Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Memory, Pleasure, and Suffering/Aeneas, Odysseus, and Eumaios

It is well known that Aeneas' speech in Aeneid 1.198-207 draws on a speech of Odysseus in Odyssey 12.208ff. (see, e.g., R.D. Williams ad A.1.198f. Here is Aeneas' speech (online text here):

'O socii—neque enim ignari sumus ante malorum—
O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem.
Vos et Scyllaeam rabiem penitusque sonantis 200
accestis scopulos, vos et Cyclopea saxa
experti: revocate animos, maestumque timorem
mittite: forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum
tendimus in Latium; sedes ubi fata quietas 205
ostendunt; illic fas regna resurgere Troiae.
Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis.'

The first 9 ll. of Odysseus' speech run as follows (12.208-16, Lattimore's translation):
'Dear friends, surely we are not unlearned in evils.
This is no greater evil now than it was when the Cyclops
had us cooped in his hollow cave by force and violence,
but even there, by my courage and counsel and my intelligence,
we escaped away. I think that all this will be remembered
some day too. Then do as I say, let us all be won over.
Sit well, all of you, to your oarlocks, and dash your oars deep
into the breaking surf of the water, so in that way Zeus
might grant that we get clear of this danger and flee away from it.'

A quick glance at the two passages will make clear some of the similarities (e.g., the first line of each speech and the reference to the Cyclops). In addition, Williams (at A.1.203) states that forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit recalls Od.12.212 (here rendered 'I think that all this will be remembered some day too'), and the infintives for 'to remember' (meminisse and mnhsesthai) certainly point in that direction. I was recently struck, however, by the similarity in sentiment to 1.203 that is found in Eumaios' words in 15.400-1 (again in Lattimore's translation):
'For afterwards a man who has suffered
much and wandered much has pleasures out of his sorrows.'

These words come as Eumaois is about to tell (that is, in a sense, to remember) the story of his sufferings to Odysseus. Perhaps there is a secondary reference in the Aeneid to this passage, in which the idea of pleasure in the memory or recounting of sufferings is foregrounded.

If that is not the case and I am over-reading, the words of Aeneas in Book 1 still still line up with those of Eumaois quite nicely.

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