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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Homeric Simile December 22, Figures of Speech

So what's the difference between a Homeric Simile and just a plain ol' garden variety simile, anyhow?  Well, here's an example of a Homeric Simile.
"As a fisherman, seated, spear in hand, upon some jutting rock throws bait into the water to deceive the poor little fishes, and spears them with the ox`s horn with which his spear is shod, throwing them gasping on to the land as he catches them one by one--even so did Scylla land these panting creatures on her rock and munch them up at the mouth of her den, while they screamed and stretched out their hands to me in their mortal agony."
Homer launches into one of his famous similes
Get the idea?  Homeric Similes are lo-o-ong.  Any othr poet would just've said Scylla grabbed up those sailors like somebody gigging frogs, but not Homer, oh, no!  That wouldn't be good enough for Homer, he's got to go and elaborate on every little detail.  (Incidentally, and I don't know if it's just in translation or the original Greek, but Homer refers to the spear as being "shod" with an ox horn.  Since spears don't wear shoes, what we have here is a simile so long that it has another metaphor inside it.)
I have noticed that Homer is not the only one to employ Homeric Similes; many a Southern story-teller, so enraptured with the power of his own words he forgets precisely what his point was, will wander off into very specific descriptions of something he only mentioned as a point of comparison in the first place.
I myself (ahem) in my award-winning novel, Days of the Endless Corvette, (on sale through Amazon and a dandy gift for all occasions) employ Homeric Similes as in the following description of Earl, who is unable to rise to his feet following an epic ass-whipping:
Earl let his head drop again and considered his next move.
A gopher turtle tumped on its back flails its legs to its utmost ability and abruptly pauses; its reptile eye assumes a distant thoughtful expression as it works out a turtly puzzle of geometry that would have stumped Archimedes. How do I, positioned as I am, dome-shaped as I am, fulcrum myself in such a way as to turn the world right-side up again?  The legs flail afresh, and the turtle neck cranes back and forth, less in expectation of righting himself, than in the hope of gathering more data.  Having conducted the experiment, the turtle pauses to weigh the new information and see if it sheds any light on his predicament.
That's how it was with Earl.
No one who read that passage has once, not once, commented on my use of Homeric Simile.  Instead, to a person, my agent, editor, everyone, have all asked the same question.

Can't you make it shorter?

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