Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hiatus on the Iliad, to work on the Inferno

I haven't posted since July, but I'm breaking radio silence now to let everyone know that I am temporarily taking a break from translating the Iliad. I have found it difficult to juggle my writing projects with my work and family life, and as a result, my work on the Iliad has caused my other project, a terza rima translation of Dante's Inferno, to stagnate. I am close to the end of that project, so I've decided to devote to it what little free time I have for writing.

I have basically finished writing the Inferno translation, and I am nearly done with the long revision process. I will try to continue to post regular updates on my writing, but I may not be able to post as many samples, since I will be seeking separate publication for the Inferno translation. You can check out samples from it here. I'll post a few stanzas from my most recently revised section, Canto 26, very soon.

I will return to the Iliad as soon as I am finished with the Inferno. But if you are disappointed that you won't be seeing anymore Homer for a while, please let me know! My thanks to everyone for your patience.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Perfect Game

Seven years ago, my cousin Patrick succumbed to cancer at the age of 17. He always had a bright spirit, and he loved his family, his life, and baseball. As a pitcher, he once threw a no-hitter (which means that he struck out everyone batting against him before they could even hit the ball). When he died, I wrote this poem to honor his life. It is a ballad about Patrick's battle with cancer, and the day he pitched the perfect game, and the indelible mark he left on his loved ones.

At home when on the pitcher’s mound, he wound up for the pitch—
his legendary pitch, renowned, confounding speeds he threw—
and he was calm out on the field; not one revealing twitch
revealed he might have fear concealed: for he was fearless too.

And later, when the doctors found him sick, he still was brave,
still calm, as if still on the mound, still quick though he was ill;
his body riddled by the cancer, Patrick knew the way,
and only Patrick knew the answer, how to stay strong-willed.

He loosed the ball and on it flew, and turbulent it burned
a break-neck path to home plate, through the batter’s errant swinging.
Another pitch, another strike; and now a third, a third—
the umpire cried, his eyes alight, “You’re out!”—the crowd was singing.

And what a crowd our Patrick drew, when he was sick in bed:
his friends and family, strangers too, all came to wish him well;
yes people on the thousands came, to help relieve the dread,
but Patrick, fearless at his game, was fearless here as well.

That day will live in legend when the pitcher Patrick threw
a perfect game—no-hitter—then walked calmly off the field.
One for the books, his chance at fame; I think that Patrick knew
that steady courage wins the game, that courage wins appeal.

So, calm and cool, he took the news that none of us took calmly;
though we supported him, it’s true his courage helped us too.
As in the game, so in ill health, with courage and aplomb, he
moved us through his hard time, impelled us through by being true.

And Patrick, though his life was short, did things that few men do:
he threw a perfect game, what’s more, he warmed his home and hearth.
The legend, number seven, he was brave, kind, funny too;
and though he’s now in Heaven he lives still here in our hearts.

Monday, July 17, 2017

I've Been Published!

My translation of Inferno, Canto I, has been published on the website of the Society of Classical Poets. They also published my poem, "The Mask of Dante". Check them both out here.

I'm really excited to have my work in front of a bigger audience. The Society of Classical Poets is a website and annual journal dedicated to the promotion of classical poetic forms, with an emphasis on rhyming and metrical poetry. It's worth checking out, especially if you're a bit disenchanted with the modern free verse styles that are printed in most magazines today.

If you like my Inferno translation, you can read a few more cantos here. I haven't yet made it available in full. Please contact me or post a comment if you would like to read a specific canto that isn't on the website.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Iliad I, lines 233-239

            This I will tell you—I’ll swear by a powerful oath upon it,
            yes, by this staff, which will never again grow leaves or branches
235      now that it’s gone from the trunk from which it was cut in the mountains,
            nor will it ever sprout and blossom again, for the bronze has
            stripped it of leaves and bark, and today the sons of Achaea
            bear it in hand when they pass down judgments, those who uphold the
            customs of God—and this is the powerful oath I have sworn by:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Iliad I, lines 229-232

229      Better by far if you range through the sprawling host of Achaeans,
            seizing the gifts away from the men who speak out against you.
            King who devours his people—you reign over worthless nothings!
            Otherwise, son of Atreus, this would have been your last outrage.

