Poetry Translations

Marching to Sinopi

 

Glorious Mithridates, lord of men,

Marching towards Sinopi, took

A detour to a mudbrick village where

A soothsayer lived.

 

He sent an officer to ask

How much more he would win;

 

Then pressed ahead, Sinopi-wards.

 

The soothsayer withdrew

For half an hour, then reappeared,

Expressing his regrets:

 

“The air is thick, the light is wrong,

My sight is dim, ergo

It’s not a day to soothsay, but

Tell Mithridates this:

 

He won’t meet many like his forebear’s friend,

Who scribbled with his spear-point in the dust:

Mithridates, run . . . ”

Julia Griffin teaches Renaissance English Literature at Georgia Southern University. She has published poems in Light, Mezzo Cammin, and other magazines online.

with Susan McLean

Ἐν πορείᾳ πρὸς τὴν Σινώπην

 

Ὁ Μιθριδάτης, ἔνδοξος καὶ κραταιός,

μεγάλων πόλεων ὁ κύριος,

κάτοχος ἰσχυρῶν στρατῶν καὶ στόλων,

πηγαίνοντας πρὸς τὴν Σινώπην πέρασε ἀπὸ δρόμον

ἐξοχικόν, πολὺ ἀπόκεντρον

ὅπου ἕνας μάντις εἶχε κατοικίαν.

 

Ἔστειλεν αξιωματικό του ὁ Μιθριδάτης

τὸν μάντι νὰ ρωτήσει πόσα θ’ ἀποκτήσει ἀκόμη

στὸ μέλλον ἀγαθά, πόσες δυνάμεις ἄλλες.

 

Ἔστειλεν ἀξιωματικό του, καὶ μετὰ

πρὸς τὴν Σινώπην τὴν πορεία του ξακολούθησε.

 

Ὁ μάντις ἀποσύρθηκε σ’ ἕνα δωμάτιο μυστικό.

Μετὰ περίπου μισὴν ὥρα βγῆκε

περίφροντις, κ’ εἶπε στὸν ἀξιωματικό,

«Ἱκανοποιητικῶς δὲν μπόρεσα νὰ διευκρινίσω.

Κατάλληλη δὲν εἶν’ ἡ μέρα σήμερα.

Κάτι σκιώδη πράγματα εἶδα. Δὲν κατάλαβα καλά. —

Μὰ ν’ ἀρκεσθεῖ, φρονῶ, μὲ τόσα ποὺ ἔχει ὁ βασιλεύς.

Τὰ περισσότερα εἰς κινδύνους θὰ τὸν φέρουν.

Θυμήσου νὰ τὸν πεῖς αὐτό, ἀξιωματικέ:

μὲ τόσα ποὺ ἔχει, πρὸς θεοῦ, ν’ ἀρκεῖται!

Ἡ τύχη ξαφνικὲς ἔχει μεταβολές.

Νὰ πεῖς στὸν βασιλέα Μιθριδάτη:

λίαν σπανίως βρίσκεται ὁ ἑταῖρος τοῦ προγόνου του

ὁ εὐγενής, ποὺ ἐγκαίρως μὲ τὴν λόγχην γράφει

στὸ χῶμα ἐπάνω τὸ σωτήριον Φεῦγε Μιθριδάτα.»

 

Constantin Cavafy (1863-1933) is generally considered the greatest Greek poet of the 20th century. He had a particular love for the ancient Classical world.

Various Effects of Love

 

To be fainthearted, to be bold, possessed,

abrasive, tender, open, isolated,

spirited, dying, dead, invigorated,

loyal, treacherous, venturesome, repressed.

 

Not to find, without your lover, rest.

To seem happy, sad, haughty, understated,

emboldened, fugitive, exasperated,

satisfied, offended, doubt-obsessed.

 

To face away from disillusionment,

to swallow venom like liqueur, and quell

all thoughts of gain, embracing discontent;

 

to believe a heaven fits inside a hell,

to give your soul to disillusionment.

That’s love; whoever tastes it, knows it well.

 

First published in Unsplendid.

