Back by popular demand: a very short case study. In book 9, after the gang have blinded the Cyclops Polyphemus and snuck out, clinging to the bellies of the shepherd's rams, Odysseus and crew are rowing away at top speed. But O. can't resist taunting his blind victim.
The men try to restrain him: they say, σχέτλιε, τίπτ’ ἐθέλεις έρεθιζέμεν ἄγριον ἄνδρα; (9. 494). Notice here that the Cyclops is explicitly defined as a human being, a man: aner/ andra, same word used of Odysseus himself in line 1 of the poem.
Polyphemos is defined as a country-dwelling or wild man (agrios/agrion -- someone who lives in the country as opposed to the town, with connotations of roughness or fierceness). But he is definitely human, according to the Greek text. "Am I not a man...?"
Loeb translation: "Stubborn man, why will you provoke to anger a savage?" Here, the word "man" is attributed to Odysseus (who is not called "man" in the Greek); P. is othered. Are "savages" human? There's a long and horrible history of western responses to that one.
Lattimore: "Hard one, why are you trying once more to stir up this savage / man?" Lattimore does acknowledge that the Cyclops is a man, though "savage" rather undermines his claim to full humanity.
Fitzgerald: "Godsake, Captain! / Why bait the beast again?" Beasts are not human beings. "Captain" corresponds to nothing.
Lombardo, as he does quite often, leaves most of this line out, and like the Loeb, makes Odysseus the "man", not the Cyclops. His rendition: "Don't do it, man!"
Fagles: "So headstrong -- why? Why rile the beast again?" Beast... This is a total distortion of what the Greek is saying about the Cyclops' humanity.
Wilson: "Calm down! Why are you being so insistent/ on taunting this wild man?" I used "wild", which I felt captured something of the way agrios hovers between neutral description (wild animals aren't worse than tame ones) and judgment.
@DMendelsohn1960 My point in all these case studies is never, of course, to deny that I'm interpreting. I didn't comment on the impossibility of translating σχέτλιε in a way that sounds natural in English; "calm down" is a debatable compromise, substituting an imperative for a voc.
@DMendelsohn1960 Yeah. But it's too American-slangy for the register I'm going for. Plus "jerk" suggests "mean/selfish", rather than stubborn/ wilful craziness. There isnt a perfect Anglo-equivalent.
Remember that Athena is also a weaver, albeit (in the Odyssey) of strategems not physical fabric. Remember, too, that weaving is the activity of elite women: it's a marker of having time freed up because your slave women are grinding the grain and ruining their knees.
Translations are informed by, and inform, scholarly discourse. Cf. Heubeck on book 9 (Oxford commentary): "this race [sic], the embodiment of inhumanity, is endowed with non-human characteristics and is capable of acts of extreme barbarity". A standard, highly debatable view.
People who haven't read my translation sometimes seem to think I want to simplify the poem. I want the opposite. Polyphemus gulps down men. He's terrifying & disgusting. He's also human. The unreliable narrator shows several sides of the story. It's complicated.