Sunday, December 23, 2012


Descriptio Hiemis

Lorenzo de' Medici (1449-1492), Ambra, first three stanzas (tr. Jon Thiem et al.):
Fled is the time of year that turned the flowers
Into ripe apples, long since gathered in.
The leaves, no longer cleaving to the boughs,
Lie strewn throughout the woods, now much less dense,
And rustle should a hunter pass that way,
A few of whom will sound like many more.
Though the wild beast conceals her wandering tracks,
She cannot cross those brittle leaves unheard.

Among the leafless trees, the verdant laurel
Stands alongside the fragrant Cyprian myrtle,
And firs rise green against the alpine whiteness,
And bend their branches loaded down with snow.
The cypress hides within herself some birds.
The robust pine does battle with the winds,
and lowly junipers keep prickly leaves
yet spare the hand that plucks them carefully.

On some mild sunny slope the olive seems
Now white, now green, according to the wind:
So nature in the olive tree sustains
The greenery that fails in other leaves.
Already with much toil the migrant birds
Have led their weary families beyond
The sea, and on the way had shown them Tritons
And Nereids and other prodigies.
The same, tr. Susanna Watts:
Fled is that Season, which, with ripening ray,
To blushing fruit matur'd the blossoms gay;
No more the leaf its airy station keeps,
But strews th' impoverish'd groves in withering heaps;
Low rustling if, with hasty brushing feet.
The desolated path some hunter beat:—
No more in safety lurks the beast of prey,
The dry disorder'd leaves his track betray.

Still blooms the Laurel 'mid the forest drear,
And the sweet shrub to Cytherea dear;
Mid the white Alps the Fir his verdure shows,
His branches bending with their weight of snows;
To some lone bird the Cypress shelter lends,
While with the winds the vigourous Pine contends;
The humble Juniper, though thorns surround,
The hand that gently crops forbears to wound;

On some sweet sunny hill the Olive grows,
Now green, now silver, as the zephyr blows,
Distinguish'd high o'er all the sylvan scene,
Propitious Nature feeds its constant green.
The wand'ring Birds with strength of wing endued.
O'er trackless seas have led their weary brood;
And show'd them as they pass'd, the sea-born train,
Tritons and Nereids sporting in the main.
The Italian:
Fugita è la stagion che avea conversi
e fiori in pomi già maturi e còlti;
in ramo non può più foglia, tenersi,
ma sparte per li boschi assai men folti
si fan sentir, se avvien che gli atraversi
el cacciatore, e i pochi paion molti;
la fera, se ben l'orme vaghe absconde,
non va secreta per le secche fronde.

Tra li àlbor secchi stassi il läur lieto,
e di Ciprigna l'odorato arbusto;
verdeggia nelle bianche alpe l'abeto,
e piega e rami già di neve onusto;
tiene el cipresso qualche uccel secreto,
e co' venti combatte il pin robusto;
l'umil ginepro con le acute foglie
la man non punge altrui, chi ben lo coglie.

La uliva in qualche dolce piaggia aprica
secondo el vento par or verde or bianca:
natura in questi tal serba e nutrica
quel verde che nell'altre fronde manca.
Già e peregrini uccei con gran fatica
hanno condotto la famiglia stanca
di là dal mare, e pel camin lor mostri
Nerëide, Tritoni et altri mostri.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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