Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Horace: Diffugere nives

With profound thanks to Bhishma Xenotechnites

(Finished for now, and constructive comments welcomed below —)

( Well, then, here's the result. I'm not sure why I have bothered —
     translation's not my game, and
lord knows there are versions enough in our English language;
     most of them much the same. 
Still, I wanted to get inside both meaning and meter.
     Horace deserves no less. If
I have made an egregious error, I hope you'll forgive it.
     All I intend is a gloss
On this masterpiece from a time and a place quite removed from
     our more frenetic world, where
meditation on Nature's recurring cycles fell out of
     fashion — though now, as we've learned,
Her cards trump all we've tried to retain in our dealer's hands,
     grasping, we find, to no purpose. 
Horace addresses his song to his friend, Torquatus, and sings of
     others we no longer know—
Tullus and Ancus were kings who died more than five hundred years 
     Before Horace sat down to write;
Theseus we dimly know from legend, but few can remember
     Pirithous, rival and friend.
Still turn the seasons today as they did two millennia and more
     ago when these great lines were written;
Horace's moon is ours; our seasons obey the same law; like
     him, we will never return.)

All the snow vanished now, and the grasses back in the meadow

     foliage caps every tree ;

Earth goes through her familiar changes and banks are left bare by

     rivers whose waters are low ;

Grace, with the Nymph and her sisters, the twins, dares to go now, naked,

     leading them all in the dance. 

immortality isn't for you, warn the years that nourish those

     hours that steal the days. 

Cold gives way before breezes; Spring is trampled by summer;

     Soon herself to give way:

Autumn pours out her fruits; then Winter's lifeless fogs come

     Back, repeating the course. 

That loss, however, is quickly restored by the moon in the heavens.

   We, when we have gone down where

pious Aeneas, rich Tully and old King Ancus have gone, we'll 

   be just dust and shadow. 

Who knows whether the hours of this day will continue, increasing

   by those of days to come?

Everything will elude even greedy hands of your heirs, friend —

   All that your spirit will yield.

When you finally perish, Torquatus, and terrible Minos 

   makes his final judgement,

not your family, not your eloquence, piety —

   nothing will bring you back.

From that darkness not even the goddess Diana, though he's

   chaste, can free Hippolytus,

nor has Theseus the power to break Lethe's fetters, binding his

   dear friend Pirithous.

     —Horace, Carminum IV, 7 (my translation)

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