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Simile World

Denis Feeney: Virgil’s Progress

4 January 2007
Virgil: Georgics 
translated by Peter Fallon, with notes by Elaine Fantham.
Oxford, 109 pp., £7.99, July 2006, 0 19 280679 3
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Virgil: The Aeneid 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Penguin, 486 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 7139 9968 3
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... by the flood of events if he relaxes his grip for a second, or carried headlong by his charging horses like the hapless charioteer in the terrifying simile that closes the first book of the Georgics. RobertFagles comes to the task of translating the Aeneid with a lifetime of experience as a translator behind him, but the Aeneid is the first Latin text he has translated.* Until now he has worked on ...

To the crows!

James Davidson

27 January 1994
The Oldest Dead White European Males, and Other Reflections on the Classics 
by Bernard Knox.
Norton, 144 pp., £12.95, September 1993, 0 393 03492 5
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... his principal parts and ablatives absolute in the classrooms of an undistinguished grammar school in London in the late Twenties finds himself over sixty years later an American citizen, described by RobertFagles as ‘arguably the finest Classicist of our day’, by Peter Green as one his nation ‘ought to bronze’, and by Jasper Griffin as a man ‘one would like to have as a friend’. In his long ...
9 April 1992
Homer: The ‘Iliad’ 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Viking, 683 pp., £17.95, September 1990, 0 670 83510 2
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by Christopher Logue.
Faber, 86 pp., £4.99, March 1991, 0 571 16141 3
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... Murray, the Loeb translator, whose function was to provide a no-frills prose version, achieved more economically in the words ‘uncouth of speech’. The relentlessly reader-friendly translation by Robert Fitzgerald departs from the usual reading to say the Carians were led by their chief ‘in their own tongue’. RobertFagles, whose version aims at an idiomatic directness lacking in Lattimore ...

Homer Inc

Edward Luttwak

23 February 2012
The Iliad by Homer 
translated by Stephen Mitchell.
Weidenfeld, 463 pp., £25, October 2011, 978 0 297 85973 4
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... of Terminal 2 at San Francisco airport, I looked for a translation of the Iliad – not that I really expected to find one. But there were ten: one succinct W.H.D. Rouse prose translation and one Robert Graves, in prose and song, both in paperback; two blank verse RobertFagles in solid covers; one rhythmic Richmond Lattimore with a lengthy new introduction;* and three hardback copies of the new ...

Like a Meteorite

James Davidson

31 July 1997
Homer in English 
edited by George Steiner.
Penguin, 355 pp., £9.99, April 1996, 0 14 044621 4
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Homer’s ‘Iliad’ 
translated by Stanley Lombardo.
Hackett, 584 pp., £6.95, May 1997, 0 87220 352 2
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Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Viking, 541 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 670 82162 4
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... landing on the cover and makes a reckless dash for the idiomatic. It is generally a fine and enjoyable version, but its colloquialism sometimes lapses jarringly, occasionally amusingly, into cliché. RobertFagles’s new version of the Odyssey, on the other hand, is a classic modern Homer: elegant, natural and smooth. His solutions to the difficulties of rendition are always so neat that it is easy to ...
5 December 1985
Collected Poems 1928-1985 
by Stephen Spender.
Faber, 204 pp., £4.95, November 1985, 0 571 13666 4
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A Version of the Oedipus Trilogy of Sophocles 
by Stephen Spender.
Faber, 199 pp., £12.50, November 1985, 0 571 13834 9
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Journals 1939-1983 
by Stephen Spender, edited by John Goldsmith.
Faber, 510 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 571 13617 6
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... For whom the stars move and their breath is fire – it hardly tries to give us Dionysus, the lord of dancing. Altogether the choruses are less richly rendered than they are in the translation by RobertFagles, but the austerity is deliberate and this whole work is very cool and restrained. It results from an independent approach to Sophocles, and the introduction offers a personal reading of the ...

Light through the Fog

Colin Burrow: The End of the Epithet

26 April 2018
The Odyssey 
translated by Peter Green.
California, 538 pp., £24, April 2018, 978 0 520 29363 2
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The Odyssey 
translated by Emily Wilson.
Norton, 592 pp., £30, December 2017, 978 0 393 08905 9
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The Odyssey 
translated by Anthony Verity.
Oxford, 384 pp., £7.99, February 2018, 978 0 19 873647 9
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... need.’Most translate the word aidōs, which Green renders as ‘embarrassed restraint’, as ‘shame’. So Verity has ‘shame is no good companion for a needy beggar,’ while the more garrulous RobertFagles (whose 1996 version has stood up pretty well, though it is not a line for line rendering) has ‘bashfulness, for a man in need, is no great friend.’ ‘Embarrassed restraint’ is better ...


Marina Warner: Medea

3 December 2015
... revealed a preference for harshness that the Almeida team developed in their treatment of myths throughout the season. The effect followed partly from the translation of the Iliad they’d chosen, RobertFagles’s from 1990. Fagles goes for the choppy, hard stuff, preferring percussive consonants and end-stopped monosyllables. Some of the pastoral and domestic similes were cut, and a few of the ...


Christopher Ricks

22 November 1990
Bloomsbury Dictionary of Dedications 
edited by Adrian Room.
Bloomsbury, 354 pp., £17.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0521 7
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Unauthorised Versions: Poems and their Parodies 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 446 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14122 6
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The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 407 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 571 14470 5
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... effort of an imaginative ordering and has instead fallen back on A to zzzz. For a start, there are too many slips, some of them likely to be mere errors of the press (Menken for Mencken, Fagler for Fagles), some likely to be Room’s own (Lyttleton for Lyttelton. Wharton for Warton, and the lése-majesté of misquoting ‘They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace’). The translations from the ...

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