On Translating Homer

On Translating Homer

On Translating Homer

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On Translating Homer, published in January 1861, was a printed version of the series of public lectures given by Matthew Arnold as Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 3 November 1860 to 18 December 1860.

Arnold's purpose was to discuss how his principles of literary criticism applied to the two Homeric epic and to the translation of a classical text. He comments with disapproval on John Ruskin's 1860 review article "The English translators of Homer" in the National Review. He gives much space to comparing and criticising already-published translations of the epics, notably

He adds polite comments on William Maginn's Homeric Ballads (which first appeared in Fraser's Magazine, where Arnold intended to publish these lectures).

Arnold identifies four essential qualities of Homer the poet to which the translator must do justice:<blockquote>that he is eminently rapid; that he is eminently plain and direct both in the evolution of his thought and in the expression of it, that is, both in his syntax and in his words; that he is eminently plain and direct in the substance of his thought, that is, in his matter and ideas; and, finally, that he is eminently noble</blockquote>

After a discussion of the meters employed by previous translators, and in other existing English narrative...
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