Catullus: Poem 34 "Prayer to Diana" (From Latin)

Poem 34: Prayer to Diana
By Gaius Valerius Catullus
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

We are unmarried youths and maidens  
  In Diana's strength secure  
And as befits us, youths and maidens  
  Let us now sing of Her.  
We sing to You, Latona's daughter,   
  Great child of greatest Jove
Whose mother gave You birth within  
  A Delian olive grove,
To be the mistress of the mountains  
  and greening woods, to rule
wild hidden hinterlands, the resonant  
  river, the calm deep pool. 
Women in labor crying out  
  call You light-bringer Juno.
But You are Crossroad Trivia too  
  And the light-borrowing Luna. 
In monthly measures you divide  
  The year's course, usher back
The plenteous harvest of the farmer  
  Into his rural shack.
By any name you choose be pleased  
  With this our worship. Hold
The Roman Race safe in your strength  
  As once you did of old. 

The Original:

Diānae sumus in fide  
puellae et puerī integrī:  
Diānam puerī integrī  
  puellaeque canāmus.
ō Lātōnia, maximī         
magna prōgeniēs Iovis,  
quam māter prope Dēliam  
  deposīvit olīvam,
montium domina ut forēs  
silvārumque virentium          
saltuumque reconditōrum  
  amniumque sonantum:
tū Lūcīna dolentibus  
Iūnō dicta puerperīs,  
tū potēns Trivia et nothō es          
  dicta lūmine Lūna.
tū cursū, dea, mēnstruō  
mētiēns iter annuum,  
rustica agricolae bonīs  
  tecta frūgibus explēs.      
sis quōcumque tibi placet  
sancta nōmine, Rōmulīque,  
antīque ut solita es, bona  
  sospitēs ope gentem.

Catullus: Poem 2 "The Sparrow" (From Latin)

Poem 2: The Sparrow
By Gaius Valerius Catullus
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Sparrow, my dear beloved's darling pet
Which she would pet, and fondle in her lap
Or tease with one slight finger's poke, provoking
You to peck her back with mordant beak.
Many's the time when my beloved, beaming
Girl has a mind to turn to you for comfort,
Hoping, I think, to find escape from sorrow
Or something to relieve her of that ardor. 
If only I could play the way she plays 
With you, and have release from roiling passion.

The Original:

Passer, dēliciae meae puellae,
quīcum lūdere, quem in sinū tenēre,
cui prīmum digitum dare appetentī
et acrīs solet incitāre morsūs,
cum dēsīderiō meō nitentī
cārum nesciō quid lubet iocārī
et sōlāciolum suī dolōris,
crēdō ut tum gravis acquiēscat ardor:
tēcum lūdere sīcut ipsa possem
et trīstīs animī levāre cūrās!

Gérard de Nerval: Delfica (From French)

Gérard de Nerval
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Daphne, do you still know that lay of yore
By sycamore, white laurel, myrtle shade,
By olive-tree, or trembling willow glade?
That love song still beginning evermore?

Recall that shrine great colonnades enclose?
The bitter lemons where your teeth have pressed,
The grotto, deadly to the reckless guest
Where the slain dragon’s ancient seed repose?

The gods you mourn for shall return at last
Time will restore the order of days past.
Prophetic gusts have shuddered through the lands

While yet the Sybil with a Latin mien
Sleeps underneath the arch of Constantine,

And undisturbed the portico still stands. 

The Original:


La connais-tu, Dafné, cette ancienne romance,
Au pied du sycomore, ou sous les lauriers blancs,
Sous l’olivier, le myrte, ou les saules tremblants,
Cette chanson d’amour qui toujours recommence ?...

Reconnais-tu le Temple au péristyle immense,
Et les citrons amers où s’imprimaient tes dents,
Et la grotte, fatale aux hôtes imprudents,
Où du dragon vaincu dort l’antique semence ?...

Ils reviendront, ces Dieux que tu pleures toujours !
Le temps va ramener l’ordre des anciens jours ;
La terre a tressailli d’un souffle prophétique...

Cependant la sibylle au visage latin
Est endormie encor sous l’arc de Constantin
— Et rien n’a dérangé le sévère portique.

Théophile de Viau: To Sleep (From French)

The image of death as a kind of protracted sleep, and sleep as "but the picture" of death, is a near-universal one, familiar to readers of French and English poetry alike ("Death be not proud...", "For in that sleep of death..." etc.) as well as readers of Latin (Lucretius' famous passage, Vergil's consanguineus Leti sopor), Persian, Arabic, Greek, Chinese, Hebrew and quite possibly every other poetic tradition on earth. Théophile, ever the realist in a classicizing world, turns the cliché on its head.
The recording of the original French is in a reconstruction of pronunciation used by the upper classes of early 17th century Paris. 

To Sleep
By Théophile de Viau (1590 – 1626)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original French

Sleep! Father of dreams and minister of ease,
Why call you death's image? You are not so. 
The versifiers wronged you long ago,
Passing that off for truth with falsities.

We should tell how you plunge us into peace
Where the mind is so sweetly reft away
That you prolong the pleasure of a day
Instead of cutting it short with Fate's caprice.

O rapturing dreams! That moment in the head
When Love set all my senses in your thrall,
I had Élise all naked in my bed!

Sleep! They who made you the Image of demise,
Drew Death not having known him with their eyes.
He is not like those portraitures at all.

The Original:

Ministre du repos, sommeil père des songes,
Pourquoy t'a t'on nommé l'Image de la mort ?
Que ces faiseurs de vers t'ont jadis fait de tort,
De le persuader avecques leurs mensonges !

Faut-il pas confesser qu'en l'aise où tu nous plonges,
Nos esprits sont ravis par un si doux transport
Qu'au lieu de raccourcir, à la faveur du sort,
Les plaisirs de nos jours, sommeil, tu les alonges.

Dans ce petit moment, ô songes ravissans,
Qu'amour vous a permis d'entretenir mes sens,
J'ay tenu dans mon lict Elise toute nue.

Sommeil, ceux qui t'ont fait l'Image du trespas,
Quand ils ont peint la mort ils ne l'ont point connue
Car vrayment son portraict ne luy ressemble pas.

Molière: Alceste Has Had It With The Bullshit "The Misanthrope" (From French)

A brief passage (Act I, lines 85-95) from Molière's Le Misanthrope. Translated, somewhat freely, for no other reason than that I sometimes know exactly how Alceste feels. If humans are equal in anything it is their ability to inspire disdain. As a friend of mine put it, regardless of race, creed, or national origin, I hate humans. 
I also love humans, generally and paradoxically for the same reasons that I hate them (which is, incidentally, also true of Alceste in Molière's play, if you read carefully.) 
The word "bullshit" has no exact warrant in Molière's French (the original says literally, and rather more decorously, "I can't take it anymore. I'm furious.") Though the English word "bullshit" does encapsulate, more or less precisely, the kind of foolishness, duplicity, affectation and unconcern with the truth which Alceste gets progressively more fed up with over the course of the play. 

From The Misanthrope: Alceste Has Had It With The Bullshit
By Molière
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

It is no joke, believe you me.
On this point, I let no one off scot free. 
Too much has scarred my eyes. All I have seen
In court or town just irritates my spleen.
I fall to dark depression at the view
Of humans interacting as they do. 
Everywhere: sycophantic flattery,
Self-interest, cons, injustice, treachery...
I've had it with the bullshit, and my mind
Is set on breaking up with all mankind.

The Original:

Je ne me moque point,
Et je vais n’épargner personne sur ce point.
Mes yeux sont trop blessés, et la cour et la ville
Ne m’offrent rien qu’objets à m’échauffer la bile ;
J’entre en une humeur noire, en un chagrin profond,
Quand je vois vivre entre eux les hommes comme ils font ;
Je ne trouve partout que lâche flatterie,
Qu’injustice, intérêt, trahison, fourberie ;
Je n’y puis plus tenir, j’enrage ; et mon dessein
Est de rompre en visière à tout le genre humain.

Théophile de Viau: Lament for Clairac (From French)

Théophile de Viau's hometown of Clairac was a bastion of Protestantism in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and in May of 1621, during the Huguenot rebellions, four thousand Protestant rebels held the city against a siege by Louis XIII under the slogan Ville Sans Roy, Soldats Sans Peur "City With No King, Soldiers With No Fear." The rebels had not prepared adequately for a siege, and the city of Clairac, faced with imminent famine after two weeks, surrendered to Louis XIII who summarily executed the rebel leaders and gave his men leave to massacre, terrorize, rape and torture the populace. 
In 1622, Clairac was held briefly by Huguenot rebels again, and even more thoroughly devastated by urban warfare, and also by the Huguenots themselves just before they left it to the Catholics. In the spring of that year, Théophile revisited the city of his birth to find it largely ravaged and ruined, much of the surviving population traumatized and living in abject poverty, and still engaged in the task of identifying and burying their numerous dead. Funerals would have been a numbingly common sight.
Théophile was born to a Huguenot family, and indeed studied at the Protestant university at Saumur, though he had converted to Catholicism shortly before writing this poem. 

Lament for Clairac
Théophile de Viau (1590 – 1626)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in early 17th century French

Sweet place where I adored Phyllis of yore,
Sun-hallowed walls that held my soul in charms,
Today beneath our sundered roofs no more
Than bloody spoils for prideful men at arms,

Cloth of the altar gone in smoke and scorned,
Temple in ruins, mysteries undone,
Horrific relicts of a city burned,
Men, horses, palaces, buried as one. 

Deep moats packed with debris from shattered walls,
Tableaux of horror, shrieks and burials,
River where blood runs endlessly on by, 

Slaughterfields where the wolves and crows gorge free,
Clairac! For the one birth you gave to me
How many, many deaths you make me die.

