quinta-feira, 2 de fevereiro de 2012

Hobbes, Tradutor de Homero

From time to time the translator reveals certain personal prejudices. Like Thucydides, whom he admired enough to translate into English, Hobbes minimizes anything to do with gods or women. Where Homer says, "Now the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, put it into the heart of the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, to set the bow and the axes of grey iron" (Butcher-Lang), Hobbes makes Penelope act entirely without any such divine instigation (Od. 21. 1 ff.). It is true that the mortal thus given prominence happens to be a woman; as a rule Hobbes avoids emphasizing the female element, whether human or divine. Where Homer speaks of some god or mortal as born of such and such a mother, Hobbes mentions rather the father who begat him, as we see in the narration of Jupiter's amours (Iliad 14. 296 ff.). The materialist side of Hobbes' nature appears in a few places: for instance, he turns Homer's words, "Even as when the mind of a man darts speedily, of one that hath travelled over far lands, and considers in his wise heart, 'Would that I were here or there,' and he thinketh him of many things" (Butcher-Lang), into something much more suggestive of the purely physical: As when a man looks o'er an ample plain, To any distance quickly goes his eye (Od. 15. 70-71). Ethical cynicism appears in the mention of Democoon, whom Homer simply calls the bastard son of Priam but whom the author of Leviathan declares to be "a lawful son where nature is the law" (Iliad 4. 465). 

[…] Pedantry, however, is less obtrusive in these versions than undignified colloquialism. When the Archer-God Apollo walks in anger, "the arrows chink as often as he jogs" (Iliad 1. 50): Diomedes speaks of Mars as a "blockhead" (5. 774); the coward who trembles in an ambush "dances on his hams" (13. 262); the heroes who exult over fallen adversaries "crow" (13. 389, 417); in Juno's angry clutch Diana is shown "wriggling" (21. 458); Hector in his flight is not able, like a hare, "to double or to squat" (22. 185); his mother, lamenting his death, is said to "squeal" (22. 403); and other Trojan women are represented as "howling" for their slain menfolk (24. 154); Helen deprecatingly refers to herself as "this monkey me" (Od. 4. 146), and calls Ulysses' adventures "pranks" (4. 245); Penelope addresses her depraved serving-women as "sluts" (4. 685), and tearfully remarks, concerning the voyage that Telemachus is making to Pylos, "And now my son at sea is in a tub" (4. 817); Ulysses swimming for dear life raises his head "above the pickle" (5. 301), and elsewhere it is said of him that he "roll'd by Neptune always was in souse" (8. 431). But the supreme example of bad taste occurs in the description of the inexhaustible riches of Alcinous and the other Phaeacians: "his riches was a never-dying teat" (7. 88).

G. B. Riddehough, Thomas Hobbes' Translations of Homer
Phoenix 12.2: 58-62 (1958)

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