The HyperTexts

Ranald Barnicot

Ranald Barnicot (born 1948) has a BA in Classics from Balliol College, Oxford and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Birkbeck College, London. He is a retired teacher of EFL/ESOL who has worked in Spain, Portugal, Italy and the UK. He has published or is due to publish original poems and translations from Ancient Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian—of Anacreon, Catullus, Horace, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Mallarmé, Lorca, Hernandez, Vallejo, Alfonso X (El Sabio) of Castile, Violante do Céu, D’annunzio and La Compiuta Donzella—in various journals, including The French Literary Review, Stand, Priapus, Acumen, Poetry Strasbourg Review, Transference, In Translation Brooklyn Rail, Ezra, The Rotary Dial, Meniscus, Sentinel, Poetry Salzburg Review, Better Than Starbucks, Orbis, The Dark Horse and Metamorphoses. A Greek Verse for Ophelia and Other Poems by Giovanni Quessep (Out-spoken Press), co-translated from Spanish with Felipe Botero Quintana, came out in November 2018. By Me, Through Me, a collection of original poems and translations, was published by Alba Publications in December of the same year.

Castelvieilh (near Luchon)

From the slit stone no arrowheads glint askance,
only the fine rain slants,
and the lone keep still holds its squat, ungainly stance,
and in the distance is it Spain or France

or merely death arraying its white peaks?
This is a half-way house. The door is locked.
Here's neither shelter nor trap. Here History speaks
only a muted memory of pain,

and, baffled, we move off,
obscurely, with a sense of gain.

(published in The French Literary Review)


My city of the slow, sad walkers,
city of hills, frozen green waters
where palaces and hovels lie adrift,
cluttering, clutching ridge and rift.

The earth will overturn and throw
you open to the sea's anger.
Carmo wears rags of stone, and I
must leave you in your danger.

Exiled from exile, memories march,
decay and linger.

(published in The Rotary Dial)

Two bitternesses, each from a different source
by Julio Flórez Roa (1867-1923)

Sky, waves, surf, wind,
the water’s hiss and surge;
through mist, the sun, burning out in
the huge red furnace of its forge.

A white gull, a snow flash ―
once glimpsed, erased ― a scratch ―
leaves in the air its brash,
penetrating screech.

I, alone, lean on the guard-
rail, while
the ship clatters, shudders, makes hard
going of it on the sea, and smile
to think of you, while solitary, pure,
a tear gleams on my eyelash, rolls
down my cheek, falls to its obscure
fate where a wave unscrolls.

And there go ... wave and lament
on their joint course:
two symbols of the soul’s dismemberment,
two bitternesses, each from a different source!

Dos amarguras de distinta fuente
Olas, vientos y espumas,
cielo y agua,
el sol, tras de las brumas,
muere en su roja y gigantesca fragua.

Una nívea gaviota
que se aleja
en el aire la nota
de un grito agudo y penetrante deja.

Yo solo, en la baranda
del navío
que cruje y tiembla y anda
penosamente sobre el mar, sonrío
y pienso en ti, y en mis pestañas brilla,
pura y sola,
una lágrima, rueda en mi mejilla ...
y cae en las arrugas de una ola.

Y allá van... ola y llanto
¡dos símbolos eternos de quebranto!
¡dos amarguras de distinta fuente!

The Bogotan
by Julio Flórez Roa (1867-1923)

Correct in his attire, with easy charm
no shadow of crazed grief seems to impair,
the Bogotan strolls out to take the air,
refined, elegant, coruscating, calm.

If with the ladies he would chance his arm,
a model courtier, loving à la légère,
for gallantry, with friends this debonair
splurges genius likewise, sprays bliss and balm.

Immersing himself in bed, freed from the flare
of dances and excitements that the night
had previously comprised, he, with despair

now overmastering him, grieves at this sight:
in his brain’s corners, scurrying here and there,
his mouldering, leafless dreams fail to ignite.

El Bogotano

Correcto en el vestido; por su semblante
 nunca pasa una sombra de duelo insano:
Así va por las calles el bogotano,
siempre fino y alegre, siempre elegante.

Entre amigos y damas luce el chispeante
ingenio, que derrocha cortés y llano;
y como es un modelo de cortesano,
ama así a la ligera: por ser galante.

Al hundirse en el lecho tras el quebranto
de una noche de danzas y de emociones,
se apodera de su alma cruel desencanto,

y mira, entristecido, por los rincones
del oscuro cerebro, vagar, en tanto,
deshojadas y mustias sus ilusiones.

All the swallows now are fled
by Julio Flórez Roa (1867-1923)

All the swallows now are fled
from your festive balconies,
all the forest melodies;
rain and fog throughout are spread.

Thorns can rankle flesh scratched red,
only as other regions please
swallows that have long since fled
from your festive balconies.

Miseries and unfathomed dread
in the ruins perch at ease
among my passions long since dead.
Ah, false hopes, false remedies
with the swallows all now fled!

