Jennifer Howard’s discussion in The Chronicle of Higher Education of the new translation of the Aeneid by Sarah Ruden (found via Avva) is thought-provoking on the fact that so few women have tried translating the classic epics; at least from the snippet from Book 2 she chooses for comparison, Ruden’s version is head and shoulders above other recent attempts, with its combination of concision and poetic force. Here is Vergil’s Latin:
…dextrae se parvus Iulus
implicuit sequiturque patrem non passibus aequis;
pone subit coniunx. ferimur per opaca locorum,
et me, quem dudum non ulla iniecta movebant
tela neque adverso glomerati ex agmine Grai,
nunc omnes terrent aurae, sonus excitat omnis
suspensum et pariter comitique onerique timentem.
The translations are below the fold.
Little Iülus held my hand and kept up,
Although his stride could not match his father’s,
And my wife followed behind.
To the shadows, and I, undisturbed before
By any number of weapons thrust my way
And whole platoons of Greeks, now was frightened
By every breeze and startled by every sound,
Afraid for my companion and my burden.
— translated by Stanley Lombardo (2005)
Little Iulus, clutching
my right hand, keeps pace with tripping steps.
My wife trails on behind. And so we make our way
along the pitch-dark paths, and I who had never flinched
at the hurtling spears or swarming Greek assaults —
now every stir of wind, every whisper of sound
alarms me, anxious both for the child beside me
and burden on my back.
— translated by Robert Fagles (2006)
Still the small boy, takes my right hand and holds it with intertwined fingers,
And, since his stride’s not long, lags behind, trailing after his father.
Further back comes my wife. On we go through the darkest of places.
I, who, just moments ago, didn’t flinch at a volley of javelins
Or at contingents of Greeks falling out from their march to attack us,
Cowered whenever a breeze blew now, so tense that the slightest
Sound made me twitch out of equal fear for my comrade and burden.
— translated by Frederick Ahl (2007)
My little Iulus’ fingers
Were twined in mine; he trotted by my long steps.
Behind me came my wife. We went our dark way.
Before I hadn’t minded the Greeks’ spears
Hurled at me, or the Greeks in crowds, attacking.
Now every gust and rustle panicked me
Because of whom I led and whom I carried.
— translated by Sarah Ruden (2008)