In the following lines taken from Book 2 of The Iliad (Pope), (1) what does nor mean in the context? (2) are heard and obey'd transitive or intransitive?

Your own resistless eloquence employ,
And to the immortals trust the fall of Troy.”

The voice divine confess’d the warlike maid,
Ulysses heard, nor uninspired obey’d:
Then meeting first Atrides, from his hand
Received the imperial sceptre of command.

The definition in the old OED that I felt most closely matched the usage of nor here is

Following upon an affirmative clause, or in continuative narration, with the force of neither or and ... not.

but this would mean Ulysses did not hear or obey, while the succeeding lines affirm the contrary (which I couldn't glean from the quoted lines).

My paraphrase of the two lines is The divine voice, which the warlike maid confess'd (declared), Ulysses heard and, inspired (by it), obey'd.

2 Answers 2


The nor is attached to the uninspired to make a double negative, not the obeyed. This is made clear from the preceding line:

The voice divine confess’d the warlike maid,

Here, "confessed" is used in an archaic sense, meaning "revealed". The identity of the warlike maid (Pallas, or Athena) is revealed by her divine voice.

Ulysses is inspired to obey by the divine voice and the person it reveals. Or, as the poem puts it with a double negative, his obedience is not uninspired.


This is an outdated use of "nor". In modern English, we use it as a negative form of "or". When giving options in the positive, we use 'either/or', when speaking in the negative we use 'neither/nor'.

However, in earlier forms of English, 'nor' meant 'and not', which is not so far from its modern use anyway. So, your line in this traditional English translation of the Iliad could be read as:

Ulysses heard, and not uninspired, obeyed.

"Not uninspired" is a double negative, so this actually means he heard, he was inspired, and he obeyed.

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