Sunday, May 4, 2014

Translating Homer: It's Funny Because it's True...

Stephen Butler Leacock, a Canadian economist and humorist, provides a delicious parody of Homer in the following:

"Then he too Ajax on the one hand leaped (or possibly jumped) into the fight wearing on the other hand, yes certainly a steel corselet (or possibly a bronze under tunic) and on his head of course, yes without doubt he had a helmet with a tossing plume taken from the mane (or perhaps extracted from the tail) of some horse which once fed along the banks of the Scamander (and it sees the herd and raises its head and paws the ground) and in his hand a shield worth a hundred oxen and on his knees too especially in particular greaves made by some cunning artificer (or perhaps blacksmith) and he blows the fire and it is hot. Thus Ajax leapt (or, better, was propelled from behind), into the fight."

Homer did indeed produce beautiful poetry. But if you've ever translated him for the original Greek, you got at least a giggle out of Leacock's rendering.