Huyeron los golondrinas

Huyeron las golondrinas
de tus alegres balcones;
ya en la selva no hay canciones
sino lluvias y neblinas.

Me dan pesar sus espinas
sólo porque a otras regiones
huyeron las golondrinas
de tus alegres balcones.

Insondables aflicciones
se posan entre las ruinas
de mis ya muertas pasiones.
¡Ay, que con las golondrinas
huyeron mis ilusiones!

Julio Flórez Roa (1867-1923) was a late Romantic Colombian poet, in his country perhaps the most popular of his time. One of his poems, Mis Flores Negras (“My Black Flowers”), which he set to music himself, is still sung both inside and outside Colombia. His passionate and highly accomplished verse still impresses, and he deserves to be better known outside Latin America. His last book, ¡A piê, los muertos! (Arise, ye dead!), concerns the First World War, during which he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Allies.

Bio of translator:

Ranald Barnicot (born 1948) has published original poems and translations from various languages (Ancient Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian) in journals such as Orbis, Cannon’s Mouth and Acumen. A Greek Verse for Ophelia and Other Poems by Giovanni Quessep, Selected Poems 1968 – 2017, Translated by Felipe Botero Quintana and Ranald Barnicot was published by Out-spoken Press in November 2018. By Me, Through Me (original poems and translations) was published by Alba Press in January 2019. His translation of Catullus’ shorter poems, Friendship, Love, Abuse etc. (Dempsey and Windle) came out in August 2020.

Omnia tempus edax (from the Latin of Seneca)

Time, so voracious, strips all bare, displaces and
      Destroys, allows nothing to be for long.
The rivers fail, the sea recedes, choked by the land,
      Mountains subside, and high peaks crash. But wrong
To talk of little things! All this ‘brave firmament’
      Will suddenly burn away in its own flame.
Death demands all. To die is law, not punishment.
      Some day there’ll be no world, ‘this goodly frame’.

Latin Text:

Omnia tempus edax depascitur, omnia carpit,
    omnia sede movet, nil sinit esse diu.
flumina deficiunt, profugum mare litora siccant,
   subsidunt montes et iuga celsa ruunt.
quid tam parva loquor? moles pulcherrima caeli
   ardebit flammis tota repente suis.
omnia mors poscit. lex est, non poena, perire:
   hic aliquo mundus tempore nullus erit.

Seneca the Younger (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) was born c. 4 BCE in Córdoba, Spain. Poet, dramatist, Stoic philosopher, essayist and letter-writer, he exercised a huge influence on later ages, particularly in moral philosophy and dramatic practice. He was also a statesman and politician, being one of Nero’s principal advisers and, in the early years of the reign, a moderating influence. However, in 65 CE he was caught up in a conspiracy against the emperor and forced to commit suicide. In the poem translated here (although its attribution to Seneca is not certain), he expounds the Stoic doctrine of ekpyrosis, the eventual destruction of the universe by fire, from which it will be reborn only to be destroyed again in a perpetual cycle.

An emperor to his soul (from the Latin of Hadrian)

Dear little fleeting, friendly soul,
my body’s guest and boon-companion,
into what regions will you now be gone,
pale little soul, naked, cold,
without your flippant ways of old?

Latin Text:

Animula vagula blandula
hospes comesque corporis,
quae nunc abibis in loca,
pallidula, rigida, nudula,
nec ut soles dabis iocos?

Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus), born in 76 CE in Italica, Spain, was a cousin of the emperor Trajan and succeeded him on his death in 117 CE. He reversed his predecessor’s policy of territorial expansion, and concentrated on protecting the empire’s borders, most famously by building Hadrian’s Wall as the northern frontier of Britannia. He travelled widely all over the empire during his reign but its later years were marked by personal tragedy, the death of his young lover Antinous by drowning in the Nile. Hadrian is said to have written the poem translated here shortly before his own death in 138 CE.

The Savage
by Antonio Gomes Leal (1848-1921)

I love no-one. Nor in the world is there
Another heart that beats for my heart’s sake.
No other understands my deep despair.
When others weep, I feel my laughter shake.

I live estranged from every one and thing,
More silent than the coffin, Death, blank slate;
Solitary, savage, inert, mute suffering
— Stupid passivity of Things my state.

I closed the Past’s book, oh a long time ago!
I feel in me the Future’s sneering gaze,
And live in my own company, and know
Only dark, barbarous egoism clogging my days.

I’ve torn up all I’ve read. I dwell in stark
Domains cruel, indifferent folk patrol.
My heart’s a serpents’ nest where, in the dark,
I’ve stamped on pains that writhe in its hell-hole.

And I see no-one. I only sally out
After sun-set onto the empty street,
None to sneak up on me, eye, ear or snout,
Only the dogs, the moon their yapping dirges greet ....

O Selvagem
por António Gomes Leal, in 'Claridades do Sul'

Eu não amo ninguem. Tambem no mundo
Ninguem por mim o peito bater sente,
Ninguem entende meu sofrer profundo,
E rio quando chora a demais gente.

