AENEID BOOK VI
The sixth book of Virgil’s Aeneid – in which Aeneas travels to the underworld to meet the spirit of his father – is a story that captivated Seamus Heaney from his schooldays in the 1950s. That fascination was to continue and over the course of his career, he would return to Book VI again and again, translating sections of it and drawing upon its themes in his own poetry, right up to his final collection Human Chain.
Calling Book VI ‘a constant presence’, in 2007, he started to translate it in full and was engaged in doing so up until his death in 2013. In this new translation, published posthumously in 2016, Heaney employs the same deft handling of the original combined with the immediacy of language and flawless poetic voice as was on show in his translation of Beowulf, a reimagining which, in the words of Bernard O'Donoghue, brought the ancient poem back to life in ‘a miraculous mix of the poem's original spirit and Heaney's voice’.
‘Aeneid Book VI may come to be recognized as his finest translation of all, as well as the one most personal to him’ Bernard O’Donoghue, The Irish Times