The Fables of Phaedrus
. University of Texas Press . Austin
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Here is a second copy of the first edition of this paperback book. This translation represents a major contribution to fable study today, particularly since the last verse translation of Phaedrus into English was Christopher Smart's in 1764! This book offers first a good, short introduction including Phaedrus' life, some sense of the materials in this collection that are not fables (xvii), a sketch of Phaedrus' philosophy, an account of his artistry, and a word on this translation's four-stress-to-the-line meter. The translations, adorned with few notes, move along with a strong rhythm. I have read the first fifteen with some care. The four-stress line works well, but readers of longer portions of the work may find the alliteration burdensome. If Widdows has a fault as a translator, it is that he overinterprets poetry that is deliberately succinct. Thus in I.2 a conservative element concludes that they need a king, in I.3 a moralist lectures the jackdaw, in I.10 a monkey made himself a magistrate, and I.11 adds qualification to the lion's simple put-down of the ass. In I.12 the stag vidit and mirans laudat his horns; Widdows has amazed and admired extravagantly. In I.15 Phaedrus' ten lines become Widdows' sixteen. The footnote to I.10 may miss the point, which is, I believe, that one can in general be sure that both the fox and the wolf are guilty even if that judgment lacks internal logic in this case. In I.13 Widdows has the crow begin to bellow ; I think Phaedrus is careful not to allow for any song before the cheese is lost and the lesson learned. In I.4 Widdows improves on Perry's triple use of another for the Latin's alienum, aliam, and altero. Similarly, he plays wonderfully with load and loot in #18 of Perotti's appendix. I would love to use this book in class!