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Hair Cutting off or tearing off a portion of ones hair is a sign of grief or mourning

in classical literature. At the news of Patroclus death Achilles tears his hair

(Homer, Iliad 18.27), and at Patroclus funeral Achilles companions all drop a

lock of their hair onto the corpse (23.135--36); as she witnesses Hectors death

Hecuba tears out her hair (22.405--06), and she and Andromache tear their

hair when his body is brought back to Troy (24.710--11). Orestes leaves two

locks of hair, for the river Inachus and his father, in the opening of Aeschylus

Libation Bearers (6--8); early in Sophocles Electra, Orestes announces that he will

leave cuttings from his hair at Agamemnons grave (51--53); see also Euripides

Electra 90--91. In Euripides Alcestis, Death himself tells Apollo he will cut off

Alcestis hair as he takes her to Hades house (73--76), a speech that may have

inspired the famous moment in Virgils Aeneid when Iris descends to Dido on

her pyre and cuts off a lock of her hair to take to the underworld (4.698--99).

The Bible is less clear about this custom, but it seems to be implicit in a few

passages, e.g., where the Lord forbids men to mourn for those ‘‘in this land

and to ‘‘make themselves bald for them (Jer. 16.6), or where the Lord calls on

Jerusalem: ‘‘Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a

lamentation on high places (Jer. 7.29).

Behind this tradition lies the widespread belief that hair is an expression of

life, youth, strength, or fertility. The secret of Samsons strength is his long

hair (he is a Nazorite who has taken a vow not to cut it); only when his seven

locks are removed can he be subdued (Judges 16). It was, and remains, a sign

of willing humility or unwilling humiliation to shave the head of a man or a

woman. A gift or theft of a lock of a womans hair is an obvious symbolic act,

one which Pope exploits in his mock-epic The Rape of the Lock. Ibsens Hedda

Gabler, cold and destructive, envies Thea Elvsteds abundant hair and

threatens to burn it; she does burn Theas ‘‘child,’’ the book manuscript of

Theas lover.

If abundant hair is a sign of fertility, women in most western societies have

been expected to cover or tie up their hair when appearing in public lest they

be taken as sexually licentious. The loosening of hair, deliberate or not, and

the tying or dressing of it, have been exploited by many writers to reveal inner

states or future actions of their heroines. Racines Phedre asks who has tied up

her hair in ‘‘knots’’ (1.3.159--60), knots that stand for her impossible and illicit

passion for Hippolyte; near the end, her guilt at causing his death makes her

hair stand on end (4.6.1268). Shelleys Beatrice Cenci, staggered by her rape at

her fathers hands, asks, ‘‘How comes this hair undone? / Its wandering strings

must be what blind me so, / and yet I tied it fast’’ (Cenci 3.1.6--8); at the plays

conclusion, calmly facing execution for her fathers murder, she asks her

stepmother to ‘‘bind up this hair / In any simple knot’’ (5.4.160--61). Escaping

ringlets may signify innocent sexual exuberance, as it does with Pauline in

Balzacs La peau de chagrin (p. 253 Pleiade), though later her dishevelled (йpars)

hair will express something less innocent. Maggie Tullivers undisciplined hair

in George Eliots Mill on the Floss -- ‘‘But her hair wont curl all I can do with it,’’

her mother complains (1.2) -- expresses her natural and impetuous personality.

A prototype of this hair is Eves in Miltons Paradise Lost: she ‘‘Her unadorned

golden tresses wore / dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved’’ (4.305--06).

Like Eves, a womans hair in literature is often golden, whereby it may

represent not only sexuality but beauty and wealth. Spenser complains of his

ladys guile in dressing her golden tresses under a net of gold in order to

entangle mens eyes ‘‘in that golden snare’’ (Amoretti 37). Bassanio describes

Portias hair as ‘‘A golden mesh tentrap the hearts of men’’ (MV 3.2.122). It

may suggest an angelic nature, as Lucie Manettes does in Dickenss A Tale of

Two Cities, or it may be deceitful, as Rosamond Vincys ‘‘wondrous’’ hair traps

Lydgate in Eliots Middlemarch.

Phaedrus description of occasio or opportunity as ‘‘bald, hairy on the

forehead, nude at the back’’ (Fables 5.8), gave rise to the advice to seize time or

opportunity ‘‘by the forelock.’’ Rabelais reports that ‘‘Chance wears all her

locks in front, and once she has passed you by, you cannot recall her. For the

back of her head is bald, and she never turns back’’ (Gargantua and Pantagruel

1.37, trans. Cohen). Spenser asks the spring to tell his love ‘‘the joyous time

will not be staid / Unlesse she doe him by the forelock take’’ (Amoretti 70).

Othello will ‘‘take the safest occasion by the front’’ to be reconciled with

Cassio (3.1.50). To quote The Cenci again, a plotter urges ‘‘we take fleet occasion

by the hair’’ (5.1.38), a disturbing echo of Beatrice, ‘‘whom her father

sometimes hales / From hall to hall by the entangled hair’’ (3.1.44--45). But

Goethe playfully announces that lovers worship one goddess above all the

gods and goddesses, Gelegenheit or Opportunity: ‘‘one day she appeared to me,

as a dark-haired / Girl: an abundance of locks tumbled down over her brow, /

Shorter ringlets entwined her delicate neck, and unbraided / Hair rose boldly

in waves over the crown of her head. / And I knew her, I seized her as she

went hurrying by me . . . ’’ (Roman Elegies 6.127--31, trans. Luke).

