Sunday, November 12, 2017
Homer's Interpreter Nods
There were six of them, the best and bravest of the hero's companions. Turning back from his post in the bows, Odysseus was in time to see them lifted, struggling, into the air, to hear their screams, the desperate repetition of his own name. The survivors could only look on, helplessly, while Scylla 'at the mouth of her cave devoured them, still screaming, still stretching out their hands to me in the frightful struggle.' And Odysseus adds that it was the most dreadful and lamentable sight he ever saw in all his 'explorings of the passes of the sea.' We can believe it; Homer's brief description (the too poetical simile is a later interpolation) convinces us.The Twelfth Book of the Odyssey does not conclude with those words. Those words (plus others — Huxley has abridged the quotation) occur at Odyssey 12.308-312, and the book has 453 lines in all.
Later, the danger passed, Odysseus and his men went ashore for the night, and, on the Sicilian beach, prepared their supper—prepared it, says Homer, 'expertly.' The Twelfth Book of the Odyssey concludes with these words: 'When they had satisfied their thirst and hunger, they thought of their dear companions and wept, and in the midst of their tears sleep came gently upon them.'
Update from Joel Eidsath:
A strange error, as the quotations appear to be Huxley's own translation.
The essay was published twice in Spring 1931, once in the Virginia Quarterly, and a shorter version in The Spectator.
The Spectator version is more accurate "The story in the XIIth Book of the Odyssey ends with these words..." That is, the story of Charybdis and Scylla ended with those words, not the XIIth book of the Odyssey.
The Spectator version appears to be a trimmed version of the first, no doubt prepared by Huxley himself. Perhaps Huxley's error was pointed out to him immediately after publication of the first version. Or perhaps the Spectator version is Huxley's original statement. Another vexing textual question in Homeric scholarship.
Labels: typographical and other errors