The Goldiloxiad

With my Lower 6th Greek set 7 years ago, we also ‘discovered’ a little-known story ‘written by Homer’…

The Original Homeric version of The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears

(Book 4 of the Goldiloxiad)

As soon as Dawn appeared, fresh and rosy-fingered, shining like a sunbeam upon the radiant earth, the mighty man-slaying Goldilocks of the lovely-haired knees felt compelled by the very heart in her chest, author of strong compulsion, to set out and go, hastening from her well-founded high-roofed house, relying on being carried by her swift, well-ankled feet. So she walked, just as a bull, untouched by the goad, might, shying away from battle in search of a well-situated plain. And so, in this way, she arrived and came upon a magnificent palace, either because someone had revealed a prophecy, knowing it well, or because the mighty goddess Athene had directed her so. Thus having arrived, she struck the door three times, and three times the door gave out a sound, as one might expect a door to sound when it has been knocked upon. Thus the door sounded. When she did not find any faultless serving-women within, she entered and went in, drawn in by the smell of fragranced honey-sweet robes.

There before her she saw a bowl, crafted by skilful workmen not known to her, but similar to the bowls which she herself had brought back from noble Goldiloxia, when coming back from the same route by which she had earlier travelled. The second bowl was identical in every way to this bowl, but for a bronze rim which ran all around it, shining like a star. The third bowl was like the first yet completely unlike the second. So having observed the bowls, having prayed out and spoken a word, invoking the mighty goddess, she took the first bowl and offered a libation of porridge into her lady mouth.

Having tasted the porridge, she rebuked it with shaming words, saying “You are building up the fiery anger in my mouth with your excessive heat, o porridge”. She had spoken, and taking the second bowl, identical to the first bowl in every way, but for a bronze rim which ran all around it, shining like a star, she offered another libation into her lady mouth.

“O cold-hearted porridge!” she exclaimed, and her winged words flew, and yet the porridge said nothing in reply.

So having tasted the second porridge, she took up the third, like the first, yet completely unlike the second, and truly she smiled in silence when she saw her unspeaking porridge. Holding it to her fragrant bosom, she poured a final libation into her lady mouth.

She held up her hands to Zeus and all the other undying immortal gods who dwell in broad heaven, and said “O Zeus and all the other undying immortal gods who dwell in broad heaven! Grant that this porridge may greatly increase the strength of men, for it is rich and varied and would not deprive me of my mind in my heart.”

So Zeus poured out sweet comfort upon her, and she crossed the great oaken threshold into the hall. So the great lady reached the hall. Here stood a great wooden chair which had once been the property of Alcimachus son of Patrobiades, the great stone-mason, broad-hearted ruler of high-walled Anthinedon in Anthinedon-under-Hyladis. The second chair was identical in every way to this chair, but for a plumed arm-rest which ran all the way from the back of the chair to the front, shining like a star. The third chair was like the first yet completely unlike the second. So having observed the chairs, Goldilocks of the lovely-haired knees, before all of the other chairs, sat down in the chair that was the first, in order to rest her weary limbs, just as a thirsty horse might go to a fine well to drink and rest its heart in its chest, rejoicing in silence as it drinks. So did Goldilocks of the lovely-haired knees sit down in the first chair. And she, as she sat there, spoke out in prayer to Zeus and the other immortal gods in heaven, and as she spoke, praying, she uttered a word, and said:

“O beloved chair of sun-bright new-woven ornaments, you are too mighty in width, and lacking in narrowness very much, indeed truly.”

Thus she spoke out and said a word, and, distancing herself from this sun-bright new-woven chair, she made her way, going to the second chair, and thus sat down in it, in order to rest her weary limbs. And sitting on this second chair, she spoke in prayer to Zeus and the other immortal gods in heaven, and as she spoke, praying, she uttered a word, and said:

“O shameful chair, deplorable in your wickedness, you bring shame on the other chairs and peoples through your excessive width, just as the first chair did. Would that vultures would devour your wooden corpse and strew you among the wine-dark sea!”

So she spoke, but the chair angrily said nothing in reply. And Goldilocks of the lovely-haired knees soon came upon the third chair, at the place where the fire in the hearth illuminated with its flickering light, like the armour of the well-greaved Dwarves, who waited upon the white armed princess like a mother to her young son. So the unspeaking chair stood there. And as Goldilocks sat down onto it, she let out a breath and a sigh, and, uttering a gasp, she said:

“This chair is unrivalled in nobility and virtue, being as it is perfectly unrivalled in virtue and nobility. Would that Zeus and the other immortal gods would allow me to remain here in this palace until my timely death in accordance with the Fates!”

So she spoke, and nobly broke the chair, and three times the hinges of the chair let out a groan, and creaked as it smashed, just as the trees in wooded Nemopanthia groan as the nymphs of almighty aegis-bearing Zeus lament over the death of Orpheus.”

Athene, goddess of the flashing eyes, now prompted the wise Goldilocks, daughter of Eurymanes fashioner of pretty accessories from pebbles, to rest her weary limbs. She went upstairs to the high-roofed bedroom, and with her strong hand she opened the mighty door, and it creaked just as the roar of a bull at grass in a meadow. So the door flew open before her, and she stepped onto the raised floorboards.

So she laid herself down on the first of the three beds, and she let out a shriek as she lay down, and cried out in prayer to Zeus and the other immortal gods in heaven:

“Alas, for this bed is as hard as the stony streets of well-founded Goldiloxia!”

And her heart in her mind cast itself back over the wine-dark sea, thinking of her father and mother in her home in Goldiloxia, her mother weaving at the loom and distaff, and her father attending to the matters of noble pebble-smoothing.

Going from that place to another place, she found the second bed. And when she laid herself down on the second bed, again she let out a shriek as she lay down, and cried out in prayer to Zeus and the other immortal gods in heaven:

“O spiteful bed! You are too soft by far – as soft as the clouds in the broad heaven, above well-founded Goldiloxia!”

And her heart in her mind again cast itself back over the wine-dark sea, thinking of her father and mother in her home in Goldiloxia.

And so she went from that place to another place, where she found the third bed, with many godlike fine tapestries, rich and varied, upon which had been laid countless fine purple cloths, and on them images of mighty gods and heroes – here you could see the gnarled old wolf as the red-cloaked tender-minded girl of the flashing hood inquired after her grandmother; and here the three noble pigs, taking shelter in the house of the faultless prudent-minded pig, as the cauldron of boiling water reaches its finish.

This was the third bed on which Goldilocks rested her weary limbs. And great Zeus of the aegis poured sweet endless sleep over her, just like a tenuous simile.

So sleeping, she slept, and was glad in her heart. And it was at this time that the Patrobearades, Matrobearades and Huios, son of Patrobearades returned to the high-roofed many-halled house.

And mighty horse-taming Patrobearades exclaimed a word in prayer, thus saying, “Alas, from my bowl crafted by skilful workmen, someone has taken some of my honey-sweet unspeaking porridge.”

And Matrobearades of the fair tresses spoke forth and uttered a word, allowing a speech to pass the barrier of her teeth, saying, “Alas, from my bowl crafted by skilful workmen, someone has taken some of my honey-sweet unspeaking porridge.”

And Huios, son of Patrobearades, spoke forth and said “Alas, from my bowl crafted by skilful workmen, someone has taken some of my honey-sweet unspeaking porridge,” further adding, “and no longer is any of the porridge remaining in the bowl.”

So they spoke, and went to take their places in the stout chairs.

And mighty horse-taming Patrobearades exclaimed a word in prayer, thus saying, “Alas, someone has taken their place, sitting in my great wooden chair which was once the property of Alcimachus son of Patrobiades, the great stone-mason, broad-hearted ruler of high-walled Anthinedon in Anthinedon-under-Hyladis!”

And Matrobearades of the fair tresses spoke forth and uttered a word, allowing a speech to pass the barrier of her teeth, saying, “Alas, someone has taken their place, sitting in my chair.”

And Huios, son of Patrobearades, spoke forth and said “Alas, my chair, at the place where the fire in the hearth illuminates with its flickering light, like the armour of the well-greaved Dwarves, who waited upon the white armed princess like a mother to her young son, has been broken by someone who has taken their place, sitting in it.”

And so, climbing up the noble stairs to the well-fashioned bedroom, the three looked around them and spoke out a word.

