My aim is to take familiar things and make
Poetry of them, and do it in such a way
That it looks as if it was as easy as could be
For anybody to do it . . . the power of making
A perfectly wonderful thing out of nothing much.
from Epistle II.3, The Art of Poetry
When David Ferry's translation of the Odes of Horace appeared in 1997, Bernard Knox, writing in The New York Review of Books, called it "a Horace for our times." Now Ferry has translated Horace's two books of Epistles, in which Horace perfected the conversational verse medium that gives his voice such dazzling immediacy, speaking in these letters with such directness, wit, and urgency, to young writers, to friends, to his patron Maecenas, to the Emperor Augustus himself. It is the voice of a free man, talking about how to get along in a Roman world full of temptations, opportunities, and contingencies, and how to do so with your integrity intact. His world, so unlike our own and yet so like it, comes to life in these poems.
And there are also the poems—the famous "Art of Poetry" and others—about the tasks and responsibilities of the writer: truth to the demands of one's medium; fearless, clear-sighted self-knowledge; and unillusioned, uncynical realism, joyfully recognizing the world for what it is.
This bilingual edition includes an Introduction and Notes by David Ferry.
"Reading these versions we feel as if the streets that Horace walked have opened onto our own."—Peter Campion, Raritan
"Masterful . . . Writing of such authority is not translation in the conventional sense, but a reawakening of an ancient voice in the voice of a poet who is sitting, as it were, on the other side of the room. Ferry takes his bearings from the great blank verse poets of the last two hundred years, especially Frost, and while he manages to be faithful to the meaning, substance and shades, of the Latin original, Ferry achieves through his historical, cultural, and linguistic cross-pollination something more important and lasting than mere translation: he brings to life new as well as old possibilities for poetry in America now. The all-but-amazing fact is that this is now the third time that Ferry has performed this feat, his Gilgamesh (1992) and Horace's Odes (1997) being the other and even more remarkable instances."—Harry Thomas, Harvard Review
"Writing primarily in fluid iambic pentameter and with a simplicity of vocabulary and expression that brilliantly combines fluency and clarity, Ferry reproduces the thought and tone of . . . Rome's most sophisticated poet."—Frederic Koeppel, The Commercial Appeal
"Horace's hexameter verse letters to his patron Maecenas, the Emperor Augustus, and his friends, including the famous 'To the Pisos' (Ars Poetica), a classic statement on Roman poetics, are masterpieces of wit and wry wisdom. Latin inflections give Horace a conciseness and rhetorical snap that allow him to be both sententious and light at the same time . . . [Ferry] renders The Epistles in fluent iambic pentameter . . . Recommended."—T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Georgia, Library Journal