Vivo alheio de todos e de tudo,
Mais callado que o esquife, a Morte e as lousas,
Selvagem, solitario, inerte e mudo,
— Passividade estupida das Cousas.

Fechei, de ha muito, o livro do Passado
Sinto em mim o despreso do Futuro,
E vivo só commigo, amortalhado
N'um egoismo barbaro e escuro.

Rasguei tudo o que li. Vivo nas duras
Regiões dos crueis indifferentes,
Meu peito é um covil, onde, ás escuras,
Minhas penas calquei, como as serpentes.

E não vejo ninguem. Saio sómente
Depois de pôr-se o sol, deserta a rua,
Quando ninguem me espreita, nem me sente,
E, em lamentos, os cães ladram à lua...

Antonio Gomes Leal (1848-1921), Portuguese poet, journalist and essayist, born in Lisbon, posed as a decadent and dandy for much of his career, even flirting with Satanism. On the death of his mother in 1910, he reconverted to Catholicism. At this time he also fell into poverty and became homeless, being forced to sleep on park benches and subject to physical assault. His friends and members of literary circles campaigned for a petition to have the government grant him some financial support. He eventually received a small stipend towards the end of his life.

Four sonnets and a décima by the Portuguese Dominican nun Soror Violante do Céu (1602-1693), translated from Portuguese ...

To an absence
by Soror Violante do Céu (1602-1693)

If severed from my body is sweet life
yielding its sway to harsh, unyielding death,
how comes it that I wait so long for death,
absented from the soul that gives me life?

Without Sylvano I no more wish for life,
since all without Sylvano’s living death;
now that Sylvano’s gone, come to me, death;
and by Sylvano perished be my life.

Ah you, sighed for and absent, if this death
forces not your consent to give me life,
can I not receive it from the hands of death?

But if the soul’s the true substance of life,
well do I know, waiting for tardy death,
pain slows death’s steps at death of such a life.

A uma ausencia

Se apartada do corpo a doce vida
domina in seu lugar a dura morte,
de que nasce tardar-me tanto a morte
se ausente da alma estou, que me dá vida?

Não quero sem Sylvano já ter vida,
pois tudo sem Sylvano é viva morte;
já que se foi Sylvano, venha a morte;
perca-se por Sylvano a minha vida.

Ah, suspirado ausente, se esta morte
não te obriga querer a dar-me vida,
como não vem dar-me a mesma morte?

Mas se na alma consiste a própria vida,
bem sei que se me tarda tanto a morte,
que é porque sinta a morte de tal vida.

(published in Poetry Salzburg Review and By Me, Through Me)

What long suspense
by Soror Violante do Céu (1602-1693)

What long suspense, what ecstasy, what care
is mine, God Cupid, tyrant to the core?
From me all sense you commandeer and draw;
each feeling attracts its contrary, won’t share.

Absorbed in my harsh fate and in despair,
alien from my own senses, I am sure
of two things only: I live, and the rapport
life has with death, which I within me bear.

Exulting in the hurt whereby offended,
I am suspended in my weeping’s cause;
in nothing, though — alas! — my pain’s suspended.

Such is the rare enchantment that is yours;
cease, cease it love! Whom love leaves undefended
“Not so much pain, less pain’s enough!” implores.

Que suspensão

Que suspensão, que enleio, que cuidado
É este meu, tirano deus Cupido?
Pois tirando-me enfim todo o sentido
Me deixa o sentimento duplicado.

Absorta no rigor de um duro fado,
Tanto do meus sentidos me divido.
Que tenho só de vida o bem sentido
E tenho já de morte o mal logrado.

Enlevo-me no damno que me offende,
Suspendo-me na causa do meu pranto
Mas meu mal (ai de mim!) não se suspende.

Ó cesse, cesse amor, tam raro encanto
Que para quem de ti não se defende
Basta menos rigor, não rigor tanto.

Life that’s not reached
by Soror Violante do Céu (1602-1693)

Life that’s not reached the end-point of its ending,
Though bidding you a premature farewell —
Its senses their own atrophy compel,
Or else it feels immortality impending.

Life that from you now suffers its self-rending
And into self-destruction all but fell —
Living, its flame consumes it to a shell,
Or else it kills, eternal life pretending.

What’s certain, Lord, is that it doesn’t finish,
This life of suffering which they report:
Limitless suffering won’t fade or vanish.

But, living amongst tears, what import?
Life amongst absences, a life of anguish,
Alive to sorrow, dead to all glad thought.

Vida que não acaba

Vida que não acaba de acabar-se,
Chegando já de vós a despedir-se,
Ou deixa por sentida de sentir-se
Ou pode de immortal acreditar-se.

Vida que já não chega a terminar-se,
Pois chega já de vós a dividir-se,
Ou procura vivendo consumir-se,
Ou pretende matando eternizar-se.

O certo é, Senhor, que não fenece,
Antes no que padece se reporta,
Porque nâo se limite o que padece.

Mas, viver entre lágrimas, que importa?
Se vida que entre ausencias permanece
É só viva ao pezar, ao gosto morta?

