Acquisitions (82): Homer

Alexander Pope: Translations of Homer (1715-20 & 1725-26 / 1967)


Homer: The Odyssey (1967)
[Biblio - 16/12/2022]:

Alexander Pope. The Odyssey. 2 vols. Ed. Maynard Mack. The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope. 11 vols. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. / New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967.

Christopher Logue: War Music: An Account of Books 16 to 19 of Homer's Iliad (1981)

Translating Homer

Recently I ran across the first two volumes of the Twickenham edition of Alexander Pope's translation of Homer in the Auckland branch of the Hard-to-Find bookshop. So beguiling did I find them that I felt compelled to complete the set by ordering the other two volumes online. They arrived a few days ago.

The Twickenham Pope (12 vols, 1939-1969) is a truly magisterial feat of scholarship, all of which - with the exception of the standalone index volume - I now own. In this case, it includes all the original notes and introductions provided by Pope for the first printings of his Iliad and (collaboratively translated) Odyssey in the early 1700s - not to mention a 250-page introduction to place it all in context.

But what of the translation itself? Textual scholar Richard Bentley's notorious quip: "It is a pretty poem, Mr Pope, but you must not call it Homer", has often been seen as the last word on the matter, perhaps partially because Dr. Johnson chose to include it in his Lives of the Poets. The Twickenham editors, by contrast, go to great pains to point out the virtues of Pope's version: its sensitivity to the epic seriousness of Homer, and the considerable efforts the translator went to in checking his texts and notes.

Alexander Pope: The Iliad of Homer (1715-20)

And yet, the three hundred years between Pope and us does weigh heavy upon his translation. A confirmed taste for Augustan poetry is probably a prerequisite for actually taking pleasure in it.

What, then, of the other candidates for immortality among English-language Homeric translators? Well, of course there's Shakespeare's contemporary George Chapman, lauded by Keats in his famous sonnet 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer':
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

George Chapman: The Whole Works of Homer, Prince of Poets (1611-1615)

Chapman, too, can be pretty hard going for modern readers. As Maynard Mack remarks, it's almost necessary to master a new language to understand him at all: not Greek, but Chapmanian:
(Obeying his high will) the Priest trod off with haste and feare.
And, walking silent till he left farre off his enemie’s eare,
Phœbus (faire-haird Latona’s sonne) he stird up with a vow
To this sterne purpose: ‘Heare, thou God that bear’st the silver bow,
That Chrysa guard’st, rulest Tenedos with strong hand, and the round
Of Cilla most divine dost walke!  O Smintheus, if crownd
With thankfull offerings thy rich Phane I ever saw, or fir’d
Fat thighs of oxen and of goates to thee, this grace desir’d
Vouchsafe to me: paines for my teares let these rude Greekes repay.
Forc’d with thy arrows.’
- Iliad 1: xxxiii-xlii.

E. V. Rieu: The Iliad / The Odyssey (1946-50)

For myself, I certainly enjoy reading E. V. Rieu's Penguin Classics versions of both epics, composed in what passed in the late 1940s for idiomatic English prose. I also have a soft spot for Robert Fagle's more recent blank verse translation.

Robert Fagles: The Iliad / The Odyssey (1990-96)

Of the various audiobook versions I've listened to, though, I think I'd award the prize to the most recent, Ian Johnston's. Cowper is too stilted, Fagles a bit too difficult to follow when read out loud.

Ian Johnston: The Iliad / The Odyssey, read by Anton Lesser (2006-07)

It was, however, listening to E. V. Rieu's description of Odysseus's long swim to shore after the sinking of his raft which persuaded me that it had actually been written by someone familiar with long distance swimming: everything about it seemed accurate to me, given my (then) propensity for sidestroking from Mairangi Bay to Murray's Bay wharf on a regular basis.

Christopher Logue: War Music (1981-2011)

It can seem absurd at times that there should be so many versions of Homer on the market. How can one possibly choose between them all? I remember once having a discussion about it with South Island poet Richard Reeve. He said that he was indignant at the liberties some so-called "translators" took with the material - particularly Christopher Logue. As far as Richard was concerned, if it wasn't in hexameters, it wasn't Homer.

I riposted that one more clumsy transmutation of every single line of the original into a limping English hexameter by some Classics professor with no independent reputation as a poet was unlikely to qualify as "Homer", either. I went to a one-man performance of the whole of Christopher Logue's War Music in the late 1980s, in Edinburgh, which I found utterly electrifying. Certainly it's a "version" rather than a "translation" - but it was alive in a way few verse transmutations of a distant original ever are.

