Saturday, July 9, 2011

Poem by Boethius

It's time to get out of the garden now that the typically really hot and humid Ontario summer is underway. So ..... latin verse. This one is by Boethius from Consolatio Philosophiae (Loeb Edition), Book II, Verse I.

Haec cum superba verterit vices dextra
Et aestuantis more fertur Euripi,
Dudum tremendos saeva proterit reges
Humilemque victi sublevat fallax vultum
Non illa miseros audit aut curat fletus
Ultroque gemitus dura quos fecit ridet.
Sic illa ludit, sic suas probat vires
Magnumque suis demonstrat ostentum, si quis
Visatur una stratus ac felix hora.

It does not rhyme. Latin poetry gets its rhythm from long and short stresses which would not be doable in a non-inflected language since word order would then matter. Just because an adjective is next to a noun does not mean the adjective describes that noun. This meter is said (on the Perseus site) to be in 'scazons' or 'limping iambic triameter'. I will take their word for it. I could not make the long and short fit. It matters because in a word like 'una', for example, because, if the 'a' is long, it is in the ablative form. If the 'a' is short, then it is in the nominative form. 'Vices dextra' was odd because does not mean 'wheel of fortune but has been translated that way. Checking the Oxford Latin Dictionary, vicis can mean 'a rotation' and dextra can mean 'right' not in the sense of direction but as 'fortune' however dextra is not in the genitive. It is awkward. If I was translating this without a dictionary or notes, I would be lost as to what Boethius is saying.
Euripus is a narrow strait between Euboea and Boeotia which has strong tidal currents. It is used here as poetic for 'tide'. Of course if you don't know what Euripus is, you would be lost. I hate Latin poetry. I don't like the translation in the Loeb edition. The one at Perseus is better but mine is best. And here it is.

With arrogance, this one will have turned the wheel of fortune
And it is foolishly carried away with the force of a tidal surge.
Just now the cruel one tramples down formidable kings
And the false one raises up the humble face of the conquered.
That one does not hear the wretched or care about the weeping ones,
And furthermore the harsh one laughs at those she has made groan.
Thus she will play.
In this way she tests her own strength
And she shows a great wonder to her own,
If someone is seen within the same hour
Lucky and laid low.

The voice is Lady Philosophy condemning Fortuna.


Tracy said...

'limping iambic triameter'.
Sounds a bit lame to me.

Just because an adjective is next to a noun does not mean the adjective describes that noun.

Well, I think you did an excellent job of translating it.

anachronist said...

Oh Fortuna...Carmina Burana anyone? That rail-thin, bilious bitch Philosophy can say what she like, Fortuna has more suitors than ever...

The Red Witch said...

@'limping iambic triameter'.
Sounds a bit lame to me.

:-) It is called that because it ends with a spondee - two long syllables. Thank you.

Anachronist, Boethius gives the flip side which is human greed. However much Fortune favors people, they always feel they must have more but I like your take on it.