Monday, May 29, 2017

`What Changes All, Now Changes Me'

Not forgotten; never known. One could devote a life to reading such writers without wasting his time. Time is the cruelest critic, and readers conform to a narrow path. One of my favorite anthologies of any sort is Horace in English, edited by D.S. Carne-Ross and Kenneth Haynes, and published by Penguin in 1996. Even well-known names among the translators will surprise casual readers – John Quincey Adams, Tennyson, Kipling. But more intriguing are the mystery guests. Why have I never read the English poet K.W. Gransden (1925-1998)? He translated Virgil and devoted books to Donne, Forster, Angus Wilson and Tudor verse satire. Here is his loose and very personal “After Ode I.34,” subtitled “A Funny Thing Happened . . .”:

“I, master of philosophy,
Ex-adept of an idiot’s creed,
Lax and infrequent churchgoer,
Am now compelled to turn again
By something that I cannot read:
Thunder in blue skies, and no rain!
Whatever can so freak the weather
Must be the god of earth and sea
And hell and heaven, I now concede.
Jehovah, Paradox or Luck
Pulls down the proud. Promotes the meek:
What changes all, now changes me.”

Reality humbles. No one is immune to its mandates. Gransden Christianizes the Roman. Go here to read John Conington’s duller, more literal translation of Ode I.34, and then read David Ferry’s (Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations, 1999):

“Sparing and but perfunctory in my devotions,
Going my own way, wandering in my learned
Well-considered folly, now I must turn about

“And change my course, and sail for home and safety,
Jupiter, whose thunder and whose lightning
Require the clouds, just now, this minute, drove

“His thundering chariot and his thundering horses
Right straight across a perfectly cloudless sky,
Unsettling streams and shaking the heavy ground

“All the way down to the river Styx and out
To the end of the earth beyond Taenarus’ seat,
Where Atlas holds up the sky upon his shoulders.

 “Oh yes, the god has power. Oh yes, he can
Raise up the low and bring the high things down.
Fortune’s wings rustle as the choice is made.”

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