Saturday, April 02, 2011


Jacob Balde on Abdalonymus

Thanks very much to Karl Maurer, who sent me his excellent translation of a poem by Jacob Balde (1604-1668) about Abdalonymus:

Lyr. 1.1
The Kitchen-gardener of Royal Blood.
Commendation of a Frugal Life & a Quiet Heart.
In homage to the right worthy
Maximilian Paciecus
when he quit the Forum and aspired to sacred Leisure.
I dine by custom in a bailiff's garden.
What more need I? Not even Juppiter
in Libya's arid horn possesses more.
My wealth? What is enough. Me chicory,
endive, and tender leaves of mallows sate
not one whit less agreeably than Phasis
with a choice pheasant sates a Persian king.
From the earth's grassy breast a brooklet darts
that as I curve my hand in a live cup
slips sweetly babbling past my idleness.
This tree beneath which lazily I lie
I once entrusted to the tepid West winds,
a seedling of the field; and from its birth
I measure the fixed periods of my life.
I do not calculate my time by gazing
at Arab stars, at Babylonian numbers:
but faithful Ceres signals with her fruits
each added year, and over incised marks
a boxwood claw points to the flying hour.
Nature is fruitful. Every day that passes
shines with unsullied sunlight. Gentle Sleep
steps into huts of rustics and breathes round them;
it creeps less often into Tyrian cities.
Peace and sweet Quiet ramble in the fields.
I'm happy not to know a chieftain's worries.
In this soil multiplies a sappy root
of peace continual. May unlucky purple
clothe other men; my only happiness,
though my ancestors were Sidonian kings,
is to live humbly in a private station.
I say things not unknown! My poverty
owns a far greater kingdom. Wealthiest,
that king who puts aside demeaning fear
and though he owns but little, covets less,
and counts it gain. I sip no Caecuban
but sip no poison proffered in jewelled cups.
I do not bed beneath ten snowy fleeces
nor lie awake sad; do not terrify
nor myself tremble. From a throne fate thunders!
A humbler willow, safe from lightning, offers
an earthen house inviolate and intact.
Things highest tremble and the steepest heads
more often plummet under their own weight,
as do the poppy-heads I am now reaping.
Not me, don’t pull me from the flowers I planted,
Chieftains of Pella. Let me age and die here,
where as a youth I lived. Leave me to hack
these acres happily with the hoes I love.
The Latin original:

Ode I.
Regii Sanguinis Olitor.
Commendatio frugalis vitae et quieti animi
In gratiam Cl. Viri
Maximiliani Pacieci
ex negotiorum foro ad sacrum otium aspirantis
Horto me solitus pascere villici,
Ultra quid cupiam? plus neque Iuppiter
In cornu Libyae possidet aridae.
Tota est summa 'satis'. Me cichorea, me
Malvarum foliis addita mollibus,
Haud paullo satiant gratius intyba,
Quam lautis avibus Phasis Achaemenem.
Hic fons gramineo labitur ubere
Et cum viva manu tempero pocula
Iucundo residem murmure praeterit.
Hanc, sub qua recubo languidus arbore,
Commisi tepidis ipse Favoniis,
Parvum semen agri: cuius origine
Vitae certa meae tempora metior.
Non stellis Arabum nec Babyloniis
Intentus numeris computo secula:
Adiectum toties frugibus indicat
Annum fida Ceres: horaque buxea
In quascumque notas forfice tonsilis.
Natura fruimur. Quotquot eunt dies
Puro sole micant. Somnus agrestium
Lenis sponte casas intrat et affluit.
Irrepit Tyriis parcior urbibus.
Pax et blanda quies rura perambulat.
Quid sit cura Ducis, nescio laetius.
Isto continui pullulat otii
Radix alma solo. Purpura vestiat
Infelix alios: me iuvet unice,
Quamvis Sidoniis Regibus editum,
Privatis tenuem vivere censibus.
Haud ignota loquor. Pauperies mei
Regnum maius habet. Ditior omnibus
Rex est, degeneres qui posuit metus:
Qui cum possideat pauca, cupit minus,
Apponitque lucro. Non bibo Caecubum,
Nec porrecta scyphis toxica gemmeis.
Non subter niveis velleribus cubo;
Nec moestus vigilo. Terreo neminem,
A nullis pavidus. De solio tonat
Fatum. Tuta salix fulminis, integram
Sedem praebet humi, nec violabilem.
Semper celsa tremunt: et capita ardua
Toto praecipitant saepius impetu,
Ut nunc summa meto colla papaverum.
Ne me, ne genitis vellite floribus,
Pellaei proceres. Hic moriar senex,
Hic vixi iuvenis. Linquite iugera
Gaudentem placitis findere sarculis.
If this taste has given you an appetite for more of Jacob Balde's poetry, you can find Professor Maurer's translations of other odes here.

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