Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

next to this, if not equally with it, his power in speech is emphasized. Accordingly its range is made coextensive with the opulence of his nature, running from the sobriety of deliberation to intensity of invective; from light irony to impassioned pathos. He is thus made the first orator as well as the first warrior of the Iliad.

Who is the second? Is it that hero who was to be the protagonist of another epic, the Odyssey? If the point of estimate be changed from variety of speech to number of speeches, and from the deliberative assembly to the audience chamber of royalty, Ulysses will stand next to Achilles. Homer seems to sanction this order by giving him command of the propitiatory expedition to Chryses, and appointing him to make the conciliatory address. So in the embassy from Agamemnon to Achilles, it is Ulysses who makes the speech of propitiation, as he had already been sent to Troy with Menelaus as an ambassador to ask the return of Helen before the war began.

The principal feature of his oratory is the general one which belongs to his character, its adaptive tact, always suited to the occasion. He was not so much greater than the occasion as to be its creator and controller, as Achilles was, but by going with its current he often found opportunity to direct it to his own purposes. Being thus equal to every occasion, he became the man of many counsels, a director rather than leader, steering men whither they felt that they were going of their own accord. Hence when they came to themselves they called him the sage, the crafty, the man of many wiles. His speech is full of art. He is a prototype of later rhetors and sophists. The adaptive art is apparent in the midst of great natural abilities. His pledging Achilles and his compliment to the "table spread nobly" in the beginning of his speech and its graceful transition is worthy of an accomplished ambassador at a state dinner. The succeeding steps of his ad

dress have already been indicated. The rest of his speeches in the Iliad are shorter, but always in harmony with his character. In the Odyssey, however, there is abundant discourse of his, enough to make him Homer's chief spokesman when the number of his speeches is considered.

The nature of this poem necessarily gives a different tone to his oratory. It is narrative rather than deliberative, or at most the discourse of a guest whose thoughts are upon his home. His counsels to his companions are with authority, his talk with hosts conciliatory, the story of his wandering an unconscious appeal to their sympathy, followed in most instances by proffers of aid. Eloquence availed little with Cyclops or Circe, but with an assembled court and company, its proper sphere, there was abundant evidence that Ulysses succeeded in a measure where Homer and the Rhapsodists distinguished themselves in subsequent times. In this character of raconteur, the poet consciously or unconsciously made the Wanderer his own prototype, reciting epics of war and adventure from place to place. If the Odyssey is a successor to the Iliad, there may possibly be in it a token or perhaps a prophecy of a transfer of glory from the sword to the spoken word, which in a previous age had been evenly balanced in the poet's estimate. In any case, the importance of his recit

compares favorably with that of his adventures. The poet has preserved the orator's manner even, in Antenor's account of a former embassy, recalling Ulysses' "downcast visage when he rose to speak like one untaught; but when his deep-toned voice sent forth words that fell like flakes of wintry snow, no mortal could with him compare, and little reck'd we of outward show."

Besides these two chief speakers, there were others in the Iliad who are prominent, and also remarkable in their distinctive personality. Nestor of course cannot be overlooked, as, presuming upon his age and experience, he VOL. LV. No. 219. 8

I

Moreover it is not reputation as "the

never allowed himself to be passed by. unlikely that he was sensible of his smooth-tongued chief, from whose persuasive lips sweeter than honey flowed the stream of speech." At least he recalls his reputation among men "abler in council and greater than the heroes of this degenerate age." With a vision of the glory of the former time which always haunts the aged, he asserts the prerogative of gray hairs to give advice on all occasions. The assurance of his rebuke and criticism is refreshing when he tells Ulysses and the rest that they debate like children, or patronizes young Diomed's creditable discourse. Still the concurrent applause of the host and the constant reference to his eloquence testify to its power, backed as it is by personal valor. "His words fresh courage roused in every breast." A sort of speaker of the house, and leader of the right wing, he becomes the prototype of all those who at various times have borne the title of "Old Man Eloquent" from Isocrates to Gladstone.

