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This report is taken from PN Review 148, Volume 29 Number 2, November - December 2002.

The King's Head Lawrence Sail

In book XIX of The Odyssey Homer relates how Odysseus, still guarding the secret of his true identity, arrives home on Ithaca and gives Penelope a fictitious account of his adventures, complete with a story about his encounters with her husband and his conviction that he will return within a month. Then he goes to bathe, attended by his old nurse Euryclea. She fetches water and chats about her absent master who, she comments, must be about the same age as the stranger and indeed looks uncommonly like him. Any suspicion she might have is confirmed when she feels the scar on his knee, a wound sustained by Odysseus while hunting a wild boar on Parnassus. The dramatic moment of recognition is engagingly rendered in Pope's 1725 translation:

Deep o'er his knee inseam'd remained the scar:
Which noted token of the woodland war
When Euryclea found, the ablution ceased:
Down dropp'd the leg, from her slack hand released;
The mingled fluids from the base redound;
The vase reclining floats the floor around!
Smiles dew'd with tears the pleasing strife express'd
Of grief and joy, alternate in her breast.
Her fluttering words in melting murmurs died;
At length abrupt - 'My son! - My king!' she cried.

A less operatic but equally telling instant of royal recognition is related by Henry Moore's biographer Roger Berthoud, in connection with one of Moore's most famous bronzes, King ...


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