I've been asked/praised/scolded/mansplained/ ad norovirus nauseam about my rendition of the first line of the Odyssey. So I was happy to get a message today asking about my rendition of line 1.10. Yay, moving on!
The Greek is this:
τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν.
My rendition is:
"Tell the old story for our modern times. / Find the beginning".
My correspondent worried that "the beginning" was too definite for the indefinite ἁμόθεν ("from somewhere"); he suggested "a beginning". But that's not good English & not good rhythmically. More substantively: my line DOES express uncertainty/ vagueness, in a different way.
You don't ask a goddess to find the beginning if it's obvious where it is. That's a waste of her precious time. The Gk has "say" as the imperative; I make it "find", to honor the vagueness of ἁμόθεν, "from somewhere": 'find' implies we don't know where it is.
Maybe the beginning starts in Book 1, or Book 5, or Book 13, or Book 22. It's an important uncertainty. Cf the important uncertainty in the Iliad about what exactly the plan of Zeus may be.
The Odyssey is complicated. The Odyssey is also all about finding a beginning: an origin, a starting point, a first. How do you get back to that, and where & what was it again? Is it a place? a time? a mood? a social position? a set of relationships? a role? a word?
I used "old story... modern times", to reflect the indexicality of καὶ ἡμῖν: also for us. The "us" changes every time the poem is re-performed, re-translated, re-read: it's now, and a moment later, a different now. In which water are we stepping? When was the start?