Sonnet LXI, Rimas Humanas

 

To go and stay, to stay and split apart,

to part without a soul and make your way

with someone else’s soul; to have to stay

bound to the mast while a siren tempts your heart;

 

to burn straight down the wick until you’re spent,

constructing castles on the softest sand;

to tumble from a heaven and be damned,

a tortured demon, never to repent;

 

to speak among hushed solitudes; to accrue

on faith a debt of patience; to proclaim

eternal all this fleeting daily strife;

 

to trust suspicions and suspect what’s true

is what the world calls absence: it’s a flame

within your soul, a hell within your life.

 

First published in Unsplendid.

David Rosenthal lives in Berkeley, California, and teaches in the Oakland public schools. His poems have appeared in Rattle, Measure, Birmingham Poetry Review, and many others. He’s been a Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award finalist and a Pushcart nominee.

Varios Efectos del Amor

 

Desmayarse, atreverse, estar furioso,

áspero, tierno, liberal, esquivo,

alentado, mortal, difunto, vivo,

leal, traidor, cobarde, animoso.

 

No hallar, fuera del bien, centro y reposo.

Mostrarse alegre, triste, humilde, altivo,

enojado, valiente, fugitivo,

satisfecho, ofendido, receloso.

 

Huir el rostro al claro desengaño,

beber veneno por licor suave,

olvidar el provecho, amar el daño;

 

creer que un cielo en un infierno cabe,

dar la vida y el alma a un desengaño;

esto es amor, quien lo probó lo sabe.

Soneto LXI, Rimas Humanas

 

Ir y quedarse y con quedar partirse,

partir sin alma y ir con alma ajena;

oír la dulce voz de una sirena

y no poder del árbol desasirse;

 

arder como la vela y consumirse,

haciendo torres sobre tierna arena;

caer de un cielo, y ser demonio en pena,

y de serlo jamás arrepentirse;

 

hablar entre las mudas soledades,

pedir prestada, sobre fé, paciencia,

y lo que es temporal llamar eterno;

 

creer sospechas y negar verdades,

es lo que llaman en el mundo ausencia:

fuego en el alma y en la vida infierno.

Lope De Vega (1562-1635) was a key figure of the Spanish Golden Age. Nicknamed “Monster of Nature” by Cervantes and often called the “Spanish Shakespeare,” he produced more than 1,500 plays and 3,000 sonnets. His works are considered classics of Spanish literature.

To Camerius Again (after Catullus, LVIII B)

 

Cast me as Talos, Crete’s bronze sentinel,

Rounding three times a day his country’s coast;

Ladas, who, winning, died once past the post;

Wing-footed Perseus; he who could compel

The winged horse, Pegasus; Rhesus, whose skill

Guiding his pair, swift, snow-white, none surpassed;

Throw in the whole fleet, flying, feathered cast;

Beasts racing away in flight, in for the kill.

 

Then requisition the winds at my behest;

Let them be yoked to race at my sweet will

― Worn to the marrow, I will plead for rest;

A lassitude, an ache my will can’t quell.

Elusive friend, I take your absence ill,

Camerius, in my unending quest.

 

 

Ranald Barnicot has published three books of translation and original poems. His latest, Friendship, Love, Abuse etc. (Dempsey and Windle), a translation of the shorter poems of Catullus, was published in August, 2020.

LVIII B

 

Non custos si fingar ille Cretum,

non Ladas ego pinnipesve Perseus,

non si Pegaseo ferar volatu,

non Rhesi niveae citaeque bigae;

adde huc plumipedas volatilesque,

ventorumque simul require cursum,

quos iunctos, Cameri, mihi dicares:

defessus tamen omnibus medullis

et multis languoribus peresus

essem te mihi, amice, quaeritando.

 

Catullus (c. 85? – c.54? BCE) is most famous for his love poems to Lesbia (probably the married woman Clodia Metelli). However, he also wrote fine poems celebrating friendship, excoriating his enemies, including Julius Caesar (often obscenely), and recounting Greek legend.

water and tree scape

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