Alexander Pope: The Poetry of Allusion

By Reuben A. Brower | Go to book overview
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the whole translation. Epithets are dropped or made more vivid, repetitions suppressed or made more palatable by variation, and -- less often than is usually supposed -- 'low' expressions are passed over or given 'lustre' by being surrounded with more magnificent diction than in the original. Pope's comment on his success in copying one of Homer's finer metrical effects may serve as a statement of his larger aim as a translator:

It is not often that a Translator can do this Justice to Homer, but he
must be content to imitate these Graces and Proprieties at more dis-
tance, by endeavouring at something parallel, tho' not the same.
(XIII, n. XXXIX v. 721)

If we read Pope's Iliad in the context of contemporary theory and of the heroic tradition as it was renewed in the liveliest of his predecessors from Virgil to Dryden, and if we compare the result with our own best reading of the original, we may accept Pope's phrase as a just estimate of his achievement: 'Something parallel, tho' not the same'.


But Sarpedon, when he saw his free-girt companions going

down underneath the hands of Menoitios' son Patroklos, 420
called aloud in entreaty upon the godlike Lykians: 'Shame, you Lykians, where are you running to? You must be fierce now, for I myself will encounter this man, so I may find out who this is who has so much strength and has done so much evil
to the Trojans, since many and brave are those whose knees he 425
has unstrung.'

He spoke, and sprang to the ground in all his arms from the chariot, and on the other side Patroklos when he saw him leapt down from his chariot. They as two hook-clawed beak-bent vultures above a tall rock face, high-screaming, go for each other,

so now these two, crying aloud, encountered together. 430
And watching them the son of devious-devising Kronos was pitiful, and spoke to Hera, his wife and his sister: 'Ah me, that it is destined that the dearest of men, Sarpedon, must go down under the hands of Menoitios' son Patroklos.
The heart in my breast is balanced between two ways as I ponder, 435


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Alexander Pope: The Poetry of Allusion


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