Monday, March 12, 2012

Reading The Aeneid in the Florida Keys

Anyone inclined to follow G.K. Chesterton’s advice to read Virgil (ht), might consider the Robert Fitzgerald translation of The Aeneid for starters. Back a year or two ago now I was reading Dante’s Divine Comedy. In that work Dante, borrowing fame and name, makes Virgil his principal guide. Nearing the end, thus beginning Paradiso where Beatrix takes over, I resolved to read Virgil too. It took a while. Then I came across Fitzgerald’s translation which, wow!, offers the famous poet in a most accessible and vivid form. The book arrived from Amazon some weeks before our scheduled trip to the Florida Keys, and I had the notion of reading him there, in the sunshine, the Atlantic my foreground. And, indeed, I did, but just for part of one brilliant hot morning. The time and place claimed all the rest of our collective attention. Now I’m reading the Aeneid again in still wintery Michigan, although the first green shoots are up and, on a recent walk, I saw the first tiny lilies braving the challenges of Spring.


  1. It's interesting how these synchronicities work; I've been reading, off and on, C. S. Lewis's Lost Aeneid, which is Lewis's (unfinished and fragmentary) translation. It's a translation deliberately designed to slow the reader down to the sort of reading pace required for Virgil's Latin, with its long sentences of many folds, but quite good (the speeches get hard to follow in this way of doing things, but the descriptions are extraordinarily good):

    Of arms and of the exile I must sing, of yore
    Guided by fate from Troy to the Lavinian shore
    And Italy. Much travailed upon land and sea
    By powers in heaven for angry Juno's sake was he,
    And proved in war; still endeavouring in our soil to place
    His gods and build a city, whence the Latin race
    Comes and the Alban fathers and the walls of Rome.

    Even with the constraint of rhyme Lewis manages to be quite accurate as a translator. Unfortunately, he only got through Book I & most of II, and part of VI.

    1. Appreciate the pointer, Brandon. Amazon is shipping my copy now... In such works I'm always pleased to have three or more translations handy, which is how I read Dante too. I started with James Rhoades' translation which appears in "Great Books." Coincidences, yes. Odd and pleasing.


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