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Sunday 13 May 2012

Visit at Dawn (after Propertius)


Woman with a Parrot: Eugène Delacroix, 1827 (Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon)

Went round at first light to make sure she'd spent the night
Alone. Her waking beauty, seeming somehow greater than ever,
Stopped me in my tracks. She admonished me for spying.
"I'm not like you, you know. For me, one lover is enough:
You" -- meaningful pause -- "or someone who will be a little truer.
Go on, Mister Snoop, sniff about as you please, have a good close look.
Do you think you will discover traces of my perfidy,
Marks of looseness in the bed clothing, or of heat upon my skin
To fill in the sordid details of the fantastic tale
Your own bad conscience has planted in your dim
Male mind?" But then as I came closer, she stirred up,
Pushed me away with one hand while reaching down to slip
A sandal upon a lovely white foot. That was that.
No more spying for me, since then. Nor a single restful night.

Propertius: Carmen XXIXb
Mane erat, et volui, si sola quiesceret illa,
...visere: at in lecto Cynthia sola fuit.
obstipui: non illa mihi formosior umquam, neque ostrina cum fuit in tunica,
ibat et hinc castae narratum somnia Vestae,
...neu sibi neve mihi quae nocitura forent:
talis visa mihi somno dimissa recenti.
...heu quantum per se candida forma valet!
'Quid tu matutinus,' ait 'speculator amicae, similem vestris moribus esse putas?
non ego tam facilis: sat erit mihi cognitus unus,
...vel tu vel si quis verior esse potest.
apparent non ulla toro vestigia presso,
...signa volutantis nec iacuisse duos.
aspice ut in toto nullus mihi corpore surgat
...spiritus admisso notus adulterio.'
dixit, et opposita propellens savia dextra
...prosilit in laxa nixa pedem solea.
sic ego tarn sancti custos deludor amoris:
...ex illo felix nox mihi nulla fuit.

Reclining female nude: Egon Schiele, 1908

Propertius: Carmen XXIXb: English version by TC


Lally said...

Incredible translation Tom. When did you do it? Are there more? Did I miss a book of them or will one be coming at some point? And wow, what a wonder how well you have recovered from such a traumatic event, and may I say how happy I am to be among the many bearing witness to that inspiring development.

Hazen said...

Tom, Your Propertius is timeless, he’s real and full of feeling. This is beautiful and funny, and touching, all at once.

So fine, this: "No more spying for me, since then. Nor a single restful night."

TC said...

Well, Michael, I did this translation in March, shortly before being run over in the street and nearly killed.

It made its way into my new BlazeVOX book Distance, just under the wire, just as I was making it back up toward the turbid surface of Sepia Pond.

Of all intervening events I now retain no memory whatsoever.

(Don't I wish!)


Yes, I love the way he finally has to admit to himself he's been driving himself nuts over the way it was beginning to bother him that he was letting her drive him nuts.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


A fine translation from a wonderful book: Distances. I will be sitting down a second time with it, soon I hope. So much therein to praise but thanks for this and the attached visuals.

The situation, and tone you manage to capture here, reminded me of Proust. Of course the last line for him would have to read "More, more spying for me ..."


Nin Andrews said...

Yes, beautiful, and yes amazing. And I do hope you are resting and healing . . . And btw, do you think BlazeVox would be up for an interview? I do that series . . .



Yes to all the above, what a great translation, a kind of Homage to Sextus Propertius in its own right -- hope there will be more! The 'predicament' (and reaction to it) so REAL --

"Went round at first light to make sure she'd spent the night/ Alone" -- I've been there done that as they say, when Johnny's mother first made her exit, not a good 'place' to be in. . .


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
top of ridge, towhee calling from field
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

light withdraws its clarity,
darkening over things

physical, evidence of sense,
such a thing as space

grey white of fog against top of ridge,
cormorant flapping across toward point

ACravan said...

This is wonderful. I also hope there will be more of these. Curtis