To Dona Marianna de Luna
by Soror Violante do Céu (1602-1693)

Muses, who in the king of daylight’s garden,
loosening sweet voices, of the wind take hold,
deities admiring thought that’s fresh and bold,
augmenting Apollo’s flowers your kind burden.

Leave, leave the sun to other friends and fortune,
in the sun’s entourage no more enrolled;
in the envious firmament a moon’s revealed,
in her harmonious garden is your portion,

for, being moon, she’s also sun and portent.
Lest you should think such an ambitious statement
may go beyond all reason and proportion

making the moon’s pure light the sun’s curtailment —
this lyric garden, know, defies intrusion,
walled by eternity, immortal, fragrant.

A Dona Marianna de Luna

Musas, que no jardim do rei do dia,
soltando a doce voz, prendeis o vento;
deidades, que admirando o pensamento
as flores aumentais, que Apollo cria.

Deixai, deixai do sol a companhia,
que fazendo invejoso o firmamento
uma lua, que é sol, e que é portento;
um jardim vos fabrica de harmonia.

E porque não cuideis que tal ventura
pode pagar tributo à variedade
pelo que tem da lua a luz mais pura;

sabei que por mercé da divindade,
este jardim canoro se assegura
com o muro imortal da eternidade.

(published in Poetry Salzburg Review and By Me, Through Me)

Décima — to a learned doctor who in some verses complimented the author by comparing her to a flower — viola— and a musical instrument — viola

To contradict a doctor’s evident
Proof, I know well, of some temerity,
Yet I would offer him a truth as fee
For his so sweetly worded compliment:
Neither am I flower, nor instrument.
Yet, if I might be so, then, I beseech,
Let none aspire so far beyond his reach,
For I am no man’s for the touching,
No man’s for playing or for plucking,
And these words to the wise I teach.

Décima — a um doutor que chamou á Autora em uns versos que lhe fez  viola — flôr — e viola — instrumento

Contradizer a um Doutor
Bem sei que é temeridade:
Porém com uma verdade,
Quero pagar um louvor:
Nem instrumento , nem flor
Sou; porém, se o posso ser,
Ninguem trate de emprehender
O que não ha de alcançar:
Pois nenhum me ha de tocar,
Pois nenhum me ha de colher.

(published in Poetry Salzburg Review and By Me, Through Me)

Soror Violante do Céu Montesinos (1607-1693) was a Portuguese Dominican nun, renowned in her lifetime as “The Tenth Muse” but now fallen into comparative obscurity, who wrote both secular and religious poems in Spanish and Portuguese. The first three sonnets, probably written before she took the veil, express a despairing erotic love inspired by her doomed engagement to a fellow poet, Paulo Gonçalves Andrade, whom she addresses in her poems as Silvano or Lauso — in the poems he wrote for her he calls her Silvia. In the next poem she expresses her warm feelings for a female friend, Dona Marianna de Luna, who has recently brought out a book of poems — luna is of course the Spanish for ‘moon’, the equivalent Portuguese word being lua. Finally, the last poem, in which she fights off the flattering attentions of a ‘doctor’ who wishes to seduce her through poetry, is a décima espinela, a ten-line poem with the rhyme-scheme ABBAACCDDC, invented (or perhaps re-invented) by the Spanish poet and musician Vicente de Espinel (1550-1624).

Two poems by the Portuguese poet António Ferreira (1528-1569) ...

Não Tejo, Douro, Zézer, Minho, Odiana
by António Ferreira

[1] Not Tagus, Douro, Minho, Odiana,
Mondego, Tua, Vouga, Lima, Neiva,
Nor rivers that rise with orient sun for neighbour,
[2] Euphrates, Nile, Ganges, Hydaspe, Tana;

[3] Not beech, elm, holm oak, ivy, in their leaves’ armour,
Nor prose or rhyme in their sweetly breathed labour
Will quench the flame that flows and will not waver
From the third heaven, streaming from eyes’ ardour.

May another heaven open, the world be drenched
And drown, a mighty wind grant us no quarter,
My flame will still be burning deep in me.

And I shall die, for it will not be quenched:
Then the pleasure shall be more, the glory greater,
The more my love subjects me to this agony.

[1] The first two lines list rivers that rise in Spain and flow through Portugal. For the sake of metrical consistency, I have omitted Zézer and Avia from Ferreira’s list.
[2] These are Asian or African rivers. For the same reason as above I omitted the Indus. Hydaspe is the Classical name for the river Jhelum in Pakistan, where in 326 BCE Alexander the Great fought the Indian king Porus. The Tana js the longest river in Kenya.
[3] Here again, to avoid a hypermetric line, I omitted pine (pinho) and cane (cana).

Não Tejo, Douro, Zézer, Minho, Odiana,
Mondego, Tua, Avia, Vouga, Neiva e Lima,
nem os que correm lá no Oriental clima
Nilo, Indo, Gange, Eufrate, Hydaspe e Tana

Não pinho, faia, enzinho, ulmo, hera, ou cana,
nem doce suspirar em prosa, ou rima
o fogo apagarão, qu’em mim de cima
do terceiro ceo cae, e dos olhos mana.