Michael Wood: In Search of the Trojan War (1985)

I don't know if I persuaded Richard, but I could see that I'd given him food for thought. "Homer" remains - will always remain - elusive, but that doesn't mean that the search is without its rewards. C. S. Lewis once said of his first reading of the Iliad in the original that he would not "insult it with his poor praise." That sounds ridiculous, but it is hard to find words to measure up to the experience of both poems: the simultaneous blood-thirstiness and deep compassion of the Iliad; the profound emotions of love for home and family - not to mention the sheer story-telling vigour - of the Odyssey.

One lifetime seems barely enough for it all.

In any case, I've listed below the various versions of Homer, both books and audiobooks, which I myself own and/or have read. There are, of course, many others, but you have to start somewhere:
  1. George Chapman (1559-1634)
  2. Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
  3. William Cowper (1731–1800)
  4. Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
  5. Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
  6. A. T. Murray (1866–1940)
  7. T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935)
  8. E. V. Rieu (1887-1972)
  9. F. L. Lucas (1894-1967)
  10. Robert Graves (1895-1985)
  11. Richmond Lattimore (1906–1984)
  12. Robert Fitzgerald (1910–1985)
  13. Christopher Logue (1926-2011)
  14. Robert Fagles (1933–2008)
  15. Ian C. Johnston (1938– )
  16. Anthologies & Secondary Materials

Osip Mandelstam: Selected Poems (1973 / 1977)

Осип Мандельштам:
Бессоница, Гомер, тугие паруса ...

Бессоница, Гомер, тугие паруса.
Я список кораблей прочел до середины ...
Сей длинный выводок, сей поезд журавлиный,
Что над Элладою когда-то поднялся.

Как журавлиный клин в чужие рубежи
На головаx царей божественная пена ...
Куда плывете вы? Когда бы не Элена,
Что Троя вам одна, аxейские мужи??

И море и Гомер все движимо любовью..
Куда же деться мне? И вот, Гомер молчит..
И море Черное витийствуя шумит
И с страшным гроxотом подxодит к изголовью ...


Insomnia. Homer. Reefed sails.
I've read halfway through the ship catalogue;
this inbred tribe, this siege of cranes
which once took flight from Hellas.

A wedge of cranes into foreign shores
drenching your kings with spray ...
Where are you going? If not for Helen,
what would Troy matter to you, men of Achaea?

The sea and Homer are moved by love.
Where should I turn? Homer is silent.
The Black Sea roars,
booms up the beach to my bed.

trans. JR

Homer (c.200 BCE)

Homer / Ὅμηρος / Hómēros
(fl. c.800 BCE)

[titles I own are marked in bold]:

William Hole: George Chapman (1559-1634)

George Chapman

Achilles’ bane full wrath resound, O Goddesse, that imposd
Infinite sorrowes on the Greekes, and many brave soules losd
From breasts Heroique — sent them farre, to that invisible cave
That no light comforts; and their lims to dogs and vultures gave.
To all which Jove’s will gave effect; from whom first strife begunne
Betwixt Atrides, king of men, and Thetis’ godlike Sonne.
What God gave Eris their command, and op’t that fighting veine?
Jove’s and Latona’s Sonne, who, fir’d against the king of men
For contumelie showne his Priest, infectious sickness sent
To plague the armie; and to death, by troopes, the souldiers went.
Chapman was not the first translator of Homer into English (politician Arthur Hall appears to have preceded him there), but he was the first to translate both epics in full. Seventeenth-century spelling and his own odd understanding of syntax apart, he did do a remarkable job. It was another hundred years before the task needed to be tackled again in earnest.

Allardyce Nicoll, ed.: Chapman's Homer (1956)


  1. The Iliads of Homer, Prince of Poets, Never Before in Any Language Truly Translated, with a Comment on Some of his Chief Places. Done According to the Greek. Ed. Richard Hooper. 2 vols. Library of old Authors. 2nd Edition. London: John Russell Smith, 1865.

  2. The Odysseys of Homer. Translated According to the Greek. Ed. Richard Hooper. 2 vols. Library of old Authors. 1857. London: Reeves & Turner, 1897.

  3. The Odysseys of Homer, together with the Shorter Poems. Translated According to the Greek. London & New York: George Newnes Ltd. & Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1904.

  4. The Works of George Chapman: Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Ed. Richard Herne Shepherd. London: Chatto & Windus, 1924.

