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The Jacob's Ladder in Homer

Author(s): Rufus Town Stephenson


Source: The Classical Journal, Vol. 30, No. 9 (Jun., 1935), pp. 515-530
Published by: The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc. (CAMWS)
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3290294
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THE JACOB'S LADDER IN HOMER

By Rurus TOWN STEPHENSON


DePauw University
Greencastle, Indiana

In Genesis we read the beautiful story of Jacob's dream, and


with Jacob we see the angels descending and ascending the rounds
of that wonderful ladder which reached from heaven to earth;
above it we glimpse God himself assuring Jacob of his watchful care.
There are few who realize that we have that same Jacob's ladder
in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Certainly one of the things to be
most appreciated in Homer is his two-world point of view. To him
earth was unthinkable without heaven, and heaven was unthink-
able without earth. Their interrelation made the world he knew.
It is most interesting to note that the Iliad opens with earth
reaching up to heaven for co6peration-Achilles through Thetis
to Zeus; it closes with heaven reaching down to earth for coopera-
tion-Zeus through Thetis to Achilles.
This would indeed be a utopian picture, but the facts force us
to remember that the Greek gods were anthropomorphic. All
the Greek knew of God was what he saw of God in man. In other
words, his god was man idealized into something more than man,
just man writ large; and his heaven was earth idealized into some-
thing more than earth, just earth writ large. Naturally this con-
ception was fraught with both weal and woe for the Greek gods
and the Greek heaven and for men and earth as well. As the
Greek gods had evil within them as well as good and as the Ho-
meric Greeks, just like their contemporary Hebrews, held deity
responsible for the evil in the world as well as the good, the heav-
enly influence was naturally sometimes a baneful one. Be it
said to Homer's credit, however, that his gods usually co6perated,
515

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516 THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL

not for man's bane, but for his blessing, as an


his poems will certainly prove.
Although Homer wrote primarily to give pleasu
portrayal of interesting transcripts from hum
read his two poems through without finding in
a providential order-call it a diabolical prov
occasion, if you will. The gods and fate, as a dar
ground, rule the world; that belief permeates t
sey. The wrath of Achilles but fulfils the will o
tells us in the opening lines of the Iliad. In the o
Odyssey Zeus in the presence of a grand conclav
the course of the Odyssey from beginning to end
conclave we have a most important twofold pro
the father of the gods: First, man's sorrow com
his own sin-this is our doctrine of the free will
gods care for man and warn him, though frequen
he goes heedlessly to his doom-this is our doctr
It was the glory of Achilles that in the exerci
could choose between two courses and that he chose the noble life.
And this leads to a consideration of one more thing-and that very
important-before we can have a perfect appreciation of our Ja-
cob's ladder in Homer. The poet also believed something else,
which naturally grew out of his anthropomorphic conception of
deity, namely, that man has God within him-a god-force pulling
toward the evil sometimes but far more often toward the good.
We often read in Homer of the man "breathed on by the gods"

(7ervvP4vos)
Homer held thatand
manof the
has "godlike"
free manhe(Kbos).
will but that also hasIn
theother
divinewords,
within him that enables him willingly to will the will of God.
In Homer the presence of the gods among men usually does not
detract from natural action, from human initiative, from human
free will, for the reason that these Homeric gods often seem but an
innate quality of the man personified, the divine in man exter-
nalized and made concrete by visible manifestation. Therefore,
the man is acting in character; he is not deprived of that liberty of
action which belongs to real life everywhere. Although the gods
are continually helping men, we feel that human personality is not

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THE JACOB'S LADDER IN HOMER 517

dwarfed by the great poet; rather in Homer human p


emphasized and glorified by these heavenly intervent
This Jacob's ladder, up and down which the gods are
making their way, and these concrete pictures of co6
tween God and man, so concrete and real that th
doubt, are one of the great spiritual heritages of o
very closeness of heaven and earth, this very nearnes
man that Homer depicts, will be a crying and beck
the generations of men until some one generation
reality in human experience. Such is the spiritual tug
like the tug of the moon on the tides.
Let us now take up interesting and characteristic
this Jacob's ladder in the Iliad and Odyssey. Let us
first appearance of divinity in the Iliad. Achilles was
sword and was just on the point of slaying Agame
Athena came down from heaven, as sudden and d
apparition as the angel to Abraham. She seized him
hair-her two eyes flashing terribly-her message,
not kill." With almost superhuman self-control he ob
put his sword back into its sheath and then turned
Athena had returned to Olympus. What is the mea
Jacob's ladder in action here? Achilles was being carri
passion when the goddess of wisdom appeared. Sur
real sense Athena was his own sober second thought p
Why did he recognize her at once? This was by no me
appearance to him; she had often before nipped his
bud. Why did her two eyes flash terribly at him? Beca
he was a very Titan among men, with volcanic passion
at the leash. To Homer, and even to us, what more
could there be for driving home the fact that calm ju
trolled his passion and reason held him firm than
Athena coming to him in person with discipline fr
How vividly dramatic the poet, who could make con
the abstract forces that play in human hearts!
In a very real sense, as we have said, Athena stands f
sober second thought; so she does not make of Ac
puppet, a mere pawn on a chessboard. In fact we almo

