Robert Fitzgerald (1910-1985) was an American poet, translator
, and teacher. I don't know his own poetry, but his translation
s of the Iliad
, the Odyssey
, and the Aeneid
are so good, so fluent and dynamic and captivating, that having read one I collected all three, and now swear by them.
Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Achilles' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Achaeans loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men -- carrion
for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.
Begin it when the two men first contending
broke with one another -- the Lord Marshal
Agamemnon, Atreus' son, and Prince Achilles.
Born in Geneva, New York
in October 1910, he grew up in Springfield, Illinois
, and got his B.A. from Harvard in 1933. He worked for Time
magazine between 1936 and 1949, apart from wartime service in the Naval Reserve. After the war he became poetry editor of the New Republic
. Between 1953 and 1964 he lived in Italy.
Before then he had taught at Sarah Lawrence College and Princeton. He returned to the USA for short teaching appointments; and in 1965 became Boylston Professor of Rhetoric. On his retirement in 1981 he retained this title emeritus, and died in Connecticut on 16 January 1985, the recipient of many honours and awards for his work.
Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud heights of Troy.
He saw the townlands
and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered many bitter nights and days
in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
But not by will or valor could he save them,
for their own recklessness destroyed them all--
children and fools, they killed and feasted on
the cattle of Lord Hêlios, the Sun,
and he who moves all day through heaven
took from their eyes the dawn of their return.
Fitzgerald published four volumes of his own poetry
(1935), A Wreath for The Sea
(1943), In The Rose of Time
(1956), and Spring Shade: Poems 1931-1970
(1971). The last volume included the previous three and new material.
As well as classical works he translated two volumes of the French Canadian St John Perse, Chronique and Oiseaux; and the verse plays of Paul Valéry.
He also translated Oedipus at Colonus and collaborated with Dudley Fitts in the translation of Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Alcestis.
I sing of warfare and a man at war.
From the sea-coast of Troy in early days
He came to Italy by destiny,
To our Lavinian western shore,
A fugitive, this captain, buffeted
Cruelly on land as on the sea
By blows from powers of the air--behind them
Baleful Juno in her sleepless rage.
And cruel losses were his lot in war,
Till he could found a city and bring home
His gods to Latium, land of the Latin race,
The Alban lords, and the high walls of Rome.
Homer, The Iliad, Doubleday 1974 (World's Classics 1984)
Homer, The Odyssey, William Heinemann 1961 (Collins Harvill 1986)
Virgil, The Aeneid, Random House 1983 (Penguin 1985)