I DEBATED with myself whether to make the note on Homer longer by examining the typical meaning of the shipwreck of Ulysses, and his escape from Charybdis by help of her firtree; but as I should have had to go on to the lovely myth of Leucothea’s veil, and did not care to spoil this by a [290/291] hurried account of it, I left it for future examination;2 and, three days after the paper was published, observed that the reviewers, with their customary helpfulness, were endeavouring to throw the whole subject back into confusion by dwelling on the single (as they imagined) oversight.3. I omitted also a note on the sense of the word lngron, with respect to the pharmacy of Circe, and herb-fields of Helen (compare its use in Odyssey, xvii., 473, etc.), which would farther have illustrated the nature of the Circean power.4 But, not to be led too far into the subtleties of these myths, observe respecting them all, that even in very simple parables, it is not always easy to attach indisputable meaning to every part of them. I recollect some years ago, throwing an assembly of learned persons who had met to delight themselves with interpretations of the parable of the prodigal son, (interpretations which had up to that moment gone very smoothly), into mute indignation, by inadvertently asking who the unprodigal son was, and what was to be learned by his example. The leading divine of the company, Mr. Molyneux,5 at last explained to me that the unprodigal son was a lay figure, put in for dramatic effect, to make the story prettier, and that no note was to be taken of him. Without, however, admitting that Homer put in the last escape of Ulysses merely to make his story prettier, this is nevertheless true of all Greek myths, that they have many opposite lights and shades; they are as changeful as opal, and like opal, usually have one colour by reflected, and another by transmitted light. But they are true jewels for all that, and full of noble enchantment for those who can use them; for those who cannot, I am content to repeat the words I wrote four years ago, in the appendix to the Two Paths6

“The entire purpose of a great thinker may be difficult to fathom, and we may be over and over again more or less mistaken in guessing at his meaning; but the real, profound, may, quite bottomless and unredeemable mistake, is the fool’s thought, that he had no meaning.”

Notes by Editors of the Library Edition

1. The fifth and sixth Appendices formed—with the alterations here noted below the text or in the list of “Variæ” (p. 128)—parts of a final note to the last of the essays in Fraser’s Magazine. The note was as follows:—

The present paper completes the definitions necessary for future service. The next in order will be the first chapter of the body of the work.

These introductory essays are as yet in imperfect from; I suffer them to appear, though they were not intended for immediate publication, for the sake of such chance service as may be found in them. But hoping afterwards to enlarge and illustrate them with fuller notes, I have too much spared at present the labour, always very irksome to me, of press correction; some amusing arrangements of type have resulted, such as the rare Greek metre in which Xenophon—sent as I thought in unmistakeable manuscript, but without sufficient warning of his prosaic character—appears in p.268 [see above, p. 288n.]. ‘Phantasm, or of wealth’ for ‘or phantasm of wealth,’ in the second column of the same page [p. 288, § 37 (line 9)]; ‘learning‘for ‘leaning,’ said of Shylock’s speech, p. 754 [p. 224, line 6]; ‘toccarien’ for ’s occorrien,’ p. 749 [p. 210, line 1] (I forgot to compare Virgil’s ‘quæ maxima turba’ with Dante’s ‘gente troppa,’ quoted just before); and ‘anagomenai’ for ‘wnomakenai,’ p 755 [227 n], are perhaps worth note for correction. ‘Taking daguerreotypes,’ instead of ‘daguerreotyping,’ in p. 745, line 2 from bottom [p. 200 n.], will make the sentence grammar; and I ought to have written edrachma’ instead of ’s tater’ two lines before; for though Aristophanes, in the celebrated passage of the Clouds, which best illustrates the point in question, speaks of gold, the Attic silver was the true standard when the state was prospering. The first note in p. 755 is misplaced [p. 225]; it belongs to the tenth line from the bottom of the second column in that page, and it requires a word or two in further illustration. ‘The derivation of words . . . When that she gave, and said, “Have this.” ’ [Here follows what is now Appendix VI.]

Again; the first root of the word faith being far away in peiqw (compare my note on this force of it in Modern Painters 5.255), the Latins, as proved by Cicero’s derivation of the word, got their ‘facio’ also involved in the idea; and so the word, and the world with it, gradually lose themselves in an arachnoid web of disputation concerning faith and works, no one ever taking the pains to limit the meaning of the term: which in earliest Scriptural use is as nearly as possible our English ‘obedience.’ Then the Latin ‘fides,’ a quite different word, alternatively active and passive in different uses, runs into ‘foi‘; ‘facere,’ through ‘-ficare,’ into ‘fier,’ at the end of words; and ‘fidere’ into ‘fier,’ absolute; and out of this endless reticulation of thought and word rise still more finely reticulated theories concerning salvation by faith—the things which the populace expected to be saved from, being indeed carved for them in a very graphic manner in their cathedral porches—but the things they were expected to believe being carved for them not so clearly.

Lastly, ‘I debated with myself . . . had no meaning.” ’ [This final passage is [290/291]now Appendix V.] The misprints, etc., mentioned in this note have been enumerated in the list of “Variæ Lectiones” (above, pp. 123 seq.). On the subject of the etymology of peiqw, etc., compare § 81 n., above, p. 204. The reference in Modern Painters is to 7.326. “Cicero’s derivation” is in the De Off., bk. i. c. 7, § 23: “Quamquam hoc videbitur fortasse cuipiam durius, tamen audeamus imitari Stoicos, qui studiose exquirunt, unde verba sint ducta credamusque quia fiat, quod dictum est, appellatam fidem.” ]

2. For the escape of Ulysses from Charybdis by help of the fig-tree, see the end of Odyssey, book xii.; for the story of Leucothea’s veil, ibid., book v. 333 seq. Ruskin’s “future examination” was not published; but for allusions to Leucothea, “the ‘white lady’ of the sea,” see Queen of the Air, § 12, and Fors Clavigera, Letters 69 and 78.

3. The reference is to an article in the Weekly Review of December 6, 1862, in which the writer said: “Mr. Ruskin finds in the fig-tree which grew over the whirlpool of Charybdis a moral type akin to that of the barren fig-tree of the Gospels. We recollect, however that it was by clinging to this fig-tree that Ulysses was rescued from the greatest peril which ever threatened him, and we demur, therefore, to regarding it as cursed.”

4. For the baneful (lugra herbs of Helen, see Odyssey, iv. 230; and for the same word, in the case of Circe’s drugs, ibid., x. 236]

5.In the original note the name of Mr. Molyneux was not given, the passage reading: “The leading divine of the company (still one of our great popular preachers) at last . . .” The Rev. Capel Molyneux was Incumbent of St. Paul’s Onslow Square. Ruskin refers to him at greater length in the humorous account of this evangelical “séance” given in Præterita, iii. ch. i. § 16.]

6. Appendix i. (16.416).

Last modified 25 March 2019