Sunday, September 07, 2008

Ubi sunt

Ancient chant
 called
“Ubi sunt”

Where be’th they, beforen us weren?

Where have they gone, who went before,
Who followed the hounds, forevermore?
Whose falcons turn and stoop* no more,
Their woods and fields now they lie within,
And we must become, as they have been;
As they are now so we shall be...


daffodils in the Red Rock Cemetery

This poem belongs to a genre popular both in Latin and vernacular languages in the Middle Ages, "ubi sunt" (where are they now) verse. I started with the idea of translating a well-known Middle English poem, whose first line I have retained, but what you see is as far as I got.

* "stoop" is a falconers' term for the hawk's descent on its prey. I considered using "swoop" but thought it too hackneyed. A good friend of mine with excellent literary taste told me I made the wrong choice. She now lies within the woods and fields herself, so I know I wrong her by ignoring her view. Nevertheless, it is here as I wrote it, unfinished.

3 comments:

robin andrea said...

It's a beautiful translation, jim.

Thanks for stopping by the Dharma Bums today and leaving a comment. It's been a while since we've heard from you. Often wonder how you are. Maybe you'll do some political posting now that the horrific season is upon us. Your thinking is always so good on this stuff.

Alyssa's nana said...

I, too, have been curious about your silence. I have enjoyed your blog for a couple of years and your opinions seem to mirror my own, which made it even more purplexing that we didn't hear from you during the neverending campaign, election and wait for the inaugeration. What a great story - loved the ending. Having lived in El Paso, incidentally, during my 18 years there, I'd be interested in your take on the current violence in Mexico - war between drug cartels, revolution or both?

Anonymous said...

I just reviewed my comment! "Purplexing?" OMG - Now that I've lost my ability to spell, I might has well check myself into the home.