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FORMULAS FOR HEROES IN THE ILIAD AND IN BEOWULF
analysis of formulaic poetry began with the Homeric studies of Milman Parry,l which are now being continued in a series of strong papers by James A. Notopoulos.2 Among the extensions of the Parry theory to other narrative traditions, a chapter from the book by Jean Rychner on Old French epic is of exceptional elegance.3 Albert B. Lord discusses the formulas in Yugoslav song from our own century and also appears responsible,4together with Francis P. Magoun, Jr.,5 for the thesis that the repeated elements in Beowulf were likewise conventional phrases used without reflection. A number of scholars have recently gone much further: Robert E. Diamond shows how some of the Old English formulas-such as halig drihten, ece drihten, and mihtig drihten-were at length
1 L'Epithete traditionnelle dans Homere (Paris, 1928); "Studies in the Epic Technique of Oral Verse-Making, I, Homer and Homeric Style," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, XLI (1930), 134-47. 2 One of the latest being "Studies in Early Greek Oral Poetry," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, LXVIII (1964), 1-77. 3 La Chanson de geste (Geneva, 1955), pp. 126-53. 4 The chart on p. 199 of his book The Singer of Tales (Cambridge, Mass., 1960) is taken from p. 201 of his 1949 Harvard dissertation. Narrative Character of Anglo-Saxon 5"Oral-Formulaic Poetry," Speculum, XXVIII (1953), 446-67. The definitive formulas is said to be the 1956 work on the Old English Harvard dissertation of Robert P. Creed.
applied to the literary task of translation; 6 Robert L. Kellogg shows that the formular status of a phrase is to be determined from the entire corpus of Old Germanic verse;7 and Frederic G. Cassidy shows that halflines are profitably classified not only by meter and formula but by syntax as well.8 The high degree of economy in the Homeric epic diction was emphasized by Parry as a fact crucial to his argument, and
6 The Diction of the Anglo-Saxon Metrical Psalms (The Hague, 1963), on Psalms 52:3, 65:1, and 91:5. It follows that a work containing formulas need not be an oral composition; the formulas merely indicate that an oral tradition lay somewhere in the past. Tryphiodorus cannot have been an unOeoeLIS5s lettered bard even though his phrase NEO'TTToAE.oS (1. 153) is certainly Homeric: see my list below. 7 "The South Germanic Oral Tradition," in Franciplegius, ed. Jess B. Bessinger, Jr., and Robert P. Creed (New York University Press, 1965), pp. 66-74. The high proportion of compounds in Beowulfhas been taken as a mark of originality, especially since many of them do not occur elsewhere in Old English poetry: see Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, The Art of Beowulf (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959), pp. 6-7, in agreement with Frederick Klaeber (ed.), Beowulf (3rd ed., Boston, 1941), p. xliii. Kellogg dissents from this argument by observing that some of the allegedly original have exact cognates in Old Norse Beowulf compounds poetry. The originality of an Old Germanic poet might possibly be estimated by seeing what phrases he used instead of those most common in his own dialect or in the alliterative tradition as a whole. To consider only the Homeric phrases listed below, Quintus of Smyrna replaced repsveos is7T6Ta Neioswp (and NrlAos v6ds (iii. 525), Asyts HvA(iwv dyOp71TSS) with TreplQpuw and (rrpoaoeLie) dvcra dv8pcv 'Ayapgrc4wev with (jrposeat-nev) (v.427, ix.490). lvcUsCeAUTjs 'Ayat4wpvCwv 8"How Free was the Anglo-Saxon Scop?" in Franciplegius (cited in n. 7), pp. 75-85. A comparison of the syntactic patterns in Beowulf and the Elegies isolates one unexpected difference between them: half-lines in which both the accents fall on a single noun are a good deal more common in the epic. This is evidence in favor of the contention (see n. 7) that the proportion of compounds in Beowulf may be unusual.
