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Homer and His Age by Andrew Lang

Part 6 out of 6

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but it is quite plausible in itself.

Local heroes, as well as gods, had their feasts in post-Homeric
times, and a reciter at a feast of AEneas, or of his mother,
Aphrodite, may have foisted in the very futile discourse of
Achilles and AEneas, [Footnote:_Ibid_., XX. 213-250.] with
its reference to Erichthonius, an Athenian hero.

In other cases the rhapsodist rounded off his selected passage by
a few lines, as in _Iliad_, XIII. 656-659, where a hero is
brought to follow his son's dead body to the grave, though the
father had been killed in _V. 576_. "It is really such a slip
as is often made by authors who write," says Mr. Leaf; and, in
_Esmond_, Thackeray makes similar errors. The passage in XVI.
69-80, about which so much is said, as if it contradicted Book IX.
(_The Embassy to Achilles_), is also, Mr. Jevons thinks, to
be explained as "inserted by a rhapsodist wishing to make his
extract complete in itself." Another example--the confusion in the
beginning of Book II.--we have already discussed (see Chapter
IV.), and do not think that any explanation is needed, when we
understand that Agamemnon, once wide-awake, had no confidence in
his dream. However, Mr. Jevons thinks that rhapsodists, anxious to
recite straight on from the dream to the battle, added II. 35-41,
"the only lines which represent Agamemnon as believing confidently
in his dream." We have argued that he only believed _till he
awoke_, and then, as always, wavered.

Thus, in our way of looking at these things, interpolations by
rhapsodists are not often needed as explanations of difficulties.
Still, granted that the rhapsodists, like the _jongleurs_,
had texts, and that these were studied by the makers of the
Vulgate, interpolations and errors might creep in by this way. As
to changes in language, "a poetical dialect... is liable to be
gradually modified by the influence of the ever-changing
colloquial speech. And, in the early times, when writing was
little used, this influence would be especially operative."
[Footnote: Monro, _Odyssey_, vol. ii. p. 461.]

To conclude, the hypothesis of a school of mnemonic teaching of
the _Iliad_ would account for the preservation of so long a
poem in an age destitute of writing, when memory would be well
cultivated. There may have been such schools. We only lack
evidence for their existence. But against the hypothesis of the
existence of early texts, there is nothing except the feeling of
some critics that it is not likely. "They are dangerous guides,
the feelings."

In any case the opinion that the _Iliad_ was a whole,
centuries before Pisistratus, is the hypothesis which is by far
the least fertile in difficulties, and, consequently, in
inconsistent solutions of the problems which the theory of
expansion first raises, and then, like an unskilled magician,
fails to lay.

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