Monday, June 12, 2017

1st place in "Funny Food Poetry Contest"

My entry, "The Drunken" (a parody of Poe's "The Raven"), won 1st place in the special category for poems over 14 lines in the "Funny Food Poetry Contest" sponsored by The Society of Classical Poets! My poem follows the style, meter, and rhyme scheme of "The Raven", but it is about liqueur instead of Lenore. Check out the other contest entries in the comments section of this post. Here are the first two stanzas (read the rest of the poem by following the link at the bottom):

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I wandered, drunk and weary,
Over many a quaint and dimlit alley of forgotten doors—
While I plodded, barely standing, suddenly I heard a chanting,
As of someone softly ranting, ranting from the darkened doors.
“It’s some other drunk,” I muttered, “chanting from the darkened doors—
            Only this and nothing more.”

Only vaguely I remember, for I’d been on quite a bender,
And each alleyway I entered left me lost more than before.
Wishing that the night weren’t over, vainly I had bought an Uber,
Then I walked away more sober—sober for my lost liqueur—
For the sweet and fervent ferment that the brewers name liqueur—
            Shameless here forevermore.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Iliad I, lines 223-228

223      Then yet again, with his brutal words, the son of Peleus
            laid into Atreus’ son, and his bile was still unabated:
            “Drunken sack of wine, with the eyes of a dog, and a deer’s heart.
            Not even once have you armed for war alongside your soldiers,
            nor have you gone on an ambush beside the Achaean chieftains.
            Courage is not in your spirit; you’ve seen your death in such ventures.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Been a While

It's been about a month since I last posted lines from the Iliad, but I haven't been resting. I spent some time translating the Old English poem "The Wanderer" (for anyone who hasn't seen Old English, you should know that "translating" is the correct word; it really is a different language). "The Wanderer" is a beautiful 115 line poem in alliterative verse. In my translation, I kept the basic form of the poem, including the alliteration.

Here is how alliterative verse works. Each line of the poem is divided into two halves, each of which has two syllables with principal stress (strong stress), plus any number of other syllables. The first strong stress of the second half-line must alliterate with the first strong stress of the first half-line. The second strong stress of the first half-line may optionally alliterate with these two, but the second strong stress of the second half-line cannot alliterate with them. Usually there is a caesura (pause) between the two half-lines. All vowels alliterate with each other, and syllables with an "s" sound must have all subsequent consonants alliterate (e.g. "said" alliterates with "source", but not with "start"). Thus the poem consists of short half-lines with singular images, where each second half-line contains an echo of the first.

The poem is a lament about the dying warrior culture in Anglo-Saxon England, in the context of the new Christian faith that is taking hold. There are many powerful images and phrases throughout the poem. Tolkien, who was very much influenced by Anglo-Saxon literature and culture as well as the Old English language, even used a line from "The Wanderer" in a song about Rohan in The Lord of the Rings. I can't post the entire poem here yet, because I am submitting it to a few magazines and contests which won't accept published material. To give a flavor of it, however, I will post a few lines here:

92        “Where is the horse?  Where is the rider?
                        Where is the hand giving gold?
            Where are the seats at the feast?
                        Where are the songs in the halls?
94        Alas the bright chalice!
                        Alas the mailed warrior!
            Alas the king’s grandeur!
                        What a long ago time…
96        the night has obscured it,
                        as if it never were.

The half-lines are written on separate lines in my rendering, with the second half-line indented (hence the numbering, which counts every two lines as one). The first half-line in the selection above (92a) is the line used by Tolkien. I will release the full poem on this website as soon as I am able.

I also set up a new page for my original poetry. So far, I only have one poem posted ("The Mask of Dante"), but I will add more over time. As before, I will continue to post new work from my Iliad translation week by week, and I thank my readers for following along. Until next week, then.