The Original:

Sacrez murs du Soleil où j'adoray Philis,
Doux sejour où mon ame estoit jadis charmee,
Qui n'est plus aujourd'huy soubs nos toits desmolis
Que le sanglant butin d'une orgueilleuse armee;

Ornemens de l'autel qui n'estes que fumee,
Grand Temple ruiné, mysteres abolis,
Effroyables objects d'une ville allumee,
Palais, hommes, chevaux, ensemble ensevelis;

Fossez larges et creux tous combles de murailles,
Spectacles de frayeur, de cris, de funerailles,
Fleuve par où le sang ne cesse de courir,

Charniers où les Corbeaux et loups vont tous repaistre,
Clerac pour une fois que vous m'avez fait naistre,
Helas! combien de fois me faictes vous mourir.

Théophile de Viau: Nocturnal Emotions (From French)

Nocturnal Emotions
By Théophile de Viau (1590 – 1626)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in early 17th century French

I dreamt my Phyllis from the dead rose free,
Her dark shade fair as she was in the sun
Wanted one last seduction, wanted me
To couple with a cloud like Ixion.

Her specter glided naked and in heat
Into my bed: "My love! I'm back tonight,
Grown only lovelier in that sad retreat
Where Fate has held me since you left my sight, 

To kiss again the finest lover's face,
To die again in your hot arms' embrace." 
When that phantasmic idol had spent me whole

She said "Farewell. Back to the dead I go. 
You bragged of having fucked my body. So 
Can you now brag of having fucked my soul."


L4: The mortal Ixion grew amorous of Hera. Zeus caught Ixion red handed by appearing to him as a cloud that seemed to be Hera but wasn't. When Ixion embraced the cloud, Zeus was sure of his betrayal, and punished him accordingly. 

The Original:

Je songeois que Phyllis des enfers revenue,
Belle comme elle estoit à la clarté du jour,
Vouloit que son phantosme encore fit l’amour
Et que comme Ixion, j’embrassasse une nue.

Son ombre dans mon lict se glissa toute nue
Et me dit, cher Thyrsis, me voicy de retour,
Je n’ay fait qu’embellir en ce triste séjour
Ou depuis ton départ le sort m’a retenue

Je viens pour rebaisser le plus beau des Amants,
Je viens pour remourir dans tes embrassements.
Alors quand cette idole eut abusé ma flamme,

Elle me dit: Adieu, je m’en vays chez les morts,
Comme tu tes vanté d’avoir foutu mon corps,
Tu te pourras vanter d’avoir foutu mon âme.

Notes sur le texte français:

V3: Faire l'amour désigne aujourd'hui l'acte sexuel. Mais au 17ième siecle faire l'amour a la signification de "faire la cour", si bien que Racine peut faire dire à un de ses personnages "et vous ferez l'amour en présence du père."

V11: Idole. Le sens moderne, qui provient du latin chrétien, fait partie de l'étendue sémantique du mot, mais il me semble probable que Théophile pense également au sens du Grec ειδωλον "phantasme, vision illusoire."
Abuser avait aussi le sens de "tromper." 

Valéry: Helen (From French)

By Paul Valéry
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original French

Azure! It's me...from death's caves I return
To hear waves break resoundingly ashore,
And see the galleys in the dawnlight born
Again out of the dark on golden oar.

My solitary hands call back those lords
Whose salty beards pleased my pure fingertips;
I wept. They sang their shady wars and swords,
And the great gulfs fled sternward of their ships.

I hear deep conches all along the shores,

The war-horns cadencing the swing of oars
The rowers' chanty fettering the fray;

And at heroic prows the gods grown grand
With ancient smiles insulted by the spray,
Reach out to me with carved, indulgent hand.

The Original:


Azur! C'est moi... Je viens des grottes de la mort
Entendre l'onde se rompre aux degrés sonores,
Et je revois les galères dans les aurores
Ressusciter de l'ombre au fil des rames d'or.

Mes solitaires mains appellent les monarques
Dont la barbe de sel amusait mes doigts purs;
Je pleurais. Ils chantaient leurs triomphes obscurs
Et les golfes enfuis aux poupes de leurs barques.

J'entends les conques profondes et les clairons
Militaires rythmer le vol des avirons;
Le chant clair des rameurs enchaîne le tumulte,

Et les Dieux, à la proue héroïque exaltés
Dans leur sourire antique et que l'écume insulte,
Tendent vers moi leurs bras indulgents et sculptés.

Dino Campana: Autumn Garden (From Italian)

The punctuation and/or omission of it in my translation is (a) integral to the poem and (b) integral to my translation. The background music for the recording is a digitally retweaked orchestral version of the melody Captain Picard plays on his flute at the end of the Star Trek TNG episode "The Inner Light."

Autumn Garden
By Dino Campana
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Italian

Unto the ghostly garden unto the laurels mute
Of the green garlands
Unto the autumn land
One last salute!
Out to the dried hillsides
Reddened hard in the terminal sun
Confounded into grumbles
Gruff life afar is crying:
Crying to the dying sun that sheds
A blood that dyes the flowerbeds.
A brass band plays
Ear-piercingly away: the river fades
Out amidst the gilded sands: in the quiet
The great white statues stand at the bridgehead
Turned: and what was once is now no more.
And from the depths of quiet as it were a chorus
Soft and splendorous
Yearns its way to the heights of my terrace:
And in an air of laurel,
In an air of laurel languorous and blade-bare,
Among the statues immortal under sundown
She appears to me, is there.

The Original:

Giardino Autunnale

Al giardino spettrale al lauro muto
De le verdi ghirlande
A la terra autunnale
Un ultimo saluto!
A l’aride pendici
Aspre arrossate nell’estremo sole
Confusa di rumori
Rauchi grida la lontana vita:
Grida al morente sole
Che insanguina le aiole.
S’intende una fanfara
Che straziante sale: il fiume spare
Ne le arene dorate: nel silenzio
Stanno le bianche statue a capo i ponti
Volte: e le cose già non sono più.
E dal fondo silenzio come un coro
Tenero e grandioso
Sorge ed anela in alto al mio balcone:
E in aroma d’alloro,
In aroma d’alloro acre languente,
Tra le statue immortali nel tramonto
Ella m’appar, presente.

Anne Hébert: The Piano (From French)

The Piano
By Anne Hébert
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

All it took was one light note
One fingertap
By one calm slave

A single note a supple instant
For the muffled clamor of offense
Tucked at the back of black veins
To rise and burst into the stirless air

The master knowing not what to do
Before such tumult
Commands that the piano be closed

The Original:

Le Piano

Il a suffi d'une note légère
D'un seul doigt frappée
Par un esclave tranquille

Une seule note un instant tenue
Pour que la clameur sourde des outrages
Enfouis au creux des veines noires
Monte et se décharge dans l'air immobile

Le maître ne sachant que faire
Devant ce tumulte
Ordonne qu'on ferme le piano
A jamais

Victor Hugo: Republican Exile (From French)

In 1851 prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte staged a coup d'état which abolished the French National Assembly and reinstated the French Empire, with Louis-Napoléon as its emperor. Hugo went into exile, moving to the island of Jersey in the English channel. 

Republican Exile
By Victor Hugo
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original French

Since men of honor sink in slime,
Since the scepter is held by crime,
Since rights have all been wronged away,
Since all the proud lie beaten down
And on streetposts through every town
My country's shame is on display;

Republic of our Fathers' right,
Gold dome, great pantheon of light  
Under the free and open blue,
Oh temple of immortal shades!
Since now the step-ladder brigades
Paste empire to your walls with glue,

Since hearts are beaten to the core
Since we all crawl, since we ignore
The right, the true, the great, the brave,
The eyes of history in fury,
The law, all honor and all glory 
And those now gone into the grave;

Exile and anguish!....I love them.
Let sorrow be my diadem.
I love my prideful poverty!
I love the door lashed by the gale
I love the statue, grave and pale,
Of Mourning seated next to me.

I love the hardships I endure,
That darkness where I find once more
All that delights and bids me live:
Veiled virtue, truth, faith, dignity,
Freedom the dauntless deportee,
And loyalty the fugitive. 

I love this isle out on the deeps,
Good Jersey which free England keeps
Behind her banner's ancient shield,
Dark waters high and higher now,
The vessel - a meandering plow,
The billows - a mysterious field.

I love the gull, O sea, that swirls
Your waters' wavelets up in pearls
Upon its wildly colored wings,
Dives down into the monstrous surges
And from their gaping jaws emerges,
As does the soul from sufferings. 

I love this solemn height of stone
Where I hear the eternal moan, 
Relentless as a deep regret,
Born and reborn in the dark air,
Of waves over bleak reefs out there, 
Of mothers over children dead.

The Original:

Puisque le juste est dans l'abîme,
Puisqu'on donne le sceptre au crime,
Puisque tous les droits sont trahis,
Puisque les plus fiers restent mornes,
Puisqu'on affiche au coin des bornes
Le déshonneur de mon pays ;

Ô République de nos pères,
Grand Panthéon plein de lumières,
Dôme d'or dans le libre azur,
Temple des ombres immortelles,
Puisqu'on vient avec des échelles
Coller l'empire sur ton mur ;

Puisque toute âme est affaiblie,
Puisqu'on rampe, puisqu'on oublie
Le vrai, le pur, le grand, le beau,
Les yeux indignés de l'histoire,
L'honneur, la loi, le droit, la gloire,
Et ceux qui sont dans le tombeau ;

Je t'aime, exil ! douleur, je t'aime !
Tristesse, sois mon diadème !
Je t'aime, altière pauvreté !
J'aime ma porte aux vents battue.
J'aime le deuil, grave statue
Qui vient s'asseoir à mon côté.

J'aime le malheur qui m'éprouve,
Et cette ombre où je vous retrouve,
Ô vous à qui mon coeur sourit,
Dignité, foi, vertu voilée,
Toi, liberté, fière exilée,
Et toi, dévouement, grand proscrit !

J'aime cette île solitaire,
Jersey, que la libre Angleterre
Couvre de son vieux pavillon,
L'eau noire, par moments accrue,
Le navire, errante charrue,
Le flot, mystérieux sillon.

J'aime ta mouette, ô mer profonde,
Qui secoue en perles ton onde
Sur son aile aux fauves couleurs,
Plonge dans les lames géantes,
Et sort de ces gueules béantes
Comme l'âme sort des douleurs.

