Chapman's Homer: The Odyssey

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Princeton University Press, 2000 - Poetry - 497 pages
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George Chapman's translations of Homer are among the most famous in the English language. Keats immortalized the work of the Renaissance dramatist and poet in the sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer." Swinburne praised the translations for their "romantic and sometimes barbaric grandeur," their "freshness, strength, and inextinguishable fire." The great critic George Saintsbury (1845-1933) wrote: "For more than two centuries they were the resort of all who, unable to read Greek, wished to know what Greek was. Chapman is far nearer Homer than any modern translator in any modern language." This volume presents the original text of Chapman's translation of the Odyssey (1614-15), making only a small number of modifications to punctuation and wording where they might confuse the modern reader. The editor, Allardyce Nicoll, provides an introduction, textual notes, a glossary, and a commentary. Garry Wills's preface to the Odyssey explores how Chapman's less strained meter lets him achieve more delicate poetic effects as compared to the Iliad. Wills also examines Chapman's "fine touch" in translating "the warm and human sense of comedy" in the Odyssey.

Oft of one wide expanse had I been told

That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene

Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold.

--John Keats


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To the Earle of Somerset
Certaine Ancient Greeke Epigrammes
The First Booke
The Second Booke
The Third Booke
The Fourth Booke
The Fifth Booke
The Sixth Booke
The Fifteenth Booke
The Sixteenth Booke
The Seventeenth Booke
The Eighteenth Booke
The Nineteenth Booke
The Twentieth Booke
The TwentyFirst Booke
The TwentySecond Booke

The Seventh Booke
The Eighth Booke
The Ninth Booke
The Tenth Booke
The Eleventh Booke
The Twelfth Booke
The Thirteenth Booke
The Fourteenth Booke
The TwentyThird Booke
The TwentyFourth Booke
Final Verses
Textual Notes

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About the author (2000)

Homer is the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, the two greatest Greek epic poems. Nothing is known about Homer personally; it is not even known for certain whether there is only one true author of these two works. Homer is thought to have been an Ionian from the 9th or 8th century B.C. While historians argue over the man, his impact on literature, history, and philosophy is so significant as to be almost immeasurable. The Iliad relates the tale of the Trojan War, about the war between Greece and Troy, brought about by the kidnapping of the beautiful Greek princess, Helen, by Paris. It tells of the exploits of such legendary figures as Achilles, Ajax, and Odysseus. The Odyssey recounts the subsequent return of the Greek hero Odysseus after the defeat of the Trojans. On his return trip, Odysseus braves such terrors as the Cyclops, a one-eyed monster; the Sirens, beautiful temptresses; and Scylla and Charybdis, a deadly rock and whirlpool. Waiting for him at home is his wife who has remained faithful during his years in the war. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey have had numerous adaptations, including several film versions of each.

George Chapman had a reputation in his own time for being a learned writer. On the payroll of the Elizabethan impresario, Philip Henslowe, he wrote for the Admiral's Men and was imprisoned with Ben Jonson for supposedly seditious theater. He translated the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer and completed Hero and Leander by Christopher Marlowe. Chapman's works are full of humanist scholarship from classical sources, while his tragedies are mostly based on contemporary French history. In Bussy d'Ambois (1607), the best known of this series, the hero is the aspiring, stoic man who is doomed to extinction in a crass world. Chapman's comedies, which are much more lighthearted, experiment in the comedy of "humours" that Jonson was to perfect. The plays are mostly written for the boy companies.

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