HESIOD AND HYMNS
NOTES

[Page 197] Gift-devouring princes . Homer's heroes have dwindled to petty local oppressors -- more like the Suitors in Ithaca.

[Page197] Half is more than whole . Cf. Ps. xxxvii, 16: 'A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked'; Prov. xv, 16-7: 'Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.' But Hēsiod's adage is of wider scope and allied to the fundamental Greek moderation of 'Nothing too much.'

[Page 197] Mallow and asphodel . The poor ate mallow-shoots and asphodelbulbs. Asphodel, for all its poetic name, is a pallid, scraggy plant, common on barren patches throughout Greece.

[Page 197] Prometheus ('Forethought'), the Titan, son of Iápetus and brother of Epimetheus ('Afterthought'), was originally a trickster like the Norse Loki, but later idealized as a champion of man against Heaven's harshness. The Theogony tells how he tried to dupe Zeus by dividing the sacrificial ox into two portions -- the flesh covered with the paunch and the bones within a rich roll of fat. Though seeing the trap, Zeus chose, as Prometheus had hoped, the fat and bones (the part that Greek ritual in practice gave the Gods); but he punished the deceiver by depriving him and mankind of fire.

[Page 197] Iápetus. Father of Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Atlas the upholder of the sky. Perhaps an ancient figure of Asiatic mythology, as his name seems to recur in the Biblical Japhet.

[Page 197] Fennel-stalk . Giant fennel-stalks, some 5 feet long and 3 inches thick, with hard rind, and pith that burns slowly like a wick, were still used for carrying fire in Greek lands as late as the 19th century.

[Page 197] His laughter . 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh' ( Ps. ii, 4). Homer smiles sometimes even at Zeus; but in Hēsiod it is Zeus that grimly laughs. This grave Boeotian is less at home on Olympus.

[Page 197] Argus-slayer . See p. 182.

[Page 197] Soul of a thief . . . . It is curious how this strain of misogyny recurs in world literature -- in Semōnides (p. 239), for instance, Euripides, the Old Testament, the Early Fathers, the Roman de la Rose, Chaucer, Milton, Pope, Strindberg, Tolstoy. Whereas the corresponding term misandry does not even exist. Nor, on the other hand, do women or women-writers seem to idealize Man as men have often idealized Woman. Probably no poet has ever expressed both attitudes towards the feminine with more vehemence than Euripides. For example:

Fearful the violence of the raging sea;
Fearful the force of torrent and of flame;
Fearful is penury, and a thousand ills
There are beside; but none so fell as woman --
No written word has power to say how evil,
No tongue has power to tell it. If any God
Created them, He was an evil genius --
That let Him know -- and hated all mankind.
(Fr. 1059.)

-224-

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Greek Poetry for Everyman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction xxv
  • Part One - Epic Period 1
  • Homer - Iliad 3
  • Notes 180
  • Hesiod of Ascra - (c. 800 B.C.?) 195
  • The Homeric Hymns 207
  • Hesiod and Hymns - Notes 224
  • Part Two - From Archilochus to Alexander 231
  • Archilochus of Paros 233
  • Part Three - Alexandrian Period 295
  • Philetas of Cos 297
  • Part Four - Roman and Early Byzantine Period 349
  • MeleĀger of Gadara 351
  • Appendix I 397
  • Appendix II 405
  • Index of Poets 413
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