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Translations of M. Aurelius' "Meditations" - simple, readable prose?
July 9, 2014 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Which of the dozens of English translations of M. Aurelius' "Meditations" is best for younger readers prioritizing beautiful, readable, lyrical and contemporary wording? Not looking for "... For Dummies"-level; just trying to avoid the KJB-style "thines" and "mayests" and so on. Willing to sacrifice textual fidelity for the most readable, accessible prose.

I saw this very similar question from 2008 while searching -- but I'm looking for a translation with slightly different properties. Many thanks for your time and for your expertise in this area.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Gregory Hays. It is simple, modernized, and breathtakingly beautiful. I don't have my copy on hand to quote from but trust me, it is the best translation.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:09 AM on July 9 [9 favorites]


Here is a review from The Guardian which has a few quotations, and here is an interview with Hays about his approach.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:11 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I'm using Robin Hard's 2011 translation of Meditations (Oxford University Press) and it is very readable. Here is Hard's translation of paragraph 39 in Book 6 compared against George Long's translation:

Hard:
Adapt yourself to the circumstances in which your lot has cast you; and love these people among whom your lot has fallen, but love them in all sincerity.

Long:
Adapt thyself to the things with which thy lot has been cast: and the men among whom thou hast received thy portion, love them, but do it truly, sincerely.
posted by icemill at 11:29 AM on July 9


The Maxwell Staniforth version (Penguin Books) is good and available from Amazon. I read it when I was a teenager, with no problem.
posted by PickeringPete at 1:50 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I bought the Hays edition basd on a previous Ask. It is a gem.
posted by bfranklin at 1:55 PM on July 9


Paragraph 39, Book 6 from Hays, for comparison:
The things ordained for you—teach yourself to be at one with those. And the people who share them with you—treat them with love. ¶ With real love.
posted by stopgap at 4:26 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


What PickeringPete said - the Staniforth version is what I read as a teenager, and carried with me for 15 years afterward. Clear and understandable, not stilted at all.
posted by metarkest at 6:26 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Another vote for the Hays translation.
posted by dowcrag at 1:45 AM on July 10


The penguin 60s is maybe OK
posted by evil_esto at 3:57 AM on July 10


I found Hays's translation serviceable but... stilted. The tone came across as very academic to me—which is a totally valid authorial (translatorial?) choice, and may very well suit your needs, but I didn't find a lot of poetry in it, I'm afraid.

That said, his introduction and endnotes are terrific. (And the paperback is both lovely and inexpensive.) You could do a lot worse, but for beautiful language, I suspect you could do better.
posted by Zozo at 3:11 PM on July 10


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