Iliad I, lines 219-222

            Keeping his heavy hand on the silver hilt as he answered,
            now he returned the great blade to its sheath, and did not disobey the
            word of Athena.  But she had already gone back to Olympus,
            dwelling of Zeus who wields the aegis, to be with the deities.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Glad to Be Home

I'm glad to be home from Eugene, Oregon, and back with my son and his momma. I had a great time at the Dante in Translation conference. Every presentation was interesting in its own way, and many of them were top notch. My thanks go out to the Dante Society of America and the University of Oregon for putting on the conference, to my friend Greg Parks for letting me crash on his couch all weekend (what a stroke of luck that I have friends in Eugene!), and to my parents for paying for the plane tickets as my birthday gift.

Before going, I was worried that a lot of people at the conference would turn their noses up at me. After all, I am nobody to them, and it is a bit audacious for some nobody to translate Dante into terza rima. However, I was pleased to find my fears unfounded. Everyone I met at the conference was kind and supportive, even enthusiastic. Thank you to Gina, Warren, Christian, Simone, Ron, Antonio, and Albert for providing a warm and inviting environment; I hope to meet many of you again at future events. Thank you to Mary Jo Bang for a nice discussion about different perspectives on translation (our approaches are vastly different, after all), and thank you to Sandow Birk for autographing my copy of his Paradiso. Thank you to everyone else I met for a number of good conversations about Dante, literature, and history.

I think I'll end this post with a poem about translation. I wrote it after seeing an image of Dante's death mask (a plaster cast of his face made upon his death). Appropriately, it is in terza rima, and it is ten lines long (which I like to think Dante would have approved of). To anyone who happens to read this, please enjoy:

            The Mask of Dante

            How vain, to want to see the poet’s face
            so long after his death.  As if I’d find
            some vestige of his wisdom, or some trace

            of all his words, some aspect of his mind
            within his face.  What, even, would I ask
            of these sad eyes, this craggy nose, these lines

            set in by his life’s grief, if these lips cast
            in stone began to speak?  The face, perhaps
            like every face, is nothing but a mask;

            and I try not to see, but wear, the mask.

J. Simon Harris
Raleigh, North Carolina

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Iliad, lines 215-218

            Nimble-footed Achilles responded at once to the goddess:
            “Yes, we must always abide by the word of you both, my goddess—
217      no matter how much anger we have in our heart, it’s the best way.
            Men who obey the gods, will be heard by the gods in their prayers.”

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Dante in Translation Conference

I'm very excited to be heading to Eugene, Oregon, tomorrow for a conference on Dante in translation. I can't wait to meet other Dante enthusiasts and show them my work. If you are interested in checking out samples of my Inferno translation, look here. I'd love to hear some comments from other people!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Iliad, lines 211-214

211      Strike him down with your words instead, just as much as you want to.
            This I will tell you in turn, and you mark my words, it will happen:
            someday, three times as many magnificent gifts will be yours, to
            pay for this brashness.  But now you have to hold back, and obey us.”

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Iliad I, lines 206-210

            Then in return, the gray-eyed goddess Athena responded:
            “I have come down here to curb your wrath, if you’ll only obey me—
            down from the heavens, for Hera the white-armed goddess has sent me,
            equally loving you both in her heart, and concerned for you likewise.
            Come, put an end to the fighting, and take your hand from the blade, too.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Iliad I, lines 199-205

199      Startled, Achilles turned round with amazement—he knew in an instant,
            Pallas Athena, with terrible glimmering eyes, stood before him.
            Facing her then to address her, he sent winged words to the goddess:
            “Why have you come here, daughter of Zeus who wields the aegis?
            Is it to witness the brashness of Atreus’ son Agamemnon?
            This I will tell you, and mark my words, I believe it will happen:
205      someday soon he will lose his life for his arrogant insults!”

