The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes, compared
by that grave learned philosopher & historiographer, Plutarke
Translated out of Greeke into French by James Amyot,
Abbot of Bellozane, Bishop of Auxerre, one of the Kings Privy
and Great Amner of Fraunce, and out of French into Englishe,
by Thomas North. Decorated by Thomas Lowinsky.
Eight Volumes. 1928.
So far in my reading this year, it has
truly been “all Greek to me,” beginning with an eight-volume set
(roughly 3,200 pages) of Plutarch’s Lives in the sixteenth century
Thomas North translation, preserved in the gloriously irregular
spelling of those days and consulted by Shakespeare, followed by
noted Greek scholar Benjamin Jowett’s nineteenth century
translations of Plato’s dialogues, the latter in two volumes (about
1,800 pages). Both works are marked by vigor and enthusiasm
attributable to their authors and translators alike. They are amazing
accomplishments, marvelous reading, inspiring, challenging,
thought-provoking, and full of perspective. One thing I have taken
away from the process is that the idea that man has not changed is as
ludicrous as the idea that he has. (Do I contradict myself? Very
well, then.) Another is that Plato and I are in a strange competition
to prove which of us is the craziest, he by speaking while dead, and
I by answering through the turning of his pages. Oh, yes, we make a
fine pair. But seriously (ha), I was, after putting off our
engagement all these years, pleased and surprised to learn he has
such a delightful sense of humor. That he waited for me, though, is
perhaps the funniest thing of all. Nevertheless, it is something for
which I will be forever grateful.
Warm thanks to Melissa D. Johnston for
sharing a poem, remembrance, and drawing of mine in her blog of arts
and literature, Creative Thresholds. It’s an honor to contribute,
and we will both be grateful if you come see what she has to share.
New work is published the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. A permanent link to Creative Thresholds may also be found in the Reading Room.