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518 THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL

Achilles would have done as he did without d


least, that all he needed for the doing of his d
touch of heavenly inspiration.
But if this be, in part surely, his own act, why
goddess at all? Because Homer believed in the pro
Athena, then, is to be thought of as inside Achil
to be thought of as outside the man-divine-and i
enter into sympathy with Homer's point of view
good thoughts-conscience-come from, if not
God? To us, brought up on modern psychology
subjective, little more than an abstract thought
to Homer, who had a vivid, mythologic mind, sh
a goddess. In terms of her godhead he thought a
and so did his Homeric world.
Thus endeth one of the most dramatic passages in literature, a
vivid and clear-cut picture of a human soul, victorious in a battle
with temptation. As one of my students put it, "Here we have all
of the naturalness of man and all of the power of God"-a perfect
example of the Jacob's ladder.
At every crisis in Achilles' life the goddess Thetis arose from the
sea like a lovely mist and tried to help her son as only a mother
can. In Book I she took his problem to Zeus in prayer; in Book
xvIII she went to Olympus to ask Hephaestus to make for him a
suit of divine armor. Picture her descending from heaven with that
golden armor, and again you have our Jacob's ladder in radiant
action. Let us now consider the last appearance of Thetis to
Achilles in Book xxIv. Her mission from heaven made possible
the spiritual climax of the whole poem. The physical climax is to
be found, of course, in Book xxII where Achilles conquers Hector;
but in Book xxiv he does a far harder thing-he conquers himself.
For revenge Achilles has been dragging Hector's dead body thrice
daily around the tomb of Patroclus. The gods look down with
pity; some of them in the heavenly conclave propose that Hermes
be sent to steal away the corpse, but Zeus pronounces judgment:
"No, we will send Thetis to persuade him to give Hector back."
Notice how Zeus safeguards the free will of man, evidently be-
lieving that Achilles in his own heart will decide to do the magnan-

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THE JACOB'S LADDER IN HOMER 519

imous thing. At once we see two goddesses desce


to carry out the will of Zeus: Thetis to Achilles and
old Priam to influence him (already half minded to
out a most daring plan, namely, to go to Achilles
though he was, and beg back the body of his son
had evidently been fighting out this battle in h
knew that an early death was awaiting him, too,
was beginning to be moved with compassion as h
dead Hector. When his goddess mother came, in
he was always inspired to be his best, he instantl
the will of Zeus: "So be it, if the Olympian himse
No outer authority here; thus even in old Homer's v
within answered to the call of the divine without.
To Achilles' hut Priam went, conducted by Hermes. The scene
that follows between Priam and Achilles is as affecting as any in
the literature of our race. Slowly, with terrific struggle, but surely
Achilles conquers himself. The fine dramatic quality of the passage
and its fine psychology, revealing step by step the changes through
which our hero passes until he comes out a man transformed, leave
an indelible impression upon one. We have reached the culmina-
tion of our poem; what greater thing can any man do than master
himself-and love his enemy?
"The poet's design becomes plain; he will have us regard Achil-
les not merely as a physical hero but also as a spiritual one; the
man is endowed with colossal passions, yet with the more colossal
power of transcending them; human he is to the last degree, yet
also divine, goddess-born."' He was not deaf to the still small
voice of God. As we know, Achilles was not destined to a long life;
he had chosen between a long life of mediocrity and a short life of
service to his fellowmen. And yet despite this shadow of early
death hovering like a cloud over the brilliant morning of his life,
he climbed "the ladder of the soul" to the topmost height of him-
self, and then-the poet has the good sense to bring his poem to
its close, leaving Achilles in the full vigor of his young knighthood,
resplendent like the sun.
1 Denton J. Snider, Homer's Iliad: St. Louis, William Harvey Miner Co. (1922), 480.
To this book the writer is deeply indebted and also to the same author's Homer's
Odyssey, published the same year by the same company.

