A few liberties have been taken in completing lines and phrases, but
not so much that any short section, selected at random, could not be
immediately identified with the original. The translation is as line
for line as I can reasonably make it.
2. Occasionally I have had to add a
word or lose one to keep within an acceptable hexameter form, but
significant departures are very few and noted in the Glossary.
3. Virgil, and Latin writers of the
period generally, do not employ striking images, but stock epithets. My
policy here has been to:
a. Write a fuller line than the
Latin strictly says on the rare occasions that space allows something
more worthy of the original. Some examples:
1.83: she's warmly bountiful when left asleep
1.313: the spring come blustering in with rainy showers
1.433 she sail the tranquil heavens with her horns undimmed
2.313-4: then comes the useless, sour-leafed oleaster
3.14-5: For where the broad and slowly winding Mincius
meanders through its water-reeded banks
3.144: where fields are green with moss and plumpest grass
3.333-4: where darkness seems to congregate
and give an air of holiness to shadowed depths.
3.521-2: nor can the water coursing through the plains
that falls as quick electrum over tinkling rocks.
4.30-2: a wealth
of thyme and savory that fills the air with pungent
scent, and violets that drink from bubbling springs.
4.64: the dissonance of Cybele's soft cymbals sound.
4.63: or sound of flames when roaring through a furnace flue.
4. 466. from daylight's first of dawning till the day retired.
Respect the deeper sense of the original. In 1.450, for example, many
translators have introduced the image of dancing, which is not
appropriate to the destructive power of hail, and not one Virgil uses:
such pelting multitudes of hailstones will dance ratting of the roofs.
such showers of myriad hail
Will dance their pattering tap-dance on the roof.
Simple onomatopoeia seems better:
when heavy hail comes down and rattles horribly on roofs.
Otherwise return the translation to a more literal rendering than those
of my predecessors, though still aiming for a pleasing integration of
sound and sense. So the opening to the famous praise of Italy:
But neither Media's wealth of citron groves,
Nor fair Ganges, nor Hermus rolling down
his golden silt, may vie with Italy's glory -
Not Bactria, no, not India, or all Panchaia
So rich in spicy sands.
But not the groves of Persia, that land of fabled wealth,
not the Ganges, nor that Asian river that's muddy with gold
may vie with Italy's excellence, no, not the Afghan's land,
not India nor the fabled place of sand with frankincense.
Not Persia with its sumptuous groves and soils, nor handsome
Ganges, nor the stormy Hermus with its gold
can match the fame of Italy. Not even Bactria,
India, nor Panchaïa with its incense sands.
Informal contractions of can't, 's, etc. have been used occasionally,
which was certainly taboo a half century ago and even now is often
thought to be too colloquial for Virgil. But it's little more than the
elision of Latin, and to forbid its use is often to leave out words, as
the English hexameter is never as terse as the Latin.
5. I've generally written a strict
iambic, only breaking the metre for special effects. The impetuous
chariot race that closes Book One: (1.510-12) where the extra syllables
of 'oblivious' that have to be swallowed
echo the wild confusion of horse and rider:
as, from the opening barrier, the chariot
but races yet more reckless round the track, horses
oblivious of burden, rider's tangled words or rein.
The dreadful description of Cocytes, where the patterning is more free verse:
4.477-79: -all that the black mud
and loathsome reeds of Cocytes within the sluggish
waters of that hated lake bind fast.
And the 'singing' lines that end the work (4. 565-6):
So Virgil: a youth once dallying with shepherd's lays,
who sang of Tityrus beneath the beech tree's shade.
I've maintained the iambic across whole sections, following a feminine
line ending with an opening trochaic on the next line. Continuity is
the aim, the content being picked up by a sentence, developed naturally
and handed to the next.
6. In contrast to translators from
Dryden down, I've tried to avoid poeticisms and adopt Virgil's manner,
which is to write sturdy sense and make what verse is possible by word
choice and arrangement.
7. The content is sometimes carried
over two or more lines, further than Virgil does, though I have
generally tried to avoid too weak an ending for any particular line,
i.e. not with an article, or even prepositions unless in idiomatic use.
The English hexameter lacks the concluding spondee of the Latin, but,
by way of compensation, can be fashioned into organized paragraphs in
the matter expected of extended compositions. In lines 1. 63-70, for
example, where my rendering forms phrases with these numbers of feet:
5. 7. 4. 7. 6. 6. 6. 6, the lines still conclude forcefully:
So where the earth is rich and heaviest | I'd have
the teams of oxen ploughing from the earliest months, | |
and, with the furrows heaped in lines, | then leave the force
of summer sun to crumble clods to dust.|| But should
the land prove unrewarding all the same, | it can
be laid in shallow ridges till Arcturus rise, |
for weeds will not there suffocate the smiling crops, |
nor moisture here evaporate from sandy soils.||
the corresponding division by content in the Latin is quite different,
the concluding spondees pointing the lines in a way the simple English
Ergo age, terrae
pingue solum | primis extemplo a mensibus anni
fortes invertant tauri glaebasque iacentis |
pulverulenta coquat maturis solibus aestas;||
at si non fuerit tellus fecunda, | sub ipsum
Arcturum tenui sat erit suspendere sulco: |
illic, officiant laetis ne frugibus herbae,|
hic, sterilem exiguus ne deserat humor harenam.||
My aim was for an expressive and pleasing verse, but not one that
replicates the features of the Latin, which is well beyond my powers.
Where, for example, Virgil chooses his goddesses for the verbal
patterns their names make, I have only (with difficulty) been able to
retain the metre. 1.343:
atque Ephyre | atque Opis | et Asia Deiopea Ephyre, |
Opis, | and the | Asian | Deïo | pea,
And for the concluding lines of the Orpheus and Eurydice story (4. 523-7) I have had to employ quite different effects:
Tum quoque marmorea caput a cervice revulsum
gurgite cum medio portans Oeagrius Hebrus
volveret, Eurydicen vox ipsa et frigida lingua
ah miseram Eurydicen! anima fugiente vocabat:
Eurydicen toto referebant flumine ripae.
But even then, the head torn off from marble neck
and midway floating down the Oegian Hebrus stream,
the voice cried out : Eurydice, and from his ice-
cold lips and fleeting breath Eurydice was heard
reverberating and murmuring down the river's length.
And so on: Latin has many advantages over English verse.