Robert Fitzgerald was born in Geneva, New York in the year 1910 and grew up in Springfield, Illinois. His Irish American parents were actors. When Fitzgerald was but three years of age, his mother passed away, and his father died when he was seventeen. An extraordinarily well-rounded student, Fitzgerald graduated from Springfield High School in 1928 with the highest ranking of any boy in his class, and his poetic aptitude was admired by other renowned poets of the time such as Vachel Lindsay, Springfield’s native poet, and later T. S. Eliot. Before Fitzgerald began his freshmen year at Yale, he studied for a year at Choate. There he met Dudley Fitts, a classical scholar who became his first intellectual mentor and collaborator in a number of translations and whose influence caused Fitzgerald to pursue his studies in Harvard instead of Yale (“Robert Fitzgerald”). He attended Harvard University, where he received an excellent education in classics. After graduating from Harvard in 1933, Fitzgerald was a journalist reporting for the New York Herald Tribune for a year. Later he worked several years for TIME magazine (“Robert Fitzgerald”). In World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy in Guam and Pearl Harbor (Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald). Later he was an instructor at Sarah Lawrence and Princeton University. After that, he was The New Republic’s poetry reviewer. Fitzgerald then lived and wrote in Italy, where he thereafter continued to maintain a home for his family. When he was appointed Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Poetry at Harvard in 1965, Cambridge was the home base for his teaching, writing, translating. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. From 1984 to 1985 he was the consultant in poetry to the library of Congress, a position now known as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, the United States’ equivalent of a national poet laureate. In 1984, Fitzgerald received a L.H.D. from Bates College. Fitzgerald earned the Bollingen Award in 1961 for his verse translation of Homer’s Odyssey and for his translation of other Homeric epics. His translation of other such works as Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex and Euripedes’s Alcestis earned acclaim for their clarity. Fitzgerald’s own writings include the poetry collection Spring Shade and his volume Enlarging the Change (Smith).
Literary Movement/Time Period
In the early fifties, Robert Fitzgerald moved with his family to Italy where he worked for six years on his widely acclaimed translation of the Odyssey. His other classical translations — the Iliad, the Aeneid, and his translations of Euripides and Sophocles have become the signal translations of our time. His translation of the Aeneid was released in 1983, two years before his death. Although a good portion of Fitzgerald’s works were written during the modern and postmodern literary eras, Fitzgerald’s passion for the classics and his beautiful translations of Greek and Latin myths into English reveals the impact of the classical era of about 800 B.C. until around the time Virgil wrote his Aeneid. Fitzgerald’s use of devices such as epithets characteristic of the Homeric and Virgilian styles of writing and the degree to which he attempted to preserve the original meaning of these Latin and Greek epics further identify his aforementioned translations as having the attributes of a writing style most nearly associated with the classical period of ancient Greece and Rome.
Pictures of Robert Fitzgerald
BOOK 1: A FATEFUL HAVEN Excerpt
“I sing of warfare and a man at war.
From the sea-coast of Troy in early days
He came to Italy by destiny,
To our Lavinian western shore,
A fugitive, this captain, buffeted
Cruelly on land as on the sea
By blows from powers of the air—behind them
Baleful Juno in her sleepless rage.
And cruel losses were his lot in war,
Till he could found a city and bring home
His gods to Latium, land of the Latin race
The Alban lords, and the high walls of Rome.
Tell me the causes now, O Muse, how galled
In her divine pride, and how sore at heart
From her old wound, the queen of gods compelled him—
A man apart, devoted to his mission—
To undergo so many perilous days
And enter on so many trials. Can anger
Black as this prey on the minds of heaven?” — The Aeneid, Lines 1-19
Primarily, the title of the main piece is The Aeneid, which literally means the story of Aeneas, who is the protagonist of Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of Virgil’s epic poem. The title suggests that the story to be told will be about Aeneas after his participation in the Trojan War from Homer’s Iliad. The title of the chapter from which this excerpt is derived, “A Fateful Haven”, possibly tells of Aeneas’s landing at a particular destination after wandering the weary seas where fate has decreed he be stranded.
