virgil’s ocean-roll of rhythm


Yet the buzz accompanying this month’s arrival of the new translation by Robert Fagles, the emeritus Princeton professor whose translations of Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” became bestsellers in the 1990s, suggests that Virgil’s problematic epic somehow still has its hooks in us for reasons that go beyond its stature as imperishable literature.

From John Dryden’s 1697 version in galloping heroic couplets — which did much to mold the sense and sensibility of an age that came to be dubbed “Augustan” — to Robert Fitzgerald’s magisterial blank-verse revamp in 1983, just about every major Anglo-American epoch has wanted to see itself implicated in Virgil’s master narrative, or feels impelled to remodel his mythic edifice in its own complicit fashion. And yet, it’s hard to escape the feeling that there’s something about our current age of clashing civilizations that imparts a brave new vibe to this latest Englishing of “The Aeneid.” Be it symptomatic of a passing phase or a full-blown complex, we all of a sudden seem to have Rome on the brain.

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