"Hey, you...guy. The dames, eh? Yeah, the dames. Stupid dames. You having any luck with the horses? No, the horses are all...idiots. You know, between the dames and the horses, sometimes I don't even know why I put my hat on."
That's how people talk in bars, isn't it?
there are so many bad translations, and it is so profoundly not her epic, that i rarely go directly to homer to satisfy my helen of troy feelings; nevertheless i landed in the lattimore translation last night, and.
the thing about homer’s helen (aside ‘she’s mostly not there’) is that she’s all self-recrimination, dramatic self-recrimination. and people get tied up in that; older translations have her basically offering to fling herself off the parapets because she’s so guilty and ashamed. but it’s such careful recrimination, is the thing. homer doesn’t give her much text, and while that’s partly just because his priorities are elsewhere, the text that is there is parsimonious and deliberative and careful. homer’s helen is difficult and elusive and at least in part that is on purpose.
she’s talking to king priam and what she says, the very first thing we get from her after she gives him his honorifics, is:
I wish bitter death had been what I wanted, when I came hither
following your son, forsaking my chamber, my kinsmen
my grown child, and the loveliness of girls my own age.
It did not happen that way.
which is—so vastly different than the slick, maudlin “i wish i’d killed myself rather than come” lavinia successor we usually get in that translation? (i picked up an older translation to double check and, yeah. victorians and their heirs decide she wished she’d killed herself. unsurprisingly. who likes lavinia like victorians?) what she actually says is careful, that is nuanced, that is helen talking about what she wishes she felt, rather than what she feels. not that she wants to die—that she wishes she wanted that. she gets to wear the mask of shame, her unhappiness with the duration and fatalities of the war are treated as genuine. she calls herself the most awful things—a bitch, a slut, whatever. and she says, later, to hektor:
I wish that on that day when mother my first bore me
the foul whirlwind of the storm had caught me away and swept me
to the mountain, or into the wash of the sea, deep-thundering
where the waves would have swept me away before all these things had happened.
again, she wishes she could unmake the war, and she knows the words for wishing an honorable death. knows death is more honorable than the life. but doesn’t call it down upon herself now. and again, implicitly, calls back to the choice: to choose something other than what led her to troy, she would’ve had to be swept into the sea at birth. thinking breathing sensible adult helen hasn’t any other option. she offers to take back her whole life, but she doesn’t take back what she did.
basically, she doesn’t say she wants to die for it now, and she doesn’t offer her own present death as punishment. and she knows the right words, so plainly! with priam, she outright wishes she could say that she deserved to die for this. but she never has, she never did. it did not happen that way.
homer doesn’t give us a good grasp on helen before the war, because that’s not where the poem is. but while the war is happening, we get this much out of our narrow window into her heart: whatever her situation in troy‚ she stands by it. picked this. even as it can make her profoundly unhappy, even though paris is a languid idiot and she’s in thrall to a thoughtless goddess, it’s hers. and she takes the culpability for its happening and cannot wholly condemn herself for it, even though she knows the right words to do so inside and out.
and that is in homer.
AMETHYST | » pop the champagne, toast the king of westeros, and get ready for a celebration, because it’s a nice day for a purple wedding
1. i write sins not tradgedies - panic! at the disco / 2. chew me up and spit me out - cobra starship / 3. d Is for dangerous - arctic monkeys / 4. the mighty fall - fall out boy / 5. out of breath - silversun pickups / 6. black tongue - yeah yeah yeahs / 7. murda bizness - iggy azalea / 8. let’s kill tonight - panic! at the disco / 9. to hell with you - sleigh bells / 10. death valley - fall out boy / 11. going to hell - the pretty reckless / 12. it’s about time - young the giant