Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just back from a week languishing on the shores of the Adriatic, Croatia to be exact. Sun, sea and sand (or at least rocks). One of the books I took with me was "War Music" Christopher Logue's celebrated versions of the Iliad. This has been reviewed on Litter. Logue makes skillful use of anachronisms to situate the concerns of the protagonists in a zone which encompasses our own concerns (as does Kelvin Corcoran's version of the Paris / Helen story, as noted here). Logue's verse isn't particularly innovative, being mainly a series of variations on iambic pentameter, but he has a good ear, and the immediacy of the poem, and it's pacing, is just right. Logue provides a sonorous rhetoric for his bombastic boy's-own heroes which still manages to convince as realistic speech:

My wedded Illians -
Cool Dardan North, dear Ida, dearest south;
And you who come from Lycia and Cyprus:
I reign with understanding for you all.
Trojan Antenor, being eldest, shall speak first.
Our question is:
How can we win this war?

'And I reply', Antenor says,
'How can we lose it?'

This translation is one for our times; the Trojan Anchises' description of the Greeks could be applied to certain parties on the contemporary scene, though I leave you, dear reader, to choose which ones:

They are a swarm of lawless malcontents
Hatched from the slag we cast five centuries ago,
Tied to the whim of their disgusting gods,
Knowing no quietude until they take
All quiet from the world. Ambitious, driven, thieves.
Our speech like footless crockery in their mouths.
Their way of life, perpetual war.
Inspired by violence, compelled by hate,
Peace is a crime to them, and offers of diplomacy
Like giving strawberries to a dog.

Logue is in his mid-eighties now, and it looks unlikely that he'll translate the whole poem; but it seems appropriate for our post-modern condition that our age's translation of Homer should be fragmentary and incomplete.

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