Iliad of Homer
translated by Rodney Merrill
University of Michigan 2007
Sing now, goddess, the
wrath of Achilles the scion of Peleus,
ruinous rage which brought the Achaians uncounted afflictions;
many the powerful souls it sent to the dwelling of Hades,
those of the heroes, and spoil for the dogs it made of their bodies,
plunder for all of the birds, and the purpose of Zeus was accomplished—
sing from the time when first stood hostile, starting the conflict,
Atreus’ scion, the lord of the people, and noble Achilles.
Which of the gods brought strife to the two men, set them to fighting?
It was the offspring of Leto and Zeus; for enraged at the king, he
roused in the army a baneful disease, and the people were slaughtered,
all on account of his priest, whom Atreus’ scion dishonored,
Chryses. For he had arrived at the swift ships of the Achaians,
seeking to free his daughter and bringing a measureless ransom,
bearing in hand bay-garlands of great far-shooting Apollo
wound on a gold-wrought staff, and the pled with them, all the Achaians,
but above all the two scions of Atreus, marshals of people:
“Atreus’ scions as well as the rest, you well-greaved Achaians,
now may the gods who dwell in Olympian palaces let you
ransack the city of Priam and safely arrive in your homeland;
but as for my dear child, set her free and accept the ransom,
showing respect for the scion of Zeus, far-shooting Apollo.”
Thereat all of the other Achaians were shouting approval,
saying to honor the priest and accept the magnificent ransom;
yet this pleased not the spirit of Atreus’ son Agamemnon;
roughly he sent him away, and he laid a strong order upon him:
“Old man, never may I by the hollow ships come upon you,
either now lingering on or returning again in the future,
lest no help to protect you the god’s staff prove, nor his garland.
Her I will not give freedom; before, old age will assail her
there in our house in Argos and far from the land of her fathers,
where she will weave at a loom and will share my bed and affection.
Go now, do not provoke me, that you might go the more safely.”
So he spoke, and the old man feared, and obeyed what he said and
silently went by the shore of the deep sea rumbling and booming.
Loudly the old man, once he had gone to a distance, addressed his
prayer to the lordly Apollo, whom Leto of beautiful hair bore:
“Hear me, god of the silvery bow, who stride around Chrysè
and around Killa the sacred, and Ténedos mightily govern,
Smíntheus, if a delectable temple I ever have built you,
or if savory fat thigh-pieces I ever have burnt you
either of bulls or of goats, then bring this boon to fulfillment:
make those Dánaäns pay for my tears by shooting your arrows.”
Merrill urges his readers to “read aloud as much of [the translation] as possible and subvocalize the rest” because “This epic originated as song, and my aim has been to bring its aural quality—its music—into English so far as I could.” In a clear and interesting discussion of Homeric meter he explains what he has done to give the reader a sense of that music by attempting an English approximation of the Greek dactylic hexameter. Some scholarly reviewers have highly praised Merrill’s translation for its musicality, but I find the distinctly unmodern diction and syntax constantly interfering with my enjoyment of the text’s sound, although I must confess I have probably not recited a sufficient number of lines out loud to accustom myself to the poem’s oddities.
For a longer preview sample of Merrill’s translation, please use the following link: Merrill Iliad.