Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Robert Fagles' Aeneid

Robert Fagles' translation of Virgil's Aeneid will be out in a couple of days. From a New York Times article:

"I usually try not to ride the horse of relevance very hard," Mr. Fagles said recently at his home near Princeton University, from which he recently retired, after teaching comparative literature for more than 40 years. "My feeling is that if something is timeless, then it will also be timely." But he went on to say that The Aeneid did speak to the contemporary situation. It's a poem about empire, he explained, and was commissioned by the emperor Augustus to celebrate the spread of Roman civilization.

"To begin with, it's a cautionary tale," Mr. Fagles said. "About the terrible ills that attend empire -- its war-making capacity, the loss of blood and treasure both. But it's all done in the name of the rule of law, which you'd have a hard time ascribing to what we're doing in the Middle East today.

"It's also a tale of exhortation. It says that if you depart from the civilized, then you become a murderer. The price of empire is very steep, but Virgil shows how it is to be earned, if it’s to be earned at all. The poem can be read as an exhortation for us to behave ourselves, which is a horse of relevance that ought to be ridden."
Translating Virgil's Epic Poem of Empire (New York Times, free registration required)

And here's a link to a related post, with one passage from the Aeneid, as translated by Robert Fitzgerald, Stanley Lombardo, and Robert Fagles:

Three Virgils

Reader, which translation do you prefer?

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