And mighty horse-taming Patrobearades exclaimed a word in prayer, thus saying, “Alas, for my bed has been slept in by some errant person!”

And Matrobearades of the fair tresses spoke forth and uttered a word, allowing a speech to pass the barrier of her teeth, saying, “Alas, someone has taken their place, sleeping in my bed.”

And Huios, son of Patrobearades, spoke forth and said “Alas, my bed, in this well-fashioned wooden-floored room, is even now being slept in by someone!”

And Goldilocks was awakened, and sweet sleep left her, and she got up and her fair noble eyes caught sight of Patrobearades and also of Matrobearades, and with them none other than Huios, son of Patrobearades.

Letting out an exclamation, she spoke forth, invoking the gods in mighty heaven, and crying out she said “O Zeus and the other immortal gods, grant that you may assist me in this time of my great uncertainty, so that I might one day pour a libation to you and the other immortal gods in broad heaven.” Thus she spoke to Zeus and the other immortal gods in broad heaven, but there came no reply.

And so she left the noble well-fashioned room with its wooden floor, and travelled quickly down the accurately-varnished stairs, and having left the well-roofed house, she went out into the forest, and never returned.

Plato’s Hamlet

Hamlet_and_Socrates

Some 7 years ago, my Lower 6th Greek set and I ‘discovered’ a ‘lost’ dialogue of Plato, which W Shakespeare had then years later adapted to write a famous speech… Extract from Plato’s dialogue “The Hamlet” “Indeed,” I said, “it is necessary to investigate the matter of whether, on the one hand, existing, or on the other hand lacking existence, is preferable” “I agree, o Socrates.” “Furthermore, in our customary procedure, one must posit the question with regards to the goodness or otherwise of the slings and arrows of that which really exists in itself badly, and whether by excluding the bad things against which we stand from our state, they might cease to exist?” “What do you have in mind when you say this, o Socrates?” “I shall explain. But wait, for I am about to explain. Then after that you will want to ask what I have in mind even more. For sometimes those who listen ask questions more readily than those who are speaking.” “In every way, o Socrates.” “Sleeping is, in a way, I suppose, merely an imitation of that which we call death, it seems to me at least.” “Yes.” “For do you not agree that such sleeping could in a way act as an antidote for those suffering in ignorance in their souls, and in another way not?” “I agree.” “And yet it will also tend to counteract the many and great imperfections that we might say exist generally in humanity as a whole, I suppose. In this way, then, a great love for death has gripped me since childhood, and in a sense, when we die, we might suggest that dreams present themselves in their appearances of reality, but are not reality, but only part of sleep, and not the real things themselves. For how can this not be?” “Absolutely.” “And let us examine further this further point. For on the one hand, Glaucon, we may appear to sleep, but on the second hand in dreaming we may seem to ourselves in one way to dream but in another way not, and on the third hand we must follow those who follow the teachings of those from previous generations, in observing the representation of these things which do not really exist. For this is why we appear to extend the pains and many other bad [things] which seem to happen to us in the reality of our existence.” “Yes.” “Indeed then, with respect to these things, then, don’t you agree that concerning the many humiliations of life, namely the injustices of those who govern the city state, like Polyacrates of Anexisandros, and also the incorrect opinions which may harm the mind, and furthermore, o Glaucon, the harmful nature of that which appears to be love but in reality is not really love at all, and at the same time is love in itself, and also the inefficiencies of the law-givers, such as Charobindoxidas of Misinos, but also the inappropriate nature of the oligarchs, and also the lack of parity in those who have more as opposed to less, it causes us, surely, to develop a particular love for death from childhood which stays us from speaking, and thus terminate our imperfect existence, or rather lack of it?” “I’m not sure I understood. Could you repeat that please?” he said. “No. And yet, which of us would think it better to choose an existence of labour and toil unless we are fearful of that which would follow? For any man who claims to have met a man who says that he has returned from that uncharted world will turn out to be a magician, and untruthfully not telling the truth, but telling lies, and not the real truth itself, such as it really is in truth, won’t he?” “Very true.” “Well then,” I said. “Would this not end up confusing the soul and mind, which we have previously correctly separated, it seems to me, I suppose, on the one hand, and forcing us on the other hand to receive the many and bad things that are familiar to us?” “Yes.” “So then (but please do not give me away to the foremost of tragedians, Homer, when I say this, but rather, indeed, avoid giving me away) ignorance of our true nature may convince us to believe that we ought to have courage, and yet true knowledge of the nature of our death makes us the opposite, won’t he?” “I suppose so.” “And in this way acts caused by the nature of courage itself are delayed by the dangerous considerations concerning the mind, aren’t they?” “Yes.” “And furthermore…” “Yes.” “Thereby those which we call “actions” lose that to which we give the name action, and in this way, o Glaucon, the natures of those things lose their importance, isn’t it?” “But Socrates…” “Be quiet, Glaucon, for I have finished.” “Your arguments convince me completely, just as they would anyone else who could be bothered to listen, o Socrates.”

