Sonnets by William Shakespeare (Review)

Sonnets by William Shakespeare 

Blurb

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate . . .’ Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets contain some of the most exquisite and haunting poetry ever written, dealing with eternal themes such as love and infidelity, memory and mortality, and the destruction wreaked by time. This new edition collects them in a pocket-sized volume, perfect for gifting. William Shakespeare was born some time in late April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and died in 1616. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

Review

I’ve read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets in the past as our Drama teacher used to make us memorise them and then recite them on stage but that was a long time ago. So being as I am trying to read all of Shakespeare’s works I decided to read his sonnets next.

This little book has been perfect to dip into when I have a few minutes free and I will be honest I have been reading it when waiting for my next student to appear on Zoom. 

I really enjoyed reading this little book and although the sonnets are mainly love sonnets there are also sonnets on the seasons and other things. Some are a bit similar in my opinion but they are still enjoyable to read and really show the talent of Shakespeare.

A highly recommended little edition that literally just gives you the sonnets and is perfect to just dip in and out of when the mood takes you. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons and I will leave you with one of my favourites.

116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments; love is not love

Which alters when alteration finds, 

Or bands with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor to man ever loved.

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About the author

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor. He is widely known as the greatest writer in the English language and is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”.

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry (Review)

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry

Blurb

Rediscover the thrills, grandeur, and unabashed fun of the Greek myths—stylishly retold by Stephen Fry. This legendary writer, actor, and comedian breathes new life into beloved tales. From Persephone’s pomegranate seeds to Prometheus’s fire, from devious divine schemes to immortal love affairs, Fry draws out the humour and pathos in each story and reveals its relevance for our own time. Illustrated throughout with classical art inspired by the myths, this gorgeous volume invites you to explore a captivating world, with a brilliant storyteller as your guide.

Review

My first encounter with Stephen Fry would have been watching Blackadder episodes with my big sister when I was little and since then he has always been a great favourite. I can’t believe I have put off reading Mythos for so long but I know that I won’t be putting off reading Heroes. 

Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths is brilliantly done and a great read that had me laughing my head off at regular intervals. Fry’s humour comes through this book with subtly and also when the myth calls for it straight in your face brilliance. 

Mythos begins right at the beginning of what the Greeks believed was the beginning of everything and progresses from there onwards. Each main section is divided into subsections that make the reading easier and more accessible.

Fry’s retelling of these familiar myths gives them a fresh and new feeling and makes them highly informative but also fun. I loved Fry’s commentary throughout and his very useful little extra bits of information in the footnotes. Fry’s talent as a writer shines through with this book but also his excellent knowledge into Ancient Greek Mythology. 

My particular favourite characters are Zeus and Hera, how Fry portrays them is hilarious and you can’t help but laugh at some of their marital stories. My favourite retelling of all though has got to be Hermes stealing Apollo’s cattle and then Apollo being utterly dumbfounded by meeting his new half brother Hermes.

This is an amazing read that makes the Greek myths accessible to everyone. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons and highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys a good laugh. 

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About the Author

Stephen Fry (1957) is an English comedian, writer, actor, humourist, novelist, poet, columnist, filmmaker, television personality and technophile. As one half of the Fry and Laurie double act with his comedy partner, Hugh Laurie, he has appeared in A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. He is also famous for his roles in Blackadder and Wilde, and as the host of QI. In addition to writing for stage, screen, television and radio he has contributed columns and articles for numerous newspapers and magazines, and has also written four successful novels and a series of memoirs.

Rossetti: Poems by Christina Rossetti (Review)

Rossetti: Poems by Christina Rossetti

Blurb

Poems: Rossetti contains a full selection of Rossetti’s work, including her lyric poems, dramatic and narrative poems, rhymes and riddles, sonnet sequences, prayers and meditations, and an index of first lines.

Review

I have been dipping into this book since the New Year and I must admit it has been lovely to sit and read a poem or two whilst drinking a mug of tea or in fact muting the adverts and reading a poem. When I first started really reading poetry a couple of years ago I soon realised that one of my favourites was Christina Rossetti and so when I found this little book I was delighted and it has lived on my coffee table ever since.

