Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Catullus 101

For a change of pace, let's do some Catullus. I have always considered this one of the most beautiful poems I have read, in any language. This translation dates to the early 1990's, during my undergraduate days at Temple University. I've tweeked it several times over the years.

Catullus 101
Tr. William Parsons
Carried through many lands and many seas,
I have come, brother, to this sad grave
so I may give to you the final offices of the dead
and to speak in vain to your voiceless ashes.
Alas, since Fortune has unfairly taken
you away from me,
now accept, under these circumstances,
these sad gifts, the ancient custom of our parents,
flowing with brotherly tears,
and now and forever, hale and farewell.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Horace, Epode 1

A sneak preview of my translations of Horace's Iambi. Comments are welcome.


Friend, you are going in a Liburtine galley among the ship’s tall ramparts, prepared, Maecenas, to undergo all of Caesar’s dangers yourself.

What about us, whose life will be sweet if you survive and loathsome if you don’t? Should I pursue leisure, as you order, which is not pleasant when I am not together with you, or should I be ready to suffer this ordeal with iron will, which seems to be a job for real men?

We will endure; I will follow you, whether through Alpine ridges and the inhospitable Caucasus, or the farthest hole in the West, bound to you with a strong heart.

What help would I be to your labors, you ask, with my unwarlike manner and weak constitution?

If I am a fellow traveler, I will be in less fear, because those who are absent fear more; just as the mother hen fears the gliding of the serpent near her unfledged chicks more when they are not near, though she could bring no more help to them if they were.

I will serve willingly as a soldier in this, or any, war in the hope of your thanks, not for more gifts; my ploughs are already strained by a line of bullocks.

Neither do I wish for a herd that moves from a Calabrian pasture to Lacana against the summer’s heat, nor for a glittering villa touching the Circaen walls of high lying Tusculum.

Your generosity enriches me, enough and more. I have no desire to gather riches, either to bury it in the ground like greedy Chremes or squander it like a prodigal son.