T. H. Parry-Williams: "Barrenness" (From Welsh)

Barrenness
By T. H. Parry-Williams 
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

It was a treeless world of weather-swept
Wilds in Snowdonia around my birth,
Bare as if giants had forever kept
Smoothing out every slanting slope of earth;
And as I grew up, through boyhood's amazing 
Years in our upland home among my own,
Those mountains' primal forms would press in, bracing
Me till their barrenness became my bone.
And if something of me survives my end
Without completely vanishing away,
And then is found by a like-hearted friend
By chance near Snowdon in the dusking day
He'll see in it no image, no design,
Just long-drawn barrenness' bleak outline.

Me reading the original:

The Original:

Moelni

Nid oedd ond llymder anial byd di-goed 
O gylch fy ngeni yn Eryri draw,
Fel petai’r cewri wedi bod erioed
Yn hir lyfnhau’r llechweddau ar bob llaw; 
A thros fy magu, drwy flynyddoedd syn 
Bachgendod yn ein cartref uchel ni, 
Ymwasgai henffurf y mynyddoedd hyn, 
Nes mynd o’u moelni i mewn i’m hanfod i. 
Ac os bydd peth o’m defnydd yn y byd 
Ar ôl yn rhywle heb ddiflannu’n llwyr,
A’i gael gan gyfaill o gyffelyb fryd
Ar siawns wrth odre’r Wyddfa ’mrig yr hwyr, 
Ni welir arno lun na chynllun chwaith, 
Dim ond amlinell lom y moelni maith

Storm on the Great Moor (From Old Irish)

Storm on the Great Moor
(Anonymous: possibly 9th century)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Night falls cold on the Great Moor,
Storming with no small downpour. 
Wind laughs at its whooping flood
Shrieking on shielding wildwood.

Me reading the original Old Irish:
The Original:

Úar ind adaig i móin móir 
feraid dertan ní deróil
dordán fris tib in gaeth glan
geissid ós caille clithar

Dafydd ap Gwilym: The Seagull (From Welsh)

The Seagull
By Dafydd ap Gwilym
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Seagull floating on the seething tideflow,
White as moonlight or wild snow,
Moving in beauty immaculate, 
As a sunbeam-shard or sea-gauntlet,
Lightly skimming  the swell windward,
Swift fish-eating stately bird
Wont to angle at anchor with me
Side by side there, a sea-lily,
Shining letter  in silvered text,
A nun atop the sea-tide's crest. 

Perfect girl-symbol  worth praise in art,
Go for the curves of castle and rampart.
Keep looking, seagull,  till you light on her
Gorgeous as Igraine,   on the grand tower.
Speak my words  in sweet concord.
Let her choose me  and love my word.
If you see her alone  (since success
With so rare a girl  takes real deftness)
Then get some nerve to greet her. Say I,
A well-bred lad, must win her or die. 
I love that girl,  my guard of vigor.
No lover has loved  a lovelier
I'm telling you, men.  Not Taliesin
Nor flattery-lipped lusty Merlin.
Such a man-stopper with copper hair
And superlative form far too proper.

Oh yes, good gull  if you do come
To that most charming cheek  in Christendom,
Unless she answers  my love kindly
That girl will mean the end of me.

Audio of me reading the original Welsh:

The Original:

Yr Wylan

Yr wylan deg ar lanw, dioer,
Unlliw ag eiry neu wenlloer,
Dilwch yw dy degwch di,
Darn fel haul, dyrnfol heli.
Ysgafn ar don eigion wyd,
Esgudfalch edn bysgodfwyd.
Yngo'r aud wrth yr angor
Lawlaw â mi, lili môr.
Llythr unwaith lle'th ariannwyd,
Lleian ym mrig llanw môr wyd.

Cyweirglod bun, cai'r glod bell,
Cyrch ystum caer a chastell.
Edrych a welych, wylan,
Eigr o liw ar y gaer lân.
Dywaid fy ngeiriau dyun,
Dewised fi, dos hyd fun.
Byddai'i hun, beiddia'i hannerch,
Bydd fedrus wrth fwythus ferch
Er budd; dywaid na byddaf,
Fwynwas coeth, fyw onis caf.
Ei charu'r wyf, gwbl nwyf nawdd,
Och wŷr, erioed ni charawdd
Na Merddin wenithfin iach,
Na Thaliesin ei thlysach.
Siprys dyn giprys dan gopr,
Rhagorbryd rhy gyweirbropr.

Och wylan, o chai weled
Grudd y ddyn lanaf o Gred,
Oni chaf fwynaf annerch,
Fy nihenydd fydd y ferch.

Thankful for a Stormy Night (From Old Irish)

This short piece was written by a monk in the margin of an Irish manuscript of Priscian's Institutiones grammaticae. The poem's author welcomes a stormy night free from the risk of attacking Vikings, and supplies us with our earliest attestation of the Irish name for Scandinavia.  

Thankful for a Stormy Night
Anonymous (9th century)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman from Old Irish

Bitter wild winds blow tonight,
Tossing the sea's tress to white.
Good. I don't fear clear seas may
Bring berserkers from Norway.

Audio of me reading the original Old Irish:
The Original:

Is aicher in gáeth in nocht
fu·fúasna fairrge findḟolt;
ní·águr réimm Mora Minn
dond láechraid lainn úa Lothlind

"Summer's Gone" (From Old Irish)

"Summer's Gone"
Anonymous
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Here's my song.   Sad stags moan.
Winter blows,   summer's gone.

High winds lash.    Low, the sun.
Short, its course.   Seas roar on.

Fall-red fern   loses form.
Wildgeese wail   as the norm.

Cold now holds   each bird's wing.
Icy times.   So I sing.

The Original:

Scél lemm dúib   dordaid dam
snigid gaim   ro·fáith sam

Gáeth ard úar   ísel grían
gair a r-rith   ruirthech rían

Rorúad rath   ro·cleth cruth 
ro·gab gnáth   giugrann guth

Ro·gab úacht   etti én
aigre ré   é mo scél

T. H. Parry Williams: Return (From Welsh)

Return
T. H. Parry-Williams
Translated by A. Z. Foreman

The tumults of the world can never move
Heaven's silence. This earth's cries will not distress
The power of the peace which lies above
The great expanse's touchless nothingness. 
All man's and world's commotion here below
Cannot disturb that peace, will never purl
The distances whose turns and courses so
Impose pure quiet in their rapid whirl.
And as our journeying with all we are
From our birth-wail until the final whine
Is but time's ripple, shadow of a scar
On that vast muteness, mild and superfine,
Forever fleeing this foolish bother, we
Slip back into that great tranquility.