J'aime la roche solennelle
D'où j'entends la plainte éternelle,
Sans trêve comme le remords,
Toujours renaissant dans les ombres,
Des vagues sur les écueils sombres,
Des mères sur leurs enfants morts.

Petrarch: Sonnet 164 (From Italian)

Sonnet 164
By Petrarch
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Now at the hush of wind and earth and sky,
Sleep bridles beasts and holds the birds aground,
Night drives her star-lined chariot on its round,
And, waveless, seas lie bedded, only I
Still see and think and burn and rave and fret.
My bringer of sweet pain undoes me more.
In rage and tears, mine is a state of war
And thoughts of Her are all the peace I get.

Thus drink I sweet and bitter draughts that flow
Forth from a single, living fountain's spray.
One single hand both heals and deals each blow.
To keep my ship of martyrdom at sea
Have I a thousand births and deaths a day.
So far is my salvation's port from me.

The Original:

Sonetto CLXIV
Francesco Petrarca

Or che ‘l cielo e la terra e ‘l vento tace,
e le fere e gli augelli il sonno affrena,
notte il carro stellato in giro mena,
e nel suo letto il mar senz’ onda giace;
vegghio, penso, ardo, piango, e chi mi sface
sempre m’è innanzi per mia dolce pena;
guerra è ‘l mio stato, d’ira e di duol piena,
e sol di lei pensando ho qualche pace.
Così sol d’una chiara fonte viva
move ‘l dolce e l’amaro ond’ io mi pasco;
una man sola mi risana e punge.
E perchè ‘l mio martìr non giunga a riva,
mille volte il dì moro mille nasco;
tanto da la salute mia son lunge.

Lady Castelloza: To Her Lover Gone Away (From Occitan)

We know little about the trobairitz Lady Castelloza beside what her later vida records. The latter says that she was from Auvergne, the wife of Truc de Mairona, and the lover of Armant de Brion (both nobles, incidentally, though the latter would have been of higher social status than the former.) There seems to me to be no reason to either believe or disbelieve this.   

To Her Lover Gone Away
By Lady Castelloza (c. 13th cent.)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

My darling, it has been so long
Since from my arms you took your leave.
And it is painful, cruel and wrong.
You promised, pledged, made me believe
That you would take no other lady
Until the day death do us part.
Now if some other holds your heart
Then you have murdered me, betrayed me
Who hoped your love was no conceit
But undivided and complete.

My handsome noble-natured dear,
I've loved you since the day you pleased me.
How great a fool I am is clear.
For you held back, while such love seized me
That I not once have turned away.
Though you repay my good with ill
I'll stand my ground and love you still,
For love so has me in its sway
That I now doubt my life can offer
Much good without you as my lover.

I set no proper precedent
For other women in love's course, 
Since it is for the man to send
Word in well-chosen, well-turned verse.
And yet it does my spirit good
To show how great a faith you test;
To be a suitor suits me best. 
The wealthiest of women would
Be all the richer for the trove 
Of your embrace, your kiss, your love.

God doom me if I've ever shown
A fickle heart or been untrue,
I have not wanted anyone,
However noble, who was not you. 
No, I am pensive, pained in bed
Because your mind has left my love.
If you don't send joy soon enough
You may discover I am dead.
In ladies, slight disease can kill
Without a man to lance the ill.1 

For everything you've done to me,
For all the hurtful grief and gall,
You've thanks from all my family
And from my husband most of all. 
If you have sinned toward me, my dear
Then in good faith I pardon you
And pray that you'll at last come true
To me, the moment that you hear
This song. I promise as I live
The fairest welcome I can give. 


1 - "lancing" i.e. drawing blood. Draining out the "ill humors" by controlled bloodletting was thought to relieve a patient's suffering in medieval European medicine. Of course, there is more to the line and its imagery than reference to a medical technique.   

The Original:

"Mout avetz fach lonc estatge..."
Na Castelloza

Mout avétz fach lonc estatge,
Amics, pos de mi·us partitz;
Et es me grèu e salvatge,
Quar me jurètz e·m plevitz
Quez als jorns de vòstra vida
Non acsétz dòmpna mas me:
E si d'autra vós perté,
M'avétz mòrta e trahida,
Qu'avi' en vos m'esperança
Que m'amassetz sés dubtança

Bèls amics, de fin coratge
Vós amèi, pois m'abellitz,
E sai que faich ai follatge,
Que plus m'en ètz escaritz
Qu'anc non fis vas vos ganchida,
E si·m fasètz mal per be:
Be·us am e non m'en recré;
Mas tan m'a amórs sazida
Qu'ièu non cre que benenança
Puòsc' avér ses vostr' amança.

Mout aurai mes mal usatge
A las autras amairitz
Qu'óm sòl trametre messatge
E motz triatz e chausitz.
Et ièu tenc me per garida,
Amics, a la mia fe,
Quan vos prèc, qu'aissi·m cové;
Que·l plus pros n'es eniquida
S'a de vos qualqu' abondança
De baisar o d'acoindança.

Mal aj'ièu, s'anc còr volatge
Vos aic ni·us fui camjairitz,
Ni drutz de negun paratge
Per me non fo encobitz;
Anz sui pensiv' e marrida
Car de m'amór no·us sové,
E si de vos jòis no·m ve
Tòst me trobarétz fenida:
Car per pauc de malanança
Mòr dómpna, s'óm tot no·il lança.

Tot lo maltraich e·l dampnatge
Que per vos m'es escaritz
Vos fai grazir mos linhatge
E sóbre totz mos maritz;
E s'anc fétz vas me fallida,
Perdón la·us per bòna fe;
E prèc que venhatz a me,
Despois quez aurétz auzida
Ma chansón, que·us fatz fiança
Sai trobétz bèlla semblança

François Villon: Ballad of Ladies of Yore (From French)

In translating this widely-translated poem I have tried to bring to light a different side of it, to convey some of the obscene undertones present in Villon's word choices throughout the poem.

Ballad of the Ladies of Yore
By François Villon
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in Middle French

So, tell me where on lands or seas
Has Flora gone, the Roman belle,
And Thais and Archipiades,
Great twins of beauty as stories tell.
And Echo who by brook and dell
Answered the rising cock come dawn,
And wove a more than mortal spell?
Well, where could last year’s snows have gone?

And where is learned Heloise
For whom Pete Abelard once fell

So hard he came to Saint Denis’
Where his cut was a eunuch's cell?
And where’s that dowager quaintrelle
Who bagged her plaything Buridan 

Then sent him down the Seine to Hell?
Well, where could last year’s snows have gone?

That lily quean whose tune could tease
Sires even Sirens couldn't swell?
Broad Bertha, Alice, Beatrice
And Erenburg who banged Maine's bell
That Maid of Orléans that fell
To English torches at Rouen?
Where are they? Where, Queen Virgin, tell?
Well, where could last year’s snows have gone?

Prince, ask no longer where they dwell.
For as the days and years draw on,
I’ve this and naught but this to tell:
Well, where could last year’s snows have gone?

The Original:

Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis

Dictes moy où, n’en quel pays,

Est Flora, la belle Romaine
Archipiada, ne Thaïs,
Qui fut sa cousine germaine;
Echo, parlant quand bruyt on maine
Dessus rivière ou sus estan,
Qui beauté eut trop plus qu’humaine?
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan !

Où est la très sage Heloïs,

Pour qui fut chastré et puis moyne
Pierre Esbaillart à Sainct-Denys?
Pour son amour eut cest essoyne.

Semblablement, où est la royne

Qui commanda que Burridan
Fust jetté en ung sac en Seine?
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan!

La royne Blanche comme ung lys,
Qui chantoit à voix de sereine;
Berthe au grand pied, Bietris, Allys;
Harembourges, qui tint le Mayne,
Et Jehanne, la bonne Lorraine,
Qu’Anglois bruslèrent à Rouen;
Où sont-ilz, Vierge souveraine?

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan !

Prince, n’enquerrez de sepmaine

Où elles sont, ne de cest an,

Qu’à ce refrain ne vous remaine:
Mais où sont les neiges d’anten?

Joan Bodon: Hunting the Chimera (From Occitan)

This poem starts out with what seem to be nationalist clichés, but these are subverted as the text unexpectedly shifts gears into something quite different toward the end. 

Hunting the Chimera
By Joan Bodon
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Oh the war I fought is lost
My color is a mournful white
If they take away my land
They'll smear my grief in their delight. 

As I see those northern lice
Glutted with glory all through France
In the great winds of history
What can we say, we Occitans?

To give protection to our language
Of a poor eighty-year-old few...
There is nobody who remembers.
They rob us of our children too. 

Banging heads against a door...
Lunatics in the hospital...
A nice strong rinse, and for a helmet
The holy grail upon your skull....

When you're hunting the Chimera
Nothing beats electroshock
Like the wrong the world has done
I spit blood and fire and rock. 

The Original:

La caça de la Quimèra

Ai perduda la miá guèrra
Blanc de dòl es ma color
Se me ganhan la miá tèrra
Mascaran la miá dolor.

Pesolhs confles de lor glòria
Quand vesi los francimands
Dins lo vent grand de l’istòria
Que direm los Occitans?

Per aparar nòstra lenga
De vielhs de quatre vints ans…
Pas degun que se sovenga
E nos rauban los enfants.

Còps de caps per una pòrta...
Los falords a l’espital....
Una chucada pro fòrta....
Per casco lo Sant Grasal.

La caça de la Quimèra:
Res non val l’electròchòc
Coma lo mal de la tèrra,
Escupissi sang e fuòc…

Joan Bodon: False Dawn (From Occitan)

Another translation of an Occitan poem by Joan Bodon. His formal features are the sort of challenge I relish, as they force the translator into unexpected directions, ways of rendering that go beyond the surface. Though I certainly took more liberties with this one than the last one I translated.  

False Dawn
Joan Bodon (mid 20th cent.)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

A false dawn creeps up on the hills. Who knows
If the bird's cry will hail the morning on? 
Soon there will be a stir of beds and clothes,
A priest will sing his Latin all alone.

The little girl in white who weeps for dawn...
Look at her, friend, at the path's edge in dread.
Why this mulberry pick against her heart?
Spilt blood has stained the whitethorn flower red. 

