THE COLOUR-SENSE

W. E. GLADSTONE

[Extracted from The Nineteenth Century, vol. 2 (October 1877), pp. 366-88.]



Twenty years ago, an examination of the Homeric text led me to what I then thought a very startling conclusion. It was this: that, although Homer has used light in its various forms for his purposes with perhaps greater splendour and effect than any other poet, yet the colour-adjectives and colour-descriptions of the Poems were not only imperfect, but highly ambiguous and confused. It was only after submitting the facts to some very competent judges that I published in 1858 a section of my Homeric Studies,1 'on Homer's perceptions and use of colour;' for the case appeared to open up questions of great interest, with respect to the general structure of the human organs, and to the laws of hereditary growth. My propositions were:2

1. That Homer's perceptions of the prismatic colours, or colours of the rainbow (which depend on the decomposition of light by refraction), and a fortiori of their compounds, were, as a general rule, vague and indeterminate.
2. That we must therefore seek another basis for his system of colour.

I rejected the supposition, that this was due to any defect in his individual organisation: and found that his system of colour, or rather his 'system in lieu of colour,' was 'founded upon light, and upon darkness, its opposite or negative;' and that 'the organ of colour' was 'but partially developed among the Greeks of his age.'3 My meaning was substantially this: that he operated, in the main, upon a quantitative scale, with white and black, or light and dark, for its opposite extremities, instead of the qualitative scale opened by the diversities of colour.

The curious phenomena of colour-blindness had then been very recently set forth by Dr. George Wilson.4 He considered it in three forms: 1. as inability to discern colour at all; 2. to distinguish the nicer shades of the more composite colours, such as browns, greys, and neutral tints; 3. to distinguish between the primary colours, red, blue, and yellow, or between these and the secondary or tertiary colours, under which head he names green, purple, orange, and brown. The first form, he says, is rare, and perhaps not absolutely ascertained.5 Colour-blindness does not depend upon weakness in the organ: for [p.367] he mentions the case of a woman, who could distinguish no colours, yet 'could often read for nearly a quarter of an hour in the greatest darkness.' In one family, three persons called all bright tints white, and all dull ones black.6 A house-painter in Australia could not distinguish colours, but had a good eye for form, and was excellent in designing and drawing. Once, however, he mixed his own colours, and thought he had got a stone tint, but it was found that he was painting the building blue.7 Painters, says Dr. Wilson, 'know how long it is before the most susceptible eye acquires its maximum sensibility to colour.' But the commonest form of colour-blindness appears to be that which confounds red and green. Now these are not neighbouring colours in the spectrum. Were it a question only of imperfect development of a sense, it would be shown first and most in inability to distinguish a colour from that next to it. But red is separated from green by the intervening spaces of orange and yellow. Colour-blindness proper, then, appears to partake of the nature of organic defect. But, as Dr. Wilson has pointed out (and I have had an opportunity of verifying the remark), painters know that there is an education of the eye for colour in the individual. The proposition, which I desire to suggest, is that this education subsists also for the race.

Within the last few years, this subject has been freely discussed both in Germany among philologists and physiologists, and likewise among oriental scholars. I understand the general tendency of the discussions to be in favour of the doctrine that colour was little known to the ancients, and that the sense of it has been gradually developed, until it has now become a familiar and unquestioned part of our inheritance. Perhaps one of the most significant relics of the older state of things is to be found in the preference, known to the manufacturing world, of the uncivilised races for strong, and what is called in the spontaneous poetry of trading phrases loud, colour.

I shall endeavour to give a view of the subject from Dr. Hugo Magnus, a German inquirer who has recently written on it with great care and ability. He is a physiologist as well as a scholar, and teaches, as Privatdocent in the University of Breslau, on the care and treatment of the eye. He gives some indications of a conflict of opinion which has been manifested in his country. But my principal object, after presenting a sketch of his labours, will be to make a contribution to the stores of material, upon which the questions at issue will ultimately be determined, from the quarter where I feel myself most competent, or least incompetent, to search for it.

I understand from an able Hebraist that the Old Testament offers much evidence of the imperfect conception of colour in early times. But I take it that by far the most important magazine of information on this subject is to be found in the Homeric poems: the most im- [p.368] portant on account of its mass, of its unity, and of that high organisation which belongs in a degree to genius in general, and which the text of Homer indisputably proves him to have possessed with regard to the two kindred subjects of motion and form. Treading, therefore, with a bolder and firmer step, than when I had no one within view to lean on, I shall now endeavour to present the results, which are to be obtained from Homer, in a more positive and decided shape: and shall suggest a method of meeting, at least in part, the principal and not inconsiderable difficulties which they bring into view.

Dr. Magnus has published (I.) Die geschichtliche Entwickdung des Farbensinnes (Leipzig, 1877), and (II.) a tract which partially covers the same ground, and is entitled Die Entwickdung des Farbensinnes (Jena, 1877). I shall refer to these tracts as I. and II. respectively.

He observes in his preface on the extreme paucity of materials supplied by previous labour; and proceeds to anticipate the counterargument, which some might be disposed to draw from the admitted sharpness of sense in the savage. This sharpness of sense, which may be observed also in the inferior animals, is wholly distinct from a high development of special aptitudes contained within the bounds of each domain. There appears, I would remark, to be a sort of analogy in the relation of the two to the relation between muscular strength and muscular pliability. Homer himself illustrates the argument of Magnus. I have observed that hardly any poet has made such free and effective use of light in general for poetical purposes. Nowhere has he been more bold than in his figure of black pains (Il. iv. 117, 191; xv. 394), of the soul purpling in painful apprehension (Il. xxi. 551, et al.), of blazing rumour, or battle (Il. ii. 93, et al.), and the like. We must presume that his retina was especially sensitive to light and dark; and yet it is in him, too, that we lack the developed sense of colour. And we may find an independent analogy in the case of mental gifts; where it will sometimes be found that those who are clearest and strongest in their perception of broad outline are endowed with the narrowest capacity for apprehending even essential distinctions. Dr. Magnus quotes Geiger, who published in 1871 on the historical development of man, as pointing out that the dog, with his wonderful faculty of scent, had no power of distinction between smells which are agreeable and smells which are offensive. He can deal with quantity only, not with kind, in smell. And so a keen perception of sound is entirely distinct from a good ear for music. As to the sense of smell, I may observe that it would be difficult to find in Homer an instance of its pleasurable exercise except once in relation to the aroma or bouquet of wine (Od. ix. 210); unless we allow that another instance is supplied by the rather carnal idea of the [Greek], or savour, which ascends to heaven from the sacrifices, and which apparently is more related to taste than smell. [p.369] He calls a store-room fragrant (Il. iii. 382), and he calls the growing cypress, and oil, oddly enough to our apprehension, by the same name (Od. iii. 339, v. 64). He was not, however, insensible to a strong stench, and he mentions with a vigorous and hearty detestation the seals of Proteus:

[Greek].Od. iv. 442.

