Iliad, Book I (with Scansion)

In response to a request from a reader, I have decided to post Book I of the Iliad with the first (always stressed) syllable of each metrical foot highlighted by boldface red text. This is to help with scansion (the parsing of the meter into feet, composed of stressed and unstressed syllables), in case anyone wishes to take a closer look at the meter of my translation.

In the English equivalent of Greek epic meter, each line consists of six feet. The first five feet may be dactyls, spondees, or trochees; and the sixth and final foot must be a spondee or a trochee. This is slightly different than the Greek, which only admits dactyls and spondees in the first five syllables, but the extra flexibility of the trochee is necessary in English, in my opinion, in order for the verse to sound a bit more natural. See, for instance, Longfellow's Evangeline as a famous example of the epic meter in English.

Because I'm highlighting the first syllable of each foot, there will always be six highlighted syllables per line. Finally, note that scansion can be somewhat subjective, depending on how a given reader tends to read a given sentence. The way I've marked the lines does not always represent the only possible way to read them. I invite questions, comments, and criticism on this matter.

            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.

            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.”

            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.”

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