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T. E. Lawrence to Bruce Rogers



Dear Bruce Rogers

This blessed project of the Odyssey has profited me, beyond my hope, by enabling me to write to you, and receive letters. That is a considerable gain, on my credit side, even if no more comes of it than this.

I see now (baying done the first, sample, book, and posted it to Isham today) why there are no adequate translations of Homer. He is baffling. Not simple, in education; not primitive, socially. Rather a William Morris of his day, I fancy.

There's a queer naivety in every other line: and at our remove of thought and language we can't say if he is smiling or not. Samuel Butler thought he was: and Butler's version lacks dignity, therefore, as much as it lacks poetry. Palmer is altogether the best, I think.

My version runs to 5000 words of this first book. I have tried to squeeze out all the juice in the orange; or what I thought was the juice. I tried to take liberties with the Greek: but failed. Homer compels respect. I confess he has me beaten to my knees. Perhaps if I did much more I might be less faithful.

The work has been very difficult: though I'm in a Homeric sort of air; a mud-brick fort beset by the tribes of Waziristan, on a plain encircled by the hills of the Afghan border. It reeks of Alexander the Great, our European fore-runner: who also loved Homer.

But, as I say, it has been difficult. This which I have sent is the sixth copying-out: so I shall not be a whit sorry (except in pocket) if your backers cry off the project, at sight of the sample.

You will realise, on the minor points of name-spelling, punctuation, paragraphing etc, that I don't care the least little bit what changes you make, to please yourself, to please your audience, to fit your type or page. The printer should use the MS of a new book (not a reprint) as raw materials to be cooked into decency.


T E Shaw

Source: BR1
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 7 July 2006

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