Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Classic Coke

The Seer of Cleveland asks, "Q. Who are your favorite classical authors, i.e. authors who wrote in ancient Greek or Latin?"

Answer:  Ovid.

Longer answer:  Ovid, Catullus, Propertius.

More reasonable answer:  Well, thinking about your question I realized how much Ezra Pound shaped my notions about classical literature.  He suggested no adequate translations existed in English for most Greek literature, so I've read very little Greek literature.  (It doesn't take much to get me to chose slack over study.)  I loved Pound's translation of The Women of Trachis by SophoklesI never finished his version of Elektra.  The book didn't appear until I had passed out of one phase of my Pound obsession, so I didn't have the drive to finish it.  I do love the excerpt from the Agamemnon translated by Dallam Simpson which Pound included in Confucius to Cummings.  And I love Tom Lehrer's theme song to Oedipus Rex.

I love Arthur Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphosis and Christopher Marlowe's translation of Ovid's Amores, although I've only read each of them once all the way through.  I've read bits of Gavin Douglass's Aeneid which fortunately just came back in print.  I would like to get that.  I plan to begin rereading the Golding in 2013.

I've just begun rereading the Zukofskys' translation of Catullus.  I've struggled reading a little Catullus in Latin, but I find it very humbling.  I have trouble with the scansion, etc.  For Propertius, I've only read Pound's "Homage."

I also like some of the medaeval scholastic writers, whom I don't really think of as "classical," but they did write in Latin (at least sometimes): Meister Eckhart, Richard St. Victor, Abelard, Scotus Erigina, but I've read very, very little of them.


  1. I forgot, I also love Christoper Logue's translations from the Iliad. I've read three of the books: War Music, Patroclus, and Kings. I hope he finishes translating the whole thing and someone publishes it as a single volume.

  2. I just read that Christopher Logue died last year: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/arts/british-poet-christopher-logue-dies-at-85.html . I love his writing. I first heard of him in 1983. Harlan Ellison recommended his translation of Pablo Neruda's "Love Poem #20." I couldn't find that poem, but I read a bunch of his other books. Years later I found his terrific Neruda transations. At Oxford in 1989 I bought an autographed copy of one of his Homer volumes.

  3. With so much of classical literature dominated by war and violence, it is interesting to me that you picked three Latin love poets.