Fagles, R.I.P.

by Michael O. Allen on March 29, 2008

I remember carrying around Robert Fagles translation of Homer, dipping in occasionally.

Years later, I became enthralled when I came across a rare copy of Alexander Pope’s 1802 translation of “The Odyssey.” I paid too much money for it and spent seven times what I paid for it restoring the book. The two volumes sits on a shelf in my house now. I don’t dare open them, for fear of damaging them. I bought paperback copies of them and I read those.

Fagles, who managed somehow to make the classics readable, died this past week.

March 29, 2008
Translating Homer: To Each His Own Muse

Robert Fagles’s translations departed markedly from those of his predecessors, as shown below in the opening lines of “The Odyssey.”

Robert Fagles (1996)

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.

Robert Fitzgerald (1961)

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.

Alexander Pope (1726)

The Man, for wisdom’s various arts renown’d,
Long exercis’d in woes, O Muse! resound.
Who, when his arms had wrought the destin’d fall
Of sacred Troy, and raz’d her heav’n-built wall. . . .

George Chapman (1616)

The man, O Muse, informe, that many a way
Wound with his wisedome to his wished stay;
That wanderd wondrous farre when He the towne
Of sacred Troy had sackt and shiverd downe.

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