In the years and months preceding the coronavirus pandemic, David Ferry could often be heard reading from his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid to audiences in and around Boston. Ferry always gave special attention to lines 241-289 of his Book XI, pointing out that this evocation of the dawn following the first day of battle between the Latins and the Trojans introduces the fundamental desolation at the heart of the poem. The excerpt begins with this:

Aurora rose, spreading her pitying light,
And with it bringing back to sight the labors
Of sad mortality, what men have done,
And what has been done to them; and what they must do
To mourn.

The Aeneid is conventionally understood as the West’s greatest heroic epic, Virgil’s glorification and legitimization of Caesar, and the founding of the Roman Empire. Ferry’s interpretation stresses the text’s dark interior, though, and his breathtaking illumination of this darkness reveals what has to be seen as the poem’s definitive accomplishment.

The Fall 2021 volume of Consequence includes the first in a series of special sections asking the question, “What is war poetry?” In that volume, we explore that question by returning to one of the oldest poems of war, The Iliad, with original poetry, translation, and a short essay dedicated to the epic. The Aeneid, another ancient poem of war, is in close dialogue with The Iliad, and, as Ferry has pointed out in the introduction to his translation, especially so in this excerpt. We are honored to present this collection of recordings of poets, translators, teachers, and scholars reacting to and further illuminating this passage in Ferry’s translation.

We are also grateful to the many people who helped us assemble this collection. The audio and/or video recordings provide a set of brilliant, evocative responses to Ferry’s own recording of verses 241-289 from Book XI. Special thanks to George Kalogeris for the original idea, to the University of Chicago Press for granting permission, and of course to David Ferry.

—Peter Brown & Katherine Hollander, Poetry Editors

David Ferry, 2021. Photo by Stephen Ferry.

David Ferry: A Reading of Book XI; Lines 241-286 from his translation of the Aeneid

David Ferry Reading

David Ferry’s most recent book is a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid (University of Chicago, 2017). Bewilderment, New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago, 2012) won the National Book Award. He has published six books in all and won many major prizes. In 1998 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Jennifer Barber's poetry collection Works on Paper, recipient the 2015 Tenth Gate Prize from the Word Works, was published in 2016, and her new collection, The Sliding Boat Our Bodies Made, is forthcoming from the Word Works in 2022. She was one of David Ferry's colleagues in the English Department at Suffolk University.

George Kalogeris’s most recent book of poems is Guide to Greece, (Louisiana State University, 2018). Winthropos, a companion volume, is due out in December.

Fred Marchant is the author of five books of poetry, the most recent of which is Said Not Said (Graywolf Press). He has co-translated (with Nguyen Ba Chung) the work of several contemporary Vietnamese poets, and he is the editor of a Another World Instead, a selection of the early poetry of William Stafford (Graywolf Press).

Tim Peltason is recently retired from the English Department at Wellesley College, where he had the pleasure of working with David Ferry and learning from him and forming the dear friendship that has now lasted for 44 years.  He has written about Tennyson, Dickens, Shakespeare, Twain, Wilde, and others and is currently completing a sequence of essays about Jane Austen.

Lawrence Rosenwald is the Anne Pierce Rogers Professor of English at Wellesley College, where he has been teaching since 1980.  His chief scholarly interests are translation in theory and practice, literary multilingualism, and the relations between nonviolence and literature.  His most recent book is War No More, an anthology of American antiwar and peace writing for the Library of America.

A. E. Stallings is a US-born poet and translator who has lived in Greece since 1999. Her most recent collection of poems, Like (FSG) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She has published verse translations of Lucretius and Hesiod with Penguin Classics, the pseudo-Homeric Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice with Paul Dry Books, and is at work on a Georgics for Liveright.

Drew Swinger's poems and reviews have appeared in PoetryAGNIConsequence, and Salamander, and his writing has been featured on the Poetry Daily website. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, where he works as a senior manager of advanced analytics for Adtalem Global Education.

Rosanna Warren's most recent books are So Forth, a collection of poems, and Max Jacob: A Life in Art and Letters, a biography. She teaches at The University of Chicago.

Share This