On looking into the first paperback of Pope's Homer
Since Matthew Arnold wrote in 1861, with some foreboding about a decline in the study of Greek, the number of Homeric translations has in fact grown unabated. It is a remarkable human fact to have versions by men so variously distinguished as the Earl of Derby, William Morris, Samuel Butler and T.E. Lawrence. And academics and amateurs on both sides of the Atlantic have continued, for pleasure or profit, to produce versions in verse or prose that are united only in their inadequacy: any look along a college library's shelves supplies a veritable Catalogue of translators who have fallen victim to the power of the original.
Since Arnold, Homeric scholarship has gone to the wilder shores of Analysis and of oral-formulaic theory and returned; a number of Homerists graze peacefully on the deconstructive lotus; Homeric archaeology has flourished; and the West has taken a new interest in other past and present cultures with a greater affinity than our own to the world of the Homeric poems. Meanwhile the number of those who can read Homer with ease in the original has inexorably declined. But something draws people back to the Greek texts, in the spirit of Dr Johnson's words: 'Greek is like lace: every man gets as much of it as he can.' Those studying Homer in Greek are now a small professional army, not the massed and sullen conscripts of old. Meanwhile, readers of Homer in translation - in America, especially, which is to its credit - are many.
Much, then, has changed, but Arnold has lost none of his value. Housman, after belittling Arnold's scholarship, continued: 'heap up in one scale all the literary criticism that the whole nation of professed scholars ever wrote, and drop into the other the thin green volume of Matthew Arnold's Lectures on Translating Homer ... and the first scale, as Milton says, will straight fly up and kick the beam.' More recently, and from a very different perspective, H.A. Mason described Arnold's contribution as 'the first and only book to put into the hands of the beginner who would make something of Homer as a poet'.
And yet, when we survey Homeric translation since Arnold, it is clear, not only that his point of view is in central respects inadequate, but that the whole enterprise, as Arnold himself conceived of it, is a failed one. His peroration to Last Words begins with the admirable but in retrospect forlorn maxim, 'It is for the future translator that one must work.' Forlorn, not only because Arnold's own hexameter versions failed to reach the mark - though they have had surprisingly many imitators - but because no translator since Arnold has produced a whole version that can be set beside Chapman and Pope. Deferring to authority - and wondering whether the most trustworthy judge will be one who cannot read the Greek - I note that the only Homeric version in Charles Tomlinson's Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation which post-dates Arnold is that of Christopher Logue.
The reasons why Arnold has not been fruitful for the practice of translation, are, I think, two-fold and were cogently stated in an essay by H.A. Mason in 1962. First, that 'Arnold suffered from having lost contact with the wisdom of the eighteenth century as we see it embodied in Samuel Johnson.'; and secondly, that
Arnold needed the classics for his very existence or continuing existence in an alien (as he felt it) world. Therefore he saw them predominantly in one light, the light he had to obtain from them if he was not to live in darkness. To prop Arnold's mind, Homer, Epictetus and Sophocles had to be seen in contrast to Victorian England and remote from his worries and distractions.
We shall return to Dr Johnson. But the question of Arnold's general outlook needs examining first. It has a number of consequences.
The first of these is the exclusion of the Odyssey; for, apart from a brief excursus on Dr Maginn's Homeric Ballads, Arnold leaves the later poem to one side. This distortion is one that the Arnoldian outlook runs the risk of making: so good a book as Jasper Griffin's Homer on Life and Death is not exempt. Yet, in terms of translation per se, Arnold's omission is not an especially worrying one. For the Odyssey is virtually translation-proof. You can cut through a translator's local or even widespread ineptitude to the clear narrative or pointed dialogue beneath. The book is, as they say, hard to put down. We may smile at things in Butler, yet see what a Joyce could see through Butler; we may wince at things in Lawrence (who thought little of the poem) yet read on. And there is a range of thoughtful verse renderings through which a Greekless reader can get a fair idea of the common target.
