We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Three of my Colonna translations · 17 January 08

Dear Harriet,

I promised myself I would keep track of the poems people request permission to read aloud in festivals & to use in essays, classrooms & anthologies. (By not doing so until recently I can not remember the titles of two anthologies in which my Colonna translations appear nor which poems were chosen nor anything about the couple of MA theses where they have been used, except one was done at Oxford.)

So I here record that 3 days ago someone teaching Renaissance poetry in a small private liberal arts college in Marietta, Ohio, requested permission to xerox and hand out to his classes and teach Colonna using the following three translations. From Amaro Lagrimar:

Scrivo sol per sfogar l’interna doglia

I write to vent the inward pain my heart
feeds upon (I seek nothing else) surely
no-one can think I mean to add to the
splendor this buried gladiator cast.

I am right to obey my urge to mourn;
though the thought I damage his fame hurts me,
I am leaving to other pens, wiser
heads the task of saving his name from death.

May rooted loyalty, love, and a weight
of sorrow, this anguish neither reason
nor time can lessen—excuse me to each of you.

Bitter crying, a song which is not sweet,
bleak sighs, a disquieted voice: I’ll boast
not of my style but of my suffering.

Veggio rilucer sol di armate squadre

Gleaming reflections of fires off pale
armor. All I can see for miles around.
The noises of coming war, plaintive cries
replace this land’s sweet song, the mother’s laugh.

Oh, think again. Do not do this. Be like
Christ’s first follower. Clothe yourself in his
mantle: show some humility. Shepherd,
yours ought to be works of noble beauty.

If pride didn’t blind you, you’d see your sons:
we share an old culture, are bonded through
aeons of custom and good deeds done for

each other. Under one sky, from one womb
born, our grandparents sat down to eat in
the kind shade of one city together.

Qual digiuno augellin, che vede ed ode

Like a ravenous bird who sees and hears
the whirr of his mother’s sheltering wings
as she descends, embraces, and feeds him,
who loves the food and her, and is happy

inside the nest, but frets too, consumed by
his yearning to follow and fly like her,
and so thanks her by singing such songs as
seem beyond the tongue’s power to release,

am I when God’s sun strengthens my heart with
a warm ray—like the lightning’s flash felt
and vanished before we have half-glimpsed it

the pen moves, pushed by a surge of love from
within, and without realizing quite
what I’m saying, I write in praise of God.


Posted by: Ellen

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