The Complete Fables of La Fontaine: A New Translation in Verse
La Fontaine, Jean de
. Arcade Publishing , Distributed by Hachette Book Group . NY ,
PQ1811.E3 H55 2008 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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It is unusual to find a complete La Fontaine. The list in English includes, I believe, only Thomson, Wright, Thornbury, Moore, Spector, and Schapiro. This translation is curious because it took the author some fifty years to complete. As a young poet he found Marianne Moore's translations oddly wrong and wanted to do better. The story of his fits and starts (xvii-xviii) is engaging. The result seems heavy on longer lines: hexameters and pentameters. Hill answers in his translator's note that he wanted La Fontaine to 'sound' French, after all, not English (xix). The Bird Wounded by an Arrow (32) seems to me particularly successful. For me, the longer the lines, the less successful they become. The last of these three lines from FC is an example, for me, of a less than good line: Learn now that every flatterer/Lives at the cost of those who give him credit./That lesson's worth a cheese no doubt, so don't forget it! To me, Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute is simpler and more direct. For the fox and the bust, we have, I think, a more successful moral: How many a current idol comes to mind/Who is a bust of this same kind (90). Might bust here have two meanings? Again, Hill gives us a great start to TH: To hurry isn't enough: one must depart on time. (133). In general, I find Hill at his best in shorter fables and when he uses shorter lines. This edition has eleven black-and-white illustrations listed on xv. I do not find them particularly effective. FK (56) and GGE (64) are at least dramatic. Maybe the best of them is The Old Man and the Three Young Ones (292).