Sunday, January 2, 2011

The bowshot speech


.. Mariner.. I need not
give you orders, knowing as I do
that you are well disposed to all I plan.
Your thought is like my own.
Come, then; in time we'll make amends for this,
if anything uncalled for has been said:
God send the seawinds blow it out of mind!
     Agamemnon to Odysseus, iv, 430 et seq. 

One extremely seldom intervenes in these entries with editorial remark, but the occasion of citing Homer must always be one which engages profound attachments to a translation. The reader is spared any impression here, that one's judgment would be offered to sway another's; but at the same time, he is entitled to a justification of the choice. By the text, that case has already been made; but it was made also by Robert Fagles, possibly the most celebrated of recent translations. There is, however, the translation of this poem into English, but that one is in the distinguishable category of having already been acquired, read, assimilated and revisited for more than 250 years as possibly the benignest account of one mind ever given by another. When we are not citing Alexander Pope, we are venturing into raw hope that the excursion of our taste will be guided well. Neither Fagles nor Fitzgerald fails that hope, and it is possible to alternate between them with serious and delightful enrichment of pleasure.

Agamemnon's speech is not cited to rebuke the father. When Fitzgerald hears, "your thought is like my own," he has Homer's sense of a devotion already deeply formed, which Pope captures as, "With ours, thy care and ardour are the same." This horror - love, as the wellspring of Agamemnon's subject - is maturer in Fitzgerald than anyone else. All translations capture Agamemnon's apology but only the Fitzgerald finds its anxiety. This is simply correct, and basic to the Iliad Project.

For many people, this day is an occasion of epiphany, with which it would be unconscionable to interfere. But, not by coincidence, it is also the anniversary of the departure of the shepherds. All now look to each other; if anything uncalled for has been said: God send the seawinds blow it out of mind! 

Rodrigo Calazans (r)
Lt, La Jolla, 1944
Lt, USS Goldsborough, 1967
Carlo Scarpa, Querini Stampalia
Thibault Oberlin, numismatic profile
Shepherd, anonymous

The Iliad
Robert Fitzgerald, translation
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974©

Hector Berlioz
L'adieu des bergers, 1850
  L'enfance du Christ
Matthew Best
Corydon Singers
Hyperion, 2001©

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