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When I first became an Oxfordian, back in the late 1980s, having learned that the pseudonym ‘William Shake-speare’ most probably was a reference to the Greco-Roman goddess Athene/Athena = Minerva, I searched through my copy of Volume 57 in the Loeb Classic Library, where I found the 28th Homeric Hymn, an 18-line tribute addressed to Athena:
Παλλάδ᾽ Ἀθηναίην, κυδρὴν θεόν, ἄρχομ᾽ ἀείδειν
γλαυκῶπιν, πολύμητιν, ἀμείλιχον ἦτορ ἔχουσαν,
παρθένον αἰδοίην, ἐρυσίπτολιν, ἀλκήεσσαν,
Τριτογενῆ, τὴν αὐτὸς ἐγείνατο μητίετα Ζεὺς
σεμνῆς ἐκ κεφαλῆς, πολεμήια τεύχε᾽ ἔχουσαν,
χρύσεα, παμφανόωντα· σέβας δ᾽ ἔχε πάντας ὁρῶντας
ἀθανάτους· ἣ δὲ πρόσθεν Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο
ἐσσυμένως ὤρουσεν ἀπ᾽ ἀθανάτοιο καρήνου,
σείσασ᾽ ὀξὺν ἄκοντα· μέγας δ᾽ ἐλελίζετ᾽ Ὄλυμπος
δεινὸν ὑπὸ βρίμης γλαυκώπιδος· ἀμφὶ δὲ γαῖα
σμερδαλέον ἰάχησεν· ἐκινήθη δ᾽ ἄρα πόντος,
κύμασι πορφυρέοισι κυκώμενος· ἔκχυτο δ᾽ ἅλμη
ἐξαπίνης· στῆσεν δ᾽ Ὑπερίονος ἀγλαὸς υἱὸς
ἵππους ὠκύποδας δηρὸν χρόνον, εἰσότε κούρη
εἵλετ᾽ ἀπ᾽ ἀθανάτων ὤμων θεοείκελα τεύχη
Παλλὰς Ἀθηναίη γήθησε δὲ μητίετα Ζεύς.
Καὶ σὺ μὲν οὕτω χαῖρε, Διὸς τέκος αἰγιόχοιο·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ καὶ σεῖο καὶ ἄλλης μνήσομ᾽ ἀοιδῆς.
I BEGIN to sing of Pallas Athene, the glorious goddess, bright- eyed, inventive, unbending of heart, pure virgin, saviour of cities, courageous, Tritogeneia. From his awful head wise Zeus himself bare her arrayed in warlike arms of flashing gold, and awe seized all the gods as they gazed. But Athena sprang quickly from the immortal head and stood before Zeus who holds the aegis shaking asharpspeare: [my emphasis, here and above] great Olympos began to reel horribly at the might of the bright-eyed
goddess, and earth round about cried fearfully, and the sea was moved and tossed with dark waves, while foam burst forth suddenly: the bright Son of Hyperion stopped his swift-footed horses a long while, until the maiden Pallas Athene had stripped the heavenly armour from her immortal shoulders. And wise Zeus
And so hail to you, daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis! Now I will remember you and another song as well.
— translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, M.A.1
It should be noticed ― and noted ― that the first three words in the ninth line, σ ε ί σ α σ᾽ ὀξὺνἄκοντα[seisas’ oxun akonta] are translated ‘shaking a sharp spear’ by Evelyn-White. The first word, σ ε ί σ α σ᾽ [seisas’] comes from the Greek verb ΣΕΙ′Ω [SEIŌ], meaning ‘to shake, move to and fro, brandish’2, the word from which the English word seismic is derived, relating to earthquakes.
The third word, ἄκοντα [akonta] comes from the verb ἀκοντίζω [akontizō],ot‘ hurl a javelin’, ‘to throw, fling, dart: to dart at’, and ‘to shoot forth rays, of the moon’, and the noun ἀκόντιον [akontion], ‘a dart, javelin’3 ― a diminutive form of the word ἄκων [akōn], which has two definitions: ‘a javelin, dart, smaller and lighter than ἔγχο’ς and ‘against one’s will, perforce’4.
I saved the middle word for last, the Greek word ὀξὺν [oxun, or oxyn, depending on whether the third letter, upsilon, is transliterated with a ‘u’ or a ‘y’]. At first glance, it would seem that this word is from the verb ὀξύνω [oxunō / oxynō], ‘to make sharp or pointed, to sharpen’5 ― derived from ὀξύς [oxus / oxys], ‘sharp, keen, pointed’6. On the other hand, ὀξὺν might also be from the noun ‘ὈΞΥ′Α or ὀξύη, ἡ, a kind of beech. II. a spear-shaft made from its wood : generally, a spear.’7. Interesting . . . a Greek word that means ‘to sharpen’ and ‘a spear’ which sounds like the English word ‘oxen’!
