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Old 06-19-2018, 01:10 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Default Vitalis--"seeking Rome in Rome"

Janus Vitalis (Sicilian, 1485-c.1560)

This neo-Latin sonnet in elegiac couplets was published in late 1552 or early 1553.
Du Bellay’s French imitation (not a translation) of it was published in 1558.
Quevedo’s Spanish version (also not a translation) was published in 1648.


VERSE TRANSLATION (with several changes in response to Susan's and Martin's comments)

Rome of Former Times

Newcomer, foreigner, you who seek Rome
in the middle of Rome, yet…………………...(L1)
…..recognize nothing of Rome
…..right in the middle of Rome:…………………...(L2)
Look all around you, at rubble-heap walls
and at broken-off stonework;…………………...(L3)
…..theaters, also, destroyed;
…..shunned as a horrible place.…………………...(L4)
These things are Rome. Like the corpse
of a city so great that its hubris
…………………...(L5)
…..lasts to this moment—you see,
…..don't you?—they're reeking with threats.…………………...(L6)
After she’d conquered the world,
as finale she conquered herself, so…………………...(L7)
…..nothing unconquered by her
…..still might exist on the earth.…………………...(L8)
Vanquished, she won. It's in Rome
that invincible Rome is now buried—
…………………...(L9)
…..being the very same Rome,
…..victor and vanquished in one.…………………...(L10)
Albula (Tiber) persists
as a symbol of what's been called Roman,…………………...(L11)
…..since it is flowing away
…..seaward, on swift-moving streams.…………………...(L12)
Learn from this setting what fortune can do:
what’s immovable wavers,…………………...(L13)
…..whereas whatever's in flux,
…..constantly flowing, remains.…………………...(L14)

Tweaks:
L4 was:
…..theaters, also, destroyed;
…..shunned as a place that gives chills.
L5 & L6 were:
These things are Rome. Don’t you see,
they’re emitting (just like the cadaver
…..such a great city possessed—
…..arrogant even now) threats?
Then L5 & L6 were:
These things are Rome. Like the corpse
of a city so great that it's haughty
…………………...(L5)
…..still, even now (don't you see?),
…..everything's breathing out threats.…………………...(L6)
L9 was:
Conquered, she conquered. In Rome
that invincible Rome is now buried—
L11 was:
Albula (Tiber) persists
as a trope for whatever’s called Roman,
L14 was:
…..whereas what’s always in flux
…..tends to be that which remains.
Later, L14 was:
…..constantly—that's what remains.

NEO-LATIN ORIGINAL

Roma Prisca

Qui Romam in media quaeris novus advena Roma, ………...(L1)
…..Et Romam in Roma nil reperis media: ………...(L2)
Adspice murorum moles, praeruptaque saxa,………...(L3)
…..Obrutaque horrenti vasta theatra situ.………...(L4)
Haec sunt Roma. Viden velut ipsa cadavera, tantae………...(L5)
…..Urbis adhuc spirent imperiosa minas? ………...(L6)
Vicit ut haec mundum, nixa est se vincere: vicit,………...(L7)
…..A se non victum ne quid in orbe foret.………...(L8)
Nunc victa in Roma Roma illa invicta sepulta est;………...(L9)
…..Atque eadem victrix, victaque Roma fuit. ………...(L10)
Albula Romani restat nunc nominis index, ………...(L11)
…..Quinetiam rapidis fertur in aequor aquis. ………...(L12)
Disce hinc, quid possit fortuna; immota labascunt,………...(L13)
…..Et quae perpetuo sunt agitata manent.[/b]………...(L14)