[Modern Philology, November, 1965]
WILLIAM WHALLON pilation substantial. AhAo c\xb s
in the September, 1961, issue of PMLA I gave reasons for doubting whether the same economy was to be found in Beowulf. This conclusion now seems to me at fault for its failure to observe that, while the
formulaic epithets for the heroes of the Iliad
is not included because its epithet does not
recur in the Iliad; helm Scylfinga is not
are true to individual character but indifferently appropriateto context, the formulaic kenningsfor the heroes of Beowulf are true to generic character but significantly appropriateto context. Verse created not so much of single words as of more massive stereotypes is unable to describe a man with precision: either he will be the same in many differentsituations or he will be like other men in similar situations. The Homeric idiom follows the former alternative, as is agreed by every Hellenist who considers the matter; the idiom of Beowulf follows the latter, as this paper decides from a comparative survey of the evidence. Two categories of formulas, one from the Iliad and the other from Beowulf, are set alongside each other as a basis for discussion. Other kinds of formulas are contained by the two epics, but none more impressive for size and frequency of recurrence. Each of the Homeric formulas in the study begins with a consonant, fills the last three and one-quarter feet of the line, and is found at least once in the nominative; each contains an epithetic augment occurring at least twice in phrases of this length and combining at least once with the proper name of a heroic figure such as Agamemnon or Nestor. Each of the formulas from Beowulf is a half-line kenning that occurs at least twice and refers at least once to a heroic figure such as Hrothgar or Wiglaf. The category of Homeric formulas is by far the more restrictive, since it answers to the formulas of Beowulfthat begin with one given letter of alliteration, but the larger number of half-lines is needed to make the com-
included because it does not in its entirety recur in Beowulf; both phrases are commonplace, but neither has the prime quality of a formula.
Formulas from the Iliad.-I, Of names that begin with a vowel and fill the last foot: xeyaS
Hector" (12 times); deyas TeAatLoVLosAiCas, "great Telamonian Ajax" (12 times). II, Of names that begin with a consonant and fill the
last foot: rfEprvLos 7TIOTca NerrwTp, "Gerenian
horseman Nestor" (24 times); yEpwvlTr7T7AcTa H7qAEvs, "old-man horse-driver Peleus" (3
times); yppwv r7A7TcXra 0omLv, "old-man
horse-driver Phoenix" (3 times); y'pwv i7Olvvs, "old-man horse-driverOeneus" 7JACCra (1 time). III, Of names that begin with a vowel and fill the last one and one-quarter
SZos 'AXLAAevs, "swift-footed
excellent Achilles" (21 times); 7roAvrAas blos '03vLTE?vs, "much-enduring excellent Odysseus" (5 times). IV, Of names that begin with a vowel and fill the last one and one-half feet:
avac &vcpJv 'AyapE4LVwV (4Jevvov), "king-of-
men Agamemnon" (44 times); ava4 &v%pJv 'AyX&ar], "king-of-men Anchises" (1 time);
ava4 &v5pJv Alve&as, "king-of-men Aeneas" (1 time); diva4 dv8p6)v Av1yelas, "king-of-men Augeas" (1 time); avoc dvSpc)v 'EvXr1r], "king-of-men Euphetes" (1 time); dvad&vbpJv
'EvM4Aos, "king-of-men Eumelus" (1 time). V, Of names that begin with a consonant and fill the last one and one-half feet: ,or7V &yaxo^ALo,iJ3r7s,"good-at-the-cry Diomedes"
f7Voov &yaoos (v)
"good-at-the-cry Menelaus" (16 times); JLEVE7TTOAEVOS TIoAviro5-rs, "staunch-in-war Polypoetes" (4 times);
LeveTr-o'AELos- @paav rbrjs
"staunch-in-war Thrasymedes" (1 time); JLEVE7TTo-5A os InoAvfx6vrrs, "staunch-in-war
phontes" (1 time). VI, Of names that consist of a short followed by a long syllable: Ao'A6v Ev3JdyEos vios, "Dolon Eumedes' son" (3
times); do'a? 'Avbpa4tovos
Andraemon's son" (2 times). VII, Of names that begin with a consonant and consist of a
FORMULAS FOR HEROES IN THE ( ILIAD" AND IN " BEOWULF
