Saturday, November 04, 2006


Blood for the Ghosts

John Keats, On First Looking into Chapman's Homer:
Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
  And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
  Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
  That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:
  Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
  When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
  He stared at the Pacific — and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise —
  Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Chapman is George Chapman (1559-1634). Probably few look into Chapman's Homer these days. His translation of the Iliad isn't even available on the World Wide Web, so far as I can tell, although his translation of the Odyssey is. I bought his Iliad translation for a dollar at a used bookshop yesterday, edited by Adam Roberts (Ware: Wordsworth, 2003). In the introduction (pp. xii-xiii), Roberts writes:
Chapman did not sit down with a bald Greek text and translate into English; instead he used the edition of Homer edited by Jean de Sponde, a sixteenth-century French scholar often known by his Latinised name 'Johannes Spondanus'. Spondanus prints the Greek text alongside a line-by-line Latin translation by Andreas Divus, and adds (also in Latin) extensive commentaries upon the poem to show its moral qualities. In addition to this edition, Chapman possessed a Greek-to-Latin dictionary, the Lexicon assembled by Johannes Scapula. Scholars have demonstrated how fully Chapman relied upon these Latin renditions of the Greek text, and F.L. Schoell has suggested that 'Chapman n'a pas traduit un seul vers grec sans verifier le sens d'un ou de plusieurs mots dans son dictionnaire' ('Chapman did not translate a single line of Greek verse without checking the sense of one or several words in Divus's Lexicon', quoted in Lord, p. 25). Against this rather reductive view of Chapman's perspective we need to set his own vigorously phrased insistence that those who make the accusation that 'I turn Homer out of the Latin only etc.' are all 'envious windfuckers' ('Preface to the Reader', Nicoll, p. 17).
Andreas Divus' Latin translation of Homer is unavailable on the World Wide Web. About a hundred years ago Ezra Pound picked up a copy of Divus' translation of the Odyssey on a Paris quai. One recently went on sale for $8500, a bit out of my price range. But Hugh Kenner, in The Pound Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), reproduces on pp. 352-353 the beginning of Book 11 of the Odyssey in Divus' translation. Pound's first Canto contains a translation into English of some of Divus' Latin, followed by the comment:
Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus,
In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer.
Below are (1) George Chapman's translation of Homer, Odyssey 11.20-50; (2) my modernized transcription of Andreas Divus' Latin translation of the same lines; (3) Ezra Pounds' translation (from his first Canto) of Andreas Divus' Latin; and (4) the original Greek. The speaker, Odysseus, is following Circe's instructions for returning home, by getting directions from Tiresias in the underworld. The ghosts inhabiting the underworld are attracted by blood, so Odysseus sacrifices some animals to draw them near.

Here drew we up our ship, our sheep withdrew,
And walk'd the shore till we attain'd the view
Of that sad region Circe had foreshow'd;
And then the sacred offerings to be vow'd
Eurylochus and Persimedes bore.
When I my sword drew, and earth's womb did gore
Till I a pit digg'd of a cubit round,
Which with the liquid sacrifice we crown'd,
First honey mix'd with wine, then sweet wine neat,
Then water pour'd in, last the flour of wheat.
Much I importuned then the weak-neck'd dead,
And vow'd, when I the barren soil should tread
Of cliffy Ithaca, amidst my hall
To kill a heifer, my clear best of all,
And give in off'ring, on a pile composed
Of all the choice goods my whole house enclosed.
And to Tiresias himself, alone,
A sheep coal-black, and the selectest one
Of all my flocks. When to the Powers beneath,
The sacred nation that survive with death,
My prayers and vows had done devotions fit,
I took the off'rings, and upon the pit
Bereft their lives. Out gush'd the sable blood,
And round about me fled out of the flood
The souls of the deceas'd. There cluster'd then
Youths, and their wives, much-suffering aged men,
Soft tender virgins that but new came there
By timeless death, and green their sorrows were.
There men at arms, with armours all embrew'd,
Wounded with lances, and with faulchions hew'd,
In numbers, up and down the ditch, did stalk,
And threw unmeasured cries about their walk,
So horrid that a bloodless fear surprised
My daunted spirits. Straight then I advised
My friends to flay the slaughter'd sacrifice,
Put them in fire, and to the Deities,
Stern Pluto and Persephone, apply
Exciteful prayers. Then drew I from my thigh
My well-edged sword, stept in, and firmly stood
Betwixt the prease of shadows and the blood,
And would not suffer any one to dip
Within our offering his unsolid lip,
Before Tiresias that did all controul.

Navem quidem illuc venientes traximus, extra autem oves
Accepimus: ipsi autem rursus apud fluxum Oceani
Ivimus, ut in locum perveniremus quem dixit Circe:
Hic sacra quidem Perimedes Eurylochusque
Faciebant: ego autem ensem acutum trahens a femore
Foveam fodi quantum cubiti mensura hinc et inde:
Circum ipsam autem libamina fundimus omnibus mortuis:
Primum mulso, postea autem dulci vino:
Tertio rursus aqua, et farinas albas miscui:
Multum autem oravi mortuorum infirma capita:
Profectus in Ithacam, sterilem bovem, quae optima esset,
Sacrificare in domibus, pyramque implere bonis:
Tiresiae autem seorsum ovem sacrificare vovi
Totam nigram, quae ovibus antecellat nostris:
Has autem postquam votis precationibusque gentes mortuorum
Precatus sum, oves autem accipiens obtruncavi:
In fossam fluebat autem sanguis niger, congregatae sunt
Animae ex Erebo cadaverum mortuorum,
Nymphaeque iuvenesque, et multa passi senes,
Virginesque tenerae, nuper flebilem animum habentes,
Multi autem vulnerati aereis lanceis
Viri in bello necati, cruenta arma habentes,
Qui multi circum foveam veniebant aliunde alius
Magno clamore, me autem pallidus timor cepit.
Iam postea socios hortans iussi
Pecora, quae iam iacebant iugulata saevo aere,
Excoriantes comburere: supplicare autem Diis,
Fortique Plutoni, et laudatae Proserpinae.
At ego ensem acutum trahens a femore,
Sedi, neque permisi mortuorum impotentia capita
Sanguinem prope ire, antequam Tiresiam audirem.