I tell the story of war and the man engaged in war.
From the shores of Troy in the ancient times
He arrived in Italy because of Fate,
To the west coast of Lavinia,
A refugee, this leader, beaten
As harshly on earth as he was over the waters
By strikes from the divine forces and from behind
Malicious Juno in her undying wrath
And the severe deaths of his fellow men were his fortune in battle
Until he would establish a civilization and take with him
His religious beliefs to Latium, birth of the Latin ethnic group
The Alban kings and the colossal Roman gates
Divulge to me the reasons, Muse, how hostile she was
In her almighty hubris, and how emotionally hurt
From her past grudge, the empress of the deities coerced him
A man isolated in devotion to his journey
To endure so many dangerous days
And encounter so many hardships. Can wrath
As spiteful and evil as this plague the judgement of the gods?
- Apostrophe – line 13 – “O Muse” – Here, Virgil has inserted an invocation to the Muse deity in the form of an invocation to plead her to explain to him how a goddess such as Juno could hold so much contempt, spite, and hatred which she has kept from the past and continues to harbor deep within her in the present. Virgil cannot fathom how Juno could hold such grudges deep within her heart for such and extended length of time.
- Personification – lines 18-19 – “Can anger black as this prey on the minds of heaven?”- Virgil personifies the emotion anger by endowing it with the action of “preying on the minds of heaven” to emphasize his belief that the extent to which Hera has allowed her grudge and loathing to dictate her cruel courses of action. She is the “mind of heaven” who has allowed her anger to “prey” upon her judgment when it comes to the way she mercilessly attempts to take Aeneas’s current situation and fate into her own hands.
- Epithet – line 8 – “Baleful Juno in her sleepless rage” – Virgil makes use of the epithet “baleful Juno” in order to provide his audience with a significant characteristic Juno has which will influence the manner in which he will choose to deal with Aeneas. “Baleful” indicates that Juno has malicious intentions and dastardly deeds in store for Aeneas. Her “sleepless rage” indicates that the grudges she holds and the derision she feels have and always will be a part of her personality and bitter disposition.
- Invocation – line 1- “I sing of warfare and a man at war” – Virgil makes clear he is beginning his poem with an invocation, appealing to the gods and Muses to assist him in telling the tale of Aeneas. Homer had opened the stories of his Iliad and Odyssey similarly, and Virgil too commences the story with an invocation to parallel the introductions of the aforementioned two previous epic poems and to emphasize the importance of the ever looming presence of the gods and fate.
- The consistent repetition of the “b” consonant further augments Fitzgerald’s attempt to emphasize and foreshadow the abuse that Aeneas will be coerced to endure at the hands of the vindictive Juno. This is made evident in the alliteration that Fitzgerald utilizes in his translation of Virgil’s introduction as Aeneas is battered ungraciously “by blows” from “baleful” Juno (lines 7-8) as he is “buffeted” about the sea (line 5).
- Fitzgerald once again makes a significant use of alliteration of the “l” consonant in order to present a more lofty, exalted and glorious event to occur in the latter portion of Aeneas’s travels when he comments that Aeneas is also destined to establish the foundation of a new civilization, Latium, the beginnings of ancient Rome. This is evident when it is said that Aeneas will bring “his gods to Latium, land of the Latin race” (Line 11).
The author’s speaker’s tone is sincere and deeply reverent as he calls for the assistance of the gods and the muses in telling his audience the legend of Aeneas. The author’s tone remains reverent when directly addressing the gods in heaven throughout the poem. When Virgil begins to speak of Juno and her “undying rage”, however, the tone becomes bewildered and simultaneously slightly accusing of Juno as Virgil asks the Muse for clarification on the reasons for the wrathful grudge Juno holds within her.
