A surprise and shock: One Ezra meets up with, Mariam Mamusu Kallon , becomes the mother of his child. While he can't remember how to read, she comes from a Maoist intellectual journalist father and joined up out of conviction. Ezra eventually leaves "the Brotherhood" with others, including Mariam, in protest because they are not being fed properly. We also get glimpses of the subject of Blood Diamond, the whites who trade weapons and also drugs for diamonds, the glittering but tainted fruits of this warfare.
It's important to have this material in a film with authentic settings and actors and from the boy soldier's point of view. The film points out at the end that there are about , child soldiers fighting on the globe, , of them in Africa. This film has a convincing look, but it's marred by very serious flaws.
The framework of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is its first undoing, because it leads the screenplay into a chaotic series of flashbacks whose chronology is impossible to follow; some reviewers have commented that their order is as blasted as Ezra's drug-addled and traumatized mind. And in the switching back and forth between the flashbacks and the Commission proceedings, the latter are increasingly overwhelmed by the war drama and begin to seem anticlimactic. The chronology of the various flashbacks becomes even more confusing as Ezra's escape from the Brotherhood gets mixed in with his earlier service, and the rhythm of the story is hobbled.
This is one reason why things are confusing. Equally damaging to the natural flow is the fact that all characters speak English rather than whatever they might actually have spoken in individual scenes Sierra Leone's official language is English but there are 24 native tongues. And to make things worse the voices are post-dubbed, so they're noticeably out of sink.
Even Mamoudu Turay Kamara often delivers his English lines in a stilted manner, and you can see the mouths moving before the voices come out. In a few scenes the dialogue is barely comprehensible. Given how sketchy the story becomes in this treatment, it would be better to read one of several books on the subject of boy soldiers in Africa, notably Ismael Beah's A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Boy Soldier Feb. Ezra was introduced at Sundance 15 months ago where it was nominated for the Grand Jury prize, received several awards in Africa, and has been in limited US release since February.
Website ; Movie 'Best Lists" ; review index. It was disconcerting, at least, to hear from director Bozon that his original intention was a film about Arabs in the French-Algerian war of the Sixties. For a French art film you need public money, he said, and to get that the dialogue has to be in French--so voila! La France is the kind of thing that truly delights some of the most ardent festival attendees: To others, this is likely to seem merely remote and inexplicable; a long slog even at only minutes.
To me, it evoked memories of Bresson, or the Rohmer of Percival , while still seeming a cluster of missed opportunities. Opening in France last November, it received a respectful critical reception and the occasional rave. Bozon and his scenarist, Axelle Ropert, deserve credit for following their own path in constructing what French reviewer Christine Haas called "a melancholy ballad and a humanistic fable. Guillaume Depardieu comes in for an appropriate cameo at the end looking suitably hopeless, pretty, and shattered.
Good use is made here of Testud's androgyny and Greggory's habitual hangdog look. This scrawny, determined "Camille" really resembles a boy, while the Lieutenant's soft, sad visage hints at something very wrong. Every so often--and this is what the film will be remembered for--the soldiers take out a bunch of handmade junkyard musical instruments and in unprofessional but harmonized falsettos sing a Sixties-style ballad, which is always from a woman's viewpoint--and has, by intention, absolutely nothing to do with the action.
Bozon claims that it's a Hollywood tradition and not purely his avantgardism to make war movies with songs that are anachronistic and not plot-related. The resulting effect, anyhow, lacks any sense of the actual, without slipping over into a purely conceptual or fantastic framework that might have given the themes of loss, loneliness, failure of nerve, and sexual identity or whatever all this is about really free rein.
Camille is an interesting character with rich picaresque possibilities that are insufficiently explored. Testud seems to give so much, yet get back so little from the film. Greggory's sick-soul character never develops or changes. The other soldiers never take on real personalities. The essential mechanism of most war movies--the sounds and effects of battle--is absent. Instead, violence comes from an unexpected quarter.
The resolution is bitter-sweet. It won the Prix Jean Vigo in France for independent spirit and originality of style. This opening heralds the film's strong visual sense as well as a prevailing serenity that is not without edges of menace as time goes on. Convincing performances and lovely visuals serve a subtle, haunting screenplay and the whole shows a strong narrative sense that pays off with the cumulative power of the finale. This is the story of a young man and woman who come together in a kind of limbo.
Their personal stories emerge in bits and pieces as a romance develops between Ton and Na. Ton Supphasit Kansen is an architect who comes from Bangkok and stays at a very ordinary hotel where he meets Na Anchalee Saisoontorn , who seems a clerk and maid, but emerges as the sole member of the owner family who is present to run the place. Ton's work is on a project nearby where luxury resort buildings are under construction near unrestored, perhaps haunted relics of the storm damage. He's volunteered to be here to please the client and in effect just spend a peaceful two months away from the noise of the capital doing not very much.