He speaks of flowers as tender (Od. ix. 449), white (Il. xvii. 56), and hyacinthine, but nowhere as sweet-smelling. And Magnus observes that the fragrance of flowers is nowhere noticed in the Old Testament until we reach the Song of Solomon.

So much for the principle involved. Having drawn the distinction between the elementary activity of one organ, and its higher exhibitions of function, we may now proceed to a brief outline of the facts. And I shall best introduce the general view of Dr. Magnus by quoting Sir Isaac Newton on the scale of colours:—'The lights of colours are more refrangible one than another in this order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, deep violet.'8

Dr. Magnus considers that, in the progressive education of the human organ, three colours have been successively disclosed to it, and have by degrees come to be part of its regular perceptions, in the order here given: the order of their greater or less refrangibility, of heir wealth or poverty in light. The increase of susceptibility acquired by the retina has become hereditary, and has grown with a long series of generations.

We will now pass to the stages of the historical development. The starting-point is, an absolute blindness to colour in the primitive man. Anaxagoras, it seems, believed that in the earliest times there was no sense of colour at all. The first stage attained is that at which the eye becomes able to distinguish between red and black. Bed comes first into our perceptions, because it is the most luminous of the colours; but, says Geiger, in the Rigveda white and red are hardly severed.9 Greek philosophers, Aristotle in particular, lean to treating colours chiefly as degrees of the luminous and non-luminous, or as mixtures, atomistic or otherwise, of black and white.

In the next stage of the development, the sense of colour becomes completely distinct from the sense of light. Both red and yellow, with their shades, that is to say the red, orange, and yellow of the Newtonian scale, are now clearly discerned. To this stage Magnus10 refers the Homeric poems, in which red and yellow colours are set forth, but there is no mention of green or blue; for example of green for trees and plants, or of blue for the heavens. I may intimate in passing, that in my opinion it is hardly possible to pass more than an approximative judgment on the sense of colour in Homer, but I think the estimate of it given by Magnus is liberal rather than the reverse.

[p.370]

With this comparatively early acquisition of the sense of redness, Magnus connects the prominence which that colour acquired both in the initial stages of the painter's art, and in the costumes of high personages. It had as it were got a start, and had the first possession of the ground which, in costume particularly, it has retained. But we must remember that, in public exhibition and ceremonial, it is, from its luminous character, highly satisfactory to the eye.

The characteristic of the third stage is the recognition of colours which in point of luminousness belong to neither extreme, but are in a mean: he refers to green with its varieties. The clear and bright green he regards as a next onward step from yellow; but the dark green is classed as belonging to the dark family in general. At this point we are reminded of what seems to be the greatest difficulty of the entire subject. We find its lines traverse one another; the light and dark, within the limits of each particular colour, giving us one scale of comparison, while the colours as such present another, and the two scales having no common measure. Nay, it may even seem that each colour is capable of being deepened into black, by a road of its own, without passing through the other colours. But, making these remarks as I pass, I proceed with the historical outline.

In the fourth stage of the development, we find an acquaintance with blue begin to emerge. This is a stage not even now reached universally. 'Bastian relates11 that in Burmah a striking confusion between blue and green is a perfectly common phenomenon, which in fact attracts the attention of strangers arriving there, in a manner thoroughly surprising.'12 A like confusion is sometimes observable among ourselves as to these two colours when seen by candle-light, in the case of persons who have not, in any degree, the specific defect of colour-blindness.

Our author next gives his adhesion to the Newtonian doctrine, and finds the law of that progression, which has now been traced, in the wealth by poverty of living force possessed by the respective colours, which determines their early or late admission to the list of things perceived by the average man. Thus red begins, blue and violet close, the scale; and the retina, gradually trained to a higher susceptibility, grasps at length with ease what formerly and long eluded it.

By way of illustration, he considers the manner in which the ancients have treated the rainbow. Homer deals with it, he thinks,13 as one-coloured, red or purple ([Greek] Il. xvii. 547): so does the Arabic, which describes it as nadathoih red, and applies the same phrase to the sunset and sunrise. Also as castalanijjathon, with the same meaning and applications. The reader will observe how we again strike upon the 'stone of stumbling.' How were men led to equate the colour-impression from the rainbow with that from the morning and evening glow? So, about 600 B.C., we find Ezekiel (i. 27-8) in a similarly [p.371] backward state. I quote the English version: 'I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.' Which cannot be explained but by supposing that, for the eye of the prophet, red was the fundamental, and exclusively prevailing, colour of the rainbow. But I shall have to show that this was a point which Homer, living, as I think, many centuries earlier, had by no means reached. Magnus now passing beyond it, brings us to Xenophanes, who sees in the rainbow the several hues of red (phoinikeon), purple (porphureon), and yellow-green (chloron). In Aristotle it is still tricolour; but, with red and green, blue is now set forth as a substantive colour. Ovid (Met. in. 65-7) treats it as of a thousand colours, with shades hardly distinguishable each from its next neighbour, but with extremes very remote from one another. Him Seneca seems to follow. But the Aristotelian triad of colours is reproduced by Suidas and Galen; is found in the Edda and in Varahamihira; in the Arabian literature, and in the West down to the opening of modern times,14 notwithstanding the struggle of the improving sense to assert itself, at least by recognising minor shades as innumerable. Finally Newton appears on the scene, and establishes the scientific (yet not undisputed) doctrine of colour. Throwing back one glance as far as the Augustan age, we see Virgil (Aen. iii. 63-4) using cceruleus, blue, in a sense interpreted by Servius as equivalent to niger, and not capable of being rendered more mildly than by the word 'dark.15 Statius, Juvenal, and Valerius Flaccus may be quoted to the same effect. The details concerning the rainbow are treated by Magnus as a verifying formula for the general doctrine.

I now come to consider and present the Homeric materials.

It has been said above that there is difficulty in determining with any precision the true bounds of Homer's perception of colour. Prolonged examination moves me rather to reduce than to extend former estimates. I find that the more we treat, as a general rule, what are apparently his words of colour as quantitative expressions of light or its opposite, the nearer do we come to the establishment of harmony and coherence in his terminology. With regret, but in deference to truth, I find it safe to lean to this canon of interpretation. Perhaps, in thus exhibiting the narrow range of his [Greek] or material, I am doing a special homage to his transcendent genius. If without the aids of lengthened history, of wide survey of the earth and man, of long hereditary development of the organs, he has achieved his present results, what would he have accomplished had he been possessed of the vast and varied apparatus of all kinds which we enjoy! And what have natural selection, and the survival of the [p.372] fittest, with their free play through three thousand years, done for us, who at an immeasurable distance are limping after him, amidst the laughter, I sometimes fear, of the immortal gods?

To pass at once in medias res. The epithets which are even apparently true epithets of colour in Homer are but few, although they are apparently multiplied by the fact that some of them have a large progeny. For example, we have phoinix (Il. xxiii. 454), phoineeis (Il. xii. 202), phoinos (Il. xvi. 1 59), phoinios (Od. xviii. 96), phoinikoeis (Il. x. 133, et al.), phoinikopareos (Od. xi. 124, xxiii. 271), and finally daphoinos (Il. ii. 308), with its verb daphoineo (Il. xviii. 538).

