The Aeneid – thrilling, terrifying and poignant in equal measure – has inspired centuries of artists, writers and musicians.
Virgil’s epic tale tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan hero, who flees his city after its fall, with his father Anchises and his young son Ascanius – for Aeneas is destined to found Rome and father the Roman race. As Aeneas journeys closer to his goal, he must first prove his worth and attain the maturity necessary for such an illustrious task. He battles raging storms in the Mediterranean, encounters the fearsome Cyclopes, falls in love with Dido, Queen of Carthage, travels into the Underworld and wages war in Italy.
Of the great poets, Dante is one of the most elusive and therefore one of the most difficult to adequately render into English verse. In the Inferno, Dante not only judges sin but strives to understand it so that the reader can as well. With this major new translation, Anthony Esolen has succeeded brilliantly in marrying sense with sound, poetry with meaning, capturing both the poem’s line by line vigor and its allegorically and philosophically exacting structure, yielding an Inferno that will be as popular with general readers as with teachers and students. For, as Dante insists, without a trace of sentimentality or intellectual compromise, even Hell is a work of divine art.
Esolen also provides a critical Introduction and endnotes, plus appendices containing Dante’s most important sources—from Virgil to Saint Thomas Aquinas and other Catholic theologians—that deftly illuminate the religious universe the poet inhabited.
On 15 August 778, Charlemagne’s army was returning from a successful expedition against Saracen Spain when its rearguard was ambushed in a remote Pyrenean pass. Out of this skirmish arose a stirring tale of war, which was recorded in the oldest extant epic poem in French. The Song of Roland, written by an unknown poet, tells of Charlemagne’s warrior nephew, Lord of the Breton Marches, who valiantly leads his men into battle against the Saracens, but dies in the massacre, defiant to the end. In majestic verses, the battle becomes a symbolic struggle between Christianity and Islam, while Roland’s last stand is the ultimate expression of honour and feudal values of twelfth century France.
Written by an unknown author in the twelfth century, this powerful tale of murder and revenge reaches back to the earliest epochs of German antiquity, transforming centuries old legend into a masterpiece of chivalric drama. Siegfried, a great prince of the Netherlands, wins the hand of the beautiful princess Kriemhild of Burgundy, by aiding her brother Gunther in his struggle to seduce a powerful Icelandic Queen. But the two women quarrel, and Siegfried is ultimately destroyed by those he trusts the most. Comparable in scope to the Iliad, this skilfully crafted work combines the fragments of half forgotten myths to create one of the greatest epic poems the principal version of the heroic legends used by Richard Wagner, in The Ring.