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The Aeneidby Virgil and Robert Fagles
"Robert Fagles's Aeneid is, I think, the best translation of our age. It is lively and colloquial, though it uses a somewhat slower pace than Lombardo. This is an advantage. Fagles allows us to pause before rushing on to the next event. There are some wonderfully vivid descriptions....Yet Fagles's most impressive achievement is that he is sensitive to a far wider range of voices and points of view than any previous translator known to me." Emily Wilson, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
The much-anticipated new translation of Virgil's epic poem, from the award-winning translator of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey
The publication of a new translation by Robert Fagles is a literary event. His translations of both the Iliad and Odyssey have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and become the standard translations of our era. Now, with this stunning modern verse translation, Fagles is poised to reintroduce Virgil's Aeneid to a whole new generation, and complete the classical triptych at the heart of Western civilization.
The Aeneid is a sweeping epic of arms and heroism and a searching portrait of a man caught between love, duty, and the force of his own destiny. Here, Fagles brings to life the timeless journey of Aeneas — Achilles' erstwhile foe — as he flees the ashes of Troy to found the Roman people and change forever the course of the Western world.
Fagles's translation of The Aeneid retains all of the gravitas and humanity of the original as well as its powerful blend of poetry and myth. Beautifully produced and featuring an illuminating introduction from noted scholar Bernard Knox, as well as an extensive notes section and glossary, this new translation will delight both classicists and general readers, providing a vibrant, contemporary voice to the literary achievement of the ancient world.
"Princeton scholar Fagles follows up his celebrated Iliad and Odyssey with a new, fast-moving, readable rendition of the national epic of ancient Rome. Virgil's long-renowned narrative follows the Trojan warrior Aeneas as he carries his family from his besieged, fallen home, stops in Carthage for a doomed love affair, visits the underworld and founds in Italy, through difficult combat, the settlements that will become, first the Roman republic, and then the empire Virgil knew. Recent translators (such as Allen Mandelbaum) put Virgil's meters into English blank verse. Fagles chooses to forgo meter entirely, which lets him stay literal when he wishes, and grow eloquent when he wants: 'Aeneas flies ahead, spurring his dark ranks on and storming/ over the open fields like a cloudburst wiping out the sun.' A substantial preface from the eminent classicist Bernard Knox discusses Virgil's place in history, while Fagles himself appends a postscript and notes. Scholars still debate whether Virgil supported or critiqued the empire's expansion; Aeneas' story might prompt new reflection now, when Americans are already thinking about international conflict and the unexpected costs of war." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Shortly before the beginning of the Christian era, Rome became the center of an empire. The Senate, which had ruled the country while it emerged as the major military and political force in Europe, resigned itself to relative impotency, and an imperial family took the reins of power into its own hands. An empire implies a court, and a court, in the ancient world at least, implied a court poet. The... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) first and greatest court poet of the Roman world was the Emperor Augustus' favorite, Virgil, author of 'The Aeneid,' which self-consciously traces the origins of the new world power and fulsomely praises Augustus. All this indicates how difficult the task for a modern translator of 'The Aeneid' must be. Some 20 years ago, Oxford University Press published an anthology of war poetry. Almost all the extracts included told the reader what a very bad thing war is — in reality it was an anthology of anti-war poetry, which is what the modern reader would expect. We are very uncomfortable with poetry that celebrates war, and we insist that a poem that deals with war deal primarily with its victims. To celebrate war's victors seems to us to be in dubious taste. Some Roman writers, such as Tacitus, might register occasional qualms about the condition of the conquered, but this was as nothing to our pervasive feelings of war guilt, our insistence to ourselves that we empathize with those we harm. This was not at all the case in the ancient world, which viewed war much as our science-fiction movies tend to view it (only insofar as we are certain that other civilizations are fantasies can we feel good about destroying them). The very form of the ancient epic poses a major problem of tone for a translator, and this is greatly compounded in the case of 'The Aeneid,' when we are dealing not merely with warfare itself, but with war in the service of a conquering occupying power and an imperial family. But because of the centrality of Rome within Europe's sense of its historical identity, and because of Virgil's centrality to that sense, 'The Aeneid' has left strong footprints in the soil of English poetry. Books two and four, in the translation of Henry Howard, the earl of Surrey, were published in 1554 and 1557. Of the 12 that make up 'The Aeneid,' these two deal directly with the victims. Almost certainly for this reason, they have appealed to the post-Roman world more strongly than all of the rest of the poem. In order to translate Virgil, Surrey invented blank verse and, at a stroke, invested the form with the associations of nobility, not to say sublimity, that it has retained for more than 500 years. At the end of the 17th century, John Dryden, when his country was embarking on the acquisition of an empire that was consciously to emulate the one Virgil celebrates, produced a vigorous translation of the whole work into English (it is still the best version, by far) and virtually canonized the heroic couplet as the primary narrative form for the next hundred years. The Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, for whom Virgil was simply the 'wielder of the stateliest measure ever molded by the lips of man,' produced in his own 'Idylls of the King' what was perhaps the last, somewhat despairing but still intermittently and wonderfully successful attempt at the Virgilian heroic/elegiac mode in English. Most readers of poetry probably now lack the Victorian sense that an empire (or at least our empire) is on balance a good thing. And there is a further major, and at the moment well-nigh insoluble, problem for a translator of a long heroic poem: What to do about the meter? In the maelstrom of modernist poetry and free verse, all sense that a long poem might be written in anything approximating 'the stateliest measure ever molded by the lips of