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The Aeneid Paperback – May 19, 2009
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"Robert Fagles, shortly before his death, set the bar very high for translating [Virgil’s] Aeneid. Yet already the scholar-poet Sarah Ruden has soared over the bar. . . . The translation is alive in every part. . . . This is the first translation since Dryden’s that can be read as a great English poem in itself."—Garry Wills, New York Review of Books
"Ruden's translation separates itself from others by using the same number of verses as Vergil does. She has produced a fresh poetic translation for contemporary English-speaking readers, one that speaks with its own voice."—David Quint, author of Cervantes's Novel of Modern Times: A New Reading of "Don Quijote"
"Sarah Ruden's translation is distinguished by the quality of its verse, the unrelenting propulsive force of its narrative drive, and the intelligence with which she has shaped Vergil to fit her pentameter lines."—Charles Martin, translator, Metamorphoses: A New Translation
"Grace and power reside in Sarah Ruden’s economical line-for-line translation of The Aeneid. Like Vergil’s Latin, her English may easily be lifted off the page and given voice."—Janet Lembke, translator of Virgil’s Georgics
"Toning down the magniloquence, Sarah Ruden gives us an Aeneid more intimate in tone and soberer in measure than we are used to—a gift for which many will be grateful."—J.M. Coetzee
About the Author
Sarah Ruden’s previous translations include Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Petronius' Satyricon. She is a visiting scholar at Yale Divinity School.
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This epic work begins with the destruction of Troy. Aeneas, one of the Trojans, escapes with many of his fellows and their families. The poem by the Roman poet Virgil outlines the founding of Rome by Aeneas. One interesting feature, as Knox puts it, is the use of "characters and incidents from the Homeric epics" (page 12). For instance, Aeneas has a brief encounter with the Cyclops, whom Odysseus (or Ulysses in the Latin) confronted. As with the Homeric works, so, too, the "Aeneid." The gods and goddesses routinely intervene to either assist or thwart the Trojans. Their fates are never quite their own. Knox also notes in the Introduction that the "Aeneid" is something that the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" are not--historical. There are many references in Virgil's work to the particulars of Roman history, such as to the beheaded body of Pompey, the Carthaginian Wars, Hannibal, Romulus and Remus, Caesar and Augustus, and so on. Knox also observes that Dante hearkened back to Virgil's work in his "Divine Comedy."
The poem itself begins with the essence of the matter:
"Wars and a man I sing--an exile driven on by Fate,
He was the first to flee the coast of Troy,
Destined to reach Lavinian shores and Italian soil,
Yet many blows he took on land and sea from the gods above--
Thanks to cruel Juno's relentless rage--and many losses
He bore in battle, too, before he could found a city, bring his gods to Latium, source of the Latin race,
The Alban lords and the high walls of Rome."
Thus, this epic addresses the origins of Rome.
The story follows a number of pathways and outlines many remarkable events. The storm that the furious Juno created to destroy Aeneas' escape from the destruction of Troy (itself described most graphically), the arrival of the remains of the fleet at Carthage (where Aeneas and Dido enjoy some time together), the departure from Carthage as Aeneas follows his plan to get to Italy (and the death of Dido), the trip to Sicily, the visit to the Kingdom of the Dead, battle upon battle, and so on.
The full epic poem contains many adventures and challenges to Aeneas and his cohort, as they seek to create a new city, Rome.
The translation is wonderful (as far as I can tell), another triumph by Fagles. The lines are clean, as he tries to walk a middle ground, as he puts it (page 390), "between the features of an ancient author and the expectations of a contemporary reader." The team of Fagles and Knox appears to have essayed another successful venture into epic territory.