The Iliad of Homer | Chapter 6 of 35

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Translator’s Note

 

RICHMOND LATTIMORE, 1951

 

In making this translation I have used the Oxford text of D. B. Monro and T. W. Allen (3rd edition, 1919), and have not knowingly failed to follow its readings except in a very few cases, viz.: In 8.328 I would either read νεῦρον instead of νευρήν, or, better perhaps, take νευρή here to mean nerve, sinew, or tendon, not bowstring. Where the Oxford editors have numbered, but excluded from their text, 8.548 and 8.550–552, I have included these lines. I have translated, but bracketed, 16.614–615.

Further, I have, in the interests of clarity and English usage, occasionally given personal names instead of personal pronouns. As regards formula and repeat, I have, with the help of Schmidt’s Parallel-Homer and Cunliffe’s admirable Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect, tried to preserve something of the formulaic character, but have not systematically attempted to render all identical passages in Greek by identical passages in English.

My aim has been to give a rendering of the Iliad which will convey the meaning of the Greek in a speed and rhythm analogous to the speed and rhythm I find in the original. The best meter for my purpose is a free six-beat line. My line can hardly be called English hexameter. It is less regular than that of Longfellow, or the recent Smith-Miller translation of the Iliad. It is not based on a quantitative theory (or any other theory) as is Robert Bridges’ rendering of part of the Aeneid. I have allowed trochees, anapests for dactyls, and even iambs for spondees. The line is to be read with its natural stress, not forced into any system.

Matthew Arnold has stated that the translator of Homer must bear in mind four qualities of his author: that he is rapid, plain and direct in thought and expression, plain and direct in substance, and noble.1 Even one who does not agree in all details with Arnold’s very interesting essay must concede that Homer has these qualities. I have tried as hard as I could to reproduce the first three. I do not think nobility is a quality to directly strive for; you must write as well as you can, and then see, or let others see, whether or not the result is noble. I have used the plainest language I could find which might be adequate, and mostly this is the language of contemporary prose. This usage is not “Homeric.” Arnold points out that Homer used a poetic dialect, but I do not draw from this the conclusion, which Arnold draws, that we should translate him into a poetical dialect of English. In 1951, we do not have a poetic dialect, and if I used the language of Spenser or the King James Version of the Bible, I should feel as if I were working in Apollonius of Rhodes, or at best Arktinos, rather than Homer. I must try to avoid mistranslation, which would be caused by rating the word of my own choice ahead of the word which translates the Greek. Subject to such qualification, I must render Homer into the best English verse I can write; and this will be in my own “poetical language,” which is mostly the plain English of today.

I wish to thank the editors and the staff of the University of Chicago Press for their sympathy and their belief in this project from its very beginnings; David Grene and Mabel Lang for reading the translation and offering valuable advice and criticism; Rhys Carpenter for very helpful criticism of the introduction; Alice Lattimore for her help in preparing the manuscript; and finally, all those friends who have sustained me in the belief that this work was worth doing, and refrained from asking “Why do another translation of Homer?”—a question which has no answer for those who do not know the answer already.

NOTE

 

1    On the Study of Celtic Literature; and On Translating Homer, Macmillan edition, 149.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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