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Meditations: A New Translation 1St Edition Edition
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One measure, perhaps, of a book's worth, is its intergenerational pliancy: do new readers acquire it and interpret it afresh down through the ages? The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, translated and introduced by Gregory Hays, by that standard, is very worthwhile, indeed. Hays suggests that its most recent incarnation--as a self-help book--is not only valid, but may be close to the author's intent. The book, which Hays calls, fondly, a "haphazard set of notes," is indicative of the role of philosophy among the ancients in that it is "expected to provide a 'design for living.'" And it does, both aphoristically ("Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly.") and rhetorically ("What is it in ourselves that we should prize?"). Whether these, and other entries ("Enough of this wretched, whining monkey life.") sound life-changing or like entries in a teenager's diary is up to the individual reader, as it should be. Hays's introduction, which sketches the life of Marcus Aurelius (emperor of Rome A.D. 161-180) as well as the basic tenets of stoicism, is accessible and jaunty. --H. O'Billovich --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Here, for our age, is [Marcus’s] great work presented in its entirety, strongly introduced and freshly, elegantly translated.” —Robert Fagles
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Top customer reviews
Of my grandfather Verus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. From the fame and memory of him that begot me I have learned both shamefastness and manlike behaviour. Of my mother I have learned to be religious, and bountiful; and to forbear, not only to do, but to intend any evil; to content myself with a spare diet, and to fly all such excess as is incidental to great wealth. Of my great-grandfather, both to frequent public schools and auditories, and to get me good and able teachers at home; and that I ought not to think much, if upon such occasions, I were at excessive charges.
George Long's version:
From my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper. From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character. From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich. From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.
Having said this however, it's still worth comparing both translations which are free on the Kindle.
It is interesting that the Loeb library, which has been updating all measure of texts, is still using the 1916 edition of the original Greek Meditations.
This edition was originally translated into English by George Long in 1862 and edited by Edwin Ginn in 1893. Ginn has written the first 8% of the Kindle edition (preface, biographical sketch), and the last 15% (on the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus). The 'Thoughs' of Marcus Aurelius are grouped in 12 'books' (chapters). The first book is clearly different from the other eleven; it is a 'thank you' to people who have had a good influence on him. For example: 'From my grandfather Verus (I learned) good morals and the government of my temper.' (I.1). The other eleven books contain his notes. His Stoic philosophy emphasizes ethics, especially everyday problems. This book is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free from several websites.
Some quotations from this book:
Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly. (II.11)
Be cheerful also, and seek not external help nor the tranquillity which others give. A man then must stand erect, not be kept erect by others. (III.5)
Always run to the short way; and the short way is the natural: accordingly say and do everything in conformity with the soundest reason. For such a purpose frees a man from trouble, and warfare, and all artifice and ostentatious display. (IV.51)