Qu’o ceo outra vez s’abra, e o mundo alague,
sopra de toda parte bravo vento,
ardendo m’estará meu fogo em meo.

E eu morrerei, porque se não apague;
então de mor prazer, mor glória cheo,
quanto mor parecer o meu tormento.

S’erra a minha alma, em contemplar-vos tanto

If my soul errs, in so much contemplation,
And these sad eyes of mine, in seeing you,
If my great love errs in its reluctance to
Conceive a lovelier cause for consternation,

And if my spirit errs, singing its exultation
In you, writing in your sole name, as due,
If my life errs, in my verse plain to view,
Living in constant pain and lamentation,

If my hope errs, in that time after time
It has been self-deceived, yet, thus deceived,
Returns to known deceits, as for a tryst, and tame,

If my desire should err, in honest trust, to claim
That at some point my griefs will be believed,
Then for my errors you must bear sole blame.

S'erra minh'alma, em contemplar-vos tanto,
E estes meus olhos tristes, em vos ver,
S'erra meu amor grande, em não querer
Crer que outra cousa há ai de mor espanto,

S'erra meu espírito, em levantar seu canto
Em vós, e em vosso nome só escrever,
S'erra minha vida, em assim viver
Por vós continuamente em dor, e pranto,

S'erra minha esperança, em se enganar
Já tantas vezes, e assim enganada
Tornar-se a seus enganos conhecidos,

S'erra meu bom desejo, em confiar
Que algu'hora serão meus males cridos,
Vós em meus erros só sereis culpada.

António Ferreira (1528-1569) was a Portuguese poet and the foremost representative of the classical school, founded by Francisco de Sá de Miranda. His most considerable work, Castro, is the first tragedy in Portuguese and the second in modern European literature. The sonnets forming the First Book in his collected works, date from 1552 and contain the history of his early love for an unknown lady. They seem to have been written in Coimbra or during vacations in Lisbon. The sonnets in the Second Book were inspired by his wife, and they are marked by chastity of sentiment, seriousness and ardent patriotism.

Sleeper in the valley
(translated from the French of Arthur Rimbaud)

It’s a green hollow where a river sings
With ragged silver catching at the grass
In frenzy, where sun from the proud mountain flings
Its rays, and the small valley sparkles like a glass.

A soldier young, mouth open and head bare,
Neck bathing in the fresh blue cress, is sleeping;
Stretched in the grass, beneath a cloud, pale there
In his green bed on which the light is weeping.

Feet in the sword-grass, he’s asleep. Smiling the way
A sick child smiles, he takes a nap. I pray
You, nature, cradle him in your warmth: he’s cold.

No fragrance stirs his nostrils: hands afold
Upon his quiet breast, in the sun’s pride,
He sleeps. With three red holes in his right side.

Le dormeur du val

C'est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière,
Accrochant follement aux herbes des haillons
D'argent ; où le soleil, de la montagne fière,
Luit : c'est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.

Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort ; il est étendu dans l'herbe, sous la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert où la lumière pleut.

Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme
Sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme :
Nature, berce-le chaudement : il a froid.

Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine ;
Il dort dans le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine,
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté droit.

Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) was a French poet known for his influence on modern literature and arts, which prefigured surrealism. Born in Charleville-Mézières, he started writing at a very young age and excelled as a student, but abandoned his formal education in his teenage years to run away from home to Paris amidst the Franco-Prussian War. During his late adolescence and early adulthood he began the bulk of his literary output, then completely stopped writing at the age of 20, after assembling one of his major works, Illuminations. Rimbaud was known to have been a libertine and a restless soul, having engaged in an at-times-violent romantic relationship with fellow poet Paul Verlaine, which lasted nearly two years. After ending his literary career, he travelled extensively on three continents as a merchant before his death from cancer just after his thirty-seventh birthday. As a poet, Rimbaud is well known for his contributions to Symbolism and, among other works, for A Season in Hell, a precursor to modernist literature.

(translated from the French of Paul Verlaine)

Nature, you leave me cold, for all your fields’
Nourishing largesse, vermilion echo of
Pastoral Sicilian scenes, dawn’s pomp or grave
Sorrowful dusks day’s requiem unfolds.

I laugh at Art, Mankind, Song, Verse; each yields
In turn to my derision; nor would I save
Greek temples, spires cathedrals drive
Into the empty sky. The sky still holds!

I don’t believe in God; renounce, abjure
All thought; blur good and wicked indiscriminately;
And love ― don’t mention that stale irony!

Tired of living, fearful of dying, a boat,
A toy, the tide’s plaything, somehow afloat,
Readying for the wrecks I must endure.


