The Iliad; The poem of force

by Simone Weil

Other authorsMetropolitan Museum of Art (cover photo)
Pamphlet, 1956



Call number

CP 91


Wallingford, Pa., Pendle Hill [1956]

User reviews

LibraryThing member michaelm42071
Simone Weil's essay shows you a woman reading the Iliad in an extraordinarily sensitive way. Weil's essay attempts to explain the mentality of the characters in the poem when they are in victory or in despair, what its real subject is --the subject is force, power, might, which is defined as "that which makes a thing of anybody who comes under its sway." It does this in a literal way by death, but also by slavery--the slave becomes a thing. She also identifies the reason for the materialistic description of battle, where men are described as blood and bone, with "no comforting fiction, no consoling immortality, no faint halo of patriotic glory." She also considers what the poem's real hero is and what opposes that hero.
She considers why the dominance shifts as it does in the poem [162-64, 167-68], the reason for the kinds of similes it has [173] and for the way the gods are portrayed [174]. She shows that the poem is not without its counterforces to might, which constitute its graces and themes. She identifies a tone in the poem, an "accent" of "extremest regret" and "bitterness" that human matters should be so, and a valuing of precious things, even though--perhaps especially because--they will perish. The poem, she decides, is "a miraculous object" and hopeful in that it assigns to the gods' malice and caprice all the causes of war, and in that it venerates whatever in the human spirit opposes might. She concludes by saying that nothing in western literature since reproduces the Greek spirit here that teaches us that "nothing is sheltered from fate," that we must never "admire might, hate the enemy, or despise sufferers."
… (more)
LibraryThing member QuakerReviews
This amazing pamphlet is a profound and brilliant commentary on force: the effects of force, human faith in the use of force, and the retribution force delivers on its users, as understood by Greek civilization. It is readable, quotable, memorable. Quakers will especially appreciate how the costs of force on the users are made clear.… (more)

Local notes

Pendle Hill Pamphlet 91

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Call number

CP 91


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