Goldwin Smith.

Bay leaves : translations from the Latin poets online

. (page 1 of 5)
Online LibraryGoldwin SmithBay leaves : translations from the Latin poets → online text (page 1 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Received WAR 20 1894 , 189 .









Goldvin-5milh. Wrfn go*



All rights reserved

Copyright, 1893,

Set up and electrotyped September, 1893. Reprinted
January, x8 94 . j^

KortoootJ $ms3 :

J. S. Cushing & Co. Berwick & Smith.

Boston, Mass., U.S.A.




*HPHE translator of Latin poetry has the comfort of
"* m knowing that he is separated from his authors by
no chasm of thought and sentiment, such as that which
separates the translator from Homer, or even from ^Eschy-
lus. The men are intellectually almost his contempora-
ries. Gibbon was right in thinking that no age would
have suited him better than that of the Antonines, pro-
vided he had been, as he naturally took it for granted that
he would, a wealthy gentleman and a philosophic Pagan,
not a slave or a Christian. He and a cultivated Roman
of that day, or of Cicero's day, would have thoroughly
understood each other. Their views of life would have
been pretty much the same, so would their religion, so
would their mythology, for the literary men of the Geor-
gian era had adopted the Pagan Pantheon, and Jupiter,
Mars, Venus, and Diana were their divinities. Even the
conventional worship of the Roman Emperor would have
had something like a counterpart in the conventional
reverence for " great George," and the political tempera-


ment of the philosophic Roman would have been in
exact harmony with that of Hume and Gibbon. Horace
Walpole might have heartily enjoyed a supper with Ho-
ratius Flaccus ; he might even have supped well, though
he would have politely passed the dormice. He and his
host would have interchanged ideas with perfect ease.
This affinity is largely due of course to the direct influence
of classical education on the moderns ; but it was also
partly due, especially in the religious sphere, to a similarity
in circumstances between the two epochs. Apart, there-
fore, from mere difficulties of construction or allusion, the
translator may be sure that he knows what his author
means. Lucretius is further removed from us than the
poets of the Empire in forms of thought and in language
as well as in date. But he is brought wonderfully near to
our age by his Atomic and Epicurean philosophy and by
the sentiment connected with it. Sometimes the likeness
is startling.

The translations are free, and it is hardly possible that
any but a free translation can be the semblance of an
equivalent for the poetry of the original. A literal transla-
tion, as a rule, can only be a fetter-dance. The general
thought, the tone, and choice expressions are all that a
translator can usually hope to produce.

It can be hardly necessary to say anything about authors
so well known. Familiar to all who would take up any-
thing classical are Lucretius, the real didactic poet, who
used his poetry as " honey on the rim " of the cup out


of which a generation*, distracted with mad ambition and
civil war, was to drink the medicinal draught of the
Epicurean philosophy, and be at once beguiled of its
woes and set free from the dark thraldom of supersti-
tion ; Catullus with his Byronian mixture of sensibility
and depravity; Tibullus, famed in his day like Shen-
stone and Tickell, about their fair equivalent, and the
offspring of the same fashion of dallying with verse ;
Propertius, whose crabbed style and sad addiction to
frigid mythology are sometimes relieved by passages of
wonderful tenderness and beauty ; Ovid, whose marvellous
facility, vivacity, and to use the word in its eighteenth
century sense wit, too often misemployed, appear in all
his works, and who, though he had no more feeling than
Pope, shows in the epistle of Dido to ^Sneas that he
could, like the writer of Elo'isa to Abelard, get up a fine
tempest of literary passion ; Horace, whom, for some
occult reason, one loves the better the older one grows ;
Seneca, seeking under the Neronian Reign of Terror to
make for himself an asylum of stoicism and suicide ;
Lucan, through whose early death, which left his work
crude as well as incomplete, we have perhaps missed a
great political epic, and who, in his best passages, rivals
the writer of Absalom and Achitophel; Martial, the
creator of the epigram, the mirror of the social habits of
Imperial Rome, amidst whose heaps of rubbish and ordure
are some better things and some pleasant pictures of
Roman character and life ; and the marvellous resurrec-


tion of Roman poetry in Claudian. A translator can
only hope that he has not done great wrong to their

Both Virgil and Juvenal are read in well-known trans-
lations; nor are passages so easily detached from the
narrative of Virgil as from the philosophy of Lucretius.


