Friday, April 17, 2015

Diary of a Young Translator

A ruled page of handwritten text.If you ever read The Iliad in high school, you might have Richmond Lattimore ‘26 to thank. This Dartmouth grad and Rhodes Scholar translated both of Homer’s classics into English, and his versions are widely regarded as some of the best around. He had an incredibly successful career in academia, but what’s more incredible is what he left behind. Rauner has a small collection of his personal journals and translations, and they are unbelievable.

One of the items we possess is his handwritten translations, line for line, of The Iliad chapters 15-22.386. The writing is perfect, with every line representing a line of the text and even this handwritten draft includes detailed line numbers along the margins. Moreover, the draft is hardly corrected; he occasionally crosses out or moves words around to change the meaning of a phrase, but other than that, he sticks to his notes. The pen color changes quite often, so it seems he would sit down and translate around 40 lines on a regular, consistent basis. It’s incredible to look at the control he has, both in the neatness and correctness of this draft. Every stroke is exact and unwavering.

An open notebook of graph paper, filled with notes.

A page of ruled paper, filled with Greek and English notes.
The library also houses his journal from 1938a small moleskine-like notebook that contains a variety of notes. The book starts with Greek translations, with both the Greek and English texts printed painstakingly in pencil and corrected over in pen. He occasionally changes the direction in which he writes, so you have to keep turning the notebook over to read it. There are daily diary entries from his travels in Europe, collections of his own poetry, which are also neatly written by hand, as well as more work from his Iliad translation. Certain pages just have notes about stress patterns and messages to himself about translation.

Check out Lattimore’s papers by asking for MS-503. A short guide to the collection is available.

Posted for Maggie Baird '18.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


A title page for "When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd."150 years ago this week, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  Walt Whitman responded to the tragedy in a way that many Americans remember each year--though not necessarily on April 15th. Rather, when they catch their first scent of lilac in the spring air.

A simple book cover for "Drum-Taps.""When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd" was added to Whitman's Drum-Taps along with "O Captain! my Captain!" and other poems as a "sequel." The rest of the book had already been readied for press, so the additional poems were printed as pamphlet bound in the end of the book. Drum-Taps is a memorial to the Civil War, and the sequel an added memorial to Lincoln. The poem turned out to be one of Whitman's most popular. The opening stanzas evoke loss while celebrating the regeneration of spring.
When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd... and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
To read it in its original, ask for Val 816W59 P8.