G. Gregory Smith, ed. Elizabethan Critical Essays. 1904.
George Chapman (1559?1634)
I. Preface to Seaven Bookes of the Iliades of Homere 1598
[This Preface To the Reader appeared in the first draft of Chapmans translation of Homer, entitled Seauen Bookes of the Iliades of Homere (i.e. Bks. i, ii, viixi), which was printed by John Windet in 1598. The text is that of the copy in the Bodleian Library (Mason, H. 70).]
To the Reader
I SUPPOSE you to be no meare reader, since you intend to reade Homer; and therefore wish I may walke free from their common obiections that can onelie reade. When my disorder is seene, that fower bookes are skipped (as a man would say) and yet the Poem continued according to the Greeke alphabet, viz. that for Gamma which is Eta, and that for Delta which is Theta, &c., then comes my knowne condemnation more greeuously then charitie would wish; especially with those that, hauing no eyes to peruse and iudge of the translation and whatsoeuer the maine matter deserues, will be glad to shew they see something, in finding fault with that forme; and peraduenture finde their queasie stomackes turnde at whatsoeuer is merited in the much laborde worke.
But to him that is more then a reader I write; and so consequentlie to him that will disdaine those easie obiections which euery speller may put together. The worth of a skilfull and worthy translator is to obserue the sentences, figures, and formes of speech proposed in his author, his true sence and height, and to adorne them with figures and formes of oration fitted to the originall in the same tongue to which they are translated: and these things I would gladlie haue made the questions of whatsoeuer my labors haue deserued; not slighted with the slight disorder of some bookes, which if I can put in as fit place hereafter without checke to your due vnderstanding and course of the Poet, then is their easie obiection answerde, that, I expect, wilbe drounde in the fome of their eager and emptie spleanes. For likelyhood of which habilitie I haue good authoritie that the bookes were not set together by Homer himselfe: Licurgus first bringing them out of Ionia in Greece as an entire Poeme, before whose time his verses were sung disseuered into many workes, one calde the battaile fought at the fleete, another Doloniades, another Agamemnons fortitude, another the Catalogue of ships, another Patroclus death, another Hectors redemption, an other the funerall games, &c. All which are the titles of seuerall Iliades: and, if those were ordred by others, why may not I chalenge as much authority, reseruing the right of my president? But to omit what I can say further for reason to my present alteration, in the next edition, when they come out by the dosen, I will reserue the ancient and common receiued forme: in the meane time do me the encouragement to confer that which I haue translated with the same in Homer, and, according to the worth of that, let this first edition passe: so shall you do me but lawfull fauor, and make me take paines to giue you this Emperor of all wisedome (for so Plato will allow him) in your owne language, which will more honor it (if my part bee worthily discharged) then anything else can be translated. In the meane time peruse the pamphlet of errors in the impression, and helpe to point the rest with your iudgement; wherein, and in purchase of the whole seauen, if you be quicke and acceptiue, you shall in the next edition haue the life of Homer, a table, a prettie comment, true printing, the due praise of your mother tongue aboue all others for Poesie: and such demonstrate proofe of our english wits aboue beyond sea-muses (if we would vse them), that a proficient wit should be the better to heare it.