recent Expedition to the Rivers Euphrates and Tigris, and its Result. Ordered to be printed, 22d February, 1838. Sessional Paper, No. 75. IN n 1833, a Select Committee of the House of Commons was

appointed to inquire into the means of promoting communication with India by steam. The evidence taken by it contains the views and suggestions of probably as able a body of witnesses as have ever been brought before those celebrated tribunals. Engineers, men of science, military and naval commanders, merchants, travellers, diplomatists, geographers, and antiquaries, all contributed to its instruction. It is true, seventeen years' experience has displaced many of the considerations relied on by the advocates of the line by the Euphrates in preference to that by Suez and the Red Sea. The south-west monsoon is not found to impede the progress of a sea-going steamer from Bombay to Aden: the plague at Alexandria does not shut up that port from European intercourse through three months of the year. Coal depôts have been formed, wherever requisite, between Bombay and Suez, without the risk of either deterioration or combustion. Above all, the objections to the overland route by Egypt have been refuted by the one effectual method of meeting speculative objections, — by doing the thing in question. We have now a safe, regular, and expeditious steam communication with India by way of Suez. But if we can obtain a still more safe and expedițious communication, and at the same time equally regular by the Euphrates, Suez in its


Comparison of Routes to India,


turn must share the fate of Cape Town; and if again, the mighty project of a continuous railway from Ostend to Calcutta should be actually carried out, Antioch and Aleppo would have to resign the stream of traffic to Constantinople. In the mean time the commercial instinct will not cease exploring the shortest and most profitable path; and there are certain undisputed facts in favour of the line of the Euphrates, which must always keep alive our interest in any additional information respecting it.

The advantages are apparent on an inspection of the map. From the shore of the Mediterranean at Alexandria viâ Suez and the Red Sea, is 3255 miles, including 1725 miles of open sea voyage; from the shore of the Mediterranean at Scanderoon to Bombay, viâ Antioch, the Euphrates, and the Persian Gulf; is 2574 miles, including only 800 miles of open sea voyage; making a difference of 681 miles in absolute distance in favour of the latter route, in addition to the advantage of exchanging 938 miles of sea voyage for an equal length of river navigation. These were the broad grounds insisted upon by Captain Chesney for the experimental expedition, which the Committee recommended on his evidence. He grounded nothing on the supposed difficulty of overcoming the monsoon : he had sagacity enough to foresee that steam navigation would ultimately prevail over winds and waves, and that, wherever coals were needed, commerce could and would supply them; but he urged stoutly and successfully the plain proposition that,-if, instead of traversing the two sides of the peninsular triangle of Arabia by sea, we could pass direct from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf along its base, by a route which, for upwards of one thousand miles would lead us through lands capable of producing silk, cotton, sugar, and tobacco, we should gain both in point of time and of commercial capabilities. For the sea is barren: no produce springs up in the track of a ship: while even in the desert the passage of the caravan leaves here and there the seeds of life and fertility. All speculations, however, on the comparative advantages of the route suppose a preliminary question to be answered in the affirmative: - Could the Euphrates, throughout that long distance, be navigated by steam vessels ?

Captain Chesney was entitled here to speak with some authority. He had descended on a raft from El Kaim through 962 miles of the distance in 1831, (being the first European who had accomplished the continuous descent of the Euphrates in modern times); and he had also seen the river 300 miles higher up, from Bir to Samosat, in 1832. The information collected on these occasions had been so carefully considered by him during the inVOL. XCII, NO. CLXXXVIII.


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