The Iliad of Homer rendered into English blank verse online

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Vol. I.





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APR. 15. 1941


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In the spring of 1862 I was induced, at the request
of some personal friends, to print, for private circulation
only, a small volume of ^^ Translations of Poems Ancient
and Modem," in which was included the first Book of
the Iliad. The opinions expressed by some competent
judges of the degree of success which had attended this
^ attempt to infuse into an almost literal English version
something of the spirit, as well as the simplicity, of
the great original,"* were sufficiently favourable to en-
courage me to continue the work whidh I had begun.
It has afforded me, in the intervals of more urgent
business, an unfailing, and constantly increasing source of
interest; and it is not without a feeling of regret at
the completion of my task, and a sincere diffidence as
to its success, that I venture to submit the result of
my labours to the ordeal of public criticism.

Various causes, irrespective of any demerits of the
work itself, forbid me to anticipate for this translation

* Introdoction to unpubliflbed volome.

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any extensive popularity. First, I fear that the taste
for, and appreciation o^ Classical Literature are greatly
on the decline; next, those who have kept up their
classical studies, and are able to read and enjoy the
original, will hardly take an interest in a mere transla-
tion ; while the English reader, unacquainted with
Greek, will naturally prefer the harmonious versification
and polished brilliancy of Pope's translation ; with
which, as a happy adaptation of the Homeric story to
the spirit of English poetry, I have not the presump-
tion to enter into competition. But, admirable as it
is, Pope's Hiad can hardly be said to be Homer's Iliad ;
and there may be some who, having lost the familiarity
with the original language which they once possessed,
may, if I have at all succeeded in my attempt, have
recalled to their minds a faint echo of the strains which
delighted their earlier days, and may recognize some
slight trace of the original perfume.

Numerous as have been the translators of the Hiad,
or of parts of it, the metres which have been selected
have been almost as various: the ordinary couplet in
rhyme, the Spenserian stanza, the Trochaic or Ballad
metre, all have had their partisans, even to that
"pestilent heresy" of the so-called English Hexameter;
a metre wholly repugnant to the genius of our language ;
which can only be pressed into the service by a viola-

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tkm of every rale of prosody ; and of which, notwith-
standing my lespect for the eminent men who have
attempted to naturalize it, I could never read ten lines
without being irresistibly reminded of Canning's

" Dactylics call'st thou them ? God help thee, silly one I *'

But in the progress of this work, I have been more
and more confirmed in the opinion which I expressed
at its commencement, that (whatever may be the extent
of my own individual failure) " if justice is ever to be
done to the easy flow and majestic simplicity of the
grand old Poet, it can only be in the Heroic blank
verse." I have seen isolated passages admirably ren-
dered in other metres; and there are many instances in
which a translation line for line and couplet for couplet
naturally suggests itself and in ^hich it is sometimes
difficult to avoid an involuntary rhyme ; but the blank
verse appears to me the only metre capable of adapting
itsell' to all the gradations, if I may use the term, of
the Homeric style ; from the finished poetry of the
numerous similes, in which every touch is nature, and
nothing is overcoloured or exaggerated, down to the
simple, almost homely, style of some portions of the
narrative. Least of all can any other metre do full
justice to the spirit and freedom of the various speeches,
in which the old warriors give utterance, without dis-

h 2

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guise or restramt, to all their strong and genuine
emotions. To subject these to the trammels of couplet
and rhyme would be as destructive of their chief
characteristics, as the application of a similar process to
the Paradise Lost of Milton, or the tragedies of Shake-
speare; the effect indeed may be seen by comparing,
with some of the noblest speeches of the latter, the few
couplets which he seems to have considered himself
bound by custom to tack on to their close, at the end
of a scene or an act.

