I stumbled on the above in Waterstone’s, Perth, on holiday last week. Yes that’s the level of excitement you get on my holiday jaunts.
I knew then next to nothing about Homer beyond enjoying those 60s ‘sandals and swords‘ film epics like ‘Jason and the Argonauts‘, with my school pals, aged 12/13.
The title sent me back to schooldays. Turns out it’s from Keats.
Anyhow, it has gripped me and you might like to know that the author relates the Homeric tales to those of the Celtic bards of Scotland and Ireland.
What particularly caught me were fascinating details.
For example, the first concrete evidence of Homeric words is in a ‘dad joke’ on a wine cup, given to an adolescent, coming of age.
And, he reports a French woman archaeologist who notes that Homer talks of the soul ‘fluttering‘ away from the dead, that pottery engravings show a little moth on the shoulder of dead warriors and then she sees reports of a German scientist who, using a very sensitive scale is able to weigh the dying and demonstrates that we lose around 20 grams in the moment of death! Bit heavy for a moth?
There’s more, much more.
Right at the beginning my image of Homer is corrected. Not a grey old man, bearded and blind but this from an excavated floor in Mycenae more than 3 000 years ago:
Young, gifted and black (?) ‘singing’ words into flight.
A quarter of the way in, I thought I’d find out more about the author:
Adam Nicolson, 5th Baron Carnock FSA FSA Scot FRSL (born 12 September 1957) is an English author who has written about history, landscape, great literature and the sea. He is noted for his books Sea Room (about the Shiant Isles, a group of uninhabited islands in the Hebrides); God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible; The Mighty Dead (US title:Why Homer Matters) exploring the epic Greek poems; The Seabird’s Cry about the disaster afflicting the world’s seabirds; and The Making of Poetry on the Romantic Revolution in England in the 1790s. Adam Nicolson is the son of writer Nigel Nicolson and his wife Philippa Tennyson-d’Eyncourt. He is the grandson of the writers Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson, and great-grandson of Sir Eustace Tennyson d’Eyncourt and Arthur Nicolson, 1st Baron Carnock. He was educated at Eaton House, Summer Fields School, Eton College where he was a King’s Scholar, and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He has worked as a journalist and columnist on the Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Telegraph, National Geographic Magazine and Granta, where he is a contributing editor. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Society of Antiquaries and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book by an aristocrat before but this guy, unlike Boris, is academically, intellectually, the real deal so, having sprayed some ibuprofen on the working-class chips on both my shoulders, I read on happily.