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Issue 14 – Christmas 2022


Philip Larkin

On the poet's classicism.


Book publishers are inscrutable. In the 1990s, Penguin produced an excellent series titled “Poets in Translation,” featuring the classic works of non-Anglophone poets from the Psalmist to Baudelaire in their best and most influential English translations. The central question was in keeping with the critical outlook of the era: How has English literature absorbed material from non-native traditions? How have we gotten to where we are now? The books were, as a rule, carefully selected, edited, and commented—late monuments of the last century’s confluence of popular and scholarly interests. Needless to say, they are now out of print.

The exemplar of the series is Horace in English, edited by the late D.S. Carne-Ross and Kenneth Haynes. Alongside the expected renderings of Dryden, Pope, and Housman there are a few surprises—John Quincy Adams and even Gladstone. Carne-Ross is at pains to insist that Horace is not merely the property of the Augustans; his echoes in English can be heard all the way through to the heroes of Carne-Ross’s own generation. He singles out Philip Larkin as the giant with whom to contend.

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About the author

Jude Russo

Jude Russo is managing editor of The American Conservative.