Thursday, June 30, 2005


Newbolt and Martial

In the twenty-first century a fondness for Kipling's poetry is the mark of someone with hopelessly jingoistic and antediluvian tastes. I'm fond not only of Kipling but of his near contemporary and soul mate Henry Newbolt (1862-1938), author of these stirring lines:
To set the cause above renown,
  To love the game beyond the prize,
To honour, while you strike him down,
  The foe that comes with fearless eyes;
To count the life of battle good,
  And dear the land that gave you birth,
And dearer yet the brotherhood
  That binds the brave of all the earth . . .
Newbolt wrote two paraphrases of the Roman poet Martial, reproduced below with the Latin originals.

Martial 5.20:

Bernard, if to you and me
  Fortune all at once should give
Years to spend secure and free,
  With the choice of how to live,
Tell me, what should we proclaim
Life deserving of the name?

Winning some one else's case?
  Saving some one else's seat?
Hearing with a solemn face
  People of importance bleat?
No, I think we should not still
Waste our time at others' will.

Summer noons beneath the limes,
  Summer rides at evening cool,
Winter's tales and home-made rhymes,
  Figures on the frozen pool---
These would we for labours take,
And of these our business make.

Ah! but neither you nor I
  Dare in earnest venture so;
Still we let the good days die
  And to swell the reckoning go.
What are those that know the way,
Yet to walk therein delay?

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?

Martial 10.23:

To-day, my friend is seventy-five;
  He tells his tale with no regret;
  His brave old eyes are steadfast yet,
His heart the lightest heart alive.

He sees behind him green and wide
  The pathway of his pilgrim years;
  He sees the shore, and dreadless hears
The whisper of the creeping tide.

For out of all his days, not one
  Has passed and left its unlaid ghost
  To seek a light for ever lost,
Or wail a deed for ever done.

So for reward of life-long truth
  He lives again, as good men can,
  Redoubling his allotted span
With memories of a stainless youth.

Iam numerat placido felix Antonius aevo
  Quindecies actas Primus Olympiadas
praeteritosque dies et tutos respicit annos
  nec metuit Lethes iam propioris aquas.
nulla recordanti lux est ingrata gravisque;
  nulla fuit, cuius non meminisse velit.
Ampliat aetatis spatium sibi vir bonus: hoc est
  vivere bis, vita posse priore frui.

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