  5. Chapman's Homer: The Iliad, The Odyssey and the Lesser Homerica. Ed. Allardyce Nicoll. Bollingen Series XLI. New York: Pantheon Books Inc., 1956.
    • Vol. 1: The Iliad
    • Vol. 2: The Odyssey & the Lesser Homerica

The Siren Vase (c.480-470 BCE)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Michael Dahl: Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

Alexander Pope
[1715-20 / 1725-26]

The Wrath of Peleus’ Son, the direful Spring
Of all the Grecian Woes, O Goddess, sing!
That Wrath which hurl'd to Pluto’s gloomy Reign
The Souls of mighty Chiefs untimely slain;
Whose Limbs unbury’d on the naked Shore
Devouring Dogs and hungry Vultures tore.
Since Great Achilles and Atrides strove,
Such was the Sov’reign Doom, and such the Will of Jove.
Declare, O Muse! in what ill-fated Hour
Sprung the fierce Strife, from what offended Pow’r?
Latona’s Son a dire Contagion spread,
And heap’d the Camp with Mountains of the Dead;
The King of Men his Rev’rend Priest defy’d,
And, for the King’s Offence, the People dy’d.
- The Iliad of Homer (1715). 1: i-xiv.
As I commented above, it's increasingly difficult for a modern reader to appreciate the solid virtues of Pope's Homer: those neatly turned heroic couplets, so admired at the time, stand in our way. I do find the whole atmosphere of his version quite enchanting, though, which is another reason for hunting out the Twickenham edition, with all of his original prefaces and notes.

Alexander Pope: Translations of Homer (Heritage Press: 1942-43)


  1. The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer. Trans. Alexander Pope. Ed. H. F. Cary. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1891.

  2. The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope. General Editor: John Butt. 11 vols. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. / New Haven: Yale University Press, 1939-69.
    1. Volume I: Pastoral Poetry and An Essay on Criticism. Ed. E. Audra & Aubrey Williams (1961)
    2. Volume II: The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems. Ed. Geoffrey Tillotson. 1940 (1962)
    3. Volume III i: An Essay on Man. Ed. Maynard Mack. 1950 (1982)
    4. Volume III ii: Epistles to Several Persons (Moral Essays). Ed. F. W. Bateson (1951)
    5. Volume IV: Imitations of Horace, with An Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot and The Epilogue to the Satires. Ed. John Butt. 1939 (1969)
    6. Volume V: The Dunciad. Ed. James Sutherland (1943)
    7. Volume VI: Minor Poems. Ed. Norman Ault, completed by John Butt. 1957 (1964)
    8. Volume VII: Translations of Homer: The Iliad, Books I-IX. Ed. Maynard Mack. Associate editors: Norman Callan, Robert Fagles, William Frost, Douglas M. Knight (1967)
    9. Volume VIII: Translations of Homer: The Iliad, Books X-XXIV. Ed. Maynard Mack. Associate editors: Norman Callan, Robert Fagles, William Frost, Douglas M. Knight (1967)
    10. Volume IX: Translations of Homer: The Odyssey, Books I-XII. Ed. Maynard Mack. Associate editors: Norman Callan, Robert Fagles, William Frost, Douglas M. Knight (1967)
    11. Volume X: Translations of Homer: The Odyssey, Books XIII-XXIV. Ed. Maynard Mack. Associate editors: Norman Callan, Robert Fagles, William Frost, Douglas M. Knight (1967)

  3. The Iliad of Homer. Trans. Alexander Pope. 1715-20. Ed. Steven Shankman. Penguin English Poets. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.

  4. The Odyssey of Homer. Trans. Alexander Pope. 1725-26. Illustrated by John Flaxman. 1942. Avon, Connecticut: The Heritage Press, 1970.

The Blinding of Polyphemus (Museum of Archaeology, Sperlonga)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Lemuel Francis Abbott: William Cowper (1731–1800)

Achilles sing, O Goddess! Peleus’ son;
His wrath pernicious, who ten thousand woes
Caused to Achaia’s host, sent many a soul
Illustrious into Ades premature,
And Heroes gave (so stood the will of Jove)
To dogs and to all ravening fowls a prey,
When fierce dispute had separated once
The noble Chief Achilles from the son
Of Atreus, Agamemnon, King of men.
Who them to strife impell’d? What power divine?
Latona’s son and Jove’s. For he, incensed
Against the King, a foul contagion raised
In all the host, and multitudes destroy’d,.
- The Iliad of Homer (1791). 1: i-xiii.
William Cowper remains a fascinating writer: mainly, for modern readers, in informal contexts such as his letters and occasional verse. His translation of Homer, composed - we're told - mostly for reasons of mental health: to keep his raging depression in check, suffers from an addiction to Miltonic inversions and other features of pre-Romantic blank verse. It remains a good solid effort, nevertheless: rather like the Rev. Henry Cary's version of Dante in style.

