Odyssey Comparisons

There are over sixty English translations of Homer's Odyssey. This page allows you to compare five versions side by side, three verse and two prose translations.
For more information about the Odyssey, view our Odyssey Page. Enjoy!

RICHMOND LATTIMORE (1951)   

ROBERT FITZGERALD (1963)

ROBERT FAGLES (1990)

W.H.D. ROUSE (1938)

SAMUEL BUTLER (1888)



Book 1: Invocation
Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
far journeys, after he had sacked Troy's sacred citadel.
Many were they whose cities he saw, whose minds he learned of,
many the pains he suffered in his spirit on the wide sea,
struggling for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.
Even so he could not save his companions, hard though
he strove to; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness,
fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios, the Sun God,
and he took away the day of their homecoming. From some point
Here, goddess, daughter of Zeus, speak, and begin our story.
Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.
He saw the townlands
and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered many bitter nights and days
in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
But not by will nor valor could he save them,
for their own recklessness destroyed them all —
children and fools, they killed and feasted on
the cattle of Lord Hêlios, the Sun,
and he who moves all day through the heaven
took from their eyes the dawn of their return.
Of these a adventures, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
Tell us in our time, lift the great song again.
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove –
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod wiped from sign the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
Start from where you will—sing for our time too.
This is the story of a man, one who was never at a loss. He had travelled far in the world, after the sack of Troy, the virgin fortress; he saw many cities of men, and learnt their mind; he endured many troubles and hardships in the struggle to save his own life and to bring back his men safe to their homes. He did his best, but he could not save his companions. For they perished by their own madness, because they killed and ate the cattle of Hyperion the Sun-god, and the god took care that they should never see home again.
Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.
Book 9: Odysseus and the Cyclops
But when I was as far from the land as a voice shouting
carries, I called out aloud to the Cyclops, taunting him:
"Cyclops, in the end it was no weak man's companions
you were to eat by violence and force in your hollow
cave, and your evil deeds were to catch up with you, and be
too strong for you, hard one, who dared to eat your own guests
in your own house, so Zeus and the rest of the gods have punished you."
So I spoke, and still more the heart in him was angered.
He broke away the peak of the great mountain and let it
Fly, and threw it in front of the dark-prowed ship by only
a little, it just failed to graze the steering oar's edge
but the sea washed up in the splash as the stone went under, the tidal
wave it made swept us suddenly back from the open
sea to the mainland again, and forced us on shore.
...Far out, as far off shore as shouted words would carry,
I sent a few back to the adversary:
‘O Kyklops! Would you feast on my companions?
Puny, am I, in a Caveman's hands?
How do you like the beating that we gave you,
you damned cannibal? Eater of guests
under you roof! Zeus and the gods have paid you!"
The blind thing in his doubled fury broke
a hilltop in his hands and heaved it after us.
Ahead of our black prow it struck and sank
whelmed in a spuming geyser, a giant wave
that washed the ship stern foremost back to shore.
But once offshore as far as a man's shout can carry.
I called back to the Cyclops, stinging taunts:
"So, Cyclops, no weak coward it was whose crew
you bent to devour there in your vaulted cave—
you with your brute force! Your filthy crimes
came down on your own head, you shameless cannibal,
daring to eat your guests in your own house—
so Zeus and the other gods have paid you back!"
That made the rage of the monster boil over.
Ripping off the peak of a towering crag, he heaved it
so hard the boulder landed just in front of our dark prow
and a huge swell reared up as the rock went plunging under—
a tidal wave from the open sea.
Soon they were in their places paddling along; but when we Were about as far off from the shore as a man can shout, I called out in mockery: "I say, Cyclops! He didn't turn out to be such a milksop after all, did he, when you murdered his friends, and gobbled them up in your cave? Your sins were sure to find you out your cruel brute! You had no scruple to devour your guests in your own house, therefore vengeance has fallen upon you from Zeus and the gods in heaven!" This made him more furious than ever. He broke off the peak of a tall rock and threw it; the rock fell in front of the ship; the sea splashed and surged up as it fell; it raised a wave which carried us back to the land, and the rolling swell drove the ship right upon the shore.
Then, when I had got as far out as my voice would reach, I began to jeer at the Cyclops. "'Cyclops,' said I, 'you should have taken better measure of your man before eating up his comrades in your cave. You wretch, eat up your visitors in your own house? You might have known that your sin would find you out, and now Jove and the other gods have punished you.' "He got more and more furious as he heard me, so he tore the top from off a high mountain, and flung it just in front of my ship so that it was within a little of hitting the end of the rudder. The sea quaked as the rock fell into it, and the wash of the wave it raised carried us back towards the mainland, and forced us towards the shore.
