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This review is taken from PN Review 32, Volume 9 Number 6, July - August 1983.

MAKING IT NEW Daphne Into Laurel; Translations of Classical Poetry from Chaucer to the Present, ed. Richard Stoneman (Duckworth) £24

The status of the words in a verse translation is peculiar- to what do they refer? Not certainly to the experience of life out of which the original poem came, an experience of which the translator often has scant conception (consider the contrast between Pope's life - not to speak of the 14th Earl of Derby's - and any possible reconstruction of Homer's, or between puritan Golding's and lascivious Ovid's). It would seem they refer to some composite, of which a common surviving humanity must be a large part (if, in Spenglerian manner, there were no such humanity translation would be impossible) but of which an equally large part is the translator's relation not with the world but with a text, not with unmediated life but with his apprehension of another - usually dead - mind. His words are as much about his relation to that text as to immediate experience. The possible relations can be very various; a response to what the translator sees as strange, fresh, exotically absent from the culture that surrounds him (Pound, and, one would guess, Pound's hero Golding), a nostalgic or stoic looking back to a lost Golden Age when things were better ordered (as in the translations of Horace by royalists of the Tribe of Ben like Herrick and Fanshawe), a sudden apprehension of kinship in the face of a still corrupt world (Rowe's Lucan, Oldham's Horace), a related sense that the ancient world can teach the modern a thing or two ...


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