In speaking of true colour, I here strike out of view the extremes of white, with brightness, on the one side, and of black, with darkness, on the other.

When we proceed to examine these words of colour, we find that the poet's sense of colour was not only narrow, but also vague, and wanting in discrimination.

Take first the word phoinix. We are introduced to it as a substantive, describing a material which was used as a dye for ivory; and it is made the subject of a comparison with the blood of Menelaos flowing forth upon his flesh (Il. iv. 141). So far so good. With this some other passages agree. But in the games the word describes the colour of a horse (xxiii. 454), who was phoinix all over, but had a white spot, like the moon, on the forehead. The same epithet sits very ill upon blood and the bay colour of a horse; nor would it mend the matter if we were to render the word chestnut. It is a new difficulty to connect these senses of the word with Od. vi. 163, where it means the palm.

Passing to the other members of the family, we find applied to blood phoineeis (Il. xii. 202, 220), phoinios (Od. xviii. 96), phovnos (Il. xvi. 159), phomikoeis (xxiii. 716), daphoineo (Il. xviii. 538).

Of these words the three first named are used in no other connection. But daphoinos, the adjective, is used in Il. ii. 308 for the back of a serpent; and thus we are thrown back at once from the colour red, the near neighbour of light, and from blood associated with it, upon blackness or darkness, at the other end of the scale. If more evidence on this word be desired, we find it applied in Il. xi. 474 to jackals, and in Il. x. 23 to the skin of a lion, which could hardly be either black or red, except upon a sign-post.

So, again, phoinikoeis is principally used for a cloak or mantle (Il. x. 133, et al.). Now it is pretty certain that these were not red; because Homer never once applies to them the word [Greek], or any other word directly connected with that colour.

Further, we have phoinikopareos applied to the painted bows of a ship (Od. xi. 123, xxiii. 272). It is commonly supposed that this means red, and agrees with the word [Greek] (Il. ii. 637), which [p.373] is rendered vermilion. Now, whatever this word meant, it seems to have been descriptive not only of the twelve ships of Odusseus, as in this place, but of ships in general; for in Od. ix. 125 we are told that [Greek] are not found among the Kuklopes. But, proceeding a step further, we find not only that the favourite phrase of Homer for ships is 'black ships,' but that he has another epithet for the prows much more distinctive than the two compound words already quoted, namely, kuanoproros, with bronzed or dark prows, which he uses no less than thirteen times, against twice for each of the other two. Consequently the strongest presumption arises that phainikopareos and miltopareos mean for him the same thing as kuanoproros. And to set the matter at rest we find that, while all the twelve ships of Odusseus are called miltopareoi in Il. ii., we have kuanoproros applied to his ship in Od. ix. 432, 539, x. 127, and elsewhere.

From these difficulties we are of course tempted to escape by generalising the sense, and interpreting the words as only having the force of dark at large. But this way is in some degree stopped against us; for (a) we are thus travelling at once from red, the strongest light colour, down to the opposite of light; and (b) brightness is directly and strongly associated with the present root in Il. vi. 219, vii. 305, Od. xxiii. 201, where it is distinctly applied to a girdle or a stripe of leather, [Greek], bright with the dye called phoinix.

If we pass on to the important word porphureos, we shall find it not less embarrassing. Of all the colour-words this, with its verb [Greek], has the largest and most varied application in Homer. They are used, in all, thirty-two times. The verb [Greek], like the adjective [Greek], is employed to describe mental operations, and [Greek] is also applied to immaterial subjects. We find it placed in connection with—

1. Clothing [Greek], carpets (Il. ix. 200, Od. xx. 278).
                    [Greek], blankets (Il. xxiv. 643).
                    [Greek], the mantle (Od. xix. 225).
                    [Greek] the cloak (Il. 221, Od. viii. 85).
                    [Greek], female robe (Il. xxiv. 796).
                    [Greek], a web (Il. iii. 125, xxii. 441).
2. The rainbow (Il. xvii. 547).
3. Blood (Il. xvii. 361).
4. A cloud (Il. xvii. 652).
5. The sea (Il. xvi. 391).
    The wave (Il. i. 482, xxi. 326: Od. ii. 428, sea or river).
    The sea darkening (5., Il. xiv. 16).
6. The ball for play in Scheria (Od. viii. 373).
7. Death (Il. v. 83, xx. 477, xvi. 334).
8. The mind in painful apprehension (Il. xxi. 551), or perplexity (Od. iv. 427, 572, x. 309): ([Greek]).
9. Lastly, the wool on Kalupso's distaff is of the porphurem of the sea, [Greek] (Od. vi. 53); also on Arete's distaff (ibid. 306); and garments made of it (Od. xiii. 108) are the same.

[p.374]

Upon examining this remarkable phrase in its several applications, I think it is clear—

a. That in many cases the idea to be conveyed is undeniably that of darkness.
b. That in no one case can we positively affirm it to be a colour-epithet, as contradistinguished from a light-epithet.

In proof of the first I cite the figurative application like [Greek] to death, and as it seems only to bloody death; and to painful rumination, In which it recalls the [Greek]: and to a dark cloud.

Again, the light robes cast over the body of Hector in Il. xxiv. are porphureoi. Now we know, from the case of Thetis (Il. xxiv. 93) after the death of Patroclos, that dark vestments were even thus early used in connection with death, and evidently by way of mourning. Such then were, in all likelihood, these peploi.

Again, the rainbow is porphuree. But, it may be asked, did Homer, like the Arabians, mean brightness by this phrase? Evidently not. For, firstly, we may remark that to his personal Iris he never attaches an epithet either of colour or of light. The nearest to it is aellopous, storm-footed. He might have said, if he had liked, ray-footed. But more; he mentions the physical phenomenon in one other passage, Il. xi. 23, where the three serpents on the breast-plate of Agamemnon are compared to rainbows, but are also called [Greek], bronzed, or of bronze; an expression which I think settles the question, and shows that the bow for Homer's eye was dark; the indigo and violet were more, for his perception, than the red, orange, and yellow.

Further, I cannot doubt that, when the poet applies porphureon to the sea, he so applies it as an image of darkness. It is (Il. xiv. 16), the sea darkening for a storm: again, we have the roaring water of Scamandros when angry and in flood (Il. xxi. 386); and the sea swollen by furious rivers (Il. xvi. 391).

Besides all this, we have to consider that, if he did not mean the dark lowering colour of the sea, be it green or brown, and intended to convey brightness, this would be a blue brightness. But blue is a colour weak in light; and of a blue brightness Homer nowhere shows the smallest idea. The negative proof becomes overwhelming, when we consider that, living under a Mediterranean sky, he never calls that sky by the name blue.

