The sound of cranes

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κόσμηθεν ἅμ᾽ ἡγεμόνεσσιν ἕκαστοι,
Τρῶες μὲν κλαγγῇ τ᾽ ἐνοπῇ τ᾽ ἴσαν ὄρνιθες ὣς
ἠΰτε περ κλαγγὴ γεράνων πέλει οὐρανόθι πρό:
αἵ τ᾽ ἐπεὶ οὖν χειμῶνα φύγον καὶ ἀθέσφατον ὄμβρον
κλαγγῇ ταί γε πέτονται ἐπ᾽ ὠκεανοῖο ῥοάων
ἀνδράσι Πυγμαίοισι φόνον καὶ κῆρα φέρουσαι:
ἠέριαι δ᾽ ἄρα ταί γε κακὴν ἔριδα προφέρονται.

Hom. Il. 3.1

But when the companies were assembled each with their leaders, the Trojans marched out with shouting and war cries like the cries of cranes as they go forward in the sky who when they are escaping winter and relentless rain fly over the steams of the Ocean bringing death and destruction to the Pygmies. High in the air they carry on their dreadful squabbling.

This describes the sound that the Trojans as they march out to battle with the Greeks in Book 3 of the Iliad.

The last line could also be translated as “in the early morning they bring destructive strife (to the Pygmies).” This is just one of many cases where experts differ from one another. It makes me feel better when I am having trouble getting to the meaning of a line of Homer that people much better than me can also have very different views of the meaning of a line. I prefer my translation as the point of the simile is the sound made by the cranes and although I don’t know what cranes sound like I think I can detect in the sound of the Greek a sort of crying of cranes together with the sound of their wings as they fly. May be just my imagination.

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One Response to The sound of cranes

  1. Pingback: Menelaus good at the war cry. | platosparks

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