To begin with, the poem is reverent and solemn as the speaker, Virgil, pronounces the topic of his story and implores the deities above to aid him in his storytelling. The first shift occurs in line 6 as Virgil states that Aeneas was “a fugitive, this captain, buffeted cruelly on land as on sea” when the tone becomes critical of the severity of Juno’s actions even to the point of becoming almost accusatory. The second tone shift occurs in lines 14 and 15 when Virgil is beseeching the Muse to explain to him how such a grudge could still remain in Juno for so long that she unjustly decides to vent out her frustration by toying with Aeneas’s fate. Here, the tone has become bewildered, confused, and desperate as Fitzgerald conveys how Virgil seeks the reason to Juno’s wrathful madness before his audience.
The central theme thus far in this epic poem is concerned with the hardships, injustice, and cruelty that the irreversible and preordained Fate of man has in store for its mortal victims. It also brings about the message that although man’s destiny may deal its harsh and unforgiving blows at times in life, it may also allow room for man to achieve eminence and to rebuild himself from events of defeat and misfortune that inevitably befall him.
After reading the excerpt, the first interpretation of the title’s significance had been correct. This poem indeed will tell of Aeneas’s great voyage and numerous hardships that he will encounter on his quest. On his way to find the land of “Latium”, the subtitle “A Fateful Haven” for Book 1 is fitting since Aeneas may very well stumble upon a particular “haven” sometime during his quest since it is decreed in his fate that he shall arrive in Italy.
Point of View
The point of view of Fitzgerald’s translation of this excerpt of The Aeneid is given from the first person point of view of Virgil, who introduces to the audience by means of his invocation to the Muse his intention to tell the epic tale of the Trojan Aeneas. Fitzgerald superbly preserves the splendor in this preface to Virgil’s most renowned classical masterpiece by allowing us, in a way, to feel as if we are the audience whom Virgil had initially intended to be entertained by the legend of Aeneas. This poetic prelude commences with Virgil’s appeal to the heavens above him, all of which is superbly immortalized in Fitzgerald’s interpretation.
The Aeneid Music Video
The Aeneid Alice Animation
The Aeneid Sonnet
Virgil is here, and thus the story starts.
Telling of a man exhausted by war
Known as Aeneas roaming many parts.
Had not Odysseus done the same before? (Archetypal journey)
Destined to face havoc during his trip, (Foreshadowing)
And endure Juno’s black, boiling rage (Personification)
Whose anger altered the course of his ship
A perilous time in our hero’s age
Yet all of this would lead to his glory
As baleful Juno’s presence still remained (Epithet)
And immortalize his name in story
Countless future triumphs to be gained.
Of this tale does Virgil pray to the Muse (invocation)
Decrying Juno’s acts as vile abuse.
Fitzgerald, Robert. The Aeneid.New York: Random House, 1983. 1. Print.
Fitzgerald, Robert, and Penelope Laurans Fitzgerald. “The third kind of knowledge: memoirs … – Robert Fitzgerald, Penelope Laurans Fitzgerald – Google Books.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web.2 Dec. 2011. <http://books.google.com/books?id=ibXL0erxOs8C&lpg=PA266&ots=ss-n_0ilO7&dq=robert%20fitzgerald%20guam%20pearl%20harbor&pg=PA266#v=onepage&q&f=false>.
“Robert Fitzgerald.” http://homerproductions.com. N.p., n.d. Web.3 Dec. 2011. <http://homerproductions.com/eldon/fitzgerald.htm>.
“Robert Fitzgerald .” Harvard Square Library | Unitarian Universalist Biographies | Cambridge | History | Philosophy.Harvard Square Library , n.d. Web.2 Dec. 2011. <http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/poets/fitzgerald.php>.
Smith, Stevie. “Robert Fitzgerald : The Poetry Foundation.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation , n.d. Web.2 Dec. 2011. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/robert-fitzgerald>.
Every component of this project was done entirely by me. My tasks consisted of:
- Robert Fitzgerald Biography
- Images of Robert Fitzgerald
- Selection of the Poem
- TPCASTT and Point of View
- Digital Story of the Poem
- MLA Works Cited
- Task List