Nature, rien de toi ne m’émeut, ni les champs
Nourriciers, ni l’écho vermeil des pastorales
Siciliennes, ni les pompes aurorales,
Ni la solennité dolente des couchants.
Je ris de l’Art, je ris de l’Homme aussi, des chants,
Des vers, des temples grecs et des tours en spirales
Qu’étirent dans le ciel vide les cathédrales,
Et je vois du même œil les bons et les méchants.
Je ne crois pas en Dieu, j’abjure et je renie
Toute pensée, et quant à la vieille ironie,
L’Amour, je voudrais bien qu’on ne m’en parlât plus.
Lasse de vivre, ayant peur de mourir, pareille
Au brick perdu jouet du flux et du reflux,
Mon âme pour d’affreux naufrages appareille.

Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) was one of the leading French Symbolist poets. Frequently labelled as “Decadent”, he coined the phrase “les poètes maudits” (“the accursed poets”) to describe himself, his lover Arthur Rimbaud, and others. His poetic values principally consisted in lyricism, musicality and subtle suggestion as opposed to rhetoric and precise statement.

To Licinius Calvus (L)
by Catullus

Licinius, yesterday we played around,
A precious pair of poets at one in leisure.
My scribbling-tablets we found fertile ground
Essaying this, that or the other measure.
We raised our glasses. Wine and wit flowed to
And fro, as epigram capped epigram.
I left there utterly on fire for you,
Your charm, your wit. Once home, wretch that I am,
Dinner delighted not me. Sleep denied my eyelids
Her cool compress. "When will dawn come?" I cried,
Tossing and turning, traversing my bed's terrain,
Yearning for your converse and company, but became
Half-corpse on my couch as my limbs lay defeated,
So I made this poem for you, my laughing one,
To raise your awareness of the pain I suffer.
Now don't be rash, ― dear as my eyes! ― nor shun
This suitor so disdainfully, but offer
Nemesis some respect, for, once enraged,
This goddess is not easily assuaged.

Notes: Caius Licinius Calvus Macer (82-47 BCE), perhaps Catullus’s closest friend, a gifted orator and poet, of whose work only a few fragments survive.

1-3. My second line is an echo of Conrad Aiken’s “Rimbaud and Verlaine, precious pair of poets” (Preludes to Memnon XVI, l. 1), in order to bring out the (mock?)-homoeroticism.

In the original, the first three lines:

Hesterno, Licini, die otiose
Multum lusimus in meis tabellis,
Ut convenerat esse delicatos.

“Delicatos” has a number of connotations, depending on context and speaker/writer. It can mean sensitive, tasteful, refined etc. or, equally, affected, frivolous, precious (my rendering), decadent or even effeminate.

Latin Text:

Hesterno, Licini, die otiosi
multum lusimus in meis tabellis,
ut convenerat esse delicatos.
Scribens versiculos uterque nostrum
ludebat numero modo hoc modo illoc,
reddens mutua per iocum atque vinum.
Atque illinc abii tuo lepore
incensus, Licini, facetiisque,
ut nec me miserum cibus iuvaret
nec somnus tegeret quiete ocellos,
sed toto indomitus furore lecto
versarer, cupiens videre lucem,
ut tecum loquerer simulque ut essem.
At defessa labore membra postquam
semimortua lectulo iacebant,
hoc, iucunde, tibi poema feci,
ex quo perspiceres meum dolorem.
Nunc audax cave sis, precesque nostras,
oramus, cave despuas, ocelle,
ne poenas Nemesis reposcat a te.
Est vehemens dea: laedere hanc caveto.

Catullus (c.85-c.54 BCE) is most famous for his love poems, especially those inspired by the faithless Clodia Metelli (wife and later widow of the politician and general Metellus Celer). He gives her the name Lesbia in his poems as a tribute to the Greek poetess, Sappho of Lesbos. However, he also wrote fine poems celebrating friendship, such as this one, mourning his brother, excoriating his enemies, including Julius Caesar (often obscenely) and recounting Greek legend.

Hymn to Diana (Catullus XXXIV)

We hold to Diana’s faith,
Girls and boys we do not stray,
Boys and girls untouched and chaste,
Still we sing Diana’s praise,
Dianae sumus in fide.

O Leto’s daughter, goddess great,
Offspring of Jove supremely great,
Whom, giving birth, Your mother gave
The Delian olive-tree for shade,
Dianae sumus in fide,

That You should be mistress and maid
Of mountains and green forest ways,
Passes through every hidden place,
Resounding streams that downward race,
Dianae sumus in fide.

Lucina Juno¹, You whose aid
Women invoke in childbirth crazed,
The mighty Three Ways Goddess named
And Moon whose light’s refracted flame,
Dianae sumus in fide.

Measuring out each monthly stage
Through which the year’s long haul’s conveyed,
With Your largesse of fruits you raise
Wealth farmers’ barns accumulate,
Dianae sumus in fide.

Whichever name You please to take
To celebrate your power and grace,
Never Your ancient care forsake,
But cherish Romulus’s race,
Dianae sumus in fide.

¹ In this stanza, Diana is identified as (a) goddess of the Moon, (b) identical with Juno Lucina (Juno in her capacity as aider of childbirth), and (c) Trivia, or Hecate, worshipped at crossroads.