bearn Healfdenes (Heregar 469a, Hrothgar 1020b), Deniga frean (Hrothgar 271a, 359a, 1680b), dryhten Geata (Beowulf 2402a, 2901a), freo(a)wine folca (Hrothgar 430a, Hygelac 2357a, Hrethel 2429a), fepecempa (Beowulf 1544a, Wiglaf 2853a), folces hyrde (Hrothgar 610a, Hygelac 1832a, 1849a, Beowulf 2644b, NEo7TTToJAEIos OEoetS7rs, "Neoptolemus godOngentheow 2981a), frean Scyldinga (Hrothlike" (1 time); HoXAvELvos 6EOEL7S's, "Polygar 291a, 351a, 500b), goldwine Geata xenus godlike" (1 time). (Beowulf 2419a, 2584a), goldwine gumena (Hrothgar 1171a, 1476a, 1602a), Geata dryhten Although a remark of A. E. Housman (ne) (Hygelac 1484b, 1831a, 2991b, Haethcyn about Horace cannot be applied to the 2483a, Beowulf 2560b, 2576a), geongum poet of the Iliad, who was not "as sensitive garwigan (Wiglaf 2674a, 281 la), gomela to iteration as any modern," the formula Scylfing (Ongentheow 2487b, 2968a), gamela tLyycasTeAa/CIjVLO s AL'as never occurs when Scylding (Hrothgar 1792a, 2105b), geongum it would be preceded by the name A'as in (an) cempan (Offa 1948b, indefinite 2044b, the same line, but is then replaced by the Wiglaf 2626a), helm Scyldinga (Hrothgar formula rneAcptosipKos 'AxaLcv; for the 371b, 456b, 1321b), hilderinces (e, a) (Grendel 986b,; Beowulf 1495a, 1576a, plural 3124a), sake of convenience such ancillary phrases har hilderinc (Hrothgar 1307a, Beowulf, are omitted from the list. Periphrases for 3136a), hele hildedeor (Beowulf 1646a, 1816a, Patroclus and the other heroes whose Wiglaf 3111a), hordweard haelet'a (Hrothgar names do not fit easily into the last three 1047a, Beowulf later 1852a), Higelaces legn and one-quarter feet are also omitted, for (Beowulf 194b, 1574b, Eofor 2977b), Hemto include Mevo-rLov AKLckLoS but not minges maeg (Offa 1944b, 1961b), Hreples v?OS 'AXaLJv would be in- eaferan (a) (Hygelac 1847b, 2358a, 2992a), 7TE?ApLos EpKOS leofes (ne, ra) mannes (an, a) (Beowulf 297b, vidious and would not modify the con1994a, 2897a, 3108a, plural 1915b, indefinite clusions at all. The list also does not take 1943b, Hondscio 2Q80a, Aeschere 2127a), account of phrases that include a ?' or ' or other particle. The men represented by leofne peoden (Scyld 34b, Beowulf 3079b), the formulas are few for good reason: the leod Scyldinga (Hrothgar 1653a, Heregar 2159a), msere (es, um, ne) p^eoden(nes, ne) numerous minor figures of the epic seldom (Hrothgar 129b, 201a, 345a, 1046b, 1598a, become the subjects of their clauses; they 1992a, Beowulf 797a, 2572a, 2788b, 3141b, are far more often the slain than the Heremod 1715a, Onela 2384a), maga (o) slayers. With two exceptions none of the Healfdenes (Hrothgar 5 times), maegHigelaces listed formulas recurs slightly altered in (Beowulf 5 times), rices hyrde (Ingeld 2027a, the oblique cases or the vocative; both Beowulf 3080a), sigoreadig secg (Beowulf 131la, Beowulf earlier 2352a), sunu Ecgpeothe names and the epithets tend to change in meter with a change of case. The wes (Beowulf 1550b, 2367b, 2398b), snottra digamma at the beginning of 'vac &v'pcov fengel (Hrothgar 1475a, 2156a), secg (as) on searwum (Beowulf 249a, plural 2530a, Wiglaf and O'veVs is not printed but is observed 2700a), sunu Healfdenes (Hrothgar 7 times), by the scansion. sunu (a) Ohteres (Eadgils and Eanmund Formulas from Beowulf.-Beowulf Geata 2380b, Eadgils 2394b, Eanmund 2612a), sunu (676a, 1191a), beam Ecgpeowes (10 times), Ecglafes (Unferth 590b, 98Gb, 1808a), sinces byre Wihstanes (Wiglaf 2907b, 3110b), beaga brytta (n) (Hrothgar 607b, 1170a, Hygelac bryttan (Scyld 35a, Hrothgar 352a, 1487a), 1922b, 207 la), sunu Wihstanes (Wiglaf 2752b, brego Beorhtdena (Hrothgar 427a, 609a), 3120b), peodcyninges (a) (plural 2a, Beowulf short syllable followed by a complete foot: AEOVTEVS O6OS "Aprqos, "Leonteus, scion of Ares" (3 times); IosaPpKrs o64os "Aprjos, "Podarces, scion of Ares" (1 time). VIII, Of names that combine with a following epithet of one and one-half feet: yepwv Hpta/los OEOEi7rjs, "old-man Priam godlike" (7 times);
WILLIAM WHALLON armor, ro&LpK7os and fekecempa of his fighting afoot, y'pwcv and har hilderinc of
2694b), peoden (nas) maerne(e) (Hrothgar 353a, Beowulf 2721a, plural 3070a), peoden Scyldinga (Hrothgar 1675a, 1871a), Wedra peoden (nes) (Beowulf 2336a, 2656a, 2786b, 3037a), Wedergeata leod (Beowulf 1492b, 1612b,2551a),wigendrahleo (Hrothgar4296, Sigemund8996, Beowulf 1972b,23376), wine (um) Scyldinga (Scyld 30b, Hrothgar 148a, 170b, 1183a, 2101b, plural 1418a, Ingeld 2026b), Weohstanes sunu (Wiglaf 2602b, (Hrothgar130a, aergod 28626, 3076b),aepeling Aeschere1329a,Beowulf2342a),eorladrihten (Hrothgar 1050b, Beowulf 23386), eald e)pelweard (indefinite 1702a, Beowulf 2210a), eodor Scyldinga (Hrothgar 428a, 663a), (a) aepelinges beam (Sigemund 888a, plural 1408b,2597a, 3170a). This list contains only substantives. It does not include adjectival phrases