William Cowper: The Iliad & The Odyssey of Homer (1802)


  1. The Iliad & The Odyssey of Homer. Trans. William Cowper. 1791. Dublin, Ireland: Printed for Wogan, Byrne, Grueber, Sleater, etc., 1792.

  2. The Odyssey of Homer. Trans. William Cowper. Everyman’s Library, 454. 1910. London & New York: J. M. Dent & E. P. Dutton, 1928.

  3. Audiobooks:

  4. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. William Cowper. 1791. Read by Anton Lesser. Set of 3 CDs (abridged). Redhill, Surrey: Naxos Audiobooks, 1995.

  5. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. William Cowper. 1791. Read by Anton Lesser. Set of 3 CDs (abridged). Redhill, Surrey: Naxos Audiobooks, 1995.

Pellegrino Tibaldi: Theft of the Cattle of Helios (1550-1551)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

Andrew Lang
[1882 / 1879]

Tell me, Muse, of that man, so ready at need, who wandered far and wide, after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy, and many were the men whose towns he saw and whose mind he learnt, yea, and many the woes he suffered in his heart upon the deep, striving to win his own life and the return of his company. Nay, but even so he saved not his company, though he desired it sore. For through the blindness of their own hearts they perished, fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios Hyperion: but the god took from them their day of returning. Of these things, goddess, daughter of Zeus, whencesoever thou hast heard thereof, declare thou even unto us.
- The Odyssey of Homer (1879). 1: i-x.
It is, admittedly, a bit unfair to credit these two late Victorian prose versions of Homer solely to Andrew Lang. His various collaborators certainly deserve at least as much of the credit as he does, though of course his fame as a collector of folklore and fairy tales far outstrips theirs. I've also included in the list below his two retellings of the legends of the Trojan War, and also the novel The World's Desire, written in collaboration with H. Rider Haggard, which centres on a meeting between Odysseus and Helen of Troy!

S. H. Butcher & Andrew Lang: The Odyssey of Homer (1929)


  1. The Odyssey of Homer: Done into English Prose. Trans. S. H. Butcher & Andrew Lang. 1879. Introduction by Gilbert Highet. New York: The Modern Library, 1950.

  2. The Iliad of Homer: Done into English Prose. Trans. Andrew Lang, Walter Leaf, & Ernest Myers. 1882. New York: The Modern Library, n.d.

  3. [with H. Rider Haggard]. The World's Desire. 1890. Introduction by Lin Carter. London: Pan/ Ballantine, 1972.

  4. Tales of Troy and Greece. Illustrated by H. J. Ford. 1907. London: Wordsworth Editions, 1995.

  5. The Adventures of Odysseus. 1907. Illustrated by Joan Kiddell-Monroe. Dent’s Children’s Illustrated Classics, 53. 1962. London & New York: J. M. Dent & J. P. Dutton, 1967.

Henry Fuseli: Teiresias foretells the Future to Odysseus (1800)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Charles Gogin: Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.

And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the son of Jove and Leto; for he was angry with the king and sent a pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because the son of Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest.
- The Iliad (1898). 1: i-x.
Samuel Butler's prose translations of the Iliad and Odyssey were written specifically for readers with no knowledge of Greek. Since this also applies to me, you'd think that I'd find his versions uniquely useful. They're still a bit stilted and nineteenth-century sounding for me, though - a little better than Butcher, Lang et al. in that respect.

Samuel Butler: The Iliad of Homer (1898)


  1. Homer. The Iliad & The Odyssey. Trans. Samuel Butler. 1898 & 1900. Great Books of the Western World, 4. Ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins. 1952. Chicago: William Benton, Publisher / Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1989.

  2. The Authoress of the Odyssey: Where and when She Wrote, who She Was, the Use She Made of the Iliad, & how the Poem Grew Under Her Hands. London. New York & Bombay: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1897.

  3. The Humour of Homer & Other Essays. Ed. R. A. Streatfield. London: A. C. Fifield, 1913.

Jean-Joseph Espercieux: Ulysses Recognized by his Dog Argos (1812)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Feg Murray: Dr. Murray Goes to Washington (1866–1940)

Augustus Taber Murray
[1924 / 1919]

Tell me, O Muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered full many ways after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy. Many were the men whose cities he saw and whose mind he learned, aye, and many the woes he suffered in his heart upon the sea, seeking to win his own life and the return of his comrades. Yet even so he saved not his comrades, though he desired it sore, for through their own blind folly they perished — fools, who devoured the kine of Helios Hyperion; but he took from them the day of their returning. Of these things, goddess, daughter of Zeus, beginning where thou wilt, tell thou even unto us.
- Homer: Odyssey (1919). 1: i-x.
If in doubt, consult the Loeb Classics. I can't make much use of the Greek in the facing pages, but the great advantage of these literal versions is that they're continually updated and modernised. As well as Prof. A. T. Murray's Iliad and Odyssey, I also have a couple of other volumes of Homerica translated for the Loeb series by Martin L. West.