Me reading the original Welsh:

The Original:

Dychwelyd

Ni all terfysgoedd daear byth gyffroi
distawrwydd nef; ni sigla lleisiau’r llawr
rymuster y tangnefedd sydd yn toi
diddim diarcholl yr ehangder mawr;
ac ni all holl drybestod dyn a byd
darfu’r tawelwch nac amharu dim
ar dreigl a thro’r pellterau sydd o hyd
yn gwneuthur gosteg â’u chwyrnellu chwim.
Ac am nad ydyw’n byw ar hyd y daith,
o gri ein geni hyd ein holaf gŵyn,
yn ddim ond crych dros dro neu gysgod craith
ar lyfnder esmwyth y mudandod mwyn,
ni wnawn, wrth ffoi am byth o’n ffwdan ffôl,
ond llithro i’r llonyddwch mawr yn ôl.

March of the New Army (From Ukrainian)

Someone asked me if I could write a singable English version of this song. (You can listen to it here). I just sat down and banged this out. Replaced "Caucasus" with "Donbas" in the final stanza. 

March of the New Army
Adapted by Oleg Skrypka from lyrics by Oles Babiy
Adapted into English by A.Z. Foreman

We were born of a great and bloody hour
From flames of war and from the smoking gun
All fed on pain for our Ukraine in danger
And raised on rage at what our foes had done

So on we go for victory to battle
Like granite, hard, unshattering, and right
Tears have not yet won anyone his freedom
The world belongs to men who stand and fight

There's one great lesson to defend a nation 
That our proud call to all our people sings:
Be faithful to the homeland till they kill you. 
Ukraine for us. Ukraine above all things.

Our fallen blood leads us again to battle
Our highest order is our sacred task:
A free Ukraine, united and unbroken.
Forever free, from Lviv to the Donbas

The Original:

Зродились ми великої години, 
З пожеж війни і полум’я вогнів. 
Плекав нас біль за долю України, 
Зростив нас гнів і лють на ворогів.

Ми йдемо в бій переможним ходом, 
Тверді й міцні, незламні мов граніт, 
Бо плач не дав нікому ще свободи, 
Хто борець, той здобуває світ.

Велику суть для усіх єдину, 
Наш гордий клич народові несе 
Вітчизні будь ти вірний до загину
Нам Україна вище понад все!

Веде нас в бій героїв наших слава. 
Для нас закон найвищий то наказ: 
«Соборна Українська є держава — 
Одна навік: від Сяну по Кавказ»

Vasyl Stus: A Hundred Years (From Ukrainian)

A Hundred Years Since Sich Went Down
By Vasyl' Stus
Translated by A. Z. Foreman

A hundred years since Sich* went down.
Siberia. Cells in Solovkí**.
And dead of night wraps right around
A hellhole land and hellish scream.

A hundred years of tortured dreams,
Of expectations, faith and blood
Of sons all branded for their love,
A hundred hearts like blazing beams.

And from their bast shoes they grow up,
From cossack breeches on the plain,
From smokey huts slaves grow to sons
Of their one mother, their Ukraine.

You will no longer perish, stout
Land sacked and slaved for centuries. 
Oppressors cannot choke you out
With Siberias or Solovkís.

You are still suffering in pain,
Still ripped to bits and raggedy.
Already toughened and untame,
You have stood tall for liberty.

Your mother's milk was anger. Now
You'll get no peace from it. It will 
Keep growing, growing, growing till
The prison doors at last go down.

As joyful stormy thunders roar
Lightning bolts from the sky. And words,
— Shevchenko's*** prophesying birds —
Over the Dnipro's waters soar.

*Sich - main encampment of the Ukrainian Cossacks until Catherine II ordered it destroyed
** Solovkí — the Solovkí islands were home to an infamous Soviet concentration camp that bore their name. 
***Ukraine's national poet


Audio of me reading the original Ukrainian:

The Original:

Сто років як сконала Січ.
Сибір. І соловецькі келії.
І глупа облягає ніч
пекельний край і крик пекельний.

Сто років мучених надій,
і сподівань, і вір, і крові
синів, що за любов тавровані,
сто серць, як сто палахкотінь.

Та виростають з личаків,
із шаровар, з курної хати
раби зростають до синів
своєї України-матері.

Ти вже не згинеш, ти двожилава,
земля, рабована віками,
і не скарать тебе душителям
сибірами і соловками.

Ти ще виболюєшся болем,
ти ще роздерта на шматки,
та вже, крута і непокірна,
ти випросталася для волі,

ти гнівом виросла. Тепер
не матимеш од нього спокою,
йому ж рости і рости, допоки
не упадуть тюремні двері.

І радісним буремним громом
спадають з неба блискавиці,
Тарасові провісні птиці —
слова шугають над Дніпром.

Hryhoriy Chubay: Half a Breath (From Ukrainian)


Half a Breath
By Hryhoriy Chubay
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

When I am half a breath off from your lips,
When I am half a step away from you you — 
Your pupils are all woven out of wonder
And in your eyes it's all boundless and blue

You whisper something quiet and bewitched.
That whisper bluely cuts my quiet through
And I forget that I know how to breathe,
And I forget my feet can walk to you. 

Your eyelids' raven rises black in flight
And whisks my confidence somewhere remote,
Now half a step is left behind unwalked
And half a breath is stuck here in my throat.

Your pupils are all woven out of wonder
And in your eyes it's all boundless and blue
But there is half a breath left to your lips
And half a step left from my lips to you.    

Recording of the Original:


The Original:

Коли до губ твоїх
Григорій Чубай

Коли до губ твоїх лишається півподиху,
Коли до губ твоїх лишається півкроку -
Зіниці твої виткані із подиву,
В очах у тебе синьо і широко.

Щось шепчеш зачаровано і тихо ти,
Той шепіт мою тишу синьо крає.
І забуваю я, що вмію дихати,
І що ходити вмію, забуваю.

А чорний птах повік твоїх здіймається
І впевненість мою кудись відмає.
Неступленим півкроку залишається,
Півподиху у горлі застрягає.

Зіниці твої виткані із подиву,
В очах у тебе синьо і широко,
Але до губ твоїх лишається півподиху,
До губ твоїх лишається півкроку.

Taras Shevchenko: Testament (From Ukrainian)

Testament
Taras Shevchenko 
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

When I die, then bury me
On a rolling plain.
Raise my barrow in the soil
Of my dear Ukraine
With the wheatfields and the cliffs
Of a plunging shore
In my sight, where I can hear
The booming Dnipro's roar.

When its seaward waters bear
The invaders' blood
From Ukraine, then I will leave
Field and hill for good.
I will quit it all and fly
Bursting up to God
And say prayers..but till then
I don't know a god.

Bury me then rise again
And shatter your chains.
Stand and water freedom with
Blood from tyrant veins.
Then in a new family,
The great kin of the free, 
Say a kindly, quiet word
In my memory.

 Dec. 25, 1845

Me reading the original:

The Original:

Заповіт
Тарас Шевченко 

Як умру, то поховайте
Мене на могилі
Серед степу широкого
На Вкраїні милій,
Щоб лани широкополі,
І Дніпро, і кручі
Було видно, було чути,
Як реве ревучий.

