Archive for Homer
Now Hera of the golden throne, looking out from where she stood on the summit of Olympus, was quick to observe how Poseidon, her brother and brother-in-law, was bustling about on the field of battle, and she rejoiced. But she also saw Zeus sitting on the highest peak of Mount Ida of the many springs, and the sight filled her with disgust.
So ox-eyed lady Hera began to wonder how she could hood-wink Zeus who drives the storm-cloud; and she decided the best way to do it was this. She would deck herself out to her best advantage and visit him on Mount Ida. If, as well might be, he succumbed to her beauty and desired to make love to her, she would flood his eyes and sharp mind with soothing, forgetful sleep.
Accordingly she made her way to her bedroom that had been built for her by her own son Hephaestus who, when he had hung the heavy doors on their posts, fitted them with a secret lock which no other god could open. Hera went in and closed the polished doors behind her. She began by removing every stain from her desirable body with ambrosia and then lavishly anointing herself with the ambrosial oil with which her dress was scented; this only had to flutter in the bronze-floored palace of Zeus for its scent to spread through earth and sky alike. With this she smoothed her lovely skin and hair, then combed her hair and with her own hands plaited her shining locks and let them fall in their divine beauty from her immortal head. Next she put on an ambrosial robe that Athene had woven smooth, then finished and richly embroidered. She fastened it across her breast with golden clasps and, at her waist, tied a girdle from which a hundred tassels hung. In the pierced lobes of her ears she fixed two shining earrings, each a thing of brilliant grace with its cluster of three drops. Then the celestial goddess covered her hair with a beautiful new head-dress which was as bright as the sun; and last of all, she bound a fine pair of sandals under her shimmering feet.
When she had decked herself out to look her best, she left her bedroom, beckoned Aphrodite away from the other gods and spoke her mind:
’I wonder, dear child, whether you will do me a favour, or refuse because you are annoyed with me for helping the Greeks, while you are on the Trojans’ side.’
Aphrodite daughter of Zeus replied:
‘Hera, august goddess, daughter of great Cronus, tell me what is in your mind and I shall gladly do what you ask of me, if I can and if the task is not impossible.’
The lady Hera deceptively replied:
‘Give me Love and Desire, the powers by which you yourself subdue gods and men alike. You see, I am going to the ends of the fruitful earth to visit Ocean, forefather of the gods, and mother Tethys, who treated me kindly and brought me up in their own home after taking me from my mother Rhea, when far-thundering Zeus made my father Cronus a prisoner under the earth and the murmuring sea. I am going to see them and bring their interminable quarrels to an end. They have not been sleeping together for a long time now, as a result of an angry row. If by talking the matter over I could win them round and bring them together again in bed, I should win their affection and esteem for ever.’
Laughter-loving Aphrodite said:
‘To refuse a request from you, that sleep in the arms of Zeus the supreme, would be both wrong and impossible.’
She spoke and undid from her breast the charm decorated with ornaments in which all her magic resides, Sexual Pleasure and Desire and Intimacies and Sweet Persuasion, that turn even wise men into fools. She placed this in Hera’s hands and said:
‘There, take this charm with its ornaments and keep it in your bosom. All my magic resides in this, and I have no doubt that you will come back from your mission successful.’
So she spoke, and ox-eyed lady Hera smiled and, as she tucked the charm into her bosom, she smiled again.
Aphrodite daughter of Zeus went home, and Hera sped down from the summit of Olympus. First she dropped to the Pierian range and to lovely Emathia; then passed swiftly over the snowy mountains of the horse-breeding Thracians, the very highest peaks, but never setting foot on the ground. From Athos she travelled over the foaming sea and so came to Lemnos, town of lord Thoas, where she found the god of Sleep, brother of Death. Putting her hand in his she said:
’Sleep, lord of all gods and all mankind, if ever you listened to me in the past, do what I ask of you now and I shall be grateful to you for ever. Seal the bright eyes of Zeus for me in sleep, directly I have lain in love with him, and in return I will give you a beautiful chair, imperishable, golden, which the lame god Hephaestus, my own son, will make and finish for you, with a footstool underneath it, on which you could rest your gleaming feet as you dine.’