The ocean flowing backward, came we then to the place
Aforesaid by Circe.
Here did they rites, Perimedes and Eurylochus,
And drawing sword from my hip
I dug the ell-square pitkin;
Poured we libations unto each the dead,
First mead and then sweet wine, water mixed with white flour.
Then prayed I many a prayer to the sickly death's-head;
As set in Ithaca, sterile bulls of the best
For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods,
A sheep to Tiresias only, black and a bell-sheep.
Dark blood flowed in the fosse,
Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead, of brides
Of youths and at the old who had borne much;
Souls stained with recent tears, girls tender,
Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads,
Battle spoil, bearing yet dreory arms,
These many crowded about me; with shouting,
Pallor upon me, cried to my men for more beasts;
Slaughtered the heards, sheep slain of bronze;
Poured ointment, cried to the gods,
To Pluto the strong, and praised Proserpine;
Unsheathed the narrow sword,
I sat to keep off the impetuous impotent dead,
Till I should hear Tiresias.

νῆα μὲν ἔνθ᾽ ἐλθόντες ἐκέλσαμεν, ἐκ δὲ τὰ μῆλα
εἱλόμεθ᾽· αὐτοὶ δ᾽ αὖτε παρὰ ῥόον Ὠκεανοῖο
ᾔομεν, ὄφρ᾽ ἐς χῶρον ἀφικόμεθ᾽, ὃν φράσε Κίρκη.
"ἔνθ᾽ ἱερήια μὲν Περιμήδης Εὐρύλοχός τε
ἔσχον· ἐγὼ δ᾽ ἄορ ὀξὺ ἐρυσσάμενος παρὰ μηροῦ
βόθρον ὄρυξ᾽ ὅσσον τε πυγούσιον ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα,
ἀμφ᾽ αὐτῷ δὲ χοὴν χεόμην πᾶσιν νεκύεσσι,
πρῶτα μελικρήτῳ, μετέπειτα δὲ ἡδέι οἴνῳ,
τὸ τρίτον αὖθ᾽ ὕδατι· ἐπὶ δ᾽ ἄλφιτα λευκὰ πάλυνον.
πολλὰ δὲ γουνούμην νεκύων ἀμενηνὰ κάρηνα,
ἐλθὼν εἰς Ἰθάκην στεῖραν βοῦν, ἥ τις ἀρίστη,
ῥέξειν ἐν μεγάροισι πυρήν τ᾽ ἐμπλησέμεν ἐσθλῶν,
Τειρεσίῃ δ᾽ ἀπάνευθεν ὄιν ἱερευσέμεν οἴῳ
παμμέλαν᾽, ὃς μήλοισι μεταπρέπει ἡμετέροισι.
τοὺς δ᾽ ἐπεὶ εὐχωλῇσι λιτῇσί τε, ἔθνεα νεκρῶν,
ἐλλισάμην, τὰ δὲ μῆλα λαβὼν ἀπεδειροτόμησα
ἐς βόθρον, ῥέε δ᾽ αἷμα κελαινεφές· αἱ δ᾽ ἀγέροντο
ψυχαὶ ὑπὲξ Ἐρέβευς νεκύων κατατεθνηώτων.
νύμφαι τ᾽ ἠίθεοί τε πολύτλητοί τε γέροντες
παρθενικαί τ᾽ ἀταλαὶ νεοπενθέα θυμὸν ἔχουσαι,
πολλοὶ δ᾽ οὐτάμενοι χαλκήρεσιν ἐγχείῃσιν,
ἄνδρες ἀρηίφατοι βεβροτωμένα τεύχε᾽ ἔχοντες·
οἳ πολλοὶ περὶ βόθρον ἐφοίτων ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος
θεσπεσίῃ ἰαχῇ· ἐμὲ δὲ χλωρὸν δέος ᾕρει.
δὴ τότ᾽ ἔπειθ᾽ ἑτάροισιν ἐποτρύνας ἐκέλευσα
μῆλα, τὰ δὴ κατέκειτ᾽ ἐσφαγμένα νηλέι χαλκῷ,
δείραντας κατακῆαι, ἐπεύξασθαι δὲ θεοῖσιν,
ἰφθίμῳ τ᾽ Ἀΐδῃ καὶ ἐπαινῇ Περσεφονείῃ·
αὐτὸς δὲ ξίφος ὀξὺ ἐρυσσάμενος παρὰ μηροῦ
ἥμην, οὐδ᾽ εἴων νεκύων ἀμενηνὰ κάρηνα
αἵματος ἆσσον ἴμεν, πρὶν Τειρεσίαο πυθέσθαι.

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