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520 THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL

There are two very significant divine inter


Iir of the Iliad. As he richly deserved, Alexande
in his duel with Menelaus. But Aphrodite saved
shrouding him in thick mist, and set him down
in Troy. Then she went to summon Helen from
had been watching the duel with excited int
she herself the stake? What is the meaning of t
the goddess? We must consider it a sort of alleg
image of that which actually occurred. Home
came to Paris; may we not say Aphrodite w
personified, just as Athena, in part, was Achilles
thought personified? Let us conceive of Alexan
the ring in some disguise, under a cloud of dus
dense crowd. It is Aphrodite, Passion, who le
dominating force in his life. "His sensuous is far
warlike nature. She spirits him out of the comb
danger to his dear body, the grand instrume
makes him a coward."2' This is just Homer's n
of telling the story, externalizing everything
have seen, was acting from within; he certai
character; but to Homer Aphrodite was outsid
dess, the embodiment of a great, surging world-
As Mr. Snider writes, we have an artistic inte
between the outer conflict, the duel, and the in
battle going on in Helen's own heart (love fo
love for Alexander); so the outer conflict is but
inner, which indeed gives meaning to the out
absorbing interest. Both Greeks and Trojans h
compact that Helen is to belong to the winn
every right, therefore, she now belongs to Mene
Alexander and Helen know right well. At this p
from the outer duel to the inner duel in Helen'
fights with Aphrodite, who has just ignominiou
ander and now comes to the tower to tempt her
assumes the shape of an aged woman, a wool com

2 Snider, Homer's Iliad, 194.

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THE JACOB'S LADDER IN HOMER 521

Spartan friend of Helen, who perhaps once before h


her to yield to passionate desire and elope with A
is Homer's way of stating what indeed we all kno
experience, that temptation usually assails us in
She plucks the robe of Helen, saying, "Alexander
come home." She adds for Helen's temptation: "He
some and handsomely attired; he doesn't look like a
from war but like a man going to a dance." Helen
messenger, though in disguise; she recognizes Passio
often encountered her before. She sees the beauty o
which not even the ugliness of the old woman can hi
tiful neck, desireful bosom, and lustrous eyes," and
affected; for Homer tells us "her heart was stirred
Still she puts up a show of resistance and assa
"Leave heaven thyself and become his wife or his
not return to that man's couch; it would be a shame
all the Trojan women would blame me." Then tha
have sorrows already past counting!"-the last tou
contrition before she yields. With impatience the go
fully replies- "I'll hate you and desert you!" That
means, "You 11 lose your beauty. You won't hav
always; so enjoy it while you may." Aphrodite con
die soon, too-I'll see that you die. I'll make both Gre
jans hate you so that, when peace is declared, the
That is, she means, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for t
die"--"enjoy life while youth and life last." Subdu
herself, ashamed of her action, and follows the godd
into the presence of Alexander. It is the old story of
hour of temptation, even if one yields in the end
self-defense tells Helen that Menelaus has won in the duel because
of Athena's aid but that he, too, has a god on his side. And most
assuredly he has! That Aphrodite has just played a most base and
contemptible r6le no one will deny. Lust always plays such a r61le.
Here as a force for evil she appeals to the evil in both Alexander
and Helen, and they answer to her call. This is a part of the
Homeric dualism; occasionally human beings are inspired to evil.
In the beginning of Book ii we find another evil influence step-

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522 THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL

ping down, or rather flying down, the Jacob's


heaven and earth. Here, too, as in Aphrodite
both Alexander and Helen, this evil influence
quality or faculty of mind personified and ex
tells us that Zeus, in carrying out his plan of h
sent a lying dream to Agamemnon. This drea
head in the likeness of Nestor, who was held in
Agamemnon-there again we have temptation
The dream whispered in his ear: "Arm your Gr
you can now capture broad-wayed Troy." Ag
this (Homer adds, "Fool that he was!"), for this
his own egotistic plan personified, his own egot
The dream was within him, the thought that
very well without Achilles' help, but it was also
of the divine plan. We exclaim, "What! Zeus dec
ers! God lie to man!" But there is no shock here for the mind with
perspective. The fact is that Homer and our Old Testament alike
find in God the source of human error. An exact parallel is found
in the passage of the Old Testament where Jehovah sent a lying
spirit to entice Ahab to his doom.
In the Odyssey we find this same Jacob's ladder cementing
earth and heaven together. One of the most interesting interven-
tions is the descent of Athena to the princess Nausicaa in the first
part of the Phaeacian episode. The goddess hovers over her in a
dream in the form of one of her girl companions and sends her to
the seashore to make her wedding clothes clean and glistening and
to superintend the family washing-ostensibly-but really to have
Odysseus meet her and find welcome in the palace. "Yet Athena's
scheme does not conflict with the free will of the maiden, which
finds its fullest scope just in this household duty."3 As Homer
pictures her, Nausicaa stands for girlhood in the bloom of youth,
and thoughts of marriage are ever in her mind. The young princes
of the island are all wooing her, so fair is she. It is only natural
for her to be thinking about accepting one of them, about an
early marriage, and, therefore, about the washing of her wedding