The setting itself, the tsunami town of Takua Pa, is the inspiration for the film. Ton is interested in Na right away, as he openly reveals when he goes out on a rooftop to help her fold up laundry. He's not so much flirtatious as open and relaxed in a way that shows he wants to be with her. Na is reserved but receptive. A scene where she listens to him singing in the shower shows she's interested too. They go on a little "date," they kiss, they walk together here and there. There aren't many people around: The romance between Ton and Na is marked by beauty and delicacy. The whole locale seems a place of openness and quiet, despite the noise of the construction site, which Ton has to drive back and forth to.
Ton's personal ease is underlined by his tendency to break into little songs. He turns out to have had an earlier life as a musician and his father so disapproved that for five years they've been out of touch. There's disapproval closer at hand. Four boys on loud motorcycles who circle around and around are the first powerful sign of threat; they're like Cocteau's avenging angels or the hot-rodders in Manuel Pradal's Marie baie des anges.
Now Na's warning to Ton that this is a small place and they need to be circumspect makes sense. From then on every scene effortlessly communicates its hints of hostility, perhaps serious danger. Assarat makes it all seem so simple. The earlier scenes are flat and undeclarative, with the camera often still. The Director of Photography Umpornpol Yugala provides lovely, soft colors and is equally effective in eye-filling closeups of Na's bare skin as with landscapes with figures in the distance.
The tight-lipped dialogue keeps the viewer attentive. Zai Kuning and Koichi Shimizu provide delicate guitar backgrounds that hint at uncertainty as well as fill in a sense of calm. The sense is of a place that's as much traumatized as it is recovering. Ton's and Na's back stories are a little mysterious. It's not certain what Ton is planning to do at the end. Aditya Assarat has produced a remarkable film that promises much for the future. It opens in Paris May 7, Since both adore Carrie their first encounter is a clash over who'll get to rent it that evening.
Reluctantly, they watch it together, which leads to an exchange of names, addresses, and cell phone numbers and subsequent dates and tentative making out, finally sex. They not only share musical and film tastes but above all for their time in life the most important thing, they both passionately hate the same things, which means most things--including families, summer, and vacations. He reinforces her dislikes. It's okay to feel bad, better to feel bad together. The two of them against the world.
It's a good match, if not a smooth ride. Jerky editing and scenes that don't come in when you would think or end when logic requires become a virtue. The film's construction ignores conventional expectations as do Stamatis and Elektra and the people they sometimes hang out with. If the relationship doesn't progress very visibly from scene to scene as Valse Sentimentale unfolds that makes perfect sense too, because these kids don't know if the relationship is on or off from one day to the next.
On one early date, they sit outdoors and talk about the best suicide methods. Stamatis favors drowning, Elektra, pills. The camera drops back and shows they're sitting in a grassy, sun-kissed park on a lovely afternoon. And ironically, both are good-looking. She wears cute outfits that show off her cleavage, mostly black. She's not incapable of smiling. He's not incapable of funny remarks. But the style is dark, as is the look of the film. One day she comes in red: Despite cutoffs, suspenders, and Doc Martens, he's surprisingly straight-looking and wears a Chapklinesque mustache and short, well-trimmed hair.
Perhaps he's too insecure to be conventionally hip; he is a loner and given to self-mutilation in moments of inner pain, which come regularly in the little flat where he lives with a wall full of brush drawings and a cat. Sometimes they talk about music and Elektra has a nameless pal who writes songs. In one typically abrupt scene she's alone with the pal on a rooftop at night as he plays a small electric keyboard and the two of them sing the dark verses at the top of their lungs in joyous nihilism. Later she gives Stamatis a CD and wonders if he'll like it. In the classic youthful search for elective affinities, they're always on tenterhooks about whether the other will like the same drink, the same book, the same song, the way they both liked Carrie.
An image of perfect union--Platonic, perhaps? Both are too depressed and insecure and flat-out negative to go into a "relationship"--he handles the word uneasily, as if with tongs--with any confidence that they even know what such a thing is, and yet little by little it happens in the jerky, stop-and-start rhythm of the film--whose irregular cutting echoes the couple's moods and uncertainties. A blow-job pops in suddenly between one scene and another that follows it. An awkward tongue-tied scene between the pair on a couch is inter-cut with another in which he's tenderly waching her hair in the tub--whether before, after, or never we don't know.
Anyway he does hesitantly ask her to come to his place to take that "relationship" to "the next level"--to make awkward love, which they both love, but can hardly stand the pleasure of. And then naturally things get messy--on the next level. A movie has rarely caught the uncertainty of young lovers so well. The relationship is painful, and painfully real and touching. It's also punk and Goth, nihilistic and depressed, and glad to be so.
It asks for understanding but never for pity. The two main actors are utterly convincing. Voulgaris comes from a well-known writing and filmmaking family and there are likely to be more good things from her. Some films do bring out the worst in people, but really, Valse Sentimentale is fresh, urban, youthful, and truthful. Ballast begins with a shaky camera shot of a flock of birds flying away across a plain in the Mississippi Delta, then to violent events too fast to grasp completely. He won't speak, goes outdoors and a shot rings out. John calls and Lawrence is rushed to the hospital.