such as heard under helme, or phrases composed of an adjective and a definite article, such as pone selestan, or relative clauses, such as pe us beagas geaf-although expressions of these three kinds often supplement a kenning exactly as another kenning does. The list also omits phrases like leofa Beowulf that occur only in the vocative. Most of the half-lines in the list are found at least once in the nominative singular, but change of grammatical case often causes no thoroughgoing change in a formula. Except for the omission of certain variants in spelling, the Beowulfand Judith edition of Elliott V. K. Dobbie (New York, 1953) is followed throughout: part of my discussion depends upon his textual notes justifying xepeling xergodin 1329a, fekecempa in 1544a, and bar hilderinc in 3136a. The epithets and kennings stress many of the same qualities and are even likely to be rough translations of each other:
his old age. The formulas also distinguish between the two Ajaxes and between the two Beowulfs, though as a rule they are handsome but circumlocutory and tend to embellish rather than clarify the epic matter. They point with exceptional sharpness to the corpora they dominate, for "much-enduring excellent Odysseus" does not appear in the Philoctetes of Sophocles, nor any "hoard-warden of heroes" in the prose of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. It is evident that men may be described with the same epithet almost solely when their names are identical in metrical shape.
Agamemnon shares avc4 &v6pJv with five
minor figures who do not resemble him except in having names that scan like his; neither Hector nor any other major figure
can be a further 'vco4 &vbpJ&vwithout a
flaw in the dactylic rhythm. It follows that
Agamemnon appears avaf &v5pJv, "king
of men," in contrast with Hector, Nestor, or Achilles, and is the dominant or
&v6pwv in the epic as a
whole. A similar conclusion can be drawn almost at will. Thus the epithet KpEIWV,
"ruling," combines with names to create
phrases two and one-half feet in length: KpELWV 'A7yace1Vwv (29 times); KpElv 'Evocxi0ov, i.e., Poseidon (5 times); Kpd'wv 'Ayarurvwp (1 time); KpEWV (EALK&WV (1
(1 'EAcErrvuwp time); KpELWV time). No man besides
Agamemnon is both significant in the or Iliad and 3avac cvipuS)v KpE6wv, a fact that derives from the low frequency with which the major figures have names equivalent in meter. If every Homeric name were of one standard size-if the great heroes were vtos and byre Wihstanes speak EvMr5sEos and eodor Agrius, Aeacus, Aenius, Alcimus, Antiof a man's father, Fep74vLos Scyldinga speak of his nation, divc4 phus, Asius, Ennomus, Eurutus, lasus, Imbrion, Hippasus, Iphiclus, Ormenus, &vApJv and freawine fo/ca of his kingship, and secg on searwum of his Hurtacus, and Hurtius-the epithets used Kopv&aLoAos
" IN FORHEROES THE" ILIAD" AND IN " BEOWULF FORMULAS to meet a given prosodic need would also
be of a size, and the choice among them could then depend chiefly upon meaning. So does in fact depend the choice among the kennings of Beowulf; for any half-line is obviously equivalent to any other of the same alliteration; the nature of the name replaced by the half-line cannot matter in
the least. Agamemnon shares ocvaf &vspjv
times). It is true that Achilles and Odysseus share 3tos, while Hector and Ajax share dyeas and (elsewhere) bacdjIos, but it is also true that Diomedes and Menelaus,
who share fBor?vdyaoos in formulas of one
length, are distinguished from each other, and from most other men as well, by the
with Augeas largely for metrical reasons;
Hrothgar and Hygelac share sinces brytta
another length: KparEpOS times), KpaTEpoS aL)pr'S (1 Kparepos AvKOopyos (1 time),
for semantic reasons alone. Men in the Iliad IoAv7rTolrrs(1 time), xav6os Meve'aQos(13 are almost always described differently if times), favOos MeACaypos (1 time). A their names do not supply the same seg- tendency toward distinctive description ment of the hexameter line; men in can in fact be seen throughout: XaAKoa dative-and-accusative Beowulf are described differently when KOpVUaT7L (rV), of dissimilar rank, nation, or ancestry. synonym for KopvGaloAos, is used eight Neither epic speaks of heroes that are all times for Hector and only once else; unfailingly alike, but separates them, first 7fro8&KEos (i, a), a genitive-dative-andof all, into certain classes. How far the accusative