Race and Religion in Creative Consciousness

I’ve liked a few English translations of Homer’s Iliad, particularly Alexander Pope’s ridiculous rhyming heroic couplets and Robert Fagles’s prose. Still I don’t think any currently published translations capture the original’s whole spirit. The Iliad we know today is the written form of an entire oral tradition unto itself, which ancient epic poets whose names and numbers we’ll never know invented on their feet, their genius and imagination driven forth by musical accompaniment that kept the dactylic-hexameter beat. The long, repeated sections—the formulae—existed to give the poet time to freestyle the next bit. The original Greek is a mishmash of different dialects and vernaculars, with grammar and spelling often sacrificed so that the line sounded fine over the beat. The modern listener should find the subject matter familiar as well: drink, booty, fly ladies, stacks of treasure, macho violence, and ostentatious modes of transportation. Has any translation to date truly captured all of these qualities? Has any translation to date kept Homer’s Iliad in its true, original form—poetry rocked over a beat?

None so far. Except mine.

Check the method, and back me on Patreon!

Tha Illiad of MC Homer

translated from the original Greek by MC Lula

How to Use the Text: See the Perseus Digital Library to read the original text and/or a plain English translation side by side with this translation, or compare to the English translation of your choice—I grew up with Robert Fagles. If you copy and paste lines, remember to paste without formatting if you want to clear the line numbers.

Book One: The Beef

  1. Muse, rhyme of the beef of the son of Peleus
  2. that piled mad grief all up on the Achaeans
  3. and spurred to Perdition the souls of real gangstas,
  4. yo, and for bitches an’ crows they made banquets.
  5. The mighty god Zeus’s will was accomplished
  6. when, fighting, those two was split up in contest:
  7. Atrides, lord of men, and Achilles with the brilliance.
  8. Which of the gods willed these two to militance?
  9. The seed of Zeus and Leta, who was beefin’ at the leader,
  10. brought disease up in this piece; and the legions were deceasin’,
  11. ‘cuz the mighty king Atrides dissed a high priest, name o’ Chryses,
  12. for he beat feet to the fleet fleet of the Greek peeps with a pricey
  13. ransom, countless in its bounty, for his daughter, who got captured,
  14. with the chaplet on the pimp cane of Apollo (who will cap you
  15. from a distance). and his mission: to petition the Achaeans,
  16. ‘specially the two Atreides, the chiefs of Grecian defense:
  17. “Lord Atrides, and Achaeans with greaves that are pimpest,
  18. may the highest of the deities, who live on Mount Olympus,
  19. let you pillage Priam’s village, and return ya to your hood;
  20. just release my dear Chryseis—an’ you’ll earn cash for my blood;
  21. and you’ll respect Apollo, packin’ heat, the son of God.”
  22. Then all Achaeans holla’d back, that he was really good,
  23. to acknowledge this apologist and take the handsome ransom
  24. but his prayer found no favor when Atrides checked the scansion
  25. He ejected him, and wrecked him with invective, bomb as missiles:
  26. “Grandfather, best not follow me amongst these hollow vessels,
  27. best not see you tarry now nor detect you comin’ back now
  28. lest the pimp cane of Apollo not protect you from the smackdown!
  29. I never shall release her; old age comin’ down upon her
  30. in our home, in Greece, far from the country of her father,
  31. for I doom her to the loom-work and to humor my dark passions
  32. Now get, lest I forget my head, and you not find yours fastened.”
  33. Thus he stated and the aged man, afraid, obeyed the motion
  34. He, denied, went silently beside the strident waves of ocean,
  35. there to sing a righteous song to beat the sea’s uproar; he hollered
  36. to the King of light and song whom sleek-haired Leta bore, Apollo
  37. “Hark, silver archer, who guards Chryse, Killa,
  38. godly Tenedos, no end to those darn mice he killin’,
  39. if ever, praisin’ you, I raised the roof all up on the house
  40. or this high priest wrapped a thigh-piece in holocaust of cows
  41. and mountain goats, then count my vote, fulfillin’ my desire
  42. for my grievin’ days, let Grecians pay: you’ll kill them with gunfire.”
  43. His entreaty reached the ear of the far-shot Apollo,
  44. who plummeted from summits, his heart hot with choler
  45. with a shottie on his body and a scope open at both ends
  46. and his missiles they would whistle when he focused his emotions
  47. through the weapon; he stepped in, fell like the night
  48. took a seat far from the fleet, and his pellets took flight
  49. with each round, a sunburst and a sound of thunder
  50. busted caps up in their asses, and their hounds put under
  51. but soon mortal fire turned to soldiers of the Grecians
  52. and the funeral pyres burned, smoldered without ceasin’
  53. For nine days, the deity, he stoked the conflagration
  54. the tenth day, Peleides convoked a congregation
  55. from Hera, lackin’ melanin’ the thought had descended
  56. she dared to backed the Hellenics and sought to defend ’em
  57. so then all the men who were sent for congested
  58. and Achilles who was illest of sprinters, suggested,
  59. “Atrides, our attack’s been driven back. It would be wise to peace,
  60. returnin’ on a journey home. and this way no one dies at least,
  61. or else our guys are buyin’ it from violence and virulence
  62. but come on, let us summon some diviner, whether hierophant
  63. or someone who has the oneiropolitan persuasion
  64. he’ll perceive for us the reason fair Apollo’s gun is blazin’
  65. have our prayers found disfavor? did we vex ‘im with a hecatomb?
  66. he may desire a savor that’s delectable, directed to ‘im
  67. Let’s get sheep and goats and smoke a fat one for Apollo.”
  68. Then he sat down, having spoken. That one’s words were followed
  69. by Calchas Thestorides, foremost authority
  70. who foresees the future, the now, and before in dreams
  71. who charted, navigatin’ the Greeks into Illium
  72. with arts of divination which Phoebus had given him
  73. He chimed in with a rhyme which he meant with good intentions:
  74. “Achilles, Διι φιλε, it’s your will for me to venture
  75. what’s botherin’ the sovereign of snipers, why he’s hexed ya
  76. I’ll tell you: listen well, though, and promise my protection
  77. mentally, corporally, defend me, uncollapsin’
  78. for I sense one G be sore at least impendin’, one who’s captain
  79. of the Grecians; all Achaeans to this mean one pay obeisance,
  80. his puissance ain’t believable to behold when the beef is on.
  81. At first dolorovorous, his soreness he’ll conceal away
  82. he’ll nurse that curse and hoard it; ’til like Horace it sees the day
  83. it’s burnin’ in his sternum, it keeps churnin’ with his heartbeat;
  84. but hell, I might as well tell, if you’re certain you’ll my guard be.”
  85. Responding, Achilles the swift got to spittin’
  86. “No despondence, get on this and gift us your vision
  87. you’re the divine’s most favored, ‘s what I’m sayin’;
  88. your oracles shine, when you’re prayin’ for Danaans;
  89. while I live beneath the daylight, any cracka by the side
  90. of these ships won’t seek to lay a heavy smackdown on yo’ hide,
  91. ain’t no one, even tho’ Agamemnon is the name,
  92. high-postin’ he the most mackest gentleman in the game.”
  93. The soothsayer felt braver and he started to direct this to ’em:
  94. “Prayers met with favor; you ain’t vexed ‘im with no hecatomb.
  95. he’s steppin’ ’cause the priest wern’t respected by the king:
  96. didn’t let the shawty free or collect up on the bling
  97. ergo the brother can’t stop, won’t stop plaguin’;
  98. therefo’ another man drops, ’til the day when
  99. the handsome-eyed honey is returned to her father
  100. with no ransom cash money, and you burn up an offer-
  101. ing on Chryse. Convince him with such an appeasement.”
  102. The soothsayer finished his rhyme and was seated.
  103. Up jumped the chief, Agamemnon Atrides
  104. pumped up with grief, black with venom inside; he
  105. screamed, eyes agleam, as if set with a fire
  106. of malice, to Calchas, a threat hella dire:
  107. “You prophet of Apocalypse, ya droppins ain’t cooperative
  108. the sheeit you foreseein’ may be pleasin’ to your cognitive,
  109. but what’s really good? you ain’t never do or say it
  110. now you playin’ like Isaiah, cuz you spray to the Danäans
  111. that Apollo with the hollow-tip be causin’ sorrow ’cause o’ this:
  112. the bling that they was bringin’ for Chryseis didn’t alter shit—
  113. I sent them bitches packin’, want my baby where I kept her
  114. she better for the mackin’ than my lady Clytemnestra
  115. both babies got back, get stack, and got soul
  116. but I’ll give her back for the good of the whole
  117. ‘cuz I need that my peoples be ill, but not sick
  118. but every thug needs a shorty, so score me some chick
  119. lest I go without the booty, alone of Achaeans
  120. check check it out, y’all, my homegirl is peacin'”
  121. Then the words of the godlike Achilles were resoundin’:
  122. “O Atrides most fly, who loves to rule cash around him,
  123. how are great-hearted Greeks gonna get that stack?
  124. We know of no dough that was left unjacked
  125. What we gittin’ from settlements we sacked was split up
  126. it’s unfitting to get the men to stack that shit up
  127. Yet to God you speak thus forth? However, your underlings
  128. will pay back to the threes and fours, if ever Zeus the Thundering
  129. gives us the well-walled city Troy to sack.”
  130. Then Agamemnon tells all, it’s ya’ boy right back:
  131. “Achilles, like a god, though you may be a great G,
  132. don’t front in your thoughts—can’t evade or persuade me
  133. or try to keep a prize, while my pockets barren be,
  134. and plan to command my ass into charity!
  135. If these Achaean heroes, yet, are givin’ me a prize
  136. I decree got equal zeroes when they chip in Gs to buy—
  137. but hell, if they will not, I’ll jack something precious
  138. from your stash, Achilles, Ajax, or Odysseus.
  139. When I come to levy fines, he gon’ feel so irate, word;
  140. but don’t pay no nevermind, we can deal with that later.
  141. Let’s tow us a vessel that’s black to the tides,
  142. get rowers assembled, and pack it with bribes
  143. so Chryseis with the cheeks that are roundest gets all up ons.
  144. The leader, he should be of good council when called upon:
  145. Ajax? Idomeneus? Odysseus divine?
  146. or you, son of Peleus, of all men most malign?
  147. so you please with sacrifice the one who hits farthest.”
  148. Then the fleetest cat replied with a look of grim darkness,
  149. “Your raiment is your shamelessness; for gain you are insatiate;
  150. I ain’t see how Danaans are persuaded by your ravings yet
  151. to march on the road or to fight foemen fearsome
  152. I ain’t come to blows here ‘cause of Trojan spearmen
  153. who ain’t tried to battle or beef with me—
  154. or to drive off my cattle or steeds, you see,
  155. nor despoiled any harvest of hero-raising Phthia
  156. where soil clods are largest; between us lay the difficult
  157. shadows of the shady peaks, and seas strong of voice
  158. no, we’re shadowin’ this shameless G, so he can rejoice
  159. and pilfer him some loot, for this dog and Menelaus
  160. from Ilium. The truth of this wrong won’t bend or sway him.
  161. This same one indeed now threatens to jack my prize
  162. which came from the Greeks, my sweat, and my sacrifice.
  163. My booty can’t compare to yours, G, any time Achaeans
  164. loot some Trojan territory, plentiful with beings.
  165. What tho’ the mass of the rush of the battle
  166. my hands fight it, when dividin’ up the cuts, to your ass will
  167. the greater part go, while I stomp back to my fleet
  168. with some dainty cargo, when the combat has me beat.
  169. Now I’m goin’ toward Thessaly, I know it’s far better
  170. to head home in curved vessels, G, and no more just set here,
  171. exempt of my honor, and beef up your purse.”
  172. Agamemnon responded, the chief, with a verse:
  173. “Mos’ definite, flee, if your heart calls you, G,
  174. I ain’t gonna pray you to stay ‘cause of me
  175. or my niggaz, for the biggest of advisers is Zeus.
