The Aeneid-Virgil

The Aeneid-Virgil

A Review of Robert Fagles Translation

    Historically, Virgil's Aeneid has ranked among the greatest books composed in the literature of any tongue whatsoever. The idea of "epic poetry" in many minds around the world includes other greats such as Homer, Dante, Milton, Lord Byron (Don Juan), Edmund Spenser, Luis de Camõis (The Lusiads), Elias Lönnrot (The Kalevala, the Finnish epic poem compiled by Mr. Lonnrot in the 19th century). In the American English translation of Robert Fagles, readers unfamiliar with Latin will find perhaps a fresh perspective of Virgil's Roman/Italian national epic. 

         The volume itself includes an extensive introduction by Bernard Knox (who also introduced Fagles' translations of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey), maps, the text, and a variety of helpful notes and perspectives. Their knowledge and research seems well grounded and broaden the outlook possible on this 2,000-year-old text.  Perhaps, it is the ability to bring what is fresh and an excellent command of language that makes this an accessible poem.

          The story is told so well that it is fairly easy to hear at least a generation's master translator help us to understand where so many images, paintings, stories, operas, theatrical productions, movies, new novels--derive a number of their themes and ideas. Rather than spoil the story I will say that the action is well described, and the imagery is evocative.  I think that in many cases a translation of any work ranks as something of its own achievement. In Robert Fagles' presentation of Virgil is worth keeping my own copy of, especially for the poetic presentation of new moods I had not noticed before.