This argument covers the wool on the distaff and the garments made of it; and presumably the other objects named, such as vestments. I doubt, indeed, if in any one case Homer gives us a vestment bright by colour. In Od. xxiv. 147 we have the web of Penelope, bright, not with colour, but with light, 'as the sun or the moon is bright.' It is, however, when she has just washed it, and when it carries some gloss of light. And hence it is that in the mourning-time of Laertes he does not, we are told, use bright coverlids or blankets. The [p.375] meaning appears to be that, being in sadness, he did not use fresh bright, glossy, well-kept garments; and this appears to be in exact conformity with the force of the epithet sigaloenta (Od. xi. 189), here used to denote brightness.

I will pass now to what I take to be in itself the best approach to a true, genuine colour-epithet in Homer, namely the word [Greek]. No garment in Homer is eruthros, or red. Of purple as a colour, the weakest of all as it is in luminosity, Homer could plainly have no idea. But what is strange is that even his idea of red does not seem to be wholly distinct, as we shall find in considering that family of epithets, of which eruthros is the head.

Here the poet is so far on the right road, that he takes hold of a word which is meant to signify colour in itself, and not merely as residing in some object which is taken for the standard. He deals with redness; and not with rosiness or roselike-ness. I doubt whether so much can be said of any other word in the poems except xanthos.

Eruthros is applied to—

1. Copper (Il. ix. 865).
2. Nectar (Il. xix. 38; Od. v. 93).
3. Wine (Od. v. 165, ix. 163, 208, xii. 19, 327, xiii. 69, xvi. 444).
4. Blood, in [Greek] (Il. x. 484, xxi. 21).

The favourite use of the word, it will now be seen, is for wine, including nectar, we have it thus applied in nine cases out of a total of only twelve. This is very remarkable; because wine is not of a redness proper, but only approximative, and with a decided infusion, of the ideas of darkness. Accordingly, we find that Homer has but one other epithet of colour for wine, namely [Greek], and this belongs to a family in which (infra) the notion of darkness predominates.

Again, we may observe of the application of eruthros to copper, that this metal is rather freely associated with colour-phrases. It is called—

aithope eleven times .... Dark epithet;
enope three times/norope eight times ..... Bright epithets;

and he has splendid descriptions of the effulgence of the copper-wrought arms; as in

[Greek].—Il. xix. 862.

Now one of Homer's best colour associations is with [Greek] as he calls the red blazing heaven the copper heaven (Il. v. 504, xvii. 425); but this very word helps to show us the determined predominance of the light-perception over the colour-perception, when he so many times uses for it both epithets of brightness and epithets of darkness, which [p.376] have their only possible meeting-point in the notion of light affused or withdrawn.

Again we have, as might be expected, the notion of red twice applied to blood, which he also once calls phoinion and once porphureon. But his favourite epithets of colour for blood are all epithets of blackness; [Greek], Il. iv. 140, and in six other places; [Greek], Il. i. 303, and in nine other places; most of all pikon, Il. iv. 149, and in eleven other places.

We have also, as place-names in the Catalogue, Eruthrai and Eruthinai, probably with reference to the brown red of sandstone soil or rock (Il. ii. 499, 855).

Thus even the red of Homer, represented by [Greek], is in the great majority of instances associated with dark rather than with bright.

Passing now to the rose, we find it supply the staple epithet for morning; rhododactulos, rose-fingered. There is no direct point of contact between Homer's expressions taken from the rose, and eruthros as they are never applied to the same objects. A very pale reddish pink, far removed from ruddiness, seems to be indicated in this epithet; and its application, we should remember, is to the dawn, not the day. It is doubtful whether the whiteness, or the redness, which are here combined, contributed most to fashion the poet's perception. Probably the whiteness, as I judge from the only other indication he has afforded as to his notion of the rose. It is in the curious phrase rosy oil, rhodoen elaion, which was used to anoint the body of Hector, Il. xxiii. 186. Here we can trace no greater resemblance to the rose than the glossy shine of oil: again an instance of the dominance of the light-sense, of the rudeness and feebleness of the colour-sense.

Upon the whole, perhaps the best and truest acknowledgment of pure colour in the poems is conveyed, though indirectly, in a reference to the human form, by the epithet kallipareos, fair- cheeked. This rather favourite word is applied by Homer to the following persons, all certainly or presumably beautiful:—

1. Chruseis (Il. i. 143).
2. Briseis (Il. i. 134).
3. Theano, the priestess of Athene (Il. xl 224).
4. Diomede, the war-concubine of Achilles (Il. ix. 665).
5. Helen (Od. xv. 28).
6. The goddess Themis (Il. xv. 87).
7. The goddess Leto (Il. xxiv. 607).
8. The saucy Melantho (Od. xviii. 320).
9. Penelope, in [Greek] (Od. xix. 81, 208).

We have here to consider what are the distinct hues of Homer's men and his women. We find him apply the name Melas to a Greek of rank (Il. xiv. 117). Odusseus, on his restoration to beauty by Athene, becomes melanchroeis (Od. xvi. 171). The melanchroos [p.377] of his herald, in Od. xix. 245, does not seem to bear any different sense. Homer's melas means dark rather than black, and is itself but indefinite; we are obliged to take these words as referring to an olive complexion. But, in his women, whiteness is commended. Penelope (xviii. 195) is whiter than ivory. Like Here and Andromache in the Iliad, and even like Helen herself, the attendant maidens, in Od. xviii. 197, are [Greek], white-armed. To the beauty of this white skin, colour in the cheek is the proper supplement; nor is it easy to see on what other marked ground the cheek should be selected as a part so characteristic. This, then, is rosy or red colour, and it is perhaps the best example in the poems of a normal relation between the perception, the expression, and the object.

I take now the difficult word [Greek] with its cognates, aithon, aithe, Aithiopes and aithaloeis: also with [Greek], wine-dark according to Liddell and Scott, which, in this rare case unable wholly to follow them, I take to be kindred in sense to aithops. I begin with oinops, wine-coloured.

Oinops is applied to no more than two objects; and only to one of these two with any frequency. It is used twice of oxen, in Il. xiii. 703, and Od. xiii. 32. But of the sea it may be called a stock epithet, being so employed eighteen times. Now we have already found, in arguing the case of porphureos, that sea-epithets of tint are dark, though without positive colour. Such, therefore, is the probable sense of oinops with the sea. This sense is supported by its special associations: as with the mental sadness of Achilles gazing over it, Il. i. 350 and xxiii. 143; with the word [Greek] in Il. v. 770-1; and with the state of the sea under a rattling breeze at night, Od. ii. 421.

Again, it is plain that we cannot associate oinops with any one leading colour specifically. The only question, in reference to wine, would be whether it meant the brightness of sparkling wine. But this kind of brightness is totally inapplicable to the [Greek]. As they cannot be white, and are not sparkling, they must be dark. Oinops, then, means dark in this case also.

