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This review is taken from PN Review 171, Volume 33 Number 1, September - October 2006.

IMPROPER TRANSLATIONS SHEROD SANTOS , Greek Lyric Poetry: A New Translation (Norton) $24.95

 Over in the pages of Poetry, Sherod Santos's book has created a controversy focused on the gap between our culture and the classical world. The historian Garry Wills's critical review appeared back in October 2005, and letters appeared from the likes of Willis Barnstone, Rosanna Warren – both of whom gave blurbs to Santos' book – and Michael Hoffman. Wills's arguments against the usefulness of Santos's book and the reliability of the translations present an interesting paradox to what he admits is the work of a poet who 'can create a deft quiet music in his lines'. Look, for instance, at this translation of Simonides, a poet of the fifth century BC , retelling the myth of Danaë and Perseus:
 

 As storm winds foundered their bolted chest
 and mouthing breakers hollered them about,
 she wrapped her arms around her son and wept
 into his ear, ‘Pale child, while night fears rise
 to fuel this storm, death-bound in our brass-
 ribbed boat you sleep the sleep of infancy.’
 

 And now the same piece in M.L. West’s Greek Lyric Poetry:

 ... Danae, when in the carven chest
 the wind blowing and the sea stirring
 shattered her with fear. Her cheeks were wet
 as she put her loving arm round Perseus, saying,
 ‘ Oh, child! What trouble is mine,

 yet you can slumber, in your innocence
 snoring on comfortless timber, bronze-riveted, ...


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