synonym for ro8ass (LKVS and classes are subdivided is the essential 7ro8apKrS, is used twenty-one times for Achilles and restricted to him absolutely. problem. It is a basic truth that certain men Though Taxvs, used for the lesser Ajax in whose names are equivalent in meter do the phrase 'OtA-ros raxivs A'asw, is also not receive the same epithets. Not only are synonymous with 7TO8&pKrS, 7?'8aS WKVS, Achilles -ro&dpKrS and Odysseus 7roAvrAas and the inflected form 7To0co6Kos (i, a), in formulas of three and one-quarter feet, these chief epithets of Achilles themselves, in those of two and one-half feet they are if not their meaning besides, are still (29 times) and discriminative, or specific. 7Tro'as5 cKVS 'AXtAAEv's The kennings of Beowuif lack a similar iroA4vvTtp 'O3vauev'se (14 times), and in vocative formulas the one is OEoEIKeA' order of individuality. Patronymics such
(2 'AXtAAev^ times) and the other 7roAvj4Xxav' as beam Healfdenes are for good reason limited to one or two men, as TeAa/ovwos 'O)vcT?v (7 times). The epithets in these
phrases are never divided between Achilles and Odysseus, nor are they ever shared in any form with any other man in the Iliad. In formulas interchangeablewith i^aO8pKXS
Hector and Ajax are y'yas 8lo& 'AXLAev&s, KopVOaoXAoS "EKTWP and 1eyas TeAaM6covLo A'iass; in those interchangeable with jrO5as they are KopvGaioAos 'AXLAAevLs, WKVS A'ias (9 "EKTI-P (25 times) and TeAa(cJtvLos times);
is KopvOaxoAos shared with no man, only with the god Ares (1 time), while the patronymic TeAatLvLos is reasonably enough shared only with Teucer (3
is limited to the greater Ajax and his brother, but many of the other half-lines fail to separate Beowulf or Hrothgar from Wiglaf or Hygelac. Men who share one kenning often do not share another; Beowulf resembles Hrothgar in some respects, Wiglaf in others, and Hygelac in still others. But unlike Achilles, Hector, and Agamemnon he has small claim upon adjectives or common nouns that distinguish him from everyone else. A man
who is 7ToAvrAas will always have a name
of a certain length and will in fact always
be Odysseus; an eor/a drihten will always be a lord of earls but may evidently be any man of that rank-few scholars can say right off whether Hrothgar is ever so described. Beowulf is a Higelaces pegn like Eofor; a rices hyrde like Ingeld; a secg on searwum like Wiglaf; a wigendra hleo like Hrothgar and Sigemund; a folces hyrde like Hrothgar, Hygelac, and Ongentheow; a mxre (es, um, ne) peoden (nes, ne) like Hrothgar, Heremod, and Onela. As the sinces brytta is now Hrothgar and now Hygelac, the wine Scyldinga is Scyld, Hrothgar, or Ingeld. If the poetic language were more similar to its Homeric analogue, each major figure would have his own distinctive kenning for each letter of alliteration, or at least for an impressive number of them; Beowulf would be unique not only as the beam Ecgteowes but also as, say, the secg on searwum and the wigendra hleo. Whether there would be merit in such restriction is another matter. To recall that Achilles should be described as 7robspKrys cannot have been troublesome, since the epithet was tied to his name in a memorable phrase, but if Beowulf dominated a vast corpus of epic could any kenning comparable with 7To&dpK7ls, though used without the proper name, ever have become or been recognized as the inevitable formula for him alone? In the corpora that exist Agamemnon is act4 dv6pjwv but Hector not, because the poet of the Iliad used names of different length and needed epithets of different length to augment them, while Wiglaf is a hwle hildedeor but Hrothgar not, because the poet of Beowulf seldom used kennings that would refer equally well to all men ever invented. Achilles is further7To6dpK77S and Odysseus iroAu-Aass, Iliad often gives individuality more, for the to the great heroes whose names are alike in meter, but Hygelac, Haethcyn, and Beowulf are each, in one passage or
another, described as the Geata dryhten, and to this extent the Old English kennings, in comparison with the Homeric epithets, may be thought generic. That the Iliad now and then extends an epithet often used for a major figure to various minor figures hardly matters, since
should the likelihood that one iv4a &v8pcJ)v
