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A Poet's Journal: June 30th, 2014

June 30th, 2014

A 4-day hike in the Basque Mountains

Lying low upon the ground, breathing in the night air, and awakening to a slight chill, though it is the middle of summer, is enough for the body to regain its vitality.  It would be easy here for the mind to leave its thoughts to the scattered mist, but even if we tell ourselves that an unfettered freedom lies before us upon the trail, there is always something of our nagging and mundane lives following.  The contrast is too simple for us not to notice, and instead of feeling enlivened by it, there is the realization that we have not yet broken free from it all, but neither have we decided what we want to break free from.
A constellation arose on the door of our tent at night, and following it, the first rays of sun spread through our damp affairs with the enduring scent of heat--all of it though matters not unless one can see the place and the meaning it gives to his onward movements.
Douglas Thornton

Newly Published Translation!

We have left the solstice behind and our days are now guided by declining light and the heat of summer.  Let us take a moment then to step toward the pleasures of another world and warm ourselves with poetry.  Please scroll down or click on the following link to read the new translation:

A Translation of André Chénier’s ‘Elegy XX’ by Douglas Thornton
Art, feeble interpretation
Of the soul! Art and only verse,
While the heart alone is poet!
Oppressive to the fruitful mind
Are those adornments, which despite
Themselves, hide within such words
As truth and surety commit
To thought, the loss of thought itself.
The heart speaks, genius writes: master
To obey, his hand turns divine,
But only if loved and happy,
Freed of torment, only if joy
Light-hearted and ardent youth spread
Across his face their beaming glow,
Will his verse, as clear as amber,
Or as flowers blush, find renewed
With their fairest looks, a sweetness
To the world, and in ripe old age
A guide. But mild and generous
If his h…

A New Translation of Catullus!

Here is a new translation of Catullus: please scroll down to read or visit the Society of Classical Poets by clicking on the following link: A Translation of Catullus’s ‘Ad Sirmium Insulam’ by Douglas Thornton

The important events in the life of Gaius Valerius Catullus (84-54 B.C.) are recounted through the poems he has left.  The particular poem below was written on his return from Asia Minor, where he had attempted at a public career by following Memmius, the patron of the poet Lucretius, into the province of Bithynia.  But his hopes being dashed, he took refuge after the long journey at his home in the present-day village of Sirmione, in northern Italy, on Lake Garda.

Ad Sirmium Insulam

Of the islands which in stagnant
Waters and vast seas Neptune holds,
Sirmio--the pearl of islands!--
Now my heart with you rejoices
Safe and sound, still scarce believing
Thynia and Bithynian
Fields have gone.  What more fortunate
Care, after so many struggles,
When the mind shrugs off its burden,
Dr…

A First Attempt in Latin Translation

Cicero's Pro Achia ch. 7.

On the utility of literature in his defence of the poet Archias:

I will admit that many men have existed who were excellent in mind and in virtue, but had no learning, and by the habit of their natures, on account of some divinity, moderated themselves by their own gravity. Though of course, I will add that, when we speak of honour and virtue he has always been more valued who was strong in mind but without learning than he who had the required education but not the character to go along with it. Yet I will contend to this that when a certain method and conformity of learning approaches to a select and distinguished character, how illustrious and of such singular nature these men appear before us. From this, we should count him who our fathers saw, that divine man Africanus, then C. Laelius, L. Furius, both moderate and virtuous men; then that most firm and most learned man of the times, M. Cato the elder; all of whom, were it not adjudged that any virtue…

NEWLY PUBLISHED TRANSLATIONS!!

Newly published at the Society of Classical Poets:  Translations of André Chénier’s Poetry, by Douglas Thornton

The Flute

Douglas Thornton

Ever tender and touching the moment,
When pressing himself the flute to my mouth,
Laughing and pulling me close to his breast,
He named me his rival and soon to be
Master.  My stiff and timid lips were shown
To breathe an air pure and harmonious,
And my young fingers, by his practiced hands,
Being raised and lowered a hundred times,
Though ever so trying, were taught to close
The different holes of the sonorous wood.

La Flûte

André Chénier

Toujours ce souvenir m'attendrit et me touche,
Quand lui-même, appliquant la flûte sur ma bouche,
Riant et m'asseyant sur lui, près de son coeur,
M'appelant son rival et déjà son vainqueur,
Il façonnait ma lèvre inhabile et peu sûre
A souffler une haleine harmonieuse et pure;
Et ses savantes mains prenaient mes jeunes doigts,
Les levaient, les baissaient, recommençaient vingt fois,
Leur enseignant ains…