I have adopted, not without hesitation, the Latin,
rather than the Greek, nomenclature for the Heathen
Deities. I have been induced to do so from the mani-
fest incongruity of confounding the two; and firom the
fact that though English readers may be familiar with
the names of Zeus, or Aphrodite, or even Poseidon,
those of Hera, or Ares, or Hephaestus, or Leto, would
hardly convey to them a definite signification.

It has been my aim throughout to produce a transla-
tion, and not a paraphrase ; not indeed such a translation
as would satisfy, with regard to each word, the rigid
requirements of accurate scholarship ; but such as would
fiairly and honestly give the sense and spirit of every
passage, jmd of every line; omitting nothing, and ex-
panding nothing ; and adhering, as closely as our
language will allow, even to every epithet which is

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capable of being translated, and which has, in the
particular passage, anything of a special and distinctive
character. Of the many deficiencies in my execution of
this intention, I am but too conscious ; whether I have
been in any d^ree successful, must be left to the im-
partial decision of such of the Public as may honour
this work with their perusal.


Knowslby, Oct., 1864.

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BookI 1

BookII 34

BooKin 81

Book IV 106

BookV 185

BookVL 183

BooKVn 211

BooKVm 236

Book IX 266

BookX 304

BowtXI 334

BooKXn 379

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AF Peleus' son, Achilles, sing, O Muse,

The vengeance, deep and deadly ; . whence to Greece
TJnnumber'd ills arose; which many a soul
Of mighty warriors to the viewless shades
TJntimely sent; they on the battle plain 5

Unburied lay, a prey to rav'ning dog^^
And carrion birds ; but so had Jove decreed,
From that sad day when first in wordy war,
The mighty Agamemnon, King of men,
Confronted stood by Peleus' godlike son. lo

Say then, what God the fatal strife provok'd?
Jove's and Latona's son ; he, fill'd with wrath
Against the King, with deadly pestilence
The camp afflicted, — ^and the people died, —
For Chryses' sake, his priest, whom Atreus' son 15


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With scorn dismiss'd, when to the Grecian ships

He came, his captive daughter to redeem,

With costly ransom charg'd; and in his hand

The sacred fillet of his Grod he bore.

And golden staflf; to aU he sued, but chief 20

To Atreus' sons, twin captains of the host :

" Te sons of Atreus, and ye well-greav'd Greeks,

May the great GtxJs, who on Olympus dwell,

Grant you yon hostile city to destroy,

And home return in safety; but my child 25

Eestore, I pray; her profifer'd ransom take.

And in his priest, the Lord of light revere."

Then through the ranks assenting murmurs ran,
The priest to rev'rence, and the ransom take:
Not so Atrides ; he, with haughty mien, 30

And bitter speech, the trembling sire address'd:
"Old man, I warn thee, that beside our ships
I find thee not, or lingering now, or back
Eetuming ; lest thou prove of small avail
Thy golden staff, and fillet of thy Grod. 35

Her I release not, till her youth be fled;
Within my walls, in Argos, fer fix)m home.

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Her lot is cast, damestic cares to ply,

And share a masters bed. For thee, begone!

Incense me not, lest ill betide thee now." 40

He said: the old man trembled, and obey'd;
Beside the many-dashing Ocean s shore
Silent he pass'd; and all apart, he pray'd
To great Apollo, Mi Latona's son:
** Hear me, God of the silver bow ! whose care 46

Chrysa surronnds, and Cilia's lovely vale;
"Whose sov'reign sway oer Tenedos extends;

Smintheus, hear! if e'er my offer'd gifts
Found fevour in thy sight; if e'er to thee

1 bom'd the &t oi bulls and choicest goats, 50
Grant me this boon— upon the Grecian host

Let thine unerring darts avenge my tears."

Thus as he pray'd, his pray'r Apollo heard:
Along Olympus' heights he pass'd, his heart
Burning with wrath; behind his shoulders hung 55

His bow, and ample quiver; at his back
Battled the fateful arrows as he mov'd ;
Like the night-cloud he pass'd; and from afitr
He bent against the ships, and sped the bolt;

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And fierce and deadly twang'd the silver bow. 60

First on the mules and dogs, on man the last,
Was pour'd the arrowy storm; and through the camp.
Constant and num'rous, blaz'd the fun'ral fires.

