Monday, 4 January 2016

Virgil's Aeneid

Virgil’s Aeneid

“I set upon the Romans bounds neither of space nor of time: I have bestowed upon them empire without limit…to impose the ways of peace, to spare the defeated and to crush those proud men who will not submit.”

Some research is extremely fulfilling but at other times I find it extremely frustrating. Such has it been this morning. 

As I mentioned on my blog of yesterday (Jan 3rd), I came across the above quotation, in red, that claimed to be from Virgil’s Aeneid, Book 4 (though I can't see it in any Book 4 translations I've poured over today). Having decided that I could maybe use that quotation in an author presentation about my Celtic Fervour novels, I went in search of the whole section of the text hoping that the missing part might also be useful in some way. If I use sources in any of my work, or talks etc, I like to at least try to read the original and give references. 

That, regrettably, isn’t possible for me since I don’t read Latin (Maybe something to correct in 2916?) but I decided to find the quoted words in a translated version.

W.F. Jackson Knight
Off I went to our bookcase which contains the ancient classics belonging to either myself or my husband. I knew there to be at least one copy of The Aeneid. Located in around 30 seconds, I then realised what we’d stored for decades (see price of 4/- 1964 edition) is a prose translation. Great for easy reading of the story but not for locating actual lines of the original epic poem.

Next stop was Amazon for a kindle version since my interest in reading the translated poem was sparked. There are a few reasonably priced editions available and all with a ‘look in the book’ facility. 

A while later I’d scanned the varieties possible, downloaded versions for kindle and had scanned most of the poem but none of the translations matched the quotation I’d seen in the historical text “The Wall: Rome’s Greatest Frontier" by Alistair Moffat.

After a few more tries at finding a similar translation, the closest I got to are the following ones below…and I've also got a high degree of frustration over how different the translated versions are of such a venerable poem. 

Why am I frustrated at not locating Moffat's source?  It's because the above version in red, from Alistair Moffat’s book “The Wall: Rome’s Greatest Frontier” is really appropriate for how I also see the Roman policy of expansion across their empire. Having been educated to believe in the sentiments expressed by Jove (Jupiter) in the Aeneid, with regard to Roman supremacy and as an ideal for empirical growth, I think any commander of an ancient Roman legion would be striving to achieve what Jove has decreed as the fate of Aeneas and of Rome itself. The aim would be the same in Britannia as much as elsewhere in the Roman Empire. 

I wanted to see if someone else had made a similar translation i.e. kept the sentiments more or less the same regarding Jove’s (Jupiter) speech.

This Penguin Classic version of 1964 by W.F. Jackson Knight has this in prose—Jove speaking of Romulus. The highlighted parts in red are my interpretation of similar intent, as in the top quotation. 

“Then shall one Romulus, nursed by a wolf and gay in a red-brown wolfskin, inherit the line. He shall build battlements of Mars; and call his people Romans, after his name. To Romans I set no boundary in space or time. I have granted them dominion, and it has no end. Yes, even the furious Juno, who now wearies sea, earth, and heaven with the strain of fear, shall amend her plans, and she and I will foster the nation which wears the toga, the Roman nation, masters of the world. My decree is made. Time in its five year spans shall slip by till an age shall come when the House of Assaracus shall crush to subjection even Phthia and illustrious Myceneae, and conquer Argos, and hold mastery there. And then shall be born, of proud descent from Troy, one Caesar, to bound his lordship by Ocean’s outer stream and his fame by the starry sky, a Julius, bearing a name inherited from Iulus his great ancestor. One day you shall welcome to Heaven with peace in your heart this Julius, coming weighted with the spoils of the Orient; and he shall also be invoked to listen to prayers. Then shall our furious centuries lay down their warring arms, and shall grow kind. Silver-haired Fidelity, Vesta and Quirine Romulus, with his brother Remus at his side, shall make the laws. And the terrible iron-constricted Gates of War shall shut; and safe within them shall stay the godless and ghastly Lust of Blood, propped on his pitiless piled armoury, and still roaring from gory mouth, but held fast by a hundred chains of bronze knotted behind his back.’

And this version comes from a ‘John Dryden’ Public domain kindle edition:

The royal babes a tawny wolf shall drain: Then Romulus his grandsire's throne shall gain, Of martial tow'rs the founder shall become, The people Romans call, the city Rome. To them no bounds of empire I assign, Nor term of years to their immortal line. Ev'n haughty Juno, who, with endless broils, Earth, seas, and heav'n, and Jove himself turmoils; At length aton'd, her friendly pow'r shall join, To cherish and advance the Trojan line. The subject world shall Rome's dominion own, And, prostrate, shall adore the nation of the gown. An age is ripening in revolving fate When Troy shall overturn the Grecian state, And sweet revenge her conqu'ring sons shall call, To crush the people that conspir'd her fall.
Then Caesar from the Julian stock shall rise, Whose empire ocean, and whose fame the skies Alone shall bound; whom, fraught with eastern spoils, Our heav'n, the just reward of human toils, Securely shall repay with rites divine; And incense shall ascend before his sacred shrine. Then dire debate and impious war shall cease, And the stern age be soften'd into peace: Then banish'd Faith shall once again return, And Vestal fires in hallow'd temples burn; And Remus with Quirinus shall sustain The righteous laws, and fraud and force restrain. Janus himself before his fane shall wait, And keep the dreadful issues of his gate, With bolts and iron bars: within remains Imprison'd Fury, bound in brazen chains; High on a trophy rais'd, of useless arms, He sits, and threats the world with vain alarms."

More recent translations I read aren’t close to the first above.

Writing about Virgil’s bio looks like a much simpler job…so, maybe I'll do that tomorrow.


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