Poems in Translation

by Roderick T. Long

Horace: Carpe Diem
Goethe: from Faust
Rostand: from Cyrano de Bergerac
Ronsard: Ode to Cassandra
Ljermontov: The Sail

Horace: Carpe Diem

[translated from Latin, 1981]

Do not seek, Leuconœ, to know by blasphemy
What end the gods may give to you, nor what end give to me.
Dabble not in Babylonian numbers; rather, bear –
Endure whatever comes to pass: if angry Jupiter
Send many angry winters, or if this one be the last
Which now the Medit’rannean sand assails with its blast,
Liquefy the wine; and in a short time seek
To bring long hoping to a close. For even as we speak
Our age will fly unseen. Therefore pluck this day! Hollow
And undeserving of slightest faith are the days that follow.

Goethe: from Faust

[translated from German, 1982]

All things impermanent are but illusion;
What was inadequate here finds solution;
The inexpressible, here it is done;
The Ever-Female draws us up yon.

Rostand: from Cyrano de Bergerac

[translated from French, 1983]

The leaves! In the gold hue of Venice arrayed –
See them fall! How their fatal descent is well made!
In their passage so swift from the branch to the earth,
How to one final beauty they know to give birth!
Though to rot on the ground leaves the trembling with fright,
They yet give to their fall all the grace of a flight.

Ronsard: Ode to Cassandra

[translated from French, 1984; and check out the song]

My love, behold this morning’s rose.
At dawn, bright fingers did disclose
Her robe of purple to the sun.
See, now, what evening’s fall has cost
And if her petal-robe has lost
Its rosy hue so like your own.

Alas! See how, in such short span,
Is spent the bloom of rose and man!
Behold the ground with petals strewn!
Pitiless nature, curse on thee
That such a flower’s life should be
A fleeting breath ’twixt sun and moon.

Believe me, it is so with us:
Today, when your life flowers thus,
As fresh and new as was the rose,
Pluck, pluck, the blossom of your youth!
For grace and beauty grow uncouth
And wither, when the night wind blows.

Ljermontov: The Sail

[translated from Russian, 1984]

A solitary sail appears
Though sea and mist its contours hide.
What seeks he here, in foreign straits?
What lies behind him, flung aside?

Amidst the playful wind and waves,
The shaking masthead groans and creaks.
Ah! ’Tis not happiness he flees
Nor is it happiness he seeks.

Astride a spurt of clearest blue,
Gold-crowned in sunshine on the swell,
The rebel heads into the storm
As if the storm held peace itself.


Back to Juvenilia and Other Offenses