The Iliad of Homer (Alexander Pope)

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The Iliad of Homer was a poetic interpretation of the original Homeric poem undertaken by Alexander Pope, published serially from 1715 to 1720. It was followed by Pope's similar interpretation of The Odyssey of Homer in 1725.

The Iliad of Homer (poetic interpretation, 1715 to 1720)


Book I

  • The wrath of Peleus' son, the direful spring
    Of all the Grecian woes, O goddess sing!
    • Line 1. Pope's first translation. A later revision can be found in Bartlett's Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): "Achilles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring / Of woes unnumber'd, heavenly goddess, sing!"
  • Bold is the task, when subjects, grown too wise,
    Instruct a monarch where his error lies.
    • Line 103.
  • The distant Trojans never injur'd me.
    • Line 200.
  • Thou dog in forehead, but in heart a deer!
    • Line 298.
  • Words sweet as honey from his lips distill'd.
    • Line 332.
  • Shakes his ambrosial curls, and gives the nod,—
    The stamp of fate, and sanction of the god.
    • Line 684.
  • And unextinguish'd laughter shakes the skies.
    • Line 771. The same line occurs in Pope's translation of the Odyssey, Book VIII, line 366.

Book II

  • Ye gods, what dastards would our host command?
    Swept to the war, the lumber of a land.
    • Line 239.
  • Thick as autumnal leaves or driving sand,
    The moving squadrons blacken all the strand.
    • Line 970.

Book III

  • Chiefs who no more in bloody fights engage,
    But wise through time, and narrative with age,
    In summer-days like grasshoppers rejoice —
    A bloodless race, that send a feeble voice.
    • Line 199.
  • She moves a goddess, and she looks a queen.
  • Ajax the great…
    Himself a host.
    • Line 293.
  • Plough the watery deep.
    • Line 357.

Book IV

  • The day shall come, that great avenging day,
    Which Troy's proud glories in the dust shall lay,
    When Priam's powers and Priam's self shall fall,
    And one prodigious ruin swallow all.
    • Line 196.
  • First in the fight and every graceful deed.
    • Line 295.
  • The first in banquets, but the last in fight.
    • Line 401.
  • Gods! How the son degenerates from the sire!
    • Line 451.
  • With all its beauteous honours on its head.
    • Line 557.

Book V

  • A wealthy priest, but rich without a fault.
    • Line 16.
  • Not two strong men the enormous weight could raise,—
    Such men as live in these degenerate days.
    • Line 371. A similar line occurs in Book XX, line 337: "A mass enormous! which in modern days / No two of earth's degenerate sons could raise".
  • Whose little body lodg'd a mighty mind.

Book VI

  • He held his seat,—a friend to human race.
    Fast by the road, his ever-open door
    Obliged the wealthy, and relieved the poor.
    • Line 18.
  • Like leaves on trees the race of man is found,
    Now green in youth, now withering on the ground;
    Another race the following spring supplies:
    They fall successive, and successive rise.
    • Line 181. Compare: "As of the green leaves on a thick tree, some fall, and some grow", Ecclesiasticus xiv, 18.
  • Inflaming wine, pernicious to mankind.
    • Line 330.
  • If yet not lost to all the sense of shame.
    • Line 350.
  • 'Tis man's to fight, but Heaven's to give success.
    • Line 427.
  • The young Astyanax, the hope of Troy.
    • Line 467.
  • Yet while my Hector still survives, I see
    My father, mother, brethren, all, in thee.
    • Line 544.
  • May I lie cold before that dreadful day,
    Pressed with a load of monumental clay!
    • Line 590.
  • Andromache! my soul's far better part.
    • Line 624.

Book VII

Not hate, but glory, made these chiefs contend;
And each brave foe was in his soul a friend.
  • He from whose lips divine persuasion flows.
    • Line 143.
  • Not hate, but glory, made these chiefs contend;
    And each brave foe was in his soul a friend.
    • Line 364.
  • I war not with the dead.
    • Line 485.