Sweet Sleep replied and said:
‘Hera, august queen, daughter of mighty Cronus, I should think it a small matter to put any of the other eternal gods to sleep, even Ocean Stream himself, forefather of all. But I dare not go near Zeus son of Cronus or send him to sleep, unless he asks me to do so himself.
‘I have learnt my lesson from the task you once set me before, when Heracles, that arrogant son of Zeus, set sail from Ilium after sacking the Trojans’ town, and you made up your mind to make trouble for him. I gently lulled Zeus who drives the storm-cloud to sleep, while you raised a terrible tempest at sea and carried Heracles off to the prosperous island of Cos, far from all his friends. Zeus was enraged when he awoke. He hurled the gods about in his palace and looked for me everywhere as the chief culprit. I would have been thrown from Olympus into the sea and never heard of again, if Night, who overpowers gods and men alike, had not rescued me. I found sanctuary with her, and Zeus, for all his fury, had to stop and think twice before doing something that swift Night would not like. And now you come to me once more with another impossible request!’
Ox-eyed lady Hera said:
‘Sleep, why are you so worried about this? Can you really think that far-thundering Zeus will exert himself in defence of the Trojans as he did when it was the abduction of his very own son, Heracles, that had enraged him? Come, do as I wish and I will give you one of the younger Graces in marriage. She shall be called your wife.’
So she spoke, and Sleep was delighted and replied:
‘Very well, swear to me now by the inviolable waters of Styx, grasping the bountiful Earth with one hand and the shimmering Sea with the other, so that all the gods who are below with Cronus may be our witnesses; and promise you will give me one of the younger Graces, Pasithee¨, whom I have desired all my life.’
So he spoke, and the goddess white-armed Hera agreed and gave him her oath in the way he had prescribed, naming all the gods under Tartarus, who are called Titans. When she had sworn and completed the oath, the two wrapped themselves in mist and set out, leaving the towns of Lemnos and Imbros behind them and travelling fast. They reached Mount Ida of the many springs, the mother of wild beasts, by way of a promontory at its foot, Lecton, where they first left the sea and passed over the dry land, causing the treetops to sway beneath their feet. But now, to avoid the eye of Zeus, Sleep came to a halt and climbed up into a tall pine-tree, the tallest on Ida, which reached through the mist up into the clear air above. There he perched, hidden by the branches, in the form of a songbird of the mountains which is called bronze-throat by the gods and eagle-owl by men.
Meanwhile Hera rapidly drew near to Gargarus, the highest peak of lofty Ida. Zeus who marshals the clouds saw her, and at the first look desire overwhelmed his heart, as in the days when they had first made love and gone to bed together without their parents’ knowledge. He went up to her and said:
‘Hera, what business brings you here from Olympus? And why no horses and chariot to drive in?’
The lady Hera deceptively replied:
‘Oh, I am going to the ends of the fruitful earth to visit Ocean, forefather of the gods, and mother Tethys, who treated me kindly and brought me up in their own home. I am going to see them and bring their interminable quarrels to an end. They have not been sleeping together for a long time now, as a result of an angry row. As for my horses . .. oh, they are waiting at the foot of Ida, ready to carry me back over the water and the solid land. But at the moment I have come here from Olympus to see you. I was worried you might become angry with me afterwards, if I paid a visit to the deep Stream of Ocean without letting you know.’
