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Today is Friday, December 08, 2023 at 09:55 PM.

Clarity is closely related to accuracy and refers to how well the translator is able to bring the world of the text alive for the reader, making that world neither so familiar that the reader fails to note the essential differences between his or her culture and the culture represented by the text, nor so foreign that the world of the text is too opaque to be understood.

Readability refers to how well a translation of a prose text flows and a poetic text "sings." Does the translation reflect, to the extent that it can in English, the rhythm, sound, feel, and speed of the original? There is obviously room for subjective judgment on all of these features, but a brief look at the opening lines of three respected translations of the Iliad will illustrate some of the features we look for when considering adopting a translation in Hum 110.

    Lattimore, 1951:
    Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus
    and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaeans,
    hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
    of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
    of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
    since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
    Atreus' son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.

    Fagles, 1990:
    Rage--Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles,
    murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
    hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
    great fighters' souls, but made their bodies carrion,
    feasts for the dogs and birds,
    and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
    Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
    Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.

    Lombardo, 1997:
    Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage,
    Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
    Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
    Of heroes into Hades' dark,
    And left their bodies to rot as feasts
    for dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done.
    Begin with the clash between Agamemnon--v The Greek warlord--and godlike Achilles.
Each of the translators has made a series of choices in translating Homer into English. All of the translators are attempting to be accurate, clear, and readable, but they express these qualities in different ways.

Lattimore's translation has been often praised for its accuracy and poetic qualities. It manages to be literal without being stiff and matches Homer's phrasing closely. It also uses a number of devices to maintain the "strangeness" of Homer: Achilleus is Achilleus (reflecting the original Greek), not Achilles; Hades is mentioned in line 4 without further explanation; and in line 7 Lattimore renders the Greek faithfully with the patronymic "Atreus' son," rather than substituting the name Agamemnon as the other two translators do. Lattimore, like the other translators, decided not to render Homer's dactylic hexameter in his translation into a strict English meter, such as dactylic hexameter or iambic pentameter, but instead chose a naturally stressed free verse. In Lattimore's case, he aimed at a regular six-beat stressed line, letting the natural stresses of the English words carry the rhythm along. For example, the first line can be read and stressed as follows in English (an accent ['] mark indicates which syllables are stressed):

Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus

The meter is beautiful to the ear, especially when longer passages are read aloud in English. Finally, Lattimore's translation matches Homer's Greek line for line. For example, Lattimore's Iliad Book I is 611 lines long, the same length as Homer's. In contrast, Fagles' Iliad Book I is 745 lines long, Lombardo's 643.