Як понесе з України
У синєє море
Кров ворожу... отойді я
І лани і гори —
Все покину, і полину
До самого Бога
Молитися... а до того
Я не знаю бога.

Поховайте та вставайте,
Кайдани порвіте
І вражою злою кров’ю
Волю окропіте.
І мене в сем’ї великій,
В сем’ї вольній, новій,
Не забудьте пом’янути
Незлим тихим словом.

Proem to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (from Middle English)

I posted a throw-away translation of the first stanza of this rightly celebrated Middle English poem just for kicks on Twitter, and people really liked it. Somebody even commissioned me anonymously to do more of it — for God only knows what reason. Not that I'm not appreciative, of course, but it feels like yet another modern English translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a bit superfluous. I mean, a new version of this thing comes out like every decade, and translating Middle English into modern English feels . And you want yet another? People are weird. Anyway, the complete commission called for the first couple hundred lines, and I'm not posting that much here because reasons. But here's the proem.

On the other hand, most recordings of Middle English literature utterly fail at maintaining what is known about actual Middle English phonology. So, I've included a recording of the two stanzas in the original, in a reconstruction of how English was pronounced in the West Midlands in the late 14th century. 

Proem to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
By the Gawain Poet (duh)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

After the siege and the assault on the city of Troy
When that fortress was felled in flame into ashes
And the knight who crafted the cunning decoys
Was tried for his treachery, the truest on earth,
It was hero Aeneas and his high-born kin
Who went conquering abroad, and became masters
Of well-nigh all the wealth in the Westland Isles.
When Royal Romulus goes careering to Rome
With strength and splendor he sets up the city, 
Which is known even now by the name he gave it,
So too Ticius to Tuscany, constructing townships
And Longobeard to Lombardy where he lay foundations,
And far over the French sea, one Felix Brutus 
On broad-sloping banks founds Britain, where our story
      begins
    Where war and woe and wonders
    Have left their many prints,
    Where happiness and horror
    Have cycled ever since. 
And when this Britain was built by that brave noble
Bold lords were bred there, battle-happy men
Who kept turning to trouble with the returning years.
There have been more awful marvels met in that country 
Than any other I know of since the earliest days. 
But of all who there castled,  of the Kings of Britain,
Great Arthur was the noblest, as everyone knows.
And so I aim to call up an epic event
Which has struck many men   as amazingly strange,
One of the weirdest of all the wonders of Arthur,
If you will listen to my lay for a little while
I'll tell it straight as I heard it recited in the hall
      again
    From records rightly written
    With firm and faithful pen,
    Heard loud and long in Britain
    Of old from honest men.

The Original:

Siþen þe sege and þe assaut     watz sesed at troye,
þe borȝ brittened and brent     to brondez and askez
þe tulk þat þe trammes     of tresoun þer wroȝt(e)
watz tried for his tricherie,     þe trewest on erþe:
hit watz ennias þe athel     and his highe kynde
þat siþen depreced prouinces   and patrounes bicome
welneȝe of al þe wele     in þe west iles.
Fro riche romulus to rome     ricchis hym swyþe,
with gret bobbaunce þat burȝ     he biges vpon fyrst(e)
and neuenes hit his aune nome,     as hit now hat(e);
ticius to tuskan     and teldes bigynnes,
langaberde in lumbardie     lyftes vp homes;
and fer ouer þe french flod     felix brutus
on mony bonkkes ful brode     bretayn he settez
                    wyth wynne,
          where werre and wrake and wonder
          bi syþez hatz wont þerinne,
          and oft boþe blysse and blunder
          ful skete hatz skyfted synne.
Ande quen þis bretayn watz bigged    bi þis burn rych(e),
bolde bredden þerinne      baret þat lofden,
in mony turned tyme      tene þat wroȝten.
Mo ferlyes on þis folde      han fallen here oft(e)
þen in any oþer þat I wot      syn þat ilk tyme.
bot of al þat here bult,      of bretaygne kynges,
aye watz arthur þe hendest,      as I haf herde telle.
forþi an aunter in erde      I attle to schewe,
þat a selly in siȝt      summe men hit holden
and an outtrage awenture      of arthurez wonderez.
If ȝe wyl lysten to þis laye      bot on littel quile,
I schal telle hit as tit(e),      as I in toun herde
                    with tonge,
          as hit is stad and stoken
          in stori stif and stronge,
          with lel(e) lettres loken
          in londe so hatz ben longe.

Ghayyar-El ben Ghawth: A Safaitic War Chant (from Old Arabic)

Today we have an ancient Safaitic war chant, a poem discovered and deciphered by Ahmad Al-Jallad at Marabb al-Shurafā', a mudflat in the Ḥarrah of north-eastern Jordan. The inscription is hard to date but probably comes from around the turn of the first centuries BC and AD. 

It seems to me that a Safaitic inscriptional text, especially one this which is thus far unique in its length and register, would have been chanted, given the highly ritualized nature. (Certainly in more recent centuries that seems to have been — and to a degree still is — the traditional Bedouin practice.) So I did that here in reading the original text. I offer my own translation, composed for readability.

Safaitic War Chant
By Ghayyar-El(?)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

By Ghayyar-El son of Ghawth of the line of Hathay, from when he left his folk

      Now let him camp for war
            So be his final campment here today
      Fame for him is first
  
          So be his final campment here today
      He suffers who returns
   
         So be his final campment here today

He made for the marchlands, and alighted in the heath. There he kept watch for his uncle Sakran, exalting him with "Fortune be his". 
So keep him safe, Allāt.

The Original:
(Tracing done by Al-Jallad)


𐩡𐩶𐩺𐩧𐩱𐩡𐩨𐩬𐩶𐩻𐩹𐩱𐩡𐩢𐩼𐩺𐩥𐩧𐩢𐩡 𐩣𐩱𐩠𐩡𐩠
𐩰𐩢𐩡𐩡𐩠𐩣𐩢𐩧𐩨
𐩰𐩠𐩺𐩣𐩠𐩬𐩱𐩭𐩧𐩢𐩡𐩡
𐩧𐩱𐩪𐩹𐩫𐩧𐩩
𐩰𐩠𐩺𐩣𐩠𐩬𐩱𐩭𐩧𐩢𐩡𐩡
𐩲𐩬𐩺𐩣𐩬𐩢𐩮𐩰
𐩰𐩠𐩺𐩣𐩠𐩬𐩱𐩭𐩧𐩢𐩡𐩡
𐩢𐩵𐩵𐩥𐩻𐩥𐩺𐩨𐩠𐩧𐩳𐩩𐩥𐩭𐩧𐩮𐩭𐩡𐩠𐩪𐩫𐩧𐩬𐩺𐩧𐩨𐩰𐩠𐩨𐩤𐩡𐩰𐩸𐩠
𐩰𐩠𐩡𐩩𐩪𐩡𐩣

Bertolt Brecht: Questions from a Worker who Reads (From German)

Questions from a Worker who Reads History
Bertolt Brecht
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Who built seven-gated Thebes?
The books keep the names of kings. 
Was it kings who hauled the chunks of rock?
And Babylon, destroyed and redestroyed,
Who built and rebuilt it all those times? In what houses
Of gold-gleaming Lima did its builders live? 
Where did the masons go that evening
When the Great Wall of China 
Was done? Great Rome 
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Whom 
Did the Caesars triumph over? Did much-hymned Byzantium
Have only palaces for all who lived there? Even in legended Atlantis
The night the sea devoured it, the drowning still
Shouted for their slaves. 

