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A translation with conscious archaisms
on 2 January 2002
The problem with this translation for the reader ignorant of the original poems is that W G Shepherd deliberately uses English archaisms. This gives the poems a sense of antiquity but can render them difficult to understand. Whilst the notes illuminate some of the allusions made by Horace, they do not clarify some of the words actually used in the translation. For example, the poem I was most interested in was Epode II, in which Horace presents the idea of pastoral retreat. A key figure in the poem is described as a 'helpmeet', which made me uncertain - is this a 'helpmate' or something subtly different? - my dictionary confirmed that 'helpmeet' is simply an archaic version of 'helpmate'. But elsewhere we find words not in a standard dictionary: 'intercipient' - is this like incipient?; and 'enchaf'd' - as in chafed?. The word 'scar' appears without a footnote to explain what it means in the context - a type of fish? If you want to read archaisms and struggle with the English, it would seem as worthwhile going back to seventeenth or eighteenth century translators of Horace as to use this book.