The collected poems of James Elroy Flecker/Four Translations and Adaptations from Catullus
Four Translations and Adaptatians from Catullus
For whom this pretty pamphlet, polished new
With pumice-stone? Cornelius, for you:
For you were never unprepared to deem
My simple verses worthy of esteem,
Though you yourself–who else in Rome so bold?–
In volumes three have laboured to unfold
A "Universal History of Man"–
Dear Jove! A learned and laborious plan!
Wherefore to you, my friend, I dedicate
This so indifferent bookling; yet I pray,
Poor as it is——O goddess of my fate,
Let it outlive the writer’s transient day!
1900(?): æt. 16
Cupids and loves, and men of gentler mien,
Mourn, for my lady's lovèd one is dead,
Her darling sparrow that to her hath been
Dearer than her own eyes: even as a maid
Loveth her mother, so had he been bred
To know his mistress. He was honeysweet
Nor ever truant from her bosom strayed,
But there would twitter from his soft retreat.
And now—he’s flitting down the Shadow Way,
Ah, never to return! A curse on ye,
Black shades of death, that let no fair thing stay;
How fair a sparrow have ye snatched from me!
Poor birdie–all for thee the teardrops rise,
Till red with weeping are my Love’s bright eyes.
Proud is Phaselus here, my friends, to tell
That once she was the swiftest craft afloat:
No vessel, were she winged with blade or sail
Could ever pass my boat.
Phaselus shunned to shun grim Adria’s shore,
Or Cyclades, or Rhodes the wide renowned,
Or Bosphorus, where Thracian waters roar,
Or Pontus’ eddying sound.
It was in Pontus once, unwrought, she stood,
And conversed, sighing, with her sister trees,
Amastris born, or where Cytorus’ wood
Answers the mountain breeze.
Pontic Amastris, boxwood—clad Cytorus!—
You, says Phaselus, are her closest kin:
Yours were the forests where she stood inglorious:
The waters yours wherein
She dipped her virgin blades; and from your strand
She bore her master through the cringing straits,
Nought caring were the wind on either hand,
Or whether kindly fates
Filled both the straining sheets. Never a prayer
For her was offered to the gods of haven,
Till last she left the sea, hither to fare,
And to be lightly laven
By the cool ripple of the clear lagoon.
. . . .
This too is past; at length she is allowed
Long slumber through her life’s long afternoon, .
To Castor and the twin of Castor vowed.
When lounging idle mid forensic whirl,
Friend Varus took me off to see his girl.
The naughty wench, I very soon was shewn,
Had got some wit and beauty of her own.
Arriving, we began a busy chat
On politics, and weather, this and that–
Then on my province’s internal state,
And "Had I found the profit adequate"
I answered truthfully, "There’s nothing there
For common soldier or for officer
Wherewith to purchase grease for home-bound hair."
"You found at least"–said she–"one always can:
Some aboriginals for your sedan?"
Said I in answer, posing for her eyes
In prosperous and fashionable guise,
"Oh, really, I was not so penniless
That any mere provincial distress
Should render me incompetent to get
Eight smartish bearers for the voiturette."
(In truth there was no slave in all the earth
Whom I could then have summoned to my hearth
To shoulder the debilitated leg
Of my old pallet). "Then, dear friend, I beg"–
Cries she most aptly for so bad a minx–
I want to pay a visit to the Sphinx–
You’ll lend them me just to the temple door,
My sweet Catullus?"
"Oh, you may be sure"–
Said I–"I would–but what I mentioned now
As mine–I just forgot–what matter how?–
My messmate Cinna, Gaius Cinna, he
Has commandeered them; Really, as for me,
What difference if you call them his or mine?
I use them just whenever I incline.
But you’re a silly pestilential jade
To want a chance remark so nicely weighed?