For a while this almost looks like an episode of "Cops. Things cool down a bit as the camera moves over to the house nearby on the same lot where a mother, Marlee Tara Riggs , lives with her teenage son James JimMyron Ross. Marlee works in a lousy job cleaning latrines. James is on break from school and pays visits to young drug dealers he owes money to. Rudderless and confused about his dead father, a recent suicide and Lawrence's twin, who never visited him, James turns to desperate and risky behavior that he tries to hide from his mother.
The drug dealers pay a threatening visit to James's house. Back from the hospital Lawrence remains so paralyzed by grief over his brother's suicide perishables are going bad in his little convenience store and he can barely speak, let alone reopen the store and resume normal life. Marlee gets fired from her job and there's no money.
James wanders the fields, his only friend perhaps the family dog, the half-wolf Juno. Slowly, the three let out their grievances and begin reconciliation and a solution that involves the property the twins' late father left them and an uneasy cooperation between Lawrence and Marlee. This system — which has often comforted the religious sceptic, and substituted the consolations of Strauss for those of the New Testament — has been of incalculable value to the historical theorists of the last and present centuries.
To question the existence of Alexander the Great, would be a more excusable act, than to believe in that of Romulus. To deny a fact related in Herodotus, because it is inconsistent with a theory developed from an Assyrian inscription which no two scholars read in the same way, is more pardonable, than to believe in the good-natured old king whom the elegant pen of Florian has idealized — Numa Pompilius.
Scepticism has attained its culminating point with respect to Homer, and the state of our Homeric knowledge may be described as a free permission to believe any theory, provided we throw overboard all written tradition, concerning the author or authors of the Iliad and Odyssey. What few authorities exist on the subject, are summarily dismissed, although the arguments appear to run in a circle. It is, however, unfortunate that the professed biographies of Homer are partly forgeries, partly freaks of ingenuity and imagination, in which truth is the requisite most wanting.
Before taking a brief review of the Homeric theory in its present conditions, some notice must be taken of the treatise on the Life of Homer which has been attributed to Herodotus. According to this document, the city of Cumae in AEolia, was, at an early period, the seat of frequent immigrations from various parts of Greece. Among the immigrants was Menapolus, the son of Ithagenes. Although poor, he married, and the result of the union was a girl named Critheis.
The girl was left an orphan at an early age, under the guardianship of Cleanax, of Argos. So satisfactory was her performance of this task, and so modest her conduct, that he made proposals of marriage, declaring himself, as a further inducement, willing to adopt her son, who, he asserted, would become a clever man, if he were carefully brought up.
They were married; careful cultivation ripened the talents which nature had bestowed, and Melesigenes soon surpassed his schoolfellows in every attainment, and, when older, rivalled his preceptor in wisdom. Phemius died, leaving him sole heir to his property, and his mother soon followed. Among these visitors, one Mentes, from Leucadia, the modern Santa Maura, who evinced a knowledge and intelligence rarely found in those times, persuaded Melesigenes to close his school, and accompany him on his travels.
Here Melesigenes, who had already suffered in his eyes, became much worse, and Mentes, who was about to leave for Leucadia, left him to the medical superintendence of a friend of his, named Mentor, the son of Alcinor. Under his hospitable and intelligent host, Melesigenes rapidly became acquainted with the legends respecting Ulysses, which afterwards formed the subject of the Odyssey.
The inhabitants of Ithaca assert, that it was here that Melesigenes became blind, but the Colophomans make their city the seat of that misfortune. He then returned to Smyrna, where he applied himself to the study of poetry. But poverty soon drove him to Cumae. Here his misfortunes and poetical talent gained him the friendship of one Tychias, an armourer.
But poverty still drove him on, and he went by way of Larissa, as being the most convenient road. Here, the Cumans say, he composed an epitaph on Gordius, king of Phrygia, which has however, and with greater probability, been attributed to Cleobulus of Lindus. Arrived at Cumae, he frequented the converzationes 6 of the old men, and delighted all by the charms of his poetry.
Encouraged by this favourable reception, he declared that, if they would allow him a public maintenance, he would render their city most gloriously renowned. They avowed their willingness to support him in the measure he proposed, and procured him an audience in the council. Having made the speech, with the purport of which our author has forgotten to acquaint us, he retired, and left them to debate respecting the answer to be given to his proposal.
At Phocoea, Homer was destined to experience another literary distress. One Thestorides, who aimed at the reputation of poetical genius, kept Homer in his own house, and allowed him a pittance, on condition of the verses of the poet passing in his name. Having collected sufficient poetry to be profitable, Thestorides, like some would-be-literary publishers, neglected the man whose brains he had sucked, and left him.
At his departure, Homer is said to have observed: Homer continued his career of difficulty and distress, until some Chian merchants, struck by the similarity of the verses they heard him recite, acquainted him with the fact that Thestorides was pursuing a profitable livelihood by the recital of the very same poems. This at once determined him to set out for Chios.