De Rerum Nat. 4


I. 11. 1-40. Opening Invocation to Venus 1

I. H.62-101. A Defence of Free-thinking 2

II. 11. 1-61. The Consolations of Science 4

III. 11. 1-30. The Light of the Ancient World .... 6

III. 11. 895-1094. Against the Fear of Death 8


Carm. III. On the Death of a Favourite Sparrow ... 14

IV. The Old Ship 15

V. Love and Death 16

XXXI. Once more at Home 16

LXX. Woman's Inconstancy ........ 17


Eleg. I. i. Farewell to Ambition 18





Eleg. I. ii. Beauty Unadorned 21

V. xi. Epitaph on a Wife 22


Amor. I. ii. The Triumph of Love 27

I. vi. To the Porter of his Mistress's House . . 29

II. vi. On the Death of a Parrot 32

III. ix. An Elegy on the Death of Tibullus ... 34

Heroid. VII. Dido to ^Eneas 37


Od. I. v. To Pyrrha 44

I. xi. Ignorance of the Future is Bliss .... 45

I. xxiii. To a Coy Girl 45

I. xxxi. The Poet's Prayer 46

I. xxxviii. Simplicity 47

II. vii. Welcome to a Long Absent Friend ... 47

II. ix. To a Friend who had Lost his Love ... 49
II. xv. Against the Selfish Luxury of a Degenerate

Age 50

II. xvi. Peace and Quiet 51

III. v. The Patriot Martyr 53

III. vii. To a Girl whose Lover was Absent at Sea . 55

III. ix. The Reconciliation of Lovers 57



Od. III. xiii. The Spring of Bandusia 58

III. xxi. To a Cask of Wine 59

III. xxix. The Poet's Invitation to the Statesman . . 60

Epod. II. A Rich Usurer's Dream of Rural Happiness 63


Thyestes. 11. 344-403. The Stoic Idea of Perfection . . 66


I. 11. 1 19-182. The Characters of Pompey and Caesar . 68
IX. 11. 189-213. Cato on the Death of Pompey ... 71
IX. 11. 543-585. Cato at the Temple of Ammon ... 72



I. xiii. On the Death of Arria and Petus .... 74

I. xv. The Fleeting Joys of Life 74

I. xxxix. The Perfect Friend 75

I. lxxxix. . On the Death of a Young and Favourite

Slave 76

I. xciii. On Two Old Roman Officers Buried Side

by Side 76

II. xi. The Diner-out Disappointed 77

II. lxviii. A Revolt 77




III. xxi. On a Slave who had been Branded by his

Master 78

III. xxxv., xli. On Two Works of Art 78

III. lviii. Roman Life in the Country 79

IV. viii. The Occupation of a Roman Day .... 81
IV. xiii. On a Friend's Wedding 82

V. xx. The True Business of Life 82

V. xlii. An Exhortation to Liberality 83

VIII. xviii. Literary Chivalry 84

VIII. lxix. The Reverse of the Last 84

X. xxiv. On His Own Birthday 85

X. xlvii. A Roman Gentleman's Idea of Happiness . 85
X. 1. On the Untimely Death of a Famous Char-
ioteer 86

XII. xxxiv. Vicissitudes of Friendship 87


In Rufin. I. 11. 1-2 1. Providence Vindicated .... 88


De Rerum Nat., I. 1-40.

ALneadum genetrix ; hominum divomque voluntas -


GODDESS from whom descends the race of Rome,
Venus, of heaven and earth supreme delight,
Hail thou that all beneath the starry dome

Lands rich with grain and seas with navies white
Blessest and cherishest ! Where thou dost come

Enamelled earth decks her with posies bright
To meet thy advent ; clouds and tempests flee
And joyous light smiles over land and sea.

Often as comes again the vernal hour
And balmy gales of spring begin to blow,

Birds of the air first feel thy sovereign power
And, stirred at heart, its genial influence show.

Next the wild herds the grassy champaign scour
Drawn by thy charm and stem the river's flow.

In mountain, wood, field, sea, all things by grace

Of Venus love, and love preserves their race.


Mother of life and beauty that dost bring
All things in order forth, thy aid I claim

When to our Memmius I essay to sing
Of nature and the universal frame

Memmius whom thy own hand has crowned the king
Of all that charms or wins the meed of fame.

Grace thou my verse and while I sing bid cease

Fell war, and let the weary earth have peace.

This thou alone canst do, since thou alone

Mars, battle's master, by thy spells canst bind ;

Oft does the God of War love's cravings own
Unquenchable, and on thy lap reclined,

His shapely neck back in his rapture thrown,

His soul to thine through looks of passion joined,

Feed on thy beauty. Cflasp him to thy breast,

Fill him with thy sweet self, and give us rest.

De Rerum Nat., I. 62-101.

