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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by
FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO., in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
AVING now nearly completed my translation of the
Iliad of Homer, I sit down to write the Preface, that it may be prefixed to the first volume. To this task of translation, which I began in 1865, I afterwards gave myself the more willingly because it helped in some measure to divert my mind from a great domestic sorrow. I am not sure that, when it shall be concluded, it may not cost me some regret to part with so interesting a companion as the old Greek poet, whose thoughts I have, for four years past, been occupied, though with interruptions, in the endeavor to transfer from his own grand and musical Greek to our less sonorous but still manly and flexible tongue.
In what I shall say of my own translation I do not mean to speak in disparagement of any of the previous English versions of the Iliad, nor to extenuate my obligations to some of them. I acknowledge that although Homer is, as Cowper has well observed, the most perspicuous of poets, I have been sometimes, perhaps often, guided by the labors of my predecessors to a better mode of dealing with certain refractory passages of my author than I should otherwise have found. Let me, without detracting from their merits, state what I have endeavored to do. I have endeavored to be strictly faithful in my rendering; to add nothing of my own, and to give the reader, so far as our language would allow, all that I found in the original. There are, however, in Homer, frequently recurring, certain expressions which are merely a kind of poetical finery, introduced when they are convenient to fill out a line or to give it a sonorous termination, and omitted when they are not needed for this purpose. The Greeks, for example, almost whenever they are spoken of, are magnanimous, or valiant, or warlike, or skilled in taming steeds: the Trojans are magnanimous also, and valiant, and warlike, and equally eminent in horsemanship. The warriors of the Iliad are all sons of some magnanimous or warlike parent. Achilles is the son of Peleus, and Peleus is magnanimous; and these epithets are repeated upon page after page throughout the poem. Achilles is spoken of as swift-footed or godlike almost whenever he appears, and sometimes is honored by both epithets. Hector is illustrious, and knightly, and distinguished by his beamy crest. Even the coxcomb Paris, for whom Homer seems to entertain a proper contempt, is godlike. These complimentary additions to the name of the warrior are, however, dispensed with whenever the hexameter is rounded to a well-sounding conclusion without them. Where they appear in the Greek, I have in nearly all instances retained them, making Achilles swift-footed and Ulysses fertile in resources, to the end of the poem; but in a very few cases, where they embarrassed the versification, I have used the liberty taken by Homer himself, and left them out. Everywhere else it has been my rule not