Tojanris Fulfillment of the plan thus became a cosmic necessity. Choice must rely on taste or on which one seems to sound better. Homer ties the simile together with a repeated phrase made up of common words: The hour hangs at dawn, dusk, noon, or night, without transition. These were claimed to be more fun to read. From toLattimore was absent from his professorial post to serve in the United States Navybut returned after the war to remain at Bryn Mawr Collegewith periodic visiting positions at other universities, until his retirement in Contents 1 Iliad 1.

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How well readers become transported depends on the quality and fidelity of translation. But how do you decide which translation of the Iliad to choose?

Are you really reading what Homer said? Comparing the words of one against those of another leaves a reader blind. Choice must rely on taste or on which one seems to sound better. This critique is intended to open the eyes and reveal the quality and fidelity of ten leading English translations by comparing passages from each to the original Homeric Greek.

Book 5: The Excellence of Diomedes lines Translations of the Iliad are composed using one of the following formats: Line-by-Line Prose: The original lines of Homer are preserved line-by-line and each is translated in prose. Stacked Prose: The original lines of Homer are ignored and the text is translated in prose. What makes stacked prose different from prose is that after the text starts at the left margin it only goes on for a set number of syllables before breaking to start the next line.

This is done so that the text may look and read like verse, but while stacked prose mimics verse, a line of verse shows a strict poetic structure and forms a unit of composition, a line in stacked prose does not. Prose: The lines of Homer are ignored and the text is translated in prose like a novel.

Line-by-Line Verse, The lines of Homer are preserved line-by-line and each is translated in some form of verse. Verse: The original lines of Homer are ignored and the text is translated in verse. To specify the two most successful formats, two best-selling translations are compared below against the original Greek, one in line-by-line prose by Richmond Lattimore and the other in stacked prose by Stanley Lombardo The original form of each word has been exactly preserved.

For example, the first word, deina terribly , is an adverb, the third, homoklesas having called out , is an aorist participle, phroneein to be minded in line is an infinitive, and erchomenon going in line a present participle. Several Greek words are roots for English words, such as theo god , iso equal , homo same and anthrop man.

The original form of each word remains exactly preserved and the original order of words has been preserved within limits allowed by English syntax. But as can be seen in this comparison, it is infidelity that causes clumsy wording.

But first, let us give due praise and recognize his priorities: WORDS: Lattimore preserved the four lines line-by-line and closely reproduced the Greek words as a word or phrase in English, although not always in the original word form and certainly not in the original word order, or even in the same line.

In translation, if an epithet loses its functional position, it becomes divested of purpose and may appear to clutter rather than support a line. Lattimore composed each of his translated lines to vary in length from 12 to 18 syllables, generally with an X-o pattern on the end. Lattimore claims his lines are poetic with six stressed syllables.

In fact, his lines are prose. There is no poetic structure. This is not a criticism. Before him translations were mainly formatted in prose like a novel, because when translating line by line there was this idea that the lines had to have some kind of strict poetic structure, which is very difficult.

The poetic structure limits the choice and arrangement of words and ends up sounding alien to the original. An example is the clumsy wording in line To increase the number of syllables in line from 10 to 15, Lattimore took two words from line the breed , and added three useless words who are, who , making the line awkward. Lattimore uses six English words tribe, race, generation, breed, horde and swarm to translate this one Greek word.

He habitually uses an assortment of English words to translate one Greek word. Homer relied on the formulas of an art form with centuries of practice.

Lattimore ignored the formulas and relied on his own art. Stanley Lombardo He heard a voice that seemed to come. To that end, there is a relentless lowbrow style and a lack of fidelity to the words, ideas, style and character of Homer. Olympian gods are like us in form and nature, but immortal and not limited by time or space.

Bugs are unlike us in form and nature, but as mortal as we are. Bugs do not build temples or pray to humans. Humans do not interbreed with bugs. This is one of several stacked prose versions, which cannot really be considered translations, but rather adaptations, personal exercises in creative writing, exploiting the Iliad as a platform. Book Fighting at the Ships lines Before going on to a comparison of top translations together, I want to focus on the lack of priority given to finding the right and defining words in translations by Classics scholars.

Mendelsohn studied Classics in college and knows the language of Homer by sight and sound. He used the same approach for his review as I do here: he compared a new translation by Stephen Mitchell and bestselling versions by Richmond Lattimore and Robert Fagles to the Homeric Greek. But I intend with my translation to do just that. Homer uses this word 7 times to describe a storm or squall, but at , a dust cloud kicked up by Trojan as they advance on Achaeans is compared to an aella; so it is specifically a storm which appears as a cloud.

