Twelve years ago, I was living in Santa Fe and learning Homeric Greek from Clyde Pharr's Homeric Greek: A Book for Beginners. It's funny what sticks with you. I can still recite the opening lines of the Iliad, and have used it to scare away telemarketers:
("Can I speak to the lady of the house?"
"Menin aeide, thea."
"Um... is Ms Sawyer there?"
"Peleiadeo Achileos/ oulomenen, he muri' Achaiois alge' etheken/ pollas d' iphthimous psuchas Aidi proiapsen/ heroon, autous de heloria teuche kunessin/ oionoisi te pasi, Dios d' eteleieto boule!"
"I'll call back").
But really, not all that much has survived the intervening decade plus. This morning, however, I was jolted by a comment on my last post into a half-remembered footnote in Pharr's Lesson XXIII (the subjunctive mode of verbs). The note refers to line 45 in Book One of the Iliad, in which Apollo strides down from mount Olympus, "and his coming was like the night." Pharr writes,
"It is none less than the mighty god himself who is now before us....like unto the night, both in swiftness of coming and in the awful gloom and dread which night brings to primitive peoples who have no adequate lighting facilities."
I'm not sure why I have to cross my fingers before I can fall asleep. Lying in bed at night, the shadow of a tree cast sharp against the wall by the neighbor's security lights, I know that I have nothing to fear from what little dark surrounds me. But something of that "awful gloom and dread" lingers in the real and irrational fears that crowd around my sleepless head.