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Iliad I, lines 193-198

193      As he was mulling it over within his mind and spirit,
            pulling his hefty blade from its sheath, Athena descended
            down from the heavens; for Hera the white-armed goddess had sent her,
            equally loving them both in her heart, and concerned for them likewise.
            Standing behind him, she grasped the golden hair of Pelides,
            only appearing to him, so that none of the others could see her.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Iliad I, lines 188-192

            Thus he spoke; and anguish came over the son of Peleus—
            deep in his rugged chest, his heart was divided, debating
            whether to draw his long sharp sword from the side of his thigh now,
            thrust through the ranks of Achaeans and slay the son of Atreus,
            or he could swallow his bile and suppress his raging spirit. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Iliad I, lines 179-187

            Go back home with your ships and take your compatriots with you,
            lord it over your Myrmidons—I care nothing for you now,
181      nor does your anger concern me.  But still, I will give you a warning:
            even as Phoebus Apollo is taking away my Chryseis,
            as I am sending her back on a ship of mine with my own men,
            so I will take your Briseis away, with her beautiful cheekbones,
            going myself to your tent to seize your prize—and you’ll truly
            know how much greater I am than you, and the next man too will
187      fear to talk back as my equal and openly act as my rival.”

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Iliad I, lines 172-178

            Then in response, Agamemnon, master of men, retorted:
            “Go on and run, if your heart so compels you—desert us, but I won’t
            beg you to stay here on my account.  There are plenty of others
175      here who will honor me, most of all Zeus with his wisest counsel.
            You, out of all of the kings who are nurtured by God, are the most vile.
            Conflict has always been dear to your heart, and warfare and combat.
            If you’re so strong, it is only a gift that a god has given.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Iliad I, lines 163-171

Last week, we left off in the middle of Achilles' response to Agamemnon. Here is the rest of the response:

163      True, my reward never equals yours whenever the Argives
            capture and ransack a well-manned outpost of Troy for its treasures;
            yet it is my hands bearing the brunt of the violent combat.
            Oh, but when it comes time for dividing the plunder among us,
            yours is the greater reward by far; while exhausted from fighting,
            I come back to the ships with a small, but precious, trinket.
169      Now I return to Phthia—we’re much better off if we go back
            home in our curved-beaked ships; and I do not intend to continue
            here in dishonor, amassing your wealth and winning your spoils.”

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Iliad I, lines 148-162

These are the next batch of lines I was able to complete; I hate to split up Achilles' response to Agamemnon, but the rest will have to come next week. Enjoy.

            Nimble-footed Achilles responded in kind with a dark glance:
            “O what insolence cloaks you, your mind so greedy for profit!
            How can the Greeks, any one of them, readily follow your orders,
151      whether to go on a voyage, or battle your enemies boldly?
            I didn’t come here to battle because of the Trojan spearmen—
            I have no quarrel with them, for they’ve never done me damage.
            They’ve never driven my cattle away, nor stolen my horses;
            nor have they come into Phthia, where heroes are nursed by the rich soil,
            ever to ruin my crops; for there’s much in the distance between us—
157      shadowy mountains loom, and the bellowing ocean surges.
            You, though, we followed, O mighty impudence—earning your favor,
            winning your honor, and Menelaus’s, back from the Trojans—
            dog-faced ingrate!  And what do you care?  Or have you forgotten?
            Now after all that we’ve done, you threaten to take my warprize,
            all that I’ve worked so hard for, my gift from the sons of Achaea. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Iliad I, lines 130-147

            Then, in response to him, Lord Agamemnon addressed the assembly:
            “No, no, no—as brave as you are, O godlike Achilles,
            do not deceive me: you cannot mislead me, you cannot persuade me.
133      What do you want?  Would you keep a prize for yourself, while I’m left
            sitting without one?  And are you ordering me to concede her?
            No—if the great-hearted Argives will give me a prize for my efforts,
            as I see fit for a worthy replacement, then so it shall be; but,
            if they do not, then I’ll have to go out myself and take one—
            your prize perhaps, or possibly Ajax’ or that of Odysseus,
139      stolen away.  But whoever I come to will not be happy.
            Still, nevermind it for now; we can all reconsider it later.
            Come, let us heave a swift black ship to the brilliant ocean,
            gather some oarsmen, and carry a sacrifice onto the vessel,
            bringing aboard Chryseis as well, with her beautiful cheekbones.
            And, let a sensible captain assume the command of the ship’s crew,
145      whether it’s Ajax, Idomeneus, or if it’s brilliant Odysseus,
            or even you, son of Peleus, most terrifying of all men—
            you could perform the rites, and appease the archer for us.”