Down from the heavens this new dawn unfurls:
Flesh in decay under a linen sheet. 
A votive candle of death burns in the chapel:
A lark moving its one last beat.


Stanza 3: "A lark moving its wings"... allusion to one of the most famous poems by the medieval Occitan troubadour Bernart de Ventadorn (my translation available here.) 

The Original:

Alba Falsa

Una alba falsa se trigòssa suls puèges.
Qual sap se l'aucèl cridarà lo matin?
Començaràn lèu los saquejals dels lièches,
Tot sol un rector va cantar son latin...

La filha blanca que de l’alba se plora,
Vei-la, mon amic, a la broa del camin.
Mas perqué sul seu còr aquel picon d’amora?
Lo sang a techat sus la flor d’albespin.

Davala del cèl aquela alba novèla,
La carn se blasís jos la tela de lin.
Un ciri de mòrt crèma dins la capèla:
Lauseta que mòu sas alas... A la fin...

Baudelaire: Correspondances (From French)

By Charles Baudelaire
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Nature’s a shrine where living columns stand
And now and then breathe a confounded phrase,
Man wanders there amid a forestland
Of symbols, followed by their intimate gaze.
As long-drawn echoes blent from far away
together into dark deep unison,
As vast as night and like the light of day,
colors, sounds and perfumes respond as one.

There are scents fresh as flesh of any child,
Meadow-green, mellow as an oboe tone,
- and others: rich, corrupt, triumphant, wild
expanding like the infinite alone
like ambers, musks and orient frankincense
that sing the ecstasies of soul and sense.

The Original:


La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.
Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.

II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d'autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,
Ayant l'expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l'ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l'encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens.

Joan Bodon: Toulouse (From Occitan)

I have received 3 angry emails from French readers who, incensed that in a note about Occitan's role in medieval Europe I should mention the current endangered status of Occitan in southern France, took it upon themselves to chastise me for in the words of one "legitimizing a patois." This translation is dedicated to them. For I can think of no better means by which to show them the depth of my regard for the points they raised, than by a translation of Tolosa by Joan Bodon (known in French as Jean Boudou) in which the poet invokes the illustrious medieval heritage associated with the language whose modern form he is a native speaker of, and meditates on the deracination and erasure of Occitan culture. 

Though I have studied medieval Occitan, I am not well-versed at all in the modern language, and have not studied it systematically. I have only recently started acquainting myself with modern Occitan, and its poets (and, given that I now live in Delhi, even that has had to take a back seat to spoken Hindi which I'm learning for far more practical purposes like grocery shopping.)

However, apart from the fact that the modern language is not prohibitively difficult for someone who knows the medieval version, I have also known this particular poem for quite some time because it was included in a copy of Bodon's Sus la Mar de las Galèras which I found in the back of a used bookstore a few years ago and bought for a dollar out of sheer curiosity, and it has stuck with me ever since. Sus la Mar de las Galèras is one of two books of modern Occitan poetry I actually own, the other being a collection of poems by Ives Roquetta (or Yves Roquette) from which I translated Tota Lenga a while back.

I've given some notes on context following my translation. Because I have not made much study of the modern language, I am aware that I may be missing things. Therefore, I have also mentioned some points of doubt in philological notes following the original text, along with my thinking behind them. If you're a speaker of modern Occitan and would like to enlighten me about something I missed or just got flat-out wrong, by all means do so.

This song has been set to music by J.M. Leclercq. Youtube recording available here.

Joan Bodon (mid 20th century)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

            This translation dedicated to three angry Frenchmen

So, why Toulouse at night?
A long shriek through the air...
The woman with big breasts
In the long street out there.

I will cross the canal:
Clamença awaits me there!...  
But I won't find the house,
Or the room of yesteryear.

Who'll speak with me of love? 
So many teeth chipped, weak...
Colorful ladies' dresses
And all the hands that seek...

The last Count Raymond's fall...
Montmorency's last stand...
They'll think I'm nuts. My story
They will not understand. 

So why Toulouse at night?
The faucet and the sponge,
The woman with big breasts
Sitting on a chaise longe.  


Toulouse was at the end of the Middle Ages the center of what remained of Occitan literary culture, and the site of an attempted revival of the Occitan poetic tradition. 

Stanza 2: 
Clamença Isaura (fr. Clémence Isaure) was a legendary figure credited with instituting the Jocs Florals or Floral Games, held in Toulouse. The Floral Games were originally organized in 1323 by the Consistori del Gay Saber to patronize Occitan poetry and keep the dying Occitan troubadour tradition alive by sponsoring poetry contests specifically in Occitan, judged according to criteria based on a prescriptive manual of good troubadour style. Though Occitan was the language of the competition, it was not only Occitanians who were allowed to compete. Occitan-writing Catalans participated as well. Even the few poets from northern France who composed in Occitan were admitted, and one, Pierre de Janillac, even won a prize (the registry specifies that this was n'ostant qu'el fos Frances, per ço que dictec el lengage de Tolosa "although he is French, for he composed in the language of Toulouse.") Eventually, however, French-language poets were admitted alongside Occitan. Finally toward the beginning of the 16th century only poets composing in French were officially allowed to compete, thus turning the original purpose of the games completely on its head. This was however not for lack of would-be Occitan competitors, for the language was still in wide currency in Toulouse and in 1564 there were complaints that no suitable French-language poet could be found to enter the Games.     

Stanza 4: 
The last Count Raymond was Count Raymond VII of Toulouse, whose subjection to King Louis IX in the humiliating Treaty of Meaux marked the end of Occitan political autonomy (particularly the transfer of control of Toulouse to the king directly upon the death of his son Alfonse) at the tail end of the Albigensian crusades when Occitania had already been effectively subjugated. 
Henri II de Montmorency was a nobleman and military commander executed in Toulouse as an admonitory example to the rest of the nobility, for trying to lead an armed rebellion against cardinal Richelieu. 

Stanza 5:
Yes, I used the "incorrect" American spelling (to indicate the common colloquial American pronunciation) of "chaise long(u)e" based on folk etymology from "lounge." I did it for the rhyme and because I'm just in a mood to screw with standard French right now. Either that or I'm just another ignorant American who just doesn't know French like he should. One of these is more likely than the other.    

The Original:


Perqué Tolosa la nuèch?
Un sisclal que s’esperlonga...
La femna gròssa del pièch
Dins una carrièira longa.

Traversarai la Canal:
La Clamença que m’espèra...
Mas trobarai pas l'ostal
Ni la cambra d’un còp èra.

Qual me parlarà d’amor?
Tant de caisses que se bèrcan...
Las cotilhas de color
E totas las mans que cèrcan.

De Montmorency lo Duc...
De Ramon lo darrièr Comte...
Mas passarai per caluc:
Degun compren lo meu conte.

Perqué Tolosa la nuèch?
Lo grifol e mai l’esponga,
La femna gròssa del pièch
Sus una cadièira longa.

Philological Notes:

Caisses: Plural of cais (tooth) in medieval and modern Occitan, from Vulgar Latin *capseum "box-like thing, molar, set of teeth" (c.f. Catalan queix "lower maxillary", Spanish quijada "jawbone") 
The poet may also be suggesting the loss or dereliction of Occitanian patrimony by punning off of the word caissa "box, chest, trunk (for storing valuables)" from Latin capsa "box." (Modern French caisse is a medieval borrowing from Occitan, whereas the direct modern French reflex of the Latin etymon through Old French is châsse "reliquary.") The spelling suggests that "teeth" is the meaning of the word on the page, however, and it makes more sense in light of the use of the word bercar "to break a piece off of, to chip" with the reflexive form. 

Cotilhas: plural of cotilha which in medieval Occitan is a word for "(woman's) coat" (c.f. Modern French cotillon "petticoat", Catalan cotilla "corset," Jèrriais cotelle "skirt") Glossaries of modern Occitan dialects I consulted do not list this word. Another possibility is that it refers to the dance known also as cotillon in French and English. Though the word is familiar to me, I had to make an educated guess at what a modern speaker of Occitan would mean or understand by it. 

Caluc: not found in medieval Occitan. Modern Occitan (and generally non-standard southern French) word for "imbecile, lunatic, near-sighted, cross-eyed" presumably from Latin caligo "fog, haze" via the same Vulgar Latin formation that yields Italian calùgine "down", or from some unattested Vulgar Latin compound whose last element is from Lat. luscus (c.f. fr. louche) Glossaries list different overlapping semantic ranges for this word. I went with the meaning I know from non-standard French, as it seemed to fit best in context.       

Grifol: in medieval Occitan a variant form of the word for "holly" (agrefol, grifuelh, from Latin acrifolium) but, apparently, in the modern language the word means "fountain" or "faucet." This would seem more appropriate. 

Anonymous: Alba (From Occitan)

Anonymous (c. 13th century)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

The nightingale sings his delight
To his sweetheart all day and night
Meanwhile my love and I lie quite
Safe in the flowers
Till the watchman from the tower’s
Top calls down “Get up! Come on,
The sky is getting bright with dawn!”

The Original:


Quan lo rossinhols escria
ab sa par la nueg e·l dia,
yeu suy ab ma bell' amia
ios la flor.
Tro la gaita de la tor
escria: drutz, al levar!
qu'ieu vey l'alba e·l iorn clar,

Jordi de Sant Jordi: The Prisoner (From Catalan)

The Valencian knight Jordi de Sant Jordi was at court in Naples (which he had personally participated in the Crown of Aragon's campaign to annex) on May 30th 1423 when Francesco Sforza in a sneak attack took the city which was hopelessly unprepared to defend itself against such a force. In the attack, Sforza also took prisoner a number of Catalonian, Valencian and Aragonese nobility, including Jordi de Sant Jordi, and (if the latter is to be believed) demanded outrageous ransom for them.

The imprisonment, which lasted a little over a month, occasioned the composition of the Catalan poem translated here, to which later tradition has given the title of El Presoner "The Prisoner." It is in the mode of a rather sophisticated rhetorical attempt to manipulate (or guilt-trip) King Alfons into paying the ransom as quickly as possible. Whether it reached the king before Sant Jordi's expeditious release, and what the king himself thought of it, one can only guess. Sant Jordi was probably no older than his mid 20s when he wrote this poem, and would die a year or so later. It was probably sung, and Sant Jordi may have composed music for it, but if he did the music has been lost.

