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Homeric Similes and Nature's Wonders III

The Simple Joys of Nature

’…a speeding cormorant, crossing the waters, catching fish as it hurtles into the waves,

salting its wings’.

This so exactly describes a hungry cormorant in flight many may be surprised to learn that the passage is getting on for three millennia in age.

It comes from Homer’s Odyssey near the start of book five when Hermes swoops down on to the see, speeding towards Calypso, the nymph.

HomertheBot ( on Twitter tweeted this lovely passage, which recalled it to my mind. What struck me reading it now was not only the beautiful description, but also what simple pleasure could be found in nature.

A while ago now, I uploaded, ‘The Beauty of the Every Day’ looking at Homer and Virgil’s touching descriptions of everyday domestic moments.

Both also remind us of the exquisite beauty of nature itself.

The simile above, obviously adds a majestic vividness to the scene. The god Hermes swoops elegantly and powerfully down like a cormorant, and he breezes across the waves like the graceful but predatory bird.

Yet, if one imagines oneself standing inside the simile, rather than the main great Homeric epic narrative, one can imagine being out on a seaside walk in autumn or winter and stopping speechless to witness the flight of the dark-winged cormorant. Having observed exactly this scene, the experience only made the simile more powerful. Cormorants are one of my favourite birds and this simile so exactly captured what I witnessed and resurrected my feelings of awe from the very first time I saw this most majestic of birds on its quest.

Homer and Virgil, too, are treasure troves of perceptive descriptions that connect their lofty, grand, and tragic narratives to every day scenes that are not merely familiar experiences, they bring great pleasure to the every day.

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Thanks for this gorgeous image George. For me, the beauty and the wonder from these works is the realisation of just how similar people have always been - we take pleasure in the same things.

This passage reminds me of the one in Iliad 15 when Apollo is likened to a child at the sea knocking down sand and buildg it up again. It's so vivid.

Or the glorious line from Vergil when he and Achates stand before the frieze depicting the tragic fall of Troy: sunt lacrima rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.


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