Humana ante oculos foede cum vitajaceret

PROSTRATE lay human life beneath the spell
Of dark Religion lowering from the skies ;
Nor was one found to break that thraldom fell

Until a man of Greece dared lift his eyes,
One whom no vengeful thunderbolts could quell
Nor wrath of gods. But on his high emprize,


Chafed to sublimer daring and intent,

To burst through Nature's portals forth he went.

Thus his undaunted spirit for mankind

O'er Superstition's power the victory won ;

Past the world's flaming walls his venturous mind
Through the unmeasured universe pressed on ;

Thence brought us word how Being is defined
By bounds fast set which nothing may o'er-run.

So trampled under foot Religion lies

While Science soars victorious to the skies.

Nor deem it sin by Reason to be freed,
Or think I lead thee an unholy way ;

Rather to many a dark and bloody deed
Religion hurries those who own her sway.

Was not Iphigenia doomed to bleed

By the Greek chiefs, though first of men were

Staining the altar of the Trivian Maid

At Aulis where the fleet by winds was stayed ?

Lo ! on her tresses fair for bridal tire
The sacrificial fillet they have bound ;

Beside the altar weeping stands her sire :
In all the crowd no tearless eye is found.

The priests make ready for their office dire,

Yet pitying hide the knife. When gazing round

The Maiden sees her doom, her spirit dies,

Her limbs sink down, speechless on earth she lies.



The firstborn of his children she in vain

Had brought the name of father to the king.

In arms upborne she goes, not by a train
Of youths that the loud hymeneal sing

Around a happy bride in joyous strain
Bearing her home, but a sad offering,

There to be slain by him who gave her birth.

Such evil hath Religion wrought on earth.

De Rerum Nat., II. 1-61.

Suave, mari magno turbantibus cequora ventis

TIS sweet, when tempests lash the tossing main,
Another's perils from the shore to see ;
Not that we draw delight from others' pain,

But in their ills feel our security :
'Tis sweet to view ranged on the battle plain

The warring hosts, ourselves from danger free :
But sweeter still to stand upon the tower
Reared in serener air by wisdom's power ;

Thence to look down upon the wandering ways
Of men that blindly seek to live aright,

See them waste sleepless nights and weary days,
Sweat in ambition's press, that to the height

Of power and glory they themselves may raise.
O minds misguided and devoid of light,


In what a coil, how darkling do ye spend
This lease of being that so soon must end !

Fools ! What doth nature crave ? A painless frame,
Therewith a spirit void of care or fear.

Calm ease and true delight are but the same.
What, if for thee no golden statues rear

The torch to light the midnight feast, nor flame
The long-drawn palace courts with glittering

Nor roofs of fretted gold with music ring,

Yet hast thou all things that true pleasure bring

Pleasure like theirs that 'neath the spreading tree
Beside the brook, on the soft greensward lie,

In kindly circle feasting cheerfully

On simple dainties, while the sunny sky

Smiles on their sport and flowrets deck the lea,
Bright summer over all. Will fevers fly

The limbs that toss on purple and brocade

Sooner than those on poor men's pallets laid ?

And as to chase the body's ills away

Wealth, birth, and kingly majesty are vain,

So is it with the mind's disease : array

Thy mail-clad legions on the swarming plain,

Bid them deploy, wheel, charge in mimic fray,
As though one soul moved all the mighty train,

With war's full pomp and circumstance : will all

Set free the mind to dreadful thoughts a thrall ?


Crowd ocean with thy fleets, a thousand sail ;

Will thy armada banish from the breast
The fear of death ? If then of no avail

Are all these baubles, if the soul's unrest
Yields not to bristling spear or clashing mail,

If haunting care climbs, an unbidden guest,
To power's most awful seat, and mocks his gown
Of gorgeous purple and his radiant crown,

Delay no longer reason's aid to try,

Since reason's aid alone can mend our plight

That walk in darkness, and, like babes that cry
With silly terror in the lonesome night

At their own fancy's bugbears, ofttimes fly,

Mere grown-up children, bugbears of the light.

These shadows not the glittering shafts of day

Must chase, but Science with more sovran ray.

De Rerum Nat., III. 1-30.

E Unebris tantis tarn clarum extollere lumen


To Epicurus.

OTHOU that in such darkness such a light
Didst kindle, to man's ways a beacon fire !
Glory of Grecian land ! To tread aright

Where thou hast trod, this is my heart's desire.


To love, not rival, is my utmost flight ;

To rival thee what mortal can aspire ?
Can swallows match with swans, or the weak feet
Of kids vie in the race with coursers fleet ?

