The Odyssey


Preface to First Edition

This translation is intended to supplement a work entitled "The Authoress of the Odyssey", which I published in 1897. I could not give the whole "Odyssey" in that book without making it unwieldy, I therefore epitomised my translation, which was already completed and which I now publish in full.

I shall not here argue the two main points dealt with in the work just mentioned; I have nothing either to add to, or to withdraw from, what I have there written. The points in question are:

(1) that the "Odyssey" was written entirely at, and drawn entirely from, the place now called Trapani on the West Coast of Sicily, alike as regards the Phaeacian and the Ithaca scenes; while the voyages of Ulysses, when once he is within easy reach of Sicily, solve themselves into a periplus of the island, practically from Trapani back to Trapani, via the Lipari islands, the Straits of Messina, and the island of Pantellaria;

(2) That the poem was entirely written by a very young woman, who lived at the place now called Trapani, and introduced herself into her work under the name of Nausicaa.

The main arguments on which I base the first of these somewhat startling contentions, have been prominently and repeatedly before the English and Italian public ever since they appeared (without rejoinder) in the "Athenaeum" for January 30 and February 20, 1892. Both contentions were urged (also without rejoinder) in the Johnian "Eagle" for the Lent and October terms of the same year. Nothing to which I should reply has reached me from any quarter, and knowing how anxiously I have endeavoured to learn the existence of any flaws in my argument, I begin to feel some confidence that, did such flaws exist, I should have heard, at any rate about some of them, before now. Without, therefore, for a moment pretending to think that scholars generally acquiesce in my conclusions, I shall act as thinking them little likely so to gainsay me as that it will be incumbent upon me to reply, and shall confine myself to translating the "Odyssey" for English readers, with such notes as I think will be found useful. Among these I would especially call attention to one on xxii. 465-473 which Lord Grimthorpe has kindly allowed me to make public.

I have repeated several of the illustrations used in "The Authoress of the Odyssey", and have added two which I hope may bring the outer court of Ulysses' house more vividly before the reader. I should like to explain that the presence of a man and a dog in one illustration is accidental, and was not observed by me till I developed the negative. In an appendix I have also reprinted the paragraphs explanatory of the plan of Ulysses' house, together with the plan itself. The reader is recommended to study this plan with some attention.

In the preface to my translation of the "Iliad" I have given my views as to the main principles by which a translator should be guided, and need not repeat them here, beyond pointing out that the initial liberty of translating poetry into prose involves the continual taking of more or less liberty throughout the translation; for much that is right in poetry is wrong in prose, and the exigencies of readable prose are the first things to be considered in a prose translation. That the reader, however, may see how far I have departed from strict construe, I will print here Messrs. Butcher and Lang's translation of the sixty lines or so of the "Odyssey." Their translation runs:

Tell me, Muse, of that man, so ready at need, who wandered

far and wide, after he had sacked the sacred citadel of

Troy, and many were the men whose towns he saw and whose

mind he learnt, yea, and many the woes he suffered in his

heart on the deep, striving to win his own life and the

return of his company. Nay, but even so he saved not his

company, though he desired it sore. For through the

blindness of their own hearts they perished, fools, who

devoured the oxen of Helios Hyperion: but the god took from

them their day of returning. Of these things, goddess,

daughter of Zeus, whencesoever thou hast heard thereof,

declare thou even unto us.

Now all the rest, as many as fled from sheer destruction,

were at home, and had escaped both war and sea, but

Odysseus only, craving for his wife and for his homeward

path, the lady nymph Calypso held, that fair goddess, in her

hollow caves, longing to have him for her lord. But when

now the year had come in the courses of the seasons,

wherein the gods had ordained that he should return home to

Ithaca, not even there was he quit of labours, not even

among his own; but all the gods had pity on him save

Poseidon, who raged continually against godlike Odysseus,

till he came to his own country. Howbeit Poseidon had now

departed for the distant Ethiopians, the Ethiopians that are

sundered in twain, the uttermost of men, abiding some where

Hyperion sinks and some where he rises. There he looked to

receive his hecatomb of bulls and rams, there he made merry

sitting at the feast, but the other gods were gathered in

the halls of Olympian Zeus. Then among them the father of

men and gods began to speak, for he bethought him in his

heart of noble Aegisthus, whom the son of Agamemnon,

far-famed Orestes, slew. Thinking upon him he spake out among

the Immortals:

'Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For of

us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves,

through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows

beyond that which is ordained. Even as of late Aegisthus,

beyond that which was ordained, took to him the wedded wife

of the son of Atreus, and killed her lord on his return,

and that with sheer doom before his eyes, since we had

warned him by the embassy of Hermes the keen-sighted, the

slayer of Argos, that he should neither kill the man, nor

woo his wife. For the son of Atreus shall be avenged at the

hand of Orestes, so soon as he shall come to man's estate

and long for his own country. So spake Hermes, yet he

prevailed not on the heart of Aegisthus, for all his good

will; but now hath he paid one price for all.'

And the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, answered him, saying: 'O

father, our father Cronides, throned in the highest; that

man assuredly lies in a death that is his due; so perish

likewise all who work such deeds! But my heart is rent for

wise Odysseus, the hapless one, who far from his friends

this long while suffereth affliction in a sea-girt isle,

where is the navel of the sea, a woodland isle, and

therein a goddess hath her habitation, the daughter of the

wizard Atlas, who knows the depths of every sea, and

himself upholds the tall pillars which keep earth and sky

asunder. His daughter it is that holds the hapless man in

sorrow: and ever with soft and guileful tales she is

wooing him to forgetfulness of Ithaca. But Odysseus

yearning to see if it were but the smoke leap upwards from

his own land, hath a desire to die. As for thee, thine

heart regardeth it not at all, Olympian! What! Did not

Odysseus by the ships of the Argives make thee free

offering of sacrifice in the wide Trojan land? Wherefore

wast thou then so wroth with him, O Zeus?'

The "Odyssey" (as every one knows) abounds in passages borrowed from the "Iliad"; I had wished to print these in a slightly different type, with marginal references to the "Iliad," and had marked them to this end in my MS. I found, however, that the translation would be thus hopelessly scholasticised, and abandoned my intention. I would nevertheless urge on those who have the management of our University presses, that they would render a great service to students if they would publish a Greek text of the "Odyssey" with the Iliadic passages printed in a different type, and with marginal references. I have given the British Museum a copy of the "Odyssey" with the Iliadic passages underlined and referred to in MS.; I have also given an "Iliad" marked with all the Odyssean passages, and their references; but copies of both the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" so marked ought to be within easy reach of all students.

Any one who at the present day discusses the questions that have arisen round the "Iliad" since Wolf's time, without keeping it well before his reader's mind that the "Odyssey" was demonstrably written from one single neighbourhood, and hence (even though nothing else pointed to this conclusion) presumably by one person only - that it was written certainly before 750, and in all probability before 1000 B.C. - that the writer of this very early poem was demonstrably familiar with the "Iliad" as we now have it, borrowing as freely from those books whose genuineness has been most impugned, as from those which are admitted to be by Homer - any one who fails to keep these points before his readers, is hardly dealing equitably by them. Any one on the other hand, who will mark his "Iliad" and his "Odyssey" from the copies in the British Museum above referred to, and who will draw the only inference that common sense can draw from the presence of so many identical passages in both poems, will, I believe, find no difficulty in assigning their proper value to a large number of books here and on the Continent that at present enjoy considerable reputations. Furthermore, and this perhaps is an advantage better worth securing, he will find that many puzzles of the "Odyssey" cease to puzzle him on the discovery that they arise from over-saturation with the "Iliad."

Other difficulties will also disappear as soon as the development of the poem in the writer's mind is understood. I have dealt with this at some length in pp. 251-261 of "The Authoress of the Odyssey". Briefly, the "Odyssey" consists of two distinct poems: (1) The Return of Ulysses, which alone the Muse is asked to sing in the opening lines of the poem. This poem includes the Phaeacian episode, and the account of Ulysses' adventures as told by himself in Books ix.-xii. It consists of lines 1-79 (roughly) of Book i., of line 28 of Book v., and thence without intermission to the middle of line 187 of Book xiii., at which point the original scheme was abandoned.

