The second major translation of Homer’s classics after Alexander Pope’s.
About the translator (from wikipedia):
William Cowper (1731 – 1800) was an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. In many ways, he was one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him “the best modern poet”, whilst William Wordsworth particularly admired his poem Yardley-Oak.
After being institutionalised for insanity in the period 1763–65, Cowper found refuge in a fervent evangelical Christianity, the inspiration behind his much-loved hymns. He continued to suffer doubt and, after a dream in 1773, believed that he was doomed to eternal damnation. He recovered and wrote more religious hymns.
His religious sentiment and association with curate John Newton (who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”) led to much of the poetry for which he is best remembered. His poem “Light Shining out of Darkness” gave English the phrase: “God moves in a mysterious way/His wonders to perform.”
He also wrote a number of anti-slavery poems and his friendship with Newton, who was an avid anti-slavery campaigner, resulted in Cowper being asked to write in support of the Abolitionist campaign. Cowper wrote a poem called ‘The Negro’s Complaint’ (1788) which rapidly became very famous, and was often quoted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 20th century civil rights movement. He also wrote several other less well known poems on slavery in the 1780s, many of which attacked the idea that slavery was economically viable.
Cowper talking about Homer’s works:
Except the Bible, there never was in the world a book so remarkable for that species of the sublime that owes its very existence to simplicity, as the works of Homer. He is always nervous, plain, natural … Homer is, on occasions that call for such a style, the easiest and most familiar of all writers … Homer’s accuracy of description, and his exquisite judgement never, never failed him. He never, I believe, in a single instance sacrificed beauty to embellishment. He does not deal in hyperbole … accordingly, when he describes nature, whether in man or in animal, or whether nature inanimate, you may always trust him for the most consummate fidelity. It is his great glory that he omits no striking part of his subject, and that he never inserts a title that does not belong to it. Oh! how unlike some describers that I have met with, of modern days, who smother you with words, words, words, and then think that they have copied nature; when all the while nature was an object either not looked at, or not sufficiently.
About the books (from wikipedia):
About The Iliad:
Set in the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of Ilium by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles. Although the story covers only a few weeks in the final year of the war, the Iliad mentions or alludes to many of the Greek legends about the siege. Along with the Odyssey, also attributed to Homer, the Iliad is among the oldest extant works of Western literature, and its written version is usually dated to around the eighth century BC.
About The Odyssey:
The Odyssey (Greek: Ὀδύσσεια) is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work traditionally ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon. Indeed it is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature. It was probably composed near the end of the 8th century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the Greek-speaking coastal region of what is now Turkey.
The poem mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses, as he was known in Roman myths) and his long journey home following the fall of Troy.