A. T. Murray: Odyssey / Iliad (1919-24)


  1. Homer. Odyssey. Trans. A. T. Murray. 1919. Rev. George E. Dimock. 1995. Loeb Classical Library. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1998.

  2. Homer. Iliad. Trans. A. T. Murray. 1924. Rev. William F. Wyatt. 1999. Loeb Classical Library. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003 & 2001.

  3. West, Martin L., ed. & trans. Homeric Hymns / Homeric Apocrypha / Lives of Homer. Loeb Classical Library LCL 496. London & Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003.

  4. West, Martin L., ed. & trans. Greek Epic Fragments: From the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC. Loeb Classical Library LCL 497. London & Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Samuel Palmer: Calypso’s Island, Departure of Ulysses (1848-49)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935)

O divine Poesy
Goddess-daughter of Zeus
sustain for me
this song of the various-minded man
who after he had plundered
the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy
was made to stray grievously
about the coasts of men
the sport of their customs good or bad
while his heart
through all the sea-faring
ached in an agony to redeem himself
and bring his company safe home

Vain hope — for them
for his fellows he strove in vain
their own witlessness cast them away
the fools
to destroy for meat
the oxen of the most exalted sun
wherefore the Sun-god blotted out
the day of their return

Make the tale live for us
in all its many bearings
O Muse.
- The Odyssey of Homer (1932). 1: i-x.
Despite the rather curious layout of this opening section, most of T. E. Lawrence's Odyssey is in reasonably straightforward prose. As anyone who's read the original (Oxford) version of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom alongside the more familiar later text can attest, Lawrence did have a tendency to overwork his writing: not always for the better. Perhaps for this reason, his letters and informal notes are generally far more approachable than his finished works. His Odyssey remains a good, serviceable translation, though.

T. E. Shaw: The Odyssey of Homer (1935)


  1. The Odyssey of Homer: Translated into English Prose. Trans. T. E. Shaw (Colonel T. E. Lawrence). 1932. London: Oxford University Press, 1960.

Henri-Lucien Doucet: Reunion of Odysseus and Telemachus (1856-95)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

E. V. Rieu (1887-1972)

Emile Victor Rieu
[1950 / 1946]]

Tell me, Muse, the story of that resourceful man who was driven to wander far and wide after he had sacked the holy citadel of Troy. He saw the cities of many people and he learnt their ways. He suffered great anguish on the high seas in his struggles to preserve his life and bring his comrades home. But he failed to save those comrades, in spite of all his efforts. It was their own transgression that brought them to their doom, for in their folly they devoured the oxen of Hyperion the Sun-god and he saw to it that they would never return. Tell us this story, goddess daughter of Zeus, beginning at whatever point you will.
- The Odyssey (1946, rev. 1991). 1 - Athene Visits Telemachus: i-x.
This may be the best-selling version of Homer in history. It seems to have a struck a nerve on its first appearance as the opening salvo of the Penguin Classics in the late 1940s, just after the Second World War, and it's never been out of print since. Its celebrated informality is far less apparent now, and as a result it's had to undergo the ordeal of a revision by (among others) the translator's son, Classicist D. C. H. Rieu. This was mainly to excise some of the old man's more flowery language, though, so can't be regarded as a betrayal of the original.

E. V. Rieu: The Iliad (Folio Society: 1975)


  1. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. E. V. Rieu. 1946. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1948.

  2. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. E. V. Rieu. 1950. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1954.

  3. Audiobooks:

  4. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. E. V. Rieu. Read by Alex Jennings. Ed. D. C. H. Rieu & Peter Jones. Set of 6 audio cassettes (abridged). London: Penguin AudioBooks, 1995.