  176. Of all kings whom gods bring up, most despised to me is you
  177. for you nourish your soul with war, strife, and battle
  178. you got courage, but hold up, God gave you that all
  179. Float home in your boats, rule your Myrmidon legions,
  180. tho’ I don’t mean to gloat, fool ain’t worryin’ me, then;
  181. your beef is just paltry—so just see what you think of this:
  182. since Phoebus Apollo took Chryseis from my fingertips
  183. I’ll send the lady back with my legions and my fleet
  184. but then I’ll maybe mack on Briseis who so sweet.
  185. When I enter in your tent to apprehend her, get my drift
  186. how inferior to me you are. Then men here won’t be swift
  187. to compare themselves to me, or say they equal me identical.”
  188. Despair developed deep in Peleides, his ventricles
  189. were scattered in his chest: should he dive for the sword-hilt in
  190. its scabbard, should he wrest it from his thigh where he wore it and
  191. put it in his enemy, then search the chief for drops
  192. or should he seek serenity and urge his beef to stop?
  193. Those two courses warred in his heart’s arena
  194. As he drew forth his sword, then in darts Athena
  195. from the heights; white-armed Hera had enlisted and deployed her
  196. both delighting in Achilles, and solicitous like lawyers
  197. see Athena stand behind him, bind him back by his blond hair
  198. she appeared to none beside him, rhymed to no one else who’s there
  199. and Achilles was astounded, turned around and then perceived
  200. Athena great and terrible; and veritably he
  201. made a sound unto to her, his words flew, hear the spiel:
  202. “Why you down on the earth, child of Zeus with the shield?
  203. Did the arrogance of Atreus’s baby catch your notice?
  204. Let me lay it on you, lady, ain’t no maybe, yeah, I know this:
  205. forthwith his haughtiness will sacrifice his heart.”
  206. Then it’s the goddess with the flashing eyes’ retort:
  207. “I descend to end your temper, and to sway your intentions,
  208. from the stars, HER to the A had me sent in
  209. ‘cuz she loves you hella deep and she carin’ for you, man
  210. but come on, quell your beef, and don’t take your sword in hand
  211. drop a diss track instead, so ill that he’ll gasp,
  212. cop a listen: I pledge, this will come to pass
  213. he’ll present shining presents thrice boostin’ your pay
  214. for his vainglory. Restrain your beef and do what I say.”
  215. Then Peleides the speedy G spoke, laid before her:
  216. “There is need for me, O deity, to obey your order
  217. though it’s deep indeed, this quarrel, hell, this way’s truly safer.
  218. If one cedes to the immortals, they’ll listen to his prayers.”
  219. On a hilt wrought with silver, hand was stayed from the slaughter
  220. and he stabbed into the scabbard and obeyed Zeus’s daughter
  221. who, once she’s cared for him, to the Heavens makes an odyssey,
  222. where Shieldbearer lives, plus eleven gods and goddesses.
  223. Then Achilles hit Atrides, rhymed a baneful answer
  224. turning villains to contrite Gs, rife with pain and anger:
  225. “Got the eyes of a bitch, but your center’s a fawn.
  226. You imbibin’ the Cris while your men fightin’ on
  227. yeah, I scramble to an ambush with the baddest of the Greeks,
  228. but your spirit ain’t no spearman, ‘cuz it fears to be deceased
  229. but it’s all good to jack the benjamins wherever you might venture
  230. through the hood of Grecian gentlemen, from anyone against you
  231. you bite on your own crew! if this muster had a spine
  232. they’d nah fight to follow you—you’d have bust your final rhyme
  233. now I’m swearin’ on the mic like Parental Advisory
  234. invention which augments transcendental or miserly
  235. verses for all purposes, purchase or piracy
  236. the censors are spent, won’t venture to silence me
  237. rockin’ on your system: and the Greeks will check the method
  238. when the rock is bearin’ witness or it speak respect to Heaven;
  239. I’m raisin’ up a covenant from here unto the Lord:
  240. that Danäans will be covetin’ this hero’s awesome sword
  241. though your grieving is increasing, no protector givin’ aid to thee:
  242. deceased will pile, heapin’ under Hector like he’s HIV
  243. and salt from your cryin’ gonna burn your lacerations
  244. when all y’all be dyin’ ’cause you spurned the best Danäan.”
