- The sixth book of Virgil's Aeneid, translated and commented on by Sir John Harington (1604) (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 9, Number 2, December 1991
- p. pp. 147-148
- View Citation
Reviews 147 animals may be dictated by the possibilities of the hunt, and not by symbolic meanings. It would be useful to know why Cassell and Kirkham think Boccaccio, at this particular stage in his life, would have written a heavily veiled allegory of baptism, who the intended audience was, and what purpose it was meant to serve. The theory of Christian allegory is not impossible, but it is highly implausible, and presents many more problems than it solves. It is much less problematic to read the work as secular and pagan allegory. The young women show their power over men, and disregard for them, under die influence of Diana. Under the influence of Venus, they turn from Chastity to love, take on men as their subjects, and ennoble them. Cassell and Kirkham go a little too far in arguing for a single meaning which would alter the status and importance of the work, rather than accepting it as minor, and offering possible influences and senses. It is ironical that the thrust of Humanism, to which Boccaccio contributed so much, was directed towards returning to the original text letting it stand and speak for itself, and not placing more attention on the gloss and the commentary than on the original. This edition goes against these objectives. Burdened by gloss and interpretation, it is an exercise in medieval thought. Humanism might not as well have happened. M a x Staples School of M o d e m Languages University of N e w England Cauchi, Simon, ed., The sixth book of Virgil's Aeneid, translated and commented on by Sir John Harington (1604), Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991; cloth; pp. xlvi, 180; R.R.P. AUS$110.00. Sh John Harington was a man ruined by compulsive wit and is most famous now as the author of the only advertising copy to be a literary tour deforce. Yet even his Metamorphosis of Ajax was a semi-serious display of learning appropriate to the privy he was trying to promote. His translation of the sixth book of the Aeneid was in part an attempt to revitalize the stale subject of his career by keeping a literary straight face. It seems to have been polished largely with the education of Henry Prince of Wales in mind and clearly with one eye on the interests of James VI and I (pp. xii, xxix). If it does not demand of its editor quite the bravura performance necessary for Ajax, to which Elizabeth Donno responded so well, it is nevertheless a demanding and in its own way a rewarding work to which Simon Cauchi has responded splendidly. As Cauchi points out (p. ix), Harington was an intellectually conventional man and so, despite his idiosyncratic personality, his translation of Virgil is of representative interest. First, it exemplifies some of the problems of 148 Reviews transmission across what was the great divide between pagan antiquity and a Christian world. At the end of the sixteenth century, this was still a matter of babies and bathwater. Secondly, it exemplifies some of the more literal problems of translation and may be taken to show how English was developed in the process. Thirdly it exemplifies how an authoritative text can be co-opted and shaped to fit contemporary concerns through allegory, allusion, and comments on such topics as witchcraft and hell. A fourth interest lies in how theories of poetry could legitimize these various forms of creative adaptation. The use of Virgil becomes potentially problematic in a protestant environment for the poet's prophesies about R o m e could easily embrace the Roman church. Harington was clearly aware of this and reminds the reader of how many times R o m e has been destroyed. He adapted thetextto present needs by the draconian measure of leaving bits out, an endearing tactic for those who have had to suffer surfeits of Virgil in school. Despite the difficulties of using ottiva rima (p. xviii), he produced a racy, colloquial and at times lovely translation. The self-conscious comment 'Of reeding poetry' acts as a further warning about poets, w h o by and large have done more harm than good (p. 95). Nevertheless...