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Extract One: Book 5, from line 362 (MP3 format, 8:17, 15 MB) Extract Two: Book
6, from line 268 (MP3 format, 4:41, 8.5 MB)
"Arms and the man I sing." So begins one of the greatest works of literature
in any language. Written more than two thousand years ago, The Aeneid tells the
story of Aeneas' seven-year journey from the ruins of Troy to Italy, where he
becomes the founding ancestor of Rome. Virgil's supreme achievement is not only
to reveal Rome's imperial future, but to invest it with both passion and
suffering for all those caught up in the fates of others.
Frederick Ahl's new translation captures the excitement, poetic energy, and
intellectual force of the original in a way that has never been done before.
Ahl has used a version of Virgil's ancient hexameter, a swift-moving six-beat
line varying between twelve and seventeen syllables, to reproduce the original
poetry in a thrillingly accurate and engaging style. This is an Aeneid that the
first-time reader can grasp and enjoy, and whose rendition of Virgil's
subtleties of thought and language will enthrall those already familiar with
the epic. Unlike most translators, Ahl has chosen to retain Virgil's word-play,
the puns and anagrams and other instances of the poet's ebullient wit. "To
shear away Virgil's luxuriance," Ahl writes, "is not to separate the painting
from a (superfluous) gilded frame, but to lacerate the canvas. Like Shakespeare
and the Greek tragedians, Virgil grasped that humor and earnestness are not
mutually exclusive in art any more than they are in life. One should read the
Aeneid not in solemn homage, but for enjoyment."
Enhanced by Elaine Fantham's Introduction, Ahl's comprehensive notes, and an
invaluable indexed glossary, this lively new translation brings readers closer
to the original and the myriad enjoyments to be found there.