Weaponms manmand singi

“Weaponms manmand singi, Troyof who first from shorefroms Italym, fateby fugitive, Lavinianmsand comedhe shorems, greatly he both landbys throwed and seaby forceby godofs savageof vengefulm Junoof becauseof angerm; muchs also even warin sufferhaving, until foundmightedhe citym, inbroughtmightedheand godms Latiumto, race wherefrom Latin, Albansand fathers, and highof walls Romeof.”

(Aeneid 1, 1-7, translateedhaving)

A while ago, I mused, with a Sixth Form Latin class, on what it might be like if English, rather than using lots of little pronouns, prepositions and such like, were to have developed to attach various bits of information to the ends of words, as Latin does.

Urged on by the students, I got them to write a translation of some passage of Latin, attaching indicators to the end of words rather than separating them, but using English vocabulary. So nominative stayed the same, accusative added an -m, genitive added ‘of’, dative added ‘to’ or ‘for’ and so on. For a plural, add -s after the case. Verbs get mood, voice, tense and person (in that order) stuck on the end. Crucially, each Latin word must be translated by no more than (and no less than) one ‘English’ ‘word’ (i.e. English word with attachments), and in the same order.

It ended up being quite an interesting lesson (for me at least!) in how much information tends to be tacked onto the end of Latin words, and how different the word order often is. It was also an opportunity to demonstrate a couple of things:

1. If you break Latin words down, particularly verbs, you can work out what each bit of the word is there for – whether stem or part of the ending.

2. Translating is more than looking up vocab in the back of the book and writing down what it ‘means’ (traduttori, after all, traditori, as they say…).

3. It’s quite easy to get me distracted from the original lesson plan…

I’m sure the first 7 lines of the Aeneid above have mistakes, even in the weird language we devised (we never ended up giving it a name – ideas anyone?). Please do suggest them!

Understanding the Greek

One of my favourite things about teaching Classics is the Sixth Form literature.

This year I’m teaching Cicero, In Verrem and Ovid, Amores in Latin (the latter of which has proved rather hard to get students to warm to, given the creepy nature of the character he plays in the first of the prescribed poems…) and Homer, Iliad 24, Xenophon, Anabasis and Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus in Greek.

Now, I could go into why I think the three Greek texts and the two Latin texts are good demonstrations of one of the reasons I prefer teaching Greek to teaching Latin. But perhaps that is for another post.

What I want to remark on here is the difficulty, and importance, of getting Sixth Form students, who comprise a mixture of truly dedicated Classicists and those who took the subject as a fourth choice (mostly in Latin rather than Greek), to grasp the true reason for reading the texts in the original language.

It sounds so obvious to say it, but it is not always so obvious to students who just want to get good grades:
1. There is no such thing as a ‘correct translation’.
2. The English version isn’t the same as ‘what the Latin (or Greek) means’.
3. Scanning the metre of Ovid, Vergil or Homer isn’t just a clever game. It’s integral to understanding the feel and hence meaning of the text.
4. Most of the time, commentators’ insights into rhetorical features in the text are not ‘made up’. They’re based on an in-depth knowledge of the text, work and author. They might be wrong, of course, but the reason for sometimes just telling you to trust me about them and write them down is because there just isn’t time to wait for you to know the text and author well enough to spot things like that yourself.
5. If an author writes something, that doesn’t necessarily mean he thinks that. Especially if he’s Ovid…

There is something magical about working with people meeting The Iliad for the first time, though, and of course, to alter slightly an old cliche, it’s not the first impressions that count; it’s the journey…