Saturday, July 31, 2010

Spirited: Translating Sulpicia I

This is the first of the Spirited section. "Spirited" in English is a kind of misleading translation: the word Plato uses is much more like "honor-loving." This part of the soul makes the soldier, but not the strictly-following-orders modern soldier, rather a soldier whose motivation comes from his love of state, but also his desire to win honor for himself in battle. This is the same motivation that drives an athlete.

In this case, the "Spirited" section will be "honor-loving" only in the way that it is all about my thoughts on the classical world. I will post my own translations (starting, I think, with the six poems in Sulpicia's cycle) and my own commentaries hoping that people will discover them, read them, and, if they so desire, comment, respond, or post their own ideas.

I translated the first of Sulpicia I's cycle of six poems. It is my favorite and in my opinion the most interesting. I have played around with some of the typical interpretation, but I think that I am sticking fairly close to the Latin. However, if I did torture some part of the translation I am happy to be corrected or to debate the point.

In this poem, Sulpicia introduces Cerinthus, both as her lover and as the theme which will unite her poetry, although she does not name him.

Sulpicia Elegedia I (1)
[Tibulli Lib. III XIII=IV. VII]
Tandam venit amor, qualem texisse pudori,
quam nudasse alicui sit mihi fama magis.
exorata meis illum Cytherea Camenis
attulit in nostrum deposuitque sinum.
exoluit promissa Venus: mea gaudia narret,
dicetur si quis non habuisse sua.
non ego signatis quicquam mandare tabellis
me legat ut (2) nemo quam meus ante, velim,
sed pecasse iuuat, uultus componere famae
taedet: cum digno digna fuisse ferar.

At last love has come, [love] of the sort which
rumor that it might have been covered up by someone
would have been more shameful to me than if it were exposed.
Having been persuaded by my Muses (3),
the Cytherian (4) brought him and deposited [him] in my lap.
He released Venus from her promise: she may recount my joy
if anyone might be said to to have had her [joy].
I would not wish to commit anything in a sealed tablet
in order that no one might read me before my [love],
but it delights me to offend (5); it is tiresome to compose my visage for the sake of rumor
I should be deemed worthy to have been with a worthy man (6).

Dinner with my family went a little longer than I expected tonight, so I do not have the time to do the extensive commentary that I originally intended. Maybe that will be my next. Hopefully the endnotes will help explain. I wanted to do a translation that was literal, but still poetic (which is why I added words in brackets). Enjoy!

  1. From Minor Authors of the Corpus Tibullianum. e.d. John Yardly. Bryn Mawr, PA: Bryn Mawr Commentaries, 1992. I also made reference to Anne Mahoney's notes on the Perseus entry of Sulpicia as well as to the electronic Allen and Greenough. As a random sidenote, I tried to use my copy of Allen and Greenough, but although I have the wonderful 1903 edition that I bought for $5 at a booksale, it is so imbued with dust that I had an allergy attack trying to use it and switched to the electronic version.
  2. I used Yardly version of the text, which for reference is different than the text on the Persus entry of Sulpicia, in that the line 8 reads: "ne legat id nemo quam meum ante, velim." For the textual scholars out there, I am not well schooled in picking one text over another, so I just picked the one I liked better.
  3. From Anne Mahoney's notes (and my Latin Love Elegy Class), I gather that these are Italian goddesses or demi-goddesses that were, like the muses, associated with music, and were later blended into the Greek tradition of the Muses.
  4. From Anne Mahoney's notes, Venus was referred to as Cytherea because she was born on the island of Cythera in some mythic traditions. In others, she was born out of the foam of the castrated parts of Ouranous falling into the sea.
  5. This word means "offend" (as in to offend a person) but also means to "sin." I thought "sin" sounded too religious, when it was really more of the idea of a severe social transgression. The term may be interpreted both as a sexual innuendo and as the return to the idea of the liberation of an incendiary rumor.
  6. This last line is kind of a pun. It is difficult to render in English and I may not have translated it properly. "Dignus" which I translated as worthy to try and make the pun work is the term that would be used in Rome to describe a proper Roman gentleman, but also would only be applied to a Roman nobleman. The following ideas appear in this line: A) Sulpicia is a noblewoman, B) Cerinthus is a nobleman, C) Sulpicia is a worthy woman because she made a worthy choice of lovers, however social convention does not see her this way, and prevents her from being a "proper lady" because she kissed and told.