A portion of this poem (comprising stanzas 1, 2, and half of 4)  was set to music by the always awesome Valencian singer Ramon Pelegero Sanchis. Youtube recording available here

The poem still reads well today (or at least to me) despite the almost complete disconnect of culture and ethics, and the airs it may seem to put on from a modern perspective. It is in a heavily Occitanized Catalan (the sort of stylized register that the Romantics and High Modernists have conned us into calling "artificial") which was at a considerable remove from the language of normal prose, let alone natural speech. I've tried to account for (if not recapture) some of the flavor with a light tone of archaization in some places, though hopefully not so as to make it seem a period piece. For a note on Occitanization see after my translation. 

The Prisoner
By Jordi de Sant Jordi (15th cent.)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Deprived of friends, of lord, of good and fief
A foreign stranger in strange foreign lands,
Afar from all good things, fatigued with grief,
My thought and will detained in hostile hands,
I find myself a wicked power's prey
And see none who show care to me in shame.  
I'm under guard, cramped, chained, kept locked away
With nothing save my sorry luck to blame.

I who've seen times when naught pleased me on earth,
Must be content with this my source of tears, 
Finding in lighter manacles more worth
Than beautiful brocades of bygone years,
And I see Fortune's force has raised her banner
On me, that I should fall in such degree.  
But I care not, since I have served with honor
With all the good men in my company. 

For I'm consoled that I fell prisoner
In service to my lord with all my might,
Defeated by superior force in war 
And not by lack of valor as a knight,
I'm consoled that I made their victory
Cost so excruciating an expense,
Yet wish to die of sorrow when I see
The world so reconciled with the offense.  

My other woes cause nothing of dismay 
Next to the one that so dements the heart
And drives me to abandon hope each day:
I have seen nothing yet to help us start
Making arrangements for our liberation,
And as I think upon the ransom pay
Sforza demands, with no negotiation,
My virtue and my strength slowly decay. 

Therefore now nothing that I know or see
Can give me valor against fear of death,
Save God Himself, my rock of verity,
Who fortifies the heart that keeps His faith,
And King Alfons our generous Sovereign
Who will come to my aid with noble hand
And from the evil he has placed us in
Deliver me, who serve at his command.

Virtuous King! My natural lord and good!
We captives now beseech of you no more
Than to remember that your royal blood
Never failed those who fought for it in war.

Random Note On Occitan and Occitanized Catalan:

The degree to which San Jordi's poetry was influenced by Occitan (to the point of including case-endings, using the Occitan form for verbs as basic as "to be" when the Catalan words would work just as well metrically, and ) is not in the least remarkable.

If Latin was was the language of literacy, religion, philosophy and law, then Occitan, the Romance language original to a large swathe of what is today southern France, was the preeminent language of vernacular lyric culture throughout the high middle ages in much of the western Romance-speaking world before slowly fading from prestige the aftermath of the Albigensian crusades which decimated Occitan culture and obliterated much of the feudal basis by which the Occitan troubadour tradition had been sustained, helped along no doubt by the rise of cities with a new urban bourgeoisie in competition with the old nobility. Today, political developments leading to centuries of linguistic persecution and even linguistic shame, have left Occitan an endangered minority language, surviving among about half a million speakers of widely divergent dialects in southern France, and which could very well become extinct (outside a pocket in Spain) over the course of the 21st century without a radical shift in French language policy. Yet at its high point in the 11th-13th centuries, native-speakers of such disparate media as Italian, Sicilian, Castilian and French all composed verse in Occitan.  

The diffusion of Occitan lyric culture in Romance-speaking medieval Europe can be gauged from the following: in Italy, the earliest attested poetry written in a Romance language is by an Italian (Pier de la Cavarana) for an Italian audience (calling on his countrymen to take arms against the German emperor) yet the language is not Italian but Occitan. Poetry in local Italian Romance was only to come later, and when it did it was heavily inspired by the Occitan tradition. Indeed the only passage in the Divine Comedy that is in a language other than Italian is in the Purgatorio where Dante has the Occitan poet Arnaut Daniel speaking in Occitan verse.

Catalan poetry emerged from, and in interaction with, the Occitan tradition as did the Italian traditions only even more so. In the case of Catalan and Occitan, the two were so similar to one another (and so recently diverged from one another without ever losing contact) that they could blend both in usage and perception to a considerable degree, especially during periods of socio-political convergence between the two sides of the Pyrenees. The two do differ in non-trivial ways, of course, beyond having different phonological reflexes for Latin etyma. For example, medieval Occitan has case-endings for nouns and adjectives (as does the medieval northern French of the same period) whereas medieval Catalan does not, and some Catalan troubadours composing in Occitan clearly had a shaky grasp of case-endings. Yet the degree to which speakers of Catalan before the 13th century thought of the language they spoke as "a language that is not Occitan" is debatable at best. Modern Arabic illustrates to what degree the vehicle of literary culture can differ from the that of spontaneous spoken discourse (including the presence of case endings in the former and their absence in the latter) without speakers ever experiencing the two as anything more than very different versions or registers of the same language.

The influence of Occitan lyric culture thus loomed especially large in Catalan letters even as active knowledge of Occitan per se began to wane. And a heavily Occitanized version of Catalan came to be ever more the normative vehicle for lyric verse well into the 15th century right up until Jordi de Sant Jordi's time, at which point we find Ausiàs March writing, with a suddenness appropriate to his character, in what is not so much "pure" vernacular Valencian Catalan as it is a heavily de-Occitanized Catalan verse that draws on the spoken language of the elite nobility and the chancery standard of the Crown of Aragon, but which keeps some other features of the inherited tradition, most notably the regular scrambling of normal word-order, a feature whose decipherment is much less burdensome to the reader when the nouns and adjectives show case agreement as they do in Occitan, or Hindi for that matter.

The Original:

El Presoner

Deserts d'amics, de béns e de senyor,
en estrany lloc i en estranya contrada,
lluny de tot bé, fart d'enuig e tristor,
ma voluntat e pensa caitivada,
me trob del tot en mal poder sotsmès
no vei algú que de mi s'haja cura,
e soi guardats, enclòs, ferrats e pres,
de què·n fau grat a ma trista ventura.

Ieu hai vist temps que no·m plasia res,
ara·m content de çò qui·m fai tristura,
e los grillons lleugers ara preu més
que·n temps passat la bella brodadura.
Fortuna vei qu'ha mostrat son poder
sus mé, volent que·n tal punt vengut sia,
però no·m cur, pus hai fait mon dever
amb tots los bons que·m trob en companyia.

Car prenc conhort de com soi presoner
per mon senyor servint tant com podia,
d'armes sobrat e per major poder,
no per defaut gens de cavalleria.
E prenc conhort qu'hom no poc conquerir
honor en res sens que treball no senta,
mas d'altra part cuid de tristor morir
com vei que·l món dels revers se contenta.

Tots aquests mals no·m són res de sofrir
en esguard d'u qui al cor me destenta
e·m fai tot jorn d'esperança partir,
com no vei res que·ns avanç d'una 'spenta
en acunçar nostre deslliurament,
e més com vei ço que·ns demana Sforça
que no sofir algú raonament,
de què llangueix ma virtut e ma força.

Perqué no sai ni vei res al present
que·m puixa dar en valor d'una 'scorça,
mas Déu tot sol, de qui prenc fundament
e de qui fiu, e·b qui mon cor s'esforça;
e d'altra part, del bon rei liberal
qui·m socorrà per gentilesa granda,
lo qui·ns ha mès del tot en aquest mal,
que·ll me·n traurà, car soi jus sa comanda.

Rei virtuós, mon senyor natural!
Tots al present no·us fem altra demanda
mas que·us record que vostra sang reyal
mai defallí al qui fos de sa banda.

Ausiàs March: "Voyage of Love or Death" Poem XLVI (From Catalan)

Ausiàs March took the notable and unprecedented step of writing his poems in approximation of the Catalan vernacular, drawing on the written chancery standard of the Crown of Aragon as well as on the speech of the Valencian elite, rather than the Occitan and heavily Occitanized Catalan which were customary for versifying. (For an example of the latter, see this poem by Jordi De Sant Jordi.)  Despite this, and the fact that his work contains many proverbial and occasionally outright colloquial turns of phrase, it is nonetheless quite difficult, his syntax violently tortured, and his lines sometimes perplexingly elliptical.
This may owe something to the difficulty March faced in adjusting de-Occitanized Catalan to the demands of verse (scrambled word-order is somewhat less intrusive in Occitan, or in an Occitanized Catalan that makes heavy use of Occitan case-endings) and often one suspects that March is roiling against the confines of the verse-line as much as those of poetic convention. But it is also true that harshness and messiness were March's metier. March is not at all trying to be beautiful, orderly or pleasing to the ear, as the Occitan tradition demanded. Quite the contrary, his language is often deliberately harsh and cacophonous, as he himself notes several times in his own poems. Indeed, in his drive to turn the uncomely and the harsh to exalted art, rather then the beautiful and smooth, he reminds me of poets centuries later such as Baudelaire. 
I've availed myself of various tactics to account for this in translation, such as a dusting off-rhymes amid the full rhymes, and divergence from the common norms of style, syntax and register which readers of English poetry today are accustomed to. 
I have consulted a number of commentaries for this and some other forthcoming translations from March. Since I found myself differing in a number of respects from the interpretations of scholars who admittedly know March's work better than I do, I considered including an exegetical explication of what is, especially for the Middle Ages, a relentlessly difficult body of work. I may yet do so. But the task seems too laborious for now. A few notes is all I have appended.

Poem XLVI: Voyage of Love or Death
By Ausiàs March (1400 – 1459)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

The power of sails and winds shall work my wish, 
Setting a chancy course across the sea.
Ponente and Mistral rise to resist.
Levante and Sirocco fight for me   
Backed by their allies Midi and Gregal
Beseeching the North Mountain Wind to turn
Its storms aside in their support, so all
Five winds may blow the way of my return.

