19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Ian M. Slater
- Published on Amazon.com
The late Richmond Lattimore was a poet and a classical scholar. He held, in the opinion of many, an outstanding place among American translators of the classical literature. In the role of a scholar of Greek, he published late in life of series of translations from the New Testament, eventually collected in one volume; it is dedicated to the sense of the Greek text, without theological commitments. In a combined role he was responsible for a long series of distinguished translations, alone and with collaborators, or as an editor.
He appeared as all three in the University of Chicago Press "Greek Tragedies," and as translator-poet of the "The Iliad," "The Odyssey", Hesiod (Theogony, Works and Days, and Shield of Heracles), and, in the case at hand, the large-scale lyrics of Pindar (c. 518-438 BC). Originally published by the University of Chicago Press in 1947, and reprinted in paperback in that form, it was reissued in a revised translation in 1976, a few years after C.M. Bowra's British translation had appeared as a Penguin Classic. The Odes are songs for public performance in honor of athletes and other victors (owners of horses and chariot teams) at the major Games of classical Greece in the years around the Persian Wars.
Although Lattimore's Homeric translations are quite well known, and seem to remain continuously in print, his version of Pindar seems to have suffered from the relative obscurity of this magnificent, but difficult, poet, who has almost always found more favor with classical scholars than the public. Given the difficulties in translating his rich, densely allusive, and often terribly obscure poems celebrating long-forgotten athletic contests, this is not surprising.
Lattimore manages to give exceptionally clear translations, without masking the difficulties in following Pindar's lines of thought. His commentary is pretty sparse (as usual), which at least spares most of it from becoming outdated as approaches to Pindar shift. As in most translations (but not Bowra's) the Epinician (Victory) poems are presented in their traditional order, in sets according to the Games (Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian) with which ancient scholars associated them (not always correctly).
Another translation of the Odes, by G.S. Conway, has been reprinted in Everyman Paperback Classics as "The Odes: and Selected Fragments," with an excellent introduction, expanded notes, and translations of additional texts, some fairly substantial, by Richard Stoneman. Stoneman provides a good account of trends in Pindar studies; I have discussed some of the issues he raises in my review of that volume.
A fourth alternative, with a translation facing the Greek texts, is the Loeb Classical Library edition, re-edited in two volumes by William H. Race (1997), which is probably a bit too intimidating for the merely curious reader.
It should be noted that this and several other translations of Pindaros (the full Greek form) have been appearing on the listings as the work of "Peter Pindar". (Or formerly were, when this review was first written, and for quite a while after I reported it to Amazon.) This was a pseudonym for John Wolcot, an eighteenth century physician and author from Cornwall, and seems to have been used by others as well. Its only connection with the Greek poet is the borrowing of his name.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Ian M. Slater
- Published on Amazon.com
I am here reviewing C. M. Bowra's translation of "The Odes of Pindar" for the Penguin Classics, not Richmond Lattimore's version from the University of Chicago Press, my review of which has been appearing under this heading as well. Fortunately, I rank Bowra's work as highly as Lattimore's, so I won't have to quibble over how many stars should be assigned. Lattimore's translation is, at the moment, out of print; one hopes that Penguin will keep Bowra's available. I will refer to a third translation, as well.
Pindar was one of the most famous poets of ancient Greece, and besides fragments (which are all that survive of most of his rivals) we have four reasonably intact books out of a much larger collection. As it happens, the four books contain celebrations of victors at major Games (Olympic and three others, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemean), and are otherwise unlike what moderns think of as typical poetry. They are also densely allusive, and in a Greek which is generally acknowledged to be as difficult to follow as it is beautiful. My own command of Greek is too small to judge, but Bowra is one of several modern translators who have managed to persuade me to read him for pleasure, rather just than for his allusions to myths and heroic legend.
Bowra, who also wrote a major work on Pindar, provides useful annotations to a very attractive translation. He also decided to arrange the poems according to their likely dates, or at least the dates assigned to them by ancient scholars who had list of victors in the various games. There are inherent problems with this, since some of the Odes actually relate to victories in other Games, and some were certainly performed at delayed celebrations. On the whole, however, it does give some sense of Pindar as a developing poet, and of the Victory Ode as a form continuing to grow during his career.
The real drawback is the need to consult a table of references to find any given poem. This can be a real annoyance for a student if Bowra is the only translation you have on hand, and you really want to check a statement supported by a reference to, say, Olympian 3, lines 7 to 10. In most translations, you can just follow the page headings.
Bowra's critical writings on Pindar are now considered obsolete -- at least for the moment His translation remains worth reading, and compares well with Lattimore's, and with Richard Stoneman's recent expanded edition, with excellent critical material, of G.S. Conway's translation of the Odes, which first appeared a few years after Bowra's.
This last was Issued as "Odes: and Selected Fragments," in the Everyman Paperback Classics series, and I have reviewed it, with a more extended discussion of Pindar and related critical disputes. I am glad to have all three; it would be nice if all of them were all in print simultaneously. A fourth alternative, with a translation facing the Greek texts, is the Loeb Classical Library edition, re-edited in two volumes by William H. Race (1997), which is probably a bit too intimidating for the merely curious reader.