Furthermore, even the reader with plenty of Greek can learn much from the following renderings, going back in time: Robert Fitzgerald's in loose blank verse - for once, the term describes a real thing - kept from the prosaic by its delicate details; Pope's in heroic couplets (a collaboration with Broome and Fenton); and, best of all - but too few follow Keats and read it - Chapman's in heavily enjambed couplets. Chapman allegorizes, to be sure, but in such a way as to clarify the narrative as often as he clouds it.
The Odyssey seems self-sufficient; its organizational principles clear; its world not so far from ours. It can, if it must, be read as a novel. The same cannot be said of the Iliad, which, as Martin Mueller has salutarily pointed out, wants editing in a modern sense or degree; as a consequence, the modern reader may feel like dropping it at somewhere between Books ix and xvi. An anodyne Odyssey can survive, an anodyne Iliad never - and not just because of its painful subject matter. To that extent, then, Arnold made things easy for himself in concentrating exclusively on Iliadic diction and not architectonics. He is right to demand of translators that they rise to the great 'touchstones'; and it must be allowed that he lets emerge in the reader's mind persuasive inferences as to the Iliadic whole; and yet his views on translating the Iliad, while exacting in detail, beg the larger question of just what a translation of the poem might entail. This is criticism of a high order, yet unhelpful to the translator, in spite of the fact that Arnold's remarks on previous translators are remarkably just. The point may be elaborated in a number of different ways; let me pick on what I see as the most salient aspect.
Pope's Iliad - which Arnold, for all his feelings against the eighteenth century, recognizes to be the English Iliad - understands itself to be of its time and shaped by previous times. Arnold, by contrast, has attempted to see the poem as beyond time, as residing in an ideal order of touchstones. Critically, this is provocative - but fatal to the enterprise of translation, as Arnold's samples show. What detracted from F.W. Newman's counter-attack was that his own translation embodied a poetically laughable set of historical principles felt applicable to Homer; hence the ballad language, Anglo-Saxonisms, and so on. Yet Newman's easy target lulls Arnold into feeling that, in his own counter-samples, he can somehow step behind the resources of the language into a purified form of it, which will bear an essential nobility to be compared with Shakespeare, but which does not come trailing clouds of association after it. Such clouds, ungoverned by a 'cloud-compelling' poet, are dangerous, but Arnold's renderings can neither divest his words of unwanted associations nor - crucially - invest them with associations they lack. If modern Homeric critics have had Arnold too little in mind, his example has, I think, been disabling for many modern translators.
The translator has to work with the language as he has it. Only the greatest of translators might actually change the very grain of the language: so there could be no more eloquent tribute to Pope's Homer than for it to be described by Coleridge as 'the main source of our pseudo-poetic diction'. But the translator must also work with the world as he has it. George Seferis, who did as much as any poet of our century to establish a conversation with Homer, writes in a passage from his diaries:
Read a book of Homer and see whether, at the points which move you, that which you feel is merely an archaeological trip back in time, or whether perhaps it is an emotion nurtured by all the human experience that has taken place between those olden times and the present moment.
If the Iliad continues to have a claim on our attention, that will be in large measure a tribute to its adequacy with respect to everything that has happened in the world since - otherwise, we shall be turning to it out of mere escapism. (So Homer's professed epigone, Edgar Rice Burroughs.) Now, when it comes to our modern translations, they undoubtedly suffer more from fidelity than wild escapism, as even the following brief extract from Richmond Lattimore will show. It is from Book xxiv (518ff.), where Achilles begins his response to Priam's entreaties for the body of Hector as follows:
surely you have had much evil to endure in your spirit.
How could you dare to come alone to the ships of the
and before my eyes, when I am the one who has killed in
such brave sons of yours? The heart in you is iron.
and sit down upon this chair, and you and I will even let
our sorrows lie still in the heart for all our grieving.
There is not
any advantage to be won from grim lamentation.
Such is the way the gods spun life for unfortunate
that we live in unhappiness, but the gods themselves
have no sorrows.
There are two urns that stand on the door-sill of Zeus.