3 Snider, Homer's Odyssey, 161.

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THE JACOB'S LADDER IN HOMER 523

clothes. So she goes out that eventful Monday (?


wash; but who can say she is not acting in character
but doing what a girl in her situation would natural
is in the girl as well as outside her; in Homer we
inner man and the outer God co6perating in just
ways.
It is worth noting that Homer found Providence in the tossing
of a ball. When Nausicaa and her maidens were playing ball, while
waiting for the clothes to dry, the poet reminds us: "The goddess,
flashing-eyed Athena, took other counsel, that Odysseus might
awake and see the fair-faced girl, who should lead him to the
Phaeacian city. So then the princess tossed the ball to one of her
maids; the maid she missed but cast it into a deep eddy, and
thereat they screamed aloud, and noble Odysseus awoke."4 That
misthrown ball of the princess Nausicaa was one of the links in
the chain of the providential home-going of Odysseus. He was to
meet Nausicaa, that through her he might have a favorable
reception in her father's court and, therefore, an escort home.
In the first part of Book I of the Odyssey we have the assembly
of the gods in heaven; in the second we have the carrying out of
their will on earth. Athena (taking the form of Mentes, an islander
friend of Odysseus) descended to Ithaca to inspire Telemachus
to play a man's part in the world. At the time of her coming
Telemachus was sitting among the wooers in the reception hall of
his father's palace, seeing in his mind's eye his noble father, re-
turned, scattering the suitors and held in honor once more as king
over his own people. Truly this young prince had a receptive heart,
for it was something like the content of this daydream of his that
Athena had come to tell him. Still Athena here had a very impor-
tant work. Telemachus was only daydreaming; as a matter of
fact, he had almost ceased to look for his father's return; and with
the suitors there outrageously consuming his inheritance the poor
boy had almost ceased to believe in a divine providence. Surely he
needed God's help! She assured him that his father would not be
long absent from Ithaca. She fed him on constructive thoughts,

4Od. vI, 112-117.

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524 THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL

realizing their value as surely as any modern


She told him that he looked like Odysseus an
were not Odysseus' son; when assured that he w
like him then; be the man your great father w
the law to the suitors and go with ship in searc
Thus she prompted him to action and inspired
a growing young man, he had already begun to f
"She is a veritable goddess to the young str
word of hope and wisdom. Still the goddess is i
is his thought, his wisdom."' Here again, as s
we have inner man and outer God reaching tow
finding themselves akin, united in a common b
action.
With this new inspiration in his heart, he call
the people and demanded that the suitors leave
him a ship so that he might set sail in search
because of the influence of those brigand-w
assembly broke up without granting either r
last thing the wooers desired was the return
thing was clear: Telemachus could expect no a
meeting. Where should he get his help? From
seashore he went and prayed; and Athena drew n
of Mentor, guardian friend of the family. She
she told him that she would equip for him a sw
she herself would go with him. There is heav
for you! Not "God so loved the world," but
of God's care for man that bids one pause and
promised, Athena, in the likeness of Telemac
the city to secure for him his ship and crew. T
the guise of Mentor) she spoke these cheering w
already thy comrades sit at the oar. Come,
adds: "Saying this, Pallas Athena led the wa
followed in the footsteps of the goddess." That
Christian hymn, "Where He Leads Me, I Wi

