February 23, 2010

The Aeneid of Virgil

For my lit project, I read The Aeneid.

I did not expect to get in to the Aeneid, but it seemed like a good time to read it (on the heels of Metamorphoses). Indeed, it is an epic all about Valor and Piety, qualities I am unfamiliar with, and a good many words are wasted in prayer or else in sacrificing lambs and sows and oxen, and reading about slaughters and prayers is not very exciting. It is an epic all about war and fate, also unfamiliar, and men are slaughtered as frequently as the bleating sheep; Virgil depicts many lances through groins and rocks against heads. I could not handle the violence of the Iliad; Aeneid too tried my timid mind. And what's up with Juno? She is the worst god ever. I do not understand why Jupiter does not kick her teeth in and pitch her down to Tartarus. I wanted to. So badly.

And yet -- and yet! -- I was so into the Aeneid. I began reading and two nights later finished it. The story progresses with calm intensity. The narrative's weight is always bearing but never overwrought. And I was into it. Surely, the very spirit Epic possessed me as I hunched over this book. I have no rational explanation for my becoming so engrossed.

I think it helped to read this back-to-back with Ovid's epic. Virgil builds his epic with patience, diligence, focus, solemnity. These do not describe Ovid; his cracks and tumbles and wheels energetically along its way. Ovid's epic is swift and dense with action; Virgil's deliberate and dense with emotion. So into it.

My praise to the translation.

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