Reading Round Up: The Iliad

iliadThis isn’t my first reading of Homer’s Iliad, which recounts the legendary assault of the Achaeans on the City of Troy. However, this time out I read a different translation and though it was still largely the awesome feat of literature that I recall, I realized that this particular translation, by WHD Rouse, had, in spots, sapped a portion of the lyrical quality out of the prose.

Perhaps, I’m being overly picky, but there were a number of spots that felt tone deaf or anachronistic to my ear:

A wounded warrior “Took a header off the wall”

Trojans “fleeing higglety pigglety”

“Heart goes pitterpat”

“The metal of their armour rang ding dong”

Zeus “knocked the gods all over the place”

Zeus says: “Hera, don’t get all spiky with the gods.”

Rouse also translates Ajax as Aias, which is neither here nor there, but confusing at first for someone who is familiar with the story and suddenly finds another name in that heroes place.

The previous version I read was translated by Andrew Lang, Walter Leaf and Ernest Myer and was full of “black blood spilling”, “the rosy fingers of dawn” and “wine dark seas”.  I’m no Greek linguist, but I prefer the Lang, Leaf, and Myer version for its poetry of language.

-Joel Jenkins
Author of Weird Action & Adventure Tales






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