They are unlike
for the gifts they bestow: an urn of evils, an urn of
If Zeus who delights in thunder mingles these and
on man, he shifts, and moves now in evil, again in good
But when Zeus bestows from the urn of sorrows, he
makes a failure
of man, and the evil hunger drives him over the shining
earth, and he wanders respected neither of gods nor
This encounter is at the heart of the Iliad, and its centrality has recently been acknowledged by John Casey's comparison of it with Lear. As the speech is in all sorts of ways an exemplary one, it is clearly a cultural imperative that we find a language adequate to balance here Achilles' self-searching and hard-won wisdom with his continuing aggression. It is notoriously in the Homeric speeches that modern translators fail, and Achilles' speeches were in their time the most complex examples of rhetoric in existence. I suspect that being forced to translate a passage such as the above might be the only way in which even a reader with very good Greek could truly puzzle out the import of the speech for himself - one reason why translation should be part of any literary education. How has Lattimore done?
Both Mason and D.S. Carne-Ross have made devastating criticisms of this accurate, dignified and now standard rendering. My own main reservation is this: the need for modern translations is characteristically felt to be the need for something clear and comprehensible, yet they are often more obscure than Pope or even Chapman. (It is salutary to recall that Porson's reply to the question, how long it would take to translate the Iliad literally and correctly into English prose, was: 'At least ten years.') Take this, for example, in Lattimore's rendering: 'and I will even let/ our sorrows lie still in the heart', where the Greek means 'In spite of everything I will let...' Or again: 'he makes a failure/ of man, and the evil hunger drives him over the shining earth.' Every man? and what hunger? The point in the Greek is that some individuals, depending on Zeus's allotment, lead a life governed by famine and migrant labour. The poem here, as in several unobtrusive places, looks at a wider sphere of suffering than the heroic. (Macleod's commentary compares Lear IV.iii: '.. O, I have ta'en/Too little care of this.')
Lattimore's version is in truth frequently obscure. Teachers like Lattimore's translation because it has roughly the original lineation, plus all the epithets; but that too can be a source of obscurity. You know with Lattimore that a bathukolpos, 'deep-girdled' woman will appear as such; but, as Carne-Ross says, 'What does a deep-girdled woman look like? Has Mr Lattimore seen one?' The best translator of Homer into a later phase of Greek, Alexander Pallis, followed with success the draconian principle: 'When you read the original, your mind presents you with a picture. That picture is what the translation is to preserve.' The translator will have to make up his mind whether (xxiv 560) Priam puts his hand to Achilles' mouth or draws Achilles' hand to his: the choreography of the scene will be central to its meaning. But from Lattimore it's literally hard to see what's going on.
Where Lattimore is inadequate is, above all, in his rhythms: his 'six-beat line' often exists only in his own ear. To attempt a formal metre, in order to impart that regularity without which an epic cannot sustain itself, is to face a superficial difficulty. To forgo all the opportunities for firmness and contrast which an established verse form offers, and to go for prose or something close to it, can be to surrender clarity itself, even if much is saved locally on the way. Above all, it is to seek help from the wrong sources; for, as Michael Silk observes of Martin Hammond's Penguin prose translation:
The current English language, as it grows ever richer in scientific abstraction and ironic understatement and ever more deficient in sensuous immediacy and rhythmic strength, becomes increasingly remote from the directness of human experience and feeling which is at the heart of Greek literature at its greatest period.
A further, theoretical objection is that Lattimore works on the principle of using 'the word that translates the Greek'. For that is to assume, as only a teacher would, that the word, not the paragraph, the book, or even the epic itself, is the relevant unit, and that there is a word that translates the Greek, if we can only get our hands on it - a notion which has been fiercely attacked by Roy Harris. In our passage, a good example would be 'Ah unlucky!' for a deile, for the word not only does not mean that but could perhaps only be translated into English, which is not rich in such addresses except jocularly or ironically, by speechlessness or a gesture.
Turning for contrast to an older rendering, I take neither Pope nor Chapman. The reason is not so much that here Pope is too clear, even sententious, without the tensions of Achilles' original speech, nor that Chapman is here, as George Steiner remarks, 'overelaborate and unsteady'. I have preferred to take a sample from the translation of Hobbes, usually regarded as the product of a sad senescence, because it seems to me here, for all its inadequacies, closer to what we require from a translation than are modern versions:
Alas, old man, said he,
You much have suffer'd, and your pain I feel.