Halcyon The halcyon is a semi-mythical Greek seabird with a plaintive cry, identified

with the kingfisher. The original form of the name in Greek is alkuon, but the

h got attached when it was thought that the word was made of two roots, hal-

(‘‘sea’’) and kuo- (‘‘breed’’); that surmise derives from the belief that the bird

builds its nest on the sea. To do so it must have calm weather, and so, as

Simonides puts it, ‘‘in the winter months Zeus / admonishes fourteen days, /

the wind-forgetting season / mortals call it, the holy time of childrearing

for the dappled / halcyon’’ (508). Aristotle quotes these lines where he explains

that the halcyon builds its nest and breeds during the week before and after

the winter solstice (Historia Animalium 542b15); these two weeks became

known as the alkuonides hemerai or ‘‘halcyon days’’ -- a period of tranquillity.

When Poseidon proposes peace to the birds of Aristophanes, he offers them

‘‘rainwater in the pools / and halcyon days forever’’ (Birds 1593--94). Theocritus

predicts ‘‘halcyons shall lay the waves and sea to rest’’ (7.57).

Ovid devotes much of book 11 of the Metamorphoses to the story of Ceyx and

Alcyone. Changed into halcyons, they still mate and raise their young; for

seven days Alcyone broods on her nest floating on the waters. The seas are

calm, for Aeolus forbids the winds to go abroad (11.743--49). Several other

poets mention them, e.g., Virgil, who calls them ‘‘pleasing to Thetis’’ the

sea-nymph (Georgics 1.399).

Shakespeares Joan of Arc predicts, ‘‘Expect Saint Martins summer [in

November], halcyon days, / Since I have entered into these wars’’ (1H6

1.2.131--32). Halcyons are the ‘‘Birds of Calm’’ that ‘‘sit brooding on the

charmed wave’’ at the birth of Christ (Milton, ‘‘Nativity’’ 68).

Harbor see Sea, Ship

Harp, lyre,

and lute

There has been a good deal of confusion for centuries over just what stringed

instruments were meant by several Hebrew, Greek, and Roman words. We will

not attempt to sort it all out here, as for our purposes the associations of

certain words are more important than philological accuracy.

Angels play harps: that seems well established. ‘‘Harp’’ is the usual word in

English Bible translations for Hebrew kinnor and Greek kithara. Yet the former

probably and the latter certainly were kinds of lyre, that is, the strings passed

partly parallel to a box or shell sounding board. ‘‘Lyre’’ does not appear in

either Testament of the Authorized Version.

According to Genesis the kinnor was invented by Jubal, son of Lamech (4.21).

David was ‘‘a cunning player on an harp’’ (1 Sam. 16.16), and the Psalms

attributed to him are to be sung to the harp, or sometimes to a harp and

another instrument called a nebel in Hebrew. The nebel is usually translated as

‘‘psaltery’’ but may well have been a harp! (‘‘Psalm’’ and ‘‘psaltery’’ are derived

from a Greek verb meaning ‘‘pluck’’ or ‘‘twang.’’) It was common for prophets

to prophesy with a ‘‘harp’’ (e.g., 1 Chro. 25.6). The kithara, rendered ‘‘harp’’ in

the Authorized Version, is the instrument of the angels, as we read at several

points in Revelation (5.8, 15.2); with characteristic thoroughness its author

writes, ‘‘and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps’’ (14.2).

The lyre was one of several similar stringed instruments of ancient Greece.

The lyra, the standard lyre, is not named in the Iliad or Odyssey, where the

bards and Apollo play a phorminx, and others play a kitharis, both usually

translated as ‘‘lyre’’ in English. Both probably had four strings, whereas the

later lyra usually had seven. Sappho sometimes calls her lyre a barbiton, which

had longer strings; Horace refers to the ‘‘Lesbian barbiton’’ in his first ode. They

may all have been plucked with a pick or plektron; none was bowed. The

Homeric Hymn to Hermes tells in detail how the clever young Hermes ‘‘was the

first to make a singer of a tortoise’’ by turning its shell into the sounding

board of the first lyre (24--54), which he eventually gave to Apollo. Horace calls

Mercury the ‘‘father of the curved lyre’’ (1.10.6), but Apollo becomes its patron

god (see Plato, Republic 399d--e). ‘‘Tortoise’’ (Greek chelys, Latin testudo) was a

common synecdoche for the lyre among both Greek and Roman poets (Sappho

18, Euripides Alcestis 446--47; Virgils Georgics 4.464, Horace 1.32.14). This is ‘‘the

corded Shell’’ of Drydens ‘‘Song for St. Cecilias Day’’ (17) and the ‘‘Enchanting

shell!’’ of Grays ‘‘Progress of Poesy’’ (15).