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Iliad I, lines 121-129

I'm posting this week's selection early, because I'll be out of town on Sunday for personal reasons. Please enjoy this snippet, and we'll be back on schedule next week:

121      Brilliant Achilles, fast on his feet, replied to Atrides:
            “Glorious son of Atreus, greedy for spoils above all men,
            how will the great-hearted Argives give you another reward now?
            We know of no shared hoard of our treasures laid up in some stockpile—
            what we have plundered from cities has all been divided among us;
            it’s a disgrace to the men, if you make them return what they’ve gotten.
127      Send the girl back to the god for the moment, and then the Achaeans,
            three, maybe four times over, will pay you back on the day Zeus
            gives us the strong-walled city of Troy to be sacked and plundered.”

Ads are a no-go

So I tried letting Google put ads on my blog. What could it hurt, right? Once they were activated, though, all I saw were large pictures screaming at me to vote in online polls about politics. Completely changed the feeling of my website. Suffice it to say, after about a day-long trial period, I've taken them down. No thank you. Please continue to enjoy my work, now ad-free once again.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Iliad I, lines 101-120

            So he asserted, and sat back down; but among them arose the
            hero Atrides, ruler of far-flung realms Agamemnon,
103      burning with outrage, his dark heart filled to the brim with fury,
            both of his glowering eyes ablaze like a raging bonfire—
            setting his glare on Calchas at first, he lashed out against him:
            “Seer of evil!  You’ve never once spoken of anything good, yet
            evil is dear to your heart when you make your predictions and forecasts—
            never a word that profits, and no good ever accomplished.
109      Now, with the Danaans gathered in council, you prophesy once more,
            telling them now that the far-shooting archer has given us all grief
            just because I kept the girl, and not the magnificent ransom.
            Yes, it is true that I want her, to have her at home in my household;
            true, I would rather have her than even my own Clytemnestra,
            dearly beloved wife, for the girl is no lesser than she is,
115      neither in body nor bearing, in mind nor handiwork either.
            Still, I am willing to give her back, if that would be better.
            I want my people to live on in safety, rather than perish.
            Get me a prize to replace her at once, though, so I’m not the only
            Argive who goes unrewarded by honor, for that would be shameful.
            All of you see it, that my prize goes to another purpose.”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Iliad I, lines 92-100

            Therefore the innocent seer took courage and spoke to the Argives:
            “Not for a sacrifice, nor for a vow, does Apollo blame us.
            Rather, he blames us because of the priest Agamemnon dishonored—
            he wouldn’t free his daughter, nor would he take his ransom.
            That’s why the far-shooting archer has given us grief, and he still will;
97        nor will he drive this shameful destruction away from the Argives
            ’til we have given the bright-eyed girl to her loving father,
            free, without ransom, and driven a hundred sacred oxen
            over to Chryse; and having appeased him, perhaps we’ll persuade him.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Iliad with scanned verses

After a reader's request, I decided to create a separate page for the Iliad which includes a simple scansion of the lines. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, scansion is a parsing of the meter into feet composed of stressed and unstressed syllables (in English; in Greek, feet are composed of long and short syllables). I have highlighted the first syllable of each metrical foot with boldfaced red text, to assist anyone who wishes to scan the meter in my verses. I'll keep this up as well as the main text, as I continue to translate the Iliad into dactylic hexameter. I welcome additional reader input!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

New canto posted from Dante's Inferno

I decided to post Canto XXII in addition to the four cantos I have already posted, because Canto XXI and Canto XXII are really a pair, and they ought to go together.

    Inferno: Canto XXII

Both cantos take place in the fifth pouch of the eighth circle of Hell, where barratry (political corruption) is punished. Dante's native city of Florence was a hotbed of political corruption around 1300 AD, including the politicians who unjustly exiled the poet. The sinners here are submerged in boiling tar, and in many ways they are meant to reflect the situation in which living corrupt politicians find themselves, just as the sticky tar represents the state of a corrupt government.

Both cantos also feature ten black demons, whose general attributes have informed the Western conception of devils for centuries: mischievous parodies of evil humans, complete with wings and pitchforks. The demons are presented to us as the guardians of the fifth pouch, whose role is to patrol the border of the tar pit, looking for sinners trying to escape. But the demons too are rowdy and deceitful, and some of them eventually get caught up in the tar themselves.