  • Aurora now, fair daughter of the dawn,
    Sprinkled with rosy light the dewy lawn.
    • Line 1.
  • As full-blown poppies, overcharg'd with rain,
    Decline the head, and drooping kiss the plain, —
    So sinks the youth; his beauteous head, depress'd
    Beneath his helmet, drops upon his breast.
    • Line 371.
  • As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
    O'er heaven's clear azure spreads her sacred light,
    When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
    And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene;
    Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
    And stars unnumbered gild the glowing pole,
    O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed,
    And tip with silver every mountain's head;
    Then shine the vales, the rocks in prospect rise,
    A flood of glory bursts from all the skies.
    • Line 687.

Book IX

  • Who dares think one thing, and another tell,
    My heart detests him as the gates of hell.
    • Line 412. Note: The same line, with "soul" for "heart", occurs in Pope's translation of the Odyssey, Book XIV, line 181.
  • Life is not to be bought with heaps of gold:
    Not all Apollo's Pythian treasures hold,
    Or Troy once held, in peace and pride of sway,
    Can bribe the poor possession of a day.
    • Line 524.
  • Short is my date, but deathless my renown.
    • Line 535.
  • Injustice, swift, erect, and unconfin'd,
    Sweeps the wide earth, and tramples o'er mankind.
    • Line 628.
  • A generous friendship no cold medium knows,
    Burns with one love, with one resentment glows;
    One should our interests, and our passions, be;
    My friend must hate the man that injures me.
    • Line 725.

Book X

  • To labour is the lot of man below;
    And when Jove gave us life, he gave us woe.
    • Line 78.
  • Content to follow when we lead the way.
    • Line 141.
  • He serves me most, who serves his country best.
    • Line 201. Compare: "He serves his party best who serves the country best", Rutherford B. Hayes, Inaugural Address, March 5, 1877.
  • Praise from a friend, or censure from a foe,
    Are lost on hearers that our merits know.
    • Line 293.

Book XI

  • The rest were vulgar deaths, unknown to fame.
    • Line 394.

Book XII

  • Without a sign his sword the brave man draws,
    And asks no omen but his country's cause.
    • Line 283.
  • The life which others pay let us bestow,
    And give to fame what we to nature owe.
    • Line 393.


  • And seem to walk on wings, and tread in air.
    • Line 106.
  • The best of things beyond their measure cloy.
    • Line 795.

Book XIV

  • To hide their ignominious heads in Troy.
    • Line 170.
  • Persuasive speech, and more persuasive sighs,
    Silence that spoke, and eloquence of eyes.
    • Line 251.

Book XV

  • Heroes as great have died, and yet shall fall.
    • Line 157.
  • And for our country 'tis a bliss to die.
    • Line 583.
  • On valour's side the odds of combat lie,
    The brave live glorious, or lamented die;
    The wretch who trembles in the field of fame,
    Meets death, and worse than death, eternal shame.
    • Line 655.
  • Like strength is felt from hope and from despair.
    • Line 852.

Book XVI

  • Sleep and Death, two twins of winged race,
    Of matchless swiftness, but of silent pace.
    • Line 831.


  • Dispel this cloud, the light of Heaven restore;
    Give me to see, and Ajax asks no more.
    • Line 730.
  • The mildest manners, and the gentlest heart.
    • Line 756.
  • In death a hero, as in life a friend!
    • Line 758.


  • Patroclus, lov'd of all my martial train,
    Beyond mankind, beyond myself, is slain!
    • Line 103.
  • I live an idle burden to the ground.
    • Line 134.

Book XIX

  • Ah, youth! forever dear, forever kind.
    • Line 303.
  • Accept these grateful tears! for thee they flow,—
    For thee, that ever felt another's woe!
    • Line 319.

