26MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

So, the Odyssey is a sacred text for me.  Here is the story of a courageous (if devious) man and a loyal wife and mother.  Buffeted by fate, world war and surrounded by enemies they strive against all odds and for half their lives to get back together and restore their domestic peace.  What else do you need in a story.  Well, an amorous witch, a Cyclops and a journey to hell and back couldn’t hurt.  I translated several chapters with the help of a good Homeric dictionary about forty years ago.  Now that my brain is mush I look for a good translation.  I prefer the version by Robert Fitzgerald  but this is an older English version by the poet Samuel Butler that is in the public domain.  Here’s the beginning of the poem and the Greek text of the same for atmosphere.

Tell me, O Muse, of that many-sided hero who traveled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the people with whose customs and thinking he was acquainted; many things he suffered at sea while seeking to save his own life and to achieve the safe homecoming of his companions; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer recklessness in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Helios; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, as you have told those who came before me, about all these things, O daughter of Zeus, starting from whatsoever point you choose.

ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ

πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν:

πολλῶν δ᾽ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω,

πολλὰ δ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμόν,

ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων.

ἀλλ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ὣς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ:

αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο,

νήπιοι, οἳ κατὰ βοῦς Ὑπερίονος Ἠελίοιο

ἤσθιον: αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀφείλετο νόστιμον ἦμαρ.

τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν.

14MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

(I once took a class on Homeric Greek from a very distinguished professor by the name of Seth Benardette.  Besides many other strange characteristics, he wore a seersucker suit every day to class that summer.  I’ve always wondered if it was just one suit.  Now, Bernardette very strongly believed that great human wisdom can be extracted from Homer’s Iliad.  Not being a renowned hellenist nor any kind but a practical philosopher I suppose I should defer to his superior judgement.  But I’ve always liked the Odyssey better.  I think this scene where Odysseus meets up with his dog that hasn’t seen him in twenty years since it was just a pup is more interesting than Achilles and his offended pride.)

 

As they were thus talking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argos, whom Odysseus had bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any work out of him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come and draw it away to manure the great field; and he was full of fleas. As soon as he saw Odysseus standing there, he dropped his ears and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When Odysseus saw the dog on the other side of the yard, he dashed a tear from his eyes without Eumaios seeing it, and said:

“Eumaios, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap: his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept merely for show?”

“This hound,” answered Eumaios, “belonged to him who has died in a far country. If he were what he was when Odysseus left for Troy, he would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its tracks. But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their work when their master’s hand is no longer over them, for Zeus takes half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him.”

As he spoke he went inside the buildings to the room where the suitors were, but Argos died as soon as he had recognized his master.

 

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