No vessel happened then to be setting sail thither, but he found one ready to Start for Erythrae, a town of Ionia, which faces that island, and he prevailed upon the seamen to allow him to accompany them. Having embarked, he invoked a favourable wind, and prayed that he might be able to expose the imposture of Thestorides, who, by his breach of hospitality, had drawn down the wrath of Jove the Hospitable.
At Erythrae, Homer fortunately met with a person who had known him in Phocoea, by whose assistance he at length, after some difficulty, reached the little hamlet of Pithys. Here he met with an adventure, which we will continue in the words of our author. The dogs barked on his approach, and he cried out. Glaucus for that was the name of the goat-herd heard his voice, ran up quickly, called off his dogs, and drove them away from Homer.
For or some time he stood wondering how a blind man should have reached such a place alone, and what could be his design in coming. He then went up to him, and inquired who he was, and how he had come to desolate places and untrodden spots, and of what he stood in need. Homer, by recounting to him the whole history of his misfortunes, moved him with compassion; and he took him, and led him to his cot, and having lit a fire, bade him sup. Whereupon Homer addressed Glaucus thus: O Glaucus, my friend, prythee attend to my behest.
First give the dogs their supper at the doors of the hut: Glaucus was pleased with the advice, and marvelled at its author. Having finished supper, they banqueted 10 afresh on conversation, Homer narrating his wanderings, and telling of the cities he had visited. At length they retired to rest; but on the following morning, Glaucus resolved to go to his master, and acquaint him with his meeting with Homer. Having left the goats in charge of a fellow-servant, he left Homer at home, promising to return quickly. Having arrived at Bolissus, a place near the farm, and finding his mate, he told him the whole story respecting Homer and his journey.
He paid little attention to what he said, and blamed Glaucus for his stupidity in taking in and feeding maimed and enfeebled persons. However, he bade him bring the stranger to him. Glaucus told Homer what had taken place, and bade him follow him, assuring him that good fortune would be the result.
Newton i. Aduaka: Ezra (2007)
Conversation soon showed that the stranger was a man of much cleverness and general knowledge, and the Chian persuaded him to remain, and to undertake the charge of his children. Besides the satisfaction of driving the impostor Thestorides from the island, Homer enjoyed considerable success as a teacher.
In the town of Chios he established a school where he taught the precepts of poetry. It is on the coast, at some distance from the city, northward, and appears to have been an open temple of Cybele, formed on the top of a rock. The shape is oval, and in the centre is the image of the goddess, the head and an arm wanting. She is represented, as usual, sitting. The chair has a lion carved on each side, and on the back. The area is bounded by a low rim, or seat, and about five yards over.
The whole is hewn out of the mountain, is rude, indistinct, and probably of the most remote antiquity. So successful was this school, that Homer realised a considerable fortune. He married, and had two daughters, one of whom died single, the other married a Chian. The following passage betrays the same tendency to connect the personages of the poems with the history of the poet, which has already been mentioned: He also testifies his gratitude to Phemius, who had given him both sustenance and instruction.
His celebrity continued to increase, and many persons advised him to visit Greece, whither his reputation had now extended. Having, it is said, made some additions to his poems calculated to please the vanity of the Athenians, of whose city he had hitherto made no mention, 14 he sent out for Samos. Here being recognized by a Samian, who had met with him in Chios, he was handsomely received, and invited to join in celebrating the Apaturian festival. He recited some verses, which gave great satisfaction, and by singing the Eiresione at the New Moon festivals, he earned a subsistence, visiting the houses of the rich, with whose children he was very popular.
In the spring he sailed for Athens, and arrived at the island of Ios, now Ino, where he fell extremely ill, and died. Such is, in brief, the substance of the earliest life of Homer we possess, and so broad are the evidences of its historical worthlessness, that it is scarcely necessary to point them out in detail. Let us now consider some of the opinions to which a persevering, patient, and learned — but by no means consistent — series of investigations has led. In doing so, I profess to bring forward statements, not to vouch for their reasonableness or probability.
The history of this poet and his works is lost in doubtful obscurity, as is the history of many of the first minds who have done honour to humanity, because they rose amidst darkness. The majestic stream of his song, blessing and fertilizing, flows like the Nile, through many lands and nations; and, like the sources of the Nile, its fountains will ever remain concealed.
Such are the words in which one of the most judicious German critics has eloquently described the uncertainty in which the whole of the Homeric question is involved. With no less truth and feeling he proceeds: If the period of tradition in history is the region of twilight, we should not expect in it perfect light. The creations of genius always seem like miracles, because they are, for the most part, created far out of the reach of observation. If we were in possession of all the historical testimonies, we never could wholly explain the origin of the Iliad and the Odyssey; for their origin, in all essential points, must have remained the secret of the poet.
From this criticism, which shows as much insight into the depths of human nature as into the minute wire-drawings of scholastic investigation, let us pass on to the main question at issue. Was Homer an individual? Well has Landor remarked: It were idle and foolish to shake the contents of a vase, in order to let them settle at last. We are perpetually labouring to destroy our delights, our composure, our devotion to superior power. Of all the animals on earth we least know what is good for us. My opinion is, that what is best for us is our admiration of good. No man living venerates Homer more than I do.
