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14 Meyers_Text_Version7:Layout 1 26 7/2/08 11:24 AM Page 26 SAMUEL JOHNSON For his translation from Homer, Sam chose the deeply moving passage in which the Trojan hero Hector, departing to fight the Greeks and destined to be slain by Achilles, bids farewell to his devoted wife, Andromache, and his infant son, Astyanax. The baby, taken from his nurse’s arms, is frightened by the flash of light reflected on his father’s helmet. Pope’s superbly compressed translation of these lines mentions a plumed crest on top of the helmet: Thus having spoke, th’illustrious Chief of Troy Stretch’d his fond Arms to clasp the lovely Boy.

2 Meyers_Text_Version7:Layout 1 7/2/08 11:24 AM Page 35 V I L E M E L A N C H O LY , 1728–1730 35 The young Johnson began his first term with a highly idealized view of Oxford, soon dispelled by the appalling teaching and low intellectual standards. His disillusionment as a student was complete, yet in later life he frequently praised the university. Speaking of Oxford and Cambridge in Idler 33, he declared that “the number of learned persons in these celebrated seats, is still considerable, and more conveniences and opportunities for study still subsist in them, than in any other place.

Pope’s superbly compressed translation of these lines mentions a plumed crest on top of the helmet: Thus having spoke, th’illustrious Chief of Troy Stretch’d his fond Arms to clasp the lovely Boy. The Babe clung crying to his Nurse’s Breast, Scar’d at the dazzling Helm, and nodding Crest. Adding a fifth line and off-rhymed triplet, Sam offered a worthy rival to Pope: Hector, this speaking, with extended hands From the fair nurse Astyanax demands. The child starts back affrighted at the blaze Of light reflected from the polish’d brass.

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