Rossetti penned my all time favourite Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter. I love it as a poem but my favourite thing is to sing it to the tune written by Holst. Christmas is not Christmas without this carol for me and thankfully I found this poem in this little book.

I really enjoyed the riddles in this book as well and thankfully I am pleased to say I managed to work most of them out. In fact that was what I loved about this book, the fact it was full of variety and contained examples of Rossetti’s poems, sonnets, riddles, prayers and more. 

This little pocket sized book really gives a broad spectrum of Rossetti’s work and is a joy to read and just dip into when the mood suits you. Some of my favourites were Goblin Market, In the Bleak Midwinter, Advent, A Wintry Sonnet and Strange Planets. I give this little book of poems 5 out 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was an English poet who wrote romantic, devotional and children’s poems. She was also the sister of artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (Review)

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde

Blurb

Wilde’s supremely witty tale of dandies, anarchists and a murderous prophecy in London high society.

Review

I picked this up the other day as I fancied a quick read that I knew would put a smile on my face. Oscar Wilde always makes me laugh and I just love his subtle humour.

The story begins at a party and involves a palm reader who sets a series of events into motion. Lord Arthur I will admit is rather a silly character who totally believes in the power of fate and will do anything to make sure it goes to plan. Wilde is most definitely having a little fun subtly mocking the English aristocracy with the characters of the party and Lord Arthur.

The thing I love most about this is just how ridiculous this story is. Lord Arthur does some very suspicious things like purchasing poison and meeting with bomb makers but nobody bats an eye lid.

I really enjoyed this short story and read it with a nice mug of tea as it is only 50 pages long. An amusing version of a murder mystery that I give 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He was a playwright, poet, novelist and short story writer.

Sappho: Poems and Fragments by Sappho (Review)

Sappho: Poems and Fragments by Sappho, translated by Josephine Balmer

About the author

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Sappho (Σαπφώ or Ψάπφω) was an Ancient Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. In history and poetry texts, she is sometimes associated with the city of Mytilene on Lesbos; she was also said to have been born in Eresos, another city on Lesbos. Her birth was sometime between 630 BC and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost, but her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments.

About the translator

Josephine Balmer is a British poet, translator of classics and literary critic.

Blurb

This second, expanded edition of Josephine Balmer’s classic translation of the Greek poet Sappho has new, recently-discovered fragments, including the Brothers Poem, the Kypris Song and the Cologne Fragment. In a new essay on these additions she discusses the issues raised in translating these fragmentary and ever-shifting texts. Poems & Fragments is now the only complete, readily-available translation in English of Sappho’s surviving work. Sappho was one of the greatest poets in classical literature. Her lyric poetry is among the finest ever written, and although little of her work has survived and little is known about her, she is regarded not just as one of the greatest women poets, but often as the greatest woman poet in world literature. In a comprehensive introduction, Balmer discusses Sappho’s poetry, its historical background and critical reputation, as well as aspects of contemporary Greek society, sexuality, and women.

Review

This is another read for my Masters and I must admit I was very excited to read it as I had done a unit on Sappho and just a handful of her work so it was nice to read all her known works. Sappho’s work sadly is mainly only fragments and I will be honest I find this so depressing as from the known fragments that we do have it is evident that Sappho was an amazing talent. I just hope more of her work is found over time like it has been so far.

The introduction of this book is excellent and I really enjoyed how it was broken down into sections and was so informative. I also enjoyed the section on the new fragments that have been found recently.

I’ve always found Sappho a fascinating character and I wish more was known about this very talented poet but sadly not a lot is known and what we do know was written many years after her death and can’t be relied upon.

Sappho’s poetry although only fragmentary is full of passion and life and it was a joy to read. Her poetry is full of different forms of love; romantic love, maternal love, friendship and love for all the many wonders in this world. I love reading her poetry because it is as relevant today as it was when it was written, Sappho is timeless.

Balmer has been really sympathetic with the translation and the translation flows well which makes reading this book a joy. I will admit I could not put it down once I started reading it.

I highly recommend this book, it might be mainly fragments but it is worth the read to see how this amazing woman’s voice has survived all these years and opens up a small window to a part of history that was thousands of years ago. I really hope we continue to find more of her work and hopefully learn more about this talented poet. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and I leave you with one of my favourite fragments.