Book 11: The Shades of Hades
So he spoke, and went back into the realm of Hades,
but I stayed fast in place where I was, to see if some other
one of the generation of heroes who died before me
would come; and I might have seen men earlier still, whom I wanted
to see, Perithoos and Theseus, gods' glorious children;
but before that the hordes of the dead men gathered about me
with inhuman clamor, and green fear took hold of me
with the thought that proud Persephone might send up against me
some gorgonish head of a terrible monster up out of Hades'.
So, going back on board my ship, I told my companions
also to go aboard, and to cast off the stern cables;
and quickly they went aboard the ship and sat to the oarlocks,
with rowing at first, but after that on a fair wind following.
And Herakles, down the vistas of the dead,
faded from sight; but I stood fast, awaiting
other great souls who perished in times past.
I should have men, then, god-begotten Theseus
and Peirithoos, whom both I longed to see,
but first came shades in thousands, rustling
in a pandemonium of whispers, blown together,
and the horror took me that Persephone
had brought from darker hell some saurian death's head.
I whirled then, made for the ship, shouted to crewmen
to get aboard and cast off the stern hawsers.
an order soon obeyed. They took their thwarts,
and the ship went leaping toward the stream of Ocean
first under the oars, then with a following wind.
With that he turned and back he went to the House of Death
but I held fast in place, hoping that others might still come,
shades of famous heroes, men who died in the old days
and ghosts of an even older age I longed to see,
Theseus and Pirithous, the god's own radiant sons.
But before I could, the dead came surging round me,
hordes of them, thousands raising unearthly cries,
and blanching terror gripped me—panicked now
that Queen Persephone might send up from Death
some monstrous head, some Gorgon's staring face!
I rushed back to my ship, commanded all hands
to take to decks and cast off cables quickly.
They swung aboard at once, they sat to the oars in ranks
and a strong tide of the Ocean River swept her on downstream,
sped by our rowing first, then by a fresh fair wind.
With these words he strode back into the house of Hades; but I remained where I was, in case any other of the heroes of past times should appear. And indeed, I should have seen others of those ancient men whom I wished especially to see, as Theseus and Peirithoos, Those famous sons of gods; but before I could see them, the innumerable hosts of the dead gathered together with deafening cries, and I grew pale with fear that awful Persephoneia might send out of Hades upon me a Gorgon-head of some dreadful monster. Then I went the ship, and told my men to loose the hawser and get away. They were soon rowing steadily on their benches, and the current bore us steadily down the ocean stream; oars at first, afterwards a following breeze.
On this Hercules went down again into the house of Hades, but I stayed where I was in case some other of the mighty dead should come to me. And I should have seen still other of them that are gone before, whom I would fain have seen- Theseus and Pirithous glorious children of the gods, but so many thousands of ghosts came round me and uttered such appalling cries, that I was panic stricken lest Proserpine should send up from the house of Hades the head of that awful monster Gorgon. On this I hastened back to my ship and ordered my men to go on board at once and loose the hawsers; so they embarked and took their places, whereon the ship went down the stream of the river Oceanus. We had to row at first, but presently a fair wind sprang up.
Book 12: Between Skylla and Charybdis
...One one side was Skylla, and on the other side was shining Charybdis,
who made her terrible ebb and flow of the sea's water.
When she vomited it up, like a caldron over a strong fire,
the whole sea would boil up in turbulence, and the foam flying
spattered the pinnacles of the rocks in either direction;
but when in turn again she sucked down the sea's salt water,
the turbulence showed all the inner sea, and the rock around it
groaned terribly, and the ground showed at the sea's bottom,
black with sand; and green fear seized upon my companions.
We in fear of destruction kept our eyes on Charybdis,
but meanwhile Skylla out of the hollow vessel snatched six
of my companions, the best of them for strength and hands' work,
I saw their feet and hands from below, already lifted
high above me, and they cried out to me and called me
by name, the last time they ever did it, in heart's sorrow.
...Skylla to port and on our starboard beam Kharybdis, dire
gorge of the salt sea tide. By heaven! When she
vomited, all the sea was like a cauldron
seething over intense fire, when the mixture
suddenly heaves and rises.
The shot spume
soared to the landside heights, and fell like rain.
But when she swallowed the sea water down
we saw the funnel of the maelstrom, heard
the rock bellowing all around, and dark
sand raged on the bottom far below.
My men all blanched against the gloom, our eyes
were being fixed upon that yawning mouth in fear
of being devoured.
Then Skylla made her strike,
whisking six of my best men from the ship.
I happened to glance aft at ship and oarsmen
and caught sight of their arms and legs, dangling
high overhead. Voices came down to me
in anguish, calling my name for the last time.
Scylla to starboard, dreaded Charybdis off to port,
her horrible whirlpool gulping the sea-surge down, down
but when she spewed it up—like a cauldron over a raging fire—
all her churning depths would seethe and heave- exploding spray
showering downto splatter the peaks of both crags at once!
But when she swallowed the sea-surge down her gaping maw
