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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

D. Snider
A Commentary on the Odyssey of Homer - Part I

From, Homer's Odyssey: A commentary
[Please note that the Table of Contents here published, is created by Elpenor and is not to be found in the print version]

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Page 50

General Observations. Looking back at the Telemachiad (the first four Books) we observe that it constitutes a very distinct member of the total organism of the Odyssey. So distinct is it that some expositors have held that it is a separate poem, not an integral portion of the entire action. The joint is, indeed, plain at this place, still it is a joint of the poetic body, and not a whole poetic body by itself. Only too easy is it for our thought to dwell in division, separation, scission, analysis; let us now turn to the opposite and more difficult habit of mind, that of uniting, harmonizing, making the synthesis of what seems disjointed. In other words let us find the bonds of connection between the last four Books and the coming eight Books, or between the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad.

1. We have already noticed the three grand Returns, rising one above the other to the culmination—that of Nestor, of Menelaus, of Ulysses. Now the first two are told in the Telemachiad; but they openly lead up to the third, which is the complete Return, and which is just the theme of the Ulyssiad. Nestor makes the immediate Return, without conflict, through Greece, but he points directly to Menelaus, and foreshadows the coming of Ulysses. Menelaus, however, prophesies the third Return, and thus directly joins his account with the Ulyssiad. In this manner we see and feel the intimate bond between these two grand divisions of the total Odyssey.

2. We notice the same general movement in the Telemachiad and in the Ulyssiad; the same fundamental scheme underlies both. There is the real Present, in the one case Ithaca, Pylos, Sparta, in the other ease Phaeacia; then there is in the same heroic Past the Trojan war and its deeds of valor; thirdly there is a movement in both to an ideal world, to a Fableland, outside of Hellas and beyond even Troy; finally there is a Return in both to Greece and to the Present. Setting the stages of this movement down in definite numbers, we have, first in the Telemachiad: (1) Hellas, the Present; (2) back to Troy, the Past, in the reminiscences of Nestor, Menelaus, Helen; (3) forward to the Fairy World in the account of Proteus; (4) return to Ithaca at the end of the Fourth Book. Secondly in the Ulyssiad we may here note in advance the same general movement: (1) Phaeacia, the Present; (2) back to Troy in the strains of Demodocus; (3) forward to the Fairy World of Polyphemus and Circe; (4) return to Ithaca in the Thirteenth Book. Thus we reach down and grasp the fundamental norm according to which the poet wrought, and which holds in unity all the differences between these two divisions of the poem. The spiritual basis of this movement, its psychological ground, we shall endeavor to unfold more fully hereafter.

3. In correspondence with the preceding, we can distinguish in both divisions the same kinds of style: (1) the symple Idyllic Tale of the Present; (2) the Heroic Tale recounting the Past and specially the Trojan war; (3) the Fairy Tale which introduces a supernatural realm. Each of these styles is poetic, yet with its own coloring and character. Here again we should observe the author employing his fundamental norm of composition a second time, and thus re-asserting himself as the same person in both divisions of the poem—in the Telemachiad as well as in the Ulyssiad.

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Cf. Pharr, Homer and the study of Greek * Odyssey Complete Text
Iliad Complete Text * Homer Bilingual Anthology and Resources * Livingstone, On the Ancient Greek Literature
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