Then choirs of angels will joyfully sing: “May God be merciful to this tippler.”

Since this is a lengthy and – as these things go – better known poem of the Archpoet‘s from the Carmina Burana (191) I’m only giving a selection (stanzas 12-19). My text and translation are David Traill’s from v.2 of the Dumbarton Oaks Carmina Burana. The full text with a different translation can be found here. The imagined setting is the Archpoet’s ‘confession’ to the new Archbishop of Cologne:

Under the third count I will speak of the tavern;
I have never spurned it, nor shall I ever do so,
until I see the holy angels coming,
singing Eternal Requiem for the dead.

It is my resolve to die in a tavern
so that there may be wine near my dying mouth.
Then choirs of angels will joyfully sing:
“May God be merciful to this tippler.”*

Cups of wine set the mind’s lamp alight; when my heart
is imbued with its nectar, it soars up to heaven.
The wine of the tavern tastes sweeter to me than the
wine watered down by the archbishop’s butler.

Some poets avoid public areas and choose to sit in
secluded hideaways. They study, press on, stay up late,
and work really hard and in the end can scarcely
produce an intelligible work.

Some poets fast and abstain from drinking, avoiding
public squabbles and the tumult of the forum,
and to make a work that cannot die,
they study themselves to death, devoted to their task.

To each of us Natures gives his own special gift;
I have never been able to write when fasting.
A boy could beat me when I fast.
Thirst and fasting I hate like death.

To each of us Nature gives his own special gift;
when I write verses, I drink good wine
– the best the inkeeper’s casks contain –
that’s the wine that produces a rich flow of words.

The verses I write reflect the quality of the wine I
drink. I can’t do anything if I haven’t eaten;
the lines I write when fasting are absolutely worthless;
but after goblets of wine I outdo Ovid with my verse.

Poetic inspiration is never given to me
unless my belly is well and truly full.
When Bacchus holds sway in the citadel of my brain,
Phoebus rushes into me and says wondrous things.

Meum est propositum in taberna mori,
ut sint vina proxima morientis ori;
tunc cantabunt laetius angelorum chori:
«Sit Deus propitius huic potatori.»*

Poculis accenditur animi lucerna,
cor imbutum nectare volat ad superna.
mihi sapit dulcius vinum de taberna,
quam quod aqua miscuit praesulis pincerna.

Loca vitant publica quidam poetarum
et secretas eligunt sedes latebrarum,
student, instant, vigilant nec laborant parum,
et vix tandem reddere possunt opus clarum.

Ieiunant et abstinent poetarum chori,
vitant rixas publicas et tumultus fori,
et ut opus faciant, quod non possit mori,
moriuntur studio subditi labori.

Unicuique proprium dat Natura munus:
ego numquam potui scribere ieiunus,
me ieiunum vincere posset puer unus.
sitim et ieiunium odi tamquam funus.

Unicuique proprium dat Natura donum:
ego versus faciens bibo vinum bonum,
et quod habent purius dolia cauponum;
vinum tale generat copiam sermonum.

Tales versus facio, quale vinum bibo,
nihil possum facere nisi sumpto cibo;
nihil valent penitus, que ieiunus scribo,
Nasonem post calices carmine praeibo.

Mihi numquam spiritus poetriae datur,
nisi prius fuerit venter bene satur;
dum in arce cerebri Bacchus dominatur,
in me Phebus irruit et miranda fatur.

* The Latin parodies Luke 18:13 – “Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori” (God, be merciful to me, a sinner).

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