  245. Thus he expectorated, dropped the gold-decorated
  246. microphone at his feet, and his seat, then he’d take it
  247. Atrides, he was mad. Nestor rose up and stood,
  248. the illinest of Pylians at flows that are good
  249. the oration emanatin’ from his tongue could sweeten honey
  250. in his day two generations grew from young and green as money
  251. up through old and dyin’ and were lost—and this occurred
  252. in most holy Pylos, and he bossed over the third.
  253. He addressed the assembly, well and worthy in speech:
  254. “Hot mess has descended on the turf of the Greeks.
  255. Priam and his fam would be glad just to hear it
  256. and you know the other Trojans won’t be mad at it neither
  257. if word of this reached them, accounts of you bickering,
  258. you lords of the Greeks both in counsel and triggerin’
  259. but heed me, obey, ‘cuz I’m older than you
  260. you see, in my day, I rolled with a crew
  261. who were better than you people, who would never sleep on Nestor
  262. I ain’t never seen their equals, and I’ll never see them ever
  263. peace to the shepherds of men, Dryas, Pirithous
  264. Caineus, Exadios, and godlike Polyphemus
  265. Theseus Aegeides, deathless in his worth
  266. my peeps: of all Gs these were deffest on the earth
  267. My mentors were renowned in might. They clashed with all the wylinest
  268. of centaurs in the mountain heights—they smashed them all with violence
  269. these guys were my homeboys. From lands far I’d come in
  270. from Pylos, my home, for to answer their summons
  271. When I battled at their side, damn, I did it on my lonesome
  272. no cat today could fight ‘em, you fidda get ‘em owned, son
  273. the hottest in the game used to heed me when I advised
  274. you oughta do the same ‘cuz obedience is wise
  275. Don’t, on fleek as you may be, take a dime for your own use
  276. the Greek sons already done assigned as a bonus
  277. Peleides, best hope not to bomb on the don, for
  278. the deities bestow the uncommonest honor
  279. to the monarch on the mic, whom the gods gave greatness,
  280. Stronger though you might be, though ya’ moms was Thetis,
  281. he presides anyway, since there’s more that he bosses.
  282. Atrides, I pray you, cut short all the crossness
  283. you’ve spilled on Achilles, who’s the hardest-core
  284. of the men who defend us from this horrid war.”
  285. Thus rhyming, the lord Agamemnon responded
  286. “Old-timer, your words, all of them been real honest
  287. but this man wants to rule over everyone
  288. [Agamemnon repeats “he wants to rule everyone” for a line and a half,]
  289. [so the DJ scratches line 287 for 1.5 bars] but I expect one man won’t fear him!
  290. Even if eternal gods elected him a spearman,
  291. is the deities’ design that he heckles me thus?
  292. Then Peleides divine interjects and he busts:
  293. They’d say I had no vertebra, that I’m of no account
  294. if I were to defer to ya each time you ran ya’ mouth
  295. You can order other warriors, but check that you don’t say none
  296. with respect to my direction: I expect I won’t obey them.
  297. And I’ll say another thing to you, so hurl it deep in mind:
  298. I won’t lay on you a finger, dude, the girl to keep for mine
  299. or on others here: you gave it, take your gift back, shit
  300. But that other gear arrayed beside my swift black ship
  301. you ain’t never gonna jack, not when I won’t let it go
  302. please test me, in fact, so that I can let ‘em know
  303. the splash of your lifeblood, black around my speartip.”
  304. They clashed in the cipher, attacked with sound and lyric,
  305. then dismissed the party assembled by the ships
  306. and Achilles departed for his vessels and his crib
  307. with the son of Menoetius and the rest of their phalanx
  308. and meanwhile Atrides got a fast ship for sailing
  309. he boarded twenty oarsmen, a hecatomb proceeded
  310. on as offering to God, and the sexy-cheeked Chryseis
  311. was strapped in. Odysseus, the star of the sequel,
  312. was captain. They lit out with the barque and its people.
