Alexandrian Poetry under the First Three Ptolemies, 324-222 B.C.

Alexandrian Poetry under the First Three Ptolemies, 324-222 B.C.

Alexandrian Poetry under the First Three Ptolemies, 324-222 B.C.

Alexandrian Poetry under the First Three Ptolemies, 324-222 B.C.

Excerpt

It may occasion surprise that a French book written forty- seven years ago now appears in an English translation. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that Auguste Couat La Poésie alexandrine sous les trois premiers Ptolémées still stands unrivalled and unequalled among books dealing with this difficult subject. If, as has been maintained, to translate a book is to give it a new lease of life, Couat's work certainly deserves such a boon. In the course of my work I was again and again struck by the beauty of his book and impressed with the vast labour that must have been spent on it. A careful reading cannot fail to show that Couat was anything but a dry philologist. He was a poet as well -- in the sense that he had a delicate and fine appreciation of the beauty that often lies hidden in the over-erudite poems with which he undertook to deal. His task was in many ways a hard one. The poetic literature of the age of the first three Ptolemies has come down to us in a lamentably fragmentary state. To reconstruct and fill in what is missing and to give a proper interpretation of what has survived calls for the greatest ingenuity. Moreover, it is a task that can be accomplished only by one who is thoroughly acquainted with the mental attitude of the poets of the Alexandrian School.

Fortunately Couat had command of a fine and particularly lucid style which does its part in convincing the reader of the correctness of his views and hypotheses. Needless to say, the excellence of his style made the task of the translator pleasanter and easier. He ventures to hope that his version conveys at least a part of the ease and charm of the original.

Much has been written and more has been said about the art of translation. To me it seems that, in the last analysis, it is virtually a process of distilling and recrystallization. The whole meaning of the original text must first . . .

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