The sea shall seethe like boiling casserole,
Change colors, taking on unnatural form,
Showing its ill will at full blast to all
That stray on it one second in that storm. 
The fish will panic all throughout the sea
And seek out secret shelter in the deep,
Till from the sea that gave them life they flee 
To their deaths on dry land with desperate leap.

The pilgrim passengers aboard my ship
Will call on God, pledge votive gifts in tears,
And fear force every secret from their lips
That never fell on a confessor's ears. 
Through those dangers, you will not leave my mind. 
Before the God that joined us two I swear
Nothing shall weaken this resolve of mine,
And you'll be with me always, everywhere.

I fear death - lest it break my heart from yours,
For death can cancel love out with its still,
Not that I think even death's severing force
Could overcome my strength of loving will. 
I wish I could believe your love for me
Would not leave me forgotten when I die,
And though while we two live this could not be
One thought makes all life's pleasure out a lie:

That on the day I died, your love as well
Would die, and be transformed to hate that night.
While I, cast from this world, would feel full Hell
Never again to hold you in my sight. 
Oh God, if only there were bounds to love
So I at love's extreme might stand apart!
I'd face the future without fear or hope
Knowing the cutoff limit of your heart.  

I am the most extreme of all in love
Save those who've breathed in love their life's last breath.
The anguish of my heart I cannot prove
Without the good faith agony of death. 
For good or ill at love's command I wait
Though Fortune still withholds my fate from me.
She'll find the gates unbarred, and me awake,
Prepared to humbly follow her decree.

Getting what I so wish may cost me dear
Yet this alone consoles the soul in strife:
If it turns out my fate is what I fear
I only ask that God not spare my life. 
For then people will see the outward fact
Of love at work within, needing no faith.
Capacity will be revealed in act,
And my words' credit backed by deed of death. 

Love! I who feel you don't know you at all,
And so can only win the loser's prize.  
No one who knows you is within your thrall. 
Your simile: addictive game of dice. 


Stanza 1:
It seems to me fairly clear the voyage alluded to is metaphorical and did not actually transpire, though many have sought to identify a real-world course based on the meteorological description here.
The proper names are Mediterranean winds, each traditionally attributed to a different cardinal compass direction. The Mistral blows from the North-West, the Ponente from the West, the Levanter from the East, the Sirocco from the South-East, the Midi from the South, the Gregale from the North-East and the Tramontane (here rendered as "North Mountain Wind") from the North. The winds have various resonances in the tradition.
The Mistral and Ponente would be associated with Provence and the tradition of Occitan lyricism which March was consciously writing against. The Sirocco and Levanter, blowing from the exact opposite direction as the Mistral and Ponente, are harsh winds well-known to mediterranean mariners. The Levanter in particular can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h along the Catalonian coast, occasionally doing severe property damage even in modern times. 
The (normally pleasant) breeze that blows from the beloved lady's land is a theme well developed in Occitan poetry (picked up in Italian by Petrarch among others.) The contrary nature of the winds here evokes the resistance of the beloved. Whereas the medieval Occitan or Stilnovistic Italian poet would draw pleasure and inspiration from the breezes blowing from the land of the lady love, March must subdue the winds blowing from the direction he wishes to travel in, summoning equal elemental powers of his own.  

Stanza 3:
It was a custom for those facing imminent danger to make confessions to one another, in the absence of a priest to hear them. This was particularly common for passengers who found themselves imperiled on the high seas.

The reference to games of dice suggests something morally suspect. Gambling in 15th century Valencia was preached against as a cardinal sin, and many games of chance were symbolically burned in public.

The Original:

"Veles e vents"

Veles e vents han mos desigs complir
faent camins dubtosos per la mar:
mestre i ponent contra d’ells veig armar;
xaloc, llevant, los deuen subvenir,
ab llurs amichs lo grech e lo migjorn,
fent humils prechs al vent tramuntanal
que·n son bufar los sia parcial
e que tots cinch complesquen mon retorn.

Bullirà·l mar com la cassola en forn,
mudant color e l’estat natural,
e mostrarà voler tota res mal
que sobre si atur un punt al jorn.
Grans e pocs peixs a recors correran
e cercaran amagatalls secrets:
fugint al mar, on són nudrits e fets,
per gran remei en terra eixiran.

Los pelegrins tots ensems votaran
e prometran molts dons de cera fets,
la gran paor traurà·l llum los secrets
que al confés descuberts no seran,
e·n lo perill no·m caureu de l’esment,
ans votaré al Déu qui·ns ha lligats
de no minvar més fermes voluntats
e que tots temps me sereu de present.

Jo tem la mort per no ser-vos absent,
perquè amor per mort és anul·lats,
mas jo no creu que mon voler sobrats
pusca esser per tal departiment.
Jo só gelós de vostre escàs voler
que, jo morint, no meta mi·n oblit.
Sol est pensar me tol del món delit,
car, nós vivint, no creu se pusca fer:

aprés ma mort, d’amar perdau poder
e sia tost en ira convertit.
E jo forçat d’aquest món ser eixit,
tot lo meu mal serà vós no veer.
Oh Déu! per què terme no hi ha·n amor,
car prop d’aquell jo·m trobara tot sol?
Vostre voler sabera quant me vol,
tement, fiant de tot l’avenidor!

Jo son aquell pus extrem amador
aprés d’aquell a qui Déu vida tol:
puix jo son viu, mon cor no mostra dol
tant com la mort, per sa extrema dolor.
A bé o mal d’amor jo só dispost,
mas per mon fat fortuna cas no·m porta:
tot esvetlat, ab desbarrada porta
me trobarà, faent humil respost.

Jo desig ço que·m porà ser gran cost
i aquest esper de molts mals m’aconhorta;
a mi no plau ma vida ser estorta
d’un cas molt fer, qual prec Déu sia tost.
Lladoncs les gents no·ls calrà donar fe
al que amor fora mi obrarà:
lo seu poder en acte·s mostrarà
e los meus dits ab los fets provaré.

Amor, de vós, jo·n sent més que no·n sé,
de què la part pitjor me·n romandrà,
e de vós sap lo qui sens vós està.
A joc de daus vos acompararé

Joan Brossa: End of Season (From Catalan)

End of Season 
By Joan Brossa
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

The fallen leaves block the road
I imagine I am what I am not.
Here I am quite still. 

I try to not move,
To occupy a minimum of space,
Just as if I weren't here. 
Silence is the original,
Words are the copy. 

The Original:

Fi del Cicle
Joan Brossa

Les fulles caigudes obstrueixen el camí.
Imagino de ser el que no sóc.
Aquí m'estic ben quiet.
Procuro de no moure'm
i d'occupar el mínim d'espai.
Talment com si ja no hi fos.
El silenci és l'original,
les paraules són la còpia.

Ausiàs March: Poem I "Pleasure Hurts" (from Catalan)

Poem I: Pleasure Hurts
By Ausiàs March
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Think of a man delighted in his slumber,
The foolishness of dream where he resides.
Think thus of me: imagination fastens
Onto the past where all my joy abides.
I know that Grief awaits but do not waver
Knowing my certain end lies in her jaws.
The things ahead hold nothing but disaster.
The better things are nothing but what was.

I find myself no lover of the present,
But of the past; adore oblivion;
There in the thought of yesterday I revel
Till grief returns emboldened under dawn.
Think of a man condemned to execution
So long he’s blunted to the bitter lot.
Suppose they feed him rumors of a pardon
Then have him hanged without another thought.

I wish to God my thoughts were like a corpse’s,
Existence an eternity of sleep,
Wretched the man who holds his mind at swordpoint
For how it keeps reminding him to weep.
And when he begs it for a bit of pleasure
It’s like a mother when her child in tow,
Shunning all milk, howls to be nursed on poison.
She doesn’t have the sense to answer No.

The purest of all pain I’d rather suffer
Than try to blend a bit of pleasure too
Into the ills that rob the brain of reason,
And ache for all the goodness that I knew.
Dear Lord! Delight transmuted into sorrow
Doubles the torment after rest too brief,
Like someone sick who sees too a rich morsel,
Eats it and turns his dinner into grief.

It’s like a hermit long beyond being lonely,
Long drained of care for folk, who’s ceased to sigh
For his companions in the silly city,
And now suppose that one of them drops by,
Recalls with him the times they spent in leisure:
Back to the past the present moments roam.
But, soon alone, he grumbles in annoyance.
Joy as it leaves tells grief to come on home.

Beauty of Prudence: when love starts to age
It's chumbled by the worm of being away
Unless you turn a constant heart against it
And deafer ears to what the jealous say.

The Original:

Poema I

Axi com cell qui ’n lo somni·s delita
e son delit de foll pensament ve,
ne pren a mi, que·l temps passat me te
l’imaginar, qu’altre be no y habita,
sentint estar en aguayt ma dolor,
sabent de cert qu’en ses mans he de jaure.
Temps de venir en negun be·m pot caure;
aquell passat en mi es lo millor.

Del temps present no·m trobe amador,
mas del passat, qu’es no-res e finit;
d’aquest pensar me sojorn e·m delit,
mas quan lo pert, s’esforça ma dolor,
si com aquell qui es jutgat a mort
he de lonch temps la sab e s’aconorta,
e creure·l fan que li sera estorta
e·l fan morir sens un punt de recort.

Plagues a Deu que mon pensar fos mort,
e que passas ma vida en durment!
Malament viu qui te lo pensament
per enamich, fent li d’enuyts report;
e com lo vol d’algun plaer servir
li·n pren axi com dona ’b son infant,
que si veri li demana plorant
ha ten poch seny que no·l sab contradir.

Ffora millor ma dolor sofferir
que no mesclar pocha part de plaher
entre ’quells mals, qui·m giten de saber
com del passat plaher me cove ’xir.
Las! Mon delit dolor se converteix;
doble·s l’affany apres d’un poch repos,
si co·l malalt qui per un plasent mos
tot son menjar en dolor se nodreix.

