ἦμος δ᾽ ἠριγένεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς
"Dawn's pale rose fingers brushed across the sky" (according to Lombardo)
This exact line appears 20 times in The Odyssey, a repetition likely in part owed to the poem's roots in oral tradition - formulae such as this occur on different scales: two-word epithets, complete lines, even full scenes would have been utilized by the bard as tools to assist with composition, frameworks into which he could impose his own specifics and variations.
But given that The Odyssey we read is a text, why do such features of the dissolving oral tradition remain?
In this case, I think the formulaic repetition of Dawn breaking has been preserved in service of an atmospheric and narrative goal: to convey the rhythmic often monotonous passage of time that one experiences during travel.
Consider the fact that of the 20 times this line appears, 8 occur in books 9 through 12 while Odysseus is narrating his famous journeys. Another 5 of the occurrences are in books 3 and 4 during Telemachus' travels, two of which occur in the context of Menelaus describing his own journey home.
And as a traveler, I know this feeling, a disorienting sort of bizarro-Groundhog Day where somehow each morning is identical yet completely different.
Dawn’s pale rose fingers brushed across the sky in Brownsburg, Indiana, on the first Friday of November. I stirred and was immediately captured by a familiar urgent anticipation of the day’s agenda.
I said my goodbyes and thank yous to Holly for her gracious hosting, did some administrative work, and then got on the road for my two-plus hour drive to Cincinnati where I would be playing two shows in the span of not even 20 hours at The University of Cincinnati. The drive was easy and I was happy to find that my hotel was both nice and convenient to the campus.
I took advantage of the unseasonably warm afternoon to take a run through the campus and surrounding neighborhood and after cleaning up, it was time to meet my contact and head to campus for a late-afternoon performance for the Classics department.
My show was in a long but acoustically active room and framed as part of a “Celebration of Classics-Influenced Art:” after I performed the audience moved to a reception that included the unveiling of a fantastic sculpture inspired by the myth of Atlas and created by a Classics grad-turned professional sculptor named Tom Tsuchiya.
Afterwards we attended a dinner and then I was on my own for the night: I wandered into a bar for a quick drink and then, exhausted, back to my hotel room feeling like I might be coming down with something.
Dawn’s pale rose fingers brushed across the sky in Cincinnati, Ohio, on the first Saturday of November. I stirred and was immediately captured by a familiar urgent anticipation of the day’s agenda.
I got some breakfast and packed my stuff up: my show for the day was at noon for a group of high school students that the University was hosting for a Classics-based scholastic competition known as Certamen.
The room was (as opposed to the day before) wide and shallow: I sat, almost Kermit-the-Frog style, up on a raised podium, towering over the audience. It was a good show though the way my voice felt confirmed for me that I was on the edge of getting sick.
Following the show I got on the road and headed north: the last show of the trip was the next day in Lansing, Michigan, a 5 hour drive from Cincinnati. I had booked a hotel room in Findlay, Ohio, which was about the halfway point, and after an uneventful two and half hours of driving I pulled into The Findlay Inn in downtown Findlay.
I walked to a nearby restaurant, got some food and drink, and, wary of my tenuous health, was in bed before 9:00.
A small piece of good luck: this was the night we set the clocks back so I would be able to get an extra hour of sleep in my quest to stave off illness. I woke in the pre-dawn darkness to the peaceful sound of light rain and was able to close my eyes and fall back to sleep.
Dawn’s pale rose fingers brushed across the sky in Findlay, Ohio, on the first Sunday of November. I stirred and was immediately captured by a…
Well, you know the rest.