A huge winter storm has knocked out power--and access to the internet--to our home. Right now I am spending a few minutes in a local cafe which offers wifi to its customers. All of my neighbors are here as well, charging cell phones and blackberries or typing on their laptops. There is quite a line just for electrical outlets. So here I sit, typing as fast as I can to put together a quick little post for this week's Book Beginnings.
For the next several posts, I'll be talking about my reactions to Homer's The Iliad. Today, I'll share with you the first lines from a variety of translations which have appeared in English over the years. I'm fascinated with how different translations can shape our emotional and intellectual responses to a given text. Consider these examples:
1. Translation by Stanley Lombardo, 1997
RAGE: Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades' dark,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done.
2. Translation by Robert Fagles, 1990:
Rage--Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
3. Translation by Robert Fitzgerald, 1974
Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Akhilleus’ anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men — carrion
for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.
4. Translation by Richmond Lattimore, 1951
Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished.
5. Translation by Alexander Pope, 1715
The Wrath of Peleus' Son, the direful Spring
Of all the Grecian Woes, O Goddess, sing!
That Wrath which hurl'd to Pluto's gloomy
The Souls of mighty Chiefs untimely slain;
Whose Limbs unbury'd on the naked Shore
Devouring Dogs and hungry Vultures tore.
Since Great Achilles and Atrides strove,
Such was the Sov'reign Doom, and such the
Will of Jove.
6. Translation by George Chapman, 1598-1611
(note: Chapman was a contemporary of Shakespeare and King James. This translation was immortalized in John Keats poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer")
Achilles’ bane full wrath resound, O Goddesse, that imposd
Infinite sorrowes on the Greekes, and many brave soules losd
From breasts Heroique—sent them farre, to that invisible cave
That no light comforts; and their lims to dogs and vultures gave.
To all which Jove’s will gave effect; from whom first strife begunne
Betwixt Atrides, king of men, and Thetis’ godlike Sonne.
* * *
Which translation speaks to you? Why?