...And—tanupeplous tendistolic—color-lit Helen of the flowing robe—organza-rainbow tulle-tumble!—sky-fused earth-sparked—undimmed, enfamed, celebrated-wide, acclaimed among women, word-trading, ripe-replied to him:


“That is colossal, mighty Ajax, mobile, concrete battle-bunker, shutter-down of the Akhaioi,

and Idomeneus Timber-Tough, opposite, stands among, motivates, moves through the Kretans, glowing, august, like a god,

sky-striking, earth-entrenched, stark, and flanking him, braced, bucked up, the Kretan chiefs, bright-sustained, are gathered.

Many times Menelaos, precious to, prized by Red-Splashed Ares, entertained and welcomed him politely in our home, whenever he came from Krete.

And now I can see all the other such soldiers—dizzy-causing dazzle-whipping—bright-eyed Akhaioi,

whom I could well identify, spot, and tell you their names,

but I cannot mark, detect, distinguish, make out two outstanding marshals of the battle-people,—cosmotropic geminal-jeweled order-bright:

broncobuster Kastor Beaver, and the brisk snapping boxer, good with his mitts—topnotch puncher bang-up slugger—Poludeukes, Many-Pleaser, Candy Man, the mask-painted tag-team switchback gods,

my own dear brothers beloved, whom the same sweet mother bore.

Either they failed, deferred, to follow and trail enfoamed the silver-flash fleet from—moon-crashed star-colored—trees and rocks in phantom twilight—blossom-lovely jewel-tunnelled Lakedaimon, Sky-Rattled,

or they did indeed follow, and co-sail here in their—pontoporous marivading—quick and sleek, halopellent salt-banging cobalt-keeled hard-driving sea-piercing ships,

but now, in turn, they're loath, unwilling, to plunge and career into bright-helmed warriors,—katadune submerge—dive into combat, blades and bullets, bolt unbaffled, dash undazed into—metal-biting organ-mauling bone-exposing bowel-baring—body-dropping soul-slit man-battle,

fearing disgrace and tremendous blame appended, stuck, attached to me—immersed in remorse, swimming in shame, piranhaed by compunction, overwhelmed, undertowed, circumstained.”


Thus she spoke, but already the rich—viviparous, phusizoic—grain-birthing animal-generating barley-sprouting earth—body-absorber carcass-keeper bone-box—bound them below,

held them down there permanently, loss-enlatched, in Lakedaimon Sky-Rattled—sunray-dwindle jaguar-scream toucan-swish iguana-gleam jungle-crash moonbeam-brush bongo-batter—cymbal-sizzle orbit-swing planet-glow—right in their fond dear fatherland.

...τὸν δ' Ἑλένη τανύπεπλος ἀμείβετο δῖα γυναικῶν:



οὗτος δ' Αἴας ἐστὶ πελώριος ἕρκος Ἀχαιῶν:


Ἰδομενεὺς δ' ἑτέρωθεν ἐνὶ Κρήτεσσι θεὸς ὣς


ἕστηκ', ἀμφὶ δέ μιν Κρητῶν ἀγοὶ ἠγερέθονται.


πολλάκι μιν ξείνισσεν ἀρηί̈φιλος Μενέλαος


οἴκῳ ἐν ἡμετέρῳ ὁπότε Κρήτηθεν ἵκοιτο.


νῦν δ' ἄλλους μὲν πάντας ὁρῶ ἑλίκωπας Ἀχαιούς,


οὕς κεν ἐὺ̈ γνοίην καί τ' οὔνομα μυθησαίμην:


δοιὼ δ' οὐ δύναμαι ἰδέειν κοσμήτορε λαῶν


Κάστορά θ' ἱππόδαμον καὶ πὺξ ἀγαθὸν Πολυδεύκεα


αὐτοκασιγνήτω, τώ μοι μία γείνατο μήτηρ.


ἢ οὐχ ἑσπέσθην Λακεδαίμονος ἐξ ἐρατεινῆς,


ἢ δεύρω μὲν ἕποντο νέεσσ' ἔνι ποντοπόροισι,


νῦν αὖτ' οὐκ ἐθέλουσι μάχην καταδύμεναι ἀνδρῶν


αἴσχεα δειδιότες καὶ ὀνείδεα πόλλ' ἅ μοί ἐστιν.



ὣς φάτο, τοὺς δ' ἤδη κάτεχεν φυσίζοος αἶα


ἐν Λακεδαίμονι αὖθι φίλῃ ἐν πατρίδι γαίῃ.

Translator's Note

The aim of my take on the Iliad is to create an effect of pure rhythm and music using words worthy of the task. My approach has been to try to understand the Greek as clearly as I can, and then to create in English a feeling similar to that which the Greek has upon me, i.e., a sense of utter and supreme wonder.  

Matthew Arnold once said that the translation of Homer should be “rapid,” “plain,” “direct” and “noble.” I say it should be wonderful. In the preface to his own 1715 translation, Alexander Pope calls the Iliad a “wild paradise” containing “unequalled fire and rapture,” and that the “faculty [of  invention] was like a powerful star, which, in the violence of its course, drew all things within its vortex.” In a sense, I was sucked into the vortex, and simply have produced my impression of that experience, as disorienting as it may seem. Everything that I have ever experienced influences my work. 

What makes my particular retranslation distinct from previous versions? Compare and contrast.

James Wilcox


In the Classroom