Latin Text:

Dianae sumus in fide
puellae et pueri integri,
Dianam pueri integri
puellaeque canamus.
O Latonia, maximi
magna progenies Iovis,
quam mater prope Deliam
deposivit olivam,
montium domina ut fores
silvarumque virentium
saltuumque reconditorum
amniumque sonantum,
tu Lucina dolentibus
Iuno dicta puerperis,
tu potens Trivia et notho es
dicta lumine Luna.
Tu cursu, dea, menstruo
metiens iter annuum,
rustica agricolae bonis
tecta frugibus exples.
Sis quocumque tibi placet
sancta nomine, Romulique,
antique ut solita es, bona
sospites ope gentem.

Unexpectedly (CVII)
by Catullus

Day incandescent in my calendar of gloom
Restoring you to me
Quite unexpectedly!
You have flown back to me – kazoom!
Naturally, I’m over the moon!

Latin Text:

Si quicquam cupido optantique optigit umquam
     insperanti, hoc est gratum animo proprie.
Quare hoc est gratum nobis quoque carius auro
     quod te restituis, Lesbia, mi cupido.
Restituis cupido atque insperanti, ipsa refers te
     nobis. o lucem candidiore nota!
Quis me uno vivit felicior aut magis hac est
     optandus vita dicere quis poterit?

To Gallus (Catullus LXXVIII)

Gallus has brothers, one of whom is blessed
With a delightful wife, the other a son no less.
Gallus is cute; he thinks himself astute
To put them to bed together, both being so cute.
Gallus is stupid. Why? Can’t you guess?
He’s married too. He should be careful lest
(The pupil all too suitably impressed)
This uncle keeps a nephew in the nest.

Latin Text:

Gallus habet fratres, quorum est lepidissima coniunx
     alterius, lepidus filius alterius.
Gallus homo est bellus: nam dulces iungit amores,
     cum puero ut bello bella puella cubet.
Gallus homo est stultus, nec se videt esse maritum,
     qui patruus patrui monstret adulterium.

Horace Odes 2.10 (translated from the Latin)

You’ll live more rationally, Licinius,
neither always pushing out into deep water,
nor hugging the insidious coast, too close, too cautious,
shuddering at storms that may or may not happen.

Who cherishes the Golden Mean, temperate and safe,
avoids the pauper’s squalid dwelling ― precarious,
ramshackle ― likewise avoids the nabob’s mansion,
 enviable, but invidious.

It is the huge pine that winds shake,
the lofty towers that fall more ponderously,
and lightning strikes the highest peak
more fiercely and more frequently;

a well-trained mind in times of trouble proves
hopeful, fearful in favourable, of alteration:
Jupiter brings back misshapen
winters and Jupiter removes.

Fortune that scowls today will change expression:
Apollo will at times awaken
the silent Muse to shape
his lyre’s music, nor always bends

his bow upon us. Spirited and brave
appear when all else fails,
and when the wind’s
too favourable, draw in your swelling sails.

Original text:

Rectius vives, Licini, neque altum
semper urgendo neque, dum procellas
cautus horrescis, nimium premendo
litus iniquum.

auream quisquis mediocritatem
diligit, tutus caret obsoleti
sordibus tecti, caret invidenda
sobrius aula.
saepius ventis agitatur ingens
pinus et celsae graviore casu
decidunt turres feriuntque summos
fulgura montis
sperat infestis, metuit secundis
alteram sortem bene praeparatum
pectus. informis hiemes reducit
Iuppiter, idem
submovet. non, si male nunc, et olim
sic erit: quondam cithara tacentem
suscitat Musam neque semper arcum
tendit Apollo.
rebus angustis animosus atque
fortis adpare: sapienter idem
contrahes vento nimium secundo
turgida vela.

Horace, Odes 3.30 (translated from the Latin)

I've built a monument outlasting bronze,
outsoaring Pharaoh's pyramids;
rain will not rust,
nor North wind weather it away:
though ceaseless time bangs down the lids,
on me, on all men's ash and bones,
yet I have something that can brave
mortuary, undertaker, grave.

The priest and silent vestal's feet still clip
the Capitol; Aufidus roars
in torrents; trust
that I, as long as these, shall stay.
Ask parched Apulia the cause:
my birth is low, yet noble verse took ship
from Lesbos, sailed through time and space
to Italy, in my verse found new grace.

So crown me, Melpomene,
With Delphic laurel, lyric muse,
Nor refuse
My arrogant ambition mastery.

Original text:

Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo inpotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.             
Non omnis moriar multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitinam; usque ego postera
crescam laude recens, dum Capitolium
scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex.
Dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus             
et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium
regnavit populorum, ex humili potens
princeps Aeolium carmen ad Italos
deduxisse modos. Sume superbiam
quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica             
lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam.

Horace Odes 4.9 (translated from the Latin)

Do not suppose the words I write will perish ―
I, who was born by far-resounding Aufidus ―
words I recite blending with plangent music ―
never divulged till now such skill to shape and embellish!

