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!

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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.

 

Venice, 2016

Image result for nymphs virgil eclogues

Gorgias and Iasone talk shop

Gor: Here you are, reclining on your boat, under the shade of your favourite palazzo.  You strum your guitar like never before, a wistful tune of Spanish origin, yet I know you know this lagoon and have never left for South American shores.  And while I am searching a way to flee this place, to move on and never come back, you teach the delicate waters to resonate with sweet words.

Ias: My dear Gorgias, it is a mystery to me what has procured this peace and I do not see this inspiration stopping soon; for a long time in my life I have enjoyed the altars of Bacchus and willingly served his cult.  As a young man, my mind would be softened by words and the images created by another.  Now, this aura reigns my soul again, so it seems, and has allowed me once more to play on my swift boat.

Gor: I certainly do not deny you this privilege, friend, but instead I marvel at your composure, while all around us there is frenzy.  I have driven my boat around these canals for weeks on end, finding only a few thin tourists.  I saw this one man standing out in the crowd, with a very pretty woman, much his junior, and who looked like a fat sale.  We exchanged words, and he was about to embark, when he tumbled, clutching his chest.  He fell like an oak on the stones in front of the church, shouting something about the goodness of his mind.  Died before the ambulance could reach him.  But tell me, Iasone, what has brought on this blessed state of mind?

Ias: I have been reminded of the city of Paris, which I once thought just another tourist trap like our own.  Many years ago, I visited this place and brought my choice lines of poetry to dress them up in more cultured rags.  At the time I was in the habit of comparing bitches with pussies, mothers with daughters, oaks with acorns.  But then I saw this global metropolis raising its head above the international playground, like the chestnut trees reaching towards the skies on its wide and famous boulevards.

Gor: And what brought you to Paris in the first place?

Ias: Freedom.  I discovered it late in life, before my beard had made me wiser and while in my eyes change could be achieved through violence.  Then I was held between Italian cities, cultivating my bitter gardens and milk-white pretentions, exerting physical force over the undulations of an unremitting ideal.  I did not care for freedom; I thought not of material accumulation.  And though many a time rich ideas would leave my humble threshold, the return I was seeking would not give back, and my right hand, stained with brassy ink, could seize no profit. 

Gor: At the time we crushed this afternoon a cup of amber wine on the San Giacomo, I wondered why you wept to think of these former streets from a Parisian perspective, and wherefore you glutted sorrow on sunk grapes; you have been absent from this Bay.  The fountains, the palazzi – they missed you.

Ias: What could I do?  The high tides would not free me from manacles, and She, my god, threw herself from the cliffs, as I missed her kiss; and we both missed the synchronicity of waves.  And then I saw something more, something concrete, the thing now for which our tour travels from place to place and from which near seven years ago I was given the first statement of change: “Boys and girls, feed your verses as before, and rear your mighty tomes”.

Gor: Happy you now must be in the lofty Pyrenees, though the streets are emptying and tainted algae make a parasite of our youth.  Fortunate soul, to gaze upon the Seine under the cooling shades of our beautiful city’s canopy; your days are spent in the demarcations of swift Culture, drinking from the cool taps and listening to the flock’s gentle lowing.  And what’s more, Italian borders are never too far away, and upon Hesperian sheets you can be lulled whenever you choose, while sea dogs and Sirens, your own delights, will never cease their plaintiff melodies.

Ias: You inspire me again: sooner wine be turned to water, pigeons to tigers, or the exiled Syrian to princes once again, or the Union to tatters, than I shall turn my gaze from those streets lit up.

Gor: Come, my friend, it is time.  San Francisco calls, the Dominican Republican waits on us and all of France yearns to hear the words of our review.  I will miss my rural home and the country side that surrounded me, a child.  The birches that point directly to Heaven have shaded me for such a long time; they have seen me grow, but I them never.  Now a dismal soldier threatens, and barbary stands ready to ravage our well-tilled soils.  Look at where war has led us, faithful citizens of an eternal republic; it was for this that so much ink was spilled?  Go on, fellow writers, with your happy lines.  Look at me in my ruin, as my once cherished house crumbles in despair; songs I’ll sing no more, what an exile I’ll die and my over-polished crop of wailing words will fall short before the dawn, languishing by the willows and sickly cypresses. 

Ias: But you will stay here the night.  The Venetian moon is rising and we have all we need for the moment: wine, wit and wisdom.  The tavern awaits us, the crowd longs to be pleased and the smoking pipes caress our hoary throats.