In his lengthy “Translator’s Postscript,” Fagles writes – comparing this Aeneid translation to his recent ones of The Iliad and The Odyssey:
Yet my versions of all three poems, different as those versions may be, share a common impulse. Again I have tried to find a middle ground (and not a no-man’s-land, if I can help it) between the features of an ancient author and the expectations of a contemporary reader. Not a line-by-line translation, my version of the Aeneid is, I hope, neither so literal in rendering Virgil’s language as to cramp and distort my own – though I want to convey as much of what he writes as possible — nor so “literary,” in the stilted, bookish sense, as to brake his forward motion once too often. For the more literal approach would seem to be too little English, and the more “literary,” too little Latin. I have tried to find a cross between the two: a modern English Virgil.
Until now, I have had my problems with reading Aeneid translations, but this one, oh my God! It's wonderful!
For anyone needing a last minute present for a classically minded person, this is it!
Physically, the book is turned out beautiful too, down to the ribbon bookmark, which one nowadays mostly finds only in books printed in Germany, and to the durable jacket.
For some reason, I had pictured Robert Fagles a youngish man, but now I find that he is a contemporary of mine. Three cheers for us old fogies!
He also writes:
And so, to turn to the translator, who writes at a far remove from Virgil in every way, I have tried to lend my work a performative cast as well. My approach to the Aeneid, in other words, resembles the one I took in rendering the Iliad and the Odyssey. With the Aeneid, however, I have aimed for certain more literary effects — occasional pauses for second thoughts, phrases that resonate a few ways at once — that writing, more than singing, will allow. And I have tried to modulate my voice a little further than I did with Homer, making it somewhat more intimate for Virgil, particularly for his introspective, often heartrending moments, and yet at the same time more formal too, for his famous, lapidary lines. In other words, at every step I have seen how impossible it is to translate Virgil, especially his unequaled blend of grandeur and accessibility (as Brooke Holmes suggests), of eloquence and action, heroics and humanity, and countless other features too. To cite only one, my voice is willing, if less than able, to sound “a thin wisp of a cry” (6.571), like that of the Greek dead in hell, for Virgil’s great crescendos of battle that dominate the last four books.