encounter another is slight, and even the considerable degree to which Beowulf uses the same kennirngsfor men of the same class seldom matters much, since the narrative does not primarily concern a raid by one sinces brytta or rices hyrde upon another. What does matter is whether the same epithets or kennings are used for the figures that oppose or support each other in notable episodes. That Diomedes and Menelaus share fo07vJya6os may not be greatly regretted, but Iliad ix.307-8 would be less interesting if it
TroAvfJLrqtS'AXtAAevs and GeoedKEA' 'OvcP(T?v and Iliad xv.504 less interesting if an Ajax who was himself Kopv6aioAos
KopvOacoAos- "EKiCrp. The
English poet may therefore be held to account for his having described both the hero and the feond on helle with the term hilderinces(e). Why does Beowulf, manna mildust though he may be, speak of Grendel as a feasceaft guma in 973a, and why is the wrath of Grendel a healoegnes hete in 142a? Why indeed?-unless the work is explained from the limited resources of the traditional poetic wordhoard and the ordinary canons of literary judgment set aside as irrelevant and distracting. James L. Rosier believes that healoegnes here is a thrust of deliberate irony,9 but Klaeber's general remarks to the contrary seem to me entirely pertinent.10There is merit in taking healoegnes hete, feasceaft guma, and hilderinces as ironic in their effect, but that the irony
9 "The Uses of Association," PMLA, LXXVIII (1963), 8. ecgAra?ce in 596, and iren zergod in 2586.
10MP, III (1905-06), 13, on helm Scyldinga in 371, atole
" " FORMULAS HEROES THE ILIAD ANDIN " BEOWULF FOR IN was intended is not, in my opinion, very likely. It may be asked accordingly how the poet, in describing now Grendel and now Beowulf with hilderinces (e), and in using hordes hyrde (887) and gu4freca (2414) for dragons but hringa hyrde (2245) and hildfrecan (2366) for men, avoids so great a confusion as to end his song then and there. The answer is that such usage is exceptional: the monsters generally have their own kennings which would be incongruous for any human being. Grendel is an atol aeglaca in 732a and 816a, but never an steling ergod, although that phrase refers to Hrothgar, Aeschere, and Beowulf. This fact is no surprise but still, in one way, notable. Consider how 813816a would read if the atol a?gleca were as noble as his opponent: but him the spirited kinsmanof Hygelac had by the hand; each was to the other A wound suffered a living foe. the excellentprince. ac hine se modega be haefde honda; lifigendelad. avpeling ;ergod. maegHygelaces waesgehwapero6rum Licsargebad
the phrase. The complete replacement of the name by the usual kenning for a hero in Beowulf was similarly inevitable from the demands of alliteration: the scop needed a phrase accented upon a given sound, and more often than not the name itself was dissonant. The epithetic phrase, owing to its inclusion of the name, referred to a single man without ambiguity and could therefore be used without regard to context; the typical kenning, owing to the exclusion of the name, was intelligible only from context and might refer to any member of a class. Who yCpwvHplauos
must always be clear as can be;
who the mzrne keoden in 2384a is seems cloudy indeed. In the Odyssey, Menelaus
is eight times flo)v acyaOs (v) MeveXao&(v),
Nestor ten times 'ObuVUEVs; rep7jvtOS ITrrToa NeaTrWp,
and Odysseus thirty-seven times iroairAcas
8los since these epithetic
phrases are the same as they were in the Iliad, they are likely to have been invariable throughout all the poetry of the Achaean tradition; even in a lay about the marriage of Helen her husband would have
been flo7v &yafos MeveAaos. But the ken-
Who would be in pain here, whose sinews would crack, whose bone-joints burst in the following lines? The kennings are somewhat generic but not accustomed to create nonsense: though often causing one ruler or warrior to resemble another, they stress rather than blur the difference between a man and a troll. And the poetic idiom was for this reason less well suited to largescale conflicts between nations than to the epic that survives. The attachment of the epithet to the proper name in the usual formula for a hero in the Iliad was caused by the demands of meter: the aoidos needed a phrase of a certain length and was often able to take the name as one element of
