Friday, December 10, 2010


Weather Report from Tomis

Ovid, Tristia 3.10.13-34, tr. "T.P." (London: Arthur Bettesworth, 1713), p. 63:
But when that Boreas once doth fly abroad,
Those Countries he with heavy Snow doth load.
Nor doth the Snow dissolve by Sun or Rain,
But the North Wind doth make it still remain:
New Snow doth fall on that which fell before,
While that the Earth is doubly cover'd o'er;
Such is the North Winds Force when it doth blow,
That Towers and Houses it doth overthrow.
The Freezing Mob short Coats and Mantles wear,
To guard their Faces from the sullen Air.
From their long Hair a rustling Sound is heard,
And Hoary Frost shines on each Icy Beard.
The Fragrant Wine to Ice substantial turns,
Nor longer now in Purple Channels runs.
What should I here of Frozen Rivers tell,
Or Waters dug from Pits as deep as Hell?
For Isther here with Nile may equal be,
Whose Sevenfold Streams sink in the raging Sea.
His Azure Waves hid o'er with Ice he keeps,
And so unseen into the Ocean creeps.
Where Ships did Sail the labouring Horses tread,
And on the River find an Icy Bed.
Sarmatian Oxen draw their Waggons o'er
Arches of Ice, stretch'd wide from Shore to Shore.
The same, tr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Deep lies the snow, and neither the sun nor the rain can dissolve it;
  Boreas hardens it still, makes it for ever remain.
Hence, ere the first has melted away another succeeds it,
  And two years it is wont, in many places, to lie.
And so great is the power of the North-wind awakened, it levels
  Lofty towers with the ground, roofs uplifted bears off.
Wrapped in skins, and with trousers sewed, they contend with the weather,
  And their faces alone of the whole body are seen.
Often their tresses, when shaken, with pendent icicles tinkle,
  And their whitened beards shine with the gathering frost.
Wines consolidate stand, preserving the form of the vessels;
  No more draughts of wine,—pieces presented they drink.
Why should I tell you how all the rivers are frozen and solid,
  And from out of the lake frangible water is dug?
Ister,—no narrower stream than the river that bears the papyrus,—
  Which through its many mouths mingles its waves with the deep;
Ister, with hardening winds, congeals its cerulean waters,
  Under a roof of ice, winding its way to the sea.
There where ships have sailed, men go on foot; and the billows,
  Solid made by the frost, hoof-beats of horses indent.
Over unwonted bridges, with water gliding beneath them,
  The Sarmatian steers drag their barbarian carts.
The same, tr. A.D. Melville:
Snow lies and, as it lies, no sun or rain can
  Melt it, congealed for ever by the wind.
Before the first fall thaws another follows
  And lies in places two full years combined.
When the North wind is roused its onslaught levels
  Towers to to the ground and roofs away are reft.
They keep the cold at bay with skins and breeches;
  Of the whole body just the face is left.
With icicles the hair will often tinkle
  And beards are white with frost below the lips.
Wine, left unlagged, stands solid in the shape of
  The jar; it isn't poured, it's served in chips.
Why tell of rivers icy cold has conquered,
  And splitting water hacked from lakes and meres?
The Danube, that through many mouths flows seawards
  And no more narrow than the Nile appears,
Freezes, as winds his dark-blue waters harden,
  And, creeping on, a solid crust he bears.
Where boats went, now they go on foot, and hooves of
  Horses pound currents that the cold congeals.
Across new bridges, water flowing under,
  Sarmatian oxen haul barbarian wheels.
The same, tr. L.P. Wilkinson:
Snow lies, and ere it melt in sun or rain
Comes Boreas and hardens it again;
Ere one dissolves, another fall is here,
In many a place to lie from year to year;
And Aquilo such fury can display,
'Twill level towers and carry roofs away.
Breeches and furs keep out the cruel cold:
No feature but the face can one behold.
Icicles tinkle when men shake their hair,
And rough beards glister with the rime they wear.
Stark stands the wine, the wine-jar's shape preserved,
And from it chunks instead of draughts are served.
What of the rivers bound in icy bonds,
And brittle water quarried out of ponds?
Danube himself, who mingles with the sea
Wide as as the Nile through many mouths as he,
Feels his blue waters by the wind congealed
And creeps to ocean with his flow concealed.
Men cross on foot where ferries lately plied,
And horse-hooves echo o'er the frozen tide,
While on new bridges o'er the flood's domains
Sarmatian oxen haul outlandish wains.
The same, tr. Peter Green:
                          Snow falls: once fallen
  it lies for ever, wind-frosted. Neither sun
nor rain can shift it. Before one fall's melted, another
  comes, and in many places lies two years,
and so fierce the gales, they wrench off rooftops, whirl them
  headlong, skittle tall towers.
Men keep out this aching cold with furs and stiched breeches,
  only their faces left exposed,
and often the hanging ice in their hair tinkles,
  while beards gleam white with frost.
Wine stands unb ottled, retaining the shape of its vessel,
  so that what you get to drink isn't liquor, but lumps.
Shall I describe how the cold here freezes rivers solid,
  how fissile water's chopped from icy ponds
how the very Danube—Nile boasts no broader delta,
  nor more numerous outlets to the deep—  
will freeze as the winds stiff-whip its dark-blue waters,
  and winds its way seaward under ice?
Where ships sailed before, men go on foot now, horses'
  hoofbeats ring out on frozen waves,
and across new bridges, the current gliding under,
  Sarmatian oxen haul rough native carts.
The Latin:
nix iacet, et iactam ne sol pluviaeque resolvant,
  indurat Boreas perpetuamque facit.
ergo ubi delicuit nondum prior, altera venit,
  et solet in multis bima manere locis;
tantaque commoti vis est Aquilonis, ut altas
  aequet humo turres tectaque rapta ferat.
pellibus et sutis arcent mala frigora bracis,
  oraque de toto corpore sola patent.
saepe sonant moti glacie pendente capilli,
  et nitet inducto candida barba gelu:
nudaque consistunt, formam servantia testae,
  vina, nec hausta meri, sed data frusta bibunt.
quid loquar ut vincti concrescant frigore rivi,
  deque lacu fragiles effodiantur aquae?
ipse papyrifero qui non angustior amne
  miscetur vasto multa per ora freto,
caeruleos ventis latices durantibus, Hister
  congelat et tectis in mare serpit aquis;
quaque rates ierant, pedibus nunc itur, et undas
  frigore concretas ungula pulsat equi;
perque novos pontes, subter labentibus undis,
  ducunt Sarmatici barbara plaustra boves.
I haven't seen John J. Gahan, "Ovid: The Poet in Winter," Classical Journal 73.3 (Feb.-Mar. 1978) 198-202.

Alexei Savrasov, A Winter Road

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