Homer's concealed Odysseus .
Homer (Odyssey, VIII, 83 ff.) tells how Odysseus, in the Phaeacian
king's palace, covered his head each time at the minstrel Demodocus'
song, whether happy or sad, and thus hidden from those present,
wept. Verse 93 runs: ενθ' αλλους μέν
πάντας έλάνθανε δάκρυα λείβων. Consistent with the spirit of our own language, we translate:
"Then he shed tears, without all the others noticing it." The German
translation by Voss comes closer to what the Greek says, since it carries
the important verb έλάνθανε over into the German formulation: "He
concealed his flowing tears from all the other guests." Έλάνθανε,
however, does not mean the transitive "he concealed," but "he remained
concealed"—as the one who was shedding tears. "Remaining
concealed" is the key word in the Greek. German, on the other hand,
says: he wept, without the others noticing it. Correspondingly, we
translate the well-known Epicurean admonition λάθε βιώσας as "Live
in hiding." Thought from a Greek perspective, this saying means: "As
the one who leads his life, remain concealed (therein)." Concealment
here defines the way in which a man should be present among others.
By the manner of its saying, the Greek announces that concealing—
and therefore at the same time remaining unconcealed—exercises a
commanding preeminence over every other way in which what is present
comes to presence. The fundamental trait of presencing itself is
determined by remaining concealed and unconcealed. One need not
begin with a seemingly capricious etymology of άληθεσία in order to
experience how universally the presencing of what is present comes to
language only in shining, self-manifesting, lying-before, arising, bringing-
itself-before, and in assuming an outward appearance.
All this, in its undisturbed harmony, would be unthinkable within
Greek existence and language if remaining-concealed/remaining-unconcealed
did not hold sway as that which really has no need to bring
itself expressly to language, since this language itself arises from it.
Accordingly, the Greek experience in the case of Odysseus does
not proceed from the premise that the guests present are represented
as subjects who in their subjective behavior fail to grasp weeping Odysseus
as an object of their perception. On the contrary, what governs
the Greek experience is a concealment surrounding the one in tears, a
concealment which isolates him from the others. Homer does not say:
Odysseus concealed his tears. Nor does the poet say: Odysseus concealed
himself as one weeping. Rather, he says: Odysseus remained
concealed. We must ponder this matter ever more strenuously, even at
the risk of becoming diffuse and fastidious. A lack of sufficient insight
into this problem will mean, for us, that Plato's interpretation of presencing
as ΐδέα remains either arbitrary or accidental.