Young Alexander conquered India.
All by himself? 
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Had he not so much as a cook with him? 
Philip of Spain wept when his Armada
Went down. Did nobody else weep?
Frederick II won the Seven Years' War. Who
Besides him won it? 
A victory every page
Who cooked the victory feasts?
A great man every decade
Who paid the bill?

So many reports
So many questions

The Original:

Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters
Bertolt Brecht

Wer baute das siebentorige Theben?
In den Büchern stehen die Namen von Königen.
Haben die Könige die Felsbrocken herbeigeschleppt?
Und das mehrmals zerstörte Babylon
Wer baute es so viele Male auf? In welchen Häusern
Des goldstrahlenden Lima wohnten die Bauleute?
Wohin gingen an dem Abend, wo die Chinesische Mauer fertig war
Die Maurer? Das große Rom
Ist voll von Triumphbögen. Wer errichtete sie? Über wen
Triumphierten die Cäsaren? Hatte das vielbesungene Byzanz
Nur Paläste für seine Bewohner? Selbst in dem sagenhaften Atlantis
Brüllten in der Nacht, wo das Meer es verschlang
Die Ersaufenden nach ihren Sklaven.

Der junge Alexander eroberte Indien.
Er allein?
Cäsar schlug die Gallier.
Hatte er nicht wenigstens einen Koch bei sich?
Philipp von Spanien weinte, als seine Flotte
Untergegangen war. Weinte sonst niemand?
Friedrich der Zweite siegte im Siebenjährigen Krieg. Wer
Siegte außer ihm?

Jede Seite ein Sieg.
Wer kochte den Siegesschmaus?
Alle zehn Jahre ein großer Mann.
Wer bezahlte die Spesen?

So viele Berichte.
So viele Fragen.

François Villon: Ballad of the Hanged (From Middle French)

Ballad of the Hanged
François Villon
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Brother men who live on as we are dead,
Do not look cruelly on our swinging view,
For if you pity us poor men instead
Then God will be more moved to pity you. 
You see us strung up, five or six guys, who
Overindulged the flesh which here, today,
Has rotted off and gotten pecked away,
As we the bones to ash and powder fall. 
Let none laugh at our horrible decay,
But pray to God that He forgive us all. 

If we dare call you brothers, don't be led
To scorn us. After all, you know it's true
That not all men are equal in the head, 
Though we died justly for what we did do. 
Commend us, since our flesh is cold, unto
The Virgin Mary's son, in hopes He may 
Not let his grace run dry on us. O pray
He keep us from the Hellish thunderball. 
We're dead. Nobody harries us today
But pray to God that He forgive us all. 

The rain has drubbed and laundered us, and red
Sunlight has parched and blackened us clean through. 
Crows, magpies cored the eyes from out our head,
Ripping our beards off and our eyebrows too. 
We can't rest so much as to cuss, wrenched to
And fro. Wherever wind would have us sway,
It flings us constantly in pointless play,
More pocked than thimbles as the birdbeaks maul. 
Brothers, don't join our brotherhood, we say. 
But pray to God that He forgive us all. 

Prince Jesus, in eternal majesty,
Spare us the hold of Satan's mastery.
We want no business by that protocol.
Men, there is nothing here for mockery.
But pray to God that He forgive us all.
 
The Original:

Ballade des Pendus
François Villon

Freres humains qui après nous vivez,
N'ayez les cuers contre nous endurcis,
Car, se pitié de nous povres avez,
Dieu en aura plus tost de vous mercis.
Vous nous voiez cy attachez cinq, six:
Quant de la char, que trop avons nourrie,
Elle est pieça devoree et pourrie,
Et nous, les os, devenons cendre et pouldre.
De nostre mal personne ne s'enrie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre

Se freres vous clamons, pas n'en devez
Avoir desdaing, quoy que fusmes occis
Parjustice. Toutefois, vous sçavez
Que tous hommes n'ont pas bon sens rassis;
Excusez nous, puis que sommes transis,
Envers le fils de la Vierge Marie,
Que sa grace ne soit pour nous tarie,
Nous preservant de l'infernale fouldre.
Nous sommes mors, ame ne nous harie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre!

La pluye nous a buez et lavez,
Et le soliel dessechiez et noircis;
Pies, corbeaulx nous ont les yeux cavez,
Et arrachié la barbe et les sourcis.
Jamais nul temps nous ne sommes assis;
Puis ça, puis la, comme le vent varie,
A son plaisir sans cesser nous charie,
Plus becquetez d'oyseaulx que dez a couldre.
Ne soiez donc de nostre confrarie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre

Prince Jhesus, qui sur tous seigneurie,
Garde qu'Enfer n'ait de nous la maistrie:
A luy n'ayons que faire ne que souldre.
Hommes, icy n'a point de mocquerie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous veuille absouldre!

Neruda: Poem XVII from 'One Hundred Love Sonnets' (From Spanish)

Poem XVII from "One Hundred Love Sonnets"
By Pablo Neruda
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Comissioned by Mary Reid Bogue 

I love you not as if you were a rose of salt, topaz
or arrow of fire-popagating carnations:
I love you with the love of certain darkling things,
in secret, in between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that does not flower but bears
within itself concealed, those flowers' light,  
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from earth lives on, and darkly, in my body. 

I love you knowing not how, nor when nor whence,
I love you straightforwardly with neither pride nor problem:
so do I love you because I know no other way to love, 

than in this form in which I am not and you aren't
so close that your hand on my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dream.

If you want to hear me read the original text, head on over here

The Original:

No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.

Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.

Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,

sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.

Florindo di Monaco: Macchu Picchu (From Latin)

This is one of my favorite Modern Latin short poems of all time, from a cycle of 10 poems titled 'Terrarum Mirabilissima Decem' (the title cannot be properly translated without being absurdly long-winded: 'Ten Things Most Wonderful From Around The World'.)

Machu Picchu
By Florindo di Monaco
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Clouds are wreathed in rays as they blank the stars out,
Shining. Here all time for all time is silent.
Grasping for gods lie the uprisen boulders 
Muted in prayer.

Whither the statecraft of the elder kingdom?
Whither the vanished power of a people?
Mystery harrows the fleeting ages' coward
Hearts now and ever.