Robert S. Duncanson: Land of the Lotus Eaters (1861)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

F. L. Lucas (1894-1967)

Frank Laurence Lucas
[1950 / 1948]

But when came early Morning, with fingers rosy-red
Then the dear son of Odysseus started from his bed.
He dressed, and over his shoulder hs keen-edged sword he cast,
And bound beneath his glistening feet his shapely sandals fast;
Then hastened forth from his chamber, fair as a God in face,
And bade the clear-voiced heralds call to the meeting-place
The long-haired sons of Achaea. So at the heralds' call
Quickly the people gathered; and into the midst of all
Telémachus came. His right hand grasped a bronze-tipped spear
And with twinkling feet behind him two hounds came trotting near.
- Homer: The Odyssey (1948). 1: The Debate in Ithaca: i-x.
With the possible exception of a Reader's Digest Condensed Books version, this is probably the first translation of the Odyssey I ever read - and, despite the fact that it presents a selection of episodes rather than the complete text - I still have a soft spot for it. It belonged to my Grandmother, an assiduous collector of Folio Society books, and I used to read it when we went to stay at her house in Bayswater over the holidays.

F. L. Lucas: The Odyssey (Folio Society: 1948)


  1. Homer. The Odyssey. Translated in Selection by F. L. Lucas. Illustrations by John Buckland-Wright. London: The Folio Society, 1948.

  2. Homer. The Iliad. Translated in Selection by F. L. Lucas. Illustrations by John Buckland-Wright. London: The Folio Society, 1950.

Jean Veber: Ulysses and Nausicaa (1888)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Robert Graves (1895-1985)

Sing, MOUNTAIN GODDESS, sing through me
That anger which most ruinously
Inflamed Achilles, Peleus’ son,
And which, before the tale was done,
Had glutted Hell with champions—bold,
Stern spirits by the thousandfold;
Ravens and dogs their corpses ate.
For thus did ZEUS, who watched their fate,
See his resolve, first taken when
Proud Agamemnon, King of men,
An insult on Achilles cast,
Achieve accomplishment at last.
You wish to know which of the gods originated the quarrel between these Greek princes, and how this happened?  I can tell you:
Characteristically, Robert Graves had a number of theories about Homer. He followed Samuel Butler in believing that the Odyssey was written by a woman (as expounded in the novel Homer's Daughter, listed below). Graves' Iliad, too, is somewhat eccentric, as he structured it in alternating verse and prose to match the original lays which he believed to have been elaborated on by Homer. It still makes spirited reading, though.

Robert Graves: The Anger of Achilles (1959)


  1. The Anger of Achilles: Homer’s Iliad. Trans. Robert Graves. 1959. London: Cassell, 1960.

  2. Homer's Daughter. London: Cassell & Company Ltd., 1955.

  3. The Siege and Fall of Troy: Retold for Young People. Illustrated by C. Walter Hodges. London: Cassell & Company Ltd., 1962.

Wright Barker: Circe (1889)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Richmond Lattimore (1906–1984)

Richmond Lattimore
[1951 / 1965]

SING, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.

What god was it then set them together in bitter collision?
Zeus' son and Leto’s, Apollo, who in anger at the king drove
the foul pestilence along the host, and the people perished
- Homer: The Iliad (1951). 1: i-x.
Richmond Lattimore's was regarded as the preeminent (American) English translation for a number of decades. It was in verse, rather than prose - a departure from the norm. What's more, it was in hexameters rather than the more usual blank verse pentameters. It's not one I ever really took to heart myself, but one does have to admire Lattimore's determination to rethink every aspect of the two poems for lovers of modern verse.

Richmond Lattimore: The Iliad & The Odyssey (1951 / 1965)


  1. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Richmond Lattimore. 1951. Phoenix Books. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.

  2. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Richmond Lattimore. 1965. Harper Colophon Books. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.

John William Waterhouse: Ulysses and the Sirens (1891)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Walker Evans: Robert Fitzgerald (1910-1985)

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contenting,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.
He saw the townlands
and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered many bitter nights and days
in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
But not by will nor valor could he save them,
for their own recklessness destroyed them all -
children and fools, they killed and feasted on
the cattle of Lord Helios, the Sun,
and he who moves all day through heaven
took from their eyes the dawn of their return.

Of these adventures, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
tell us in our time, lift the great song again.
- The Odyssey (1962). 1: i-x.
Robert Fitzgerald was probably better known as a classical translator than for his own poetry, but the mere fact that he published so much original verse definitely assisted him in the former task. His blank-verse versions of the Odyssey and Iliad were perhaps unfairly overshadowed by Lattimore and Fagles, but they have their place, even so.

Robert Fitzgerald: The Odyssey & The Iliad (1979)


  1. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. 1962. London: Panther Books, 1965.

  2. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. 1974. Introduction by G. S. Kirk. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Arnold Böcklin: Odysseus and Polyphemus (1896)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Michael Ward: Christopher Logue (1926-2011)

Picture the east Aegean sea by night,
And on a beach aslant its shimmering
Upwards of 50,000 men
Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet.