Book XX

  • Where'er he mov'd, the goddess shone before.
    • Line 127.
  • The matchless Ganymed, divinely fair.
    • Line 278. Compare: "Divinely fair", Alfred Tennyson, A Dream of Fair Women, XXII.
  • 'Tis fortune gives us birth,
    But Jove alone endues the soul with worth.
    • Line 290.
  • Our business in the field of fight
    Is not to question, but to prove our might.
    • Line 304.
  • A mass enormous! which in modern days
    No two of earth's degenerate sons could raise.
    • Line 337. A similar line occurs in Book V, line 371: "Not two strong men the enormous weight could raise,/ Such men as live in these degenerate days".


  • The bitter dregs of fortune's cup to drain.
    • Line 85.
  • Who dies in youth and vigour, dies the best.
    • Line 100.
  • This, this is misery! the last, the worst
    That man can feel.
    • Line 106.
  • No season now for calm familiar talk.
    • Line 169.
  • Jove lifts the golden balances that show
    The fates of mortal men, and things below.
    • Line 271.
Then welcome fate!
'Tis true I perish, yet I perish great:
Yet in a mighty deed I shall expire,
Let future ages hear it, and admire!
  • Then welcome fate!
    'Tis true I perish, yet I perish great:
    Yet in a mighty deed I shall expire,
    Let future ages hear it, and admire!
    • Line 385.
  • Achilles absent was Achilles still.
    • Line 418.
  • Forever honour'd, and forever mourn'd.
    • Line 422.
  • Unwept, unhonour'd, uninterr'd he lies!
    • Line 484. Compare: "Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung", Sir Walter Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel; "Unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown", Lord Byron, Childe Harold, canto iv. stanza 179.
  • Grief tears his heart, and drives him to and fro
    In all the raging impotence of woe.
    • Line 526.
  • Sinks my sad soul with sorrow to the grave.
    • Line 543.


  • 'Tis true, 'tis certain; man though dead retains
    Part of himself: the immortal mind remains.
    • Line 122.
  • Base wealth preferring to eternal praise.
    • Line 368.
  • It is not strength, but art, obtains the prize,
    And to be swift is less than to be wise.
    'Tis more by art than force of num'rous strokes.
    • Line 383. Compare: "'Tis slight, not strength, that gives the greatest lift", Thomas Middleton, Michaelmas Term (1602), Act iv, Scene 1.
  • A green old age, unconscious of decays,
    That proves the hero born in better days.
    • Line 929. Compare: "His hair just grizzled, As in a green old age", John Dryden, Œdipus, Act iii, Scene 1.


  • Two urns by Jove's high throne have ever stood,—
    The source of evil one, and one of good.
    • Line 663.
  • The mildest manners with the bravest mind.
    • Line 963.

