red-hot pole (Athens), of a sharp piece of wood (Servia), of red-hot
spits (France, Abruzzo, Zakynthos, Kappodokia, Kypros, Sindbad),
of a red-hot iron (Harz Mountains, Finland), of a red-hot poker
(Erice), of a red-hot knife (Oghuzians), of a stabbing in the eye
(Carelia, Yorkshire), or of a molten mass poured in the eyes
(Dolopathos, Roumania, Esthonia).
The oldest obtainable version of the story is of course the
Kyklops-myth of the Odyssey, which in its present shape must be
placed at least as early as the year 800 B.C.1 and in its original
form goes back doubtless some centuries further. D. Muelder, after
a minute and painstaking criticism of the myth, sets aside all later
accretions and interpolations and prints what he conceives to have
been the primitive Kyklops-poem2. In this the episode of the
red-hot stake is of fundamental importance. The passage, as
reconstituted by Muelder, runs thus:
This to my thinking seemed the best advice.
Beside the fold the Kyklops' great club lay
Of olive-wood yet green, which he had felled
To bear when dry. We, looking on the same,
Likened its size to the mast of a black ship,
Some merchantman broad-beamed and twenty-oared
That gets to harbour far across the main,
So huge its length, so huge its girth to view.
Therefrom I, standing close, cut off a fathom,
Gave to my men, and bade them fine it down.
They smoothed it: I stood by and pointed it,
And took and turned it in the blazing fire.
Then 'neath the heap of embers I thrust in
The bar to heat it; and my comrades all
I heartened, lest in terror they should fail me.
But, when the olive-bar was like to catch,
Green as it was, and glowed with dreadful light,
I fetched it from the fire, while they stood round.
And some god breathed great courage into us.
They took the olive-bar, so sharp at the point,
And full in his eyeball plunged it. I uplifted
Twirled it above, as a man drills with a drill
A timber for ship-building, while below
His fellows spin their strap and hold amain
Its either end, and still the drill runs on.
Just so we took the fiery-pointed bar,
And twirled it in his eye: the blood flowed round
Its hot end, and the blast singed all about
His lids and eyebrows, as the ball was burnt
1 A. and M. Croiset Histoire de la littirature grecque2 Paris 1896 i. 402, W. Christ
Geschichte der griechischen Litteratur6 Mimchen 1908 i. 62.
2 D. Muelder 'Das Kyklopengedicht der Odysee' in Hermes 1903 xxxviii. 414—455.