LOEBOLUS.

Loebolus is, in the words of mattitiahu at Memiyawanzi (where I found the link), “a website dedicated to collecting and making easily available in one place all the old and out-of-copyright Loeb Classical Library volumes… Useful stuff if what you need is available in one of these older translations, and you can’t be bothered to go down to the library to check a reference, or simply if you don’t mind bowdlerized translations of Plautus.” (If you’re really into old Loebs, “You can also download a .zip containing all 245 PDF’s [3.2GB].”)

Comments

  1. This site is really going to test my commitment to the paper book. I should have smeared beeswax over my eyes and had my workmates lash me to my chair before clicking the link. (They probably would have gotten the wrong idea, though.)

  2. An appropriate time to read (or re-read) Julie Flaherty’s article on the newer translations, those done after the Harvards figured the smutty bits were appropriate only to degraded types like the French.

  3. …were NOT appropriate…
    (This is why we have copy editors.)

  4. An excellent link, but I’m pretty sure you had it right the first time. Where would you put a “not”?

  5. Flaherty’s article passes on a good piece of news: no more bowdlerizations in Loeb. However, I am not particularly interested in low-life bits, being myself a dirty old man who has been through enough low to last a lifetime.
    I keep thinking that I must improve my Latin so, just to be doing, I downloaded the whole shebang. Since the contents of the PDFs do not appear in the file names, I’ve started renaming and sorting them by original author. That doesn’t enhance Latinity, but it does remind or apprise me of who’s who.

  6. No, BWA’s second version is right: appropriate not only for the French (who have been translating the classics correctly for a century) but for the English-speakers as well.
    I wrote a poem on the subject some years ago.

  7. Aristides says:

    I downloaded the whole thing over the weekend, and renamed all the files. This is what I really like about my kindle, and google books. If I were rich, I’d travel the world looking for obscure works in strange languages in hidden libraries. But as it is, being poor, I can easily find them at the touch of a button. I’m still excited over being able to download old ediions of Pauly-Wissowa.

  8. No, BWA’s second version is right
    D’oh! Of course you (and he) are right. I was still groggy, I guess.

  9. Thanks for pointing out this resource.
    The new translations in the Loebs are far superior, but the typefaces, alas, are ugly. An unfortunate trade off.
    But why did Edwardian scholars think that 17th century prose was an appropriate way to translate the classics? I remember having to refer to Pindar’s Greek to figure out what Sandys’s Loeb translation was saying in English.

  10. But why did Edwardian scholars think that 17th century prose was an appropriate way to translate the classics?
    I suppose this refers to the following in Flaherty’s article:

    “They [Victorian-era translators] would take a perfectly harmless text like Homer and they would turn it into nearly incomprehensible English, because that to them represented high-style epic,” said Richard P. Martin, a professor of classics at Stanford University. Trained on Milton and Spenser, the translators used an abundance of “ye’s” and verbs ending in “-eth” that made the flowery texts read like Gilbert and Sullivan librettos.

    As far as I recall, Spenser didn’t make it into the 17C. Regarding Milton, I don’t understand in what way “ye’s” and “-eth’s” are supposed to make for flowery as well as for Gilbert-and-Sullivantical. Poetry is often “flowery”, but the Areopagitica doesn’t pack any kind of pistil.

  11. Johnny and Stevie were two pretty men / Who laid in bed till the clock struck ten. I had a half-hour’s advantage over you.

  12. Tom Recht says:

    At least one Loeb volume actually uses a 17th-century translation, George Thornley’s 1657 Daphnis and Chloe. Since the edition Thornley was working from contained a long lacuna (later restored from other manuscripts), the Loeb editor had to fill in the gap in an appropriate 17C style. It was admirably done – I couldn’t tell the difference, anyway.

  13. mattitiahu says:

    Actually, if you’d believe it, the original translation of Apuleius’s The Golden Ass LCL published in 1915 was a revised version of a translation going back to W. Adlington’s 1566 translation ‘The Golden Asse’.

  14. Bill Walderman says:

    Some of the old Loebs are just awful. Edmond’s Greek Elegy and Iambic and Bucolic Poets come to mind. Most of the newer volumes are outstanding, with well-edited texts and accurate translations.
    As an undergraduate I took some courses with G.P. Goold, who began the rejuvenation of the Loeb series in the 1990s. He was an outstanding Latinist (primarily) and a wonderful teacher who made himself very accessible to undergraduates, a man of great modesty who remained true to his very non-RP middle-class London speech. He later moved back to England to accept Housman’s chair at the University College London, and then returned to the US to teach at Yale in the Thatcher era. He revised some of the old Loeb Latin texts, and produced his own Loeb editions of Propertius and (following in Housman’s footsteps) Manilius, as well as the Teubner Manilius.