‘‘Lyric’’ poetry was originally poetry sung to the lyre, and occasionally to the

oboe or shawm (Greek aulos). Alexandrian scholars settled on a canon of nine

great lyric poets: Alcman, Sappho, Alcaeus, Stesichorus, Ibycus, Anacreon,

Simonides, Pindar, Bacchylides; sometimes Corinna was added. Lyric song

might be choral, such as the songs between episodes of tragedy, or it might be

solo, a monody. It could be set in a great variety of meters and be about a

great variety of subjects; it might be a song of praise for a victor in the games,

a wedding hymn (epithalamion), a love song, an inspirational patriotic anthem,

or even a story, if it is brief. The greatest lyric poet was the legendary

Orpheus, who was so skillful on his lyre that he could charm animals and

make trees and rocks move.

In the opening of his First Pyth., Pindar praises his lyre as the pacifier of all

violence: ‘‘Even Ares the violent / Leaves aside his harsh and pointed spears /

And comforts his heart in drowsiness’’ (10--12; trans. Bowra). (Gray imitates

these lines in ‘‘Progress’’ 17--19). By contrast, according to Aeschylus, war is

‘‘danceless, lyreless’’ (Suppliants 681). Horace could refer to his ‘‘unwarlike lyre’’

(imbellisque lyrae) (1.6.10), and in his final ode he tells how Apollo rebukes him

with his lyre for wishing to speak of battles and conquered cities (4.15.1--2);

many poets found ‘‘lyric’’ fitter to express love or other personal feelings than

for rousing young men to their martial duty. It is a little jarring, then, to find

Byron, who admired Horace, speaking of ‘‘the warlike lyre’’ (‘‘Elegy on

Newstead’’ 89).

At times, indeed, the lyre stood for a certain genre of poetry in opposition

to that of the flute, trumpet, or other instrument. So Marino, in his sonnet in

honor of Torquato Tasso, gives pipe, lyre, and trumpet as the three kinds of

poetry Tasso wrote.

The word ‘‘harp’’ is Germanic in origin, and first appears in a Latin text by

the sixth-century bishop Venantius Fortunatus: ‘‘the Roman lyre and the

barbarian harp praise you’’ (Carmina 7.8.63). In Beowulf the scop or bard sings to

the hearpe. But Fortunatus distinction was often blurred: Aelfric glossed

‘‘hearpe’’ as lyra, and in medieval Latin cithara was used to translate both. In

later English poetry ‘‘harp’’ is still preferred as the instrument of the angels

and of David, but occasionally we find ‘‘Davids lyre’’ (e.g., Cowley, Davideis

1.26). Byron begins one of his Hebrew Melodies with ‘‘The harp the monarch

minstrel swept,’’ but soon it also becomes ‘‘Davids lyre.’’ Orpheus is usually

given his proper lyre, his ‘‘Orphean lyre’’ (Milton, PL 3.17; Wordsworth, 1805

Prelude 1.233), but sometimes it is ‘‘Orpheus lute’’ (Shakespeare, 2GV 3.2.77).

Even Apollo gets a lute in Love’s Labours Lost (4.3.340), while in the Athens of

Theseus a eunuch offers (in vain) to sing to a harp (MND 5.1.45). Coleridge

gives harps to angels and lyres to the muse and to Alcaeus, but he translated

Pindars phorminx as ‘‘harp,’’ no doubt to alliterate with ‘‘hymn’’ (trans. of

Second Olympic). Bowless poem ‘‘The Harp, and Despair, of Cowper’’ makes

Cowpers instrument a lyre, and once even ‘‘Fancys shell,’’ never a harp.

The word ‘‘lute’’ is ultimately from Arabic; the instrument became

fasionable from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. There were ancient

equivalents (the strings, often just two or three, passed over a long neck

where they could be stopped), but they were less common than lyre and harp.

As interest in Germanic and Celtic bards grew in the eighteenth century it

was understood that ‘‘harp’’ was the better term for their instrument, but

even in ‘‘The Bard’’ Gray used ‘‘harp’’ (28) or ‘‘lyre’’ (22) as the rhyme or

alliteration dictated. Blakes bards are almost always harpers, but once in a

while they get a lyre. Scott generally gave his Scottish minstrels harps. After

the distinction between ‘‘romantic’’ and ‘‘classic’’ spread from Germany to

England, Wordsworth in effect returned to Fortunatus distinction: in his 1815

Preface he writes of ‘‘the classic lyre or romantic harp,’’ and in ‘‘To the

Clouds’’ he asks, ‘‘Where is the Orphean lyre, or Druid harp, / To accompany

the verse?’’ (60--61).

Victor Hugo stages a debate between ‘‘La Lyre et la Harpe’’ for the soul of

the young poet, the classical lyre urging him to withdraw from the worlds

miseries and pursue poetic fame, beauty, and pleasure, the Christian harp

summoning him to comfort the afflicted and praise God; the result is a compromise

wherein the poet will write in a classic manner on Christian themes.

However unwarlike, the lyre struck more than one early bard as rather like

a bow. (Indeed the earliest harps are bows with several strings.) When the

disguised Odysseus finally gets to handle his bow, he ‘‘looked it all over, / As

when a man, who well understands the lyre and singing, / easily, holding it

on either side, pulls the strongly twisted / cord of sheeps gut, so as to slip it

over a new peg, / so, without any strain, Odysseus strung the great bow. / Then

plucking it in his right hand he tested the bowstring, / and it gave him back

an excellent sound like the voice of a swallow’’ (Odyssey 21.405--11, trans.

