Not all translations are created equal, and often the public domain ones freely available online are some of the worst.
Augustine fans out there - whose translation of Confessions or City of God is the best in English? I'm looking for readability (out-loud or otherwise) here, not necessarily technical accuracy.
Alright, so no shining knight with a great answer has shown up yet on this one, I thought I would perhaps encourage a bit of piecemeal feedback by listing known English translations of Confessions. I doubt this is a complete list.
- E.B. Pusey (1838) In Public Domain, free online at Project Gutenberg
- J.G. Pilkington (1886), free online at www.newadvent.org
- F.J. Sheed (1948)
- Albert C. Outler (1955), free online at www.ccel.org
- John K. Ryan (1960)
- Maria Boulding (1997)
- Hal M. Helms (2010)
- Pusey translation revised by Cormac Burke (2012), free online www.cormacburke.or.ke
- Benignus O'Rourke (2013)
Here are four excerpts from different translations, all from the first few sentences of Book I, Chapter 3:
Do the heaven and earth then contain Thee, since Thou fillest them? or dost Thou fill them and yet overflow, since they do not contain Thee? And whither, when the heaven and the earth are filled, pourest Thou forth the remainder of Thyself? or hast Thou no need that aught contain Thee, who containest all things, since what Thou fillest Thou fillest by containing it?
Do the heaven and earth then contain You, since You fill them? or do You fill them and yet overflow, since they do not contain You? And whither, when the heaven and the earth are filled, pour You forth the remainder of Yourself? or have You no need that aught contain You, who contain all things, since what You fill You fill by containing it?
So then, if you fill heaven and earth, does that mean that heaven and earth contain you? Or, since clearly they cannot hold you, is there something of you left over when you have filled them? Once heaven and earth are full, where would that remaining part of you overflow? Or perhaps you have no need to be contained by anything, but rather contain everything yourself, because whatever you fill you contain, even as you fill it?
Do heaven and earth contain you, then, since you fill them? or do you fill them, and is there something of you left over because they are not able to contain you? If so, where else do you pour the rest of your being, when heaven and earth are filled? Or is it that nothing can contain you, because you contain everything and fill everything?
My very initial impression is that the Boulding sounds the most contemporary, but perhaps it is weak in other areas. The book reviews on Amazon rarely address the translation, so I'm asking here.
After quite a bit of side-by-side comparison, I really considered writing my own answer to this question arguing for the Boulding translation. It really is "easier to read" in many regards. Still, I couldn't help but consider the Sheed as a very close second and then superior in other regards.
I would have loved to see more discussion on this, but I think the Christianity SE community needs to be built up some more. That's OK. I decided to accept Charles's answer although I really think it's a bit up in the air. In hindsight, this seems like maybe NOT as good of a candidate for Q&A as I thought. There were far more options out there than I initially realized and they all have relative strengths and weaknesses. What would really help is if someone could get one of the more contemporary translations into the public domain as the old Pusey is really going to be a stumbling block for more than a few folks these days.