6 Snider, Homer's Odyssey, 26.


6 Od. i, 402-406.

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THE JACOB'S LADDER IN HOMER 525

why did Athena take the form of Telemachus wh


ranging for this trip? Are we rationalizing too much
the following way? Was it not because Homer rea
man wants something done, after all God usually
not, do it for him, but the man must do it for
working through the man? I know Homer said the g
and with his mythologic spirit he more than ha
Indeed, Telemachus was god-filled when he did it
born fabulist, mythologist. Those appearances of
Homer's natural, objective way of telling us that
wisdom is at work in the world.
In Book iii Athena (still in Mentor's shape) and Telemachus
reach Pylus, Nestor's home. But unfortunately the old king knows
nothing about Odysseus, since he and Odysseus had separated on
the homeward road; so he advises Telemachus to go to Sparta to
question Menelaus about his father. Athena agrees with Nestor in
advising this visit. She now quits Telemachus as a personal com-
panion in the flesh (Mentor); now he must shift for himself and
make the rest of the journey for the most part on his own re-
sources. Homer's view of life is that too much reliance must not
be placed on external deity; it is the man inspired of God who is to
accomplish the tasks of the world. Man must exert himself tre-
mendously, or else the gods cannot help him. We like the Homeric
heavenly interventions, for they ring true to human experience.
Just before the climax of our poem Odysseus, ostensibly a poor
beggar, had gone to bed in the forehall of his own palace, pondering
evil for the suitors and watching with almost uncontrollable exas-
peration his own serving girls slipping out to their embraces. He
tossed upon his bed wondering how he could endure it and yet
how he could do anything, one man against so many. Then it was
that Athena came down from heaven in the likeness of a woman
and stood above his head and said:"Why now again art thou wake-
ful, unfortunate beyond all men? Lo, this is thy house, and there
within are thy wife and thy child, such a man, methinks, as any
one might pray to have for his son."7 And Odysseus answered her:

7Od. xx, 33 ff.

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526 THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL

"Yea, goddess, but how can I, all alone as I am, h


who are always in a body?" Then the goddess
one, many men trust weaker friends, friends w
not wise as I am wise; but I am a god, and I gua
in all thy toils. . . . Go to sleep." So she spoke an
his eyelids, but herself, the fair goddess, went
Another most inspiring example of our Jacob
Bible verse comes to mind, "Lo, I am with yo
the end of the world."
Such continual recurrence of the intervention of the gods in
human affairs-what does it all mean? Denton Snider writes:
"Let us observe, then, first, that the poet's principle is not to allow
a divine intervention to degenerate into a merely external mechan-
ical act; Homer puts the divine influence inside the individual as
well as outside, and thus preserves the latter's freedom in the
providential order."' God is in man! That is the great hypothesis
of Europe's first poet; that made possible in both Iliad and Odyssey
the Jacob's ladder, which rainbow-like joined earth to heaven and
heaven to earth.
This principle reconciles us to the seemingly unfair part played
by Athena in the duel between Achilles and Hector. The goddess
brings back to Achilles the spear that had missed Hector, but she
fails to restore to Hector the spear that had vainly struck Achilles'
shield-on the face of it most perfidious favoritism on the part of
the goddess. But "Homer is the direst confusion, unless we see
the ever recurring correspondence between the inner man and
the outer divine influence."' Hector was the author of his own
destruction.

In his soliloquy spoken just before he faced Achilles we have in


a nutshell the tragedy of the last ten years and especially the
tragedy of the last twenty-four hours of Hector's life. For ten
years he had been fighting for a cause in which he did not believe;
and yet he had been compelled to fight for it, for it was the cause
of his father and mother, his wife and baby boy.

8 Homer's Odyssey, 159.


9 Snider, Homer's Iliad, 419.

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THE JACOB'S LADDER IN HOMER 527

Yet well in my undoubting mind I know


The day shall come in which our sacred Troy,
And Priam, and the people over whom
Spear-bearing Priam rules, shall perish all.10

These words voice the forebodings of his inner


realized that he was fighting for a lost and perfidio
realization plus the tragedy of the last twenty-four
life, to which I shall now refer, caused even in that
a character disintegration that inwardly correspond
ward confusion brought upon him by Athena. We m
that Polydamas had advised him, and that his ag
mother had pleaded with him, to come inside the
to face Achilles outside alone, but Hector had refuse
with success and the desire for personal glory-for j
in his noble life-Hector had refused to put countr
and he now felt resting upon him the crushing weig
of countless comrades slain on the very morning of
by impetuous Achilles. Could he go back within
acknowledge his mistake amid the jeers of hate a
you-so's of Polydamas and his party? At this cr
unlike himself-Hector seemed unable to do his du
stayed out there to meet his foe.
Under such circumstances could he fight his b
pursued by Achilles around the walls of Troy. And t
did deceive himself (Homer says Athena deceive
semblance of his brother Deiphobus) into thinking
turn around and confront Achilles, could he mak
his arms? True, he hurled one spear, but without fo
perforate Achilles' shield. Then, Homer says, "He sto
He turned around, expecting to receive from Deip
Athena, who had already restored to Achilles the
hurled) a second spear; but lo! he had vanished-an
no spear to use. Hector had thrown his spear away
man; Homer says the outer goddess brought it no
"It was Athena who played me false," he cried. Y

