Friday, December 3, 2010

An umbrella

Via the letters in the latest NYRB, a clever version of Catullus 101 (multas per gentes etc.) by Donald Hope:

I’ve come through many countries and across many seas,
my brother, to do these sad obsequies,
to bring you posthumous presents and hopeless wishes
and make a useless speech to your dumb ashes;
My poor brother, since fate has callously
taken you, and cheated me of your company
here are these merely conventional things,
traditional sad funeral offerings:
take them—all wet with your brother’s tears—and my
last greeting and everlasting goodbye.

It doesn't have anything like the weight of the original -- perhaps the rhymes were a mistake? perhaps the medial caesura in the pentameter line of the elegiac stanza should have been reproduced or adapted? -- but one can ask only so much of poetic translations. (Here is an old post expressing my views on the matter.)

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