David Ferry’s Aeneid

Finally—embarrassed to say—reading the Aeneid, led to it, tardy though I am, by Hector Berlioz.

I picked up David Ferry’s new translation, having loved his Gilgamesh.

His note on the translation and his aims ends like this (after props to Dryden, which also won me over).

But I think it is not out of order for me to say that “completing” this translation of the work of such a great poet means a great deal to me personally, since I had previously translated his Eclogues and his Georgics, and I am in love with his voice as I hear it in all these poems, telling how it is with all created beings, the very leaves on the trees, very rooted plants, the beasts in the fields, the shepherds trying to keep their world together with song replying to song replying to song, the bees in their vulnerable hives, doing their work, the soldiers doing their work of killing and dying, the falling cities, and the kings and fathers, and their sons, and Dido, and Palinurus, and Deiphobus, and Mezentius the disrespecter of gods, and the mortal son of Venus, the creature Aeneas, carrying his household gods to build a city, heroic and vulnerable, himself subject to monstrous rage, himself not always unconfused, all of them, all of us, creatures, created beings, heroic and vulnerable, and Virgil’s telling it as it is, in his truth-telling pitying voice.

His version has a gorgeous ‘swing’ from beginning to end, and you are likely to find a beautiful line just by opening the book.


Here is a bit of Book three,


“Meanwhile, the sun is carried round upon

The great wheel of the year, and icy winter

Agitates the waters with its gales.

And I affix a shield of hollow brass

Great Abas carried long ago in battle

To the columns at the entrance to the town,

Placing this verse upon it, that we were there:







After then I told my people to leave this port

And take up the oars and compete with one another

To sweep across the water and away.”




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