Tag Archives: poets

What to strive for…

I was a terrible spoken language student. I have English tongue where anything but solid English words sound funny. So I took Latin because it didn’t need to be spoken. By year two you were translating real poets. Stumbling through a book sale on day I found the penguin classics book on Martial’s Epigrams which contained both the original Latin and a translation. Martial is a funny poet. A wise man, but one who can’t follow his own wisdom. And he knows it. The poems he was best known and read for were the send-ups of noble society Romans. The ancient equivalent of Jon Stewart. But mixed in with them were these poems where Martial was turning that keen eye at himself, and finding that he fell short. The law is written on our hearts.

This is Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey’s translation of one of Martial’s epigrams (10.47). Howard was both a descendant of English kings and a good poet. Two things that probably didn’t sit well together. Maybe you can see the attraction of this one. It is probably wisdom suitable for our age as well. Henry Howard…

Martial, the things for to attain
The happy life be these, I find:
The riches left, not got with pain;
The fruitful ground, the quiet mind;

The equal friend; no grudge nor strife;
No charge of rule, nor governance;
Without disease the healthy life;
The household of continuance;

The mean diet, no delicate fare;
Wisdom joined with simplicity;
The night dischargèd of all care,
Where wine may bear no sovereignty;

The chaste wife, wise, without debate;
Such sleeps as may beguile the night;
Contented with thine own estate;
Neither wish death nor fear his might.

Martial’s original Latin…

Vitam quae faciant beatiorem,
Iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
Res non parta labore, sed relicta;
Non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
Lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta; 5
Vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
Prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
Convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
Nox non ebria, sed soluta curis;
Non tristis torus, et tamen pudicus; 10
Somnus, qui faciat breves tenebras:
Quod sis, esse velis nihilque malis;
Summum nec metuas diem nec optes.

Ok, the reason this was brought to mind is that it plays a role in The Tudors…

The Best Poet of the 20th Century on Liturgy

HT: Wesley Hill Tumblr