Zeus who marshals the clouds replied and said:
Hera, that’s a journey you can postpone. Come, let us to bed and the delights of love. Never has such desire, for goddess or mortal, flooded and overwhelmed my heart; no, not when I loved Ixion’s wife who bore Peirithous, wise as the gods; or Danae of the slim ankles, daughter of Acrisius, who gave birth to Perseus, the greatest hero of his time; or the far-famed daughter of Phoenix, who bore me Minos and godlike Rhadamanthus; or Semele, or Alcmene in Thebes, whose son was lion-hearted Heracles, while Semele bore Dionysus, mankind’s delight; or lady Demeter with her lovely hair, or incomparable Leto; or you yourself – never have I felt such desire for you, or has such sweet longing overwhelmed me.’
The lady Hera replied deceptively:
’Dread son of Cronus, what are you suggesting now! Suppose we do as you wish and make love on the heights of Ida, everyone will see everything. What will happen if one of the eternal gods saw us sleeping together and ran off to tell the rest? I certainly wouldn’t relish the idea of rising straight from such a bed and going back to your palace. Think of the scandal! No, if it really is your pleasure to do this, you have a bedroom that your own son Hephaestus built for you, and the doors he made for it are solid. Let us go and lie down there, since bed takes your fancy.’
Zeus who marshals the clouds replied and said:
‘Hera, don’t be afraid any god or man will see us. I’ll hide you in a golden cloud. Even the sun, whose rays provide him with the keenest sight in all the world, will not be able to see through it.’
The son of Cronus spoke and took his wife in his arms; and the divine earth sent up spring flowers beneath them, dewy clover and crocuses and a soft and crowded bed of hyacinths, to lift them off the ground. In this they lay, covered by a beautiful golden cloud, from which a rain of glistening dewdrops fell.
Text: Homer, The Iliad, trans. E. V. Rieu. London: Penguin Books, 2003
Image: Carl Kundmann, Josef Tautenhayn and Hugo Haerdtl, detail of Zeus and Hera from the Athena Fountain, 1893-1902, Vienna
It is an observation at first sight melancholy but in the end, perhaps, enlightening, that the earliest poets are the most ideal, and that primitive ages furnish the most heroic characters and have the clearest vision of a perfect life. The Homeric times must have been full of ignorance and suffering. In those little barbaric towns, in those camps and farms, in those shipyards, there must have been much insecurity and superstition. That age was singularly poor in all that concerns the convenience of life and the entertainment of the mind with arts and sciences. Yet it had a sense for civilization. That machinery of life which men were beginning to devise appealed to them as poetical; they knew its ultimate justification and studied its incipient processes with delight. The poetry of that simple and ignorant age was, accordingly, the sweetest and sanest that the world has known; the most faultless in taste, and the most even and lofty in inspiration. Without lacking variety and homeliness, it bathed all things human in the golden light of morning; it clothed sorrow in a kind of majesty, instinct with both self-control and heroic frankness. Nowhere else can we find so noble a rendering of human nature, so spontaneous a delight in life, so uncompromising a dedication to beauty, and such a gift of seeing beauty in everything. Homer, the first of poets, was also the best and the most poetical.
Text: George Santayana, Interpretations of Poetry and Religion. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1900
He began by making a large and heavy shield, which he decorated all over and round which he placed a bright triple rim of gleaming metal and fitted with a silver shoulder-strap. The shield consisted of five layers, and he made all sorts of decorations for it, executed with consummate skill.
He made earth, sky and sea, the tireless sun, the full moon and all the constellations with which the skies are crowned, the Pleiades, the Hyades, great Orion and the Bear, also called the waggon. This is the only constellation never to bathe in Ocean Stream, but always wheels round in the same place and looks across at Orion the Hunter with a wary eye.
Next he made two beautiful towns full of people. In one of them weddings and feasts were in progress. They were bringing the brides through the streets from their homes, accompanied by blazing torches, and the wedding-hymn could be heard loud and clear. Young men danced, whirling round to the sound of pipes and lyres, and women stood by the doors of their houses to admire the sight.