But how alone durst you to come to me,
That slew your Sons, unless your heart be steel?
But come, sit down. In vain lamenting is.
The hurt that's done tears cannot take away,
Since so 'tis order'd by the Gods in bliss,
That men shall live in pain, and they in joy.
Two Barrels in his Cellar Jove has still
Of gifts to be bestow'd on mortal Wights,
One full of Good, and the other full of Ill,
And usually to mingle them delights.
For they that only ill receive from Jove
Exposed always are to enjurie,
And begging up and down the World shall rove,
And both by Gods and Men despised be.
The form here, if at times close to doggerel, draws little enough attention to itself and is, in more than one sense, more pointed than Lattimore. The barrels in Zeus's cellar are a little homespun, but in a passage which after all approaches the realities of life, a phrase such as 'and begging up and down the world shall rove' is both deeply Hobbesian and close to the spirit of the original. Hobbes can fall below this, but as a presentation of the substance of the original, this translation of this passage is closer than Lattimore's to adequacy. 'But come, sit down' is better than 'Come, then, and sit down upon this chair.'
My second pair of exhibits begins with a passage, this time from Iliad xxii (483ff.), translated by Robert Fagles. Fagles's version has a bite to it which is only intermittently there in Fitzgerald's rendering. Take this extract from Andromache's lament for Hector:
The day that orphans a youngster cuts him off from friends.
And he hangs his head low, humiliated in every way. . .
his cheeks streaked with tears, and pressed by hunger
the boy goes up to his father's old companions,
tugging at one man's cloak, another's tunic,
and some will pity him, true,
and one will give him a little cup to drink,
enough to wet his lips, not quench his thirst.
But then some bully with both his parents living,
beats him from the banquet, fists and abuses flying,
'You, get out - you've got no father feasting with us here!'
And the boy, sobbing, trails home to his widowed mother. . .
Though I think that Fagles handles passages of description and action better - and this is not surprising: the passages of Homeric translation in Tomlinson's anthology are nearly all descriptions - this passage has some life to it. But it is not verse life. Fagles claims implausibly to be using 'a flexible middle ground, here between [Homer's] hexameter line ... and a tighter, native English line'; but he has, I think, undersold himself by not printing his rendering as heightened prose: that would more clearly illuminate the original from what is indeed a new angle. As it is, one of the devices, apart from sheer muscularity, that Fagles uses to distance his rendering from customary prose, that of constant asyndeton - the comma outweighs all other marks of punctuation, and the present participle is ubiquitous - detracts from the formality of such a passage as this.
For, though the details are personal, the whole speech is a lament - a type of lament that, despite the intermittent hostility of the Church, has survived in Greece almost to the present. We must not see the details as purely personal: they fit a pattern covering all orphans, to which the other women will make a refrain. The translator, then, will need an overall formality of structure in order to make the details count. The doubt I have about Fagles's rendering, despite its many strengths and felicities, is whether its form is strong enough to enable the work to stand on its own for the Greekless reader, or whether its function will not be a more modest though honourable one: to serve the reader with Greek, not as a crib, but as another approach to the poem, a way of clothing in the intimacies of the mother tongue what a reader using the lexicon might find to be no more than ways of speaking.
When I speak of a translation's standing on its own, I mean not just that one could bear to read it through in other than a self-improving Great Bookish spirit. The question is: could it be learned by heart? For Homer to take his place among our classics it must be the case that a rendering could exercise the same spell over the collective ear as English-language poets. You could not memorize Fagles, or Lattimore - or Hobbes, a few phrases apart - while Pope, even at his least Homeric, is memorable. (Pace Robert Graves's poem 'A Plea to Boys and Girls': 'You learned Pope's Iliad by rote, not heart.') Pope's rendering of Andromache's words, beginning with the very words adopted by Fagles, is both perilously un-Homeric and at the same time authoritative:
The Day, that to the Shades the Father sends,
Robs the sad Orphan of his Father's Friends:
He, wretched Outcast of Mankind! appears
For ever sad, for ever bath'd in Tears;
Amongst the Happy, unregarded he,
Hangs on the Robe, or trembles at the Knee,
While those his Father's former bounty fed,
Nor reach the Goblet, nor divide the Bread:
The Kindest but his present Wants allay,
To leave him wretched the succeeding Day.
