for both amount to much the samernthing—even the best of authors can occasionallyrncreate a weak poem or line orrnmake a mistake. I think we can all grantrnthis, but some critics have taken the expressionrnliterally, and have sought outrncases in which Homer in fact nods: i.e.,rncontradicts either himself or commonrnsense.rnSuch observers point with glee at thernfact—as they would have it—that in hisrnIliad, Homer has Pylaimenes, a Trojanrnwarrior slain in Book Five, return to weeprnfor the death of his son in Book Thirteen.rnThey chortle to think that the herornAchilles can forget in the course of arnday—and but two books later—that anrnembassy of his friends had come to himrnthe previous evening to beg him to returnrnto battie. They become nearly hystericalrnwhen contemplating “blamelessrnAegisthus,” the Aegisthus who seducedrnClytaemnestra and murdered Agamemnon;rnand are helpless with laughter whenrnHomer endows Odysseus’ faithful wifernPenelope with a “massive forearm.”rnHomer’s defenders have ridden to thernrescue. Already in antiquity scholarsrncommented on Pylaimenes’ death andrnresurrection, and concluded that the textrnwas faulty and Homer innocent of contradiction.rnIt has been suggested thatrnAchilles is not so much forgetful asrnHomer is (a bit) careless in conflatingrntwo versions of his Iliad into one—onernstory with the embassy, another without.rnBesides, it is argued, the poem was composedrnorally for a live audience, and suchrnaudiences are not likely to notice minorrninconsistencies. Aegisthus and Penelopernare victims not of Homeric ignorance orrninnocence but of the formulaic naturernof Homeric composition. Homer wasrnforced by the exigencies of rapid compositionrnto use fixed phrases for certainrncharacters even when they run counterrnto the best sense.rnThese defenses of Homer are often asrnweak as the attacks made on him. Itrnwould perhaps be well in this connectionrnto remember what Horace in fact saidrn(Epistles 2, 33:59-60):rnEt idemrnIndignor quandoque bonus dormitatrnHomerus.rnVerum operi longo fas est obreperernsomnum.rn”Even I take it amiss when expertrnTHE NEWrnUNTOUCHABLESrnFor Americans in Arlington, Virginia, it is a little aggravating that our brothers near thernMexican border in California get all the publicity when it comes to illegal aliens. Yournwould think California is the only state that has a problem.rnIt’s not. According to the Arlington Courier, the Immigration and NaturalizationrnService admitted that the problem of illegal immigration in Northern Virginia is becomingrnworse, not better. “We’ve almost lost control of the situation,” said INS districtrndirector William Carroll. “To pick up ever undocumented alien would be almostrnimpossible.” Arlington Count’ board member Ben Wmslow agreed: “We are being invadedrn. . . and we are losing the battle.”rnIndeed Adington is. Gangs such as La Mara Loco Intocables (The Crazy Untouchables)rnare chock full of illegal aliens whose relatives and friends bounce like jumpingrnbeans whenever cops apprehend gang members in the county illegally.rnThe sad thing is, the INS director just doesn’t get it. The Colden State’s Propositionrn187, he says, is “a xenophobic kind of thing.” Presumably, Ariingtonians who dornnot like illegal immigrants are xenophobes, too.rn—K. Corf KirkwoodrnHomer nods for a moment,rnbut it is excusable that sleep creepsrnup if a work is long.”rnHorace expects Homer to be perfect,rnand is annoyed when he is not. His onh’rnexplanation for Homeric lapses is thernlength of the work.rnAll the above is pedantry at worst,rnscholarship at best, and I would not havernbothered with it had a recent example ofrnnodding not presented itself in Halberstam’srnwell-received book The Fifties. Interestinglyrnenough (to me) Halberstamrnhas erred in the same ways Homer did.rnAnd Horace’s excuse will do here as well,rnfor the book is indeed very long.rnOn page 11 Halberstam writes: “Arnman named Whittaker Chambers . . .rncharged that Hiss . . . ” e idently forgettingrnthat he had written on page 10:rn”Whittaker Chambers, who would bernthe key witness against Alger Hiss . . . “rnThe phrase “a man named” implies thatrnwe are meeting him for the first time.rnShades of Achilles. Of course, he may bernquoting Hiss’s own words: “I never knev^rna man called Whittaker Chambers”—rnwithout using quotation marks, hencernusing a formulaic utterance in a placernwhere that formula is inappropriate. Onrnpage 800 it is clearly a formulaic use ofrnlanguage that has led him astray: “As Irnbecame aware of the vast press corpsrnwhich was arriving in Tallahatchie Countvrnto cover the case, I knew instinctivelyrnthat something important was takingrnplace.” He of course did not know it instinctively;rnhe had deduced from experiencernthat a large number of reporters impliesrna story worth covering. Observationrnand intelligence, not instinct, guidedrnhim. He has been led to use the formularn”to know instinctively” in a sentence tornwhich it is not appropriate.rnFormulaic language has misled Halberstamrnin the 20th ccnturw in spite ofrnall our age’s mechanical mar’els and itsrnsquadrons of editors and typesetters.rnHomer was on his own, performingrnlive before audiences and without the aidrnof writing (probably). We have no reasonrnto believe that Homer’s originalrnaudiences found fault with his poem. Itrnwas only later scholars who noted the difficulties.rnChances are also that onlvrnthose acquainted with Homeric scholarshiprnhave noticed the lapses in ThernFifties.rnWilliam F. Wxatt is a professor of classicsrnat Brown University.rn48/CHRONICLESrnrnrn