ningfolces hyrde in the closing lines of the Finnsburg fragment refers to Finn rather than to Beowulf, Hrothgar, Hygelac, or Ongentheow; although it cannot describe any man who is not a king, it does describe all kings without discrimination; Healfdene might have been a folces hyrde in verse now lost. The formulaic theory of epithets and kennings must sooner or later say whether their meaning is more than casually appropriate. Achilles does not appear swifter than other men in any measured contest but is the tremendous warrior at the heels of those who flee before him (Iliad, xx.89194; xxii. 136-207); Apollo in the guise of a mortal leads him in chase far from the city walls and then reveals himself by asking why Achilles runs with swift feet in
WHALLON WILLIAM odds with the passages where they appear: the Odyssey gives Menelaus small chance to use his war cry, and even as a shade his brother is addressed as avf &cv3pcJv
vain (Iliad, xxii.8). Since Achilles presides over the Funeral Games for Patroclus and does not participate in them, 'OtArjos 7aXvsAlas ("Oelian swift Ajax") might be expected to win the footrace, but Athene makes him slip on the filth from the bulls 8Zos 'Ovrarecently slain, and iroXArAcs
cTEvs takes the first prize, not being described as 'To8&PKrS even here (Iliad,
xxiii.778); Antilochus then credits Odysseus with a green old age but adds that Achilles, had he competed, would have won beyond question, since in swiftness of foot no one can compare with him. So if
the phrase rro8&pKr?s 8los 'AXtAAevsis of
extreme antiquity, the epithet has left its mark on the epic matter.11 That traditional formulas similarly affected the content of Beowulf is less probable, since they do not ordinarily create a strong emphasis upon individuality. There is no point in saying that Beowulf was the great fekecempa of alliterative verse, for apparently many another man might have been a fekecempa somewhere else in the same corpus. A kenning can have influenced the shape of the epic matter only when strikingly apt in its context-but even then the context is no less likely to have directed the choice of the kenning. Iffekecempa was already in mind for 1544a, the hero may have been made to stumble in 1543a, rather than betray his weariness in another manner; but fekecempa may equally well have been chosen, rather than freca Scyldinga or other alternative, because just that term was brought to mind by the incident. Here is a clue to a further distinction between the Homeric and the Old English epic. Since the epithets accompany their names without respect to time or circumstance, they are once in a while rather at
XVII (1961), 97-142, I argue that the epithets aval dv1p6v Nestor also led to the creation of passages that exemplify them.
for Agamemnon, KopvOaloAosfor Hector, and (wet6ra for 11In "The Homeric Epithets," Yale Classical Studies
The kenning is seldom quite so irrelevant to context: not firmly bound to a name, it can easily be replaced-by a phrase of the same size and alliteration. When a warrior becomes a king he does not need to be described as a warrior any longer. If once he was a guma gudum cud (2178a), he now becomes a god guJcyning (2563a); if once a reke cempa (1585a) or Geata cempa (1551b), he becomes a rices hyrde (3080a) or Geata dryhten(2576a). When Hrothgar is a har hilderinc(1307a) and folces hyrde (610a), the haele hildedeor (1646a) and fekecempa (1544a) is Beowulf, who later becomes a har hilderinc(3136a) and folces hyrde (2644b), the hEelehildedior (3111a) and feJecempa (2853a) then being Wiglaf. The Grendel episodes and the dragon episode are in this manner distinguished by an exact transference of formulas. Though neither the ten years between the two Homeric epics nor the changes in personal situation are indicated by the epithets of the heroes common to both poems, the fifty years between the two main parts of the Old English epic and the change from earl to king are decisively indicated by the kennings for the hero of the entire work.12 The Iliad would be tedious indeed if all men invariably received the same epithets. But the economy generally characteristic of the Homeric style is opposed by the use of names that vary in meter and consequently cannot be modified by the same epithets, and also by the use of certain distinctive epithets which the leading heroes do not share even with men whose names are metrically similar to their own.
12 This paragraph and certain other parts of the essay were read before the Old English section of the Modern Language Association in 1964.
