Tag Archives: Robert Graves

On Homer’s Iliad Book V

Tangles of rebar from a building demolition sit, with a backhoe on top, on a narrow street paved with setts
Creative destruction
Arpa Suyu Sokağı, Şişli, Istanbul
Thursday, December 22, 2022

In Book V of the Iliad, the battlefield deaths that started in Book IV continue. Some of them are caused by Diomedes, who also stalks higher prey:

  • Giving him the power to recognize gods, Athena tells him to avoid all of them but Aphrodite, whom he then wounds.
  • When Athena gives him permission and encouragement to attack Ares, Diomedes wounds him too.

In echo of Achilles’s summoning of Thetis in Book I, the wounded gods go crying to their parents.

On The Human Condition of Hannah Arendt 2

Index to this series

CHAPTER II The Public and the Private Realm [1]


There are four more sections in the chapter, and these constitute the next reading: 7 the public realm: the common; 8 the private realm: property; 9 the social and the private; 10 the location of human activities.

Graffiti: “Now or never” and “Oku” (that is, “Read”) on a wall by a street with a parked car; skyscrapers in the distance

Beşiktaş, February 15, 2022
Oku = “Read” (second-person singular imperative)

History and law

A significant passage in this reading lies on page 42 (¶ 6.9):

… the significance of a historical period shows itself only in the few events that illuminate it. The application of the law of large num­bers and long periods to politics or history signifies nothing less than the wilful obliteration of their very subject matter.

My post “Law and History” took up something like this argument. Continue reading

On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book XIV

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

When Neptune was helping the Greeks stave off certain defeat, I tried to suggest that divine intervention in the course of events might be understood as human resolve to change that course. This was in Book XIII of the Iliad, where Neptune took the form of one of the Greeks—Calchas—in order to exhort the others. They would have listened to Calchas anyway; he was a prophet. Ajax Oileus said he could tell Calchas was “really” a god; we can read this to mean Calchas was inspiring. We can say this of somebody today, without meaning to suggest any supernatural influence.

Mostly a calm sea, with heads of two swimmers; behind, a strip of pink sky with setting sun

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Some Say Poetry

In a poetry review, a remark on being a student has drawn my attention:

In My Poets, a work of autobiographical criticism with occasional ventriloquial interludes, McLane recalls two “early impasses in reading,” freshman-year encounters with Charles Olson and Frank O’Hara. She writes about not “getting it” but wanting to get it, about a desire to get it that was left wanting by code-breaking and analysis and satisfied by hearing and feeling.

This is from the second half of a “New Books” column by Christine Smallwood, in the Reviews section of Harper’s, July 2017. After quoting Smallwood’s review, I want to say something about learning and creating, in poetry and also in mathematics.

Potted palms with plaster farm animals on hillside behind

Kuzguncuk, 2017.11.05

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book I

This is the first of twenty-four posts, one on each book of Homer’s Iliad in Chapman’s translation.

Achilles banefull wrath” is to be resounded by the Goddess, whom the poet invokes.

Strife between Achilles and Agamemnon is the story of the Iliad. It begins with Apollo, who has plagued the Greek army.

Homer denies no human responsibility. Apollo has plagued the army, because Agamemnon insists on keeping a man’s daughter as his slave. The woman’s father is a priest of Apollo called Chryses; we shall come to know the daughter’s name only as Chryseis. She has been taken in a Greek raid on her home town, which will be called Chrysa. We shall hear more about the raid later in Book I, when Achilles tells the story to his mother.

Thus Homer’s narrative is not sequential. In a technique that will become standard in literature, we start in medias res.

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