Father, discoverer, guide, we owe to Thee

The golden precepts that shall ne'er grow old ;

As bees sip honey on the flowery lea,

Knowledge we sip of all the world doth hold.

Thy voice is heard : at once the shadows flee,
The portals of the universe unfold,

And ranging through the void thy followers' eye

Sees Nature at her work in earth and sky.

Of Deity the secrets straight appear ;

The gods within their calm abode are seen ;
Abodes which rains ne'er drench, which tempests drear

Ne'er beat, nor chills the freezing winter keen.
But over-canopied with ether clear

They ever smile with glorious light serene ;
While Nature's self doth every want supply,
Nor pain, nor care those mansions come anigh :

But Hell and all its terrors vanish quite.

Though nought is left behind our feet to hide
The abyss from view, Hell nowhere meets the sight :

Into my bosom flows the mingled tide
Of shuddering awe and of divine delight

To see thy genius which all truth descried
Thus Nature's inmost mysteries unseal
And all her ways in Heaven and Earth reveal.


De Rerum Nat., III. 894-1094.

yam, jam non domus accipiet te laeta

" r I ^HY home no more will welcome thee, nor wife

JL And loving children run thy kiss to share,
And make thy heart o'erflow with joy. Now life

And life's delights are gone without repair :
One day has reft all that with bliss was rife,

And widowed all that hung upon thy care."
So say they ever, but forget to say
All cravings ended on that selfsame day.

Were but this truth upon their hearts impressed,
Changed were their rede. "Thy troubles all are

Then would they say, "This day hath brought thee
Thou sleepest well after thy travail sore,

While we, round thy pale corpse with heavy breast
Gathering, with ceaseless tears thy loss deplore."

Sweet after toil is sleep, then wherefore sorrow

For him who sleeps and will not wake to-morrow?

So, at the festive board, as crowned with flowers
And cup in hand they sit, the revellers cry :

" Drink, comrades, drink ; a fleeting span is ours,
Poor mortals that we are, of jollity ;


Nor comes it back. Then seize the flying hours."

Fools that they are of a fond fantasy !
Can senseless clay for the lost banquet crave,
Or the lips miss the wine- cup in the grave ?

So, when the soul is drowned in slumber deep
We feel no want, we reck not, hap what may,

We miss not our own selves, nor care of sleep
The bond to break, though it should last for aye ;

Albeit our spirits then their mansion keep
And consciousness returns with dawn of day.

How then if sleep for nothing taketh thought

Shall death, that hath no wakening, care for aught ?

What then if Nature find a voice and say
To senseless mortals who their end bewail,

" If thou hast drunk of joyaunce in thy day
Nor let thy goods, as through a leaky pail

Water runs off, slip unimproved away,
Weakling, give over thy unmanly wail :

Rise from the feast of life a sated guest ;

Thine hour has come, go, turn thee to thy rest !

" But if thy days have all been spent in vain
And life is now a burden, why to waste

Add waste ? Why not have done with toil and pain ?
Nought in my stores is left for thee to taste.

Though sense and limb should unimpaired remain,
Though the whole race of men thou could'st outlast,

Nought else have I to give. Nay, though thy frame

Could deathless be, still all things are the same "


Would not her plea be righteous? How much more,
Should one far gone in years his doom bewail,

Justly would Nature say : " Dotard, give o'er
Against the universal law to rail ;

Years thou hast had enow, blessings good store,
But thou hast let all pass without avail

Craving for untried joys, despising tried,

Till Death unlooked-for stands at thy bedside.

" Resign, then, that which suits not withered age
And go, since go thou must, with a good grace."

Deserved were that reproach*. Fool, dost thou rage
Because thou must, like thy forbears, give place ?

Old things make way for new on being's stage ;
Matter is needed to recruit the race ;

Nor sinketh aught to the dark realm beneath,

Whereof they prate ; but life is born of death

And, being born, must pass away like thee.

So the long line of generations wends.
To none hath Nature granted life in fee,

To each one in his turn a lease she lends.
Think, too, of the byegone eternity

When thou wert not. That which is past portends
What is to come. Why should'st thou start or weep?
In sleep what pain ? What pain in dreamless sleep ?

And for those torments, whereof fables speak,
On Earth they all have being, not in Hell.

Tityus here feeds the avenging vulture's beak
Gnawed by the pangs of love or passion fell ;


And the poor slave of superstition weak

Is Tantalus, though not, as legends tell,
The ever-threatening rock, but empty dread
Of wrathful gods hangs o'er the victim's head.

