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Monday, 24 November 2014

Abandonment (Bunting's Horace: Forget the weather)


Abandonment, Uummannaq, Greenland. "This picture was taken in Uummaannaq, a mysterious island lost north of Greenland. The island is home to an isolated Inuit people who are torn between modernity and tradition, ecological disaster and natural greatness, abandonment and resistance. The landscape is as beautiful as it is disturbing. This picture was taken in the town’s waste sorting center, located on an ice field very close to locals' homes, where the waste burnt in open air is responsible for a significant 'dioxin' pollution": photo and caption by Camille Michel, 2014 via Syngenta /The Guardian, 18 November 2014

Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte, nec iam sustineant onus
    silvae laborantes geluque
    flumina constiterint acuto.

Dissolve frigus ligna super foco
large reponens atque benignius
    deprome quadrimum Sabina,
    o Thaliarche, merum diota.

Permitte divis cetera; qui simul
stravere ventos aequore fervido
    deproeliantis, nec cupressi
    nec veteres agitantur orni.

Quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere et
quem fors dierum cumque dabit lucro
    adpone, nec dulcis amores
    sperne puer neque tu choreas,

donec virenti canities abest
morosa. Nunc et Campus et areae
    lenesque sub noctem susurri
    composita repetantur hora;

nunc et latentis proditor intimo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo
    pignusque dereptum lacertis
    aut digito male pertinaci.

Horace: Odes 1.9

Perm region, Russia. A sinkhole measuring 20 by 30 metres has appeared near a potash mine, with the cause still unknown: photo by Uralkali Company / EPA via The Guardian, 21 November 2014

Snow's on the fellside, look! How deep;
our wood's staggering under its weight.
The burns will be tonguetied
while frost lasts.
But we'll thaw out. Logs, logs for the hearth;
and don't spare my good whisky. No water, please.
Forget the weather. Elm and ash
will stop signalling
when this gale drops.
Why reckon? Why forecast? Pocket
whatever today brings
and don't turn up your nose, it's childish,
at making love and dancing.
When you've my bare scalp, if you must, be glum.
Keep your date in the park while light's whispering.
Hunt her out, well wrapped up, hiding and giggling,
and get her a bangle for a keepsake,
she won't make much fuss.
...........................................(says Horace, more or less)

Horace: Odes 1.9, translated by Basil Bunting, 1977, in Agenda 16/1 (1979)

A pedestrian holds on to her coffee while walking through a snowstorm: photo by Dan Cappellazzo / Barcroft USA via The Guardian, 21 November 2014

Storm clouds and snow over Lake Erie in Buffalo. A blizzard dumped a year’s worth of snow in three days on the west New York state
: photo by Lindsay DeDario / Reuters via The Guardian, 21 November 2014

Buriganga River, Dhaka, Bangladesh. ‘As we celebrate 400 years of Dhaka City, the Buriganga river, which has played a vital role in its growth, is being choked to death. It is used by millions every day to transport goods –- but chemicals, sewage and industrial waste are also dumped in it. Nearly 700 brickfields on the riverside, dockyards and used engine oil from boats and steamers add to this pollution’: photo and caption by Rasel Chowdhury via Syngenta / The Guardian 18 November 2014

End of November and no snow in @Uummannaq 70 degrees North in #greenland: photo by Idrissia Thestrup @IdrissiaT, 23 November 2014

Deep #Greenland Sea #Warming faster than the rest of the world #climate #consequences #greed #GlobalDying: image via Not Warming, Dying @ClimResJudicata, 23 November 2014

The @PolarPortal weather anomaly is showing the big freeze pretty vividly right now - and much warmer in #Greenland: image via greenlandicesmb, 18 November 2014

Vibrant green aurora borealis over #Greenland: image via Beautiful Pictures @BEAUTIFULPICS, 10 November 2014


Barry Taylor said...

Snow - always knew, particularly as a kid, that it wouldn't last, but not in the new scary sense that these images and graphics document. Consoling myself with the brilliance of Bunting's translation - my cribs to the original, plus viewings of other translations, support my hunch that he's managed an entirely Horatian colloquial ease and swing while being minutely faithful to the original ... 'Says Horace, more or less' - so much skill, good judgement and sheer poetic cool at play in that 'more or less'.

Wooden Boy said...

I do wish British poets paid a little more attention to Bunting; we've no proper sense of his weight.

It seems odd that a poem could be so light and so stoical at once. Good to be reminded how fugitive those small pleasures are given the shifts in climate and the sinkholes.

The burns will be tonguetied
while frost lasts

Every line crisp as the air outside. Wonderful.

TC said...

Basil knew how to appreciate living and did a fair bit of it, and I think he and Horace, two poets with some experience of the world, are having an interesting, witty, and urbane conversation here. These comments carry that conversation along in a way I'm sure both of them would have enjoyed.

A few remarks on this version by an academic critic, Mark Possanza:

In his translation of the Soracte ode (1.9) Basil Bunting gives the reader a Horace who looks out on a Northumbrian landscape and speaks in a Modernist voice that eschews verbal ornament and Latinate words :

Snow's on the fellside, look! How deep;
our wood's staggering under its weight.
The burns will be tonguetied while frost lasts.

Those closing monosyllables stiffen the tongue like gelu acuto. Bunting's strategy is to transpose Horace's poem into his own favorite landscape, complete with fell and burns; his Horace calls for whisky ("no water please") and points to his "bare scalp" as a warning against love's lost chances; in the last stanza he echoes the Latin ab angulo with the word "bangle", a sly touch that gives the reader who knows the Latin poem the pleasure of recognition. However, at the end of the poem Bunting surprises the reader with a brief coda, "(Says Horace, more or less)", which will seem a gross understatement to those who know the source text, while the Latinless reader will be left wondering just how much Horace is in the poem. Bunting's semantic libertinism makes no concessions either to the philological scruples of the bilingual reader or to the basic linguistic needs of the reader who knows no Latin but does know that Horace didn't drink Glenfiddich. Like Pound's translations of Propertius and Horace, Bunting's translation of 1.9 is, in the first instance, a poem written for other poets, an exemplar of how to write poetry as well as how to translate poetry. Readers who want less poetic innovation and more verbal interpretation will turn to a translator who holds to the aurea mediocritas of fidelity to Horace's Latin Muse and to the Muse of English poetry. They must, however, bear in mind that such heavy demands on the translator-poet's fides are bound to produce not a few adulteries along the way.