Having thus found the colour of Homer's wine as it presented itself to his eye, we are in a better condition to judge of any epithets of colour which he applies to it. There are only two, eruthros and aithops. It has already been found that eruthros, with wine, carries the notion of darkness rather than of light; it is therefore unlikely that the other staple epithet should not greatly correspond with it. Yet there is an element of doubt in the case. Aithops seems to be applied to dark objects, but commonly to such dark or dull objects as are capable of brightness by reflecting light. Thus it is a favourite epithet of chalkos, to which it is applied eleven times, and chalkos is one of the few Homeric words which decidedly lean to epithets of brightness, such as erope and norope. I do not therefore identify [p.378] aithops, as applied to wine, with oinops. It includes the element of light; but it includes also the element of darkness, for we have it applied to yet a third subject, namely, smoke (Od. x. 152).

When we look to kindred words, we find them bearing witness on both sides, and thus illustrating the dualism of idea; the brightness, of lights which impinge upon a dark subject.

The adjective [Greek], for example, is applied to

Iron (Il. iv. 486, et al.).
Eagle (Il. xv. 690).
Oxen, bull (Il. xvi. 488; Od. xviii. 371).

Where the sense of darkness, subsisting in various degrees, appears obvious. But an opposite idea, that of brightness produced by rays, of light falling on a dead surface, is presented by its application to—

1. The lion (Il. x. 23, et al.).

And more especially to—

2. The copper cauldron (Il. ix. 123); also the tripod (Il. xxiv. 233).

But again; the dark element prevails in Aithiopes, for the Ethiopian nation, with whom is associated Poseidon the dark-haired god (Od. L 22); probably in the horse Aithon (Il. viii. 184) and the mare Aithe (Il. xxiii. 295), for the horses could hardly sparkle, though the horse Lampos (Il. viii. 185) might shine in the sense of Virgil;

Quae cura nitentes
Pascere equos
.—Aen. vi.

Again in aithaloeis, applied to dark or sooty beams of a roof, Il. ii. 415, and Od. xxii. 239; and to tephre, ash, in Il. xviii. 25, which in v. 25 is at once called melaina. But in the word aither for the atmosphere, in aithein, used for the lighting of a fire, and in aithousa, the open portico or colonnade of a mansion, the element of light prevails; not, however, an element of colour. So it is, that we are buffeted about in the attempt to deal with this the most difficult and unmanageable group of all the colour- or light-words of Homer.

It is not necessary to dwell long upon kuaneos. I conceive it to mean (1) made of, (2) in hue like to, bronze. In the latter sense it is applied—

1. To the eyebrows of Zeus and Here (Il. i. 628, xv. 102, xvii. 209).
2. To a dark cloud (Il. v. 345, xx. 418, xxiii. 188).
3. To the hair of Hector (Il. xxii. 402); to the heard of Odusseus restored to beauty (Od. xvi. 176); agreeing apparently with his hyacinthine hair (Od. vi. 231).
4. To the serried mass of the Greek and Trojan armies as they move (Il. iv. 281, xvi. 66).
5. To the mourning garments of Thetis. Her veil is kuaneon; and the poet adds, [Greek] (Il. xxiv. 64). Nothing could be more black than this garment; and yet, in Il. iv. 277, we have a cloud as black as pitch.
6. To the sea-sand just left bare by the water (Od. xii. 243).

[p.379]

Further, in compounds—

1. To hair, of Poseidon (Il. xiii. 563, xv. 174, et al.); to a mare (Il. xx. 224).
2. To Amphitrite, as the Sea (Od. xii. 60).
3. To a ship's prow (Il. xv. 698, et al.).

There are also various cases in which a question may be raised whether Homer intends to signify the metal, or merely the colour belonging to the metal.

1. The breast-plate of Agamemnon, which has ten layers of black kuanov ([Greek]), together with twelve of gold and twenty of tin, carries likewise; on each side three serpents called kuaneoi (Il. xi. 26). The change of form from the genitive to the adjective will be observed; it might possibly indicate the transition from the metal to the mere colour without the metal. It should be remembered that the chruseos of Homer for the most part means not golden but gilded, and his argureot in like manner silver-plated.
2. On the belt of Agamemnon (ibid. 38, 39), which is argureoi, there is another serpent which is kuaneos.
3. On the Shield of Achilles, round the golden vineyard and the silver stakes, is a trench called kuanee (Il. xviii. 664).
4. The foot of a finely-wrought table is signified by the epithet kuanopeza (Il. xi. 628).

Upon the whole it may be most likely that in all these four places the metal is indicated, and not the colour only. But this does not affect the argument, for it is clear that the poet has the contrast of light and dark in his eye, and that kuanos supplies the dark tint as against silver, gold, and tin, and also against copper in Od. vii. 87. I think it almost certain that kuanos is bronze, which is normally dark and not bright. But whatever it be, it is clearly assigned, in respect of colour, to the dark family by its association with the hair of Poseidon, the mourning garment, the bared sea-sand, the sea itself, and the cloud. It is clear, indeed, that the word when applied to the ship's prow means something separate, as to hue, from the ship itself, which is always melas. But the word wholly refuses to lend itself to anything but what is more or less dark, and of degrees in dark and light there is no doubt that Homer had a substantive, if not a very minute, conception.

This last proposition is illustrated by the fact that the violet did not escape the notice of Homer, and that, like the hyacinth named but once, it is clearly associated by him with the dark tribe. Thrice we have the sea declared to be violet-coloured, ioeides, in Il. ix. 298, Od. v. 55, xi. 106. But it is quite plain from what we have already seen that this means the dark sea, not the bright; therefore the brown or dark green sea, not the blue. Then we have ioeis, violet-like, used as an epithet (Il. xxiii. 850) for iron. This is manifestly dark, but not with a deep darkness. We have the iron heaven (sidereos, Od. xv. 328), in contrast undoubtedly with the burnished copper heaven, but meaning what we should call grey. Finally, we [p.380] have the kindred word iodnephes applied to wool in Od. iv. 135. There can be little question that this is dark wool: first, from the sense forced upon us by ioeides; secondly, from the fact that the distaff and the wool are presents made to Helen in Egypt (ibid. v. 130), and all our Southern associations of colour are ineradicably dark; as the hair of Poseidon, the wool on the distaffs of Kalupso and Arete, the bulls offered to Poseidon (Od. iii. 6), and the ram promised for a sacrifice to Teiresias (Od. xi. 33).16 It is plainly the wool of a dark-brown ram that the poet has in view, or else a wool dyed to a deep purple, which is not an unlikely interpretation.

The word xemthos in Homer I think resembles eruthros in being a thoroughly true word of colour, though imperfectly conceived. I conceive it principally to represent orange in the scale of the spectrum, and so far probably to agree with phoinix. He found that colour represented for his eye in chestnut or auburn, and in bay. It is remarkable that Homer is so limited in his applications of this word; and they are more consistent in proportion. He uses it principally for hair, male and female, as of Menelaos, passim; for the coat of horses (Il. ix. 407) generally; and also as represented in the horse Xanthos; and finally in the name of the river Xanthos, a strong and often turbid stream, though likewise called by him silver-eddying, argurodmes (Il. xxi. 8, 130).

