Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Service held for Robert Fagles

Family, friends and members of the Princeton University community met at the University Chapel this afternoon to remember Professor Robert Fagles, who passed away this past March. Fagles was the Arthur Marks '19 professor of comparative literature and was best known for his translations of Homer's "The Odyssey" and "The Iliad" and Vergil's "Aeneid."

Sandra Bermann, chair of the comparative literature department, opened the services offering her memories of Fagles, a long-time colleague. Fagles headed the program's expansion into a full department in 1975 and served as chair for 19 years. She noted how proud he was of his work at Princeton and discussed his career as a translator.

"He entered the world of the Greek and Latin poets and brought them back with their vigor restored," Bermann said.

Paul Muldoon, chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts, described Fagles as a warrior. "Losing him, we've lost part of our grounding," he said.

Stephen Wadsworth, the director of the Seattle Opera, spoke about the relationship between Fagles and his wife Lynne, calling her Fagles' muse. For Wadsworth, strength and longevity of their love was inspiring.

"My heart is challenged by loss, but soldiers on in gratitude and tribute to him," Wadsworth said.

Nina Fagles Hartley '89, one of Fagles' two daughters, spoke last. She noted how her "dad adored his family," but added that the very characteristics that made him a good father also made him a good friend.

Most of the speakers read from Fagles' own works, giving the audience a chance to experience the life's work of the man they were celebrating. They highlighted different pieces by Fagles, including his original poetry as well as his celebrated translations.

The service ended with the reading of the Kaddish before the attendees left for a reception at the Chancellor Green Rotunda.

"I thought the service was utterly appropriate in that it caught almost magically the combination of Bob's personal kindness and legendary erudition," English professor Jeff Nunokawa said.