Com l’ermita, qui ’nyorament no·l creix
d’aquells amichs que teni’en lo mon,
essent lonch temps qu’en lo poblat no fon,
per fortuyt cars hun d’ells li apareix,
qui los passats plahers li renovella,
si que·l passat present li fa tornar;
mas com se·n part, l’es forçat congoxar:
lo be, com fuig, ab grans crits mal apella.

Plena de seny, quant amor es molt vella,
absença es lo verme que la guasta,
si fermetat durament no contrasta,
e creura poch, si l’envejos consella.

Ausiàs March: Poem XXVIII "Dark Night of the Heart" (From Catalan)

Poem XXVIII: Dark Night of the Heart
By Ausiàs March
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Day's terrified to lose her last bright features,
Seeing the night spread darkness overhead.
Small creatures dare not close their eyes for slumber.
The sick and weak ail even more in bed. 
Then evil men can freely do their worst
Who'd have the cover of darkness last all year.
Not I who am tormented as no other
Yet do no harm. I long for daylight clear.   

I do no harm, and yet do worse than murder
A thousand guiltless men for ruthless fun:
I summon all my powers for self-betrayal
And do not count on clemency from dawn.
No, every night I blast my brain concocting
Treasonous plots planned out for all day long.
No fear of death or dungeon life deter me
From visiting against myself such wrong. 

Beauty of Prudence: I know it's my doing 
That love's tight noose has twisted around me. 
Straight is the path I take without delay
To end, unless your mercy set me free. 

The Original:


Lo jorn ha por de perdre sa claror
quan ve la nit que espandeix ses tenebres.
Pocs animals no cloen les palpebres
e los malalts creixen de llur dolor.
Los malfactors volgren tot l'any duràs
perquè llurs mals haguessen cobriment.
Mas jo, qui visc menys de par en turment
e sens mal fer, volgra que tost passàs.

E d'altra part faç pus que si matas
mil hòmens justs menys d'alguna mercè,
car tots mos ginys jo solt per trair-me.
E no cuideu que-l jorn me n'excusàs.
Ans, en la nit treball rompent ma pensa
perquè en lo jorn lo traïment cometa.
Por de morir o de fer vida estreta
no-m tol esforç per donar-me ofensa.

Plena de seny, mon enteniment pensa
com aptament lo llaç d'amor se meta.
Sens aturar, pas tenint via dreta,
Vaig a la fi si mercè no-m defensa.

Saul Tchernichovsky: The Hawk (From Hebrew)

If you speak Hebrew and are wondering why this poem's title isn't translated as "The Eagle," see the notes following the text.

The Hawk
By Saul Tchernichovsky
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Hebrew

Black the hawk above your mountains!1 Black the mounting hawk on high!
Light and slow it seems one moment merely floating in the sky...
Floating, sailing skyblue seas, alert to songs of sheer delight
In the heart of all the heavens- circling mute through searing light. 

Black the hawk above your mountains! Black the mounting hawk on high! 
Sleek the body, dark the feathers, broad the wings and bright the eye,
Soaring like a bowshot arrow, rounding out its careful gyre
Tracking trails of prey below between the crags and through the briar. 

Black the hawk above your mountains! Black the mounting hawk on high! 
Gliding wide with wondrous touch, with wings locked back against the sky,
Frozen for a moment, then a single pinion barely sways.
Now the slightest palpitation, and it surges through the haze.

Black the hawk above your mountains! Black the mounting hawk on high! 
Light and slow it seems one moment merely floating in the sky....
Land! A hawk's above your mountains. A condensing shadow glides
From the giant's wing caressing mighty heaven's mountainsides2.

Notes on the text:

1These are the stony hills of the Judea.

2- The Hebrew phrase is identical to one in Psalm 36:6 Your righteousness is like the almighty mountains, and your justice a tremendous gulf. O Lord, you sustain man and beast. (translation mine, because all the existing translations flatten out this rather evocative phrase into "great mountains" or some such infelicitous cliché.)

Note on the title:

The titular bird of this poem, which I finally translated (after much thought) as "Hawk" is a particular brainbuster. עיט áyit, technically, means "Eagle" in modern Hebrew. However, the Hebrew עיט áyit is in many ways a much more ominous bird than the English counterpart it translates into. עיט áyit in modern Israeli speech is, I understand, commonly confused with vulture. The two native Hebrew-speakers I have queried confirmed my impression that the words עיט áyit "eagle" and נשר nésher (ostensibly "vulture" according to schoolmarms and the dictionaries written by them) are rather interchangeable in the modern language, with the choice depending more on symbolism than ornithology- where the עיט áyit "eagle" is an ominous bird of prey and the and נשר nésher a symbol of hope and persistence. This kind of taxonomic conflation and connotative distinction is a common occurrence in the lexicon of many languages, since humans have usually categorized fauna in experiential rather than taxonomic terms- especially with birds, which tend to figure prominently in mythology, religion, divination and poetic symbolism. (This is true of English too. Compare the connotations and symbolism of dove vs. pigeon or even crow vs. raven.)

In Hebrew, the ominous עיט áyit paired against the propitious נשר nésher appears to have its semantic origins in the Hebrew Bible. By way of illustration, here are some Biblical uses of עיט áyit. The English word or expression used to translate the bird in question is in bold:

יֵעָזְבוּ יַחְדָּו לְעֵיט הָרִים וּלְבֶהֱמַת הָאָרֶץ וְקָץ עָלָיו הָעַיִט וְכָל-בֶּהֱמַת הָאָרֶץ עָלָיו תֶּחֱרָף
They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and the beasts shall winter upon them. (Isaiah 18:6)

וַיֵּרֶד הָעַיִט עַל-הַפְּגָרִים וַיַּשֵּׁב אֹתָם אַבְרָם
And when the fowl came down upon the carcasses, Abraham drove them away (Genesis 15:11)

עַל-הָרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל תִּפּוֹל אַתָּה וְכָל-אֲגַפֶּיךָ וְעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר אִתָּךְ לְעֵיט צִפּוֹר כָּל-כָּנָף וְחַיַּת הַשָּׁדֶה נְתַתִּיךָ לְאָכְלָה
Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. (Ezekiel 39:4)
And here are some typical uses of נשר nésher:
וָאֶשָּׂא אֶתְכֶם עַל כַּנְפֵי נְשָׁרִים
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself (Exodus 19:4)

כְּנֶשֶׁר יָעִיר קִנּוֹ עַל-גּוֹזָלָיו יְרַחֵף, יִפְרֹשׂ כְּנָפָיו יִקָּחֵהוּ יִשָּׂאֵהוּ עַל-אֶבְרָתוֹ יְהוָה בָּדָד יַנְחֶנּוּ וְאֵין עִמֹּו אֵל נֵכָר
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. (Deuteronomy 32:11-12)
In the end I decided to render the bird's name as "hawk". The other possibility "raptor" (a naturalist's term for any bird of pray) had most of what I needed, but its off-key tone, as well as the accrued associations with dinosaurs thanks to Jurassic Park, made it unusable.

The Original:

שאול טשרניחובסקי

עַיִט! עַיִט עַל הָרַיִךְ, עַיִט עַל הָרַיִך עָף!
אַט וָקַל – נִדְמֶה כְּאִלּוּ רֶגַע – אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא צָף,
צָף-מַפְלִיג בְּיָם שֶׁל תְּכֵלֶת, עֵר לְרֶנֶן-גִּיל בְּלֵב
הַשָּׁמַיִם – הָרָקִיעַ, חַג אִלֵּם בְּאוֹר צוֹרֵב.

עַיִט! עַיִט עַל הָרַיִךְ, עַיִט עַל הָרַיִךְ עָף!

יְשַׁר-גֵּו וְכֶבֶד אֵבֶר, שְׁחוֹר-נוֹצָה וּרְחַב-כָּנָף;
טָס מָתוּחַ (חֵץ מִקֶּשֶׁת), עַיִט עָג עוּגִיּוֹת חוּגָיו;
תָּר עִקְּבוֹת טַרְפּוֹ מִמַּעַל בָּאֲפָר וּבַחֲגָו.

עַיִט! עַיִט עַל הָרַיִךְ, עַיִט עַל הָרַיִךְ עָף!

טָס גּוֹלֵשׁ-גּוֹלֵשׁ וּבְמַגַּע פֶּלֶא אֵבֶר לֹא נָקָף.
רֶגַע-קַל – קָפָא, מִשְׁנֵהוּ – נִיד-לֹא-נִיד בְּאֶבְרוֹתָיו,
רֶטֶט כָּל-שֶׁהוּא לְפֶתַע – וְעוֹלֶה לִקְרַאת הָעָב.

עַיִט! עַיִט עַל הָרַיִךְ, עַיִט עַל הָרַיִךְ עָף!

אַט וָקַל, – נִדְמֶה כְּאִלּוּ – רֶגַע אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא צָף...
אֶרֶץ, עַיִט עַל הָרַיִךְ, – עַל פָּנַיִךְ חַשְׁרַת צֵל,
מֵאֶבְרוֹת עֲנָק חוֹלֶפֶת, מְלַטֶּפֶת הַרְרֵי-אֵל...

