Westron Wynde

08/29/08

Permalink 01:14:27 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 391 words, 2545 views   English (US)
Categories: Modern Latin

Westron Wynde

Peter Lech at his Ad Montem Heliconium blog is kind enough to share his Latin poetry through its various revisions. A neat example is his translation into elegiacs of the old English song The Westron Wynde.

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Let’s take a quick look at the first couplet; the original English is:

“Westron wynde, when wilt thou blow
   The small raine down can raine”

Lech has three translations:

I: O Zephyre, flabunt quando tibi leniter aurae?
      tum parcus pluviam Iuppiter addet aquam.

II: O Zephyre, flabunt quando tibi leniter aurae?
      (imbre Iovi parco tum liceat pluere!)

III: O Zephyre, flabunt quando tibi leniter aurae?
      pompaque ventorum tum tua parcet aquae!

The hexameter is the same in all three variants. Notice how the brief opening line requires the writer to add leniter–a good choice, considering the poem’s description makes the wind seem gentle. My only quibble is a technical one: Making the e at the end of Zephyre long by position is not typical, but the implied caesura/comma after this vocative compensates.

Things are more interesting in the pentameter options. (III) is clearly the weakest; pompa ventorum just doesn’t fit well with leniter in the previous line and parcet aquae later on, and that final phrase “be thrifty with water” seems a little broad for a light shower (parco is sometimes used of things, but not as often as with people). The other two choices wisely bring Jupiter/Jove (=caelum) into the image as the source of the rain, and here I think (II) is better: The causal link to the wind in the first line is more explicit in Iovi…liceat pluere than the simpler subjunctive addet, and I’m not too keen on pluviam…aquam - “rainy water” (though this creates an opportunity for the transferred epithet parcus…Iuppiter).

All of these couplets are technically fine, and moreover if I were to approach this poem I might make some different (not necessarily better) choices. The point of this comparison was to see how a modern creative/artistic process can work in Latin, a process this blog is keen to promote. I see from a later post that Lech selected (II) for his final revision; he has at least one reader who agrees.

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