By Steven Schafersman -I am going to buy this book. Stanley Fish, a university literature professor who writes the "Think Again" blog for the New York Times, reviewed this book on 2008 November 30. The title of his blog column is "'Paradise Lost' in Prose." Just go to the New York Times website and search for the column (I can't include the URL here).
Fish fairly and lucidly explains the reasons for writing a translation of "Paradise Lost" in English, and he favors having the original poem side-by-side with the prose translation. He explains that the translator, Dennis Danielson, has to repeatedly make choices between ambiguous and multiple meanings of words, which unavoidably loses much of the poem's power and the poet's intent, but having the original text in parallel view mitigates this problem. Fish concludes that the prose translation is just the thing for readers who don't have the time or energy to read "Paradise Lost" with full appreciation, which by the way is quite a task.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Tyler Roach -
Danielson's meticulous translation may be a godsend for struggling students. Yet the work is touted not so much as a cheat sheet, but as a pleasing alternative for admirers of the difficult poem. Those who are seeking pleasure reading, however, may be disappointed. Danielson is clearly a good writer and handles the archaic style well, but in attempting two things simultaneously-both an accurate translation and a pleasing narrative-he takes on an impossible task. Constrained by the "parallel" adhesion to every line, any real creativity is prohibited. Milton's poetry makes traversing his convoluted maze worth the effort. But stripped of the poetry, the narrative bogs down under its own weight. Which is probably why I find the 1994 prose adaptation by Joseph Lanzara: Paradise Lost: The Novel, which takes extraordinary liberties with the original, a more satisfying literary experience than Danielson's restrictive version.
By S. Schuler -I enjoy Milton, and I teach Paradise Lost frequently. I wanted to like this version of Paradise Lost, but alas, I cannot recommend it.
The editor/translator himself is a respected Milton scholar, and his translation of the poem is quite readable. Unfortunately, as another reviewer here points out, there are absolutely no notes to the text. So if your only problem with reading Paradise Lost is the language itself, then I suppose this book would be helpful. But in my experience, Milton's 17th-century language is only the first obstacle for modern readers. We need additional guidance in understanding the poem, especially when we come across Milton's many classical allusions, not to mention his inventive use of the original Biblical material. Milton wrote for a learned audience, and even in his own time, he could not have been consistently easy to understand. All the more reason that we modern readers need expert guidance as we read.
To be sure, annotating Paradise Lost is a never-ending task. I own editions of Paradise Lost in which three quarters of some pages are taken up with footnotes (which are often trivial or inane, but I digress...). But most non-specialist readers, especially students reading the poem for the first time, need a few notes on each page to clarify Milton's meaning. If you are looking for an edition with good notes, I can recommend two: the current Norton Critical edition of Paradise Lost is a decent example of minimally-intrusive notes (though it really ought to have more), and the Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton, published by Modern Library, is a good example of thorough, comprehensive notes (not all of which are really necessary). Would that Danielson had included notes that struck a middle ground between these two editions.