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V. 1. We reach'd Æolia's shore.] It is difficult to distinguish what is truth from what is fiction in this relation. Diodorus, who was a Sicilian, speaks of Æolus, and refers to this passage:
This is that Æolus,' says he, who entertained Ulysses, in his voyages: he is reported to have been a pious and just prince, and given to hospitality, and therefore pin ala arus, as Homer expresses it.' But whence has the fable of his being the governor of the winds taken its foundation? Eustathius tells us, that he was a very wise man, and one who from long observation could forete! what weather was like to follow: others say he was an astronomer, and studied chiefly the nature of the winds; and as Atlas, from his knowledge in astrology, was said to sustain the heavens; so Æolus, from his experience and observation, was fabled to be the ruler or disposer of the winds. But what explication can be given of this bag, in which he is said to bind the winds? Eratosthenes, continues Eustathius, said pleasantly, that we shall then find the places where Ulysses voyaged, when we have discovered the artist, or cobbler, Tov oxUTER, who sewed up this bag of the winds. But the reason of the fiction is supposed to be this: Æolus taught the use and management of sails, and having foretold Ulysses from what quarter the winds would blow, he may be said to have gathered them into a kind of enclosure, and retained them as use should require. Diodorus explains it a little differently, lib. v. Προς δε τέτοις την των ιστιων χρειαν τοις ναυτικοίς επεισηγήσασθαι, και απο της το πυρος προσημασίας παρατετηρηκότα, προλέγειν της εΓχωριες ανεμες ευστοχως, εξ & ταμιαν ανεμων μυθος ανέδειξε; that is, He taught the use of sails, and having learned from observing the bearing of the smoke and fires (of those Vulcanian islands) what winds would blow, he usually foretold them with exactness, and from hence he is fabled to be the disposer of the winds.'
The words of Varro, quoted by Servius, are to the same purpose: 'Varro autem dicit hunc insularum regem fuisse, ex quarum nebulis et fumo Vulcaniæ insulæ prædicens futura flabra ventorum, ab imperitis visus est ventos suâ potestate retinere.'
Polybius will not admit that this story of Aolus is entirely fable; and Strabo is of the same opinion, that Ulysses was in the Sicilian seas; and that there was such a king as Æolus, he affirms to be truth; but that he met with such adventures is, in the main, fiction. There may another reason, as Eustathius observes, be given for the fiction of binding up the winds in a bag: they who practised the art of incantation or charms, made use of the skin of a dolphin, and pretended by certain ceremonies to bind or loose the winds as they pleased; and this practice is a sufficient ground to build upon in poetry.
The solution also of Bochart is worth our notice: Homer borrowed the word Aloλos from the Phoenician Aol, which signifies a whirlwind or tempest, from whence the Greeks formed their word asλλa; the Phoenicians observing the king of this island to be very expert in foretelling the winds, called him king Aolin, or king of the winds and storms; from hence Homer formed a proper name, and called him Aλ. It must be confessed, that this solution is ingenious, and not without an appearance of probability.
But having laid together what may be said in vindication of this story of Æolus, justice requires that I should not suppress what has been objected against it by no less a critic than Longinus: he observes that a genius naturally lofty sometimes falls into trifling; an instance of this, adds he, is what Homer says of the bag wherein Æolus enclosed the winds. Cap. vii. weg utaç.
V. 3. A floating isle..] The word in the original is wλwn; some take it, as Eustathius remarks, for a proper name; but Aristarchus believes Homer intended to express by it a floating island, that was frequently removed by concussions and earthquakes, for it is seen sometimes on the right, at other times on the left hand: the like has been said of Delos; and Herodotus thus describes the island Echemis in the Egyptian seas. Dionysius, in his wagingnois, affirms, that this island is not called by the name
of wλwrn, by reason of its floating, but because it is an island of fame, and much sailed unto, or worn by navigators; that is, πλεομένη, οι εν τόποις πλεομένοις κειμένη, or lying in seas of great navigation: but perhaps the former opinion of Aristarchus may be preferable, as it best contributes to raise the wonder and admiration of the credulous ignorant Phæacians, which was the sole intention of Ulysses.
These islands were seven in number (but eleven at this day), Strongyle, Hiera, Didyme, Hicesia, Lipara, Erycodes, and Phænicodes, all lying in the Sicilian seas, as Diodorus Siculus testifies ; but differs in the name of one of the islands.
Strabo is of opinion, that the island called by Homer, the #olian, is Strongyle; Η δε Στρογυλη, εστι διαπυρος των φεύγει πλεονέκτησα, εναύθα δε τον Αίολον οικησαι φασι. This island Strongyle abounds with subterraneous fires, &c. and here Æolus is said to have reigned.' Pliny agrees with Strabo, lib. iii. but Dacier understands it to be Lipara, according to Virgil, Æn. lib. viii. but in reality the seven were all called the Æolian islands.