Is not a Sisyphus before our eyes

When, in fierce contest for the consul's state,
Ambition sweats and strains to grasp its prize

And still is foiled by adverse power and hate ?
To climb unresting and yet never rise,

To strive for greatness yet be never great
What is it but to heave uphill amain
The stone which still rolls headlong down again?

To feed yet not to satisfy the soul,

To live yet never of life's joys to taste,

Though in their course the bounteous seasons roll
With ever-varying round of blessings graced,

What is it but, like those sad Maids, the bowl
To fill with water that still runs to waste ?

Hell's fires, the Triple Hound, the Furies, all

Are shadows that the slavish soul enthrall.

But of the shadows earth the substance shows
In vengeful pains that the wrongdoers feel,

In guilt that death or tortures undergoes
By dungeon or by scourge, by fire or steel,

And when e'en these are lacking, by the throes
Of conscience agonized that nought can heal,

With forecast dark of sharper pangs to come ;

A Hell on earth he knows who meets such doom.


Say to thyself, unconscionable wight,
Ancus is gone, a worthier far than thou,

And many a puissant lord from empire's height
Death, that reveres no sceptre, hath brought low ;

E'en him, that 'gainst the elements would fight
And led his armies o'er the Ocean's flow.

Scipio, war's levin, that smote Carthage down

Is turned to clay as is the lowliest clown.

Founders of Arts, the Heliconian throng,
Givers of beauty, sleep the common sleep.

Not his imperial diadem of song

Could Homer's self from dissolution keep.

Democritus disdained life to prolong

When drowsy age began his sense to steep ;

E'en Epicurus, when his course was run,

Departed, though, as stars before the sun,

Pales every lesser light before his light,

Quenched by that orb of intellect supreme.

And dost thou then presume, insensate wight,
Whose very life is death, whose day a gleam,

'Neath which thou wanderest stumbling with affright
As one that wanders in a troublous dream,

Ailing, but what thou ailest knowing not,

Thus to rebel against the common lot?

What ails them could men learn, and whence the weight
That presses on each overburdened breast,

Their days they would not spend, early and late,
Seeking relief through change and know no rest.


Heartsick the lord from his abode of state

Hurries, then hurries back. With jennets pressed
As though to save his burning house from doom,
Headlong he posts down to his country home ;

But on the threshold, seized with weariness,
Yawns, and to heavy slumber lays him down,

Snatching a moment of forgetfulness ;

Or headlong, as he came, posts back to town.

Thus each man flies but flying from distress
Escapes not, since the cause is still unknown.

Peace might be theirs were they but taught to see

That everlasting calm their lot will be.

O doting lust of life that us constrains
To fret and fume when peril we espy ;

The end is surely fixed ; delay nought gains .
Except increase of sad satiety.

Nor can man take an hour, with all his pains,
From Death who reigns throughout eternity.

Though long thy term of being, not the less

For that will be thy term of nothingness.


Carm. III.

Lugete, O Veneres, Cupidinesgue


LET mourning fill the realms of Love,
Wail men below and Powers above !
The joy of my beloved has fled,
The Sparrow of her heart is dead,
The Sparrow that she used to prize
As dearly as her own bright eyes.
As knows a girl her mother well,
So knew the pretty bird my belle,
And ever hopping, chirping round,
Far from her lap was never found.
Now wings it to that gloomy bourne
From which no travellers return.
Accurs'd be thou, infernal lair !
Devourer dark of all things fair,
The rarest bird to thee is gone ;
Take thou once more my malison.
How swollen and red with weeping, see,
My fair one's eyes, and all through thee !



jfa Phasdus Me, quern vide t is, hospites


THE barque thou seest lying here,
Stranger, was once without a peer ;
Sailing or rowing, she could beat
All craft afloat, however fleet ;
This Adria's beetling cliffs know well,
This sea-girt Cyclades can tell,
This oft have Rhodes, trade's glorious queen,
And Thracia's rugged headlands seen ;
Thou, too, wild Pontus, in whose wood
A tall tree once each timber stood
And on Cytorus' leafy brow
Sighed in the wind-swept forest's sough.
City and land of box-wood fame,
Kinship with you this barque may claim ;
It grew upon your mountain side ;
First in your waves its oars it plied,
Then over many a raging sea
It bore its master gallantly,
Good upon either tack to sail,
Or run before the driving gale ;
Nor paid it ever votive fee
To gods that save from wreck at sea.
Now its last voyage is o'er and here


It rests upon this quiet mere,

Devoted to the Brethren Twain

Who guide the wanderer o'er the main.

Carm. V.

-4~ Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus,

1 3 4 5

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithBay leaves : translations from the Latin poets → online text (page 1 of 5)