Thursday, November 13, 2008


Parva Domus, Magna Quies

Poem attributed to Petronius (tr. Helen Waddell):
Small house and quiet roof tree, shadowing elm,
Grapes on the vine and cherries ripening,
Red apples in the orchard, Pallas' tree
Breaking with olives, and well-watered earth,
And fields of kale and heavy creeping mallows
And poppies that will surely bring me sleep,
And if I go a-snaring for the birds
Or timid deer, or angling the shy trout,
'Tis all the guile that my poor fields will know.
Go now, yea, go, and sell your life, swift life,
For golden feasts. If the end waits me too,
I pray it find me here, and here shall ask
The reckoning from me of the vanished hours.
A more literal translation by Michael Heseltine:
My little house is covered by a roof that fears no harm, and the grape swollen with wine hangs from the fruitful elm. The boughs yield cherries, the orchards ruddy apples, and the trees sacred to Pallas break under the wealth of their branches. And now where the smooth soil drinks from the runnels of the spring, Corycian kale springs up for me and creeping mallows, and the poppy with promise of untroubled sleep. Moreover, if my pleasure is to lay snares for birds, or if I choose rather to entrap the timid deer, or draw out the quivering fish on slender line, so much deceit is all that is known to my humble fields. Go, then, and barter the hours of flying life for rich banquets. My prayer is that since at the last the same end waits for me, it may find me here, here call me to account for the time that I have spent.
Another translation by H.E. Butler:
My cottage is sheltered by a roof that fears no ill; the grape, bursting with wine, hangs from the fertile elm; cherries hang by the bough and my orchard yields its rosy apples, and the tree that Pallas loves breaks beneath the rich burden of its branches. And now, where the garden bed's light soil drinks in the runnels of water, rises for me Corycian kale and low-growing mallow, and the poppy that grants easy slumber. Moreover, whether 'tis my pleasure to set snares for birds or hem in the timid deer, or on fine-meshed net to draw up the affrighted fish, this is all the guile known to my humble lands. Go to, now, and waste the flying hours of life on sumptuous feasts! I pray, that my destined end may find me here, and here demand an account of the days I have lived.
The Latin original:
Parvula securo tegitur mihi culmine sedes
uvaque plena mero fecunda pendet ab ulmo.
dant rami cerasos, dant mala rubentia silvae,
Palladiumque nemus pingui se vertice frangit.
iam qua diductos potat levis area fontes,
Corycium mihi surgit olus malvaeque supinae
et non sollicitos missura papavera somnos.
praeterea sive alitibus contexere fraudem
seu magis imbelles libuit circumdare cervos
aut tereti lino pavidum subducere piscem,
hos tantum novere dolos mea sordida rura.
i nunc et vitae fugientis tempora vende
divitibus cenis. me si manet exitus idem,
hic precor inveniat consumptaque tempora poscat.
Isaak Levitan, Sunny Day

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