Nine days the heav'nly Archer on the troops
Hurl'd his dread shafts ; the tenth, th' assembled Greeks 66
AchiUes call'd to council; so inspired
By Juno, white-eum'd Groddess, who beheld
With pitying eyes the wasting hosts of Greece.
When all were met, and closely throng'd around,
Bose the swift-footed chie^ and thus began: 70

" Ye sons of Atreus, to my mind there seems.
If we would 'scape from death, one only course,
Home to retrace our steps: since here at once
By war and pestilence our forces waste.
But seek we first some prophet, or some priest, 76

Or some wise vision-seer (since visions too
From Jove proceed), who may the cause explain.
Which with such deadly wrath Apollo fires:
If for neglected hecatombs or pray'rs
He blame us ; or if fat of lambs and goats 80

May soothe his anger and the plague assuage."

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This said, he sat; and Thestors son arose,
Calchas, the chief of seers, to whom were known
The present, and the future, and the past;
Who, by his mystic art, Apollo's gift, 86

Guided to Ilium's shore the Grecian fleet.
Who thus with cautious speech replied, and said:
" Achilles, lov'd of Heav'n, thou bidd'st me say
Why thus incens'd the fer-destroying King:
Therefore I speak; but promise thou, and swear, 90

By word and hand, to bear me harmless through.
For well I know my speech must one offend.
One mighty chief, whom aU our hosts obey;
And terrible to men of low estate
The anger of a King ; for though awhile 95

He veil his wrath, yet in his bosom pent
It stiU is nurs'd, imtil the time arrive;
Say, then, wilt thou protect me, if I speak?"

Him answer'd thus Achilles, swift of foot :
" Speak boldly out whate'er thine art can tell ; lOO

For by ApoUo's self I swear, whom thou,
O Calchas, serv'st, and who thy words inspires.
That, while I live, and see the light of Heav'n,

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Not one of all the Greeks shall dare on thee,

Beside our ships, injurious hands to lay: 105

No, not if Agamemnon's self were he,

Who 'mid our warriors, boasts the foremost place."

Embolden'd thus, th' unerring prophet spoke:
" Not for neglected hecatombs or pray'rs,
But for his priest, whom Agamemnon scom'd, no

Nor took his ransom, nor his child restor'd;
On his account the Far-destroyer sends
This scourge of pestilence, and yet will send ;
Nor shall we cease his heavy hand to feel,
Till to her sire we give the brigh^ey'd girl, 115

Unbought, unransom'd) and to Chrysa's shore
A solemn hecatomb despatch; this done,
The God, appeas'd, his anger may remit"

This said, he sat; and Atreus' godlike son.
The mighty monarch, Agamemnon, rose, 120

His dark soul fill'd with fury, and his eyes
Flashing like flames of fire ; on Galchas first
A with'ring glance he cast» and thus he spoke:

"Prophet of ill! thou never speak'st to me
But words of evil omen; for thy soul 125

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Delights to augur ill, but aught of good

Thou never yet hast promised, nor perform'd.

And now among the Greeks thou spread'st abroad

Thy lying prophecies, that all these ills

Come fix)m the Far-destroyer, for that I 130

Refus'd the ransom of my lovely prize,

And that I rather dioee herself to keep.

To me not less than Clytemnestra dear.

My virgin-wedded wife; nor less adom'd

In gifts of form, of feature, or of mind. 135

Yet, if it must be so, I give her back;

I wish my people's safety, not their death.

