Classical

Virgil : The Aeneid Book I

BkI:1-11 Invocation to the Muse

I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate,
first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to
Lavinian shores – hurled about endlessly by land and sea,
by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger,
long suffering also in war, until he founded a city
and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people
came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome.
Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity,
how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man,
noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many
trials? Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods?

Translated by A. S. Kline © 2002 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.

It was a bit of a hard slog doing the Aeneid at school but well worth it. Even if it was in the original Latin. The above is a translated snippet.

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6 comments on “Classical

  1. This evidently owes a lot to the opening of the Odyssey; the best translation of Homer, for me, is Chapman’s, which fortunately is, or was available in a Wordsworth edition. His plays are a little harder to find. Here’s the beginning of Bussy D’Ambois, Actus Primi, Scena Prima:

    Enter Bussy D’Ambois, poor.

    Bus. Fortune, not Reason, rules the state of things,
    Reward goes backward, Honour on his head;
    Who is not poor, is monstrous; only Need
    Gives form and worth to every human seed.
    As cedars beaten with continual storms,
    So great men flourish; and do imitate
    Unskilful statuaries, who suppose,
    In forming a Colossus, if they make him
    Straddle enough, strut, and look big, and gape,
    Their work is goodly: so men merely great
    In their affected gravity of voice,
    Sourness of countenance, manners’ cruelty,
    Authority, wealth, and all the spawn of Fortune,
    Think they bear all the kingdom’s worth before them;
    Yet differ not from those colossic statues,
    Which, with heroic forms without o’er-spread,
    Within are nought but mortar, flint, and lead.
    Man is a torch borne in the wind; a dream
    But of a shadow, summ’d with all his substance;
    And as great seamen, using all their wealth
    And skills in Neptune’s deep invisible paths,
    In tall ships richly built and ribb’d with brass,
    To put a girdle round about the world,
    When they have done it, coming near their haven,
    Are fain to give a warning-piece, and call
    A poor, staid fisherman, that never pass’d
    His country’s sight, to waft and guide them in:
    So when we wander furthest through the waves
    Of glassy Glory, and the gulfs of State,
    Topt with all titles, spreading all our reaches,
    As if each private arm would sphere the earth,
    We must to Virtue for her guide resort,
    Or we shall shipwrack in our safest port.

    [Procumbit.

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  2. No, that’s not a translation, it’s the opening speech of one of George Chapman’s plays. In fact, I was going to copy the opening lines of his translation of the Odyssey to illustrate the relation with the verses you posted from the Aeneid, but then, reflecting that his Homer is easily available in a cheap edition, I decided to send the bit from Bussy D’Ambois, which I find especially beautiful, as is the rest of the play. So in the end the connection with the Aeneid was completely severed, bit of a tangent, sorry for the confusion.

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    • OK, I’m with you now. Chapman (who I’ve never heard of so thanks for that), translated Homer, but also wrote his own plays too, yes? Of which Bussy D’Ambois is one? Think that’s what you are saying. Either way, it’s still a good read :)

      And it isn’t tangential at all, as this is the ‘Classic’ page.

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  3. Haven’t heard of Chapman? I’ll bet you have, but you’ve forgotten:

    ON FIRST LOOKING INTO CHAPMAN’S HOMER
    Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne:
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He star’d at the Pacific – and all his men
    Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

    John Keats

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