Monday, January 31, 2022


Classical Poetry

Clive James, Collected Poems 1958-2015 (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016), pp. 561-562 (note on his lyrics to the song "Femme Fatale" — music by Pete Atkin):
The 'weeping fields' are Virgil's lugentes campos. Perhaps the best translation of the phrase was by the old scholar J.W. Mackail: 'the broken-hearted fields'. While at Cambridge I taught myself quite a lot of classical poetry. The circumstances were ideal: there were undergraduates all over the place who had been through the English public schools and could tell you where the best bits of poetry were in the acres of text. In the New Hall annexe where my wife and I had our first apartment, there was a young graduate student from New Zealand who would put her finger right on the indispensable passages in Homer and get me to recite until I could make a fair fist of the metre: sometimes, I learned, the way the rhythm worked was half the point of the line. Disciplinarians might have frowned at the shortcut but we rarely enjoy seeing someone acquire, just from love, the knowledge that was imparted to us at the point of a cane.
Hat tip: John O'Toole.

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