The Linnet's Wings The Sorrow - Page 47

The Linnet´s Wings emphasis. Hephaistos does not re-appear until the critical moment (Book 18) when Achilleus, enraged by the death of his beloved comrade Patroklus, forsakes his brooding and decides to re-enter the war. Patroklus had been wearing the battle-armor of Achilleus, and Hektor, a Trojan hero of prodigious strength, has carried the armor away as a prize of war. Achilleus tells his mother, the river goddess Thetis, that he accepts his doom, the fate that he will succeed in killing Hektor but will die soon after. Thetis, who cared for the injured Hephaistos when he was tossed from the heavens out of Olympus, travels to Hephaistos’ dark underworld workshop to enlist his help in fashioning new armor for her son. Homer then devotes 130 lines (Bk. XVIII, 478-608) to describing the embellishments of the famous shield of Achilleus. While many have commented on this brilliant passage, Homer wants us to link the skill of Hephaistos with his own. Multiple sets of people appear on the shield, each engaged in a separate drama. In one panel, two cities are depicted. One celebrates a marriage festival: They were leading the brides along the city from their maiden chambers under the flaring of torches, and the loud bride song was arising. The young men followed the circles of the dance and among them the flutes and lyres kept up their clamour as in the meantime the women standing each at the door of her court admired them. The figures are seen, but somehow also heard, and they are also in motion, and they interact with one another. What skill is required to bring these inanimate figures alive! The second panel depicts a complex war narrative, including an elaborate account of strategies: one scene gives way to another in a complex thread of implication and result. Given that this narrative must be contained within a limited space, we are hard pressed to know how this could be done. The details of the battle alone show the shifts of fortune as victory tilts from one side to the other. In the end Homer tells us: “All closed together like living men and fought with each other/ and dragged away from each other the corpses of those who had fallen” (540-541). Although depicted in brass and gold, they are “like living men” and extend their efforts to arduous battle. Unlike Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” where the figures are static and their motion and imagined sound happen only in the mind of the viewer, the figures on the shield of Achilleus are blessed with sound and motion and acquire the space for a complex narrative. Who but a god could command such magic? Homer accomplishes that in The Iliad, where a reality unfolds before us in mere words. Through Homer’s craftsmanship we experience all the drama of the “ringing plains of windy Troy”: the sound and mayhem of battle, the inner worlds of those who die, the glory in the taste of victory, and the acid of humiliation for those who fail the test of courage. Hephaistos is lame and disfigured but creates gods and heroes out of metal and fire. Homer, a blind poet, makes his heroes live again and makes us see them. 8 Sappho creates brilliant poetry by embracing the goddess Aphrodite, without restraint. Odysseus triumphs over monstrous giants and the menacing vengeance of Poseidon by shaping himself to the powers of Athena. Homer’s devotion to Hephaistos, the humiliated god of craftsmanship, allows him to make his narrative, his characters, and the drama of his scenes come alive. None of these devotions are anything like those advanced by Christianity. For the Christian world, these devotions are Faustian pacts with devils by which human beings trade their immortal souls to acquire super-human powers. 47