But, greatly as we admire the generous enthusiasm which rests contented with the poetry on which its best impulses had been nurtured and fostered, without seeking to destroy the vividness of first impressions by minute analysis — our editorial office compels us to give some attention to the doubts and difficulties with which the Homeric question is beset, and to entreat our reader, for a brief period, to prefer his judgment to his imagination, and to condescend to dry details. Before, however, entering into particulars respecting the question of this unity of the Homeric poems, at least of the Iliad, I must express my sympathy with the sentiments expressed in the following remarks: It was not till the age of the grammarians that its primitive integrity was called in question; nor is it injustice to assert, that the minute and analytical spirit of a grammarian is not the best qualification for the profound feeling, the comprehensive conception of an harmonious whole.
The most exquisite anatomist may be no judge of the symmetry of the human frame: Brodie or Sir Astley Cooper. Long was the time which elapsed before any one dreamt of questioning the unity of the authorship of the Homeric poems. The grave and cautious Thucydides quoted without hesitation the Hymn to Apollo, 20 the authenticity of which has been already disclaimed by modern critics.
Longinus, in an oft quoted passage, merely expressed an opinion touching the comparative inferiority of the Odyssey to the Iliad, 21 and, among a mass of ancient authors, whose very names 22 it would be tedious to detail, no suspicion of the personal non-existence of Homer ever arose. So far, the voice of antiquity seems to be in favour of our early ideas on the subject; let us now see what are the discoveries to which more modern investigations lay claim. Wolf, turning to account the Venetian Scholia, which had then been recently published, first opened philosophical discussion as to the history of the Homeric text.
A considerable part of that dissertation though by no means the whole is employed in vindicating the position, previously announced by Bentley, amongst others, that the separate constituent portions of the Iliad and Odyssey had not been cemented together into any compact body and unchangeable order, until the days of Peisistratus, in the sixth century before Christ. As a step towards that conclusion, Wolf maintained that no written copies of either poem could be shown to have existed during the earlier times, to which their composition is referred; and that without writing, neither the perfect symmetry of so complicated a work could have been originally conceived by any poet, nor, if realized by him, transmitted with assurance to posterity.
Serge bozon: La france (2007)
By Nitzsch, and other leading opponents of Wolf, the connection of the one with the other seems to have been accepted as he originally put it; and it has been considered incumbent on those who defended the ancient aggregate character of the Iliad and Odyssey, to maintain that they were written poems from the beginning. But much would undoubtedly be gained towards that view of the question, if it could be shown, that, in order to controvert it, we were driven to the necessity of admitting long written poems, in the ninth century before the Christian aera.
Few things, in my opinion, can be more improbable; and Mr. Payne Knight, opposed as he is to the Wolfian hypothesis, admits this no less than Wolf himself. The traces of writing in Greece, even in the seventh century before the Christian aera, are exceedingly trifling.
Similar authors to follow
We have no remaining inscription earlier than the fortieth Olympiad, and the early inscriptions are rude and unskilfully executed; nor can we even assure ourselves whether Archilochus, Simonides of Amorgus, Kallinus, Tyrtaeus, Xanthus, and the other early elegiac and lyric poets, committed their compositions to writing, or at what time the practice of doing so became familiar.
The first positive ground which authorizes us to presume the existence of a manuscript of Homer, is in the famous ordinance of Solon, with regard to the rhapsodies at the Panathenaea: But here we only escape a smaller difficulty by running into a greater; for the existence of trained bards, gifted with extraordinary memory, 25 is far less astonishing than that of long manuscripts, in an age essentially non-reading and non-writing, and when even suitable instruments and materials for the process are not obvious.
Moreover, there is a strong positive reason for believing that the bard was under no necessity of refreshing his memory by consulting a manuscript; for if such had been the fact, blindness would have been a disqualification for the profession, which we know that it was not, as well from the example of Demodokus, in the Odyssey, as from that of the blind bard of Chios, in the Hymn to the Delian Apollo, whom Thucydides, as well as the general tenor of Grecian legend, identifies with Homer himself. The author of that hymn, be he who he may, could never have described a blind man as attaining the utmost perfection in his art, if he had been conscious that the memory of the bard was only maintained by constant reference to the manuscript in his chest.
The loss of the digamma, that crux of critics, that quicksand upon which even the acumen of Bentley was shipwrecked, seems to prove beyond a doubt, that the pronunciation of the Greek language had undergone a considerable change. Now it is certainly difficult to suppose that the Homeric poems could have suffered by this change, had written copies been preserved. If, in the absence of evidence, we may venture upon naming any more determinate period, the question a once suggests itself, What were the purposes which, in that state of society, a manuscript at its first commencement must have been intended to answer?