FORHEROES THE" ILIAD" AND IN " BEOWULF FORMULAS IN " Agamemnon does not receive
because he cannot; Odysseus does not receive ZrospKNs though he can. If the breach of economy were greater, everyone would have his own distinctive epithets. Beowulf would not be so much tedious as impenetrable if all the kennings were shared equally. Such an intolerable degree of economy is opposed by the use of phrases that apply only to thanes of Hygelac or givers of rings or rulers of the Geats, and also by the use of different kennings for the epic hero after he has become king and an old man. He does not continue to be a fekecempa and hale hildedeor(in the half-lines alliteratingon f or h ... h) but is now a folces hyrde and har hilderinc. If the breach of economy were greater, he would be acutely described in every instance. Achilles is always spoken of as 7TO8dpK7 8los 'AXLAAevs his name is to be exif pressed in a phrase of that length and case; he is eminently swift-footed in the epic as a whole but need not be swift-footed just when he is so described. The term fekecempa may refer now to Beowulf and later to Wiglaf if their names are to be replaced by a half-line of that alliteration; each is significantly a champion afoot just when he is so described but need not be a champion afoot in the epic as a whole. Beowulf corresponds to an Iliad in which T Odysseus is often 7rovXas '& SOVUrUe1s lOST but in xxiii.778, when he takes up the prize for winning the footrace, is rTrO&pKrS 8los
derive from the use of the name in the formulas of the one, and the replacement of the name in the formulas of the other, are solely philological and have nothing to do with the province of aesthetics or critical evaluation. But in one way the epics are not analogous, and a choice between them would be worthwhile. The Iliad, which uses distinctive epithets for the leading figures, seldom contains epithets for any one man that scan alike, but Beowulf, which uses kennings appropriate to the situation, often contains kennings similar in meaning that alliterate alike. Here is an Old English breach of economy that has no good analogue in the Homeric
style. Although Achilles is LeyJ6vuos 'AXLAAevsin Iliad xxiii.168 instead of and 'AXLAAEks, although Hector iro'6as WKVS is "EKTOpa rOLqEva Aa6cvin Iliad x.406 and xxii.277 instead of "EKTopa XaAKOKOPVaTrrv,
the number of similar examples is relatively small, and none of the listed phrases which fill the last three and one-quarter feet of the line can be replaced by a competitor. It is therefore to be explained why Hrothgar should be a freowine folca in 430a but a folces hyrde in 610a, and Hygelac a freawine folca in 2357a but a folces hyrde in 1832a and 1849a. Since peoden is not one of the titles that specifically designate a king, why is Beowulf Wedergeata leod in 1492b, 1612b, and 2551a, but Wedra peoden in 2336a, 2786b, and 3037a? Why is he wigena strengel in 3115b instead of wigendrahleo as in 1972b and 2337b, why 'O8VcUeuVSinstead. The Iliad corresponds wzlreow wiga in 629a instead of wlanc to a Beowulf in which the epic hero is Wedera leod as in 341a, why god mid always a fekecempa, never a folces hyrde, Geatum in 195a instead of guma gu6um and is the only fekecempa in the poetic cub as in 2178a, why Geatmecga leod in 829a instead of Gu5geata leod as in 1538a? corpus. of the two epics has so far These questions are not quickly answered This study compared them in ways that may indicate unless they are all answered together. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch thought that how an inherited formulaic diction relates of character. The different Hrothgar's lament for Aeschere (1321-29) to the drawing qualities of the Iliad and Beowulf that was one of the finest passages in Beowulf
but nevertheless immeasurably inferior to lines taken almost at random from the Iliad (xvi. 774-76). The three texts he chose as most essential for the teaching of literature were Homer, the Bible in the Authorized Version, and Shakespeare, and if limited to one of them he declared he would prefer Homer above all.13 James R. Hulbert, on the other hand, confesses that he is bored by the numerous Homeric genealogies of minor figures and by the many repeated incidents in the battle scenes; he finds the Homeric style prosaic and the Homeric heroes, such as Agamemnon and Achilles in the first book
of the Iliad, lacking in nobility of speech and action. Beowulf he prefers for its conciseness, its more elevated style, and the greater dignity of its men.l4' QuillerCouch, then, might have said that the variation without apparent need in the Old English use of formulas was a sign of failure to match the precision of the Homeric diction; Hulbert might say that the poet of Beowulf employed this further kind of variation because he was a more skilful artist than the poet of the Iliad.
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
14 "Beowulf and the Classical Epic," MP, XLIV (1946-47), 73-74.
On the Art of Writing (New York,
1916), pp. 195-96,
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