A new translation of The Aeneid by Robert Fagles (retired Arthur W. Marks 1919 Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University) is due out from Penguin today. Quoted in the Independent yesterday, Fagles said:
"To begin with, it's a cautionary tale," Fagles told The New York Times, "about the terrible ills that attend empire - its war-making capacity, the loss of blood and treasure both. But it's all done in the name of the rule of law, which you'd have a hard time ascribing to what we're doing in the Middle East today."
"In a sense, all translations are unfinished. One thing I have learned is that no one will have the final say, that each generation needs its own translation. Some translators, like Dryden, hoped that their work would last longer than a generation. That may be a vain hope."
His publisher Penguin says:
The city of Troy has been ransacked by conquering Greeks and lies in smouldering ruins. A warrior, Aeneas, manages to escape from the ashes. He will go on to change the history of the world ... This is the much-anticipated new version of Virgil’s epic poem from the translator of the Odyssey and the Iliad. With this stunning modern verse translation Robert Fagles reintroduces the Aeneid to a whole new generation, and completes the classical triptych at the heart of Western civilization. It retains all of the gravitas and humanity of the original, as well as its powerful blend of poetry and myth. With an illuminating introduction to Virgil’s world from noted scholar Bernard Knox, this new Aeneid gives a vibrant, contemporary voice to the literary achievement of the ancient world.
For more on Virgil, there is a nice primer on the BBC History site:
Publius Vergilius Maro, known in English as Virgil (or occasionally Vergil, as closer to the Latin), is the greatest of all the Roman poets - and the author of Rome's national epic poem, the Aeneid. He was closely associated with Octavian, who, under the name of Augustus, was the first emperor of Rome; Octavian/Augustus looms large in Virgil's poetry.
Virgil was born near Mantua and spent his early life in northern Italy (with perhaps a period at Naples). His first work was the Eclogues (Selections), originally known as the Bucolics, published around 39-38 BC; it is a book of ten pastoral poems that relate to the Idylls of the Hellenistic Greek poet Theocritus (third century BC).
Virgil himself died of a fever in 19 BC. He had hoped to spend a further three years revising the Aeneid, and may have ordered its destruction on his death-bed. But it was saved, and was published to immediate acclaim. It has ever since been regarded as the classic encapsulation of the Roman spirit and of the Augustan age, and also, like Homer's epics, as a profound and sympathetic exploration of humanity.