For whom was a written Iliad necessary? Not for the rhapsodes; for with them it was not only planted in the memory, but also interwoven with the feelings, and conceived in conjunction with all those flexions and intonations of voice, pauses, and other oral artifices which were required for emphatic delivery, and which the naked manuscript could never reproduce. Not for the general public — they were accustomed to receive it with its rhapsodic delivery, and with its accompaniments of a solemn and crowded festival. The only persons for whom the written Iliad would be suitable would be a select few; studious and curious men; a class of readers capable of analyzing the complicated emotions which they had experienced as hearers in the crowd, and who would, on perusing the written words, realize in their imaginations a sensible portion of the impression communicated by the reciter.
Incredible as the statement may seem in an age like the present, there is in all early societies, and there was in early Greece, a time when no such reading class existed. If we could discover at what time such a class first began to be formed, we should be able to make a guess at the time when the old epic poems were first committed to writing.
Now the period which may with the greatest probability be fixed upon as having first witnessed the formation even of the narrowest reading class in Greece, is the middle of the seventh century before the Christian aera B. I ground this supposition on the change then operated in the character and tendencies of Grecian poetry and music — the elegiac and the iambic measures having been introduced as rivals to the primitive hexameter, and poetical compositions having been transferred from the epical past to the affairs of present and real life.
Such a change was important at a time when poetry was the only known mode of publication to use a modern phrase not altogether suitable, yet the nearest approaching to the sense. It argued a new way of looking at the old epical treasures of the people as well as a thirst for new poetical effect; and the men who stood forward in it, may well be considered as desirous to study, and competent to criticize, from their own individual point of view, the written words of the Homeric rhapsodies, just as we are told that Kallinus both noticed and eulogized the Thebais as the production of Homer.
There seems, therefore, ground for conjecturing that for the use of this newly- formed and important, but very narrow class , manuscripts of the Homeric poems and other old epics — the Thebais and the Cypria, as well as the Iliad and the Odyssey — began to be compiled towards the middle of the seventh century B.
A reading class, when once formed, would doubtless slowly increase, and the number of manuscripts along with it; so that before the time of Solon, fifty years afterwards, both readers and manuscripts, though still comparatively few, might have attained a certain recognized authority, and formed a tribunal of reference against the carelessness of individual rhapsodes. If the great poets, who flourished at the bright period of Grecian song, of which, alas! Whatever occasional anomalies may be detected, anomalies which no doubt arise out of our own ignorance of the language of the Homeric age, however the irregular use of the digamma may have perplexed our Bentleys, to whom the name of Helen is said to have caused as much disquiet and distress as the fair one herself among the heroes of her age, however Mr.
Knight may have failed in reducing the Homeric language to its primitive form; however, finally, the Attic dialect may not have assumed all its more marked and distinguishing characteristics — still it is difficult to suppose that the language, particularly in the joinings and transitions, and connecting parts, should not more clearly betray the incongruity between the more ancient and modern forms of expression. It is not quite in character with such a period to imitate an antique style, in order to piece out an imperfect poem in the character of the original, as Sir Walter Scott has done in his continuation of Sir Tristram.
In later, and it may fairly be suspected in earlier times, the Athenians were more than ordinarily jealous of the fame of their ancestors. But, amid all the traditions of the glories of early Greece embodied in the Iliad, the Athenians play a most subordinate and insignificant part. Even the few passages which relate to their ancestors, Mr. Knight suspects to be interpolations. It is possible, indeed, that in its leading outline, the Iliad may be true to historic fact, that in the great maritime expedition of western Greece against the rival and half-kindred empire of the Laomedontiadae, the chieftain of Thessaly, from his valour and the number of his forces, may have been the most important ally of the Peloponnesian sovereign; the pre- eminent value of the ancient poetry on the Trojan war may thus have forced the national feeling of the Athenians to yield to their taste.
The songs which spoke of their own great ancestor were, no doubt, of far inferior sublimity and popularity, or, at first sight, a Theseid would have been much more likely to have emanated from an Athenian synod of compilers of ancient song, than an Achilleid or an Olysseid.
Could France have given birth to a Tasso, Tancred would have been the hero of the Jerusalem. If, however, the Homeric ballads, as they are sometimes called, which related the wrath of Achilles, with all its direful consequences, were so far superior to the rest of the poetic cycle, as to admit no rivalry — it is still surprising, that throughout the whole poem the callida junctura should never betray the workmanship of an Athenian hand, and that the national spirit of a race, who have at a later period not inaptly been compared to our self admiring neighbours, the French, should submit with lofty self denial to the almost total exclusion of their own ancestors — or, at least, to the questionable dignity of only having produced a leader tolerably skilled in the military tactics of his age.
To return to the Wolfian theory. He divides the first twenty-two books of the Iliad into sixteen different songs, and treats as ridiculous the belief that their amalgamation into one regular poem belongs to a period earlier than the age of Peisistratus. But he has also shown, and we think with equal success, that the two questions relative to the primitive unity of these poems, or, supposing that impossible, the unison of these parts by Peisistratus, and not before his time, are essentially distinct.
These alterations Onomakritus, and the other literary friends of Peisistratus, could hardly have failed to notice, even without design, had they then, for the first time, undertaken the task of piecing together many self existent epics into one large aggregate. Everything in the two great Homeric poems, both in substance and in language, belongs to an age two or three centuries earlier than Peisistratus.
Indeed, even the interpolations or those passages which, on the best grounds, are pronounced to be such betray no trace of the sixth century before Christ, and may well have been heard by Archilochus and Kallinus — in some cases even by Arktinus and Hesiod — as genuine Homeric matter 29 As far as the evidences on the case, as well internal as external, enable us to judge, we seem warranted in believing that the Iliad and Odyssey were recited substantially as they now stand always allowing for paitial divergences of text and interpolations in B. On the whole, I am inclined to believe, that the labours of Peisistratus were wholly of an editorial character, although, I must confess, that I can lay down nothing respecting the extent of his labours.
At the same time, so far from believing that the composition or primary arrangement of these poems, in their present form, was the work of Peisistratus, I am rather persuaded that the fine taste and elegant mind of that Athenian 31 would lead him to preserve an ancient and traditional order of the poems, rather than to patch and re-construct them according to a fanciful hypothesis.
I will not repeat the many discussions respecting whether the poems were written or not, or whether the art of writing was known in the time of their reputed author. Suffice it to say, that the more we read, the less satisfied we are upon either subject.
I cannot, however, help thinking, that the story which attributes the preservation of these poems to Lycurgus, is little else than a version of the same story as that of Peisistratus, while its historical probability must be measured by that of many others relating to the Spartan Confucius. I will conclude this sketch of the Homeric theories, with an attempt, made by an ingenious friend, to unite them into something like consistency. It is as follows: Many of these, like those of the negroes in the United States, were extemporaneous, and allusive to events passing around them.
But what was passing around them? The grand events of a spirit-stirring war; occurrences likely to impress themselves, as the mystical legends of former times had done, upon their memory; besides which, a retentive memory was deemed a virtue of the first water, and was cultivated accordingly in those ancient times. Ballads at first, and down to the beginning of the war with Troy, were merely recitations, with an intonation.
Then followed a species of recitative, probably with an intoned burden. Tune next followed, as it aided the memory considerably. He saw that these ballads might be made of great utility to his purpose of writing a poem on the social position of Hellas, and, as a collection, he published these lays, connecting them by a tale of his own.
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His noble mind seized the hint that there presented itself, and the Achilleis 32 grew under his hand. Unity of design, however, caused him to publish the poem under the same pseudonyme as his former work: Melesigenes knew that the poem was destined to be a lasting one, and so it has proved; but, first, the poems were destined to undergo many vicissitudes and corruptions, by the people who took to singing them in the streets, assemblies, and agoras.
However, Solon first, and then Peisistratus, and afterwards Aristoteles and others, revised the poems, and restored the works of Melesigenes Homeros to their original integrity in a great measure. Having thus given some general notion of the strange theories which have developed themselves respecting this most interesting subject, I must still express my conviction as to the unity of the authorship of the Homeric poems.
To deny that many corruptions and interpolations disfigure them, and that the intrusive hand of the poetasters may here and there have inflicted a wound more serious than the negligence of the copyist, would be an absurd and captious assumption, but it is to a higher criticism that we must appeal, if we would either understand or enjoy these poems. In maintaining the authenticity and personality of their one author, be he Homer or Melesigenes, quocunque nomine vocari eum jus fasque sit, I feel conscious that, while the whole weight of historical evidence is against the hypothesis which would assign these great works to a plurality of authors, the most powerful internal evidence, and that which springs from the deepest and most immediate impulse of the soul, also speaks eloquently to the contrary.
The minutiae of verbal criticism I am far from seeking to despise. Indeed, considering the character of some of my own books, such an attempt would be gross inconsistency. But, while I appreciate its importance in a philological view, I am inclined to set little store on its aesthetic value, especially in poetry. Three parts of the emendations made upon poets are mere alterations, some of which, had they been suggested to the author by his Maecenas or Africanus, he would probably have adopted.
Moreover, those who are most exact in laying down rules of verbal criticism and interpretation, are often least competent to carry out their own precepts. Grammarians are not poets by profession, but may be so per accidens. I do not at this moment remember two emendations on Homer, calculated to substantially improve the poetry of a passage, although a mass of remarks, from Herodotus down to Loewe, have given us the history of a thousand minute points, without which our Greek knowledge would be gloomy and jejune.
But it is not on words only that grammarians, mere grammarians, will exercise their elaborate and often tiresome ingenuity. Binding down an heroic or dramatic poet to the block upon which they have previously dissected his words and sentences, they proceed to use the axe and the pruning knife by wholesale, and inconsistent in everything but their wish to make out a case of unlawful affiliation, they cut out book after book, passage after passage, till the author is reduced to a collection of fragments, or till those, who fancied they possessed the works of some great man, find that they have been put off with a vile counterfeit got up at second hand.
