Translations of Homer's "Iliad"

Translations of Homer's "Iliad"

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From the four translations of Homer's Iliad that I have read, I can now determine what is a good or bad translation. What I believe is most important for a good translation of an epic is that it should be said in a vocabulary that is most understanding of the current time period. So the more recent the translation generally means it is more understandable to the reader. Another thing I determined that made a good translation of Homer's Iliad is for it to be interpreted like a story and not constructed over again into a poem. Out of the four, I felt Samuel Butler's was my personal favorite and fits my description most of a superior translation.

Samuel Butler's translation of Homer's Iliad written in1898 was interpreted into a story form and was the most recent. Butler's translation did not have any rhythm but by the way he interpreted Homer's version it had the strongest narrative of the Iliad and gave me the most interpretation of what the epic was about. The vocabulary used by Butler was most modern and appealed more to me more than the three older translations. From just the first line of other three translations you can easily tell that Butler's version is easiest to understand. His first line of his translation starts by saying, " Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans", which very easily means Goddess tell the story of Achilles and how so many Greeks lost their lives. All three of the other translations confused me and did not give me the simple meaning of what that first line meant. For example, George Chapman's translation was the hardest to understand and it began by saying, "Achilles' baneful wrath resound, O goddesse, that imposed Infinite sorrows on the Greekes." Just by his choice of words and sentence format I could not grasp the full meaning of the first line.

The authors of these four translations of Homer's Iliad constructed their translations to the standards of the people's way of speaking and vocabulary equivalent to their present time period. So, I feel it would be unfair if I didn't mention that each translation could be equally as good and understanding if it only pertained to the people of its own time period. To me George Chapman's translation is extremely hard to understand but for the people of 1611 it was quite easy to comprehend.

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From what I believe the people's understanding in 1611 of Chapman's translation is about the same understanding I have of Samuel Butler's translation. I feel this is true because I don't think it would make sense for one of these writers to make a translation that almost no one could appreciate and comprehend.

The only predicament I had with Butler's translation is that it didn't give off the full amount of emotion an epic is suppose to give people. Epics originally were sung and the rhythm gave the story its energy, which excited and entertained the people during its time and gave them unity. Even though I know these are just translations I feel the liveliness of the epic should try to be preserved and it is up to the translators to use a consistent form of rhythm. So if Butler's translation were sung it would not be as entertaining as Alexander Pope's translation because Pope's version rhymes and gives the listeners a smooth-sounding story to enjoy. For example one of lines from Pope's version, which the priest said, "Ye Kings and warriors May your vows be crown'd, and Troy's proud walls lie level with the ground. May Jove restore you when your toils are over Safe to the pleasures of your native shore. But oh! Relieve a wretched parent's pain And give Chryseis to these arms again;" when the priest started trying to convince the Greeks to give him back his daughter by wishing them a safe ride home and the takeover of Troy. In Butler's version it is very story like and had no rhythm like these few lines from Pope's version. From just hearing Pope's version you could see why people would be more attracted to his translation but at the same time be a little confused because of its poetic format. But I still think Butler's translation is a better translation because I would rather understand the whole meaning of the Iliad then have it said in a fancy way for I am the type of person that only cares about the solid storyline.

In conclusion even though every translation I believe was equally as good for its time period I still like Samuel Butler's translation most. Being the most recent of the four it is the most modern translation and gives me the most meaning of Homer's Iliad. Out of reading the four translations I enjoyed Butler's version the most and did not have to reread lines over and over again to try to figure out the meaning. I would recommend this version to anyone who wants to grasp the complete meaning of this great epic. If it weren't for Butler's version I might not understand the Iliad the way I do now.
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