- Series: Dover Thrift Editions
- Paperback: 112 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications (July 11, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 048629823X
- ISBN-13: 978-0486298238
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,539 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions)
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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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.
One of the most difficult tasks for a reader interested in non-English language work (and works from classical times in particular) is to choose an appropriate translation. Of course, what counts as `appropriate' is somewhat subjective.
What I was looking for was a translation that is clear and accurate; one that manages to convey something of a feeling for the both the person who wrote, and the times they wrote in. In this Staniforth excels.
Unlike say, the Benjamin Jowett translation of Plato which (at least to my ears) has a distinctly Victorian ring, or the popular new age paraphrases of many of the Stoics (and in truth they are paraphrases or adaptations rather than translations), to me Staniforth (whose translation dates from 1964) strikes just the right balance.
The words of Marcus Aurelius are rendered intelligibly and with a dignity and awareness of the historical context. The reader is neither forced to re-read and ponder (i.e., speculatively re-translate), nor wince at inappropriate colloquialisms of 21st century English. Better still, one can immediately perceive and appreciate the times in which the work was written. No mean accomplishment, to say the least.
Of course, each reader needs to make this judgment for themselves. Amazon provides an excellent (and free) way of doing this with its `search inside this book' feature, which is enormously useful for anyone making this decision.
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.