Is it likely that Edward de Vere was aware of this Homeric Hymn to Athena, and that he perhaps noted this word, which means both ‘sharp’ and ‘spear’? What about the third word [ἄκοντα, from ἄκων / akōn], with that tantalizing meaning ‘against one’s will’? ‘Shaking a sharp spear’ … ‘against one’s will’ . . . might not our poet/dramatist Earl of Oxford have derived his nom de plume from this self-same Greek phrase?
The Greek word ἀκόντιον [akontion] means ‘a dart, javelin’ … as does the Latin word ‘věrūtum -i, n. (veru), a javelin: Caes., Liv.’, from ‘věru -ūs, n. (1)aspit: Verg., Ov. (2) a javelin: Verg., Tib.’8. Interesting, that the same word translated by Evelyn-White as ‘spear’ is translated as ‘javelin’ by Liddell & Scott, the same word used in Cassell’s Latin Dictionary to translate verutum/veru, a meaning which a wordsmith like Edward de Vere would surely have known.
Incidentally, the English word ‘javelin’― according to the Encarta World English Dictionary (p. 962c) ― is defined as a ‘spear’, coming into English from the Middle French javeline, a diminutive of the Old French javelot, possibly from, ultimately, a Celtic source, ancestor of Welsh gaflach ‘feathered lance’. Thus, the words ἀκόντιον, veru, and verutum could also justifiably be translated by the English word ‘spear’ as well as ‘javelin’. One must wonder, too, if the word
ἄκοντα [akonta], in the ears of the Earl of Oxford, lent itself to the homophonous pun: ‘a count’― as in the French comte, the Italian conte, the English count, i.e. an Earl.
Maybe I’m stretching things a bit too far with this last possibility: the word translated ‘shaking’ by Evelyn-White, σείσασ᾽ [seisas’], which Liddell & Scott translate as ‘to shake, move to and fro, brandish’ . . . might it not be considered a terrestrial equivalent of the oceanic-related concept of an ‘eddy’? Walter W. Skeat has this to say on the matter: ‘Eddy. (Scand.) Icel. iða, an eddy, whirl-pool; cf. iða, to whirl about ; Swed. dial. iða, idâ, Dan. dial. ide, the same. Formed from Icel. ið-, A.S. ed-, Goth. id-, back ; only found as a prefix.’9
Oh, I can already hear a Stratfordian protest that back-and-forth motion is not the same as angular rotation . . . but one does not swirl a spear, one shakes a spear. Yet one must grant that an object swirling around a pivot point is found on opposite sides every half-swirl, say, when at the 12 and the 6 o’clock positions, a kind of back-and-forth motion. I can’t find the word ‘swirl’ in The Harvard Concordance to Shakespeare, but I did find the words ‘whirl’, ‘whirl’d’, ‘whirled’, ‘whirligig’, ‘whirlpool’, ‘whirls’, ‘whirlwind’, ‘whirlwinds’, and ‘whirring’.10 Is it just me, or does the word ‘whirl’ sound more than a bit like the word ‘earl’ . . . ? ‘Eddy’ and ‘Eddie’. Greek ‘Oxyn’ and English ‘Oxen’.
There are those who suspect that the poet who wrote Romeus and Juliet [‘Arthur Brooke’] was none other than our favourite Earl of ‘Ox’+‘ford’ . . . as the word ‘rother’ (a near-homophone for ‘arthur’) is an old word for ‘an animal of the ox kind’, and a ‘brook’ is a kind of ford.11 Shakespeare was an inveterate punster. I have little doubt that many of his puns got the eyes rolling and the groans groaning, as over-punning tends to do. But perhaps I’m just seeing something that isn’t really there, like when Cervantes’ mad knight was quixotically tiltin’ at windmills, deeming them to be giants …
- HESIOD ∙ HOMERIC HYMNS ∙ EPIC CYCLE ∙ HOMERICA ∙ With an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White [Loeb Classical Library 57] : Harvard University Press: 452–5.
- A LEXICON Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon : Oxford University Press 1963: 631b.
- Ibid. 27a.
- Ibid. 30a.
- Ibid. 491b.
- Ibid. 492a.
- Ibid. 491a.
- CASSELL’S LATIN DICTIONARY : Cassell & Company Ltd. and Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1959 : 638.
- The Concise Dictionary of English Etymology : Walter W. Skeat : Wordsworth Editions Ltd. 1993 : 131a.
- THE HARVARD CONCORDANCE TO SHAKESPEARE : 1974 : 1499b.
- Charlton Ogburn : The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and The Reality, EPM Publications, Inc. : 450.fsup