Monday, May 14, 2007

The Odyssey translated by Robert Fagles

Since I was in Junior High School I have been fascinated with Greek Mythology. I remember being held spell bound by Edith Hamilton's classic on the subject. The Iliad and The Odyssey were two of my favorite stories. In High School I became acquainted with The Aenid of Virgil and the novel Whom the Gods Would Destroy, stories depicting Troy's side of things.

The difficulty is trying to find a decent translation of Homer that is readable while keeping the poetic format.

Robert Fagles does not disappoint with his magnificent translation of Homer's The Odyssey. I literally could not put the book down until I read the final page. The translation was published in 1996. Yes, he has also translated The Iliad--unfortunately, I have not been able to secure a copy yet. When I do, I will include a brief review of it here.
Here's a little sample of Fagles' translation:

........................................................................ As soon
as young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more
the rams went rumbling out of the cave toward pasture,
the ewes kept bleating round the pens, unmilked,
their udders about to burst. Their master now,
heaving in torment, felt the back of each animal
halting before him here, but the idiot never sensed
my men were trussed up under their thick fleecy ribs.
And last of them all came my great ram now, striding out,
weighed down with his dense wool and my deep plots.
Stroking him gently, powerful Polyphemus murmered,
'Dear old ram, why last of the flock to quit the cave?
In the good old days you'd never lag behind the rest--
you with your long marching strides, first by far
of the flock to graze the frsh young grasses,
first by far to reach the rippling streams,
first to turn back home, keen for your fold
when night comes on--but now you're last of all.
And why? Sick at heart for your master's eye
that coward gouged out with his wicked crew?--
only after he'd stunned my wits with wine--
that, that Nobody...
who's not escaped his death, I swear, not yet.
Oh if only you thought like me, had words like me
to tell me where that scoundrel is cringing from my rage!
I'd smash him against the ground, I'd spill his brains--
flooding across my cave--and that would ease my heart
of the pains that good-for-nothing Nobody made me suffer!'

Obviously not for the faint of heart! But this is a rip-roaring good read!

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