'Insula Sicanium juxta latus, Æoliamque
Erigitur Liparen, fumantibus ardua saxis.'
But why is it fabled to be surrounded with a wall of brass? Eustathius says, that this may proceed from its being almost inaccessible; but this reason is not sufficient to give foundation to such a fiction. Dacier observes that it is thus described, because of the subterranean fires, which, from time to time break out from the entrails of this island. Aristotle speaking of Lipara, which is the most considerable of the Æolian islands, thus describes it: ' all night long the island Lipara appears enlightened with fires.' The same relation agrees with Strongyle, called Strombolo at this day.
I will take the liberty to propose a conjecture, which may perhaps not unhappily give a reason of this fiction of the wall of brass, from this description of Aristotle: all night fires appear (says that author) from this island, and these fires falling upon the seas, might cast a ruddy reflection round the island, which to navigators might look like a wall of brass enclosing it. This is but a conjecture drawn from appearances; but to write according
to appearances is allowable in poetry, where a seeming or a real truth may be used indifferently.
V. 5. Six blooming youths.. and six fair daughters.] Diodorus Siculus mentions the names of the six sons of olus, but is silent concerning his daughters, and therefore others, who can find mysteries in the plainest description, assure us, that this is not to be understood historically, but allegorically. But what occasion is there to have recourse to an uncertain allegory, when such great names as Polybius, Strabo, and Diodorus, assure us, that this relation is in part true history; and if there was really such a king as Eolus, why might he not be a father of six sons and as many daughters? I should prefer a plain history to a dark allegory.
V. 9. All day they feast,
and music through the isle resounds.] Homer was not unacquainted with the wonders related of this island Lipara. 'In this island,' says Aristotle, a monument is reported to be, of which they tell miracles: they assure us that they hear issuing from it the sound of timbrels or cymbals, plainly and distinctly. It is easy to perceive that this is founded upon the noise the fires make which are enclosed in the caverns in this island, and that Homer alludes to the ancient name of it, which in the Phoenician language (Meloginin, as Bochart observes) signifies the land of those who play upon instruments. We learn from Callimachus, in his Hymn to Diana, that Lipara was originally called Meligounis. She (Diana) went to find out the Cyclops: she found them in Lipara, for that is the name the isle now bears, but anciently it was called Meligounis; they were labouring a huge mass of red hot iron,' &c. So that Homer is not all invention, but adapts his poetry to tradition and ancient story. DACIER.
V. 32. The hills display the beacon's friendly light.] Eustathius observes, that these fires were a kind of beacons kept continually burning to direct navigators: the smoke gave notice by day, the light of the flame by night. Ithaca was environed with rocks, and consequently there was a necessity for this care, to guide sea
faring men to avoid those rocks, and to point out the places of landing with security.
But is it not an imputation to the wisdom of Ulysses, to suffer himself to be surprised with sleep, when he was almost ready to enter the ports of his own country? And is it not probable that the joy he must be supposed to receive at the sight of it, should induce him to a few hours watchfulness? It is easier to defend his sleeping here, than in the thirteenth of the Odyssey: the poet very judiciously tells us, that Ulysses for niue days together almost continually waked and took charge of the vessel, and the word nexμnara shews that nature was wearied out, and that he fell into an involuntary repose; it can therefore be no diminution to his character to be forced to yield to the calls of nature, any more than it is to be hungry: his prudence and love of his country sufficiently appear from the care he took through the space of nine days to arrive at it; so that this circumstance must be imputed to the infirmity of human nature, and not to a defect of care or wisdom in Ulysses.
V. 50. They said: and (oh curs'd fate!) the thongs unbound.] This relation has been blamed as improbable; what occasion was there to unbind the bag, when these companions of Ulysses might have satisfied their curiosity that there was no treasure in it from the lightness of it? But Homer himself obviates this objection, by telling us that Æolus fastened it in the vessel, as Eustathius observes,
Νηι δ' ενι γλυφύρη κατεδει . . .
V. 94. The shepherd quitting høre at night the plain, &c.] This passage has been thought to be very difficult; but Eustathius makes it intelligible: the land of the Læstrigons was fruitful, and fit for pasturage; it was the practice to tend the sheep by day, and the oxen by night; for it was infested by a kind of fly that was very grievous to the oxen by day, whereas the wool of the sheep defended them from it; and therefore the shepherds drove their oxen to pasture by night. If the same shepherd who watched the sheep by day, could pass the night without sleep, and attend the oxen, he performed a double duty, and consequently merited