If we compare the theories of Knight, Wolf, Lachmann, and others, we shall feel better satisfied of the utter uncertainty of criticism than of the apocryphal position of Homer. One rejects what another considers the turning-point of his theory. One cuts a supposed knot by expunging what another would explain by omitting something else.
Nor is this morbid species of sagacity by any means to be looked upon as a literary novelty. Justus Lipsius, a scholar of no ordinary skill, seems to revel in the imaginary discovery, that the tragedies attributed to Seneca are by four different authors. With equal sagacity, Father Hardouin astonished the world with the startling announcement that the AEneid of Virgil, and the satires of Horace, were literary deceptions.
Now, without wishing to say one word of disrespect against the industry and learning — nay, the refined acuteness — which scholars, like Wolf, have bestowed upon this subject, I must express my fears, that many of our modern Homeric theories will become matter for the surprise and entertainment, rather than the instruction, of posterity.
Nor can I help thinking, that the literary history of more recent times will account for many points of difficulty in the transmission of the Iliad and Odyssey to a period so remote from that of their first creation. I have already expressed my belief that the labours of Peisistratus were of a purely editorial character; and there seems no more reason why corrupt and imperfect editions of Homer may not have been abroad in his day, than that the poems of Valerius Flaccus and Tibullus should have given so much trouble to Poggio, Scaliger, and others.
But, after all, the main fault in all the Homeric theories is, that they demand too great a sacrifice of those feelings to which poetry most powerfully appeals, and which are its most fitting judges. The ingenuity which has sought to rob us of the name and existence of Homer, does too much violence to that inward emotion, which makes our whole soul yearn with love and admiration for the blind bard of Chios. To believe the author of the Iliad a mere compiler, is to degrade the powers of human invention; to elevate analytical judgment at the expense of the most ennobling impulses of the soul; and to forget the ocean in the contemplation of a polypus.
There is a catholicity, so to speak, in the very name of Homer. Our faith in the author of the Iliad may be a mistaken one, but as yet nobody has taught us a better. While, however, I look upon the belief in Homer as one that has nature herself for its mainspring; while I can join with old Ennius in believing in Homer as the ghost, who, like some patron saint, hovers round the bed of the poet, and even bestows rare gifts from that wealth of imagination which a host of imitators could not exhaust — still I am far from wishing to deny that the author of these great poems found a rich fund of tradition, a well-stocked mythical storehouse from whence he might derive both subject and embellishment.
But it is one thing to use existing romances in the embellishment of a poem, another to patch up the poem itself from such materials. What consistency of style and execution can be hoped for from such an attempt? A blending of popular legends, and a free use of the songs of other bards, are features perfectly consistent with poetical originality.
In fact, the most original writer is still drawing upon outward impressions — nay, even his own thoughts are a kind of secondary agents which support and feed the impulses of imagination. But unless there be some grand pervading principle — some invisible, yet most distinctly stamped archetypus of the great whole, a poem like the Iliad can never come to the birth. Traditions the most picturesque, episodes the most pathetic, local associations teeming with the thoughts of gods and great men, may crowd in one mighty vision, or reveal themselves in more substantial forms to the mind of the poet; but, except the power to create a grand whole, to which these shall be but as details and embellishments, be present, we shall have nought but a scrap-book, a parterre filled with flowers and weeds strangling each other in their wild redundancy: Sensible as I am of the difficulty of disproving a negative, and aware as I must be of the weighty grounds there are for opposing my belief, it still seems to me that the Homeric question is one that is reserved for a higher criticism than it has often obtained.
We are not by nature intended to know all things; still less, to compass the powers by which the greatest blessings of life have been placed at our disposal. Were faith no virtue, then we might indeed wonder why God willed our ignorance on any matter. But we are too well taught the contrary lesson; and it seems as though our faith should be especially tried touching the men and the events which have wrought most influence upon the condition of humanity.
And there is a kind of sacredness attached to the memory of the great and the good, which seems to bid us repulse the scepticism which would allegorize their existence into a pleasing apologue, and measure the giants of intellect by an homeopathic dynameter. Long and habitual reading of Homer appears to familiarize our thoughts even to his incongruities; or rather, if we read in a right spirit and with a heartfelt appreciation, we are too much dazzled, too deeply wrapped in admiration of the whole, to dwell upon the minute spots which mere analysis can discover. In reading an heroic poem we must transform ourselves into heroes of the time being, we in imagination must fight over the same battles, woo the same loves, burn with the same sense of injury, as an Achilles or a Hector.
And if we can but attain this degree of enthusiasm and less enthusiasm will scarcely suffice for the reading of Homer , we shall feel that the poems of Homer are not only the work of one writer, but of the greatest writer that ever touched the hearts of men by the power of song. And it was this supposed unity of authorship which gave these poems their powerful influence over the minds of the men of old. Heeren, who is evidently little disposed in favour of modern theories, finely observes: No poet has ever, as a poet, exercised a similar influence over his countrymen.
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