(2) The story of Penelope and the suitors, with the episode of Telemachus' voyage to Pylos. This poem begins with line 80 (roughly) of Book i., is continued to the end of Book iv., and not resumed till Ulysses wakes in the middle of line 187, Book xiii., from whence it continues to the end of Book xxiv.

In "The Authoress of the Odyssey", I wrote:

the introduction of lines xi., 115-137 and of line ix.,

535, with the writing a new council of the gods at the

beginning of Book v., to take the place of the one that was

removed to Book i., 1-79, were the only things that were

done to give even a semblance of unity to the old scheme

and the new, and to conceal the fact that the Muse, after

being asked to sing of one subject, spend two-thirds of her

time in singing a very different one, with a climax for

which no-one has asked her. For roughly the Return occupies

eight Books, and Penelope and the Suitors sixteen.

I believe this to be substantially correct.

Lastly, to deal with a very unimportant point, I observe that the Leipsic Teubner edition of 894 makes Books ii. and iii. end with a comma. Stops are things of such far more recent date than the "Odyssey," that there does not seem much use in adhering to the text in so small a matter; still, from a spirit of mere conservatism, I have preferred to do so. Why [Greek] at the beginnings of Books ii. and viii., and [Greek], at the beginning of Book vii. should have initial capitals in an edition far too careful to admit a supposition of inadvertence, when [Greek] at the beginning of Books vi. and xiii., and [Greek] at the beginning of Book xvii. have no initial capitals, I cannot determine. No other Books of the "Odyssey" have initial capitals except the three mentioned unless the first word of the Book is a proper name.

S. BUTLER. July 25, 1900.

Preface to Second Edition

Butler's Translation of the "Odyssey" appeared originally in 1900, and The Authoress of the Odyssey in 1897. In the preface to the new edition of "The Authoress", which is published simultaneously with this new edition of the Translation, I have given some account of the genesis of the two books.

The size of the original page has been reduced so as to make both books uniform with Butler's other works; and, fortunately, it has been possible, by using a smaller type, to get the same number of words into each page, so that the references remain good, and, with the exception of a few minor alterations and rearrangements now to be enumerated so far as they affect the Translation, the new editions are faithful reprints of the original editions, with misprints and obvious errors corrected - no attempt having been made to edit them or to bring them up to date.

(a) The Index has been revised.

(b) Owing to the reduction in the size of the page it has been necessary to shorten some of the headlines, and here advantage has been taken of various corrections of and additions to the headlines and shoulder-notes made by Butler in his own copies of the two books.

(c) For the most part each of the illustrations now occupies a page, whereas in the original editions they generally appeared two on the page. It has been necessary to reduce the plan of the House of Ulysses.

On page 153 of "The Authoress" Butler says: "No great poet would compare his hero to a paunch full of blood and fat, cooking before the fire (xx, 24-28)." This passage is not given in the abridged Story of the "Odyssey" at the beginning of the book, but in the Translation it occurs in these words:

"Thus he chided with his heart, and checked it into endurance, but he tossed about as one who turns a paunch full of blood and fat in front of a hot fire, doing it first on one side then on the other, that he may get it cooked as soon as possible; even so did he turn himself about from side to side, thinking all the time how, single- handed as he was, he should contrive to kill so large a body of men as the wicked suitors."

It looks as though in the interval between the publication of "The Authoress" (1897) and of the Translation (1900) Butler had changed his mind; for in the first case the comparison is between Ulysses and a paunch full, etc., and in the second it is between Ulysses and a man who turns a paunch full, etc. The second comparison is perhaps one which a great poet might make.

In seeing the works through the press I have had the invaluable assistance of Mr. A. T. Bartholomew of the University Library, Cambridge, and of Mr. Donald S. Robertson, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. To both these friends I give my most cordial thanks for the care and skill exercised by them. Mr. Robertson has found time for the labour of checking and correcting all the quotations from and references to the "Iliad" and "Odyssey," and I believe that it could not have been better performed. It was, I know, a pleasure for him; and it would have been a pleasure also for Butler if he could have known that his work was being shepherded by the son of his old friend, Mr. H. R. Robertson, who more than half a century ago was a fellow-student with him at Cary's School of Art in Streatham Street, Bloomsbury.

HENRY FESTING JONES. 120 MAIDA VALE, W.9. 4th December, 1921.