  313. Atrides decided it was time now to bathe
  314. so his men did it, then threw the grime to the waves
  315. and a hecatomb so flawless for Apollo they slaughtered
  316. bulls and goats died by the side of the waters
  317. and the flavor rose to Heaven with the smoke ‘round spinnin’.
  318. Thus some labored in the camp but Agamemnon didn’t
  319. yet cease on his beef, which he’d threatened Achilles with
  320. he speaks to 2 Gs, Eurybates and Talthybius,
  321. the comrades, the heralds, the squires, the readiest:
  322. “Go to the bunk of Achilles son of Peleus.
  323. Seize me Briseis, pretty-cheeked, bring her back here
  324. If he doesn’t cede her, I myself finna jack her
  325. together with my forces: all the worse for my man.”
  326. Thus he spoke, sent them forth with a word of command.
  327. They walked by the side of the brine that was barren
  328. ‘til they came to the Myrmidons’ rides and their cabins,
  329. They seen him among them; their captain was seated
  330. between them. Achilles weren’t happy to see them.
  331. Surprised and contrite, in the sight of the king
  332. they stood, and they couldn’t say or ask anything.
  333. He perceived their thoughts and professed this to them:
  334. “You heralds of Gods and messengers of men:
  335. approach unreproached. Agamemnon’s the miscreant
  336. who ordered you forth apprehending my Briseis.
  337. Patroclus, my boo, get Briseis who the fittest
  338. hand her off to these two, so that we can get a witness
  339. to the gods who are blessed and ephemeral men
  340. and the ungentle king, if ever again
  341. there develops a need that I stave off any harm
  342. from the Peloponnese: for he rages in his heart
  343. either forwards or back, he don’t pay no attention
  344. in order that the Greeks might be safe while contendin’.”
  345. Thus he spoke, and Patroclus heeded what he said,
  346. and brought out the pretty-cheeked Briseis from her bed.
  347. The squires retired past the ships of Achaeans
  348. homegirl went with ‘em, though she didn’t wanna leave him.
  349. Achilles left in tears, and he seated down, bent,
  350. on the shore where he peered at the sea without end
  351. Hands extended, to Moms he repeated a prayer:
  352. “You brought me to life, although fleeting my days are
  353. Zeus on Olympus oughta pay what he owe
  354. to the palm of my hand—but of fame, now I’m broke.
  355. For surely wide-ruling Agamemnon Atrides
  356. dishonors me, flaunting his theft of my the prize, see.”
  357. Thus he spoke, weeping, and his moms heard the prayer
  358. She rose from the deeps by her father Nereus
  359. so swiftly emerges her form from the brine
  360. like a mist, and she perched down before him as he cried
  361. With her hands she embraced him; by name she addressed him.
  362. “Why you crying? What sorrow came in your breast, kid?
  363. Don’t front, but just spill it, so we can both know.”
  364. Then the swift-foot Achilles spoke forth with a groan:
  365. “You already know—why you got me repeatin’ it?
  366. We rolled into Thebes, into godly Eetion
  367. we sacked it and jacked everything up there
  368. and the sons of Achaeans split the bling up fair
  369. Chryseis who so cute was allotted to Atrides.
  370. The priest of far-shootin’ Apollo, name o’ Chryses
  371. headed to the navy of the bronze-armored Argives
  372. to get back his baby with a monstrously large bribe
  373. hands on the far-gunnin’ Apollo’s wreath
  374. on his pimp cane, he’s bargaining with all the Greeks,
  375. ‘specially the two Atreides, commanders of the slaughter.
  376. Then all Achaeans holla’d back to manumit his daughter,
  377. to reverence the reverend and cart off the bribe
  378. but to seize it wasn’t pleasing to the heart of Atrides
  379. who ejected him, and wrecked him with unfairest words
  380. Pops left, enraged—but his prayer was heard
  381. by Apollo, the lucent god to whom he was bae
  382. he called down a fusillade to doom our brigades
  383. killed ‘em one after another, and the fire of slaughter
  384. filled the bunks of my brothers, ‘til we hired an augur
  385. to tell us a prophecy he’d seen of the reason
  386. I said that Apollo should receive our appeasement
  387. but ire seized the king, who jumped up fast
  388. and fired off the thing which would come to pass …”