[by Charles Lamb, 1808]
THIS work is designed as a supplement to the Adventures of Telemachus. It treats of the conduct and sufferings of Ulysses, the father of Telemachus. The picture which it exhibits is that of a brave man struggling with adversity; by a wise use of events, and with an inimitable presence of mind under difficulties, forcing out a way for himself through the severest trials to which human life can be exposed; with enemies natural and preternatural surrounding him on all sides. The agents in this tale, besides men and women, are giants, enchanters, sirens: things which denote external force or internal temptations, the twofold danger which a wise fortitude must expect to encounter in its course through this world. The fictions contained in it will be found to comprehend some of the most admired inventions of Grecian mythology. The ground-work of the story is as old as the Odyssey, but the moral and the colouring are comparatively modern. By avoiding the prolixity which marks the speeches and the descriptions in Homer, I have gained a rapidity to the narration, which I hope will make it more attractive, and give it more the air of a romance to young readers; though I am sensible that by the curtailment I have sacrificed in many places the manners to the passion, the subordinate characteristics to the essential interest of the story. The attempt is not to be considered as seeking a comparison with any of the direct translations of the Odyssey, either in prose or verse, though if I were to state the obligations which I have had to one obsolete version, [note] I should have run the hazard of depriving myself of the very slender degree of reputation which I could hope to acquire from a trifle like the present undertaking.
* The translation of Homer, in verse, by George Chapman, a celebrated poet in the time of Elizabeth and James I. Lamb says of him, "He would have made a great epic poet, if, indeed, he has not abundantly shown himself to be one, for his Homer is not so properly a translation as the stories of Achilles and Ulysses rewritten. The earnestness and passion which he has put into every part of these poems would be incredible to a reader of more modem translations."