Pushkin: Ode to Liberty (From Russian)

This poem was, at the time of writing, held to be subversive and revolutionary in Russia. It had a talismanic significance for many a young revolutionary. Manuscript copies of it were often confiscated upon arrest. One, for example, was among the "disloyal writings possessed by officers of the Kiev Grenadier Regiment." This poem managed to royally piss off Tsar Alexander I, whom I would call a witless fool but for the fact that I prefer to reserve that title for those fools, such as Tsar Nicholas II, whose witlessness was truly beyond measure. Tsar Alexander's reaction to the popularity of this poem was that "Pushkin must be exiled". Capo d'Istrias, who boasted the brownest nose of all the Tsar's groveling acolytes, wrote in his capacity as head of the Foreign Office :
"Некоторые поэтические произведения, а в особенности Ода на свободу, привлекли внимание правительства на г. Пушкина. Среди великих красот замысла и слога это последнее стихотворение свидетельствует об опасных началах, почерпнутых в современной школе, или, лучше сказать, в системе анархии, недобросовестно именуемой системой прав человека, свободы и независимости народов"
"Some pieces of verse and most of all an ode to liberty directed the government's attentions toward Mr. Pushkin. Among the greatest beauties of conception and style this latter piece gives evidence of dangerous principles drawn from the ideas of our age, or, more precisely, that system of anarchy dishonestly called the system of human rights, of freedom and the independence of nations."
In truth, though, the poem is far from revolutionary. Rather, the ideas it expresses are those of conservative liberalism, defending monarchy as long as the monarch, no less than his subjects, is bound by the law and respects it. One may, however, note the way in which it draws on the Marseillaise, a song which quickly became a republican revolutionary anthem in Russia among those who knew French. Echoes can be found a few places e.g. in stanza 2, line 6 (compare Tremblez, Tyrans et vous perfides…)


Ode to Liberty
By Alexander Pushkin
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Russian

Listless Cytherean princess1, sing
No more. Begone out of my view! 
But you, great scourge of tsar and king, 
Proud Muse of Freedom, where are you? 
Come rip my laurels off. Bring stones 
And crush this coddled lyre. Let me 
Sing to the world of Liberty 
And shame that scum upon the thrones. 

Reveal to me the noble path
Where that exalted Gaul2 once strode, 
When you in storied Days of Wrath 
Inspired in him a dauntless Ode. 
Now, flighty Fortune's favored knaves, 
Tremble, O Tyrants of the Earth! 
But ye: take heed now, know your worth 
And rise as men, ye fallen slaves! 

I cannot cast my gaze but see
A body flayed, an ankle chained, 
The useless tears of Slavery, 
The Law perverted and profaned. 
Yea, everywhere iniquitous 
Power in the fog of superstition 
Ascends: Vainglory's fateful passion, 
And Slavery's gruesome genius.  

Heavy on every sovereign head
There lies a People's misery, 
Save where the mighty Law is wed 
Firmly with holy Liberty, 
Where their hard shield is spread for all, 
Where in a Nation's faithful hand 
Among mere equals in the land 
The sword can equitably fall3

To smite transgression from on high
With one blow, righteously severe 
In fingers uncorrupted by 
Ravenous avarice or fear. 
O Monarchs, ye are crowned by will 
And law of Man, not Nature's hand. 
Though ye above the people stand, 
Eternal Law stands higher still. 

But woe betide the commonweal
Where it is blithely slumbering, 
Where Law itself is forced to kneel 
Before the Masses, or the King. 
Here is the Man: witness he bears 
To his forebears’ infamous error 
And in the storm of recent Terror 
Laid down royal neck for theirs. 

King Louis to his death ascends4
In sight of hushed posterity, 
His crownless, beaten head he bends: 
Blood for the block of perfidy.  
The Law stands mute, the People too. 
And down the criminal axe-blade flies 
And lo! A ghastly purple5 lies  
Upon a Gaul enslaved anew. 

You autocratic psychopath,6

You and your throne do I despise! 
I watch your doom, your children's death 
With hateful, jubilating eyes. 
Upon your forehead they descry 
The People’s mark of true damnation. 
Stain of the world, shame of creation, 
Reproach on earth to God on high! 

When on the dark Neva the star
Of midnight makes the water gleam,  
When carefree eyelids near and far  
Are overwhelmed with peaceful dream, 
The poet, roused with intellect, 
Sees the lone tyrant's statue loom 
Grimly asleep amid the gloom, 
The palace now a derelict,7 

And Clio's8 awesome call he hears
Behind those awesome walls of power. 
Vivid before his sight appears 
The foul Caligula's last hour. 
In stars and ribbons he espies 
Assassins drunk with wine and spite 
Approaching, furtive in the night 
With wolfish hearts and brazen eyes. 

And silent stands the faithless guard,
The drawbridge downed without alarm, 
The gate in dark of night unbarred 
By treason’s mercenary arm. 
O shame! O terror of our time!  
Those Janissary beasts burst in9
And slash, the Criminal Sovereign 
Is slaughtered by unholy crime.  

Henceforward, Monarchs, learn ye well:
No punishment, no accolade, 
No altar and no dungeon cell 
Can be your steadfast barricade. 
The first bowed head must be your own 
Beneath Law's trusty canopy 
The Peoples' life and liberty 
Then evermore shall guard your throne. 
Вольность: Ода
Александр Пушкин

Беги, сокройся от очей, 
Цитеры слабая царица! 
Где ты, где ты, гроза царей, 
Свободы гордая певица? — 
Приди, сорви с меня венок, 
Разбей изнеженную лиру… 
Хочу воспеть Свободу миру, 
На тронах поразить порок. 

Открой мне благородный след 
Того возвышенного галла, 
Кому сама средь славных бед 
Ты гимны смелые внушала. 
Питомцы ветреной Судьбы, 
Тираны мира! трепещите! 
А вы, мужайтесь и внемлите, 
Восстаньте, падшие рабы! 

Увы! куда ни брошу взор — 
Везде бичи, везде железы, 
Законов гибельный позор, 
Неволи немощные слезы; 
Везде неправедная Власть 
В сгущенной мгле предрассуждений 
Воссела — Рабства грозный Гений 
И Славы роковая страсть. 

Лишь там над царскою главой 
Народов не легло страданье, 
Где крепко с Вольностью святой 
Законов мощных сочетанье; 
Где всем простерт их твердый щит, 
Где сжатый верными руками 
Граждан над равными главами 
Их меч без выбора скользит, 

И преступленье с высока 
Сражает праведным размахом; 
Где не подкупна их рука 
Ни алчной скупостью, ни страхом. 
Владыки! вам венец и трон 
Дает Закон — а не природа; 
Стоите выше вы народа, 
Но вечный выше вас Закон. 

И горе, горе племенам, 
Где дремлет он неосторожно, 
Где иль народу иль царям 
Законом властвовать возможно! 
Тебя в свидетели зову, 
О мученик ошибок славных, 
За предков в шуме бурь недавных 
Сложивший царскую главу. 

Восходит к смерти Людовик, 
В виду безмолвного потомства, 
Главой развенчанной приник 
К кровавой плахе Вероломства. 
Молчит Закон — народ молчит, 
Падет преступная секира….. 
И се — злодейская порфира 
На галлах скованных лежит. 

Самовластительный Злодей!, 
Тебя, твой трон я ненавижу, 
Твою погибель, смерть детей 
С жестокой радостию вижу. 
Читают на твоем челе 
Печать проклятия народы, 
Ты ужас мира, стыд природы, 
Упрек ты богу на земле. 

Когда на мрачную Неву 
Звезда полуночи сверкает, 
И беззаботную главу 
Спокойный сон отягощает, 
Глядит задумчивый певец 
На грозно спящий средь тумана 
Пустынный памятник тирана, 
Забвенью брошенный дворец —, 

И слышит Клии страшный глас 
За сими страшными стенами, 
Калигуллы последний час 
Он видит живо пред очами, 
Он видит — в лентах и звездах, 
Вином и злобой упоенны 
Идут убийцы потаенны, 
На лицах дерзость, в сердце страх. 

Молчит неверный часовой, 
Опущен молча мост подъемный, 
Врата отверсты в тьме ночной 
Рукой предательства наемной…. 
О стыд! о ужас наших дней! 
Как звери, вторглись янычары!…, 
Падут бесславные удары… 
Погиб увенчанный злодей. 

И днесь учитесь, о цари: 
Ни наказанья, ни награды, 
Ни кров темниц, ни алтари 
Не верные для вас ограды. 
Склонитесь первые главой 
Под сень надежную Закона, 
И станут вечной стражей трона 
Народов вольность и покой. 


1 I.e. Venus Aphrodite, associated in antiquity with the Ionian island of Cythera. The line, in my English as in Pushkin's Russian, has a surfeit of soft sibillants (tsitery slabaya tsaritsa) adding a sound-component to the denigration of Aphrodite as feeble.

2The identity of this "exalted Gaul" is one of the many quarrels with which scholars of Pushkinian minutiae have busied themselves. Possibilities range from Nabokov's suggestion of the minor poet Ponce Denis Ecouchard Le Brun, to the sadly underrated (by modern critics) poet André Chénier who died on the guillotine at the age of 31, to Jacques de Molay- last grand master of the Knights Templar. For a variety of reasons Chénier seems the most likely, or rather, the only likely choice. But obviously this is a question of interest to historians and the appreciator of poetry doesn't, or at least shouldn't, care.

3 C.f. Guillaume Thomas Raynal's Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes where he writes:

La loi n'est rien, si ce n'est pas un glaive qui se promène indistinctement sur toutes les têtes, et qui abat ce qui s'élève au-dessus du plan horizontal sur lequel il se meut. La loi ne commande à personne ou commande à tous. Devant la loi, ainsi que devant Dieu, tous sont égaux.
The law is nothing, unless it be a sword passing indiscriminately over all heads, and smiting all that rise above the horizontal plane in which it moves. The law governs none, or governs all. Before the Law as before God, all are equal

4King Louis XVI, guillotined in 1793 during the reign of Terror.

5i.e. Napoleonic purple.

6 i.e. Napoleon. Yeah, I know, "psychopath" wasn't a word in the early 19th century. I don't care.

7 The Tyrant here referred to is Tsar Paul I, father of the then-current Tsar Alexander I. The poem was written in the Turgenevs' apartment which looked out across the canal at the Mikhailovsky Castle, the scene of Paul's assassination in 1801- an event envisioned in the subsequent two stanzas. In Pushkin's time, Paul was considered and depicted as a royal psychopath who ignored the will of his subjects. Later scholarship, based on among others the accounts of various ambassadors who had the displeasure of his company, has revised this image to one of an ineffective, unfocused yet not entirely evil doofus who lacked the resolve and discipline needed to turn his good intentions into reality and whose paranoid fear of a French-style revolution lead him to suspect treason on the part of any man who didn't bow low enough and any maid of honor who refused him sexual favors. Sir Charles Whitworth, the English ambassador at the time, wrote of him "he will advert to every motive which offended vanity can conceive."

8- Clio: the muse of History.

9 Janissaries: i.e. assassins fierce and ruthless as Turkish troops.

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