Thus the two cantos are Dante's parody of a corrupt government, which enmeshes the authorities and the governed alike. Corruption touches us all, for it mucks up the very gears which drive society, government and industry. A lot more can be said about these cantos, but I will only add that the cantos have a lot to say in turn about our present society. Dante's Florence was torn apart by the feuding of rival political factions; and an honest citizen had little to choose from, because both sides were corrupt and bitterly partisan.

Although both parties held opposing opinions about important matters of state, neither side realized that the peaceful coexistence of opposing views should be more important than this or that view in itself. It is amazing how relevant the politics of late thirteenth century Florence are to the politics of the United States in the twenty-first century. Our politicians could learn a thing or two from Dante (who was a politician himself, before he was exiled by his opponents). I hope you all enjoy the new canto.

Iliad I, lines 53-91

            Nine days long did the arrows of god rain down on the army;
            but on the tenth, Achilles called all of the ranks to a muster—
55        white-armed Hera had put the idea in his mind, for the goddess
            pitied the Danaans, after she saw that so many were dying.
            Once they had all been assembled, and all were together in one place,
            nimble-footed Achilles stood up among them to speak out:
            “Son of Atreus, now that we’ve lost our ground, I suppose that
            we should return to our homes, if at least we should ever escape death,
61        that is, if warfare and pestilence both are to vanquish Achaeans.
            No, but come on: let us ask some diviner, or some priest, or
            even a dream interpreter, since our dreams are from Zeus too—
            someone who’ll tell us why Phoebus Apollo is furious with us,
            whether he blames us because of a vow, or a sacrifice maybe;
            or, if the savory smoke of our lambs and billygoats reach him,
67        whether the god would be willing to possibly ward off our ruin.”

            Thus having spoken, he sat back down.  But arising among them,
            Calchas the son of Thestor, by far the best of the augurs,
            he who had known what is, what would be, and what had once been,
            he who had led the Achaeans to Ilium in their warships
            using the art of foresight which Phoebus Apollo had given—
73        keeping the good of the Argives in mind, he began to address them:
            “O Achilles, beloved of Zeus, you compel me to answer
            as to the wrath of the Lord Apollo, the far-shooting archer.
            So I shall tell you.  But listen—you have to swear to protect me,
            you must be ready to come to my aid with your words and your hands both,
            yes, for I fear I will anger a man with enormous power,
79        lord over all of the Argives, and all the Achaeans obey him.
            For, when a king is enraged at a subject, is he not stronger?
            Even if, somehow, he swallows his anger at least for the first day,
            still he will harbor resentment deep in his chest ’til it bursts out.
            Think it over, Achilles, and tell me if you will defend me.”

            Nimble-footed Achilles responded at once to the seer:
85        “Courage!  Whatever you know, you can say what the god has shown you.
            Now by Apollo, beloved of Zeus, to whom you, O Calchas,
            pray when the will of the gods is revealed to the Danaans through you:
            no one, as long as I live on the earth and my eyes see the daylight,
            no one will lay heavy hands on you by the hollow vessels,
            none of the Danaans, even if you were to name Agamemnon,
91        who can now claim that he is the greatest of all the Achaeans.”

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Iliad I, lines 1-52

            Sing of the wrath, my goddess, of Peleus’ son Achilles,
            doomed and destructive, which gave the Achaeans numberless sorrows,
            sending so many robust souls down to the house of Hades,
            spirits of heroes, but bodies abandoned as meat for the dogs and
            flesh for the birds, and the will of God was all but accomplished
            right at the outset of strife, at the moment they clashed, when the conflict
7          parted Atrides, master of men, from god-like Achilles.

            Which of the gods had brought them together to wage such a quarrel?
            Leto and Zeus’s son Apollo: enraged at the king, he
            stirred up a plague through the army; and people all over were dying,
            all because Atreus’ son had dishonored the priest of Apollo,
            Chryses, who’d come to the swift Greek ships to buy back his daughter,
13        bearing a boundless ransom, and holding a golden scepter
            tied with the banner of far-shooting archer Apollo—he pled with
            all the Achaeans, but most of all he beseeched the Atridae,
            both of the sons of Atreus, marshals of men and the people:
            “Sons of Atreus, and you other Achaeans with strong greaves,
            truly, may all of the gods who dwell on Olympus give you
19        Priam’s city to plunder, and then safe passage homewards;
            but, may you let my child go free, and accept this ransom,
            honoring Zeus’s son, the far-shooting archer Apollo.”

