Wednesday, December 22, 2010



Excerpts from Ovid's Tristia (tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler, with some changes of my own):

I am not greedy to obtain limitless wealth.

non ego divitias avidus sine fine parandi.
If 'tis lawful to liken great things to small.

grandia si parvis adsimulare licet.
All things can corrupt perverted minds, yet all those things stand harmless in their proper places.

omnia perversas possunt corrumpere mentes
  stant tamen illa suis omnia tuta locis.
Poor is the field I plough.

tenuis mihi campus aratur.
As for me grudging nature has confined me within a narrow space, granting me but meagre powers.

invida me spatio natura coercuit arto,
  ingenio vires exiguasque dedit.
Not here have I an abundance of books to stimulate and nourish me.

non hic librorum, per quos inviter alarque,
I write for myself—what else can I do?—and I read to myself.

ipse mihi—quid enim faciam?—scriboque legoque.
In weeping there is a certain joy, for by tears grief is sated and relieved.

est quaedam flere voluptas;
  expletur lacrimis egeriturque dolor.
Already my temples are like the plumage of a swan, for white old age is bleaching my dark hair. Already the years of frailty and life's inactive time are stealing upon me, and already 'tis hard for me in my weakness to bear up. Now 'twere time that I should of right cease my toils and live with no harassing fears, to enjoy the leisure that always pleased my taste, comfortably engaged in my pursuits, devoting myself to my humble house and its old Penates, the paternal fields that are now bereft of their master, peacefully growing old in my lady's embrace, among my dear comrades and in my native land. For such consummation as this did my youth once hope; thus to pass these years did I deserve. Not so have the gods decreed...

Iam mea cycneas imitantur tempora plumas,
  inficit et nigras alba senecta comas.
iam subeunt anni fragiles et inertior aetas,
  iamque parum firmo me mihi ferre grave est.
nunc erat, ut posito deberem fine laborum
  vivere cor nullo sollicitante metu,
quaeque meae semper placuerunt otia menti
  carpere et in studiis molliter esse meis,
et parvam celebrare domum veteresque Penates
  et quae nunc domino rura paterna carent,
inque sinu dominae carisque sodalibus inque
  securus patria consenuisse mea.
haec mea sic quondam peragi speraverat aetas;
  hos ego sic annos ponere dignus eram.
non ita dis visum est...
Often my father said, "Why do you try a profitless pursuit? Even Homer left no wealth."

saepe pater dixit "studium quid inutile temptas?
  Maeonides nullas ipse reliquit opes."
"But," you say, "you might better endure your sorrows by keeping silent, and in silence hide your misfortunes." Do you demand that no groans should ensue upon torture, and when a deep wound has been received, do you forbid weeping ? Even Phalaris allowed Perillus within the bronze to utter bellows of torture through the mouth of the bull. When Priam's tears did not offend Achilles, 1 do you, more cruel than an enemy, restrain me from weeping? Though Latona's children made Niobe childless, yet they did not bid her cheeks be dry. 'Tis something to lighten with words a fated evil; to this are due the complaints of Procne and Halcyone. This was why the son of Poeas in his chill cave wearied with his outcries the Lemnian rocks. A suppressed sorrow chokes and seethes within, multiplying perforce its own strength.

"at poteras" inquis "melius mala ferre silendo,
  et tacitus casus dissimulare tuos."
exigis ut nulli gemitus tormenta sequantur,
  acceptoque graui vulnere flere vetas?
ipse Perilleo Phalaris permisit in aere
  edere mugitus et bovis ore queri.
cum Priami lacrimis offensus non sit Achilles,
  tu fletus inhibes, durior hoste, meos?
cum faceret Nioben orbam Latonia proles,
  non tamen et siccas iussit habere genas.
est aliquid, fatale malum per verba levare:
  hoc querulam Procnen Halcyonenque facit.
hoc erat, in gelido quare Poeantius antro
  voce fatigaret Lemnia saxa sua.
strangulat inclusus dolor atque exaestuat intus,
  cogitur et vires multiplicare suas.
Yes, little troubles are helped by the flight of years; with great ones time but increases the ruin they cause.

scilicet exiguis prodest annosa vetustas;
  grandibus accedunt tempore damna malis.
Yet peace there is at times, confidence in peace never.

pax tamen interdum est, pacis fiducia numquam.
I busy my mind with studies beguiling my grief, trying to cheat my cares.

detineo studiis animum falloque dolores,
  experior curis et dare verba meis.
If I look upon the country, 'tis devoid of charm, nothing in the whole world can be more cheerless; if I look upon the men, they are scarce men worthy the name; they have more of cruel savagery than wolves. They fear not laws; right gives way to force, and justice lies conquered beneath the aggressive sword.

sive locum specto, locus est inamabilis, et quo
  esse nihil toto tristius orbe potest,
sive homines, vix sunt homines hoc nomine digni,
  quamque lupi, saevae plus feritatis habent.
non metuunt leges, sed cedit viribus aequum,
  victaque pugnaci iura sub ense iacent.
There is not a single man among these people who perchance might express in Latin any common words whatsoever.

unus in hoc nemo est populo, qui forte Latine
  quaelibet e medio reddere verba queat.
Lo! I am ashamed to confess it; now from long disuse Latin words with difficulty occur even to me!

en pudet et fateor, iam desuetudine longa
  vix subeunt ipsi verba Latina mihi.
Changeable Fortune wanders abroad with aimless steps, abiding firm and persistent in no place; now she comes in joy, now she takes on a harsh mien, steadfast only in her own fickleness.

passibus ambiguis Fortuna volubilis errat
  et manet in nullo certa tenaxque loco,
sed modo laeta venit, vultus modo sumit acerbos,
  et tantum constans in levitate sua est.
Endure, harden thy heart; much heavier things hast thou borne.

perfer et obdura; multo graviora tulisti.
And besides my talent, injured by long neglect, is dull, much inferior to what it was before. A fertile field, if it be not renewed by constant ploughing, will produce nothing but grass and thorns. The horse which has stood for a long time will run but poorly and will be last among those released from the barrier. Any skiff falls into frail rottenness, yawning with cracks, if it has been long separated from its accustomed waters.

adde quod ingenium longa rubigine laesum
  torpet et est multo, quam fuit ante, minus.
fertilis, assiduo si non renovetur aratro,
  nil nisi cum spinis gramen habebit ager.
tempore qui longo steterit, male curret et inter
  carceribus missos ultimus ibit equus.
vertitur in teneram cariem rimisque dehiscit,
  siqua diu solitis cumba vacavit aquis.
Nothing will the rich man's shade carry to its ghostly realm.

nil feret ad Manes divitis umbra suos.

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