Frugal Compassion! Heedless they who boast
Both Parents still, nor feel what he has lost,
Shall cry, 'Begone! Thy Father feasts not here':
The Wretch obeys, retiring with a Tear.
Thus wretched, thus retiring all in Tears,
To my sad soul Astyanax appears!
A passage like this gains from its overall conviction rather than from the capturing of individual detail. Here this is so even when Pope reads the response of the women as purely emotional rather than emotion embodied in ritual. Yet Pope has, as Pound pointed out, 'the virtue of translating Homer into something'. Pope cuts; he also glosses freely; but he translates Homer into something. He is aware that it is the total effect that counts: the reader comparing Pope to the Greek will often be amazed to find how ingeniously an important phrase that has disappeared from its original context is reintegrated at a later point. Using an Augustan verse idiom, formulas and all, that had been cultivated as intensively as the pre-Homeric idiom of the aoidoi, Pope has absorbed the central lesson that we are not merely looking for the 'word that translates the Greek'. In that sense his translation, though it little recalls the world of the guslars, comes closer than any other to embodying Milman Parry's insights.
Though Pound has been the most important practitioner and student of translation to lie between us and the Arnoldian outlook, much the same approach to translation was available to Arnold - but not availed of - in Dr Johnson's remarks on Pope's Iliad. Most epigrammatically, we have the famous remark, reported by Boswell, that 'We must try its effect as an English poem; that is the way to judge of a translation.' For more detail, we should turn to the remarks in the Life of Pope.
Johnson's discussion falls into two parts. He begins by acknowledging that 'it is not very likely that Pope overflowed with Greek'. But the phrase is carefully chosen: a mind that did overflow with Greek might be poetically chaotic with 'learned lumber'. Furthermore, we ought not to be complacent about the fact that our Greek professors today have more Greek than Pope, for our poets (Tony Harrison included) have less. Johnson goes on to stress the importance of the fact that Homer is generally perspicuous, with few passages of doubtful sense. Clarity, then, is necessary because this is par excellence a clear medium. Here Hobbes is surprisingly adequate and Pope nearly always successful, even if his clarity is not always Homer's.
Johnson in this section also draws attention to two aspects of Pope's enterprise of translation which have far-reaching implications. The first is the extent to which Pope was indebted to previous translations, using Chapman in particular as a stalking horse and testing his powers against his liveliest predecessor. Pope seems to me in this respect (fully documented in the Twickenham introduction) to observe a golden mean: modern translators tend to ignore their predecessors in a search for an unmediated original, while the two ablest poets to attempt blank verse translations, Cowper and Bryant, produced Homers hamstrung by the abandonment of rhyme and the effort not to perpetrate Popeian travesties of the original. Johnson's second point relates to Pope's revisions: he actually supplies quite full manuscript materials to illustrate the point that the translation did - and rightly - follow a process of growth quite independent of the original. (Rarely enough do we have a chance to remark of a modern translation that it wilfully follows coherent principles which are not, however, those of the original: much more familiar is the grim feeling that the version is half-baked.) For a very clear example of how Pope moved beyond a relatively literal and colourlessly Augustan rendering to reach a muscular sententiousness perhaps too much of his own devising, we may peruse, in Johnson's pages, the two versions of the invocation to the Muses before the Catalogue of Ships.