The Original:

Cacumina Andina “Alturas de Machu Picchu” dicta

Nūbium candēns prohibet corōna
astra mīrārī. Silet omne tempus.
Caelitēs mūtīs precibus sequuntur
ēdita saxa.

Quō facultātēs soliī suprēmī,
magna quō fūgit populī potestās?
Īnstat arcānum pavidīs fugācis
cordibus aevī.

Homeric Hymn to Ares (From Greek)

Hymn to Ares
(C. 2nd-4th century A.D.)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

God-brawned Ares, gold-helmed driver
of the chariot in the stars.  Stout-spirit shieldman
bronzed in armor!  Bulwark of Olympus,
Guardian of cities  and spear-potent
Father of Victory, the fine dame at war!
Enemy-harrowing ally of Justice,
the righteous man's commander in chief,
scepter-master   of manly good
wheeling Your fireball  amid the wayfaring
planets' seven  paths through cosmic
air where Your firesteeds  forever bear You
over the thirdmost orbit immortal.

Hear me, bequeather of brave youth's bloom,
matchless ally  of mortalkind,
blaze a gentle beam from Your planet
straight into our life with strength of war
to finally beat the bite of cowardice
now and ever from out my skull.

Give my mind clout to crush the soul's
treacherous impulse, help me temper
the spirit-furies that spur me into
bloody mayhem, and make me brave
enough to keep within the kindly
laws of peace,  O Lord of War. 
Help me flee the fray of foul rancor,
and dodge the wraiths of a violent death.

The Original:

Ἆρες ὑπερμενέτα, βρισάρματε, χρυσεοπήληξ,
ὀβριμόθυμε, φέρασπι, πολισσόε, χαλκοκορυστά,
καρτερόχειρ, ἀμόγητε, δορισθενές, ἕρκος Ὀλύμπου,
Νίκης εὐπολέμοιο πάτερ, συναρωγὲ Θέμιστος,
ἀντιβίοισι τύραννε, δικαιοτάτων ἀγὲ φωτῶν,
ἠνορέης σκηπτοῦχε, πυραυγέα κύκλον ἑλίσσων
αἰθέρος ἑπταπόροις ἐνὶ τείρεσιν, ἔνθα σε πῶλοι
ζαφλεγέες τριτάτης ὑπὲρ ἄντυγος αἰὲν ἔχουσι:
κλῦθι, βροτῶν ἐπίκουρε, δοτὴρ εὐθαρσέος ἥβης,
πρηὺ καταστίλβων σέλας ὑψόθεν ἐς βιότητα
ἡμετέρην καὶ κάρτος ἀρήιον, ὥς κε δυναίμην
σεύασθαι κακότητα πικρὴν ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῖο καρήνου,
καὶ ψυχῆς ἀπατηλὸν ὑπογνάμψαι φρεσὶν ὁρμήν,
θυμοῦ αὖ μένος ὀξὺ κατισχέμεν, ὅς μ᾽ ἐρέθῃσι
φυλόπιδος κρυερῆς ἐπιβαινέμεν: ἀλλὰ σὺ θάρσος
δός, μάκαρ, εἰρήνης τε μένειν ἐν ἀπήμοσι θεσμοῖς
δυσμενέων προφυγόντα μόθον Κῆράς τε βιαίους.

Horace: Epode 1.7 "Rome's Sons March to Civil War" (From Latin)

Well, I was going to get back to translating Latin poetry eventually wasn't I? Translating the already-overtranslated poets of Graeco-Roman antiquity is for me like eating McDonalds: probably not the best use of my time, but still enjoyable. 

Rome's Sons March to Civil War
By Horace (Epode 1.7)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

What crime are you boys off to now? What are you 
Doing, with blades again in hand? 
Has not enough of Latin blood already
Gushed over sea and land?
Was it so Rome could bring the lording towers
of jumped-up Carthage down in flames,
Was it to take the last free Briton down 
the Sacred Way in slavers' chains?
No. It was this town answering Persia's prayers,
Disemboweling herself alone.
Not even wolves or lions can do this
violence against their own. 
Does blind rage goad you? Or some nastier power
Like guilt? Give me reply. 
Silence. A ghastly pallor dyes their cheeks. 
Their shattered brains in stupor lie. 
And so it goes: cruel fate and fratricide
Drive Romans on in crime,
Ever since blameless Remus' blood was spilled
and brought a curse on all their line.

The Original:

Quō, quō, scelestī, ruitis? aut cūr dexterīs
aptantur ēnsēs conditī?
parumne campīs atque Neptūnō super
fūsum est Latīnī sanguinis?
nōn ut superbās invidae Carthāginis
Rōmānus arcēs ūreret,
intāctus aut Britannus ut dēscenderet
Sacrā catēnātus Viā,
sed ut secundum vōta Parthōrum suā
urbs haec perīret dexterā.
neque hic lupīs mōs nec fuit leōnibus,
numquam nisī in dispār ferīs.
furorne caecus an rapit vīs ācrior
an culpa? respōnsum date!
tacent, et albus ōra pallor īnficit,
mentēsque perculsae stupent.
sīc est: acerba fāta Rōmānōs agunt
scelusque frāternae necis,
ut immerentis flūxit in terram Remī
sacer nepōtibus cruor.

Horace: Ode 1.4 Spring Sense (From Latin)

Spring Sense (Ode 1.4)
By Horace
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Hear me read this poem in Latin and in English on Youtube here 

Hard Winter's grip breaks up with the welcome spring and west wind coming, 
 the windlass drags to sea the parched dry keels. 
Cattle no longer care for stables nor ploughmen for the hearth.  
 The frostgrey cap is falling off the fields. 
Venus may well be leading Her dancers beneath a looming moon 
 somewhere. As Nymphs join hands with the svelte Graces 
tapping a lightfooted beat on the earth, hot Vulcan's men machine 
 bolts charged for summer storm in smolten places. 
Now it is time to garland your glossy hair with newgreen myrtle 
 or flowers the unfettered earth now bears,
and go to the shady grove of the woodland god to sacrifice  
 a lamb; or kid. Whichever He prefers.
Revenant ashfaced Death is walking not caring if His heel 
 hits peasant shacks or towers of kings. The fling
of life is short, dear well-heeled Sestius, and rules out betting on futures.   
 Night falls on you and ghosts are gathering
till the humbling walls of the Underhome close in. There you can't play   
 our party drinking games, and can't admire
sexy Lycidas who gets all the lads hotted up today 
 and who tomorrow will fill girls with fire.

