From Joachim du Bellay’s Les Regrets (no. 82). The poem itself is standard Horace/Persius/Juvenal satire remade but came to mind today when a colleague sent – together with some accusatory innuendo – the below pictures of our library’s copy of the David Slavitt ‘translation’ of the collection. I had forgotten but several years ago I was looking this up for some reason and grew so enraged at his facing translation that I defaced several pages with my own spur of the moment versions. I remain convinced I was in the right, if only to warn any future readers. But I also enjoy the pure absurdity of it.
First is the Richard Helgerson translation:
Do you want to know, Duthier, what sort of place Rome is? Rome is a public scaffold for all the world, a stage, a theater, where nothing is lacking that men can do.
Here we see the game of Fortune and how her hand keeps us turning, now down, now up. Here everyone shows himself and cannot, however cunning he may be, prevent the populace from calling him what he is.
Here rumor spreads quickly, whether false or true. Here courtiers make love and pay court. Here ambition and trickery about.
Here freedom makes the lowborn man bold. Here idleness makes the good man vicious. Here the base porter holds forth on worldly affairs.
Now the original:
Veuls-tu sçavoir (Duthier) quelle chose c’est Rome?
Rome est de tout le monde un publique eschafault,
Une scene, un theatre, auquel rien ne default
De ce qui peult tomber es actions de l’homme.
Icy se void le jeu de la Fortune, et comme
Sa main nous fait tourner ores bas, ores haut:
Icy chacun se monstre, et ne peult, tant soit caut,
Faire que tel qu’il est, le peuple ne le nomme.
Icy du faulx et vray la messagere court,
Icy les courtisans font l’amour et la court,
Icy l’ambition, et la finesse abonde:
Icy la liberté fait l’humble audacieux,
Icy l’oysiveté rend le bon vicieux,
Icy le vil faquin discourt des faicts du monde.
Now the absurdity: