The Odyssey eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 388 pages of information about The Odyssey.
be by Homer—­any one who fails to keep these points before his readers, is hardly dealing equitably by them.  Any one on the other hand, who will mark his “Iliad” and his “Odyssey” from the copies in the British Museum above referred to, and who will draw the only inference that common sense can draw from the presence of so many identical passages in both poems, will, I believe, find no difficulty in assigning their proper value to a large number of books here and on the Continent that at present enjoy considerable reputations.  Furthermore, and this perhaps is an advantage better worth securing, he will find that many puzzles of the “Odyssey” cease to puzzle him on the discovery that they arise from over-saturation with the “Iliad.”

Other difficulties will also disappear as soon as the development of the poem in the writer’s mind is understood.  I have dealt with this at some length in pp. 251-261 of “The Authoress of the Odyssey”.  Briefly, the “Odyssey” consists of two distinct poems:  (1) The Return of Ulysses, which alone the Muse is asked to sing in the opening lines of the poem.  This poem includes the Phaeacian episode, and the account of Ulysses’ adventures as told by himself in Books ix.-xii.  It consists of lines 1-79 (roughly) of Book i., of line 28 of Book v., and thence without intermission to the middle of line 187 of Book xiii., at which point the original scheme was abandoned.

(2) The story of Penelope and the suitors, with the episode of Telemachus’ voyage to Pylos.  This poem begins with line 80 (roughly) of Book i., is continued to the end of Book iv., and not resumed till Ulysses wakes in the middle of line 187, Book xiii., from whence it continues to the end of Book xxiv.

In “The Authoress of the Odyssey”, I wrote: 

the introduction of lines xi., 115-137 and of line ix., 535, with the writing a new council of the gods at the beginning of Book v., to take the place of the one that was removed to Book i., 1-79, were the only things that were done to give even a semblance of unity to the old scheme and the new, and to conceal the fact that the Muse, after being asked to sing of one subject, spend two-thirds of her time in singing a very different one, with a climax for which no-one has asked her.  For roughly the Return occupies eight Books, and Penelope and the Suitors sixteen.

I believe this to be substantially correct.

Lastly, to deal with a very unimportant point, I observe that the Leipsic Teubner edition of 894 makes Books ii. and iii. end with a comma.  Stops are things of such far more recent date than the “Odyssey,” that there does not seem much use in adhering to the text in so small a matter; still, from a spirit of mere conservatism, I have preferred to do so.  Why [Greek] at the beginnings of Books ii. and viii., and [Greek], at the beginning of Book vii. should have initial capitals in an edition far too careful to admit a supposition of inadvertence, when [Greek] at the beginning of Books vi. and xiii., and [Greek] at the beginning of Book xvii. have no initial capitals, I cannot determine.  No other Books of the “Odyssey” have initial capitals except the three mentioned unless the first word of the Book is a proper name.

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The Odyssey from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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