10 Iliad vi, 447-449 (Bryant's translation).

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528 THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL

own poor judgment that had tricked him. In de


on Achilles with his sword-only to be struck do
feet! Say that this contest was disappointingly
point of view it was; say that Athena's help g
was external and that it lessened his glory; say
promised to Hector (though withheld) would
and unfair; but it seems to me that the help He
occasion was primarily internal, and no interna
coming. The weakness of a lost cause was ma
tryst with Fate in that last hour. In a very sad w
the cause of a dying Troy. Internal weaknes
they wield effective weapons or win the day? H
of spirit was but attributed to Athena, whose f
give wisdom and take it away-it was really h
over the phenomena of the duel. Were they e
the outer goddess? Rather, was not all that was
and but the imagery of Hector's own tragic tho
as phenomena caused by the goddess? Achilles w
for Hector was in a daze; so dazed that, to strip
its imagery, he had somehow forgotten to prov
that second spear. It was a case of disintegrated
yet the world's verdict is that Hector was the n
fought in the war at Troy on either side-an
therefore, the most pathetically tragic characte
his country struck home upon him as upon n
always admire Hector as a man, despite the
crisis of the war, he fell just a little short as
tragedy, which whelmed him into ruin, gives h
hearts.

To Homer's mind the outer god was so intimately connected


with inner experience that he naturally described this duel in
terms of divine causation, for the Homeric man apparently was
always translating internal experience into external imagery. This
external imagery served to give him the same ideas we get from
our abstract thinking. Our difficulty in appreciating the course
this duel took lies in the fact that in our thinking there is no con-
nection at all between the outer god and the inner experience. But

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THE JACOB'S LADDER IN HOMER 529

when we have acquired the poet's point of view, thi


us in a measure the same satisfaction it afforded him and his Ho-
meric world." Homer used the gods to explain all sorts of accidentsl2
and psychological phenomena, and such descriptions gave no
offense to his contemporaries, because to their minds these religious
stories still left the world-as we know it today-at the mercy
of accident and subject to the laws of human psychology and ex-
perience. We moderns, if we find no allegory here, are offended
when the gods are made responsible for the accidents and evils of
life. How badly Homer needed our biblical devil!
For a last generalization, we may say that Homer's explanation
for everything that takes place in outer nature,'3 as for everything
that takes place in the psychology of our inner lives, is God working
around us and in us. All of the phenomena of our outer lives, even
the accidents that befall us, are due to God; likewise, all of the
phenomena of our inner lives, our thoughts, dreams, deeds, talents,
and accomplishments, we owe to God; to Homer God and man
were in a very real sense one. His universe was a universe God-
explained and God-inspired. He naturally thought in terms of God.
Perhaps the blind old bard could see with his eyes shut more than
we can see with our eyes open. He found God everywhere in his
world both outside and inside man. There is, to be sure, a great
difference between "everywhere" and "somewhere," but some-
where the modern world, too, must find God. Homer gives us a
naive, a childlike, an imperfect religion but a religion that cannot
be scoffed at, because it springs from the deep wells of the human
heart and answers to some of its deepest needs.
This splendid co6peration and interrelation between God and
man, which the Greeks recognized centuries ago, needs to be
rethought today in modern terms. We have gone to the other ex-

11 An interpretation along similar lines reconciles us to Apollo's interference in the


duel between Hector and Patroclus. For another instance of daze, attributed by Homer
to Poseidon, which the modern psychologist would call a natural experience of con-
fusion, see Iliad xii, 434-442.
12 These accidents may well have been caused by the individual's own carelessness.
For example, see Iliad xxm, 774-784.
11 Cf. Od. v, 282-453, where Poseidon piled up the waves mountain high.

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530 THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL

treme and have almost bowed God out of his universe and elimi-
nated spiritual things altogether. Until the modern world redis-
covers this Jacob's ladder, finds God again and regains this two-
world consciousness, life will be a cheapened thing, and poetry
will be a cheapened thing, nor can we hope to produce poems like
the Iliad and the Odyssey.

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