Now look along that beach, and see
Between the keels hatching its western dunes
A ten-foot-high reed wall faced with black clay
And split by a double-doored gate;
Then through the gate a naked man
Whose beauty's silent power stops your heart
Fast walk, face wet with tears, out past its guard
And having vanished from their sight
Run with what seems to break the speed of light
Across the dry, then damp, then sand invisible
Beneath inch-high waves that slide
Over each other's luminescent panes;
Then kneel among those panes, beggars his arms, and say:
- War Music: Logue's Homer (1991). 1 - Kings: i-xvii.
Christopher Logue was in his late fifties when he first began to publish his transmutations of Homer. He'd had a considerable career before that as an anti-establishment poet, actor, and scenarist. He's probably the most considerable twentieth-century poet to take on the challenge of translating Homer, and he certainly rose to the occasion. As you can see from the extract above, it's perhaps more a poem inspired by than an actual version of Homer's Iliad.

Christopher Logue: War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad (2017)


  1. War Music: An Account of Books 16-19 of Homer’s Iliad. War Music 1. 1981. King Penguin. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984.

  2. War Music: An Account of Books 1-4 and 16-19 of Homer’s Iliad. War Music 1-3. 1981, 1991, 1995. New York: The Noonday Press / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.

  3. Logue’s Homer: All Day Permanent Red. War Music 4. London: Faber, 2003.

  4. Logue’s Homer: Cold Calls. War Music 5. London: Faber, 2005.

  5. Ode to the Dodo: Poems 1953-1978. London: Jonathan Cape, 1981.

  6. Selected Poems. Ed. Christopher Reid. London & Boston: Faber, 1996.

Herbert James Draper: Ulysses and the Sirens (1909)

Robert Fagles (1933–2008)

Robert Fagles
[1990 / 1996]

Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.

What god drove them to fight with such a fury?
Apollo the son of Zeus and Leto. Incensed at the king
he swept a fatal plague through the army — men were dying
and all because Agamemnon spurned Apollo’s priest.
- Homer: The Iliad (1990). 1: i-xii.
Professor Robert Fagles taught English and comparative literature for many years at Princeton University - according to his Wikipedia page. His translations have a kind of concision and elegance which make me suspect that he must have written his own poetry at some time or another. If so, he doesn't appear to have published it. Certainly his direct, even - at times - brutal translations of Homer had a remarkable success when they first appeared in the 1990s.

Robert Fagles: The Iliad & The Odyssey (1997 / 1998)


  1. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. Introduction and Notes by Bernard Knox. 1990. Bath, UK: The Softback Preview, 1997.

  2. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. Introduction and Notes by Bernard Knox. 1996. Bath, UK: The Softback Preview, 1997.

  3. Audiobooks:

  4. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. 1990. Read by Derek Jacobi. Introduction by Bernard Knox. Set of 6 audio cassettes (abridged). London: Penguin AudioBooks, 1993.

  5. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. 1996. Read by Ian McKellen. Set of 12 audio cassettes (complete). London: Penguin AudioBooks, 1996.

Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl: Between Scylla and Charybdis (1910)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

Sing, Goddess, sing the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus —
that murderous anger which condemned Achaeans
to countless agonies and threw many warrior souls
deep into Hades, leaving their dead bodies
carrion food for dogs and birds —
all in fulfilment of the will of Zeus.

Start at the point where Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
that king of men, quarrelled with noble Achilles.
Which of the gods incited these two men to fight?

That god was Apollo, son of Zeus and Leto.
Angry with Agamemnon, he cast plague down
onto the troops — a deadly infectious evil.
- Homer: Iliad (2010). 1 - The Quarrel by the Ships: i-xii.
Emeritus Professor Ian C. Johnston is a public benefactor who has freely licenced the texts of a number of translations he's posted online "to high-school and college teachers and students, to visual and performing artists, to writers, and to members of the general public, who may freely edit and distribute them in printed or electronic form." This has given his work a considerable currency. Insofar as I can judge, his translation of Homer is both concise and easily comprehensible - or at least that was my impression on listening to it in audiobook form.

Ian Johnston: The Iliad of Homer (2006)


  1. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Ian Johnston. 2002. British Columbia, CA: Richer Resources Publications, 2006.

  2. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Ian Johnston. 2002. British Columbia, CA: Richer Resources Publications, 2007.

  3. Audiobooks:

  4. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Ian Johnston. 2002. Read by Anton Lesser. Set of 13 CDs (complete). Redhill, Surrey: Naxos AudioBooks, 2006.

  5. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Ian Johnston. 2002. Read by Anton Lesser. Set of 10 CDs (complete). Redhill, Surrey: Naxos AudioBooks, 2007.