man' has almost entirely disappeared. When translating classical narrative verse, poets since World War II have in the main resorted to a line of varying lengths, containing between three and six stressed syllables, and distributed unstressed syllables with the apparent randomness of sprinkles on a cupcake. When the action is tense, you bunch the stressed syllables; when it's less tense, you have more sprinkles. The model was Ezra Pound's 'Cantos,' and even Pound had the grace to admit, at the end of his life, that 'The Cantos' were a failure. The sudden disjunctions of meaning and meter favored by Pound produce a texture quite at odds with anything approaching the persuasively fluent rhetoric of a classical heroic line, and this can be seen by comparing the most recent such version, that by Robert Fagles, with a couple of better known versions from the past. Here Book Two has just begun, and Dido has asked Aeneas to recount his wanderings, beginning with the fall of Troy. In Surrey's 1557 translation, he responds: ... O queen, it is thy will I should renew a woe can not be told, How that the Greeks did spoile and overthrow The Phrygian wealth and wailful realm of Troy, Those ruthfull things that I myself beheld, And whereof no small part fell to my share. Which to express who could refrain from teres? What Myrmidon, or yet what Dolopes? What stern Ulysses waged soldiar? And loe, moist night now from the welkin falles, And starres declining council us to rest. Here is the brisker, more businesslike Dryden treatment of the same passage: Great queen, what you command me to relate Renews the sad remembrance of our fate: An empire from its old foundations rent And every woe the Trojans underwent; A peopled city made a desert place; All that I saw and part of which I was Not e'en the hardest of our foes could hear, Nor stern Ulysses tell, without a tear. And now the latter watch of wasting night, And setting stars to kindly rest invite. And now the new Fagles: ... Sorrow, unspeakable sorrow, my queen, you ask me to bring to life once more, how the Greeks uprooted Troy in all her power, our kingdom mourned forever. What horrors I saw, a tragedy where I played a leading role myself. Who could tell such things — not even a Myrmidon, a Dolopian, or comrade of iron-hearted Ulysses -- and still refrain from tears? And now, too, the dank night is sweeping down from the sky and the setting stars incline our heads to sleep. For pathos and sheer beauty, Surrey wins hands down; his lines about the declining stars are Shakespearean in their charm. He also has a certain dry efficiency that can be very satisfying ('And whereof no small part fell to my share'). Dryden lets much of the pathos and complication go by with merely a nod (the declining stars don't count for much, and he paraphrases away those pesky Myrmidons and Dolopians), but he has a felicitously exact way of laying out the essentials ('A peopled city made a desert place'). Fagles, by contrast, is much more hit and miss. The repetition of 'sorrow' is certainly effective (never mind that it's not there in the Latin), and 'unspeakable' is terrific (for the Latin 'Infandum'). But the metrical sprawl produces moments of real bathos; 'a tragedy where I played a leading role myself' is far weaker than the equivalent lines in Surrey or Dryden, and the declining stars passage comes across as overwritten and too intent on provocative effect ('dank,' 'sweeping'). The last 60 years or so have not produced a verse rhetoric that will sustain a long poem, except as a series of jolting fits and starts, so jolting fits and starts are what we get. Fagles, an emeritus professor of comparative literature at Princeton, is obviously a fine classicist with acclaimed translations of 'The Iliad' and 'The Odyssey,' but the catch-all form he has chosen simply does not lend itself to sustained heroic narrative. At its best, it can produce beautifully arresting moments among the bumbling and bathos, and Fagles certainly produces more of these than does, say, Robert Fitzgerald, whose popular translation appeared in 1983. But it's a long way from Virgil, or from anyone's notion of 'the stateliest measure.' Dick Davis, professor of Persian and chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Ohio State University, recently published a translation of the Persian epic 'The Shahnameh.'" Reviewed by Dick Davis, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Homer's deserved primacy makes us often forget that Virgil is in many ways his equal. Fagles's triumphant new achievement makes us remember it." Kirkus Reviews
"Fagles's new version of Virgil's epic delicately melds the stately rhythms of the original to a contemporary cadence." New Yorker
"A memorable achievement...Mr. Fagles has been remarkably successful in finding a style that is of our time and yet timeless." New York Times Book Review
"Anyone who has not read Virgil's poem since college (and felt guiltily that they should) will want to get this splendid version." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Fagles excels at capturing the movement and violence of Virgil, with an almost cinematic style, electric with cutting, zooms and an intensity of focus on heroic action." San Diego Union-Tribune
Fagles' translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Now, the much-anticipated new translation of Virgil's epic poem from the award-winning translator reintroduces The Aeneid to a whole new generation.
From the award-winning translator of The Iliad and The Odyssey comes a brilliant new translation of Virgil's great epic
Fleeing the ashes of Troy, Aeneas, Achilles mighty foe in the Iliad, begins an incredible journey to fulfill his destiny as the founder of Rome. His voyage will take him through stormy seas, entangle him in a tragic love affair, and lure him into the world of the dead itself--all the way tormented by the vengeful Juno, Queen of the Gods. Ultimately, he reaches the promised land of Italy where, after bloody battles and with high hopes, he founds what will become the Roman empire. An unsparing portrait of a man caught between love, duty, and fate, the Aeneid redefines passion, nobility, and courage for our times. Robert Fagles, whose acclaimed translations of Homers Iliad and Odyssey were welcomed as major publishing events, brings the Aeneid to a new generation of readers, retaining all of the gravitas and humanity of the original Latin as well as its powerful blend of poetry and myth. Featuring an illuminating introduction to Virgils world by esteemed scholar Bernard Knox, this volume lends a vibrant new voice to one of the seminal literary achievements of the ancient world.
For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
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About the Author
Robert Fagles is Arthur W. Marks Professor of Comparative Literature, Emeritus, at Princeton University. He is the recipient of the 1997 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation.
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