The Original:

Solvitur ācris hiems grātā vice vēris et Favōnī
trahuntque siccās māchinae carīnās,
ac neque iam stabulīs gaudet pecus aut arātor ignī
nec prāta cānīs albicant pruīnīs.
Iam Cytherēa chorōs dūcit Venus imminente lūnā
iūnctaeque Nymphīs Grātiae decentēs
alternō terram quatiunt pede, dum gravīs Cyclōpum
Vulcānus ardēns vīsit officīnās.
Nunc decet aut viridī nitidum caput impedīre myrtō
aut flōre, terrae quem ferunt solūtae;
nunc et in umbrōsīs Faunō decet immolāre lūcīs,
seu poscat agnā sīve mālit haedō.
Pallida Mors aequō pulsat pede pauperum tabernās
rēgumque turrīs. Ō beāte Sēstī,
vītae summa brevis spem nōs vetat incohāre longam.
Iam tē premet nox fābulaeque Mānēs
et domus exīlis Plūtōnia; quō simul meāris,
nec rēgna vīnī sortiēre tālīs,
nec tenerum Lycidan mīrābere, quō calet iuventūs
nunc omnis et mox virginēs tepēbunt.

Claudio Rodríguez: "Aubade: Without Laws" (From Spanish)

Aubade: Without Laws
By Claudio Rodríguez
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

"Now the cocks crow.
My love, go.
Take good heed of dawn."
— Anonymous

On this bed where dreamy sleep is sorrow
this bed of no rest but a good day's work,
the late night overtakes us. Is the body
the question or the answer to so much
uncertain luck? A small, dry cough; a pulse
that comes out fresher and extinguishes
all the old ceremony of the flesh,
while there are no more words or gestures left
to go back and interpret the same scene
like novices. I love you. It's that evil
time for courtly unloveliness. So present
I hold you that my body finishes
in your tan body at whose hands one more
one more time I lose myself, and tomorrow
will lose my Self again. The night is over
like a war without heroes, like a peace
without alliances. And I love you.
I look for spoils. I look for a broken
medal, for a live trophy of this time
they want to steal from us. Now you are tired
and I love you. It's time. Will our flesh be
the compensation, the careening shrapnel
that justifies so much sheer struggle with
no victors and no vanquished? Be quiet.
For I love you. It's time. A tremulous
dawn enters. Never was a light so early.

The Original:

Sin Leyes
Claudio Rodríguez

Ya cantan los gallos,
amor mío. Vete:
cata que amanece.
— Anónimo

En esta cama donde el sueño es llanto,
no de reposo, sino de jornada,
nos ha llegado la alta noche. ¿El cuerpo
es la pregunta o la respuesta a tanta
dicha insegura? Tos pequeña y seca,
pulso que viene fresco ya y apaga
la vieja ceremonia de la carne
mientras no quedan gestos ni palabras
para volver a interpretar la escena
como noveles. Te amo. Es la hora mala
de la cruel cortesía. Tan presente
te tengo siempre que mi cuerpo acaba
en tu cuerpo moreno por el que una
una vez mas me pierdo, por el que mañana
me perderé. Como una guerra sin
héroes, como una paz sin alianzas,
ha pasado la noche. Y yo te amo.
Busco despojos, busco una medalla
rota, un trofeo vivo de este tiempo
que nos quieren robar. Estás cansada
y yo te amo. Es la hora. ¿Nuestra carne
será la recompensa, la metralla
que justifique tanta lucha pura
sin vencedores ni vencidos? Calla,
que yo te amo. Es la hora. Entra y un trémulo
albor. Nunca la luz fue tan temprana.

Dante Alighieri: Purgatorio 26 (From Italian)

Purgatorio 26
Dante Alighieri
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

It is around 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and the sun is on its way down in the west on Dante's right hand side. Dante, Virgil and Statius are walking south along the flaming edge of the seventh rung of Purgatory where penitents are serving time for sexual excess. A group of souls watches Dante and wonders why he casts a shadow over the flames. At one soul's request, the poet explains that he is still alive. Another group of souls, the homosexual penitents, joins the first, and the shade of the Bolognese poet Guido Guinizelli explains the nature of their sins. Dante expresses admiration for Guinizelli, and then — as author — pays the Occitan poet Arnaut Daniel the highest of possible compliments, allowing him to close out the Canto with lines of arrestingly simple verse in Lyric Occitan.

   As we went on in single file about
the edge, time and again my trusty guide
told me "Take care, I'll point the perils out." 
   My shoulder felt the sun strike from the right,
its rays already turning the west sky
from azure to a countenance of white.
   My shadow thrown as shade across the high
flames made the burning red a deeper ruddy,
and I saw several shades as they went by
   take notice. Looking, they began to study
and talk about me. One that I could hear
said "he seems not to have a fictive body"
   Then some of them came up to me, as near
as possible, remaining careful to
stay well within the bounds of burning there
   "You there who walk behind the other two,
(not out of sloth maybe, but reverence) I 
who burn in fire and thirst want words with you.
   Nor is it just me who needs your reply.
These others here are thirstier for it
than Ethiops for cold drink beneath hot sky. 
   Tell us: how do you cast a shadow yet, 
raise ramparts against sunlight with your skin?
It's like death never snatched you in his net."
   These words from one of them. I would have been     
explaining things already. But the flare
of something else surprised my eyes just then:
    middlemost down that flamey thoroughfare
came other people facing these. Forgetting
what I had meant to say, I stood to stare,
   as I saw shades rushing from each side, meeting
to kiss each other's cheek, not lingering
but satisfied with momentary greeting.
   Ants in their black ranks do this kind of thing:
each nuzzling at the other as if to seek
news of their recent luck and traveling.
   When each had kissed the other's friendly cheek,
before departing that phantasmagora
each shade tried to outscream the other's shriek...
   The newcomers howled "Sodom and Gamorrah"
The rest: "Pasiphaë enters the cow
and bends over to let the bullcalf gore her"
   Then as two flocks of cranes divide and go,
(one south to Africa, one to the Riphean Height,
these shying from the sun, those shirking snow)
   the two groups parted. One left, one went right
to us. Then went back in tears and chagrin
to crying out the mantra of their blight;
   the those who'd come my way drew close again,
— the shades that first entreated me — their eyes
as eager for my story as they had been.
   Now having seen their wish presented twice,
I made to answer: "oh souls sure to gain,
whenever it comes, your peace in Paradise,
   my limbs of human life did not remain, 
age-ripe or green, back there. They did not die.
They are on me here, complete with bone and brain. 
   I go through here to stop being blind. On high 
there is a lady who has won me grace
to bear across your world my mortal I. 
   But please — so that you may more quickly taste
what you want most of all, and heaven set
you in its loving, sheltering embrace,
   tell me (and I will make a place for it
in what I write): who are you? Who's that faction 
of people that just now ran opposite?" 
   With no less than a mountain man's reaction
when he comes red-necked to a metropolis
and stares in speechless downtowned stupefaction,
   the shades seemed flabbergasted hearing this.
But when their shock was laid under control
and blunted (as, in great hearts, it soon is)
   the shade spoke who'd addressed me first of all: 
"Blessed are you who from our shores ship keen
experience back, to die a better soul.     
   That other group committed the obscene   
same sex-act for which Caesar won the shame  
in victory of being called a Queen. 
   so they leave crying out 'Sodom' and blame
themselves aloud as you heard. The contrite
self-loathing that they feel sustains the flame. 
   Our sins were rather more hermaphrodite
but since, in disregard of man's law, we  
like beasts just acted on our appetite,
   when we pass them we scream shameheartedly 
the name of her who in the mockbeast's slime
got on all fours for bestiality. 
   Now you know all about our guilt and crime:
if you want names, I don't know all of them,
and even if I did, there isn't time.  
   I'll rid you of your want for mine: I am
Guido Guinizelli, brought here at once
as I repented well before the end."
   While King Lycurgus grieved berserk, twin sons
discovered their lost mother and made him see.
Thus was I moved (though not to their response)
   hearing him name his name: father to me
and of my betters who gave the world the dear
and graceful rhymes of love and courtesie.
   Thoughtstruck, I seemed to have no tongue or ear
as we walked on. I simply stared, then stood
a while as flames kept me from coming near.
   When I had stared my fill, more than I should,
I offered, in such terms as win good faith,
to serve him in whatever way I could.
   He said: "The things that I just heard you say
will leave in memory such clear residue
as Lethe can't blur out or wash away.
   But if the words you swore just now are true
then tell me why your speech and your look declare
the kind of love I think I see in you." 
   I said: "It is your verses, graceful and clear
which shall, so long as modern style is sung,
render the very ink that penned them dear"
   "Brother" he said, pointing out one among
the shades ahead "that soul you see there rose
as the best of craftsmen in the mother tongue. 
   He excels all who wrote in verse or prose
of love and loss, though idiots for their part
will still prefer that rhymer from Limoges. 
   Such men turn more to talk than truth and heart,
following familiar fames, set in their praise
with no regard to reasoning or art.
   Thus with Guittone whom they used to raise
above all others, with cry on cry galore,
though truth prevails with most of them these days. 
   Now if almighty privilege affords
you entry to that cloister where the master
and abbot of the college is Our Lord,
   then say on my behalf a Paternoster
or as much of one as we need, who can't be
led to temptation, but delivered faster."  
   And then, as if to yield his place with me
to someone else, he vanished in the flame
as a fish toward the bottom of the sea.
   I drew ahead a bit beside the same
shade he'd shown me, and said my heart and ear
would set a place of honor for his name.
   He answered in the language I hold dear:
"Tan m'abellis vostre cortes deman,
qu'ieu no me puesc ni voill a vos cobrir
   Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;
cossiros vei la passada folor,
e vei jauzen lo joi qu'esper, denan.
   Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
que vos guida al som de l'escalai 
sovenha vos a temps de ma dolor!"
   Then he was hidden in flames that purify.