But the men had gathered in the meeting-place, where a dispute had arisen between two men who were in conflict about the compensation for a man who had been killed. One side claimed the right to solve the problem by meeting the demand, and was showing the people the full extent of his offer; but the other refused all compensation. Both parties insisted that the issue should be settled by an expert; and both sides were cheered by their supporters in the crowd, whom the heralds were attempting to control. The expert elders sat on smooth stone seats in a sacred circle; they received in their hands the speaker’s staff from the clear-voiced heralds; and the two sides rushed over to them as they each gave judgment in turn. Two talents of gold – one from each side – were displayed in the centre: they were the fee for the elder who delivered the soundest judgment.
The other town was under siege from two armies, which were shown in their glittering armour. The besiegers were unable to agree whether to sack the place outright, or to take half the goods that the lovely town contained in return for surrender. But the townspeople had not yet given up: they were secretly preparing an ambush. Leaving the walls defended by their wives and little children, together with the older men, they advanced under the leadership of Ares and Pallas Athene. These were gold, wore golden clothes and looked as big and beautiful in their armour as gods should, standing out above their troops who were on a smaller scale. When the townsmen had found a likely place for an ambush in a river-bed where all the cattle came to drink, they sat down there in their shining bronze armour and posted two scouts in the distance to watch for the arrival of the sheep and cattle with their crooked horns belonging to the besieging army. These soon appeared in the charge of two herdsmen, who were playing on their pipes and suspected no trap.
The men who had laid the ambush saw them, charged out and promptly rounded up the herds of oxen and the fine flocks of white sheep, killing the shepherds. But when the besiegers, who were sitting in debate, heard the commotion raised by this attack on their herds, they immediately mounted the chariots behind their high-stepping horses and made for the scene of action, which they quickly reached. A pitched battle ensued on the banks of the river, and volleys of bronze spears were exchanged. Strife and Panic were co-operating, and there was the dreadful Demon of Death, laying her hands on a freshly wounded man who was still alive and on another not yet wounded, and dragging a body by its foot through the crowd. The cloak on her shoulders was red with human blood; and the warriors met and fought and dragged away each other’s dead, just as real warriors do.
Next he placed on it a large field of soft, rich fallow, ploughed three times. A number of ploughmen were driving their teams of oxen across it, up and down. When they reached the ridge at the end of the field and had to turn, a man would come up and hand them a cup of delicious wine. Then they turned back down the furrows, keen to reach the other end through the deep fallow soil. The field, though it was made of gold, grew black behind them, as a field does when it is being ploughed. It was a miraculous piece of work.
He also placed on it a lord’s estate where hired reapers were at work with sharp sickles in their hands. Handfuls of corn were falling to the ground one after the other along the lines cut by the reapers, while others were being tied up with bindings by the sheaf-binders following behind. There were three sheaf-binders at work, and boys were at hand, promptly picking up the sheaves and carrying them off in their arms to be stored. And there among them was the lord himself, staff in hand, standing quietly by the point the reapers had reached, delighted. Under an oak-tree some way from the reaping, his attendants were preparing a feast. They were busy with a great ox they had slaughtered, and the women were sprinkling the meat with handfuls of white barley for the labourers’ supper.
Next he placed on it a vineyard laden with grapes. It was beautiful and made of gold, but the bunches of grapes were black, and the supporting poles showed up throughout in silver. All round it, Hephaestus ran a ditch of blue inlay and, outside that, a fence of tin. There was a single pathway by which the pickers approached the vineyard to gather the vintage; and young girls and light-hearted boys were carrying off the delicious fruit in baskets. In the middle of them a boy was playing delightfully on a tuneful lyre and singing the song of Linus, quite beautifully, in a high voice. They all kept time with him and followed, singing and shouting, with dancing feet.
