Friday, April 30, 2010

Even further inspired by the aforementioned Anglophone uses of this odd but fun meter, he thought he'd give Catullus himself a crack:

My exercise in hendecasyllabics. First the Latin, indicating the elisions you need to make it scan right:

Luget(e), O Veneres Cupidinesque,
et quantum (e)st hominum venustiorum:
passer mortuus est meae puellae,
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quem plus ill(a) oculis suis amabat.
nam mellitus erat suamque norat
ipsam tam bene quam puella matrem,
nec ses(e) a gremi(o) illius movebat,
sed circumsiliens mod(o) huc mod(o) illuc
ad solam domin(a)m usque pipiabat.
qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum
illuc, unde negant redire quemquam.
at vobis male sit, malae tenebrae
Orci, qu(ae) omnia bella devoratis:
tam bellum mihi passer(e)m abstulistis
o factum male! o miselle passer!
tua nunc opera meae puellae
flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli.

Latin and Greek poetry used various quantitative meters -- patterns of long and short syllables, in which the metrically prominent first syllables of feet (the "ictus") did not necessarily coincide with the stresses of words, which could make for complicated effects in a line. This meter of eleven syllables goes:
- - | - u u | - u | - u | - -
Rhyme was not a structural requirement, but it seems Catullus used a few internal rhymes intentionally.

I think this poem either tear jerkingly moving or comically overwrought, as my mood varies.

Now my English, with some attempts to reproduce something of the accidental rhymes and assonances and enjambments, and trying for colloqiuality. Judge for yourself whether this language really suits itself to this kind of meter.

Weep! all goddesses, gods of love, and all true
Ladies, gentlemen, found throughout the wide world!
Sparrow's gone to the grave. Her pet, my girlfriend's
Sparrow, light of her life, is gone. My girlfriend
Cared for him, even more than for her own eyes.
Sweet as nectar he was, and knew his mistress
Just as well as a baby knows her own ma.
Nor too far from his lady's lap he struck out
But, skip! hop! run-around, about, and non-stop
At his mistress alone he peeped his heart out.
Leaps and bounds 'long a shadow-road he goes now,
Gone down where they dun' letcha out, but no-how.
Curses light on you all, accursed phantoms,
Hell's devourers of all that's fine and lovely!
Such was Sparrow, the pet you ravished from me.
Deed most damnable! You -- pathetic sparrow --
It's all your doing now that makes my girlfriend's
Swollen, poor little eyes go red with weeping.

Go Pavel!

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