Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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1.2.4

One thing is certain, that the poet has bestowed all these gifts upon Ulysses, whom beyond any of his other [heroes] he loves to adorn with every virtue. He says of him, that he Discover'd various cities, and the mind
And manners learn'd of men in lands remote. [Note]
Odyssey i 3.
That he was Of a piercing wit and deeply wise. [Note]
Iliad iii. 202.
He is continually described as the destroyer of cities, and as having vanquished Troy, by his counsels, his advice, and his deceptive art. Diomede says of him, Let him attend me, and through fire itself
We shall return; for none is wise as he. [Note]
Ib. x. 246.
He prides himself on his skill in husbandry, for at the harvest [he says],

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I with my well-bent sickle in my hand,
Thou arm'd with one as keen. [Note]
Odyssey xviii. 367.
And also in tillage, Then shouldst thou see
How straight my furrow should be cut and true. [Note]
Ib. xviii. 374.
And Homer was not singular in his opinion regarding these matters, for all educated people appeal to him in favour of the idea that such practical knowledge is one of the chief means of acquiring understanding. 1.2.5

That eloquence is regarded as the wisdom of speech, Ulysses manifests throughout the whole poem, both in the Trial, [Note] the Petitions, [Note] and the Embassy. [Note] Of him it is said by Antenor, But when he spake, forth from his breast did flow
A torrent swift as winter's feather'd snow. [Note]
Iliad iii. 221.
Who can suppose that a poet capable of effectively introducing into his scenes rhetoricians, generals, and various other characters, each displaying some peculiar excellence, was nothing more than a droll or juggler, capable only of cheating or flattering his hearer, and not of instructing him.

Are we not all agreed that the chief merit of a poet consists in his accurate representation of the affairs of life? Can this be done by a mere driveller, unacquainted with the world?

The excellence of a poet is not to be measured by the same standard as that of a mechanic or a blacksmith, where honour and virtue have nothing to do with our estimate. But the poet and the individual are connected, and he only can become a good poet, who is in the first instance a worthy man. 1.2.6

To deny that our poet possesses the graces of oratory is using us hardly indeed. What is so befitting an orator, what so poetical as eloquence, and who so sweetly eloquent as Homer? But, by heaven! you'll say, there are other styles of eloquence than those peculiar to poetry. Of course [I admit this]; in poetry itself there is the tragic and the comic style; in prose, the historic and the forensic. But is not language

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a generality, of which poetry and prose are forms? Yes, language is; but are not the rhetorical, the eloquent, and the florid styles also? I answer, that flowery prose is nothing but an imitation of poetry. Ornate poetry was the first to make its appearance, and was well received. Afterwards it was closely imitated by writers in the time of Cadmus, Pherecydes, and Hecat├Žus. The metre was the only thing dispensed with, every other poetic grace being carefully preserved. As time advanced, one after another of its beauties was discarded, till at last it came down from its glory into our common prose. In the same way we may say that comedy took its rise from tragedy, but descended from its lofty grandeur into what we now call the common parlance of daily life. And when [we find] the ancient writers making use of the expression to sing, to designate eloquence of style, this in itself is an evidence that poetry is the source and origin of all ornamented and rhetorical language. Poetry in ancient days was on every occasion accompanied by melody. The song or ode was but a modulated speech, from whence the words rhapsody, tragedy, comedy, [Note] are derived; and since originally eloquence was the term made use of for the poetical effusions which were always of the nature of a song, it soon happened [that in speaking of poetry] some said, to sing, others, to be eloquent; and as the one term was early misapplied to prose compositions, the other also was soon applied in the same way. Lastly, the very term prose, which is applied to language not clothed in metre, seems to indicate, as it were, its descent from an elevation or chariot to the ground. [Note] 1.2.7

Homer accurately describes many distant countries, and not only Greece and the neighbouring places, as Eratosthenes asserts. His romance, too, is in better style than that of his successors. He does not make up wondrous tales on every occasion,

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but to instruct us the better often, and especially in the Odyssey, adds to the circumstances which have come under his actual observation, allegories, wise harangues, and enticing narrations. Concerning which, Eratosthenes is much mistaken when he says that both Homer and his commentators are a pack of fools. But this subject demands a little more of our attention.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.2 Str. 1.2.6 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.2.9

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