| THE ODYSSEY|
Professor Fagles responds...
March 13, 1997
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in this forum:
What is Odysseus' moral compass, and why are most of his lessons learnt at home ? How much of the Odyssey is history, and how much is poetic fiction? What explains the lack of colors in the Odyssey? How has James Joyce's "Ulysses" effected your reading of the "Odyssey"? Is a son incomplete without his father in much of Ancient Greek literature? ADDITIONAL COMMENTS Hugh Hawkins of Amherst MA, asks:
Since no one knows who Homer was, how did the idea that he was blind get started?
Professor Robert Fagles of Princeton University responds:
The legend of Homer as the blind bard may owe his affliction, I think, to Homer's portrayal of the blind bard in the eighth book of the Odyssey, where Demodocus performs his songs for an audience of Phaeacians:
In came the herald now, leading along the faithful bard the Muse adored above all others, true, but her gifts were mixed with good and evil both: she stripped him of sight but gave the man the power of stirring, rapturous song.The bard's reward for suffering blindness, the Muse might say, is his heightened power of insight. The artist who cannot see, in fact, must imagine—and finds the power to imagination—a poetic world that is more vivid, more compelling than any world which we might set our eyes on. That's the paradox of the blind bard, and perhaps of Homer himself, and why, in all probability, the legend of his blindness seems to last throughout the centuries.
(Book 8, lines 71-75 in the translation)