Newell Convers Wyeth: The Trial of the Bow (1929)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

The literature about Homer is possibly even more extensive than the innumerable editions and translations of his work. I've provided a small selection of examples from some of the major themes below:
  • Analyses of Homer's poetic method and antecedents: Matthew Arnold, Albert Lord, Gilbert Murray ...
  • Archaeological explorations of Homer's world: Bettany Hughes, Heinrich Schliemann, Michael Wood ...
  • Artistic elaborations on Homer's work: Pat Barker, Nikos Kazantzakis, John Cowper Powys ...
  • Voyages in search of - some aspect of - Homer: Ernle Bradford, Tim Severin, Oliver Taplin ...
There's a great deal more to be said on every aspect of his legacy, of course, but at least this might provide a few starting points. J. V. Luce's Homer and the Heroic Age gives a particularly good, concise overview, I think.

Tim Severin: The Ulysses Voyage (1987)

  1. Arnold, Matthew. 'On Translating Homer'. 1861. Poetry and Prose. Ed. John Bryson. The Reynard Library. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1954.

  2. Barker, Pat. The Silence of the Girls. Hamish Hamilton. London: Penguin Random House UK, 2018.

  3. Bowra, C. M. Ancient Greek Literature. 1933. Opus 28. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.

  4. Bowra, C. M. Heroic Poetry. 1952. Papermac. London: Macmillan & Co., 1964.

  5. Bowra, C. M. Landmarks in Greek Literature. 1966. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1970.

  6. Bradford, Ernle. Ulysses Found. 1963. London: Sphere Books, 1967.

  7. Cashford, Jules, trans. The Homeric Hymns. Ed. Nicholas Richardson. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003.

  8. Deuel, Leo, ed. Memoirs of Heinrich Schliemann: A Documentary Portrait Drawn from His Autobiographical Writings, Letters, and Excavation Reports. 1977. London: Hutchinson, 1978.

  9. Helen of Troy, writ. & narrated by Bettany Hughes, dir. Bill Locke, prod. Richard Bradley (UK, 2005).

  10. Hughes, Bettany. Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore. London: Jonathan Cape, 2005.

  11. Johnson, Samuel. Lives of the English Poets. 1779-81. Introduction by L. Archer Hind. 2 vols. Everyman's Library, 770-771. 1925. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. / New York: E. P. Dutton & Co, Inc., 1961.
    • Vol. 1: Cowley to Prior
    • Vol. 2: Congreve to Gray

  12. Kazantzakis, Nikos. The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel. 1938. Trans. Kimon Friar. Illustrations by Ghika. 1958. London: Secker & Warburg, 1959.

  13. Lord, Albert B. The Singer of Tales. 1960. New York: Athenaeum, 1976.

  14. Luce, J. V. Homer and the Heroic Age. 1975. London: Futura, 1979.

  15. Mack, Maynard. Alexander Pope: A Life. 1985. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company / New Haven, Conn. & London: Yale University Press, 1986.

  16. Maguire, Marian. The Iliad Abbreviated. N.p.: Papergraphica, 2003.

  17. Murray, Gilbert. The Rise of the Greek Epic: Being a Course of Lectures Delivered at Harvard University. 1907. London: Humphrey Milford / Oxford University Press, 1934.

  18. Powys, John Cowper. Atlantis. 1954. Faber Finds. London: Faber, 2008.

  19. Powys, John Cowper. Homer and the Aether. London: Macdonald & Co., (Publishers) Ltd., 1959.

  20. Rubens, Beaty, & Oliver Taplin. An Odyssey round Odysseus: the Man and His Story Traced through Time and Place. London: BBC Books, 1989.

  21. Severin, Tim. The Ulysses Voyage: Sea Search for the Odyssey. Drawings by Will Stoney. Photographs by Kevin Fleming, with Nazem Choufeh and Rick Williams. Hutchinson. London: Century Hutchinson Ltd., 1987.

  22. Steiner, George, & Aminadav Dykman, ed. Homer in English. Penguin Poets in Translation. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.

  23. In Search of the Trojan War, writ. & presented by Michael Wood (UK, 1985). 2-DVD set.

  24. Wood, Michael. In Search of the Trojan War. Book Club Associates by arrangement with the British Broadcasting Corporation. London: Guild Publishing, 1985.

  25. Wood, Michael. In Search of the Trojan War. 1985. Rev. ed. 1998. London: BBC Books, 2003.

N. C. Wyeth: Odysseus and Penelope Reunited (1929)
[Marian Vermeulen: Homer’s Odyssey (2020)]

  • category - Greek Literature: Poetry

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