  15. Bill: Some of the old Loebs are just awful. Edmond’s Greek Elegy and Iambic and Bucolic Poets come to mind.
    The Bucolic Poets volume by Edmonds (1912) happened to be among the first of the downloaded Loebs I encountered. Do you feel that the translations are often just wrong, or that they use an inappropriate speech register for the time in England, or are just “dated” ? Although I am not fit to opine on any of these matters, I looked at a few of the English texts for Theocritus as if reading a novel by Hardy.
    Edmonds seems to be striving for “rustic speech”, as Hardy does in many of his novels, Evans too and many others. The first text (“Thyrsis”) I looked at seemed stilted:

                  GOATHERD

    As sweetly, good Shepherd, falls your music as the resounding water that gushes down from the top o’ yonder rock. If the Muses get the ewe-lamb to their meed, you shall carry off the cosset; and if so be they choose the cosset, the ewe-lamb shall come to you.

                  THYRSIS

    ‘Fore the Nymphs I pray you, master Goatherd, come now and sit ye down here by this shelving bank and these brush tamarisks and play me a tune. I’ll keep your goats the while.

                  GOATHERD

    No, no, man ; there’s no piping for me at high noon. I go in too great dread of Pan for that. I wot high noon’s his time for taking rest after the swink o’ the chase ; and he’s one o’ the tetchy sort ; his nostril’s ever sour wrath’s abiding-place. …

    “Top o’ yonder rock” and “carry off the cosset” and the rest of it could be in Hardy – what does a city boy like me know about the way goatherds and shepherds might talk in some corner of England in 1912 ? It’s not so much that I must suspend disbelief in order to read such things – rather, I must simply draw a veil over my ignorance.
    if Edmonds’ translations sound out-of-date, is that a reason to call them “awful” ? Would a Li’l Abner style, say, be more appropriate ? One big problem here is that only intellectuals are interested in translations of Greek Bucolic Poets, but intellectuals don’t know much about rube life.

  16. One big problem here is that only intellectuals are interested in translations of Greek Bucolic Poets, but intellectuals don’t know much about rube life.
    This is a big problem with translations of Russian fiction, too; I’ll be writing about it ere long.

  17. And now I want to see Al Capp’s translation of Theocritus.

  18. or Walt Kelly’s

  19. Such translations would be righty down the lane of the owl or Churchy La Femme.

  20. When Edmonds began translating Theocritus I, he was looking at a poem in the Doric dialect (because Sicilian shepherds spoke Doric), but a literary version of the dialect never spoken by anyone, written in sophisticated and polished hexameters. Dealing with dialect is a conundrum for any translator, but I’m not sure that making ancient Sicilian shepherds sound like 19th century English countrypeople is a good solution, especially if you end up making Theocritus sound like Thomas Hardy. It’s a bad translation because it’s misleading – there is a huge gulf between ancient Sicilians, even ones spouting literary hexameters, and stout English yeomen, and between Theocritus and Thomas Hardy, either as a novelist or as a poet, but Edmonds draws a false equivalence in his translation.
    Translators of the period were also fond of making Doric Greek sound like Scots, and Homeric Greek sound like the King James Bible. They translated the naughty parts of Greek into Latin, and the naughty parts of Latin into Italian. Translation is difficult enough without purposely crossing the line into absurdity.
    I’m looking forward to what Mr. Hat has to say about translations of Russian fiction. I’ve noticed that 19th century Russian seems to have had two terms for various items of clothing — one for the Western dress worn by city people, and one for peasant dress.

  21. Evan: When Edmonds began translating Theocritus I, he was looking at a poem in the Doric dialect (because Sicilian shepherds spoke Doric), but a literary version of the dialect never spoken by anyone, written in sophisticated and polished hexameters. … It’s a bad translation because it’s misleading – there is a huge gulf between ancient Sicilians, even ones spouting literary hexameters, and stout English yeomen, and between Theocritus and Thomas Hardy, either as a novelist or as a poet, but Edmonds draws a false equivalence in his translation.
    That’s good to know, that must be what Bill Walderman meant by “awful”. Let’s revive for a moment the old comparison between translation and product plagiary.
    Suppose I work in the sales planning department of an Asian company specializing in the non-licensed manufacture of “fake” products (I like the German word Raubkopien in this context). Among my standard procedures is to consider the question: would more customers buy a replica, a pastiche, or a functional equivalent ? What are the legal risks in each case ?
    A translator also worries about the court of public and critical opinion, and has to take certain stylistic decisions. Let’s say Theocritus wants to translate into Doric the sophisticated and polished quadrimeters of the lyrics to Annie Get Your Gun:

    Folks are dumb where I come from,
    They ain’t had any learning.
    Still they’re happy as can be
    Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally).
    Folks like us could never fuss
    With schools and books and learning.
    Still we’ve gone from A to Z,
    Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally)

    My tiny baby brother, who’s never read a book,
    Knows one sex from the other,
    All he had to do was look,
    Grandpa Bill is on the hill
    With someone he just married.
    There he is at ninety-three,
    Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally).

