Thursday, January 11, 2007


Home Sweet Home

One of Catullus' most engaging poems is number 31, of which Walter Savage Landor wrote, "Never was a return to home expressed so sensitively and beautifully as here."

Its simple, heartfelt emotion is the despair of translators. Let's start out with the bare prose rendition of F.W. Cornish, followed by the Latin original, and then see how various English poets have rendered it.
Sirmio, bright eye of peninsulas and islands, all that in liquid lakes or vast ocean either Neptune bears; how willingly and with what joy I revisit you, scarcely trusting myself that I have left Thynia and the Bithynian plains, and that I see you in safety. Ah, what is more blessed than to put cares away, when the mind lays by its burden, and tired with labour of far travel we have come to our own home and rest on the couch we longed for? This it is which alone is worth all these toils. Welcome, lovely Sirmio, and rejoice in your master, and rejoice ye too, waters of the Lydian lake, and laugh out aloud all the laughter you have in your home.

Paene insularum, Sirmio, insularumque
ocelle, quascumque in liquentibus stagnis
marique vasto fert uterque Neptunus,
quam te libenter quamque laetus inviso,
vix mi ipse credens Thyniam atque Bithynos
liquisse campos et videre te in tuto.
o quid solutis est beatius curis,
cum mens onus reponit, ac peregrino
labore fessi venimus larem ad nostrum
desideratoque acquiescimus lecto?
hoc est, quod unumst pro laboribus tantis.
salve, o venusta Sirmio, atque ero gaude:
gaudete vosque, o Lydiae lacus undae:
ridete, quidquid est domi cachinnorum.
Leigh Hunt:
O best of all the scattr'd spots that lie
In sea or lake, -- apple of landscape's eye, --
How gladly do I drop within thy nest,
With what a sight of full, contented rest,
Scarce able to believe my journey o'er,
And that these eyes behold thee safe once more!
Oh where's the luxury like the smile at heart,
When the mind, breathing, lays its load apart, --
When we come home again, tir'd out, and spread
The loosen'd limbs o'er all the wish'd-for bed!
This, this alone is worth an age of toil.
Hail, lovely Sirmio! Hail, paternal soil!
Joy, my bright waters, joy! your master's come!
Laugh, every dimple on the cheek of home!
Thomas Moore:
Sweet Sirmio! thou, the very eye
  Of all peninsulas and isles,
That in our lakes of silver lie,
  Or sleep enwreathed by Neptune's smiles --

How gladly back to thee I fly!
  Still doubting, asking -- can it be
That I have left Bithynia's sky,
  And gaze in safety upon thee?

Oh! what is happier than to find
  Our hearts at ease, our perils past;
When, anxious long, the lightened mind
  Lays down its load of care at last:

When tired with toil o'er land and deep,
  Again we tread the welcome floor
Of our own home, and sink to sleep
  On the long-wished-for bed once more.

This, this it is that pays alone
  The ills of all life's former track. --
Shine out, my beautiful, my own
  Sweet Sirmio, greet thy master back.

And thou, fair Lake, whose water quaffs
  The light of heaven like Lydia's sea,
Rejoice, rejoice -- let all that laughs
  Abroad, at home, laugh out for me!
Charles Stuart Calverley:
Gem of all isthmuses and isles that lie,
  Fresh or salt water's children, in clear lake
Or ampler ocean: with what joy do I
  Approach thee, Sirmio! Oh! am I awake,
Or dream that once again mine eye beholds
Thee, and has looked its last on Thracian wolds?
  Sweetest of sweets to me that pastime seems,
When the mind drops her burdens: when -- the pain
Of travel past -- our own cot we regain,
  And nestle on the pillow of our dreams!
'Tis this one thought that cheers us as we roam.
  Hail, O fair Sirmio! Joy, thy lord is here!
  Joy too, ye waters of the Golden Mere!
And ring out, all ye laughter-peals of home!
Thomas Hardy:
Sirmio, thou dearest dear of strands
That Neptune strokes in lake and sea,
With what high joy from stranger lands
Doth thy old friend set foot on thee!
Yea, barely seems it true to me
That no Bithynia holds me now,
But calmly and assuringly
Around me stretchest homely Thou.

Is there a scene more sweet than when
Our clinging cares are undercast,
And, worn by alien moils and men,
The long untrodden sill repassed,
We press the pined for couch at last,
And find a full repayment there?
Then hail, sweet Sirmio; thou that wast,
And art, mine own unrivalled Fair!
Stevie Smith:
Dear little Sirmio
Of all capes and islands
Wherever Neptune rides the coastal waters and the open sea
You really are the nicest.

How glad I am to see you again, how fondly I look at you.

No sooner had I left Bithynia -- and what was the name of that other place?
And was safely at sea
I thought only of seeing you.

Really is anything nicer
After working hard and being thoroughly worried
Than to leave it all behind and set out for home
Dear old home and one's own comfortable bed?

Even if one wears oneself out paying for them.

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