He created a herd of straight-horned cattle, making the animals of gold and tin. They were mooing as they hurried from the byre to feed where the rushes swayed beside a murmuring stream. Four golden herdsmen marched with the cattle, and there were nine swift dogs accompanying them. But at the head of the herd a pair of fearsome lions had seized a bellowing bull that roared aloud as it was being dragged off. The young men and dogs were running up to the rescue. But the lions had torn open the great bull’s hide and were lapping up its dark blood and entrails. It was in vain that the shepherds were setting their swift dogs on them and urging them forward: when it came to sinking their teeth into the lions, the dogs were having none of it. They stood there at close range, barking, but were careful to avoid them.
The famous lame god created a big grazing ground for white-fleeced sheep, in a beautiful valley, with farm buildings, pens and well-roofed huts.
Next the famous lame god cleverly depicted a dancing-floor, like the one Daedalus designed in the spacious town of Cnossus for lovely-haired Ariadne. Youths and marriageable maidens were dancing there holding each other by the wrists, the girls in fine linen shawls, the men in closely woven tunics showing a faint gleam of oil, the girls with lovely garlands on their heads, the men with daggers of gold hanging from their silver belts. Here they circled lightly round on accomplished feet, like the wheel which fits neatly in a potter’s hands when he sits down and tests it to see if it will spin; and here they ran in lines to meet each other. A large crowd stood round enjoying the delightful dance. A godlike singer of tales sang with them to the lyre, while a couple of solo dancers led off and spun round among the people.
Then, round the very rim of the superbly constructed shield, he placed the mighty Stream of Ocean.
One of the most extraordinary passages of The Iliad appears at the end of the eighteenth canto. Readers will recall that it is in this canto that Achilles learns of the death of his dearest companion Patroclus at the hands of Hector. Driven almost insane with grief, Achilles resolves to return to battle against the Trojans and avenge his friend. There is a hitch however: Patroclus was wearing Achilles’ battle gear at the time of his death and this Hector has seized as a trophy. Much of the canto is then taken up with the journey of Achilles’ divine mother, the nymph Thetis, to Olympus in order to commission a new set of armour from Hephaestus. Only too glad to assist Achilles and the Greek cause in this way, Hephaestus outdoes himself in the embellishment of a great shield, as Homer does in the lavish description of it. This description begins plausibly enough but grows and expands in detail, extending even to the actions and sounds of the figures depicted on the shield, until it becomes almost a story in itself, a compact creation myth. Curiously, the passage is almost entirely without Homer’s characteristic use of elaborate simile. Only near the end does he employ his favourite trope, comparing a circular dance to a potter’s wheel, and this just before the poet invokes, for the only time, a figure that might be himself: the “godlike singer of tales” singing to the dancers. Thus in describing the shield does Homer display the sovereign power of the poet, superior to the artist and equal, perhaps, even to the very gods of creation. -DTH
Text: Homer, The Iliad, trans. E. V. Rieu. London: Penguin Books, 2003
Image: THE KING OF HANOVER’S SILVER-GILT SHIELD OF ACHILLES, Philip Rundell for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, London, 1823, cast and chased after John Flaxman’s design. via
Attic red-figure cup, c. 490-480 BC
Musée du Louvre
Here at Tigerloaf we are reading The Iliad and have reached Book 7, with the stirring and surprisingly friendly combat between Ajax and Hector. The heroes and their divine patrons appear here on the side of a kylix or drinking cup by the master painter Douris; Hector, with Apollo behind him, falls to the spear stroke of Ajax, supported by Athene.
In Homer’s poem the greatest of the Greek warriors draw lots to determine who will answer Trojan Hector’s challenge in single combat. Ajax is the winner, and this excerpt begins with his splendid statement of indomitable courage. The duel ends not in death but, in a passage of great majesty, with mutual respect and an exchange of gifts.
‘Friends! The lot is mine! And I am delighted, because I think I shall defeat godlike Hector. But, while I am arming for the fight, pray to lord Zeus son of Cronus, and pray in silence, so that the Trojans cannot overhear you. Or pray out loud! We are afraid of nobody whatever. No one is going to have his way with me and make me run, either by brute force or because I lack the skill: after all, I should be surprised to find I was born and bred a complete novice on Salamis.’
