But Graves says he went ahead and translated a work he dislikes because “Lucan exerts a strange fascination on even the reluctant reader; and because…he anticipated so many of the literary genres dominant to-day [c. 1957] that it would be unfair not to put him in modern dress for the admiration of the great majority whose tastes differ from mine.” Ha-rumph.
“Modern dress,” it turns out, means lining up Tennyson, Longfellow, and William Morris with Virgil; Eliot, Hulme, and Pound (“the most Lucan-like of modernists”) with Lucan. Nutty as that sounds, along the way Graves hits on a description that seems to fit any number of the new poetries (affix your own labels) that emerged under Bush II, our own personal Nero:
“This modernism is equally anti-Virgilian in its deliberate neglect of craftsmanship; the rhythms are monotonous; often words are clumsily iterated before the memory of their first use has faded from the reader’s ear; the argument is broken by impudent philosophical, geographical, or historical asides. Lucan lacks religious conviction; dwells lovinging on the macabre; hates his times; and allows his readers to assume that he is as self-centered, degenerate, cruel, and cowardly as the next man. His hyperboles are patently ridiculous: the Thracian cranes, for instance, delay their winter migration in order to gorge on Roman corpses at Pharsalus—though Pharsalus was not fought until the Spring, and cranes are non-carniverous. [Ha-rumph, Ed.] Yet his occasionally polished epigrams make highly serviceable quotations.”Doesn’t that sound like something you’d want to read? Something you just read?