But seek me out forthwith some other spoil.
Lest empty-handed I akme appear
Of all the Greeks; for this would ill beseem; 140

And how I lose my present share, ye see."
To whom Achilles, swift of foot, replied :
^ Haughtiest of men, and greediest of the prey !
How shall our valiant Greeks lor thee seek out
Some other spoil? no common fond have we 145

Of hoarded treasures; what our arms have wcm
From captur'd towns, has be^i already shar'd.

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Nor can we now resume th' apportion'd spoil.

Eestore the maid, obedient to the God!

And if Heav'n will that we the strong-built walls 150

Of Troy should raze, our warriors will to thee

A threefold, fourfold recompense assign."

To whom great Agamemnon thus replied:
" Think not, Achilles, valiant though thou art
In fight, and godlike, to de&aud me thus; 155

Thou shalt not so persuade me, nor o'erreach.
Think'st thou to keep thy portion of the spoil,
While I with empty hands sit humbly down?
The bright-ey'd girl thou bidd'st me to restore;
If then the yaUant Greeks for me seek out 160

Some other spoil, some compensation just,
'Tis well : if not, I with my own right hand
Will from some other chief, from thee perchance,
Or Ajax, or Ulysses, wrest his prey;
And woe to him, on whomsoe'er I caU! 165

But this for future counsel we remit :
Haste we then now our dark-ribb'd bark to launch,
Muster a fitting crew, and place on board
The sacred hecatomb; then last embark

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The &ir Chryseis; and in chief command 170

Let some one of our councillors be plac'd,

Ajax, Ulysses, or Idomeneos,

Or thou, the most ambitious of them all,

That so our rites may soothe the angry God."

To whom Achilles thus with scornful glance: 175

^'Oh, cloth'd in shamelessness ! oh, sordid soul!
How canst thou hope that any Greek for thee
Will brave the toils of travel or of war?
Well dost thou know that 't was no feud of mine
With Troy's brave sons that brought me here in arms ; 180
They never did me wrong; they never drove
My cattle, or my horses; never sought
In Phthia's fertile, life-sustaining fields
To waste the crops; for wide between us lay
The shadowy mountains and the roaring sea. 185

With thee, O void of shame ! with thee we sail'd.
For Menelaus and for thee, ingrate.
Glory and feme on Trojan crests to win.
All this hast thou forgotten, or despis'd ;
And threat'nest now to wrest fix)m me the prize 190
I laboured hard to win, and Greeks bestow'd.

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Nor does my portion ever equal thine,

When on some populous town our troops have made

Successful war; in the contentious fight

The larger portion of the toil is mine; 196

But when the day of distribution comes,

Thine is the richest spoil ; while I, forsooth,

Must be too well content to bear on board

Some paltry prize for all my warlike toiL

To Phthia now I go; so better fistr, 200

To steer my homeward course, and leave thee here

Dishonour'd as thou art, nor like, I deem.

To fill thy coffers with the spoils of war."

Whom answer'd Agamemnon, King of men :
^^ Fly then, if such thy mind ! I ask thee not 205

On mine account to stay; others there are
Will guard my honour and avenge my cause:
And chief of aU, the Lord of counsel, Jove 1
Of all the Heav'n-bom Kings, thou art the man
I hate the most; for thou ddight'st in nought 210

But war and strife: thy prowess I allow;
Yet this, remember, is the gift of Heav'n.
Eetum then, with thy vessels, if thou wilt.

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And with thy followere, home; and lord it there

Over thy Myrmidons! I heed thee not! 215

I care not for thy fdiy! Hear my threat:

Since Phoebos wrests Chryseis fix)m my arms,

In mine own ship, and wiih mine own good crew.

Her I send fi»ili; and, in her steady I mean,

Ev n from thy tent, myself to bear thy prize, 220

The £tir Briseis; that henceforth thou know

How &r I am thy master; and that, taught

By thine example, others too may fear

To rival me, and brave me to my fiuje."

