Sunday, December 16, 2012


Sans Teeth, Sans Eyes, Sans Taste, Sans Everything

Maximianus, Elegies 1.119-156 (tr. L.R. Lind):
Now hearing is less, taste less, my very eyes
Grow dim; I barely know the things I touch,        120
No smell is sweet, no pleasure now is grateful:
Devoid of feeling, who's sure that he survives?
Lethean oblivion comes upon my mind
Nor can it now, confused, remember itself;
It rises to meet no demand, with the body weakens,        125
Is stupefied, concentrating on its ills.
I sing no songs; the greatest joy of song
Has fled; true grace of voice has perished quite.
I arouse no public, write no alluring poems,
Seek favorable judgments with suits by no means savage.        130
The handsome looks I loved have now departed,
And now I seem to be as dead as they.
Instead of my healthy red and white complexion
A pallor stains my face, bloodless as death.
My parched skin dries, stiff tendons stand out on it,        135
And claw-like hands now scratch my itching limbs.
Once smiling eyes now weep with endless tears,
Both night and day deplore their punishment,
And where neat eyebrows brought together lashes
Now a rough forest overhangs and covers        140
As though the eyes were stowed in some dark cavern:
What fierce and frighful thing they see I know not.
To gaze at an old man now brings fear, nor can you
Believe that he's a man, who lacks man's reason.
If I read books, the letters split in two,        145
The page I knew seems larger than it was.
I seem to see a bright light through the clouds;
The clouds themselves are bright within my eyes.
Daylight is gone though I still live; who will
Deny that hell is fenced with opaque darkness?        150
What madman has convinced him to believe
Such things, to wish it worse than he had prayed for?
Now come his ills, a thousand perils come,
And now sweet banquets and delights grow harmful.
We must abandon everything that pleases;        155
That we may live, we are deprived of living.
The Latin:
iam minor auditus, gustus minor; ipsa caligant
  lumina; vix tactu noscere certa queo.        120
nullus dulcis odor, nulla est iam grata voluptas:
  sensibus expertem quis superesse putet?
en Lethaea meam subeunt oblivia mentem,
  nec confusa sui iam meminisse potest:
ad nullum consurgit opus, cum corpore languet        125
  atque intenta suis astupet illa malis.
carmina nulla cano: cantandi summa voluptas
  effugit et vocis gratia vera perit.
non fora sollicito, non blanda poemata fingo,
  litibus haut rabidis commoda iura sequor.        130
ipsaque me species quondam dilecta reliquit
  et videor formae mortuus esse meae.
pro niveo rutiloque prius nunc inficit ora
  pallor et exanguis funereusque color.
aret sicca cutis, rigidi stant undique nervi,        135
  et lacerant uncae scabida membra manus.
quondam ridentes oculi nunc fonte perenni
  deplangunt poenas nocte dieque suas;
et quos grata prius ciliorum serta tegebant,
  desuper incumbens hispida silva premit,        140
ac velut inclusi caeco conduntur in antro:
  torvum nescio quid heu furiale vident.
iam pavor est vidisse senem, nec credere possis
  hunc hominem humana qui ratione caret.
si libros repeto, duplex se littera findit,        145
  largior occurrit pagina nota mihi.
claram per nebulas videor mihi cernere lucem,
  nubila sunt oculis ipsa serena meis.
eripitur sine morte dies: caligine caeca
  septum tartareo quis neget esse loco?        150
talia quis demens homini persuaserit auctor
  ut cupiat voto turpior esse suo?
iam subeunt morbi, subeunt discrimina mille,
  iam dulces epulae deliciaeque nocent.
cogimur a gratis animum suspendere rebus,        155
  atque ut vivamus vivere destitimus.

Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), Dropping Off

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