Lattimore). The philosopher Heraclitus offers ‘‘the bow and the lyre’’ as models

for the nature of things, held together through contrary tensions (frag. 51,

cited in Plato, Symposium 187a). Pindar, in the ode quoted above, tells his lyre

that ‘‘Your shafts enchant the souls even of the gods’’ (12).

See Aeolian harp, Pipe, Trumpet.

Harvest see Autumn

Haven see Sea, Ship

Hawk In the traditional hierarchy of birds the hawk, falcon, and kindred predators

rank just below the eagle. In Chaucers Parliament of Fowls ‘‘the royal egle’’ is

named first among the ‘‘foules of ravyne,’’ followed by the ‘‘tiraunt’’ or

‘‘goshauk,’’ the ‘‘gentyl faucoun [falcon],’’ the ‘‘sperhauk [sparrowhawk]’’ and

the ‘‘merlioun [merlin]’’ (a kind of falcon) (323--40). In the absence of an eagle,

Spenser suggests, the hawk is king: ‘‘the soring hauke did towre, / Sitting like

the King of fowles in majesty and powre’’ (FQ 6.10.6). (See Eagle.)

Hamlet can tell a hawk from a handsaw (2.2.379), but in literature by and

large there is little difference between a hawk and a falcon, and the sport of

falconry is also called hawking.

Homer once calls the hawk (Greek kirkos) the swift messenger of Apollo

(Odyssey 15.526); Virgil once calls the hawk (Latin accipiter) ‘‘holy’’ and his commentator

Servius explains it was sacred to Mars. Little has been made,

however, of these divine connections.

Hawk and falcon are emblems of swiftness. When Achilles begins his

pursuit of Hector, Homer likens him to a hawk ‘‘who moves lightest of things

flying’’ (Iliad 22.139). The Argo sails ‘‘like a hawk which rides the breeze swiftly

through the high air’’ (Apollonius, Argonautica 2.935, trans. Hunter). Sidney

describes a flight as ‘‘More swift then falcons stoope to feeding Falconers call’’

(Fourth Eclogues 73.58).

The typical prey of the hawk is the dove. In the Iliad passage Hector is

compared to one; in another simile Aeschylus imagines ‘‘hawks not far behind

doves’’ (Prometheus 857); for yet another chase Ovid offers this: ‘‘As doves on

fluttering wings flee from a hawk, / And as a hawk pursues a fluttering dove, /

So did I run, so fiercely he gave chase’’ (Met. 5.604--606, trans. Melville). In a

version of the peaceable kingdom, Spenser has the lion and the lamb consort,

‘‘And eke the Dove sate by the Faulcons side’’ (FQ 4.8.31). (See Dove.) But other

prey will do: Chaucers sparrowhawk is ‘‘The quayles foo’’ while the merlin

seeks the lark (338--40), in Spenser ‘‘A fearfull partridge’’ flees ‘‘the sharpe

hauke’’ (FQ 3.8.33), while in both authors the heron is also a quarry: Chaucer

calls a falcon a ‘‘heroner’’ (TC 4.413), Spenser has ‘‘a cast of Faulcons make

their flight / At an Herneshaw [heron]’’ (FQ 6.7.9).

Certain technical terms from falconry are common in Renaissance writers.

‘‘To tower’’ is to mount up in preparation for a strike, ‘‘stoop’’ means ‘‘swoop’’

(noun or verb) onto a quarry or descent (descend) to the lure, the ‘‘pitch’’ is

the height the bird towers, the ‘‘place’’ is the highest pitch, and the ‘‘point’’ is

the position to the windward of the quarry around which the falcon circles.

In one of the eerie portents of Macbeths murder of Duncan, ‘‘A falcon,

towering in her pride of place, / Was by a mousing owl hawkd at, and killd’’

(2.4.12--13). In another metaphorical scene, Henry tells Gloucester, ‘‘what a

point, my lord, your falcon made / And what a pitch she flew above the rest’’

(2H6 2.1.5--6). At the fall of nature, according to Milton, ‘‘The bird of Jove,

stooped from his airy tower, / Two birds of gayest plume before him drove’’ (PL

11.185--86). Hawks and falcons are usually kept hooded until they are loosed

for the chase; Byron makes wicked use of this practice among his bird similes

for contemporary poets: ‘‘And Coleridge, too, has lately taken wing, / But like

a hawk encumberd with his hood’’ (Don Juan Dedication 13--14).

The opening of Yeatss ‘‘The Second Coming’’ is justly famous: ‘‘Turning and

turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer.’’ It is an

omen, an augury, of the coming anarchy as the aristocracy loses its


Heliotrope See Sunflower

Heron A heron is sent by Athena as a sign of success to Odysseus and Diomedes on

their night foray (Iliad 10.275), and the sight or sound of the bird (Greek

erodios probably referred to several species) remained a good omen in the

ancient world (cf. Plutarch, Moralia 405D). In the Bible, however, it is named

only in lists of unclean ‘‘abominations’’ (Lev. 11.19, Deut. 14.18).

The heron does not seem to have acquired a consistent range of symbolic

meanings in literature; indeed it is featured in literature only seldom. Its

striking appearance, its slow and solitary hunting in marshes, and its graceful

flight have sometimes suggested nobility, freedom, and the beauty of nature.

