He then explains the reason for the principal conflict in the story: the resentment held by the goddess Juno against the Trojan people. This is consistent with her role throughout the Homeric epics. Book 1: Storm and refuge[ edit ] Also in the manner of Homer , the story proper begins in medias res into the middle of things , with the Trojan fleet in the eastern Mediterranean , heading in the direction of Italy. The fleet, led by Aeneas , is on a voyage to find a second home. It has been foretold that in Italy he will give rise to a race both noble and courageous, a race which will become known to all nations.
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By Brad Leithauser Dec. When you further consider all the partial or complete versions in private manuscript — often the work of old classics teachers, shared with their students — we indeed confront something that looms over us like a cloudburst. For who can fault them, given that Turnus is, as epic antagonists go, so blandly magnificent?
Or is it magnificently bland? The result is free verse, with the ghost of a hexameter serving as loose armature: Wars and a man I sing — an exile driven on by Fate, he was the first to flee the coast of Troy, destined to reach Lavinian shores and Italian soil, yet many blows he took on land and sea from the gods above.
The issue of line length poses a fundamental and perhaps an irresolvable dilemma. Between the Latin hexameter and the standard English line for long narrative poems — iambic pentameter — lies an unbridgeable chasm. The Latin line simply contains more information than can reliably be packed into its English counterpart.
The translator must then make a choice. Does he go with a long-line approximation of the Latin at the risk of producing an ungainly English unit that tends to sag in the middle?
Or will he, in allegiance to English poetic traditions, adopt something shorter at the risk of losing the feel of the expansive original? Fitzgerald employs a taut shorter line iambic pentameter, with many truncations — a meter he subtly loosens and tightens as he goes along , and in moments of great lyrical intensity his version regularly seems tenser, richer.
Here is the Trojan horse being hauled into the city:. Everyone Pitched in to get the figure underpinned With rollers, hempen lines around the neck.
Deadly, pregnant with enemies, the horse Crawled upward to the breach. Fitzgerald We breach our own ramparts, fling our defenses open, all pitch into the work. Smooth running rollers we wheel beneath its hoofs, and heavy hempen ropes we bind around its neck, and teeming with men-at-arms the huge deadly engine climbs our city walls Fitzgerald And then to any Power above, mindful, evenhanded, who watches over lovers bound by unequal passion, Dido says her prayers.
Fagles And here — my favorite passage in the poem — is the moment when ever dutiful Aeneas, with his exhausted, despairing father at his side, balances the awesome burdens of past and future: So I resigned myself, picked up my father, And turned my face toward the mountain range. So I gave way at last and lifting my father, headed toward the mountains. Aeneas is a storm-tossed man — the epic opens with shipwreck on the coast of Africa — and Fagles renders the pilgrimage in cadences that are encompassing without feeling cluttered.
As Fitzgerald surely would have agreed, the sea has many voices, and this is one of them. Inner voices are another casualty of the din of war. As a literary creation, Aeneas is marvelous for the way this most powerful and influential of warriors seems the least free of men.
He is laying the cornerstones for an empire without precedent, which will a complement to the biblical fiat lux impose a fiat lex across the earth: Roman notions of law and order will eventually prevail from the Irish Sea to the Caspian, from Russia to Morocco.
Yet Aeneas himself evidently has little say in the matter. If left to his own devices, he would contentedly remain with Dido in Africa, where life is sheltered and the pleasures of the flesh are dizzyingly sweet. But his country calls him — which is to say, the gods have other plans. Virgil openly pays tribute to Homer, in both imagery and incident.
It seems there is nothing, not even the will of the gods, so inescapable as literary convention. Virgil also looks backward, reminding us how the Trojans and their city, gleaming on the dawn-struck outskirts of Asia, eventually came to dust. And how even the victorious Greeks came to dust. But Rome — he assures his readers — will never fade.
The triumph is ultimately literary, of course, and also collective — since it belongs in part to those white-haired translators who have brought such well-seasoned judgments to a timeless tale. Theirs is the prevailing army, among whose ranks Robert Fagles emerges as a new and noble standard-bearer.
Wars and a Man