Monday, 12 August 2013

A Translation of the Tristia – Part 1

Looking through my old files, I came across a translation of a part of the Tristia by Ovid which was made by my old Latin teacher, Geoff Powell. Although it is verse, Geoff rather sensibly eschewed that and produced a prose translation.
A bit about Ovid:
Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BC – AD 17/18), known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of poetry, the Heroides, Amores and Ars Amatoria, and of the Metamorphoses, a mythological hexameter poem. He is also well known for the Fasti, about the Roman calendar, and the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, two collections of poems written in exile on the Black Sea. The five books of the elegiac Tristia, a series of poems expressing the poet's despair in exile and advocating his return to Rome, are dated to 9–12 AD.
I struggled with the Tristia, which was our Latin O-Level set book, but finally managed to crack it with the help of Geoff's translation, most of which I had virtually memorised by the time of the exam!
The original sheets bring back the technology of the time, typewritten, with the occasional xxx where Geoff had made a typing mistake, and decided not to use Tippex. All the Latin teachers we had – "Noddy" Salt, "Paddy" Blampied, and Geoff Powell – were good, but Geoff was by far and away the most inspiring.
A Translation of the Tristia – Part 1
By Geoffrey Powell
When there comes to my mind the very sad memory of that night which was my last time in the City, when I recall the night on which I left so many things dear to me, even now from my eyes a tear drop falls.
Already daylight was close at hand, the day on which Caesar had ordered me to depart from the lands of furthest Ausonia. There had been no time, nor had my mind been sufficient for preparing suitable things: my heart had become numb. With the long delay. I had no thought to choose my Slaves or companions
or the clothing or means suitable for an exile. I was thunderstruck as one, who, smitten by the fires of Jupiter, lives and is himself unaware that he lives.
But when the pain itself' removed this cloud from my mind, and at length my senses recovered, I spoke for the last time, as I was about to go away, to my sad friends, who out of many ' were now but one or two. My loving wife, herself weeping more bitterly, held me as I wept, with tears falling continuously over her innocent cheeks. My daughter was far off, separated from us on the shores of Libya, nor could she be informed of my fate.
Wherever you looked, there was a sound of sorrow and sighing, and in the house there was the appearance of a noisy funeral. Men, women and also boys mourn at my funeral; and in my home every corner had its tears. If one may use great examples in a small matter, this was the appearance of Troy when it was captured.
And now the voices of men and dogs were still, and the lofty moon was guiding her nocturnal horses. Looking up at her, and seeing the Capitol by her light, the Capitol which in vain had been joined to my home, I said, "O gods, dwelling in nearby abodes, and ye temples, now never to be seen by my eyes, and ye gods to be left behind, whom the lofty city of Quirinus holds, I bid you farewell for all time. And although too late I take up the shield after the wounds, yet free this flight from grudges. Say to that heavenly man what error deceived me, that he may not think it is a crime instead of a fault; and that what you know, the author of my punishment may feel also; I may escape misery if the god is appeased."
With this prayer I worshipped the gods; my wife with many more, with a sob hindering her sounds half-uttered. She even spread herself out before the Lares with her hair dishevelled, and touched the cold hearth with trembling mouth; and poured out many words to the Penates opposite her, words which would not avail her bitterly lamented husband.
And now night rushing along denied me time for delay, and the Great Bear had wheeled round on its pole. What was I to do? 1 was held back by the alluring love of my country; but that was the last night of the banishment commanded. Alas, how often I said, as someone hastened by, "why do you hurry ? Consider where you are hastening to go to, or where from". Alas, how often I have lied that I had a definite hour which would be suited to my appointed journey. Thrice I touched the threshold, thrice I was called back, and my very foot was lingering, indulging my mind. Often I said many things again to my spoken "farewell", and I gave the final kisses as if-going away. Often I gave the same commands, and I deceived myself, looking back on my dear children with my eyes.
At last I said, " why am I hurrying? It is Scythia where I am being sent ; one must be left behind; each is a good reason for delay. My living wife is denied me alive for ever, and my home and the sweet members of that faithful home, and the companions whom I have loved with a brotherly love, of hearts joined to me with the faith of Theseus. I shall embrace you, while it is permitted; never more perhaps will it be permitted. The hour which is given to me is gain. "
Immediately I leave the words of my conversation unfinished, embracing each thing nearest to my heart, While I speak and we are weeping, Lucifer, very bright in the lofty sky, arises (had arisen), to us a sorrowful star, I tear myself away as if I Were leaving; my limbs behind, and part seemed torn away from its own body. In such a way did Mettus grieve when he had the horses turned in opposite directions; avenging his treachery. Then indeed there arose the shout and groan of my people, and sad hands strike bare breasts. Then in truth my wife clinging to my shoulders as I was going away, mingled these sad words with my tears. "You cannot be torn away; together we will go from here," she said; "I shall follow you and be the exiled wife of an exile. For me too the journey has been made; and the far-distant land takes men I, a small burden, shall be added to the exiled boat. The anger of Caesar orders you to go away from your country; affection orders me, This love shall be for me a Caesar. "
She tried such things as she had tried before, and with difficulty she gave her hands conquered by expediency. I set out, as if it was to be carried out without a funeral, unkempt, my hair falling over my rough cheeks. She, distracted by grief; is said to have fallen forward in the middle of the house, half-dead, as darkness arose, and as she rose again, with her hair soiled by the degrading dust, and raised her limbs from the cold ground, she bewailed now herself, now the deserted Penates, and often called the name of her husband taken away, groaning as if she had seen the funeral pyres piled up' having the bodies of her daughter and husband; she wished to die, and in dying to lay down her senses, nevertheless from regard of me she did not die, May she live; and so live that by her help she may continuously support me when I an absent, since the fates have willed it so.

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