This is my third time reading Homer’s Iliad. I read Robert Fitzgerald’s translation in college. In 2008, after reading his rendition of the Odyssey, I turned to Robert Fagles. This time, I read a much older version, done by Edward Smith-Stanley, the 14th Earl of Derby. He published his work in 1864. He was also a UK prime minster, serving three, non-consecutive terms. He studied at Eton and Oxford before venturing into politics. I wish he’d stuck with classics and published an edition of the Odyssey.
I didn’t like the Iliad the first time I read it; however, Derby’s translation blew me away. It read so much faster than Fitzgerald’s, yet kept close to Homer’s original intent, as far as I can tell from reading multiple translations and studying a bit of Homeric Greek. Fitzgerald’s translation was good, but it seemed stilted in its word choice and the pacing stuttered at times. Fagles seemed to write his own interpretation of the story, rather than translate it (like Pope did with his version of the Odyssey).
As an example, see the various sections that describe Achilles’s new shield in Book 18 of the Iliad. It just sounds so much better in this translation than in Fitzgerald’s or Fagles’s versions.
When I read Fagles’s version, I gave the book only two stars. After finishing this one, I gave it five stars. I savored each book (chapter) and truly was sad as I neared the end. I wish the 14th Earl of Derby had translate the Odyssey so I could turn next to that.
For more on the Iliad and its translators, see this excellent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education: http://m.chronicle.com/article/articl…