So he spoke, and they then prayed to lord Zeus son of Cronus. They looked up to the broad skies and said as one man:
‘Father Zeus, you that rule from Mount Ida, greatest and most glorious! Answer Ajax’s prayer and grant him a brilliant victory. But if you hold Hector dear too and wish him well, let neither man be beaten and the fight be drawn.’
So they spoke, and Ajax armed himself in his dazzling bronze. When all his armour was on, he set out like awe-inspiring Ares, god of war, going to join battle among men brought together to fight by Zeus, their hearts set on soul-destroying combat. So awe-inspiring Ajax, a tower of strength for the Greeks, rose and went into battle, smiling a grim smile, taking great strides as he went, brandishing his long-shadowed spear. The Greeks, when they saw him, were overjoyed, but there was not a Trojan whose knees did not tremble. Even Hector’s heart beat faster. But it was too late now for him to turn tail and slink back among his men, since it was his will to fight that had made him throw down the challenge.
And now Ajax drew near, carrying a shield like a tower, made of bronze and seven layers of oxhide. Tychius the master leather-worker, who lived at Hyle, had made this glittering shield for him with the hides of seven well-fattened bulls, which he overlaid with an eighth layer of bronze. Holding this shield in front of him, Ajax son of Telamon went right up to Hector and defied him:
‘Hector, you’re now going to discover, in single combat, what sort of champions the Greeks have at their disposal, even when they can’t count on Achilles, lion-hearted breaker of men. At the moment he is lying by his seafaring beaked ships, nursing his implacable anger against Agamemnon son of Atreus, shepherd of the people. But for all that, we have men who can stand up to you, and plenty of them. So take the first throw and start the duel.’
Great Hector of the flashing helmet said:
‘Olympian-born Ajax, son of Telamon, leader of men, don’t try to scare me like a feeble child or a woman who knows nothing about warfare. I know all about fighting and killing. I know how to handle my toughened oxhide shield and swing it to right or left – the real skill of work with a shield. I know how to charge in among the confusion of the chariots; and in a standing fight I know all the steps of the War-god’s deadly dance. But enough: seeing the man you are, I have no desire to steal a shot at you when you aren’t looking, but to throw openly, if I can hit you.’
He spoke, balanced his long-shadowed spear and hurled it. It struck the formidable, sevenfold shield of Ajax on its metal sheath, the eighth and outermost layer. The untiring bronze tore through six layers, but was held up by the seventh hide. Then Olympian-born Ajax in turn hurled his long-shadowed spear. It hit Hector’s round shield. The heavy weapon pierced the glittering shield, forced its way through the ornate body-armour and ripped right on through the side of Hector’s tunic. But Hector had swerved and so avoided dark death.
And now the pair, when each had pulled the long spear out of his shield, fell on each other like flesh-eating lions, or wild boars whose strength is not to be despised. Hector thrust at the centre of Ajax’s shield with his spear, but it did not break through and the tip was bent back. Then Ajax leapt in and stabbed at Hector’s shield. The spear passed clean through and stopped Hector in his tracks: it grazed his neck and the dark blood spurted out.
Yet even so Hector of the flashing helmet did not give up the fight. He drew back and with his great hand picked up a large and jagged piece of black rock that was lying on the ground, hurled it at Ajax’s formidable sevenfold shield and struck it in the middle on the boss, making the bronze ring out. But Ajax then picked up an even bigger rock, which he swung and hurled at Hector, putting his full weight into it. This millstone of a boulder crumpled his shield and swept him off his feet. There Hector lay, jammed in the shield, stretched on his back. But Apollo quickly had him up on his feet again.