The German poet Platen writes, ‘‘Wine, that sets us free, fledges our hearts; /

A heron [Reiher] I fly off’’ (‘‘O nimm die Rosen auf’’ 8). In Jewetts well-known

story ‘‘A White Heron,’’ the girl Julie offers to find the herons nest for a

hunter--ornithologist, but in the end, perhaps inspired by its freedom, she

cannot bring herself to do so. Jeffers, in ‘‘People and a Heron,’’ likens a

swarm of people on the beach to gulls, but when they leave a heron comes,

‘‘a lone bird,’’ ‘‘dearer to me than many people.’’ Herons (or hernes) frequent

Yeatss poems and plays, notably in the brief play Calvary, where it may

stand, mysteriously, for Christ, though ‘‘God has not died for the white


Holly There are several types of holly, including ‘‘male’’ and ‘‘female’’ varieties; in

combination with other plants (mistletoe, ivy) they may have been used in

pagan fertility ceremonies. But its chief distinctive trait is that it is evergreen:

as the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has it, the ‘‘holyn bobbe’’ or

holly cluster carried by the Green Knight is ‘‘goodliest in green when the

groves are bare’’ (206--07). As such it was thought appropriate to Christmas and

New Years Day, the season of death and renewal of life. For centuries it has

been the distinctive Christmas plant, at least in Britain, as the carol ‘‘The

Holly and the Ivy’’ reminds us; there the blossom, berry, prickle, and bark of

the holly all stand for characteristics of Jesus Christ. It was so common by the

mid-nineteenth century that Dickenss Scrooge wishes everyone who says

‘‘Merry Christmas’’ were ‘‘buried with a stake of holly through his heart’’ (A

Christmas Carol, ‘‘Stave I’’), while the Ghost of Christmas Past has ‘‘a branch of

fresh green holly in its hand’’ (‘‘Stave II’’).

Its evergreen character also suits funerals or graves. Don Quixote comes

across a group of mourners carrying holly branches (1.13), while Victor Hugo

announces to his dead daughter that he will bring heather and green holly

(houx vert) to her grave (‘‘Demain, des laube,’’ from Les Contemplations).

Honey see Bee

Horn see Dream

Horse It is difficult to appreciate today how thoroughly we depended on horses

before the railways of the nineteenth century and especially the automobile

of the twentieth. The horse was the chief beast of travel, work, hunting, and

war. Even the vehicles which displaced it were described in equine terms --

‘‘iron horse’’ and ‘‘horseless carriage’’ -- while ‘‘horsepower’’ is still the measure

of engines. Many proverbial phrases, such as ‘‘ride a high horse,’’ ‘‘ride

roughshod over,’’ ‘‘flog a dead horse,’’ ‘‘look a gift horse in the mouth,’’ ‘‘spur

someone on,’’ ‘‘horse of a different color,’’ ‘‘dark horse,’’ and ‘‘straight from the

horses mouth,’’ are still in common use; in America many say ‘‘Hold your

horses’’ or even ‘‘Whoa!’’ who have never ridden a horse.

Horses are ubiquitous in literature until recent times. Greek and Roman

warriors fight from horse-drawn chariots, knights ride on steeds and do

chivalrous deeds (‘‘chivalry’’ is from Old French chevalerie, from cheval, ‘‘horse’’),

the cavalry charges enemies or rescues friends (‘‘cavalry’’ has a similar

etymology), and every heros horse has a name, from Achilles horse Xanthos,

who speaks (Iliad 19.404ff.), to Don Quixotes ‘‘hack’’ Rosinante. In more recent

literature horses (and unicorns) have been the heroes of their own stories: e.g.,

Anna Sewells Black Beauty.

The most common metaphorical horses are those that draw the chariot of

the sun, the moon, etc. (See Dawn, Moon, Night, and especially Sun.)

Probably the most influential symbolic horses are those that Plato describes in

his simile for the soul. The soul is a union of three parts, a charioteer

(judgment or reason) and two horses, one of which is noble and obedient

(honor or mettle), the other base and disobedient (appetite or will) (Phaedrus

246a--b, 253c--54e); the charioteer must learn the difficult art of managing two

different steeds (‘‘manage’’ in its earliest English sense referred only to horses).

Whether driving several or riding one, the reason could be disobeyed or

overthrown by the willful, bestial, or irrational part of the soul. So Euripides

Hippolytus, whose name means something like ‘‘horse-looser,’’ is killed when

his horses bolt at the sight of a monster, ultimately the doing of Aphrodite,

whom Hippolytus had scorned. Marlowes enamored Leander chaffs at the bit:

‘‘For as a hot, proud horse highly disdains / To have his head controlled, but

breaks the reins, // . . . so he that loves, / The more he is restrained, the worse

he fares’’ (Hero and Leander 625--29). ‘‘Most wretched man,’’ Spenser writes,

‘‘That to affections does the bridle lend!’’ (FQ 2.4.34); Guyon learns to resist

temptation, ‘‘brydling his will’’ (2.12.53). Milton has the phrase, ‘‘give the reins

to grief’’ -- to let an emotion have its head, as it were (Samson Agonistes


It is thus a witty decision on Swifts part to make his rational beings horses

(the Houyhynhnms) and his bestial ones humans (the Yahoos) (Gulliver’s Travels,

book 4). The traditional equation remains common nonetheless, even in Swift:

the narrator of his Tale of a Tub confesses he is ‘‘a Person, whose Imaginations

are hardmouthd, and exceedingly disposed to run away with his Reason,

which I have observed from long Experience, to be a very light Rider, and

easily shook off’’ (sec 9). Rochester reads Jane Eyres face and tells her, ‘‘Reason

sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the feelings burst away and

hurry her to wild chasms’’ (Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre chap. 19). But Dickens

plays with it in Hard Times, as Bitzer, the boy who embodies the ‘‘rational’’

teaching methods of Gradgrind, defines a horse correctly as ‘‘Quadruped.

