I see my reputation is at stake; My fame is shrewdly gored.
—Troilus and Cressida , 111.2.227-8

Horace’s four books of odes have faced the test of time more successfully than any body of poems in western literature. Here, translated by “the leading poets of the day” (I quote from the editor’s description of this anthology), he faces in the most literal sense a stiffer test, since his Latin originals stand to the left of the English versions. A dubious practice, suggesting that he licenses what is happening to his right.

Fifteen of the editor’s thirty-five poets have won prizes for their work. This is reassuring news, yet poets are not always at their best with the difficult art of verse translation. Trying to be what academics call faithful, they may on occasion be as crudely literal as Robert Creeley is in his version...


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