Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Stationary Clouds

Stephen Pentz, on his fine blog First Known When Lost, has an interesting post about "Stationary Clouds": John Ruskin And Homer. He doesn't quote the passage from Homer (Iliad 5.519-527), so I thought I would do so, in William Cowper's translation, followed by the Greek:
Ulysses, either Ajax, Diomede—
These rous'd the Greeks to battle, who themselves
The force fear'd nothing, or the shouts of Troy,
But steadfast stood, like clouds by Jove amass'd
On some huge mountain's summit, while the force
Of Boreas sleeps, with all the whistling winds
That chase the gloomy vapours when they blow.
So stood the Grecians, waiting the approach
Of Ilium's powers, and neither fled nor fear'd.

Τοὺς δ᾽ Αἴαντε δύω καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς καὶ Διομήδης
ὄτρυνον Δαναοὺς πολεμιζέμεν· οἳ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
οὔτε βίας Τρώων ὑπεδείδισαν οὔτε ἰωκάς,
ἀλλ᾽ ἔμενον νεφέλῃσιν ἐοικότες ἅς τε Κρονίων
νηνεμίης ἔστησεν ἐπ᾽ ἀκροπόλοισιν ὄρεσσιν
ἀτρέμας, ὄφρ᾽ εὕδῃσι μένος Βορέαο καὶ ἄλλων
ζαχρειῶν ἀνέμων, οἵ τε νέφεα σκιόεντα
πνοιῇσιν λιγυρῇσι διασκιδνᾶσιν ἀέντες·
ὣς Δαναοὶ Τρῶας μένον ἔμπεδον οὐδὲ φέβοντο.
See also G.S. Kirk, in his commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) on Iliad 5.522-527 (p. 113):
Unyielding resistance is often described by a simile; the present one is striking and unusual, with the four warriors like still clouds set by Zeus over the high peaks of mountains (cf. Od. 19.205) in windless weather. One sees it often in the Aegean, each island peak topped by its own white cloud. The shrill winds that can blow up and scatter them suggest the tensions among which Aias and others remain sublimely unmoved.

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