LITERAL ENGLISH PROSE CRIB, disregarding word order

Ancient/Previous Rome

(You) new stranger/outlander/arrival who are seeking Rome in the middle of Rome, (L1)
…..And are re-finding no Rome in the middle of Rome: (L2)
Look around at the heaps/piles/shapeless masses of walls, and broken-off stones, (L3)
…..And buried theaters abandoned as [Dative of Purpose] a horrible/hair-raising/shudder-producing place. (L4)
These are Rome. Don’t you see, like the very cadaver of so great (L5)
…..A city, imperious/arrogant [modifying “cadaver”] up till now, they are breathing/emitting threats/menaces? (L6)
Like/as she (Rome) had conquered the world, she strove/achieved to conquer herself: she conquered, (L7)
…..Lest there might be anything in the world not conquered by her. (L8)
Now, conquered in Rome, that Rome—the unconquered one—is buried; (L9)
…..And the same Rome was (both) conqueror and conquered. (L10)
Now Albula [the legendary name of the Tiber River] stays (as) pointer/label/symbol of the Roman name[/color] [NOTE: “Nomen” with a nationality is used classically to refer to a nation’s dominion, power, or army.] (L11)
…..Furthermore, it rushes/flows to the sea with rapid waters. (L12)
Learn from here, what fortune can (do); immovable/unyielding firm/stable things waver/yield, (L13)
…..And what (things) are perpetually/hopelessly/constantly/utterly disturbed/agitated remain.

(The final word, "manent" can be either the 3rd person plural indicative form of the verb "manere," meaning "they stay, they remain, they abide, they tarry," or the 3rd person plural subjunctive of the verb "manare," meaning "may they flow, may they run, may they trickle.")


NOTE ON THE FORM

Latin elegiac couplets have no end-rhymes, so the meter is the predominant sonic aspect. I want modern readers of English to have a relatively effortless experience of the couplets’ alternating lines of dactylic hexameter and pentameter. The latter is pentameter in name only, being actually composed of two hemistichs of 2.5 dactyls (-uu | -uu | -), separated by a caesura. The hexameter lines also have an important caesura, which falls after the first syllable of either the third or fourth foot.

Since elegiac couplets are unfamiliar to most modern readers, I have dispensed with the frequent substitutions of spondees (- -) for dactyls (- u u) that are characteristic of this form, other than preserving the line-ending spondee in all the hexameter lines. But I have emphasized the caesurae, which modern English readers would otherwise fail to notice at all, by turning them into line-breaks. Turning a 14-line poem into a 28-line poem demolishes the visual impression that this is a sonnet, but I think the sonic benefits make that an acceptable trade-off.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 07-15-2018 at 07:11 PM. Reason: red changes
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Old 06-19-2018, 12:06 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Julie, I am sure I won't be telling you anything unexpected when I say that I like this version a lot less than your previous two "Rome in Rome" translations. The problem is the form. By trying to mirror the meter of the original, you are making the content incredibly wordy and repetitive. Very few English readers will understand the meter you are using, and the translation doesn't even look like the original because of all of the line breaks. In English, I miss rhyme as a device to replace some of the effects that the meter can't carry alone. But if you tried a version in blank verse, or even in alternating lines of iambic hexameter and iambic pentameter, I might still find that more appealing than your trying to follow the Latin meter exactly. A long line gives you plenty of room to include all of the details of the original, but concision can have a lot more punch and can avoid the need to pad. Others' tastes may differ.

Susan
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Old 06-20-2018, 01:00 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks, Susan. I agree that my English translation is repetitive and foreign-feeling.

But I think that the original is intentionally repetitive and foreign-feeling. No one was a native speaker of Latin in 1582, and rhyme was central to most European languages' poetic traditions at that time--even to medieval Latin poetry's traditions.

Completely stripping out that repetition-instead-of-rhyme, and that uncomfortably strange meter, and that disjointed syntax, in order to make for a smoother, more pleasant experience of the poem in English, will lose something of that foreign feel. And I do want to hang onto at least some of that. I'll take a look at the most awkward areas--LL5-6 is probably the worst--to see if I can smooth those out, but overall I think I need to keep some of that weird vibe.

The repetition does seem a bit much in this part:

Vicit ut haec mundum, nixa est se vincere: vicit,…..(L7)
…..A se non victum ne quid in orbe foret.…..(L8)
Nunc victa in Roma Roma illa invicta sepulta est;…..(L9)
…..Atque eadem victrix, victaque Roma fuit. …..(L10)

The rendition I posted above uses an awful lot of "conquered." Perhaps I should switch things up a bit more in LL9-10:

After she’d conquered the world,
as finale she conquered herself, so…..(L7)
…..nothing unconquered by her
…..still might exist on the earth.…..(L8)
Vanquished, she won. It's in Rome
that invincible Rome is now buried—…..(L9)
…..being the very same Rome,
…..victor and vanquished in one.…..(L10)

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 06-20-2018 at 01:04 AM.
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Old 06-20-2018, 08:15 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Julie, it's your call. All I can say is that all that repetition felt tedious to me as a reader. If I were doing it, I would use synonyms to avoid some of it. Latin endings differ at least, but in English, you don't have even that variety much of the time. The paradoxes are what make the poem interesting. You can express those even without so much repetition. I think that the value of sounding foreign in a translation is overrated, just as one does not have to use archaic diction just because the original work was written long ago.

