Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
BACK Ekirch states that “Virtually every twentieth-century translation of the Odyssey  has similarly misconstrued, in the fourth book, Homer's description of the "first sleep" of Poseiden's servant, Proteus” and he asks us to compare what he claims is “the correct early seventeenth-century English translation by George Chapman” (‘In his first sleepe’ here) to 20th century translations. (It is interesting to note that whilst Ekirch accuses 20th century translators of not being correct in their interpretation of Homer,  both Fitzgerald and Mandelbaum actually use the phrase ‘first sleep’ in their translations of Virgil Aenied (Fagles uses “first slumber”) and Ekirch even uses Fitzgerald 20th Century translation of the Aenied as evidence of the existence of the ‘first sleep’ in ancient times.) There are three reasons why it is possible question whether that Chapman’s is in fact the ‘correct translation’ as Ekirch asserts. Firstly the limitations imposed on his translation by writing in rhymed iambic pentameter means that the translation can not be completely faithfully to the original and this is confirmed by Chapman himself as, in the introductory letter, “To the Reader,” in his 1611 edition of the Iliad, he actually rejects the idea of verbatim translation on the grounds of inelegance: Their word-for-word traductions lose The free grace of their naturall Dialect And shame their Authors with a forced Glose here Secondly, it is interesting that one of the few translations that actually indicates the possibility of the existence of ‘first sleep’ in ancient times is thought by Ekirch to be the “correct” translation despite the limitations mentioned above. Because far from being a a20th century phenomena, as Ekirch would like us to believe,  nearly every translation of the Odyssey since 1665 has similarly “misconstrued” the meaning.  How is it that Chapman got it right and so many other got it wrong. 1665 ‘As soon as thou shalt spy the God a-sleep’ Ogilby here 1675 ‘Assoon as you shall see he is asleep’ Hobbes here 1800 ‘you see hime laid to sleep’ Giles here 1802 ‘When you will shall him strech’d’ Cowper here 1810 ‘But when with sleep oppressed he close his eyes’ Lloyd here 1834 ‘When first you see him stretch'd in slumber laid,’ Sotheby here 1845 ‘secure he lies, And leaden slumers press his drooping eyes’ Pope here 1853 ‘And when thou shalt have first seen him laid to sleep’ Buckley here 1857 ‘In his first sleep’ Hooper here 1861 ‘soon as you see him couched’ Worsley here 1863 ‘Now soon as e'er you spy him fallen asleep’ Norgate here 1871 ‘as ye behold him stretched out at length’ Bryant here 1879 ‘And when thou seest him in slumber bound’ Schomberg here 1880 ‘Him when thou seest him addressed to sleep, and well in slumber laid’ Du Cane here 1880 ‘is fallen on deep sleep’ Avia here 1886 ‘fully lulled to sleep’ The Earl of Carnarvon  here 1887 ‘he lieth their asleep’ Morris here 1900 ‘The moment you see that he is asleep’ Butler  here 1903 ’But when you see him sleeping’ Mackail  here 1904 ‘is fallen on deep sleep’ Way  here 1919 ‘Now so soon as you see him laid to rest’ Murray here  1921 ‘As soon as you see him sleeping Palmer’ here 1932 ‘when you see him settled down’ Lawrence here 1946 ‘Directly you see him settled’, Rieu here 1953 ‘But so soon as ever ye see him reclin’d on the sand’ Andrew 1965 ‘Next, as soon as you see that he is asleep’ Lattimore 1967 ‘Then he lay down himself’ Cook 1980 “As soon as you see him lying down” Shewring here  1990 ‘When he lies down to rest’ Mandelbaum page 76 1996 ‘Soon as you see him bedded down; Fagles page 137 2001 Then when you see him make his bed Eickoff p101 2002 ‘Just at the time when first you observe him lying in slumber’ Merrill 2010 ‘as soon as you see him stretched out to sleep’ Johnston page 79 Fitzgerald 1961 does not actually give a translation of the phrase in common with others e.g. Cowper 1809 here, Alford 1861 here; Butcher 1906 here; Cotterill 1911 here,  Dunmore 1966 here  Rees 1977 here And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it seems to be Chapman himself, along with Ekirch, who misconstrues the original meaning given that in this passage ‘first sleepe’ actually happens during the day, as Cook for example says ‘at full light’. At full light the old man came from the sea and found his seals Well-nourished; he went over them all and counted their number And us he numbered first among the seals, nor did it occur To his heart that there was a trick. Then he lay down himself. But we rushed on him with a shout and threw our hands Around him. The old man did not forget his wily skill. First of all he became a lion with a mighty beard, And then a serpent, and a panther, and a great boar. Then he became watery wet, and a lofty-leaved tree. But we held on firmly with an enduring heart And when the old man of cunning skill was exhausted, He spoke out to me and questioned me with a speech: ‘Which of the gods, son of Atreus, has devised plots for you That you catch me in an ambush against my will? What do you need?’ Therefore this cannot be the same phenomena as the ‘first sleep’ proposed by Ekirch i.e. the first period of nocturnal ‘segmented sleep’. It is thus more correct to the first part or deepest sleep that other translators have alluded to in the translations. Chapman's Homer: The Iliad, The Odyssey and the Lesser Homerica, Allardyce Nicoll, ed., 2 vols. (Princeton, N.J., 1967), 2: 73. “In his first sleep, call up your hardiest cheer” here BACK
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2018