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NaPoTraMo 8: Juno’s Wrath

April 8, 2010

Day eight and I’ve run out of ideas. So I’ve gone to one of the classics, one of the pieces that every Latinist and their dog has probably translated at some point, but I guess I might as well add my paltry contribution to the pile: the opening of the Aeneid.

I don’t think Virgil’s masterpiece particularly needs introduction, given that it introduces itself – here is my protagonist, here is my setting, here is a potted summary of the next twelve books. I also think it goes without saying that this one, this one especially, is for my own amusement and Latin practice, and nothing else. If you want to read the Aeneid in English – look elsewhere. A thousand people have rendered this poem better than I will ever be capable of doing, and you should read them instead.

I sing of arms, and of a man, who first
went forth from Troy to land in Italy
a poor doomed exile to Lavinia’s shores;
shaken by storms on land and sea alike,
the heavens’ force remembering Juno’s wrath,
and much withstood in war; founded a city,
let in his Gods; thence came the Latin race,
fathers of Alba, and the high walls of Rome.

Tell me the causes, Muse: what injury
or grief was it, for heaven’s Queen to throw
toils and calamities on such a man,
a pious man? What anger rules the gods?

Translates ll.1-11 of P. Vergilius Maro’s Aeneid; Latin text available here.

Rhiannon (who is doing real NaPoWriMo, with original poems and everything) did a surreal, but still fun and thought-provoking take on the first stanza a little while back: “The Tragic Death of John the Trojan.” It’s fascinating how the simple phonetic music of a language sparks random associations, which then contrast weirdly with what the potential Latin/translation-reading reader knows the content to be.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Seamus permalink
    April 11, 2010 12:33 am

    I’ve been reading your translations as they go up, but keeping quiet these last few days because I’ve had nothing to show. I’ve been enjoying them though. The ballad version of Seneca is awesome. I like this too — ‘founded a city, / let in his gods’ is an interesting turn of phrase that I haven’t seen in other translations of the Aeneid; I like it.

    Anyway, since I’ve missed four days, I thought I better blast back onto the scene with something big, so here it is: two scenes from the Jean-Baptiste Lully opera Persée, libretto by Philippe Quinault.


    Alas! He will be killed! Do I tremble? Wherefore
    Should I feel for Andromeda’s lover such fear?
    Have I lost all my former spite?
    What interest have I in his life?
    He lives for another, he is lost to me…
    No matter! When I see him in his deadly peril,
    When I see him seeking a horrible slaughter,
    I do not think, “He loves me not;”
    I only think, “I love him.”


    [Enter Andromeda.]

    [Andromeda, apart.]
    Ill-starred ones, who have been transformed
    Into stone by the glance of a dreadful monster,
    You feel no more your unmerciful destinies,
    And your hardened hearts now are forever peaceful.
    Ah! Those hearts which still can feel
    Are a thousand times unhappier.

    [Merope, apart.]
    Andromeda seems distracted;
    She comes in a dream to this place.
    Yes. In her face I recognise
    The same bitter thoughts which trouble me.

    [Andromeda, apart.]
    He loves me but too much, and all he asks of me
    Is to love him in turn;
    From the highest of the gods he receives this day.
    Can it be love that gives him, in this mortal peril,
    The means to hold up against such merit,
    And against so much love?

    [Merope, to Andromeda.]
    Ah! you love Perseus, and that excites your fears.
    Do not disavow your tears.
    Your tender sentiments are all too well expressed:
    You love him.

    You love him.
    The hope of his hand had bewitched your very soul,
    And I know the project that you formed. I can see
    Your spite has not extinguished the flame you keep for him;
    Perseus is in danger, and so you are afraid.
    You love him.

    You love him.

    How pitiful the tender heart
    That is reduced to hiding!
    What pain is there one does not feel
    From love that one cannot reveal,
    Deep in the dark abiding?
    How pitiful the tender heart
    That is reduced to hiding!

    My spite tries in vain to overthrow my pity.
    It’s true. I can’t keep up this anger against you.
    Perseus is an ingrate who cannot love me;
    It doesn’t mean I can forget him.
    But he loves you too much, alas!
    Yes, yes, why wouldn’t you love him.

    The love he has for me has made
    Him bravely seek his end with foolish eagerness.
    Do not reproach me for this dolorous advantage;
    I will pay dearly for it.

    United our regrets; the same love binds us both.
    What does it matter which of us Perseus wants?
    We both of us shall lose him:
    Our common loss shall reconcile us.

    This hero goes; oh let him not
    From us be plucked away;
    Oh let him live for you, so long
    As he live through this day.

    My love I must hide and betray not… O Venus!
    He comes to seek me in this place before he goes.

    I go: I’ll not be a witness
    To the torment of your fond goodbyes.

  2. Seamus permalink
    April 11, 2010 12:37 am

    PS. You have to hear the voice of the chap who plays Perseus. It’s absolutely stunning. (His arse isn’t bad either.)

  3. Seamus permalink
    April 11, 2010 12:39 am

    Okay that second one’s the link that works.

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