Quotes about Pope's translation of the Iliad

It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope; but you must not call it Homer. ~ Richard Bentley
It is certainly the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen; and its publication must therefore be considered as one of the great events in the annals of learning. ~ Samuel Johnson
A poetical wonder ... a performance which no age or nation can pretend to equal. ~ Samuel Johnson
  • [Pope's] translation of the Iliad will remain a lasting monument to his honour, as the most elegant and highly finished translation, that, perhaps, ever was given of any poetical work.
    • Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, Vol. II (1783), Lecture XL: 'Didactic Poetry—Descriptive Poetry', p. 369.
  • I mentioned the vulgar saying, that Pope's Homer was not a good representation of the original. JOHNSON. "Sir, it is the greatest work of the kind that has ever been produced."
  • I have as yet read only to the end of the eighth Iliad; but, as far as I can judge, this is one of the finest translations in the English language; and, what is very extraordinary, it appears to the best advantage when compared with the original. I have read both carefully so far, and written remarks as I went along, and I think I can prove that, where Pope has omitted one beauty, he has added or improved four.
    • Philip Doddridge, in The Correspondence and Diary of Philip Doddridge, Vol. II (1829), ed. by J. D. Humphreys, p. 58.
  • The rights, powers, and pretensions of the sovereign of Olympus, are very clearly described in the xvth book of the Iliad: in the Greek original, I mean; for Mr. Pope, without perceiving it, has improved the theology of Homer.
  • [Bentely] and Pope, soon after the publication of Homer, met at Dr. Mead's at dinner; when Pope, desirous of his opinion of the translation, addressed him thus: "Dr. Bentley, I ordered my bookseller to send you your books; I hope you received them." Bentley, who had purposely avoided saying any thing about Homer, pretended not to understand him, and asked, 'Books! books! what books?' 'My Homer,' replied Pope, 'which you did me the honour to subscribe for.'—'Oh,' said Bentley, 'ay, now I recollect—your translation:—it is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope; but you must not call it Homer.'
    • John Hawkins, The Works of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. in Eleven Volumes, Vol. IV (1787), The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, "Life of Pope", footnote on p. 126.
  • It is certainly the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen; and its publication must therefore be considered as one of the great events in the annals of learning.
  • [A] poetical wonder ... a performance which no age or nation can pretend to equal.
  • [Pope] cultivated our language with so much diligence and art, that he has left in his Homer a treasure of poetical elegances to posterity. His version may be said to have tuned the English tongue; for since its appearance no writer, however deficient in other powers, has wanted melody. Such a series of lines so elaborately corrected, and so sweetly modulated, took possession of the publick ear; the vulgar was enamoured of the poem, and the learned wondered at the translation. [...] It is remarked by Watts, that there is scarcely a happy combination of words, or a phrase poetically elegant in the English language, which Pope has not inserted into his version of Homer. How he obtained possession of so many beauties of speech, it were desirable to know.
  • What terrible moments does one feel after one has engaged for a large work! In the beginning of my translating the Iliad, I wished any body would hang me a hundred times. It sat so heavily on my mind at first, that I often used to dream of it; and do so sometimes still. When I fell into the method of translating 30 or 40 verses before I got up, and piddled with it the rest of the morning, it went on easily enough; and when I was thoroughly got into the way of it, I did the rest with pleasure. [...] The Iliad took me up six years, and during that time, and particularly the first part of it, I was often under great pain and apprehensions. Though I conquered the thoughts of it in the day, they would frighten me in the night. I dreamed often of being engaged in a long journey, and that I should never get to the end of it. This made so strong an impression upon me, that I sometimes dream of it still; of being engaged in that translation, of having got about half way through it, and being embarrassed, and under dread of never completing it.
  • The famous Lord Hallifax (though so much talked of) was rather a pretender to taste, than really possessed of it.—When I had finished the two or three first books of my translation of the Iliad, that lord, "desired to have the pleasure of hearing them read at his house." Addison, Congreve, and Garth, were there at the reading.—In four or five places, Lord Hallifax stopped me very civilly; and with a speech, each time of much the same kind: "I beg your pardon, Mr. Pope, but there is something in that passage that does not quite please me.—Be so good as to mark the place, and consider it a little at your leisure.—I am sure you can give it a little turn."—I returned from Lord Hallifax's with Dr. Garth, in his chariot; and as we were going along, was saying to the doctor, that my lord had laid me under a good deal of difficulty, by such loose and general observations; that I had been thinking over the passages almost ever since, and could not guess at what it was that offended his lordship in either of them.—Garth laughed heartily at my embarrassment; said, I had not been long enough acquainted with Lord Hallifax, to know his way yet: that I need not puzzle myself in looking those places over and over when I got home. "All you need do, (said he) is to leave them just as they are; call on Lord Hallifax two or three months hence, thank him for his kind observations on those passages; and then read them to him as altered. I have known him much longer than you have, and will be answerable for the event."—I followed his advice; waited on Lord Hallifax some time after: said, I hoped he would find his objections to those passages removed[;] read them to him exactly as they were at first; and his lordship was extremely pleased with them, and cried out, "Ay now, Mr. Pope, they are perfectly right! nothing can be better."
    • Alexander Pope, as quoted in Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters, of Books and Men (1820) by Joseph Spence [published from the original papers; with notes, and a life of the author, by Samuel Weller Singer]; "Spence's Anecdotes", Section IV. 1734...36. pp. 134–136.