Sunday, January 31, 2016

Songs of Decay

Two metrical translations of Horace.

I.25: To Lydia

Lusty young striplings strike your shuttered windows
less than they once did with their sprays of pebbles.
Less do they wake you, and your door stays shut now,
          gripping the threshold,

though it once swung back with the least resistance,
riding its hinges. Less and less a boy cries:
Lydia, nightlong I am split with torment—
          why are you sleeping?

Soon, when you’ve grown old, you will weep for proud lads,
wandering shrunken in a lonely alley,
while the sad north-wind in the moonless darkness
          waxes and thrashes.

Your love will burn you, and a lustful longing
hurl you to madness like a horse’s mother.
Fierce lust will sting you to your wounded liver;
          yea, and you’ll mutter:

Spiteful that gay lads love their verdant ivy
more than a myrtle that has lost its flower.
They’ll toss their dry fronds to the winter’s fellow—
          out to the east wind.

IV.11: To Ligurinus

You are cruel for the day, while you still bear all Aphrodite’s gifts:
but when winter arrives, all unannounced, freezing your blooming pride,
your fine hair will fall out, though it now rolls down to you shoulderblades.

When the colorful bloom now on your brow, brighter than summer’s buds,
fades and leaves in its place, hard Ligurine, ash and a pockmarked face,
you’ll look into the glass. Seeing yourself no more yourself you’ll say:

Gods, when I was was a boy, yet undecayed, where was this wise mind then?
Why won’t unsullied cheeks answer this soul, clothing my youthful thoughts?

Karel van der Pluym - Old Man Holding a Pair of Spectacles - WGA17984.jpg

The originals:


Parcius junctas quatiunt fenestras
Jactibus crebris juvenes protervi
Nec tibi somnos adimunt amatque
          Janua limen

Quae prius multum facilis movebat
Cardines; audis minus et minus jam:
Me tuo longas pereunte noctes,
          Lydia, dormis?

Invicem mœchos anus arrogantis
Flebis in solo levis angiportu,
Thracio bacchante magis sub inter
          Lunia vento,

Cum tibi flagrans amor et libido
Quæ solet matres furiare equorum
Sæviet circa jecur ulcerosum
          Non sine questu

Læta quod pubes hederâ virenti
Gaudeat pulla magis atque myrto,
Aridas frondis hiemis sodali
          Dedicet Euro.


O crudelis adhuc et Veneris muneribus potens
Insperata tuæ cum veniet bruma superbiæ,
Et quæ nunc umeris involitant deciderint comæ
Nunc et qui color est puniceæ flore prior rosæ

Mutatus Ligurine in faciem verterit hispidam
Dices heu quotiens te speculo videris alterum
Quæ mens est hodie, cur eadem non puero fuit
Vel cur his animis incolumes non redeunt genæ?

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