William Morris Archive

David Latham

0.1 Aristomenes] Aristomenes is the legendary warrior who led the Messenians in their second war (685-668 BC) against the Spartans of Laconia. Refusing to surrender, he continued to invade Laconia for eleven years from his mountain fortresses of Ira and Ithome.

0.2 Messenian] Messenia was a coastal country in the southern peninsula of Peloponnesus, south of Arcadia and west of Laconia. The Spartans of Laconia invaded and enslaved the Messenians for control of their fertile land.

0.8 Laconian]  Laconia was the aggressive country in the southern Peloponnesus that ruled over Messenia. Its capital was Sparta, situated on the Eurotas River.

35 wot] To know; from the Old English.

36 erewhile] A while before; from the Middle English.

37 King Aristodemus, Euphaes] Aristodemus led the first Messenian war (743-723 BC) against Sparta. Elected king in 730 BC, he killed himself in despair of his failed resistance to the Spartans. Euphaes was the Messenian king during that war until his death in 730 BC.

56 bode] Waited; from the Old English.

67 Ithome] Of the twin peaks of Mount Ithome and Mount Eva, the rocky summit of Ithome provided a fortress-like protection from the Spartans.

81 certes] Certainly, truly; from the Latin.

88 eyen] eyes; plural for eye.

101 Aetolia] Aetolia was the rugged country north of the Peloponnesus, across the Corinthian strait.

112 Alpheus] Alpheus is a partially subterranean river flowing through Arcadia to the Ionian Sea.

132 Hercules] Hercules is the Latin form for Heracles, whose heroic feats are a composite from the myths of heroes from various Greek tribes.

143 Pallas] Pallas Athene was the armoured daughter of Zeus, and the inventor of the flute.

171 eld] Old age; from the Old English.

178 aught] Anything whatever; from the Old English.

207 bent] A heath, moorland; a rough field often of heather; from the Middle English.

237 rick-yard] An area for haystacks; from the Middle English.

287 wend] Go; make way; from the Old English.

309 Cleombrotus] Morris is conflating the dates of kings from different centuries: Cleombrotus was the Spartan king who was defeated and killed by the Thebes in 371 BC; Aristomenes won his first battle with the Spartans three centuries earlier.

315 stocks and whip chord] The oppressed people could be whipped and be clamped with their wrists and ankles set in wooden stocks.

374 neat] Domestic cow; from the Old English.

381 temple] This temple is identified as the temple of the God of War (386), of Ares (408), and later as the shrine of Mars (886).

389 dight] Adorn; from the Middle English.

392-93 bedight ... mail-coat] He is dressed in flexible armour; from the Middle English.

397 Stenyclerus] Stenyclerus was a town in northern Messenia.

406 erst] Formerly, in the past; from the Middle English.

408 Ares] Ares is the unchivalrous god of war and son of Zeus.

410 wain] A farm-wagon; from the Old English.

468 garth-gate] A garden-gate, for an enclosed yard; from the Old Norse.

477 mumming] A sarcastic reference to the playful mischief carried out during masked festivals, with merry-making visits from door to door.

507 AEpitus] AEpitus was the son of the Messenian king Cresphontes and the Arcadian princess Merope. Surviving an insurrection in his youth, he returned to Messenia and avenged his father’s death. Messenian royalty thereafter were known as AEpitidae.

518 fold] To fence the herd of cattle; from the Old English.

529 weal] Wellness in terms of happy prosperity; from the Old English.

532 hap] Luck, fortune; from the Old Norse.

547 wrack] Wreckage and ruin; from the Middle English.
557 verily] In truth; from the Middle English.

597 Ira] Ira was the chief settlement and base of power for Aristomenes’ protection of Messenia. It resisted Spartan attacks for eleven years until surrendering in 668 BC when its people were enslaved as Helots.

605 Theoclus] May Morris likely found in Pausanias the name of this Messenian seer forgotten by Morris. Pausanias tells of “an oracle given to Aristomenes and Theoclus,” the seer (4.20.1; 4.21.2).  

606 Jove] Jove is the early Latin word for Jupiter, the father god of all gods.

610 eyrie] The high nest of eagles; from the Latin.

611 Joves bird] Jove’s bird is the eagle (599).

656 byre] A barn for cows; from the Old English.

688 spur] A ridge at the top of a mountain; from the Old English.

695 bill] A hook bladed weapon; from the Old English.

721 sill and strutt] A horizontal timber in a dwelling.

738 fane] A temple; from the Latin.

754 Helen’s brothers] The twin brothers of Helen of Troy were Castor and Pollux, who were called the Dioscuri (820).

798 Andania] Andania is a town in a very fertile area of Messenia and is associated with the Andania mysteries, a cult whose rites included dressing as deities and giving sacrifices for Demeter, the earth goddess of agriculture, and her daughter Persephone.

820 Dioscuri] The Dioscuri are the twin sons of Zeus – Castor, the horse-tamer, and Pollux (Polydeuces), the boxing master – and served as the tutelary gods of young warriors.

823 Highest One] Zeus or Jove, the Greek and Latin references have been interchanged throughout the poem.

869 whit] The smallest bit; from the Old English.

916 warders] The guards or gate watchers; from the Old French.

962 Taygetus] The Tavgetus is the rugged mountain-range separating Messenia and Laconia.
1020 belike] Likely, probably.

1034 Elian kings] The ancient kings of a  mountainous region of Messenia long before the Spartan invasions.

1250 Lasus, Bion] Lasus was the sixth-century BC lyric poet who developed the dithyramb and who taught Pindar. Bion was the third-century BC pastoral poet in the tradition of Theocritus.

1280 crook] A shepherd’s staff, curved at the top; from the Old Norse.

1331 meet] Fitting, appropriate; from the Old English.

1337 pommel] The knob at the hilt or top of a sword; from the Latin.

1453 thwart] Athwart, across; from the Middle English.

1535] leaguer] The military encampment of an army ready to attack; from the Old Dutch.

1660 unchid] Unscolded; from the Middle English.

1668.1  Glauce] Glauce is the daughter who witnessed, as a twelve-year-old, her Spartan King Ceombrotus kill himself when Aristomenes defeated his soldiers (see 309-40). She is named after one of the Nereides, personifying the colour of the sea. See 2188 of the textual notes for Morris’s own note in his earliest notebook e1 about Glauce and Aristomenes.

1670 reft] Reaved, robbed, torn away; from the Middle English.

1838 brake] A thicket of overgrown brushwood; from the Middle English.

1851 gin] A snare; from the Old English.

1867 throstle] A song thrush; from the Old English.

2076 Hertha] Morris must have decided that he would rename the nurse to avoid the misleading name of the fertility goddess from Germanic mythology.

2129 erne] A sea eagle; from the Old English.