Johnson's central point is worth dwelling on because it casts such a bright light on modern views. He acknowledges that 'It has been objected by some, who wish to be numbered among the sons of learning, that Pope's version of Homer is not Homerical; that it exhibits no resemblance of the original and characteristic manner of the father of poetry.' But his retort is that: 'In estimating this translation, consideration must be had of the nature of our language, the form of our metre, and above all of the change which two thousand years have made in the modes of life and the habits of thought.' In other words, translators of Homer aspire at their peril to the Arnoldian condition of being 'independent of the language current among those with whom they live'. In much criticism of Homeric translation, moreover, we find the condition inimitably diagnosed by Henry James: 'There are movements of the classic torch round modern objects - strange drips and drops and wondrous waverings - that have the effect of putting it straight out.' For among these modern objects are our modern translations of the classics.
Which should not be taken to mean that I see Homeric translation as off limits for the present, concluding that today's poets must essay lighter themes. Yet I suspect that only fragmentary attempts are possible. My reason is not, with Mason, that too much of the Iliad is a blank to us, and that we must begin - and perhaps end - with 'the glowing centres where life is abundant and abundantly apparent'. I do not believe this to be the case. My fear is, rather, that the translation of the epic is a stone which Pope could lift alone but which three present-day poets could not. What our poets can give us is a very strong light on certain passages or episodes, not necessarily those of the 'touchstones'. In other words, we could press into service a collaborative and indeed incomplete Iliad, 'making it new' where it's still possible to shield ourselves from Pope.
This would be to revive an admirable project that D.S. Carne-Ross set in motion as a Third Programme producer in the 1950s, that of an abridged Iliad by various hands. Each translator brought to the task a different approach and resources: where Peter Green's was novelistic, Ian Fletcher's owed much to the richness of Symbolist expression, and Christopher Logue's rendering of the fight between Achilles and the river Scamander was, above all, cinematic. It is in fact Logue who has done most to bring Homer into poetic currency with his slow-growing War Music, subtitled 'An Account of Books 16 to 19 of Homer's Iliad'.
War Music is a hit-and-miss production; inevitably, some of its worst features have been those most praised. But, for all its misjudgements (and, sometimes, weakening in the course of revision), its best parts embody some of the insights that will be needed if Homer is to be even intermittently alive in modern English. Logue has achieved what the most powerful incomplete rendering can do: that is, affect our reading of the whole, including the parts that have not been translated. One should perhaps avoid using this term at all: Logue's term 'Account' is as careful as Pound's term Homage; and, though Logue only intermittently comes through with Poundian cadences (Milton and Eliot are more often to the fore), this is a thoroughgoing post-Poundian version of Homer. It is the Pound revolution which most obviously makes Arnold's approach to translation inadequate for our time, and I would single out as casting light on Logue's enterprise a vivid phrase in a letter of Pound to W.H.D. Rouse when the latter was preparing a translation of the Odyssey in the 1930s: 'At any rate, I'd like to see a 'rewrite' as if you didn't know the words of the original and were telling what happened.'
This is precisely what Logue set out to do. Knowing no Greek, he based his work on the translations of Chapman (1611), Pope (1720), the Earl of Derby (blank verse, 1865), A.T. Murray (Loeb 1924) and E.V.Rieu (Penguin prose 1950). The procedure is at the opposite extreme from that of Robert Fitzgerald, who working at the same period on his Iliad, wrote out the original in Greek with blanks between each line for a translation to be written in. This method does much to explain both the strength of Fitzgerald's translation - its attention to nuance - and its weakness: the unsteadiness of vision and tone over whole passages. What Logue does, by contrast, is to combine an immediacy and fullness of visual presentation with an allusiveness, a thickness in the diction, so that the reader oscillates (to use Michael Silk's terms) between stylization and immediacy. This is precisely what gives Logue's work its life, in particular through creative anachronism. I shall have to confine myself here to one or two examples.
Logue's use of anachronism is, if not indiscriminate, then pretty free. In particular, 'GBH' as the title of one of the sections of War Music is unilluminating; the violence in Logue's rendering in general is crueller and more purposeless - more criminal - than it is in Homer. (Though, of Patroclus, 'multiple injuries adorn the corpse' is vivid.) More resonant is, say, the place where Logue adapts a simile from Book xvi about woodcutters, using the phrase 'a valuable wood'. The word rehabilitates the epithet as a part of speech, suggesting both a materialism and a reverence for natural things as part of a shared order with the human order that are distinctively Homeric. The passage exposes one respect in which the Iliad needs from us a greater effort at recovery than it did from Pope and even from Arnold: part of our difficulty in bringing Homer into English will be that of obtaining imaginative assent to a pre-scientific vision of a world populated by gods as well as men.