Graminivorous. Forty teeth,’’ etc., in the opening, but in the end, having

grown up all head and no heart, he is outwitted by a real horse who refuses

to obey him.

A variant of this image is the ‘‘manage’’ of government, where the leader

rides the city or populace. Jupiter assigns the winds to Aeolus, who knows

‘‘when to tighten and when to loosen their reins’’ (Virgil, Aeneid 1.63; see

Lucan 7.124ff.). Dante denounces abject Italy for its empty saddle, even though

Justinian has mended its bridle (codified its laws): ‘‘see how this beast turns

fierce / because there are no spurs that would correct it’’ (Purgatorio 6.88--96,

trans. Mandelbaum). Shakespeares Claudio wonders whether ‘‘the body politic

be / A horse whereon the governor doth ride, / Who, newly in the seat, that it

may know / He can command, lets it straight feel the spur’’ (MM 1.2.159--62).

When Richard II submits to Bolingbroke he invokes a mythical precedent of

bad horsemanship: ‘‘Down, down I come, like glistring Phaeton, / Wanting the

manage of unruly jades’’ (R2 3.3.178--79); it is a symbolically charged moment

when Bolingbroke rides Richards favorite horse (5.5.77--94). Vignys Moses asks

God, ‘‘Let someone else bridle the steed of Israel’’ (‘‘Moses’’ 55, trans.

Blackmores). The hero of the ‘‘western’’ is typically a lone horseman who is at

one with an extraordinary horse; his enemies, though they also ride horses,

are typically horse-thieves.

According to the myth, Pegasus the flying horse was beloved of the Muses

because he created the spring Hippocrene on Mt. Helicon by stamping the

ground with his hooves, after which he flew up to heaven. Propertius calls the

Muses the daughters of Pegasus (3.1.19); Dante addresses one of the Muses as

Pegasea as he invokes her aid (Paradiso 18.82). In the Renaissance the horse

became an emblem of the poets ambition, a symbol common enough for

ambitious Milton to claim, ‘‘above the Olympian hill I soar, / Above the flight

of Pegasean wing’’ (PL 7.3--4). Concerning poetry Pope recommends judgment

as a balance to wit or imagination: ‘‘’Tis more to guide than spur the Muses

steed; / Restrain his Fury, than provoke his speed; / The winged Courser, like a

genrous Horse, / Shows most true Mettle when you check his Course’’ (Essay on

Criticism 1.84--87).

There is a striking recurrent trope about the Trojan horse, the ‘‘wooden

horse’’ by which the Greeks infiltrated and destroyed Troy (Odyssey 8.493).

Aeschylus calls the Greeks the ‘‘young of the horse’’ (Agamemnon 825) and Virgil

says the horse ‘‘bore armed infantry in its heavy womb’’ (Aeneid 6.516) -- or

in Drydens translation, the horse was ‘‘pregnant with arms’’ (see also 9.152).

Dante varies the trope in saying that the horse caused a breach through

which ‘‘the noble seed of the Romans escaped’’ (Inferno 26.60).

See Ass.

Hours see Seasons

Humor The Greeks and other ancients considered life to depend on fluids in the body;

youth is moist, age is dry, death is desiccation. Homer speaks of a liquid called

aion, which is occasionally indistinguishable from tears (e.g., Odyssey 5.152)

and is more often something like ‘‘vital juice’’ or ‘‘life fluid’’; it later acquired

more abstract meanings: ‘‘life,’’ ‘‘age,’’ ‘‘eternity’’ (English ‘‘eon’’ is a derivative).

Blood, sweat, semen, and milk were all taken as potent with human life,

and life could be enhanced by anointing with oil, rubbing with the sweat of

an animal, drinking wine, and bathing in blood. Urine and other secretions

such as bile or phlegm became indices of human health.

Hippocrates, in The Nature of Man 4, describes four chumoi or fluids -- blood,

phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile -- the balance or proportion of which

determines human health and sickness. Pain or illness is the excess or defect

of one of them. They were correlated with the four elements -- earth, water,

air, and fire -- and with the four qualities -- hot, cold, moist, dry; phlegm, for

example, is coldest and wettest, and thus related to water.

In Latin the term for chumos is umor or humor, and ‘‘humor’’ is the English

term (its original sense as fluid remains in another English borrowing,

‘‘humid’’). The medical theory, elaborated by Latin and medieval European

writers, held sway well into the nineteenth century, as Byrons death by

medicinal bleeding may remind us.

