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The Homeric Hymns
RRP: GBP 11.99
ISBN: 978 1 784101 77 0
Categories: Ancient Greek and Roman
Published: February 2016
286 pages (print version)
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: eBook (Kindle), Paperback
Digital access available through Exact Editions
A 2016 Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation
‘Peter McDonald’s unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness... [his] disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting.’
- Michael Longley, CBE
A cloak of spotted lynx covers his back;
he loves the nymphs’ clear singing, and his heart
swells in the cool meadows, where most would lack
the skill to say where different perfumes start
and stop – the crocus and the flowering tart-
sweet hyacinth, and the still-wet field-grass;
the nymphs’ song meanwhile, with translucent art,
praises Olympus …
from Hymn 19 (to Pan)
The Homeric Hymns are a crucial work in the Western literary canon, and Peter McDonald’s new verse translations offer the major modern account of this still under-appreciated body of ancient poetry. The thirty-three ‘hymns’ are poetic accounts of ancient Greek gods, including Apollo, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Zeus, and Poseidon. Some of the poems are micro-epics in their own right, recounting the lives and affairs of the divine; taken together, they form a meditation on the primal themes of love, war, betrayal, desire, and paternity, and contemplate the dangerous proximity of gods and men. The book includes a new translation of the ‘Life of Homer’, a narrative incorporating the shorter poems known as Homer’s Epigrams, attributed to Pseudo-Herodotus. Two appendices provide verse translations of episodes from Homer’s Odyssey and Hesiod’s Theogony, while McDonald gives fresh versions throughout of relevant passages from Pindar, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and other Greek poets. The accompanying notes and commentaries on the poems are the most generous and authoritative of any translation. This book revives an ancient classic for the twenty-first century.
Awards won by Peter McDonald Short-listed, 2017 London Hellenic Prize (The Homeric Hymns)
'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness... [his] disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting.'
Michael Longley, CBE Praise for Peter McDonald 'McDonald is often impressively adept at using varied metres for cadence, musicality, tension. He resists the over-dramatic, but is a poet of fierce feeling - moved and often moving.'
TLS 'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness - what he calls 'the melancholy distance'. His fine elegies and love poems have in common a cool intonation and an argumentative persistence: the overlap is a telling one. McDonald's disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting. In addition, his profound literary intelligence thrives on metrical and stanzaic challenge, and ranges with relish from gnomic brevity to sustained meditation, narrative and memoir. These poems, which with their gently syncopated lines may seem understated, register the uneasiness and the excitement of 'the buzzing world': they are, in the poet's own words, 'back roads to everywhere'.
Michael Longley 'Hugely impressive... not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle... marvellous.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times 'McDonald's work 'is entirely in keeping with Milton's enjoinder that poetry be "simple, sensuous and passionate". His musicality is not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle. [...] It embodies the values of accuracy, conscience, and restraint but with no skimping of intensity or ferocity.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times
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