            Then all the other Achaeans cried out with shouts of approval,
            out of respect for the priest, and to reap the magnificent ransom;
            but, unmoved in his heart, the king Agamemnon Atrides
25        harshly dismissed him, and speaking with powerful words, he commanded:
            “Don’t let me find you again, old man, by the hollow vessels—
            lingering here today, or returning again tomorrow—
            or else the scepter and banner of god will no longer protect you.
            As for the girl, I will never set her free until old age
            comes to her, back in my house in Argos, far from her homeland,
31        working away at the loom, and sharing my bed beside me.
            Leave us, and try not to vex me, so you may return in safety.”

            So he spoke; and the old man feared him, obeyed his commandment,
            silently walking away by the shore of the rumbling ocean.
            Then, going farther away from them, over and over the old man
            prayed to the Lord Apollo, whom fair-haired Leto gave birth to:
37        “Hear me, god of the silver bow, who keeps watch around Chryse,
            sacrosanct Cilla, and Tenedos, where you reign with power:
            Smintheus, if I ever built you a roof on your beautiful temple,
            or if I ever have burned you the slivers of rich fat thighs of
            bulls and of goats, then you can accomplish for me this one prayer:
            make the Danaans pay for each of my tears with your arrows.”

43        So he spoke in his prayer; and Phoebus Apollo had heard him.
            Down from the heights of Olympus he came, with rage in his heart, his
            bow in his hand, and a covered quiver slung on his shoulder,
            arrows behind him clattering as he departed with fury,
            plummeting forth, and the raging god came down like nightfall.
            Out by the ships he descended, and kneeling, let fly an arrow—
49        with it, a terrible clang pealed out from the bow of silver.
            First he fell on the mules and the circling dogs; but thereafter,
            launching a piercing shaft at the Greeks themselves, he struck them.
            Piles and piles of corpses were burning on funeral pyres.

My new translation of the Iliad, in dactylic hexameter

I began the new year by working on a new translation of Homer's Iliad. What distinguishes my work from the many existing Iliad translations is that I am keeping to the meter of the Ancient Greek (which, to my knowledge, has only been done in one other translation, and in that, not very successfully).

Why is the meter important to the poem? The Iliad has its roots as oral poetry in Ancient Greece. It is not meant to be read, so much as performed. However, no English translation yet captures that element of it. The poem ideally should be sung or recited to an audience, and it should therefore carry a rhythm amenable to singing or recitation. Such a rhythm is what I am striving for.

The meter of the ancient epics is called "dactylic hexameter". Of course, English works a bit differently than Ancient Greek, and as a result of that, the equivalent English meter operates a bit differently than the original. Dactylic hexameter in English is best exemplified by Longfellow's poem "Evangeline". The poem is a bit long, but even the first few lines can give you an idea of how the epic meter works:
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic..."
Basically, there are six metrical "feet" per line, and if we represent stressed syllables with "S" and unstressed syllables with "u", the first five feet may take either of the following forms: "Suu", "Su", or "SS" (which are called "dactyls", "trochees", or "spondees", respectively). The last foot in each line must take either "SS" or "Su" (a spondee or a trochee). The most conspicuous things you'll notice is that every line begins on a stressed syllable, and the ending of the lines is always either two stressed syllables, or a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Longfellow's poem should give you a good sense of the rhythm and music inherent in the metrical form.

I am publishing my new translation each week, as I write it, on this blog. Anyone who follows along will get to see my version of the poem as it develops. I plan on releasing each week's work on the Sunday following that week. Because of the demands of graduate school and the continuing revision of my Inferno translation, I may not be able to make rapid progress on this, at least at the start. But I will make sure to at least publish something each week.

I hope you will enjoy following along with me as I write the poem. I wish everyone a happy new year!