Many terms still current in English, or only recently obsolete, depend on

the theory. Ones ‘‘temperament’’ is ones particular mixture of humors;

‘‘temper’’ can mean ‘‘temperament’’ but more often ‘‘proper temperament’’ or

‘‘composure,’’ as when one is ‘‘out of temper’’ or ‘‘loses ones temper.’’ A

‘‘distemper’’ is a disease or disorder: Milton speaks of ‘‘distempers foul’’ (PL

4.118). A synonym of ‘‘temperament’’ is ‘‘complexion’’: Chaucer writes of his

Frankeleyn, ‘‘Of his complexioun he was sangwyn’’ (CT Pro. 333); later it was

thought that skin color reflected ones inner complexion.

‘‘Sanguine’’ is still in use today to mean ‘‘cheerful’’ or ‘‘hopeful,’’ sometimes

‘‘courageous’’; a sanguine temperament is dominated by blood (Latin sanguis),

which is hot and wet, and marked by a ruddy appearance; it is associated with

air. Besides the Frankeleyn Shakespeares Mercutio and Beatrice are sanguine.

(See Blood.)

‘‘Phlegmatic’’ still means ‘‘dull’’ or ‘‘sluggish,’’ but also ‘‘calm’’ or ‘‘even--

tempered’’; a phlegmatic character has too much phlegm (Greek and Latin

phlegma). Sidney complains to Patience, with her ‘‘leaden counsels,’’ that he

can never take ‘‘In thy cold stuff a phlegmatic delight’’ (Astrophel 56). Jane

Austens character Mary Bennett might be taken as phlegmatic.

‘‘Choleric’’ means ‘‘irascible,’’ ‘‘hot-tempered,’’ from ‘‘choler’’ (Greek and

Latin cholera) or bile (hot and dry, hence fiery). Synonyms are ‘‘bilious’’ and

‘‘splenetic’’ (from ‘‘spleen’’). (See Bile.)

‘‘Melancholic’’ means ‘‘sullen,’’ ‘‘sad,’’ or ‘‘dejected’’; it comes from an excess

of melancholy or black bile (cold and dry, hence earthy). The ‘‘humors black’’

of Miltons Samson Agonistes 600 are melancholy. (See Melancholy.)

In the 1590s in England ‘‘humor’’ seems to have been in great fashion, a fad

Shakespeare mocks through his character Nym, whose every line has the word

in it (MW 1.3). ‘‘Humor’’ could mean ‘‘temperament.’’ To be in ‘‘good humor’’

(or just ‘‘in humor’’) is to be in good temper, in proper balance. Ben Jonson

wrote two comedies, Every Man in his Humour and Every Man out of his Humour,

whose titles remind us that comedies since Menander have turned on

characters of a particular temperament or humor: the miser, the grouch, the

angry old man, the braggart soldier, the passionate lover, the cowardly

servant. Literary critics sometimes use ‘‘humor’’ to refer to such characters

themselves. The pattern in most comedies is the return of the ‘‘humorous’’

character to his or her proper humor, or the expulsion of the bad humor;

‘‘humor’’ is thus the comic counterpart of the tragic hamartia, ‘‘flaw’’ or (more

properly) ‘‘error.’’

Hunting The hunt or chase has been a male preoccupation for thousands of years. It

not only provided food and excitement, but (as Xenophon argued in his

Cyropaedia) it was the best training for war. Indeed some of the acts of warfare

in epic seem little different from hunting, as the similes tell us: Achilles

chases Hector three times around Troy, ‘‘chasing him, as a dog in the mountains

who has flushed from his covert / a deers fawn follows him through the

folding ways and the valleys’’ (Homer, Iliad 22.189--90, trans. Lattimore), and

Aeneas pursues Turnus as a hunting dog pursues a stag (Virgil, Aeneid

12.750--51). Siegried is a great hunter (in the Old High German Nibelungenlied),

but he is killed by Hagen whose sign or device is a boar. (The stag and the

boar are the two highest or noblest quarries.) ‘‘As the stag flees before the

dogs / The pagans took flight before Roland,’’ according to the Old French Song

of Roland (1874--75).

Hunting, and the scars that come of it, may be rites of passage into manhood

or marks of personal identity. The scar that almost betrays the disguised

Odysseus, for instance, came from a boar that he killed even as it gored him

(Odyssey 19.388--466). Or hunts may be occasions of fateful or fatal events, as

when Dido and Aeneas, seeking shelter from a storm during a hunt, make

love in a cave (Aeneid 4.160--72), or when the Calydonian boar hunt, which the

maiden Atalanta wins, leads to the death of Meleager (told by Ovid, Met.

8.260--444). Ahabs maniacal pursuit of the white whale, to which many

symbolic meanings accrue, leads to catastrophe (Melville, Moby-Dick).

The theme of the hunter hunted is common, in part for its satisfying formal

turn or reversal. Agamemnon, who angered Artemis (goddess of the hunt)

by hunting down her sacred stag, and who then propitiated her by sacrificing

his daughter, is caught in a hunting net and murdered by his wife and lover

when he returns home (Aeschylus, Agamemnon). Pentheus in Euripides Bacchae

wants to hunt down the uncontrollable maenads, but he himself becomes

their quarry; his mother, still in a trance, boasts that she has brought back

the trophy of her chase -- her sons head. When Actaeon the hunter comes

upon Artemis bathing, he is transformed into a stag and killed by his own

dogs (Ovid, Met. 3.131--255). Tristan becomes the master of the hunt for King

Mark, but is caught in nets of love for Isolde; they both become ‘‘loves

huntsmen,’’ laying nets and snares for each other (Gottfried von Strassburg,

Tristan and Isolde 11930--32).

