RWB Workshop Poem of the Week (2/25)
Here’s a translation of Catullus’s famous funeral poem known as “Hail and Farewell”. I’m a believer in translations that stay as close to the original as possible. Sometimes departures from the original are necessary because of differences of usage in the languages involved, to maintain the flow, music, of the language, or if the original poem rhymes and one chooses to rhyme the translation, since there may be no translation of the original wording that produces rhymes.
Places where I’ve departed from the original for the first two reasons are highlighted in the translation, below. Rhyming wasn’t a problem, since the original didn’t rhyme.
Following the translation is a literal translation of the original, and following that the Latin original and a pre-modern, rhyming translation by Aubrey Beardsley.
Hail and Farewell
Through many lands and over many seas,
I come, brother, to this sad ceremony,
to confer on thee this final service to the dead,
and address in vain your mute ashes.
Since fate has taken thee from me,
Oh, brother, torn away too soon,
I give thee these last offerings,
blessed by the tradition of our fathers.
Accept them, though sodden with fraternal tears,
and, for eternity, brother, hail and farewell.
Carried through many peoples and many seas
I come to these sad funeral rites, brother,
that I might confer on thee the final service of death
and address in vain your mute ashes,
since fortune has taken thee thyself from me.
Alas poor brother unfairly carried away from me!
Still now meanwhile these gifts, which by the ancient rites of parents
are given as a sad duty at funerals,
take them dripping with much fraternal weeping
and in perpetuity brother hail and farewell.
multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus advenio has miseras frater ad inferias ut te postremo donarem munere mortis et mutam nequiquam adloquerer cinerem quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias accipe frataerno multum manantia fletu atque in perpetuum frater ave atque vale
Aubrey Beardsley Translation
By ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side am I come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
And vainly parley with thine ashes dumb:
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath ta’en thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, the heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell;
Take them, all drenched with a brother’s tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell!