George Chapman (?1559–1635) was one of the big names on the Elizabethan-Jacobean literary scene. As a playwright he was somewhere close behind Shakespeare, Jonson, Marlowe and the gang. As a translator he inspired Keats to say
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
The earliest part of the Iliad translation, Books I–II and VII–XI, was published in 1598. The rest appeared in bits and pieces beginning in 1609; the first complete text came out in 1611.
About the Book
Chapman’s translation isn’t line-for-line; in a few places he even adds words that were not in the original. The metre is iambic heptameter (seven beats to a line, almost always 4+3). If you’re looking for the equivalent passage in Homer, search a range of lines from about 5% lower to 20% higher.
This etext is based on Richard Hooper’s edition (1857 and later). So the text isn’t exactly what Chapman wrote; it is a 19th-century book with 19th-century spelling and punctuation. But the language and poetry are still Chapman.
Hooper’s was not the first modern edition; that would be Cooke Taylor in 1843. Concerning Taylor, Hooper says “I have no wish to criticise this book, but” . . . and goes on to illustrate the “but” at least 150 times in the course of two volumes. Chapman, in turn, seems to have felt the same way about his own near-contemporary, Scaliger. And, finally, Homer felt the same about Menelaus—or, at least, that’s how Chapman saw it.
About the eText
This ebook is based on scans of Hooper’s third edition (1888, reprinted 1898). The second volume (Books XIII–XXIV and Sonnets) comes from the later printing, so the two parts have entirely different decorations except for the frontispiece and title page. In Volume I, parts of pages 231–242 (12 sets of lines in Book XI) were damaged. Missing text was filled in from the second edition, which has the same pagination.
The Sonnets, printed at the end of the book, are included for completeness. They are fine examples of Jacobean brown-nosing, but have no other connection to the Iliad.
A few of the larger decorations have been moved around to make for a smoother etext; details are at the end of the Introduction.
Spelling and Metre
To quote Hooper’s introduction:
The orthography has been modernized, but great care has been taken not to lose sight of the original forms . . . . Wherever a word appears in its more etymological form it is preserved, e.g. renowm, nosthril; but Chapman does not adhere to one rule, and he more frequently spells the words renown, nostril.
The most visible exception is Chapman’s anagrams, which obviously had to be left with their original spellings.
Unusual forms include: prise (not the same word as prize), corse, strook, bewray. The form apparance (for expected appearance) occurs twice in the Sonnets section, so I assumed it was intentional. Variable spellings include but are not limited to:
- ambassy : embassy
- forgat : forgot
- palisado : pallisado
- rainbow : rain-bow
- renowm : renown
- vanguard : vantguard : vaunt-guard
Names are spelled as printed, including some variation between initial Æ and Ae, Œ and Oe (but “Oenides”, without dieresis, is two separate syllables). “Ephaistus” is always written without initial H; “Hycetaon” is used for Hicetaon, and “Menalippus” for Melanippus. Adrastus and Adrestus are different names; similarly Æsepus is the river, while Æsopus is a man.
A few words such as “being” and “spirit” may have either one or two syllables, but generally Hooper tries to match his spelling to the metre. Note in particular the name endings -eus (one syllable), -ëus and -eüs (two syllables each). Verbs may end in ’d or éd according to pronunciation. The occasional spelling childeren (three syllables) is similarly metrical.
Except for clear typographical errors, all Greek is as Hooper printed it. Readings may be different from currently accepted texts, and may also be different from what Chapman used.
In general, I’ve stayed pretty close to Hooper’s design and layout.
All shorter poetry was indented as shown, even when the pattern seemed to be inconsistent.
Line numbers—probably added by Hooper, since Taylor doesn’t have them—have been silently regularized to the nearest multiple of 5. When Chapman (commentary) or Hooper (linenotes) refers to the Greek original, I’ve given the line number unless it happens to be the same as in Chapman.
Linenotes are collected at the end of each Book. In the primary text I left Chapman’s “linenotes” as Hooper printed them, although they feel more like sidenotes. In the verse passages of Chapman’s introduction I went closer to what the 17th-century original must have looked like.
Errors and Inconsistencies
Where possible, apparent errors were checked against the first or second edition, or even Taylor.
Hooper’s “Addenda and Corrigenda“ are on page lxi of the Introduction. These corrections have all been made in the text. Other errors are marked with , and are listed again at the end of each section. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark can’t be seen, but there is an appropriately sized blank space. The word “expected” means that I had doubts about the printed text, but didn’t think a change was warranted.