Next to him, at least as immortalized in a later epic, if reference to it is permitted, comes Æneas, whom Virgil has made to sustain the reputation for goodly speech which Homer bestowed in opposing him to Achilles, first in the war of words and then in the strife of arms. It must be allowed in this encounter that Æneas' words are a dignified reply to Achilles' taunt, although for the poet's purposes he is betrayed into dwelling at length upon the nobility of his descent, foreshadowing his long recital in the second and third Æneid. But he comes to himself directly, and is the first to propose to fight, and first to cast the spear. In other places his speech compares favorably with that of Argive chiefs and counsellors, a testimony to Homer's fairness toward the enemy.

Menelaus is another orator, whose speeches Homer has supplemented by characterization of his appearance. "High

over Ulysses standing, with broad set shoulders Menelaus in fluent language spoke, his words though few yet clear; though young in years, no wordy babbler, wasteful of his speech." This laconic ease is especially noticeable in the speeches which are incident to the challenge of Paris, and the championship duel. Even Paris, butt as he is of Hector's banter, is able to make answer for himself, like a gentleman, sometimes admitting the justice of his brother's taunts, but, while allowing his greater prowess, defending his own valor with such grace and dignity that "the hero's words wrought on his brother's mind." As for Hector himself, his speech has that quality which has come to bear his name. He is always nagging Paris; Ajax he accosts as a "babbling braggart, vain of speech"; he tells Polydamas, "I know how unapt thou art to hearken to advicethy wisdom does not surpass all other men's." And yet when his fate draws near and he holds communion with his warlike soul, there is that in his soliloquy which might have suggested Cato's and Hamlet's. "Better to dare the fight, and know at once to which the victory is decreed by Heaven." And what more nobly tender than his parting with Andromache? As for Telamon Ajax his speech has a martial quality which is emphasized by unimpeachable valThe note of his harangue to comrades and the host is, "Quit you like men," and his prayer to Jove, "Clear the sky that we may see our fate and die in the open light of day."

or.

Equaling him in bravery, and surpassing him in mental power, is Diomed the valiant youth, dear to Homer. It is he who first confronts the king when he proposes the homeward flight, and tells him to his face that Heaven had not conferred valor upon him together with the throne. For boldness, directness, and effectiveness, his short speech is not matched by any similar utterance in the councils of the Iliad, and "with loud applause the sons of Greece his words confirmed." So, too, when the Em

bassy returns from its bootless errand to Achilles, it is Diomed who breaks the silence that fell on the disheartened assembly, telling Agamemnon to let the over-proud chieftain go or stay according to his wayward will, and meantime to prepare for to-morrow's battle. Again the chiefs confirmed his speech with loud applause. What such applause was like, the poet states in the second book, after the king himself had spoken,-"a loud sound as when the ocean wave driven by the wind dashes against a crag exposed to blasts from every storm that roars around." Diomed, moreover, is not unskilled in conciliatory speech also, as Glaucus found to his cost on that day when they compared pedigrees and exchanged armor in an excess of good feeling, "gold for brass," however, "a hundred oxen's worth for that of nine"!

There were other warriors whose brief harangues or exultant boasts of victory carry with them a tone as personal as their mode of warfare or their names. Polydamas, frank, generous, and critical, sends after his flying spear the ironical assurance that it shall be to some Greek for a staff to Pluto's realm. Sarpedon's death-cry is an appeal to save him from the reproach of being spoiled of his armor, and Glaucus begs Hector to come to the rescue. Patroclus on the other side conjures the Ajaces to seize the prize with the same ardor with which he had upbraided Achilles for withdrawing from the fight. Exulting in carnage, he jests bitterly over his stricken enemy's headlong plunge from the chariot, calls him an accomplished tumbler and diver for oysters; but when his own turn comes he reviles Hector his slayer, and prophesies his doom by an avenging hand. Lysaon, far from the home he fondly remembers and the steeds he left behind, upbraids the bow that has failed him, and rushes to his death with boastful words. Automedon over Aretus fallen exclaims that his heart is relieved of some small portion of its grief for Pa

« AnteriorContinuar »