Beauty endures only for as long as it is seen;

goodness, beautiful today, will remain so tomorrow.

 

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The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

About the author

Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are loads of legends regarding the life of Homer however, what we can definitely confirm about him is his centrality to ancient Greek culture.

About the translator

Emily Wilson is a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Blurb

Composed at the rosy-fingered dawn of world literature almost three millennia ago, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home.

This fresh, authoritative translation captures the beauty of this ancient poem as well as the drama of its narrative. Its characters are unforgettable, none more so than the “complicated” hero himself, a man of many disguises, many tricks, and many moods, who emerges in this version as a more fully rounded human being than ever before.

Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, Emily Wilson’s Odyssey sings with a voice that echoes Homer’s music; matching the number of lines in the Greek original, the poem sails along at Homer’s swift, smooth pace.

A fascinating, informative introduction explores the Bronze Age milieu that produced the epic, the poem’s major themes, the controversies about its origins, and the unparalleled scope of its impact and influence. Maps drawn especially for this volume, a pronunciation glossary, and extensive notes and summaries of each book make this is an Odyssey that will be treasured by a new generation of readers.

Review

The Odyssey is one of history’s greatest stories and you can see why. It has monsters, fighting, adventure, gods, violence and much more. It does not stay still for a moment and  Wilson’s translation keeps the story fluid and easy to read.

The introduction by Wilson was fantastic and I could not put it down. I will admit sometimes I struggle with introductions to books mainly because sometimes the people who write them always come across as rather stuck up and they love to use extremely long words which are just not necessary. Wilson however writes an amazingly informative introduction that is interesting and keeps you hooked on every word. It was a joy to read and left me excited to start the epic poem. I also enjoyed the translator’s notes as it really showed how Wilson translated the poem and why she did certain things.

The poem was equally as good and again I could not put it down. It is a tale well known and has been translated by many different people through the years and many versions have been published. This translation in my opinion was stunning. It kept the flow of the poem and was almost song like to read which fit well as they think originally it would have been told orally.

Odysseus has a seriously rough deal. He spent 10 years at war in Troy and then he can’t get home. His journey is filled with monsters, women who want him as husband, and the loss of his men. Odysseus is cunning though and uses his skills at lying to get him out of problems with a little help from certain gods.

I highly recommend this book to people with a classical background and to people who have never read a classical book and want to try one. It is such a good read and one I will happily read again. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Iliad by Homer (Review)

The Iliad by Homer (translated by Alexander Pope)

About the author

Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are loads of legends regarding the life of Homer however, what we can definitely confirm about him is his centrality to ancient Greek culture.

About the translator

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) is considered one of the greatest English poets, and the foremost poet of the early eighteenth century. He is best known for his satirical and discursive poetry, and his translations of the Iliad and the Odyssesy.

Blurb

The Iliad in Classical Attic; sometimes referred to as the Song of Ilion or Song of Ilium) is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

Review

I have been meaning to read this for many years and have finally got around to it and so I chose Alexander Pope’s translation that I had also used for a recent assignment.

Although I had never read this in its entirety before I am well aware of the story and have loved anything Greek Myth based since I can remember.

It took me a while to get into this as I must admit I found the translation rather stilted to begin with. However, once I got into the style I really began to enjoy the text and was happily reading it whenever I could.

This poem is absolutely wonderful. It has love, sex, violence, friendship and much more. Oh and it also has some very interfering Greek Gods who can’t help but meddle in the Greek and Trojan affairs.

The war between the Trojans and the Greeks begins because of Paris stealing Helen from Menelaus, or Helen went willingly depending on your take of events. Menelaus goes to his brother Agamemnon who immediately uses the situation to go to war on the Trojans who he has long wanted to conquer. Achilles the half man half god hero is the main character in this tale who goes to war with Agamemnon. Achilles does not take being told what to do well though and causes many problems for Agamemnon, including refusing to fight in the war for a very long time.

This is essentially a love story and not a love story about Paris and Helen. This is the love story of Achilles and Patroclus. Patroclus is everything that Achilles isn’t. He is a much better man, he is loving and he hates to see all the death caused by the war, he wants to help stop this war. Achilles on the other hand is too proud and when his pride is injured he refuses to help and does not care about the damage it causes.

Overall, I can see why this book has lasted through the centuries as I absolutely loved this book and I really want to read other translations of the text to see how different translators treat the story. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon by Aesop (Review)

The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon by Aesop

About the author

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Aesop (c. 620-564 BCE) was a Greek fabulist and storyteller credited with a number of fables now collectively known as Aesop’s Fables.

Blurb

Aesop’s animal fables are some of the earliest stories ever told, thought to have been composed by a slave in Greek antiquity and giving glimpses of a world that is harsh, pitiless and yet also eerily familiar.

Review

Having never read Aesop’s Fables I thought reading this little book of just some of them would be a good introduction to them and now I will be honest I desperately want to read the complete book.

I started reading this little book thinking that I would dip in and out of it but I could not put it down. I just loved every fable and could not believe how relatable they still are for the modern day. These fables will never age in my opinion.

Aesop was clearly a man who had met a lot of people and seen a lot of life to have come up with so many of these very true fables. I really loved how most of the fables used animals instead of people and these animals did not follow the traditional stereotypes of animals so in The Ageing Lion and the Fox the lion is sly and cunning and the fox is the clever one who works out what the lion is doing. Where usually we think of a lion as a brave and noble creature, Aesop is telling us not to judge a book by its cover.

I loved this little book and it took me a tea break to read it. The book made me laugh, it made me smile and it made me think. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and I highly recommend it to everyone.

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The Complete Poems by Catullus (Review)

The Complete Poems by Catullus (Translated by Guy Lee)

About the author

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Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84-c. 54 BC) was a Latin poet of the late Romans Republic. He favoured writing about personal life rather than the classical heroes.

About the translator

Guy Lee was a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge. He is the translator of numerous Latin texts including works by Ovid, Virgil, Tibillius, and Persuis.

Blurb

Of all Greek and Latin poets Catullus is perhaps the most accessible to the modern reader. Dealing candidly with the basic human emotions of love and hate, his virile, personal tone exerts a powerful appeal on all kinds of readers. The 116 poems collected in this new translation include the famous Lesbia poems and display the full range of Catullus’s mastery of lyric meter, mythological themes, and epigrammatic invective and wit.

Review

I had to read about 40 of the poems from this book for one of the assignments in my Masters but I loved the poems so much that I decided to read the whole book.

This book has the Latin on the left hand page and the translation opposite which was a massive help when I was writing about how different translators have treated certain poems. At the beginning of the book there is lengthy introduction by Guy Lee the translator which is very informative as it gives you details about Catullus’ life, work and translation. I loved this introduction as it was very interesting and gave me a compact introduction to Catullus. The Explanatory notes were also useful and the Appendices.

This book of poems had me laughing out loud and that is not something I do often when reading poetry as I am not generally a poetry fan. I loved the humour in the poems and I will be honest I was quite shocked at how rude some of the poems were. Some poems were just two lines long and some were pages and I will be honest the lengthier ones could be a struggle to read in full.

I will be honest I have taken breaks from the book and have dipped in and out of the poems. I have also returned to old favourites and re-read them with joy. I have also found some of the poems useful to reference in my assignments.

I really enjoyed the book and I am grateful for it being part of my required reading because it has been a good read. It is also in my opinion a good translation because it is less wooden than certain translations I have also read. I highly recommend this book of poems to people who want to read more of the classics. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons because I did find some of the lengthier poems a bit trying.

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The Fall of Icarus by Ovid (Review)

The Fall of Icarus by Ovid

About the author

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Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17/18AD), known as Ovid in the English speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus.

Blurb

Enduring myths of vengeful gods and tragically flawed mortals from ancient Rome’s great poet. Ovid tells the tales of Theseus and the Minotaur, Daedalus and Icarus, the Calydonian Boar-Hunt, and many other famous myths.

Review

I really enjoyed this little book and I thought the translation flowed well. This little book contains lots of well known myths and legends that are a joy to read.

I had a teacher at school who loved the Fall of Icarus and told it to us often and reading it brought back a lot of fond memories.

The myths flowed well from one to the other and were easy to read.

I loved this book and I found it a wonderful glimpse into Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I have given this book 5 out 5 Dragons.

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