O Muse, tell of
The man diverse in wisdom,
And much, in his life, with sorrow.
He helped, with his might, to have Troy fall,
Troy with its meaning, Troy seen sadly by destiny.
Her divinely built wall stood no more.
This man wandered from land to land,
Observing as he went from place to place.
The ways of men he noted, how their lives were.
Oh, the seas in tumult that he contested were innumerable.
All, so that, safe with his friends, he come to be on the shore he saw first.
The trying of this man was vain.
The god of the sun
Became angry with those men of his who meddled with the herds that were the god's.
This god ordained that these not reach
The shore of their first mornings.
O muse of heaven, take some of what happened,
Now lying within fate as record,
And narrate it to our world.
|From THE POEMS LOOKED AT: or, NOTES|
Towards Homer: Free Verse, Beginning with the First Lines of Pope's Translation of the Odyssey. 1966. The beginning of Pope's Translation of the Odyssey has a trim power and does have more of Homer's controlled musical, geographical, and mythological wandering than is usually granted. Still, there is no doubt that a freedom, a casualness, a daringness in space and surmise Homer has, is not in the couplets of the Augustan major poet. It is also quite just to think of Chapman as too swarming and uncertain, and of the blank verse of Cowper and Bryant as somewhat too dignified in blank verse watchfulness. Putting Homer into English hexameters hasn't pleased sufficiently so far; and those pleased by Homer translated into archaic and mobile prose, would still say something more was possible. So what can Free Verse do? What are the possibilities of Free Verse as such and in Translation? Free Verse corresponds to the casual and the controlled; and the casual and controlled were in the mind of the person best called Homer. Greek is quite good with the casual and controlled. You can begin with Pope's Translation and reach for the Greek. Free Verse plays seriously. Here Free Verse plays with lines of Pope in order to approach the effect of the Greek.
From Hail, American Development
© 1968 by Eli Siegel