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Homeric Hymns (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 28, 2003
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About the Author
Jules Cashford is a writer and lecturer on Mythology. She is the author of The Myth of the Goddess (Arkana, 1991) & The Myth of the Moon (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, forthcoming.
Dr Nicholas Richardson is a Fellow in English at Merton College, Oxford
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Top Customer Reviews
The Homeric Hymns themselves are a miscellaneous collection of 33 poems, differing in terms of age and likely function; what they have in common are the Greek gods who are their subject, and the epic hexameter. They are assigned to Homer in a manuscript tradition which includes the supposed works of the mythical poet Orpheus, which for starters does not inspire confidence in the attribution, along with literary hymns by the historical figures Callimachus and Proclus. The "Homeric" songs range from the reverential (the Hymn to Demeter) to the humorous (the first Hymn to Hermes) in tone, and the contents are variously lyric and narrative. The long hymns at the opening of the collection are of considerable importance to our knowledge of Greek myth and religion, but the following shorter hymns have a value of their own. The description as "hymns" is in some cases problematic (although it has attracted listings of Christian hymnals to some of the Amazon sites for other translations!). At least some of the shorter works seem to have been intended as introductory invocations to the gods at public performances of other works, including the Homeric epics. In these cases, despite their religious nature, I agree with the Classicists who argue that "proem" is probably the better term.Read more ›
They represent the highest aspiration of inspirational ideal...And are so relevant and immediate that they could even be used in worship today.
When I read these hymns I feel strangely that there is divine providence, and of mysteries beyond telling...
Perhaps the brilliance of these translations contributes to my feelings, but no other translations (save Thelma Sargent's) have made more of an impact about the Homeric Hymns that these ones!
Content of the hymns: The first hymns to Demeter, Apollo, and Hermes contain some interesting narrative, but most of the poems are relatively brief flattery of the gods mentioning their origin and/or a few basic characteristics. They seem to be composed as prologues to longer poems, and their interest lies more in terms of artistry than content. (If you are more interested in detailed information about the Greek pantheon, try Hesiod's Theogony)
Introduction & end notes: The introduction and end notes are simple and helpful, providing basic background without going into flights of speculative interpretation or Freudian psychoanalysis.
Translation: This was the aspect of the book that I found very disappointing. Rather than translate into something resembling the original hexameter or even picking a consistent style, the translator claims to have been "loosely guided by the nature of the goddesses and gods as to what form the hymn should take." The result is uneven with some of it resembling nothing so much as prose with line breaks every few words. I do not much enjoy "free verse" in any context, but I find it particularly obnoxious when it is offered as a "translation" of poetry that has a degree of regularity/structure in the original language. The point of these poems seems to be artistry rather than content and I was underwhelmed by the artistry of the translation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm giving this edition a low rating because mine happened to have about a fifth of it missing-- which was replaced by a portion of a random Victorian novel... Read morePublished 13 months ago by H. Caulberg