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Notes:

Line 8:
There is some uncertainty about how the word pur is to be read here. My translation is at this point paraphrastical enough for me not to worry a great deal.

Line 32:
See Romans 16:16

Line 34-36:
See Aeneid IV.402-407

Line 40:
Those who have tried to argue that the sin punished in Inferno XV and XVI is not homosexuality are hard pressed to explain this passage in the Purgatorio. Even more absurd is the attempt by some modern commentators, desperate to see in Dante some kind of moral inspiration for the modern era, to read into this passage a tacit approval of moderate same-sex romantic relationships. It goes without saying that moderation of heterosexual lust is acceptable in Dante's view. It in no way follows that, by placing homosexual and heterosexual penitents in the same part of Purgatory, Dante was expressing the view that homosexual lust is also acceptable in moderation. Some amount of hay has been made of the fact that Dante here portrays homosexual and heterosexual lust as arising from the same source, unlike the Inferno where heterosexual vice is punished in the realm of Incontinence while homosexual behavior is punished as Violence. This probably has nothing to do with "softened views" about homosexuality, so much as the fact that Dante has painted himself into a corner by sticking to the seven capital vices in the layout of Purgatory, unlike Hell where he could maneuver more on the moral grid. The fact is that Dante thinks homosexuality is wrong, and this is not surprising from a vernacular poet writing in 14th century Europe. If any reader needs to find a way to square themselves with this fact, I would suggest that they take a leaf from Dante's book when it comes to cultural context. In Dante's Hell, nobody is punished for something they couldn't have been expected to know was wrong. The only people punished for sodomy or suicide are Christians who would have understood these things to be sinful. Greek and Roman polytheists, in whose culture these were acceptable, are not punished for them but are placed alongside the virtuous unbaptized in Limbo a.k.a Pagan Heaven. If Dante can give Sophocles a pass for sodomy, then I don't really mind giving him a pass in return on this.

Line 91:
While the basic meaning of this line is clear, the contorted syntax is puzzling and has occasioned multiple attempts to parse it, with quite different conclusions.

Line 92:
It is worth noting that Dante doesn't bother informing Guido that the other two individuals walking with him are Statius and Vergil. Presumably this would have been of interest to Guinizzelli. But as the focus of the Canto is on (medieval) vernacular poetry, Dante probably had narrative reason to keep the Latin-writing Romans out of it. No other part of the Commedia is as concerned with poetry and poetic merit.

Lines 140-147:
Dante has Arnaut Daniel speak in (slightly Italianized) Old Occitan as a nod to his lyric predecessor. It is the only extended passage of a language other than Italian in the Commedia. (And even the Latin passages are mostly scriptural quotation.) There is no other language — not even French — in which a quotation in Occitan would have precisely this effect.
What to do in translation?
Most translators, such as Longfellow and Clive James, have rendered Arnaut's speech into the same kind of English as the rest of the Commedia. Some have kept the speech in Occitan. Others have found more creative solutions. Dorothy L. Sayers has him speak pastiche Scots. John Ciardi has him speak mock-Spenserian English. Anthony Esolen makes the offensively ironic move of trying to have Arnaut speak French rather than Occitan, revealing how little he knows of either language.

One possibility is to use medieval English:

I drew ahead a bit beside that same
shade he'd shown me, and said my heart would lay 
a grateful place of honor for his name,
and of his own free will he turned to say: 

"Me pleseth so yowr courteys requeringe 
that I ne can nor wol behiden me. 
I am Arnault who sorwe and whilom singe. 
I soorè see my past follious houre,
And joying see my bidden joys cominge
Anow I preye of yow by that valoure
which gydeth to the steirès cop yowr wey: 
Remembre yow bytime of my doloure"


Then he was hidden in fires that purify.

Ultimately I decided to leave the passage in Old Occitan and simply alter it slightly for rhyme's sake. In both cases I altered items (the infinitive cobrire and the form escalina) which were Italianate insertions probably justified by rhyme considerations to begin with. (Escalina appears to be a coinage original to Dante. The form escalai is a coinage original to me.) Here is a verse translation that can also be read in its place:

He answered in the language I hold dear: 
Your courtly question is so gladdening
that I cannot, will not, stay hidden here.
   I am Arnaut who go in tears and sing
in pain I see the folly of my prime 
and rejoice seeing the joy that time will bring. 
   I beg you by the power that helps you climb
to the summit of that flight of stairs on high:
remember how I suffer in good time. 



