Monday, September 17, 2018

Agamemnon: Some translators

A few basic resources for Agamemnon.

For the text in Greek with two English translations, one by Robert Browning, see the Agamemnon on the Perseus site, where the Greek text is hyperlinked to four dictionaries. The other translation there, by Herbert Weir Smyth, is the one used in the Loeb edition of the play. That dual language Loeb edition can be found online in a pdf format here.

There's also a version of Smyth that was revised by Nagy and others. Key words are often allowed to remain in Greek, which can be helpful. That revision is here.

Clytemnestra killed by Orestes

Below is a comparison of lines 8-20 - these are difficult, highly figurative lines, a challenge for any reader:

Here's Browning's version:

And now on ward I wait the torch's token,
The glow of fire, shall bring from Troia message
And word of capture: so prevails audacious
The man's-way-planning hoping heart of woman.
But when I, driven from night-rest, dew-drenched hold to
This couch of mine -- not looked upon by visions,
Since fear instead of sleep still stands beside me,
So as that fast I fix in sleep no eyelids --
And when to sing or chirp a tune I fancy,
For slumber such song-remedy infusing,
I wail then, for this House's fortune groaning,
Not, as of old, after the best ways governed.
Now, lucky be deliverance from these labours,
At good news -- the appearing dusky fire!

Here's Smyth's prose:

So now I am still watching for the signal-flame, the gleaming fire that is to bring news from Troy and [10] tidings of its capture. For thus commands my queen, woman in passionate heart and man in strength of purpose. And whenever I make here my bed, restless and dank with dew and unvisited by dreams—for instead of sleep fear stands ever by my side, [15] so that I cannot close my eyelids fast in sleep—and whenever I care to sing or hum (and thus apply an antidote of song to ward off drowsiness), then my tears start forth, as I bewail the fortunes of this house of ours, not ordered for the best as in days gone by. [20] But tonight may there come a happy release from my weary task! May the fire with its glad tidings flash through the gloom!

There is also a free Google Book version of an older (1889) edition of the play. The Greek text with notes in English is followed by a translation by A. W. Verrall. It can be found here.

For some basic orientation and sensible reading, perhaps a good place to begin would be H.D.F. Kitto's two books: Greek Tragedy, and Form and Meaning in Drama: A Study of Six Greek Plays and of Hamlet.