Saturday, October 31, 2015

Out into Surging Streams

This is what gets called a love poem, but that’s a misnomer. A love poem is about your beloved. This is a poem by Horace and about Horace. That makes it no less stirring, of course.

Carminum IV.i, my translation.

          Do you call me to war again,
Venus, out of my peace? Spare me, oh please, I pray.
          I’m not him who I was before
When good Cinera ruled, mistress of all my life.

          Savage mother of honeyed loves,
Loose your reins from my neck, now that I’ve lived so long,
          And am hard to your rule. Begone!
Go where youths call you near, praying in tender moans.

          Paullus Maximus’ house is where
You’d be welcome to ride, winged by your gleaming swans,
          Where you’d revel in high delight,
If you’re looking to warm some pleasant heart with flame.

          For he’s high-born and handsome too,
And a lawyer who speaks openly in the court.
          He’s a lad of a hundred arts
Who will carry your flag out to the farthest lands.

          And triumphant in war for love,
When he laughs at the one who had outspent him far,
          He’ll raise marble to you, the god,
In the orangery down by the Alban Lake.

          There you’ll waft to your waiting nose
Burning incense. The lyre and Berecyntian pipe
          Will be bliss to your happy soul,
Mixed with songs of the young, chanted to wild reeds.

          There the boys and the tender maids
Morn and eve will shout praise up to your holy name.
          And with white and unsullied feet
They’ll dance gaily to you, striking the dusty ground.

          Nor a woman now, nor a boy
Nor faint, credulous hope—hope for a soul to share—
          Gives me joy, nor a wine-drunk night,
Nor to bind to my head garlands of bursting blooms.

          But why—ach, Ligurinus, why?—
Why this strange tear that slides down off my trembling cheeks?
          Why do silences stutter my speech,
Why this weak tongue that trips, blocking my polished words?  

          In my dreams, when I rave at night,
I have seized you, cruel lad. Out on the Field of Mars,
          I have followed your wingèd flight:
And I’ve followed your steps out into surging streams.

Hans Thoma, Endymion, 1886

          Intermissa, Venus, diu
Rursus bella moves? parce precor, precor.
          Non sum qualis eram bonæ
Sub regno Cinaræ. Desine, dulcium

          Mater sæva Cupidinum,
Circa lustra decem flectere mollibus
          Jam durum imperiis: abi,
Quo blandæ iuvenum te revocant preces.

          Tempestivius in domum
Pauli purpureis ales oloribus
          Comissabere Maximi,
Si torrere jecur quæris idoneum;

          Namque et nobilis et decens
Et pro sollicitis non tacitus reis
          Et centum puer artium
Late signa feret militiæ tuæ,

          Et, quandoque potentior
Largi muneribus riserit æmuli,
          Albanos prope te lacus
Ponet marmoream sub trabe citrea.

          Illic plurima naribus
Duces tura, lyraque et Berecyntia
          Delectabere tibia
Mixtis carminibus non sine fistula;

          Illic bis pueri die
Numen cum teneris virginibus tuum
          Laudantes pede candido
In morem Salium ter quatient humum.

          Me nec femina nec puer
Jam nec spes animi credula mutui
          Nec certare juvat mero
Nec vincire novis tempora floribus.

          Sed cur heu, Ligurine, cur
Manat rara meas lacrima per genas?
          Cur facunda parum decoro
Inter verba cadit lingua silentio?

          Nocturnis ego somniis
Jam captum teneo, jam volucrem sequor
          Te per gramina Martii
Campi, te per aquas, dure, volubilis.

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