I conceive that we have now done with the Homeric adjectives and phrases of colour, as contradistinguished from those of light. In Argos, marmareos, marmairdn, there is plainly no idea conveyed except that of light. On one or two exceptional cases I shall remark further on. But I must notice here two words, which might at first sight be set down as epithets of colour, namely, polios and chloros. I take first the case of chloros, which has the stronger pretensions of the two.

The derivation of the word is from chloe, herbage. But it is plain, from the applications of it, that green was not on the list of Homer's colours. If I am to choose an English equivalent for the phrase, it will be pale: and pale is not properly an epithet of colour so much as of light, although there may perhaps be detected in it a very faint inkling, so to speak, of yellow.

Including two derivatives, namely, Chloris, the wife of Neleus (Od. xi. 281), and chloreis, which is applied to the nightingale, the word is used nineteen times in Homer. Ten times metaphorically, as an epithet of fear. Twice for the paleness derived from fear (Il. x. 376 and xv. 4); uses which give us the basis of the metaphor just named. Twice for honey (Il. xi. 630, Od. x. 234); twice for the [p.381] olive-wood club of Poluphemos (Od. ix. 320, 379); once for the twigs used by Eumaids to make a 'shakedown' bed for Odusseus (Od. xvi. 47). In these five cades, freshness and not colour seems to be the idea. If we strive to give the sense of colour, we find there is none that will cover them in common; yellow suiting in some cases, green in others, neither of the two in all.

The word chloreis has been the subject of much dispute. There is a temptation to give it the very poetical sense of greenwood-loving; an epithet peculiarly suitable to the nightingale, which delights in copses, the greenest of all greenwoods. But the balance of authority17 attaches the phrase to the hue or aspect of the bird; and when so attached it loses all definite idea of colour. Bolton finds the colour of the nightingale require a long description. 'The head and back of a plain tawny, dashed with olive; the tail is of a deep tawny red; the throat, breast, and upper part of the belly, are of a light glossy ash colour: the lower part nearly white: the exterior parts of the quill-feathers are of a dull reddish brown: the interior of brownish ash colour.'18 Evidently enough, Homer's idea in this matter could not but be most vague and dim.

Chloros then, so far as it has a visual meaning, is a light-epithet rather than a colour-epithet.

The word polios is a stock adjective for the sea, Il. i. 350, and in twenty-three other places. Foam is the mere accident of the sea: and we must, I think, consider the epithet as drawn from its general and standing character. I should render it grey; and I take this word to indicate not a colour proper, though we may now apply it to various mixtures of colours, but a quantitative composition, midway, so to speak, between white and black.

The word is also applied—

1. To the human hair in old age (Il. xxii. 74, xxiv. 516).
2. To iron (Il. ix. 366, xx. 261; Od. xxi. 381, xxiv. 167).
3. To the hide of a wolf, which Dolon (Il. x. 334) put on for his nocturnal expedition. Treating Dolon as a simpleton, the poet may have meant that he put on a white hide, which would make him visible; but perhaps this idea is far-fetched, and we must take grey, I suppose, as the dominant colour of the wolf. 'His colour is a mixture of black, brown, and grey;' but there are also white wolves.19

The idea of whiteness is totally inapplicable to iron. But in any case it seems plain, that the conception exhibited by the polios of Homer is simply a mode of light.

By way of completion of this survey, it may be interesting to examine in exact detail the statistics of colour, so to speak, taken from some sufficiently extended portions of the Poems.

I select for this purpose the last ten Books of the Odyssey, which [p.382] contain 4,924 lines, and the last eight of the Iliad, which contain rather more, namely 5,131 lines. I begin with the Odyssey.

In the ten Books, I count 133 epithets or phrases, which relate either to colour, or to light and its opposite, or its modifications.

I. I first deduct the epithets and phrases of brightness and darkness, and show the proportion which they form of the whole.

OF BRIGHTNESS  OF DARKNESS.
 

times

 

times

[Greek] a robe (xi. 108) ...............
[Greek], bright- or flashing-eyed Athene .......
[Greek], a mantle (xxiv. 148) .................... 
[Greek], dazzling (xxiv. 466, 409) .............
[Greek], wild boar (xix. 446)................. 
[Greek], bright—tunic, apartment, rug; in xix. 242 likened to the skin of a dried onion .... 
[Greek], flash of copper (xvii. 437) ...............
[Greek], used of the sun (xxii. 388) .............. 
[Greek], bright—used for a bowl, a brooch, a quiver, polished leather......
[Greek], Aphrodite (xvii 87, xix. 63) ...............
[Greek], Eos .............

1
18
1
2
1

9
1
1
7
2
6

[Greek], smutty—roof-beam (xxii. 239) ......
[Greek], dark—of night (xi. 50) ...........
[Greek], Erebus-like—the earth (xxiv. 106) ..........
[Greek], dark—ways to the Underworld (xx. 66) .......

1
1
1
1



 

Total

49

   Total

4

II. I next deduct the epithets of whiteness and blackness, as neither properly designates colour. Argos and argennos, though originally referable to motion and the light resulting from it, seem to have acquired in these cases the sense of white.

WHITENESS.  BLACKNESS.
 

times

 

times

[Greek], white—a goose (xv. 161) .......
[Greek], white—sheep (xv. 472) ......
[Greek], white—Leucadian rock (xxiv. 11)  ...............
[Greek], white—sails, bones of the dead, wild boar's tusk, sails, arms, Penelope whiter than polished ivory (xviii. 196) ...

1
1
1

10

[Greek], black—blood (xvi. 441, xix. 447)  ...........
[Greek], dark-skinned—Eurobates the herald (xix. 246) ......
[Greek], black—ship, fate, death, earth (xix. 111); blood, [Greek] (xxiv. 188); mainland (xxi. 100); evening (xviii. 305) ......

2
1

20
 

Total

18

   Total

4

Next I shall deduct the words which indicate the shade of grey, halfway, so to speak, between white and black, but without decomposition, or refraction, and therefore not properly a colour. The epithets used for it in these ten books are three.

[p.383]

 

times

1. [Greek] is here applied to iron (xxi. 3, 81, xxi v. 167); to the sea (xxii. 385, xxiii. 236); to the old (xxiv. 316, 498)  ...
2. [Greek] like [Greek], [Greek], is applied to the heaven, and if an adjective of colour, which is doubtful, means grey (Od. xv. 329) ...
3. [Greek], of fresh twigs of brushwood (Od. xvi. 43); metaphorically of (bios) fear (Od. xxiv. 449, 632); and [Greek] (xix. 518): see supra. In all the passages are ...

1
1

4

Total

12

Thus we have

 

times

Epithets of light and dark ..............
     "     white and black ...........
     "      grey ..................

