The Odyssey by Homer — Invocations of the Muse Translations
April 5th, 2019
The Invocation ritual is a conscious, focused way of calling up images: Pray to harness the energy of the Muses, direct it inwards such to embody it, and then becomes the vehicle for the story.
"The odd thing is that once I say the prayer, I feel like the matters I’m about to craft are more serious, and so I am far less tempted to check my e-mail or FB or Tweet or what have you. I’m all about the work." — Unknown
These are my favorite invocations from the various translations of The Odyssey, by Homer.
T.E. Lawrence translation (1932)
O Divine Poesy
Goddess-daughter of Zeus,
Sustain for me
This song of the various-minded man,
Who after he had plundered
The innermost citadel of hallowed Troy
Was made to stray grievously
About the coasts of men,
The sport of their customs good or bad,
While his heart
Through all the seafaring
Ached in an agony to redeem himself
And bring his company safe home.
Vain hope—for them!
For his fellows he strove in vain,
Their own witlessness cast them away;
To destroy for meat
The oxen of the most exalted sun!
Wherefore the sun-god blotted out
The day of their return.
Make the tale live for us
In all its many bearings,
Robert Fagles translation (1996)
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns ...
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove —
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story. Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will — sing for our time too.
Emily Wilson translation (2018)
Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,
they ate the Sun God’s cattle, and the god
kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning.
Alexander Pope translation (1725)
The man for wisdom’s various arts renown’d,
Long exercised in woes, O Muse! Resound;
Who, when his arms had wrought the destined fall
Of sacred Troy, and razed her heaven-built wall,
Wandering from clime to clime, observant stray’d,
Their manners noted, and their states survey’d,
On stormy seas unnumber’d toils he bore,
Safe with his friends to gain his natal shore:
Vain toils! their impious folly dared to prey
On herds devoted to the god of day;
The god vindictive doom’d them never more
(Ah, men unbless’d!) to touch that natal shore.
Oh, snatch some portion of these acts from fate,
Celestial Muse! and to our world relate.
University of Northwestern Chicago Homer Translation (unknown)
Tell me, Muse, about the wily man who wandered
long and far after he sacked the sacred citadel of Troy.
He saw the cities and knew the minds of many men,
but suffered at sea many sorrows in his heart,
struggling for his life and comrades’ return home.
But he didn’t save his comrades, much though he wanted to,
for by their own recklessness they perished,
childish fools, who devoured the cattle of the Sun, Hyperion,
who then deprived them of their homecoming day.
Tell us also, goddess, daughter of Zeus of sundry things.
ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ
πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε:
πολλῶν δ' ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω,
πολλὰ δ' ὅ γ' ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμόν,
ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων.
ἀλλ' οὐδ' ὣς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ:
αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο
νήπιοι, οἳ κατὰ βοῦς Ὑπερίονος Ἠελίοιο
ἤσθιον: αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀφείλετο νόστιμον ἦμαρ.
τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν.
Robert Fitzgerald translation (1961)
Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy.
He saw the townlands and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered many bitter nights and days
in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
But not by will nor valor could he save them,
for their own recklessness destroyed them all –
children and fools, they killed and feasted on
the cattle of Lord Helios, the Sun,
and he who moves all day through heaven
took from their eyes the dawn of their return.
Of these adventures, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
tell us in our time, lift the great song again.
George Chapman translation (1615)
The man, O Muse, inform, that many a way
Wound with his wisdom to his wished stay;
That wandered wondrous far, when he the town
Of sacred Troy had sack’d and shivered down;
The cities of a world of nations,
With all their manners, minds, and fashions,
He saw and knew; at sea felt many woes,
Much care sustained, to save from overthrows
Himself and friends in their retreat from home;
But so their fates he could not overcome,
Though much he thirsted it. O men unwise,
They perish’d by their own impieties,
That in their hunger’s rapine would not shun
The oxen of the lofty-going Sun,
Who therefore from their eyes the day bereft
Of safe return. These acts, in some part left,
Tell us, as others, deified seed of Jove.
W.H.D. Rouse translation (1937)
This is the story of a man, one who was never at a loss. He had travelled far in the world, after the sack of Troy, the virgin fortress; he saw many cities of men, and learnt their mind; he endured many troubles and hardships in the struggle to save his own life and to bring back his men safe to their homes. He did his best, but he could not save his companions. For they perished by their own madness, because they killed and ate the cattle of Hyperion the Sun-god, and the god took care that they should never see home again.
E.V. Rieu translation (1945)
Tell me, Muse, the story of that resourceful man who was driven to wander far and wide after he had sacked the holy citadel of Troy. He saw the cities of many people and he learnt their ways. He suffered great anguish on the high seas in his struggles to preserve his life and bring his comrades home. But he failed to save those comrades, in spite of all his efforts. It was their own transgression that brought them to their doom, for in their folly the devoured the oxen of Hyperion the Sun-god and he saw to it that they would never return. Tell us this story, goddess daughter of Zeus, beginning at whatever point you will.
Richard Lattimore translation (1965)
Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel.
Many were they whose cities he saw, whose minds he learned of,
many the pains he suffered in his spirit on the wide sea,
struggling for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.
Even so he could not save his companions, hard through
he strove to; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness,
fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios, the Sun God,
and he took away the day of their homecoming. From some point
here, goddess, daughter of Zeus, speak, and begin our story.
Stanley Lombardo Translation (2000)
Speak, Memory –
Of the cunning hero
The wanderer, blown off course time and again
After he plundered Troy’s sacred heights.
Of all the cities he saw, the minds he grasped,
The suffering deep in his heart at sea
As he struggled to survive and bring his men home
But could not save them, hard as he tried –
The fools – destroyed by their own recklessness
When they ate the oxen of Hyperion the Sun,
And that god snuffed out their day of return
Of these things,
Speak, Immortal One,
And tell the tale once more in our time.
Detail of Kalliope — the Chief of all Muses, who presides over eloquence and epic poetry — in the painting 'The Muses Urania and Calliope' by Simon Vouet, in which she holds a copy of the Odyssey.
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