Pope could rely on the gods (with their Roman names) as familiar if not always awesome presences, but our experience has moved so far from classical epic that the gods often seem no more than a way of speaking: either familiar anthropomorphs or agencies - rarely palpable forces. But despite the fact that Homer has suppressed some of the darker aspects of ancient religion, we need to have the gods in their full force in order to be able to play off against this their often frivolous motives. In Book i, for example, where Apollo fires his deadly arrows so as to bring disease on the Achaean troops, his epithet ekebolos comes into play. Chapman renders 'far-darter', lively if imprecise; Pope is dignified but not sufficiently ominous: 'The God who darts around the world his rays'; Fitzgerald is simply weak: 'the Archer God'. What we want for the full impact is the etymology of ballistics: 'long-range Apollo' is as accurate a rendering as any of the others, and the passage would gain in power as Apollo rained his, as it were, biological weapons, first on the animals (guinea pigs) and then on the men.
The fact that some things, to be more than conventional, might have to be spoken of by the modern poet in scientific terms, is not one to be ducked, and if Logue's main emphasis is on ways of seeing, those ways are indebted to modern experience. Take this:
Moving at speed, but absolutely still,
The arrow in the air. Death in a man
As something first perceived by accident.
Through an image distinctively available through the motion picture, Logue gives us in modern guise the still moment at which a missile, tied by divine agency to its target, strikes home: the sort of retarded action in which Homer excels. For Logue has attempted, with some success, to seize and recreate, not the words or even the plot, but the Homeric imagination, and in doing so not to forgo all the experience of the world which has followed Homer. Above all, science merely accounts for forces always felt to be there. If Homer described as much of the world as he knew, so does Logue in a passage where Achilles prepares to indicate his imminent return to battle:
Consider planes at touchdown - how they poise;
Or palms beneath a numbered hurricane;
Or birds wheeled sideways over windswept heights;
Or burly salmon challenging a weir;
Right-angled, dreamy fliers, as they ride
The instep of a dying wave, or trace
Diagonals on snowslopes.
Here are things, and their epithets, not seen by Homer, but which he would not now ignore. If this seems less than high seriousness, let us remember Odysseus's clothes compared to the shiny skin of a dried onion; if too modern, let us remember Hephaestus's female robots that help him at his forge. Clearly, War Music goes beyond what we can usefully call translation, but it does things we need if we are to have another translation. Above all, it draws on the thew and sinew of the iambic pentameter yet also resorts to the drastic - even desperate - typographical devices which it may be are needed if we are to retrieve into our flattened modern English the force of Homer.
To conclude. Classical scholars characteristically fall into talking of one translation's superseding another. But we should be tempted by the notion of a translation's being superseded only in the measure that we believe a poem can be superseded. Pope is not superseded; Hobbes (more modestly) is not obsolete. Apart from an intimate knowledge of the Iliad itself, with the many new insights obtained in this century, it would be foolish to cut ourselves off from the resources accumulated in English since Chapman. Yet, though a translation is not superseded even by a reader's knowledge of the original, the order in which it exists is adjusted more radically than it ever could be simply by the procedure of comparing the translation with others. And perhaps more economically. In the case of Homer, to have read even one book in the original Greek - which one could do after not many months of study - is to experience a new form of expression that forms a sufficient safeguard against anything that one might wish to protect oneself against in Pope. Students of English must absorb Pope; but they might also follow Pound's irascible advice in one of the duller Cantos: 'I shall have to learn a little Greek to keep up with this/ but so will you, drratt you.'
Note This paper is an abbreviated version of a lecture for the English Faculty in the University of Cambridge; I have been tempted to dust it down by the appearance of Pope's Iliad, ed. Steven Shankman, and Homer in Translation, ed. George Steiner with Aminadav Dykman (both Penguin Books 1996).