Sunday, November 28, 2004


Lang on Martial

Andrew Lang, Martial in Town, from Grass of Parnassus (1892):
Last night, within the stifling train,
Lit by the foggy lamp o'erhead,
Sick of the sad Last News, I read
Verse of that joyous child of Spain,

Who dwelt when Rome was waxing cold,
Within the Roman din and smoke.
And like my heart to me they spoke,
These accents of his heart of old:-

"Brother, had we but time to live,
And fleet the careless hours together,
With all that leisure has to give
Of perfect life and peaceful weather,

"The Rich Man's halls, the anxious faces,
The weary Forum, courts, and cases
Should know us not; but quiet nooks,
But summer shade by field and well,
But county rides, and talk of books,
At home, with these, we fain would dwell!

"Now neither lives, but day by day
Sees the suns wasting in the west,
And feels their flight, and doth delay
To lead the life he loveth best."

So from thy city prison broke,
Martial, thy wail for life misspent,
And so, through London's noise and smoke
My heart replies to the lament.

For dear as Tagus with his gold,
And swifter Salo, were to thee,
So dear to me the woods that fold
The streams that circle Fernielea!
In stanzas 3 to 5 (from "Brother" to "best"), Lang is translating Martial 5.20:
Si tecum mihi, care Martialis,
securis liceat frui diebus,
si disponere tempus otiosum
et verae pariter vacare vitae:
nec nos atria nec domos potentum
nec litis tetricas forumque triste
nossemus nec imagines superbas;
sed gestatio, fabulae, libelli,
campus, porticus, umbra, Virgo, thermae,
haec essent loca semper, hi labores.
Nunc vivit necuter sibi, bonosque
soles effugere atque abire sentit,
qui nobis pereunt et inputantur.
Quisquam vivere cum sciat, moratur?
Expatriates Martial and Lang both felt themselves out of place, the former in Rome, the latter in London. Tagus and Salo are rivers in Martial's native country of Spain, mentioned by him together in 1.49, and Fernielea (sometimes spelled Fairnilee) is about five miles distant from Lang's birthplace of Selkirk in Scotland.

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