Thns while he ^pake, Achilles chaf'd with rage; 225
And in his manly breast his heart was torn
With thoughts conflicting — ^whether from his side
To draw his mighty sword, and pat to rout
Th' assembled throng, and kill th' insulting King;
Or school his soul, and keep his ang^ down. 230

But while in mind and spirit thus he mus'd.
And half unsheath'd his sword, from HeaVn came down
Minerva, sent by Juno, whiteerm'd Queen,
Whose love and care both chiefe alike ^ijoy'd.
She stood behind, and by the yellow hair 235

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She held the eon of Peleus, visible

To him alone, by all the rest unseen.

AchiUes, wond'ring, tum'd, and straight he knew

The blue-ey'd Pallas; awfiil was her glance;

Whom thus the chief with wingfed words address'd : 240

"Why com'st thou, child of segis-bearing Jove?
To see the arrogance of Atreus' son?
But this I say, and will make good my words,
This insolence may cost him soon his life."

To whom the blue-ey'd Goddess thus replied: 245
"From Heavn I came, to curb, if thou wilt hear.
Thy fury; sent by Juno, white-arm'd Queen,
Whose love and care ye both alike enjoy.
Cease, then, these broils, and draw not thus thy sword ;
In words, indeed, assail him as thou wilt. 260

But this I promise, and will make it good,
The time shall come, when for this insolence
A threefold compensation shall be thine;
Only be sway'd by me, and curb thy wrath."

Whom answer'd thus Achilles, swift of foot: 266

" Groddess, I needs must yield to your commands.
Indignant though I be — for so 'tis best;

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Who heais the Grods, of them his pray'rs are heard."

He said; and on the silver hilt he sta/d
His pow'rfdl hand, and flung his mighty sword 260

Back to its scabbard, to Minerva's word
Obedient: she her heav'nward oonrse pursued
To join th' Immortals in th' abode of Jove.
But Peleus* son, with undiminished wrath,
Atrides thus with bitter words address'd: 265

"Thou sot, with eye of dog, and heart of deer!
Who never dar'st to lead in armfed fight
Th' assembled host, nor with a chosen few
To man the secret ambush — for thou fear'st
To look on death — ^no doubt 'tis easier fiir, 270

Girt with thy troops, to plunder of his right
Whoe'er may venture to oppose thy will !
A tyrant King, because thou rul'st o'er slaves!
Were it not so, this insult were thy last.
But this I say, and with an oath confirm, 276

By this my royal staff, which never more
Shall put forth leaf nor spray, since first it left
Upon the mountain-side its parent stem,
Nor blossom more; since all around the axe

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Hath lopp'd both leaf and bark, and now 'tis borne 280

Emblem of justice, by the eons of Greece,

Who guard the sacred ministry of law

Before the face of Jove 1 a mighty oath !

The time shall come, when all the sons of Greece

Shall mourn Achilles' loss; and thou the while, 285

Heart-rent, shalt be all-impotent to aid,

When by the warriornalayer Hector's hand

Many shall &I1; and then thy soul shall mourn

The slight on Grecia's bravest warrior cast."

Thus spoke Pelides; and upon the ground 290

He cast his staff, with golden studs emboss'd,
And took his seat; on th' other side, in wrath,
Atrides bum'd; but Nestor interpos'd;
Nestor, the leader of the Pylian host,
The smooth-tongued chief, from whose persuasive lips 295
Sweeter than honey flow'd the stream of speech.
Two generations of the sons of men
For him were past and gone, who with himself
Were bom and bred on Pylos' lovely shore.
And o'er the third he now held royal sway. 300

He thus with prudent words the chiefe address'd:

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"Alas, alasl what grief is this for Greece 1
What joy for Priam, and lor Priam's sons I
What exultation for the men of Troy,
To hear of feuds 'tween yon, of all the Greeks 305

The first in council, and the first in fight I
Yet, hear my words, I pray; in years, at least,

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Online LibraryHomerThe Iliad of Homer rendered into English blank verse → online text (page 1 of 18)