“Never tarry in the woods…

… he said tarrying in the woods.”

Who will count the rings of this murdered tree?
Was it old age that got this one?
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Catullus’ Dinner Plans

A liberal translation of Catullus 13.

If your schedule is not so busy this Tuesday, Sven, then you will dine like a king at my house. So long as, of course, you yourself bring the meal – and make it a large one, with wine, some Parisian ladies too, a good deal of wit and all the jokes you can find. 

 If and only if you do this, venuste noster, you will dine like a king chez moi; for my purse has been eating baked potatoes for the last month. 

However, I can offer you something much more tasteful and correct: a guy called Cupid gave it me on Rue Vénus – one sniff of this, Sven, and you will ask the gods to make you all nose. 

 See you next Tuesday!

Catullus at the bar

A liberal translation of Catullus XIII

A friend caught me at the bar the other night and introduced me to his new woman. She was underdressed but, though a little desperate, had some good conversation. We ordered drinks, sat down and started chatting.

 Hows your job going, Ed? Not bad, I said. You made any money yet? I replied truthfully that the bossman, not the lackeys make the good money; especially if theyre so crooked as to sell their own ass sitting down, or at least that of the next intern.

 But you must be making quite a bit now; didnt you say you were going to buy a car?

 Now, to appear bigger than I am in front of this beautiful woman, I said: Fortune hasnt been so unkind to me in the private world that I am not able to buy a Mercedes.

 (Let alone a car, sometimes I cant afford a metro ticket and have to squeeze strangers asses just to get a ride)

 Wow, thats fantastic, this woman said. Can you give me a ride to the Rasputin night bar tomorrow evening? Im going with some friends.

 Wait a second, I spat my drink, what I said then – I didnt mean to say Porsche or Mercedes or whatever it was – but its my friends – Jason, no Geo, or someones. Basically, its like my own, and what do I care, I get around just fine. Anyway, woman, who are you to call out my charm? Dont you see that this is the privilege of being a poet?

 

 

A Syrian Prophecy

A free translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, Book VI Lines 83 to 97

You are finally freed from the terrors of the sea, but greater troublers wait for you on the land. The sons of Syria will reach the land of the free – you have no reason to worry, though you should be careful what you wish for.

I see wars, terrible wars and rivers foaming with blood. Damascus and Palmyra will come around again and you will see your minarets fall once more. Another enemy has already be born in the land and the weight of Western aggression will never be absent, even when you are on your knees, with nothing left, begging in European capitals to feed your own children.

A popular vote, distorted by the will of the elite, will add to the misery, once more. Do not yield, but go ever more bravely to meet the conflicts. Your destiny foretells it.

Invocation to the Gods

A translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, Book VI, Lines 264 to 267

You gods, who have power over souls, tacit shadows, Chaos, the Styx, and all those silent spaces of the dark night; grant it to me to speak of the things I have heard and to reveal with your blessing knowledge submerged in the gloomy underworld

Di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbraeque silentes et Chaos et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late, sit mihi fas audita loqui, sit numine vestro pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas.

 

Sounds of Evening

A tattered lamp shade projects light into the ageing night.

An airplane roars in the sky—way above where my head could ever reach.

It passes. The feeling fades.

I am alone with the muffled shouts from outside.

If I were to tell you that any cathedral outlives the wildest of Western spires,

You would laugh and say ‘stick to writing of gentle folk’.

With new light comes new eyes.

The room I inhabit is empty and the bird cage door is ajar—

Red velvet lies careless on the floor.

        Where have you flown, little bird?

        You are far from the babbling brook, singing on unheard.

        You are far from ancient wood that knows the step of mortal man.

        You are far from your Northern soil, that warmed you as a child in winter.

The final drops from the water dispenser, when you wonder—

Will you ever know home?

Repetition: You see now the cage is too big for you.

Difference: You will regret the benefit.

 

An aphorism on friendship

Written by the Louvre.

 

In this world, you will meet people who will try to shape you to how they want you to be and they will see what they want to see.

—You shouldn’t care for them.

Those who see you for who you really are could either be your best friends or your worst enemies, and sometimes both at the same time!

—Trust them like snakes.

100 years ago

While some sardonic pianist plays on in the corner, uninvited, I did not see the star.

Did you clench the throbbing atom,

The clod of dirt that once was our world?

Classical times enter from a hundred years ago, like an inflamed goose-step.

‘But they weren’t doing the goose-step them.’

‘Were they not?’

 

Cars drive past and you realise that cities have walls too.

Brutal sounds of slick mechanics,

And now biology, body, blood.

Some have given their body to free us all;

We have given our own — but for what?

‘It isn’t the time for foresight.’

 

Is it not?

 

Some aphorisms on a winter night

  • Man is the most creative of liars.
  • Be weary of people who say their formative years are behind them.
  • Being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets.
  • Authority without experience is fraud.
  • We are what we say we are not.
  • Achieve unconscious competence or don’t bother.
  • Si j’avais l’occasion, je ne te ferais jamais aucun mal.