On this glorious feast of St. Augustine, allow me to repost an answer to a question I get fairly often and answer off the blog:
What is the best translation of St. Augustine’s Confessions?
It depends a little on who you are and why you are reading this magnificent work.
The Confessions is usually the only work most people are exposed to when it comes to the Doctor of Grace.
The best translation – for most people – is probably by Dame Maria Boulding, OSB, who was at Stanbrook Abbey. She captures the aspect of prayer in The Confessions without, for the most part, sacrificing accuracy of translation in the process.
The Confessions is, of course, an extended prayer.
You can quibble about some of her choices, of course. All translations limp. For example, Augustine says in Book X that he was “loved and feared” (amari et timeri – 10.36.59) by his people. (Get it Your Excellencies? Fathers?) She choose to say “loved and esteemed” (or something woolly like that), which does not get at what Augustine really said.
By the way, I wrote about that “amari et timeri” HERE. I even have a mini PODCAzT with the Latin.
Boulding’s is better – for most people – than Pine-Coffin‘s. (I am not making up his name.) His translation is good but it is in a style of English many people are no longer used to. Pinecoffin, however, sometimes hits it out of the park. For example, when Augustine is talking about his profligate youth in Carthage, P. renders “amans vias meas et non tuas, amans fugitivam libertatem” (3.3.5) as “I loved my own way, not yours, but it was a truant’s freedom that I loved”. Not precise, but dead on. “A truant’s freedom”. Wonderful.
Chadwick‘s… no thanks.
Boulding’s translation is also quite affordable. The paperback is only $9 and the Kindle version is only $8. UK Link HERE.
And speaking of The Confessions…
GO TO CONFESSION!