The Original:

   Mentre che sì per l'orlo, uno innanzi altro,
ce n'andavamo, e spesso il buon maestro
diceami: «Guarda: giovi ch'io ti scaltro»;
   feriami il sole in su l'omero destro,
che già, raggiando, tutto l'occidente
mutava in bianco aspetto di cilestro;
   e io facea con l'ombra più rovente
parer la fiamma; e pur a tanto indizio
vidi molt' ombre, andando, poner mente.
   Questa fu la cagion che diede inizio
loro a parlar di me; e cominciarsi
a dir: «Colui non par corpo fittizio»;
   poi verso me, quanto potëan farsi,
certi si fero, sempre con riguardo
di non uscir dove non fosser arsi.
   «O tu che vai, non per esser più tardo,
ma forse reverente, a li altri dopo,
rispondi a me che 'n sete e 'n foco ardo.
   Né solo a me la tua risposta è uopo;
ché tutti questi n'hanno maggior sete
che d'acqua fredda Indo o Etïopo.
   Dinne com' è che fai di te parete
al sol, pur come tu non fossi ancora
di morte intrato dentro da la rete».
   Sì mi parlava un d'essi; e io mi fora
già manifesto, s'io non fossi atteso
ad altra novità ch'apparve allora;
   ché per lo mezzo del cammino acceso
venne gente col viso incontro a questa,
la qual mi fece a rimirar sospeso.
   Lì veggio d'ogne parte farsi presta
ciascun' ombra e basciarsi una con una
sanza restar, contente a brieve festa;
   così per entro loro schiera bruna
s'ammusa l'una con l'altra formica,
forse a spïar lor via e lor fortuna.
   Tosto che parton l'accoglienza amica,
prima che 'l primo passo lì trascorra,
sopragridar ciascuna s'affatica:
   la nova gente: «Soddoma e Gomorra»;
e l'altra: «Ne la vacca entra Pasife,
perché 'l torello a sua lussuria corra».
   Poi, come grue ch'a le montagne Rife
volasser parte, e parte inver' l'arene,
queste del gel, quelle del sole schife,
   l'una gente sen va, l'altra sen vene;
e tornan, lagrimando, a' primi canti
e al gridar che più lor si convene;
   e raccostansi a me, come davanti,
essi medesmi che m'avean pregato,
attenti ad ascoltar ne' lor sembianti.
   Io, che due volte avea visto lor grato,
incominciai: «O anime sicure
d'aver, quando che sia, di pace stato,
   non son rimase acerbe né mature
le membra mie di là, ma son qui meco
col sangue suo e con le sue giunture.
   Quinci sù vo per non esser più cieco;
donna è di sopra che m'acquista grazia,
per che 'l mortal per vostro mondo reco.
   Ma se la vostra maggior voglia sazia
tosto divegna, sì che 'l ciel v'alberghi
ch'è pien d'amore e più ampio si spazia,
   ditemi, acciò ch'ancor carte ne verghi,
chi siete voi, e chi è quella turba
che se ne va di retro a' vostri terghi».
   Non altrimenti stupido si turba
lo montanaro, e rimirando ammuta,
quando rozzo e salvatico s'inurba,
   che ciascun' ombra fece in sua paruta;
ma poi che furon di stupore scarche,
lo qual ne li alti cuor tosto s'attuta,
   «Beato te, che de le nostre marche»,
ricominciò colei che pria m'inchiese,
«per morir meglio, esperïenza imbarche!
   La gente che non vien con noi, offese
di ciò per che già Cesar, trïunfando,
"Regina" contra sé chiamar s'intese:
   però si parton "Soddoma" gridando,
rimproverando a sé com' hai udito,
e aiutan l'arsura vergognando.
   Nostro peccato fu ermafrodito;
ma perché non servammo umana legge,
seguendo come bestie l'appetito,
   in obbrobrio di noi, per noi si legge,
quando partinci, il nome di colei
che s'imbestiò ne le 'mbestiate schegge.
   Or sai nostri atti e di che fummo rei:
se forse a nome vuo' saper chi semo,
tempo non è di dire, e non saprei.
   Farotti ben di me volere scemo:
son Guido Guinizzelli, e già mi purgo
per ben dolermi prima ch'a lo stremo».
   Quali ne la tristizia di Ligurgo
si fer due figli a riveder la madre,
tal mi fec' io, ma non a tanto insurgo,
   quand' io odo nomar sé stesso il padre
mio e de li altri miei miglior che mai
rime d'amore usar dolci e leggiadre;
   e sanza udire e dir pensoso andai
lunga fïata rimirando lui,
né, per lo foco, in là più m'appressai.
   Poi che di riguardar pasciuto fui,
tutto m'offersi pronto al suo servigio
con l'affermar che fa credere altrui.
   Ed elli a me: «Tu lasci tal vestigio,
per quel ch'i' odo, in me, e tanto chiaro,
che Letè nol può tòrre né far bigio.
   Ma se le tue parole or ver giuraro,
dimmi che è cagion per che dimostri
nel dire e nel guardar d'avermi caro».
   E io a lui: «Li dolci detti vostri,
che, quanto durerà l'uso moderno,
faranno cari ancora i loro incostri».
   «O frate», disse, «questi ch'io ti cerno
col dito», e additò un spirto innanzi,
«fu miglior fabbro del parlar materno.
   Versi d'amore e prose di romanzi
soverchiò tutti; e lascia dir li stolti
che quel di Lemosì credon ch'avanzi.
   A voce più ch'al ver drizzan li volti,
e così ferman sua oppinïone
prima ch'arte o ragion per lor s'ascolti.
   Così fer molti antichi di Guittone,
di grido in grido pur lui dando pregio,
fin che l'ha vinto il ver con più persone.
   Or se tu hai sì ampio privilegio,
che licito ti sia l'andare al chiostro
nel quale è Cristo abate del collegio,
   falli per me un dir d'un paternostro,
quanto bisogna a noi di questo mondo,
dove poter peccar non è più nostro».
   Poi, forse per dar luogo altrui secondo
che presso avea, disparve per lo foco,
come per l'acqua il pesce andando al fondo.
   Io mi fei al mostrato innanzi un poco,
e dissi ch'al suo nome il mio disire
apparecchiava grazïoso loco.
   El cominciò liberamente a dire:
«Tan m'abellis vostre cortes deman,
qu'ieu no me puesc ni voill a vos cobrire.
   Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;
consiros vei la passada folor,
e vei jausen lo joi qu'esper, denan.
   Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
que vos guida al som de l'escalina,
sovenha vos a temps de ma dolor!».
   Poi s'ascose nel foco che li affina.