Customer Review

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...a monument more lasting than bronze...", April 11, 2002
This review is from: The Complete Odes and Epodes (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
[This review refers to the Oxford World's Classics
edition of Horace's THE COMPLETE ODES AND EPODES,
and the "Secular Hymn" -- "Translated with an Introduction
and Notes by David West."]
It is always wise, if funds permit, to purchase more
than one edition (translation) of some of these classic
works. To read several translations that are well done
is like experiencing the same piece of classical music
so well interpreted but with different style, flair, and
felicity by different orchestras and conductors.
The Oxford World's Classics series are excellent for
their formatting, the scholarship, and the wonderful
Explanatory Notes at the back which give such helpful
context and understanding.
You know that you are in the company of an interesting
translator (as well as the company of Horace, the poet,
himself) when you read something like this in the
"Introduction":
"Those who know Horace well, find that of all dead
writers there is none who is a closer friend, who speaks
more usefully in easy and in difficult times, and none
whom they would more happily sit down to drink with.
* * * We have seen glimpses of [Horace's] humour and
studied his tactical deftness as a client poet. His
poetry is steeped also in the affairs of the day. He
is interested in those he addresses and sensitive and
affectionate towards his friends. He has an eye for
metaphor and a taste for the surreal. * * * The sound
is unique, setting against elaborate, fixed metres the
music of powerful speech. The complexity of the
structure of many of the poems amazes with subtle
transitions, astonishing leaps of sense, and rich
modulations of feeling. The elusvieness of Horace is
familiar."
-- David West. "Introduction."
-------
But it is in the "Translator's Note" that the real
insight and sensitivity of this translator come out.
For he says of Horace: "The odes of Horaace are among
the densest lyric poems ever written. The allusions
are rich and subtle, and the tone is so iridescent
that readers can never be quite sure of it, and find
endless pleasure in disagreeing with each other about
it. Translation of poetry is always impossible but
translation of Horace's odes is inconceivable."
-- David West. "Translator's Note."
-------
But very fortunately for us, David West proceeded
with his translation quest anyway. And he has given
us some very fine experiences with Horace, even if
they are in English. Here is a part of West's
translation of Ode XXIX from Book III:
Fortune enjoys her cruel business and
persists in playing her proud game,
transferring her fickle honours,
favouring now me, now another.
I praise her while she stays. If she
shakes out
her swift wings, I return what she gave,
wrap myself
in my virtue, and look for honest Poverty,
the bride that brings no dowry.
Immensely satisfying, memorable, haunting...
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