The following is a excerpt from William Cowper's translation of Homer's Iliad (Homer being the Greek poet, not the cartoon character, in this case):

So saying, he cast his sceptre on the ground
Studded with gold, and sat. On the other side
The son of Atreus all impassion'd stood,
When the harmonious orator arose
Nestor, the Pylian oracle, whose lips
Dropped eloquence—the honey not so sweet.

The way I see it (correct me if I'm wrong) the last two lines mean that each time Nestor made a speech, it was a masterpiece that touched everyone deeply: sweet, oh, so sweet. Sweeter, in fact, than honey.

So why not just say "honey"? Why does Cowper say "the honey" instead? The honey. Some concrete honey, a specific amount, probably in a jar - did someone bring a jar of honey to the conference? Who? Ajax? Achilles? To what end? And where is it now? Or have they already eaten it all?

Please explain.


Billy needs the article to make the line in his version scan in iambic pentameter.

  • Really? That's the reason? Hmm. – Ricky Nov 20 '15 at 10:04
  • Although not backed up by references (and anyway, I doubt that's possible here), that is probably the reason. – anemone Nov 20 '15 at 10:28
  • Also none of the other lines is in Iambic pentameter – Phil M Jones Nov 20 '15 at 10:33
  • @PhilMJones: Actually, they are. – Ricky Nov 20 '15 at 11:11
  • The son of A treus all im pass ion'd stood – deadrat Nov 20 '15 at 11:15

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