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The Odyssey

Page: 2

In the preface to my translation of the "Iliad" I have given my views as to the main principles by which a translator should be guided, and need not repeat them here, beyond pointing out that the initial liberty of translating poetry into prose involves the continual taking of more or less liberty throughout the translation; for much that is right in poetry is wrong in prose, and the exigencies of readable prose are the first things to be considered in a prose translation. That the reader, however, may see how far I have departed from strict construe, I will print here Messrs. Butcher and Lang's translation of the sixty lines or so of the "Odyssey." Their translation runs:

  Tell me, Muse, of that man, so ready at need, who wandered
  far and wide, after he had sacked the sacred citadel of
  Troy, and many were the men whose towns he saw and whose
  mind he learnt, yea, and many the woes he suffered in his
  heart on the deep, striving to win his own life and the
  return of his company. Nay, but even so he saved not his
  company, though he desired it sore. For through the
  blindness of their own hearts they perished, fools, who
  devoured the oxen of Helios Hyperion: but the god took from
  them their day of returning. Of these things, goddess,
  daughter of Zeus, whencesoever thou hast heard thereof,
  declare thou even unto us.

  Now all the rest, as many as fled from sheer destruction,
  were at home, and had escaped both war and sea, but
  Odysseus only, craving for his wife and for his homeward
  path, the lady nymph Calypso held, that fair goddess, in her
  hollow caves, longing to have him for her lord. But when
  now the year had come in the courses of the seasons,
  wherein the gods had ordained that he should return home to
  Ithaca, not even there was he quit of labours, not even
  among his own; but all the gods had pity on him save
  Poseidon, who raged continually against godlike Odysseus,
  till he came to his own country. Howbeit Poseidon had now
  departed for the distant Ethiopians, the Ethiopians that are
  sundered in twain, the uttermost of men, abiding some where
  Hyperion sinks and some where he rises. There he looked to
  receive his hecatomb of bulls and rams, there he made merry
  sitting at the feast, but the other gods were gathered in
  the halls of Olympian Zeus. Then among them the father of
  men and gods began to speak, for he bethought him in his
  heart of noble Aegisthus, whom the son of Agamemnon,
  far-famed Orestes, slew. Thinking upon him he spake out among
  the Immortals:

  'Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For of
  us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves,
  through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows
  beyond that which is ordained. Even as of late Aegisthus,
  beyond that which was ordained, took to him the wedded wife
  of the son of Atreus, and killed her lord on his return,
  and that with sheer doom before his eyes, since we had
  warned him by the embassy of Hermes the keen-sighted, the
  slayer of Argos, that he should neither kill the man, nor
  woo his wife. For the son of Atreus shall be avenged at the
  hand of Orestes, so soon as he shall come to man's estate
  and long for his own country. So spake Hermes, yet he
  prevailed not on the heart of Aegisthus, for all his good
  will; but now hath he paid one price for all.'

  And the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, answered him, saying: 'O
  father, our father Cronides, throned in the highest; that
  man assuredly lies in a death that is his due; so perish
  likewise all who work such deeds! But my heart is rent for
  wise Odysseus, the hapless one, who far from his friends
  this long while suffereth affliction in a sea-girt isle,
  where is the navel of the sea, a woodland isle, and
  therein a goddess hath her habitation, the daughter of the
  wizard Atlas, who knows the depths of every sea, and
  himself upholds the tall pillars which keep earth and sky
  asunder. His daughter it is that holds the hapless man in
  sorrow: and ever with soft and guileful tales she is
  wooing him to forgetfulness of Ithaca. But Odysseus
  yearning to see if it were but the smoke leap upwards from
  his own land, hath a desire to die. As for thee, thine
  heart regardeth it not at all, Olympian! What! Did not
  Odysseus by the ships of the Argives make thee free
  offering of sacrifice in the wide Trojan land? Wherefore
  wast thou then so wroth with him, O Zeus?'


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