Maelstrom is a whirlpool in the sea caused by opposing currents, not a storm of winds. Homer uses argeleon 34 times in the Iliad, and it must have a general meaning. Winds are troublesome, and so is gasping for breath, and standing against Zeus, and so is mischief and fighting and strife.

A thunderbolt is lightning. Zypheros, the West Wind, and Boreas, the North Wind, as well as storm winds were personified as gods. It is often used as a euphemism for sex. To churn means to agitate. This preposition should not be dropped. The sea is much-roaring, an epithet Homer uses 6 times in the Iliad. For this simile, it is crucial the sea be MUCH-roaring from waves coming one after another. Greatly-roaring would have mega as a prefix, and does not specify repetition.

As waves rise up, the tops start frothing, as beer does when agitated. Cares were fastened onto or engaged the Trojans. Paris fastened greaves with silver clasps around his shins.

Hera fastened, or engaged, her horses to a yoke. When you read the Iliad, you are seeing the world through the eyes and mind of a man who lived over 28 centuries ago. It is a world animated by divinity. When he stood on a shore and saw a storm approach from the sea with the winds and surf picking up, the thunder he heard came from the heavens, from the mighty rain-god, Lord of Heaven, who delights in thunder.

Homer envisioned storm winds mingling with the sea to generate waves. Today we know that winds pressing on the water, an incompressible fluid, create the waves. Homer inserted similes of natural or peaceful domestic scenes into scenes of battle to give his audience pauses from the carnage and to emphasize the carnage by contrast. From a word-fidelity outlook, Lattimore, who was a scholar at the University of Chicago, closely followed line-by-line the six lines, and even the original word order, but his penchant for a careless choice of words is evident: Homer has the storm advancing.

The other 19 times it occurs Lattimore translates it as: magic 2 , magnificent 1 , wondrous 2 , unearthly 7 , immortal 3 , inhuman 3 and god-sent 1. The last line is the worst of all for Lattimore. Homer tied the simile together by repeating words in in I will only quote five of his statements that go to the heart of the matter. It can be a bit too loose—it sometimes feels like stacked proses. Poets are skilled at saying a lot with few words.

That is not Robert Fagles. A stacked-prose format allows Fagles to continue on for seven lines, or as long it takes, to ensure that his bombast be utterly baffling.

The simile is not weakened, it is ruined. The stormy sea seems like a battlefield under an artillery barrage. Readers who do not know the Greek want to understand what Homer said. Words convey meaning. Sounds effects, if well done, add artistry. To focus on sound effects in an effort to reproduce a sense of the sea is futile if the words do not make sense.

It is NOT about fidelity to the original. As a result, the Iliad of Fagles is much longer than the Iliad of Homer. Stephen Mitchell The Trojans attacked like a blast of a sudden squall that swoops down to earth with lightning and thunder, churning the dark sea into a fury, and countless waves surge and toss on its surface, high-arched and white-capped, and crash down onto the seashore in endless ranks: just so did the Trojans charge in their ranks, Stephen Mitchell makes his living as a writer.

It is an added detail that the squall by churning the sea, which is now dark instead of salty, turns the sea very angry. Mitchell must be judged by his priorities, which certainly are not to produce a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Faithfulness to the Homeric style thus, paradoxically, sometimes requires a good deal of freedom from the words of the Greek. What sounds rapid, direct and noble in ancient Greek may sound cluttered, literary and phony in contemporary English.

The translator must without scruple sacrifice, where it is necessary, verbal fidelity to the original, rather than risk producing, by literalness, an unnatural effect.

He is a storyteller with a story to tell and wants to rely on his own words and art. His style is a modern one, rapid, plain and direct, anything in the way gets tossed: epithets, words, phrases, lines, whole passages, one whole book. Yet paradoxically I take an exactly opposite approach. For me, faithfulness to the Homeric style requires a good deal of faithfulness to the words of the Greek. For me, a translation must be scrupulous; no word should be sacrificed. Verbal fidelity to the original is necessary if there is to be a chance of producing, as a natural effect of literalness, a sense of genuine.

Scholars also claim that the conventions of Homeric Greek mean that a close translations will issue in confusing English. I contend that conforming English to the Greek delivers wording more powerful and polished and fun and in no way more difficult.


Translation Comparison

Save Story Save this story for later. This is one of the dozens of extended similes that Homer uses to convey how a given event looks and feels—in this instance comparing the massed ranks of Trojan troops preparing for battle to waves breaking on a shore during a wild storm at sea. In other words, the near-rhyming words do what the waves do. So the sixth line is packed behind the fifth, imitating its sound cluster precisely the way in which the Trojan ranks, packed together in battle formation, are massed one behind the other.


The Iliad of Homer



Richmond Lattimore



Englishing the Iliad: Grading Four Rival Translations


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