1. The Psalms of David.
The Psalms remain, whether in the Latin version or in the authorized English translation, the most pathetic and poignant, as well as the most noble and dignified of all poetic literature. The rarest spirits of our race will always return to them at every epoch in their lives for consolation, for support and for repose.
Butcher and Lang’s Prose Translation. The Odyssey must continue to appeal to adventurous persons more powerfully than any other of the ancient stories because, blent with the classic quality of its pure Greek style, there can be found in it that magical element of thrilling romance, which belongs not to one age, but to all time.
Translated by Professor Gilbert Murray. Euripides, the favourite poet of John Milton and Goethe, is the most modern in feeling, the most romantic in mood of all the Greek poets. One is conscious that in his work, as in the sculpture of Praxiteles, the calm beauty of the Apollonian temper is touched by the wilder rhythm of the perilous music of Dionysus.
4. Horace. Any selection in Latin of the Odes of Horace and complete prose translation published by Macmillan. Flawlessly hammered out, as if from eternal bronze—“ære perennius”—the Odes of Horace are the consummate expression of the pride, the reserve, the tragic playfulness, the epicurean calm, the absolute distinction of the Imperial Roman spirit. A few lines taken at random and learned by heart would act as
John Cowper Powys
The Shakespearean attitude of mind is quite a definite and articulate one, and one that can be, by slow degrees, acquired, even by persons who are not cultivated or clever. It is an attitude “compounded of many simples,” and, like the melancholy of Jaques, it wraps us about “in a most humorous sadness.” But the essential secret of Shakespeare’s genius is best apprehended in the felicity of certain isolated passionate speeches, and in the magic of his songs.
Any edition. No epicurean lover of the subtler delicacies in poetic rhythm or of the more exalted and translunar harmonies in the imaginative suggestiveness of words, can afford to leave Milton untouched. In sheer felicity of beauty—the beauty of suggestive words, each one carrying “a perfume in the mention,” and together, by their arrangement in relation to one another, conveying a thrill of absolute and final satisfaction—no poem in our language surpasses Lycidas, and only the fine great odes of John Keats approach or equal it.
There are passages, too, in Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes, which, for calm, flowing, and immortal loveliness, are not surpassed in any poetry in the world.
Milton’s work witnesses to the value in art of what is ancient and traditional, but while he willingly uses every tradition of antiquity, he stamps all he writes with his own formidable image and superscription.
John Cowper Powys
Philip F. Gura is the William S. Newman Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His many books include Truth’s Ragged Edge: The Early American Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014) and American Transcendentalism: A History (Hill and Wang, 2008), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Ela Harrison is a scholar of classical languages and literatures, and of linguistics and philology, as well as being a translator and editor, writer and researcher. Her writing has been published in Cirque Journal and F Magazine, and her poem “Legion” was runner-up in the Fairbanks Arts Association’s 2012 poetry competition.
Allegra Hyde’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Missouri Review, Denver Quarterly, Southwest Review, Passages North, Chattahoochee Review, North American Review, and elsewhere. She is the prose editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review and curates similes at www.allegrahyde.com.
Bill Johnston’s translation of Wiesław Myśliwski’s novel Stone Upon Stone (Archipelago Books, 2011) won the PEN Translation Prize and the Best Translated Book Award in 2012. His most recent translations include Magdalena Tulli’s In Red (Archipelago Books, 2011), Wiesław Myśliwski’s A Treatise on Shelling Beans (Archipelago Books, 2013), and Tomasz Różycki’s mock-epic poem Twelve Stations (Zephyr Press, 2015). He is currently working on a new translation of Adam Mickiewicz’s 1834 Pan Tadeusz, the Polish national epic, a project for which he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches literary translation at Indiana University.
Elizabeth Kadetsky is the author of the memoir First There Is a Mountain (Little Brown, 2004), the story collection The Poison that Purifies You (C&R Press, 2014), and the novella On the Island at the Center of the Center of the World, forthcoming from Nouvella Books. Her fiction has been included in the Pushcart Prize anthology and Best New American Voices and received a notable citation in Best American Short Stories ; her personal essays have been published in the New York Times, Antioch Review, and elsewhere. She is assistant professor of creative writing at Penn State, and can be found at www.elizabethkadetsky.com.
Joanna Klink’s most recent book is Raptus (Penguin Books, 2010). Her new collection, Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy, is forthcoming from Penguin in 2015.
Larkin’s fifth book of poems, Blue Hanuman, was published by Hanging Loose Press in 2014. Her previous work includes My Body: New and Selected Poems (Hanging Loose, 2007), recipient of the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award, and Legs Tipped with Small Claws, an Argos Books hand-sewn chapbook (2012). Her honors include the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, among others. A teacher for many years, she is currently Conkling Writer in Residence at Smith College.
Norman Mailer (1923–2007) was born in New Jersey, raised in Brooklyn, New York, and educated at Harvard, where he enrolled at age sixteen. He spent two years in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and drew on his experiences for his first novel, The Naked and the Dead (1948), which instantly established the twenty-five-year-old as one of the most influential writers of his time. His next novels were Barbary Shore (1951) and The Deer Park (1955), followed by Advertisements for Myself (1959), a collection of fiction, nonfiction, and commentary. He won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book
Johnston. His most recent book is Grochów (2012), a set of short lyrical essays on the subject of dying and the dead, from which “Dog” is taken. He lives in a remote village in southeastern Poland and travels extensively in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Arthur Sze’s latest book of poetry is Compass Rose (Copper Canyon, 2014). He received the 2013 Jackson Poetry Prize and is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
most recent books are Tourist in Hell (University of Chicago, 2010), The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (Copper Canyon, 2004), and The Rag-picker’s Guide to Poetry: Poems, Poets, Process, coedited with Maurice Manning (University of Michigan, 2013).
Margaret Withers’s paintings have been shown extensively in the United States, Europe, China, and Russia, and she has received numerous awards including residencies to the Vermont Studio Center and the Millay Colony. She currently lives in Manhattan. See more at www.margaretwithers.com.