And now they would have closed and hacked at one another with their swords, if heralds, ambassadors of Zeus and men, had not intervened, Talthybius on the Greek side and Idaeus on the Trojan, both sensible men. They raised their sceptres between the combatants, and Idaeus, a herald rich in wisdom, spoke his mind:
‘Dear sons, give up now and break off the fight. Cloud- gatherer Zeus holds you both dear, and you are both fine spearmen – we all of us know that. Also, it is nearly dark. It is sensible to take that into account.’
Ajax son of Telamon replied and said:
‘Idaeus, tell Hector to call it off. It was his will to fight that made him throw down the challenge to all our best men. Let him make the first move. I will do as he does.’
Great Hector of the flashing helmet said:
‘Ajax, the god has given you size, strength and ability, and you are the best spearman on your side. Let us bring today’s duel to an end. We can fight some other time, till the powers above decide between us, and one of us wins. Also, it is nearly dark. It is sensible to take that into account.
‘Then you will bring joy to the Greeks back at the ships, your friends and relatives above all; while I too shall get a warm welcome in lord Priam’s town from the Trojans and the Trojan ladies in their trailing gowns, who will enter the sacred assembly to offer up prayers in my name. But first let us both exchange prestigious gifts, so that Trojans and Greeks alike can say:
‘‘These two fought each other in soul-destroying combat, but were reconciled and parted friends.’’’
With these words he gave Ajax his silver-riveted sword, which he handed over with its scabbard and sword-belt; and at the same time Ajax gave Hector his brilliant purple belt.
So the two parted.
Homer, The Iliad, trans. E. V. Rieu (London: Penguin Books, 2003)
Jan Brueghel the Elder, Odysseus and Calypso in the Caves of Ogygia, 1616
“Large was the grot, in which the nymph he found
(The fair-hair’d nymph with every beauty crown’d).
The cave was brighten’d with a rising blaze;
Cedar and frankincense, an odorous pile,
Flamed on the hearth, and wide perfumed the isle;
While she with work and song the time divides,
And through the loom the golden shuttle guides.
Without the grot a various sylvan scene
Appear’d around, and groves of living green;
Poplars and alders ever quivering play’d,
And nodding cypress form’d a fragrant shade:
On whose high branches, waving with the storm,
The birds of broadest wing their mansions form,—
The chough, the sea-mew, the loquacious crow,—
and scream aloft, and skim the deeps below.
Depending vines the shelving cavern screen.
With purple clusters blushing through the green.
Four limped fountains from the clefts distil:
And every fountain pours a several rill,
In mazy windings wandering down the hill:
Where bloomy meads with vivid greens were crown’d,
And glowing violets threw odours round.
A scene, where, if a god should cast his sight,
A god might gaze, and wander with delight!”
–Homer, Odyssey Book V, translated by Alexander Pope, 1725-26
“But when he had now reached that far-off isle, he went forth from the sea of violet blue to get him up into the land, till he came to a great cave, wherein dwelt the nymph of the braided tresses: and he found her within. And on the hearth there was a great fire burning, and from afar through the isle was smelt the fragrance of cleft cedar blazing, and of sandal wood. And the nymph within was singing with a sweet voice as she fared to and fro before the loom, and wove with a shuttle of gold. And round about the cave there was a wood blossoming, alder and poplar and sweet-smelling cypress. And therein roosted birds long of wing, owls and falcons and chattering sea-crows, which have their business in the waters. And lo, there about the hollow cave trailed a gadding garden vine, all rich with clusters. And fountains four set orderly were running with clear water, hard by one another, turned each to his own course. And all around soft meadows bloomed of violets and parsley, yea, even a deathless god who came thither might wonder at the sight and be glad at heart.”
–The same passage translated by Samuel Henry Butcher and Andrew Lang, 1879
“Who has not heard of Calypso? her grove crowned with alders and poplars; her grotto, against which the luxuriant vine laid forth his purple grapes; her ever new delights, crystal fountains, running brooks, meadows flowering with sweet balm—gentle and with violet; blue violets which like veins enamelled the smooth breasts of each fragrant mead! It were useless to describe over again what has been so well told already;”