Susan
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Old 06-21-2018, 12:54 AM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Julie,
I like your translation very much--it has a certain metaphysical feel that seems very appropriate. The repetitions work for me as a kind of wordplay.

The only false notes for me are "a place that gives chills" -- the truncation of the expression "gives you the chills" seems contrived and in any case it seems too slangy and modern to fit the tone.

My second objection is "trope", which takes me out of the poem--it is too much a word associated with literary criticism. Symbol/emblem/standard or some such would work better for me.

Finally, the last line seems much too wishy-washy; your crib indicates a much more definitive statement.

Thanks for the read!
Martin
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Old 06-26-2018, 03:26 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks, Susan and Martin. Revision posted above, in response to your thoughtful comments. Thanks so much.
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Old 06-27-2018, 11:27 AM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Hi Julie,
I like most of your revision, but I think the decision to remove the repetitions of "conquered" and "unconquered" is not faithful to the original; also, in L7, I think you need an "a"--as a finale. This would give:

Rome of Former Times

Newcomer, foreigner, you who seek Rome
in the middle of Rome, yet……………….........…...(L1)
recognize nothing of Rome
right in the middle of Rome:………...……....……(L2)
Look all around you, at rubble-heap walls
and at broken-off stonework;…………...….....……(L3)
theaters, also, destroyed;
shunned as a horrible place.………….....…..……(L4)
These things are Rome. Like the corpse
of a city so great that it's haughty……….......……(L5)
still, even now (don't you see?),
everything's breathing out threats.…...…………(L6)
After she’d conquered the world,
as a finale she conquered herself, so………...……(L7)
nothing unconquered by her
still might exist on the earth.………...…...………(L8)
Conquered, she conquered. It's in Rome
that unconquerable Rome is now buried—.....…(L9)
being the very same Rome,
conquerer and conquered in one....……..….…(L10)
Albula (Tiber) persists
as a symbol of what's been called Roman,....…(L11)
since it is flowing away
seaward, on swift-moving streams.…...………(L12)
Learn from this setting what fortune can do:
what’s immovable wavers,……………..........……(L13)
whereas whatever's in flux
constantly—that's what remains.……...………(L14)
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Old 06-27-2018, 05:08 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Two more thoughts:
"still, even now (don't you see?),"
doesn't work for me--it is too fillerish;
also, perhaps "exhaling" rather than "breathing out".
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Old 07-15-2018, 06:47 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks for your comments, Martin.

I have revised the "too fillerish" and "too wishy-washy" bits above (marked in red).

The final line actually has a pun that I hadn't mentioned before in the crib, but I have tried to hint at both meanings in the translation now. (The final word, "manent" can be either the 3rd person plural indicative form of the verb "manere," meaning "they stay, they remain, they abide, they tarry," or the 3rd person plural subjunctive of the verb "manare," meaning "may they flow, may they run, may they trickle.")

Since the extended sequence of repetition in Lines 7-10 is nowhere near as tiresome in Latin as it is in English, due to the fact that Susan mentioned--i.e., the Latin root takes several different forms, depending on the grammar, while any English equivalent is pretty much the same thing over and over--I'm going to keep the last half of the "conquered" derivatives as derivatives of "vanquished" and "victor" instead, despite your objections. I really feel that adding back the variety that gets stripped out via translation is more faithful to the original than letting something that dances in Latin plod in English.

The phrase "as finale" (without the article "a" or "the") seems to be common enough that I think—or hope, anyway—that most readers will let me get away with it.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 07-15-2018 at 07:26 PM.
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Old 07-15-2018, 09:56 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Hi Julie,
I like your revisions a lot, the edits work very well.

I did google "as finale", but very few hits correspond to the grammatical construction you are using. First, the phrase seems to appear only in head lines, and then in expressions such as "'This Is Us' returns with lighter touch as finale nears", where "as" is used in a temporal sense rather than the way you are using it. I would still encourage you to reconsider.

Thanks again for the read!
Martin
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