Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Virgil's "The Aeneid" translated by David Ferry

My first Aeneid, and it was a very engaging introduction. The translation read very well and I followed Virgil's storytelling eagerly, skipping over only the list of combatants and their family origins. The sack of Troy was utterly gripping. The tragedy of Dido, in this translation, was less affecting than I expected. Aeneas' reaction in the episode was remarkably muted. The Furies were terrifying; the whole descent to Hell was excellent. In the war between the Trojans and the Latins, Aeneas, destined by the Fates to win, was less interesting than the tragic figure of Turnus, war leader of the Latins. I was struck by how closely Virgil imitated Homer in terms of incidents and also tried to go one up. So the epic did not end with the siege of the Trojan's camp, as in The Iliad but went further in having the Trojans lay siege themselves to Latium, the success of which forced finally Turnus to fight Aeneas one to one. Ferry's iambic pentameter is very flexible and capable of a variety of effects. Still, the speeches never approximate the effect of spontaneous thinking as in Shakespeare. This has more to do with Virgil than Ferry, of course, but it points to the immense achievement of the English bard. Characters no longer speechify but speak.

No comments: