Symposium of Plato: Shelley Translation

In the summer of 1818, Percy Bysshe Shelley pulled himself away from a flurry of other projects to devote himself to translating Plato's Symposium. Besides being one of the very great lyric poets of Romanticism, Shelley was an accomplished Hellenist, and had a natural sympathy for Plato's way of seeing the world. The result of his labor was a translation of Plato's principal work on love that is, in both clarity and felicity of expression, unmatched by any contemporary translation. Much of what the dialogue offers to today's reader - namely, its invitation to see erotic experience as the privileged locus of our contact with the sacred and the divine - is lost in translation by failures of tone more than by inaccuracies or simple infelicities. The elevation and sophistication of Shelley's prose makes his translation a much better English vehicle for Plato's writing than the rather chatty and...

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