Homer holds pride of place in poets’ symposia,
yet Pindar’s muse does not lurk in the shadows, nor
do Simonides’ and Alcaeus’ farouche Camenae,
the solemn of Stesichorus, lack honour;

nor has time destroyed Anacreon’s playful
lyrics; Sappho’s love lives on
committed to her lyre-strings,
still passionate, still painful.

Not only Laconian Helen, for an adulterer’s elegant hair-do,
suffered the burning itch,
for his gold-embroidered garments, regal
finery and retinue.

Nor from Cydonian bow was Teucer first to fire
his arrows, nor only once was Troy assaulted, nor
Sthenelus nor huge Idomeneus unique
to engage in battles that might worthily inspire

the Muses; nor was fierce Hector first afflicted,
nor keen Deiphobus, by heavy blows,
lest their chaste wives, their children suffer rape,
slaughter or slavery, unprotected.

Mighty men lived before Agamemnon,
many of them; all unwept, beyond
weeping, whom long night crushes, forgotten
heroes, but of no sacred poet’s song.

Hidden virtue’s not far from buried sloth;
I will not, in the records I keep, let silence shroud
a life unadorned by praise
or suffer you to find oblivion in death,

reward for your many labours to drown
in its livid waters, Lollius: you’ve a mind
prudent and upright
in times both fair and foul,

prompt to punish fraud and avarice,
hold at a distance the greed for gain that channels
all to itself and, consul for one year, comport
yourself throughout your life as worthy of that office,

righteous and sound in judgement, preferring honour to
expedience, with a disdainful look
rejecting the offers of those that mean you harm,
cutting through corrupt hordes that confront you.

One rich in possessions you’d not rightly
call blessed; more entitled to claim
that epithet one who employs
the gods’ gifts wisely,

skilled to endure harsh poverty,
fearing disgrace more than death,
not fearing to die for dear
friends or country.

Original text:

Ne forte credas interitura quae
longe sonantem natus ad Aufidum
     non ante volgatas per artis
     verba loquor socianda chordis:
non, si priores Maeonius tenet
sedes Homerus, Pindaricae latent
     Ceaeque et Alcaei minaces
     Stesichoriue graves Camenae;
nec siquid olim lusit Anacreon,
delevit aetas; spirat adhuc amor
     vivuntque commissi calores
     Aeoliae fidibus puellae.
Non sola comptos arsit adulteri.
crines et aurum uestibus inlitum
     mirata regalisque cultus
     et comites Helene Lacaena
primusve Teucer tela Cydonio
direxit arcu; non semel Ilios
     vexata; non pugnavit ingens
     Idomeneus Sthenelusue solus
dicenda Musis proelia; non ferox
Hector vel acer Deiphobus gravis
     excepit ictus pro pudicis
     coniugibus puerisque primus.
Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
multi; sed omnes inlacrimabiles
     urgentur ignotique longa
     nocte, carent quia vate sacro.
Paulum sepultae distat inertiae
celata virtus. Non ego te meis
     chartis inornatum silebo
     totve tuos patiar labores
impune, Lolli, carpere lividas
obliviones. Est animus tibi
     rerumque prudens et secundis
     temporibus dubiisque rectus,

vindex avarae fraudis et abstinens
ducentis ad se cuncta pecuniae,
     consulque non unius anni,
     sed quotiens bonus atque fidus
iudex honestum praetulit utili,
reiecit alto dona nocentium
     voltu, per obstantis catervas
     explicuit sua victor arma.
Non possidentem multa vocaveris
recte beatum; rectius occupat
     nomen beati, qui deorum
     muneribus sapienter uti
duramque callet pauperiem pati
peiusque leto flagitium timet,
     non ille pro caris amicis
     aut patria timidus perire.

Horace (Quintius Horatius Flaccus) lived from 65 to 8 BCE. He fought on the wrong side at the Battle of Philippi but was later befriended by Maecenas, Augustus’s chief minister, and prospered under Augustus. He wrote many different types of poems in a variety of metres on a variety of topics. His Odes are remarkable for their elegance and their emotional detachment.

Elegy to Therimachos by Diotimos (translated from the Greek)

Of their own accord at nightfall from their steep
Pastures the snowclad cattle went down to the byre.
Alas, Therimachos sleeps the long sleep
By the oak tree, stilled by celestial fire.

Aủτόμαται δειλῇ ποτὶ ταὔλιον αἱ βόες ἦλθον
      ἐξ ὄρεος πολλῇ νιφόμεναι χιόνι‧
Aἰαί, Θηρίμαχος δὲ παρὰ δρυῒ τὸν μακρὸν εὕδε
       ὕπνον‧ ἐκοιμήθη δ’ ἐκ πυρὸς οὐρανίου.

Bio: Apparently, we know virtually nothing about Diotimos. He seems to have lived around 100 BC and may have known Posidonus. A Stoic philosopher by that name was accused of forging slanderous letters about Epicurus, for which he was allegedly put to death.

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