the whole abyss lay bare and the rocks around her roared,
terrible, deafening—
bedrock showed down deep, boiling
black with sand—
and ashen terror gripped the men.
But now, fearing death, all eyes fixed on Charybdis—
now Scylla snatched six men from our hollow ship,
the toughest, strongest hands I had, and glancing
backward over the decks, searching for my crew
I could see their hands and feet already hoisted
flailing, high, higher, over my head, look—
wailing down at me, comrades riven in agony,
shrieking out my name for one last time!
...On one side was Scylla, on the other Charybdis swallowed up the salt water in a terrible fashion. When she spouted, like a cauldron over a great fire she seethed up in a swirling mess, and the spray rose high in the air till it fell on the tops of the two cliffs: when she swallowed up the salt sea, she showed deep down in her swirling whirlpool black sand at the bottom, and the rocks all round echoed a bellowing boom. Every man was pale with fear. As we gazed in our fear at the death on this side, at the same moment Scylla grabbed six of my men out of the ship, the best and strongest of the crew. I turned, took a glance at the ship, looked for my men, saw their hands and feet already in the air swinging aloft in the clutches of Scylla; while they called aloud on my name, for the last time, in despair.
Then we entered the Straits in great fear of mind, for on the one hand was Scylla, and on the other dread Charybdis kept sucking up the salt water. As she vomited it up, it was like the water in a cauldron when it is boiling over upon a great fire, and the spray reached the top of the rocks on either side. When she began to suck again, we could see the water all inside whirling round and round, and it made a deafening sound as it broke against the rocks. We could see the bottom of the whirlpool all black with sand and mud, and the men were at their wit's ends for fear. While we were taken up with this, and were expecting each moment to be our last, Scylla pounced down suddenly upon us and snatched up my six best men. I was looking at once after both ship and men, and in a moment I saw their hands and feet ever so high above me, struggling in the air as Scylla was carrying them off, and I heard them call out my name in one last despairing cry.
Book 19: Penelope's Lament
Circumspect Penelope said to him in answer:
"Stranger, all of my excellence, my beauty and figure,
were ruined by the immortals at that time when the Argives took ship
for Ilion, and with them went my husband, Odysseus.
If he were to come back to me and take care of my life, then
my reputation would be more great and splendid. As it is
now, I grieve; such evils the gods has let loose upon me.
For all the greatest men who have the power in the islands,
in Doulichion and Same and in wooded Zakynthos,
and all who in rocky Ithanka are holders of lordships,
all these are suitors against my will, and they wear my house out.
Therefore, I pay no attention to strangers, nor to suppliants,
nor yet to heralds, who are in the public service, but always
I waste away at the inward heart, longing for Odysseus..."
And Penelope replied:
"Stranger, my looks,
my face, my carriage, were soon lost or faded
when the Akhaians crossed the sea to Troy,
Odysseus my lord among the rest.
If he returned, if he were here to care for me,
I might be happily renowned!
But grief instead heaven sent me—years of pain.
Sons of the noblest families on the islands,
Doulikhion, Same, wooded Zakynthos,
with native Ithakans, are here to court me,
against my wish; and they consume this house.
Can I give proper heed to guest or suppliant
or herald on the realm's affairs?
How could I?
wasted with longing for Odysseus, while here
they press for marriage..."
"No, no, stranger," wise Penelope demurred,
"whatever form and feature I had, what praise I'd won,
the deathless gods destroyed that day the Achaeans
sailed away to Troy, my husband in their ships,
Odysseus—if he could return to tend my life
the renown I had would only grow in glory,
Now my life is torment...
look at the griefs some god has loosed against me!
All the nobles who rule the islands round about
Dulichion, Same, and wooded Zacynthus too,
and all who lord it in sunny Ithaca itself—
they court me against my will, they lay waste my house.
So I pay no heed to strangers, suppliants at my door,
Not even heralds out on their public errands here—
I yearn for Odysseus, always, my heart pines away..."
"Ah no!" said Penelopeia. "All my comeliness and my good looks are gone; the immortals took them from me when the army embarked for the war, and my husband with them. If that man would return and care for me, my name and fame would be better for it. But now I am in distress; see what trouble fate has poured upon me! All the chief men of the islands, from Dulichion and Same and woody Zacynthos, and all my neighbours in Ithaca, want to take me for a wife against my will, and they are wasting my house. So I take no heed of strangers or suppliants, or public heralds with their messages, but I pine away with longing for my husband."
Then Penelope answered, "Stranger, heaven robbed me of all beauty, whether of face or figure, when the Argives set sail for Troy and my dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after my affairs I should be both more respected and should show a better presence to the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the afflictions which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. The chiefs from all our islands- Dulichium, Same, and Zacynthus, as also from Ithaca itself, are wooing me against my will and are wasting my estate. I can therefore show no attention to strangers, nor suppliants, nor to people who say that they are skilled artisans, but am all the time brokenhearted about Ulysses.