Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pass me the ashes. Hold the shade.

There are moods in which Horace 4.7 seems to me the most perfect poem ever written. We no longer live in a time when every schoolchild is required to translate it, but here is a famous 4-line portion 3 times rendered into English.

Damna tamen celeres reparant caelestia lunae:
nos ubi decidimus
quo pius Aeneas, quo Tullus diues et Ancus,
puluis et umbra sumus.

Her losses soon the moon supplies,
But wretched man, when once he lies
Where Priam and his sons are laid,
Is naught but ashes and a shade.
(Johnson)

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.
(Housman)

Yet the swift moons repair Heaven's detriment:
We, soon as thrust
Where good Aeneas, Tullus, Ancus went,
What are we? dust.
(Conington)

2 comments:

Tence said...

Lovely, indeed. My Latin is more than just rusty, but to me Conington seems the most direct, Housman the least direct, and Johnson would probably be the one preferred by nearly every schoolchild.

RHE said...

And by me.