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A Layman's Delight in the Odyssey

  • Evelyn Howell

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This paper is a warmed-up dish, crambe repetita, but devoid, I trust, of lethal after-effects. I had hoped to serve it up without much re-cooking. Vain hope—for in the interval since its first appearance Denys Page, Regius Professor of Greek in this University, has delivered a course of lectures on the Odyssey, and subsequently polished them up into book form. The book came out only last year; and after I had read it and then reverted to my own paper, I felt rather like a man peering about with a candle after switching off the electric light. At first I thought it my duty to attempt some analysis of Professor Page's book, or at least of its conclusions, but after some struggles I abandoned the idea. For, after all, Professor Page's line of approach does not cross mine. He is a scholar of a high order, full of theories about how, when, and where the Odyssey was composed, and in search of evidence to support his theories he puts the poem under a microscope and is constrained to devote much of his attention to its defects, to the holes in its fabric, so to speak, and the patches, rather than to its merits. So it comes as something of a surprise when, at the end of his book, he ranks the Odyssey as K 2 among the peaks of literature, second only to Everest in the form of Shakespeare.

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page 34 note 1 It was read to the Classical Society of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on. 29 November 1951 and again, after revision, on 18 October 1956.

page 34 note 2 Page, D. L., The Homeric Odyssey (Oxford, 1955).

page 38 note 1 In Lawrence's translation the man comes in only on the seventeenth word.

page 42 note 1 Though you untie the winds and let them fight Against the churches, though the yeasty waves Confound and swallow navigation up. Macbeth, IV. i. 52–54.

page 42 note 2 Cf. Greece & Rome, Second Series, ii (1955), 86.

A Layman's Delight in the Odyssey

  • Evelyn Howell

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