55 
36
12

Total

103

Thus there remain some thirty-one cases in nearly five thousand lines, where Homer can be said to introduce the element or idea of colour; or about once in one hundred and sixty lines.

The epithets used are:

[Greek], [Greek], [Greek], [Greek], for redness.
[Greek], for auburn or chestnut.
[Greek], [Greek], [Greek], [Greek], [Greek], [Greek]; all these words expressing vaguely and confusedly an idea of colour based upon red, purple, or brown verging into black.

It will be interesting in connection with the discussion on the identity of authorship for the two poems, and on the theory that the Iliad was produced earlier, the Odyssey later in life, to observe the relative uses of colour in the one and the other.

In the last eight Books of the Iliad, I find, as nearly as I can reckon, about 208 light and colour phrases, as against 133 in the last ten Books of the Odyssey. Allowing for an excess of about 200 lines in the Books of the Iliad, we may take the number of light and colour phrases in an equal number of lines at 200, to be compared with 133 in the Odyssey; or, in other words, the Iliad seems to have, in the same space, three colour phrases for two in the Odyssey. I do not think the difference can be wholly accounted for by the domesticity of the subject of the Odyssey. Indeed it should be remembered that in three of the Books from the Iliad (xviii., xxiii., xxiv.), containing more than four-ninths of the whole, there are no field operations whatever. This remarkable difference in light and colour phrases seems to be in accord with the hypothesis (of course it is nothing more) that the Iliad is the work of the poet's early maturity and more fiery mind and imagination, the Odyssey the production of his later age and less susceptible temperament.

Pursuing the same process as with the Odyssean Books, I first set out and deduct the phrases which relate only to light and darkness.

[p.384]

LIGHT PHRASES.

PHRASES OF DARKNESS

 

times

 

times

[Greek] ...............
[Greek] ............
[Greek]  ...................
[Greek] ...........
[Greek] ............
Phainops (proper name) .......
[Greek]..............
[Greek]...............
[Greek] ..............
[Greek] ..........
[Greek] .....
Lampos (proper name) . ..................
[Greek] ..............
[Greek] ..... .............
[Greek] (xvii. 88) ..................
[Greek] (xvii. 253) ..............
[Greek] (xvii. 615, xviii. 103) . ...........
Kine of gold and tin (xviii. 574) .......
Tunics oil-glistening (xviii. 596) .............
[Greek] (xix. 16, 365) .............
[Greek] (xxii. 26) ..........
[Greek] (xix. 362) ...............
[Greek] (xix. 374) ..............
[Greek], helmet (xix. 380) ............
[Greek] (xix. 398) .............
[Greek] (xx. 95, xxi. 538)  .................
[Greek] (xx. 156, xxii. 134) ...........

13
3
9
3
1
1
2
4
5
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
2
1
1
2
1
1
1
1
1
2
2

[Greek] ...... 
[Greek] ..........
[Greek] .....
[Greek] .....
[Greek] . .....
[Greek] .........
[Greek] .....
[Greek] ......
[Greek] .....
[Greek] .....
[Greek] ......
[Greek] .......
[Greek] (xvii. 243) .......

6
1
1
4
1
1
1
1
2
1
1
2
1

Total

63

Total

23

       

WHITENESS

BLACKNESS

 

times

 

times

[Greek] ...... 
[Greek] .....
[Greek].......
[Greek] ......
[Greek] ...... 
[Greek] ...... 
[Greek] .......
[Greek] ......

9
7
1
1
3
1
2
2

[Greek] .........
[Greek] (xviii. 547) ......
[Greek] (xxi. 257) .......
[Greek] .......

23
1
1
1

Total

26

Total

26

The classification of the word [Greek] is disputable. As applied to dogs, I take it to mean swiftness, for this is a general characteristic. As applied to oxen, where it cannot mean swift, I render it white, as the occasion (xxiii. 30) is that of a solemn funeral celebration, and Homer has oxen of tin as well as gold (supra) on the Shield, and probably drew no broad distinction between the two hues. As, however, the whiteness signified by apyos seems to have applied originally to rapid motion, it might be classed as an epithet of light. There is another question, namely, whether [Greek] means strenuous oxen.

[p.385]

Again, Homer's idea of darkness passes into that of blackness by such vague shading that the classification on this side is merely one of approximation. But I proceed.

Lastly, I have to deduct what signifies the merely intermediate stage between white and black, namely grey. For this we have—

 

times

[Greek] ..........
[Greek] (xvii. 67) .............

9
1

 

10

 

 

times

Thus we have the total of light and colour phrases

208

For which we deduct light and dark ....... 63 + 23=86  
        "           "             white and black  ...... 26 + 26=52 =148
        "           "             grey         ..............    10  
Leaving epithets of colour proper

60

Among these, however, there stand (xix. 400, 404) two of a doubtful character: balios, meaning dappled or perhaps piebald, and the phrase [Greek] applied to the horse Xanthos, which, as I contend, means the white foot on the chestnut animal, or, as it is familiarly called, the white stocking. These two are hardly to be presented in any of the classes, but they evidently belong rather to light than to colour in this inquiry. The colour-phrases, then, may be thus classified:—

Redness is represented by [Greek] (xix. 38), [Greek] conveying the same idea (xxi. 21), [Greek] (xxiv. 647, 676), [Greek] (xxiii. 186), and [Greek] (xxiii. 109).
For auburn and chestnut we again have xanthos: applied to the horse of Achilles, the river Scamandros, the hair of Achilles, and especially of Menelaos.
And we have [Greek] (4 times), [Greek] (6), [Greek] (2), [Greek] (1), [Greek] (9), and the verb [Greek] (used in xxi. 551 to describe troubled and fearful meditation) as the exponents of that particular idea of colour in Homer which was based upon red; and also on purple or brown verging into black.

Let us deviate for a few moments from the subject of colour, in order to consider the bearing of these facts upon the question whether the Iliad and the Odyssey were produced by the same or by different minds.

It has long been clear to me that a thorough settlement of this question, which is not free from what I may call surface difficulties, could only be had by the most minute analysis, and comparison of particulars, especially of such particulars as are undesigned. It is too wide to be settled except on a comprehensive basis, and a very diversified scrutiny is required. I do not rely then on a single result; but surely the result before us is not unworthy of notice.

We find in the first place, upon the basis of this examination, that [p.386] the light and colour phrases of the Odyssey, as compared with those of the Iliad, diminish in a ratio proportioned to what we might expect from the subjects of the two poems, and the spirit in which they are composed.

Next, on examining the proportion between light-phrases and colour-phrases, we find it nearly the same. In the Odyssey, we have 31 colour-phrases to 103 light-phrases, somewhat under a third: in the Iliad we have 58 colour-phrases to 150 light-phrases, somewhat over a third.

The leading light-phrases are the same in both: [Greek], [Greek], [Greek], [Greek], and [Greek], with their respective compounds. The phrases for darkness are much more varied in the Iliad; but every word expressing it in the one selected portion is also found in the other except [Greek]. And here we see how much more stringent is the present mode of comparison, than would be a comparison of the entire poems; for [Greek] is twice used in other parts of the Iliad (ix. 15, xvi. 4). At the grey or intermediate stage, we have in each poem the same epithets, [Greek] and [Greek].

