Friday, December 30, 2005
New Year, New Dreams
As I suppose comes with a new semester, I have had dreams about the first day two nights in the year. In these dreams (nightmares?) I remember a few things that I have planned to do on the first day but forget about those big things, like a new seating chart or going over the policies/procedures again (and emphasizing those that REALLY need some work). I have a running to do list that will never get done. Things I want to do before I have to return to work. I return on Monday, but thankfully students do not return until Thursday.

I have been thinking about how to approach teaching the Odyssey. My goals include giving the students a good overview of what the story is and a sense of what the story actually is (that it is an old story, written originally in Greek, translated many many times.) I also want to emphasize how current writers, tv writers, pop culture people use references from The Odyssey. So I collected the first stanza or so of the Odyssey from several versions. About 6 english, one Greek, and one French, just for fun. I want to introduce these all and have students look for similarities and differences in each version before we begin reading. I hope this will really cement the idea that this story wasn't written directly from someone's head into their textbook. If they think that, I will have certainly failed. Otherwise I think it will be going ok.

The Odyssey: Many Versions – all Book I

andra+ moi ennepe++, mousa, polutropon+, hos mala polla

planchthê, epei Troiês hieron ptoliethron epersen:

pollôn d' anthrôpôn iden astea kai noon egnô,

polla d' ho g' en pontôi pathen algea hon kata thumon,


arnumenos hên te psuchên kai noston hetairôn.

all' oud' hôs hetarous errusato, hiemenos per:

autôn gar spheterêisin atasthaliêisin olonto,
nêpioi, hoi kata bous Huperionos Êelioio
êsthion: autar ho toisin apheileto nostimon êmar.


tôn hamothen ge, thea, thugater Dios, eipe kai hêmin.

      The man, O Muse, inform, that many a way 
      Wound with his wisdom to his wished stay;
      That wandered wondrous far, when he the town
      Of sacred Troy had sack'd and shivered down;
      The cities of a world of nations,                                5
      With all their manners, minds, and fashions,
      He saw and knew; at sea felt many woes,
      Much care sustained, to save from overthrows
      Himself and friends in their retreat for home;
      But so their fates he could not overcome,                       10
      Though much he thirsted it. O men unwise,
      They perish'd by their own impieties,
      That in their hunger's rapine would not shun
      The oxen of the lofty-going Sun,
      Who therefore from their eyes the day bereft                    15
      Of safe return. These acts, in some part left,
      Tell us, as others, deified Seed of Jove.

Chapman, George, trans. (1559?–1634).

The man for wisdom's various arts renown'd,
Long exercised in woes, O Muse! resound;
Who, when his arms had wrought the destined fall
Of sacred Troy, and razed her heaven-built wall,
Wandering from clime to clime, observant stray'd,
Their manners noted, and their states survey'd,
On stormy seas unnumber'd toils he bore,
Safe with his friends to gain his natal shore:
Vain toils! their impious folly dared to prey
On herds devoted to the god of day;
The god vindictive doom'd them never more
(Ah, men unbless'd!) to touch that natal shore.
Oh, snatch some portion of these acts from fate,
Celestial Muse! and to our world relate.   Translated by Pope (1688-1744)
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.
                  Butcher (1850-1910) and Lang (1844-1912)Translation

Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and
wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities
did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and
customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea
while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home;
but do what he might he could not save his men, for they
perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of
the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from ever
reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, oh daughter
of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.

Translated by Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

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.

Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,

many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,

fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.

But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove—

the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all

the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun

and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.

Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,

start from where you will—sing for our time too.

Robert Fagles translation © 1996

"Oh Goddess of Inspiration, help me sing of wily Odysseus, that master of schemes!" So Homer begins his epic, though the hero himself is still offstage.

Dis-moi, Muse, cet homme subtil qui erra si longtemps, après qu'il
eut renversé la citadelle sacrée de Troie Et il vit les cités de
peuples nombreux, et il connut leur esprit; et, dans son coeur, il
endura beaucoup de maux, sur la mer, pour sa propre vie et le
retour de ses compagnons Mais il ne les sauva point, contre son
désir; et ils périrent par leur impiété, les insensés! ayant mangé
les boeufs de Hèlios Hypérionade.   
        (French Version) Traduction Charles-René-Marie Leconte de L'Isle


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