    Mr. T might think that a replica is impossible, in view of that fact that the Dorians don’t have musicals. He could try for a pastiche, by stretching the lines into hexameters and giving them to a chorus. But a functional equivalent might appear to be the best choice, because the Annie lyrics are themselves a pastiche: rural sentiments pressed into the service of rhyme.
    So he writes “Thyrsis”, a poem still appreciated 2000 years later.

  22. Grumbly — Good post. I like the Annie Get Your Gun quote, especially since our musicals are the distant descendants of Greek theater, and, as Theocritus knew, an urban crowd to always be found to enjoy depictions of rural life. (The Greeks did have “musicals,” in that their drama had music, but you’re right, in that they are so different from Broadway that “musical” would be a misleading term.)
    The best way to appreciate Plautus in English would be to see a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, not a translation at all, and a good way for an English speaker to appreciate Eugene Onegin might be to read Vikram Seth’s Golden Gate. And Theocritus would not have worried about translation at all, since the Greeks in general do not seem to have thought it worthwhile to translate non-Greek literature: at most they might have taken a story, Hellenized it, and cast in into some appropriate native Greek form, to the extent that it would be hard to trace the source material. Maybe we ask too much of translators.
    And so as not to mislead anyone: Greek choruses were not written in hexameters, which were not considered appropriate for drama, but in ad-hoc combinations of rhythms, in a mild Doric dialect, which in this case would not connote any notion of rusticity.

  23. marie-lucie says:

    CB: the Greeks in general do not seem to have thought it worthwhile to translate non-Greek literature: at most they might have taken a story, Hellenized it, and cast in into some appropriate native Greek form, to the extent that it would be hard to trace the source material.
    I am thinking of Aesop’s fables, which are apparently of Indian origin. Any thoughts on them?

  24. Evan: Maybe we ask too much of translators.
    My sentiments exactly ! Wouldn’t it be silly to demand that a coffee-table book depicting the Grand Canyon must be “a faithful rendering” of it ? Someone who has never been there is not in a position to judge what a “faithful rendering” is.
    If you can read the originals, you don’t need a translation. If you can’t, you have to take what’s on offer. I admire a good book, whether or not it is translated.
    Whether an English translation is “good” or not, as a translation and not just as a published book, is something I myself can judge of only when the original is German. I often feel that in discussions about the quality of translation into English, people fail to distinguish between “good book in English” and “good translation of the original” – two quite different things.

  25. Wouldn’t it be silly to demand that a coffee-table book depicting the Grand Canyon must be “a faithful rendering” of it ?
    Well, I might want to swap “faithful” for “as faithful as possible”, since a book is not a canyon. But then I might say say no, it wouldn’t be silly: the whole point of depicting something is to depict it.

  26. not “say say” but “say”

  27. Is the whole point of translating something to translate it ?

  28. If you can’t, you have to take what’s on offer.
    But wouldn’t you prefer that what’s on offer be more rather than less faithful to, or representative of, the original?
    I often feel that in discussions about the quality of translation into English, people fail to distinguish between “good book in English” and “good translation of the original” – two quite different things.
    Very true, and this especially bothers me in book reviews, where people seem to say the latter when they mean the former.

  29. Marie-Lucie — No need to go as far as India for Aesop; there were collections of fables in middle eastern languages that predate Greek literature and all Sanskrit literature, except for maybe the Vedas. That is most likely a source for Greek fables. Ben Perry, in his unusually comprehensive preface to Babrius and Phaedrus in the Loeb collection (not available from this download source, unfortunately) goes into detail on this point. Collections of Indian fables did make it into Europe in the sixth and seventh centuries CE, through Persian versions — too late for Aesop — and did have an influence on European fabulists.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    … in discussions about the quality of translation into English, people fail to distinguish between “good book in English” and “good translation of the original” …
    – … in book reviews, where people seem to say the latter when they mean the former.

    In my experience, literary critics are the worst people in this respect. Most of them have very limited acquaintance with other languages (having perhaps suffered through French or German lessons in high school) and have no idea of what it means to translate from one language to another, let alone to do a good job of it.
    I wanted to mention a subject I am fairly familiar with, the translation of Native American literature. In many cases, texts in those languages were recorded by linguists and anthropologists who may have transcribed (written down) the original texts phonetically with reasonable accuracy, but who did not spend enough time with a language to really learn it, so that the translations are often quite “bare” even if they are accurate overall (which is not always the case). So literary types reading such translations either comment on the style with no inkling that the translations are probably not doing justice to the originals, or try to reword the texts in a style that will be more palatable to Western tastes. Either way, the new “translations” (or rather rewritings) may be quite far removed from the originals. When the texts are narratives, it is not too difficult to get the gist of the episodes, but recorded “texts” also include short forms such as songs and little rhymes (the latter reminiscent of those in Grimm’s Tales) which are often very compact and allusive in style. It is easy for a person ignorant of the languages in question to misinterpret the general meaning as well as the subtleties of such short forms, and to rewrite them in a manner totally foreign to that of the originals.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    EVan, thanks for the precisions about Aesop.

  32. “Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee! Thou art translated.”

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