Hunting metaphors since ancient times have been deployed for many states

and actions. Plato has Socrates propose that not only generals but geometers,

astronomers, and calculators are hunters of a kind, for they try to find things

out (Euthydemus 290b--c). Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus is filled with hunting

metaphors, as Oedipus leads the investigation into the unknown murderer:

another case of the hunter hunted. Ovid, who seems to have inadvertently

come across something he should not have seen, and was sent in exile for it,

likens his indiscretion to Actaeon (Tristia 3.103--07). In Christian allegories

sometimes the hunter is the devil, or sin, and the quarry is everyman. In

Chaucers translation from a French poem, ‘‘An ABC,’’ the speaker appeals to

the Virgin to save him, though he has been a ‘‘beste in wil and deede,’’ and to

‘‘make oure foo to failen of his praye [prey].’’ (45, 64). Arthur and Guyon set

out ‘‘To hunt for glory and renowmed prayse’’ (Spenser, FQ 3.1.3), while King

Ferdinand begins Shakespeares Love’s Labour’s Lost by asking, ‘‘Let fame, that

all hunt after in their lives, / Live registred upon our brazen tombs.’’

The most widespread metaphor, however, is the love hunt, as shown in the

image of Eros (Cupid) with his bow and arrows. In one of his earliest appearances, however, Eros hunts with nets; so Ibycus (6): ‘‘Eros, looking at me

languishingly under his dark eyebrows, by all manner of enchantments casts

me into the nets of Cypris [Aphrodite], from which there is no escape’’ (trans.

Kenney). Euripides Helen was one of the first to complain that someone

‘‘hunts her in marriage’’ (Helen 63). Lucretius warns us to shun ‘‘the hunting

nets of love’’ (4.1146). The love-struck Dido wanders through the city ‘‘like an

unsuspecting hind hit by an arrow, whom a shepherd pursuing with weapons

has shot from afar’’ (Aeneid 4.69--71). Horace pleads, ‘‘You avoid me, Chloe, like

a fawn / seeking its mother on the pathless / mountain and starting with

groundless / fears at the woods and winds (1.23.1--4, trans. Shepherd). Petrarch

echoes Ovid on Actaeon: ‘‘Not so much did Diana please her lover / When, by

a similar chance, all naked / he saw her in the midst of the cold waters, /

Than the cruel mountain shepherdess pleased me’’ (Rime 52). In a sonnet (Rime

190) Petrarch describes a white doe with a sweet and proud look but with a

sign about her saying ‘‘Let no one touch me, for Caesar set me free.’’ Wyatts

version is justly admired: ‘‘Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind, / But

as for me, helas, I may no more . . . ’’

Hyacinth Just what flower the classical ‘‘hyacinth’’ (Greek hyakinthos) referred to is

uncertain, perhaps the wild hyacinth (bluebell), wild iris, or blue larkspur, but

it was ‘‘dark’’ (Theocritus 10.28) or ‘‘purple’’ (Persius 1.32). Greeks thought they

saw the letters AI inscribed on the petals (hence the iris and larkspur are

likelier candidates); it is one of the flowers that laments for Bion in Moschus

elegy -- ‘‘now hyacinth, let your lettering speak’’ (3.6), ‘‘AI’’ being a cry of grief.

Ovid tells the story of the boy Hyacinth, beloved of Apollo, and accidentally

killed by the gods discus (Met. 10.167--219): from Hyacinths blood grows a

purple flower like a lily, with AIAI on it, which also suggests Ajax (Aias) (see

Met. 13.394--98). The ‘‘sanguine flower inscribd with woe’’ of Miltons ‘‘Lycidas’’

(106) is the hyacinth. Shelley describes blown blossoms with the message

‘‘follow’’ on them ‘‘as the blue bells / Of Hyacinth tell Apollos written grief’’

(PU 2.1.139--40).

Apart from the myth of Hyacinth, the flower is found among those in ideal

gardens or fields. Zeus makes love with Hera on a bed of herbs and flowers,

including the hyacinth (Iliad 14.348); it is one of the flowers plucked by Persephone

when she is plucked by Hades (Hymn to Demeter 7, 426). The crucial

scene of the hyacinth garden in Eliots The Waste Land, where the girl says ‘‘You

gave me hyacinths first a year ago; / They called me the hyacinth girl’’ and the

poet fails to speak or even look at her (35--41), may evoke both Homeric sexuality

and elegists dead beloved.

Another passage in Homer has had a long progeny -- his description of

Odysseus hair as having locks that hung ‘‘like the hyacinth flower’’ (Odyssey

6.231). It has usually been taken to refer to the flowers blue-black color,

though it could refer to its shape. Pope has it both ways in his translation:

‘‘His hyacinthine locks descend in wavy curls’’ (6.274). Milton gives Adam

‘‘hyacinthine locks’’ (PL 4.301), Byrons Leilas hair falls ‘‘in hyacinthine flow’’

(Giaour 496), Poe praises Helens ‘‘hyacinth hair’’ (‘‘To Helen’’ 7), and Hettys

hair in George Eliots Adam Bede has ‘‘dark hyacinthine curves’’

(chap. 15).