Still more remarkable is the uniformity of material, or mental stock, with which the poet worked, when we come to the epithets of colour proper. The fifty-eight phrases of the Iliad are furnished from precisely the same sources as the thirty-one of the Odyssey: the word [Greek] (still represented in our ruddy), the rose, the beauty of the cheek, [Greek] and its derivatives, [Greek], and the well-known family of [Greek], [Greek], and [Greek].

It seems to me manifest that this unity in the expression of light and colour raises a presumption in favour of unity of authorship. But only because of the fundamental fact, which in the whole of this paper I wish to exhibit, namely that colours were for Homer not facts but images: his words describing them are figurative words, borrowed from natural objects; in truth, colours are things illustrated rather than described. The word eruthros is in truth a rarity in Homer, from its describing colour in the abstract and not as embodied in a particular object. The same may be said of xanthos: but the more common use in Homer by far is to speak of rose-colour, wine-colour, fire-colour, bronze-colour, and the like. How would it have been possible, at a time when colour was only dealt with by this illustrative method, that two independent poets should light so exactly on the same family of illustrations to supply them with material? There was no fixed terminology of colour; and it lay with the genius of each true poet to choose a vocabulary for himself.

The solution of all our difficulties, as far as a solution can be attained, is in the main, perhaps, one and the same. It is in subordinating, case by case, the question of this or that colour to the question of much or little light. The sleek garment freshly washed reflects the light, and is called bright; the same garment used and [p.387] tumbled ceases to reflect, and is dark. Wine in motion sparkles; held up to the light it glows; withdraw these conditions, and what we call red wine is simply dark, darker indeed than the smoke. The copper arms flash back the sun; their splendour reaches to the heaven, and makes the earth to laugh; place the sun behind a cloud, the rutilant effect disappears, the dull dead face of the metal assumes the tone of the rest of the accoutrements, and we have the Homeric phalanxes of bronze. Once more: thus it is that water in Homer commonly has the epithet of blade, even the fountain being black-watered; and yet we have the four fountains of Kalupso flowing with white water (Od. v. 70), and the white or pure water (Il. xxiii. 282) in which Patroclos used to wash the immortal horses of Achilles. Thus we have to adopt the idea of light and dark as our umpire in all difficulties, our universal solvent. But even in the use of these instruments the Poet was elastic, and also ill-defined. The word melas covered many shades of deep red, dark blue, brown, no less than black, even as each one of his winds covered a large arc of the horizon. And his sense of light, however keen, was not critical, or very determinate: a favourite illustration with him as to something brilliant is that it resembles the sun or moon—

But sun-brightness and moon-brightness are so different, that no modern poet could use this simile without giving himself over to be torn by the beaks of critics. I suppose that Quintus Smyrnaeus was sensible of this incongruity in his model, when he substituted for it that 'fond thing,' his awkward formula20

[Greek].

For what is the aigle of Zeus except the sun from which it is here parted?

And here, in illustration of the great wealth of Homer in the region we have traversed, I may say that this most sedulous and close but inadequate and inanimate imitator does not, I think, use above one light- or colour-phrase for ten that we find in Homer.

I am not competent to enter into the philosophy of colour itself, and the controversy in which Goethe has taken, with his great name, the side opposed to Newton. He has indeed, in his arbenlehre, much disparaged our great countryman, whom he seems to consider a great mathematician, but in the dark as a naturalist.21 He, too, establishes a scale between light and non-light: 'Next to light a colour appears which we call yellow; another appears next to the non-light, which we call blue. When these in their purest state are so mixed that they are exactly equal, they produce a third colour, called green.'22

[p.388]

Condensed and darkened, blue and yellow may become red respectively; blue passing into a blue-red, yellow into a yellow-red. Also red may be produced by mixing; and thus Goethe completes his scale of six colours. Eastlake himself23 does not admit the division into seven; and quotes Professor Leslie of Edinburgh, who thinks that 'in the choice of that number Newton was apparently influenced by some lurking disposition towards mysticism,' but that four or five principal colours may be named. One observation only I will hazard. It seems as if there were something in Goethe's ideas, how and what I cannot presume to say, which has a point of contact with the phenomena of colour as they are represented in Homer. He appears to find a certain affinity between what lies next to light, and what lies next, at the other end of the scale, to not-light. The archaic man, we are to suppose, sets out equipped with one positive perception, namely light, and one negative, namely not-light or darkness. As his organ begins to be trained, it trespasses on the intermediate space, and Homer has already got, after a fashion, his red and orange, his eruthros and his xanthos. But may not the advance in the organ operate in some way at the other end of the scale also? May not the porphureos and the phoinikoeis be the indications of the invasion of the new region from that side; and may not this in some manner account for the curious travelling backwards and forwards, so to speak, of so many of Homer's colour-epithets, between a real red at the upper end of the scale and some very deep purple at the other? I cannot describe clearly what I admit that I have not conceived clearly, but I am struck with an impression that, at a certain point, the observations of Goethe appear to touch upon the Homeric facts. I do not suggest this as a substitute for the main explanation which I have already suggested, and which views Homer as often using the same phrase for bright-coloured and dark-coloured objects according to the greater or lesser quantity of light that falls on the surfaces. This lie does in regard to his epithets of colour and light generally, though less in the case of xanthos than in others. And this he could not have done, but for the fact that the organ was given to him only in its infancy, which is now full-grown in us. So full-grown is it, that a child of three years in our nurseries knows, that is to say sees, more of colour, than the man who founded for the race the sublime office of the poet, and who built upon his own foundations an edifice so lofty and so firm that it still towers unapproachably above the handiwork not only of common, but even of many uncommon men.


FOOTNOTES

1 Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age, vol. iii. sect. iv. p. 457.

2 P. 483.

3 P. 488.

4 Researches on Colour Blindness. Edinburgh, 1855. 8vo.

5 Ibid. pp. 8, 9.

6 Wilson, p. 10.

7 P. 11.

8 Newton's Optics.

9 Magnus, II. p. 8.

10 II. p. 10.

11 Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie, B. L s. 89.

12 Magnus, II. p. 12.

13 II. p. 13.

14 Magnus, II. p. 16.

15 I. p. 38.

16 The learned Archimandrite Myriantheus, in his work on ancient Cyprus (with which the Greeks were in close communication), observes of a Cypriote river: [Greek]. ([Greek], p. 6. Athens, 1868.)

17 Liddell and Scott in voc. Buchholz, Homerische Realien, I. ii. 122.

18 Bolton's British Songbirds, ii. 23.

19 Goldsmith, ii. 258, 268.

20 Quint. Smyrn. Porthomerika.

21  Werke, xxviii. p. 18.

22  Eastlake's translation, p. xlii.

23  Preface, p. xii.