The Odes of Horace

Horace, Author, David Ferry, Translator Farrar Straus Giroux $35 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-22425-7
The foremost technician of Rome's Golden Age, Horace (65-8 B.C.) revolutionized Latin verse. He imported intricate Greek meters, invented the poet as a jeweller of words and left behind some of the most enduring models of what a short poem should address. A handful of his lyrics--most on love, country living or the shortness of life--have been imitated by our greatest English-language poets, from Shakespeare and Johnson to Auden and Frost. It thus takes guts to translate Horace's complete odes, especially since many of them are on less timeless themes. Acclaimed poet and translator Ferry (Gilgamesh) has bravely given us all 103 (plus the ""Carmen Saeculare,"" a choral anthem commissioned by the Emperor Augustus) in graceful, relaxed, formally structured versions, and has achieved throughout the chief goal of most translators: to make his subject sound like one of us. To do so, Ferry is expansive where Horace is notoriously tight (as shown in the originals, provided en face). Too often, though, what a reader may like here will have little to do with what Horace wrote: Ferry repeatedly interprets him elegantly but slightly out of context, changing emphases and endings to suit a modern ear. Even at its most sly, however, the book sets a new standard for contemporary poets and readers who want to confront one of their thorniest, most formidable ancestors. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
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