Fagles does Virgil proud

I am into book four of Virgil’s The Aenid as interpreted by Robert Fagles, who did such stellar work with The Iliad and The Odyssey. Unlike those earlier translations, this one does not attempt to maintain rhyme or even metre, but goes for the musicality, if you will, of the language–our language–in a loose lyric poem that is simply marvellous. If you have the time, I’d also suggest getting from the library or bookstore the unabridged set of cd’s and listening to British actor Simon Callow read in a bravura performance the book word for bloody word. It’s been a really enjoyable way to while away the winter evenings, since we don’t have cable (don’t want it, that is). The isbn for the book is 0670038032. The audiobook is 0143059025.

I’ll do my best to check it out. I am personally partial to the E.V. Rieu translations, since those are the ones I have, but I haven’t read them in verse. Something I should certainly rectify! :wink:


Fagles is a genius. I’ve got all three books, as well as the audio book versions. The Virgil, particularly, is wonderful t listen to.

As I read and listened to the translations, I kept marveling at how liberating Fagle’s use of language is. There’s no attempt to formalize the work by using archaic English terms and words. There’s no attempt to “literacize”. It’s all just as if someone were reciting it to you. It’s spoken language. Just as it was meant to be!

Oddly I kept thinking of poor old Freud who was done such a disservice when translators took his “ich” and “es” (in German simply “I” and “it”) and translated them not into English, but into the Latin/Greek! There was never any “ego” or “id” in Freud. This pseudo formalization was introduced by English academics!

Thanks for you post!


Tim and Fingers,

I’m sorry to tell you that Robert Fagles is quite ill at the moment and his outlook is not good. I am going to copy these notes and pass them on to his family, who will be very gratified by your generous comments.


I’m very sad to hear this, Howarth. He is a great man. If I’m not misinterpreting your words, it sounds as though he may not have much time left. He will be greatly missed, both by the academic community and the people he has touched with his translations. I am certainly one of them.