Strages

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Qua dextra sceptrum, qua fuerit ligo,
qua falx et ensis: forfice quod caput
rasum, coronatumve gemmis,
unde sciam? iacet incubantum

confusa strages. non roseus color
sublucet ulli, non cutis extima.
ut flante Cauro tota vernis
silva comis viduata moeret.

discrimen hoc quod cernimus unicum
est esse nullum. cuius enim genae
pinguntur ostro? quae polito
frons ebori nivibusque certat?

quis crine vertex, quae violis comae
ornantur? Eheu! non oculi micant
fulgore nativo; nec usquam
Flamma domi. Latebras amoris

scrutata serpens Idalios cavo
exhausit igneis. Vah specus horrida,
truncaeque nares: vah ruina!
oris hiat lacerata sepes,

gingiva linguae stirpitus erutae.
praedator hortum vermis edentulum
vastare repit. Vah palati
a colubris iugulata radix!

(Jacobus Balde, Carm. 2.39.57-80)

In which right hand was there a hoe? A sceptre,
a scythe, a sword? Which head was shorn, or crowned
with jewels? How could I know?
All are a jumbled heap

of mingled bones. Here no one glows or blushes;
no one has skin; as when a whole forest, swept
by a Northeast wind, grieves
widowed of its spring leaves.

The one distinction we discern amongst them
is that there is none. Which one’s cheeks had rouge?
Which forehead vied with polished
ivory? Or fresh snow?

Which head had tresses? Whose hair was entwined
with violets? Here no eyes flash from birth
with lightning; in this house
the hearth is cold. Snakes searching

love’s hiding-places drained dry Cupid’s ardors.
Faugh! fearful cavern! Those truncated nostrils!
What ruin. Faugh! This mouth
gapes with its hedges torn,

no gums, a tongue that’s torn out by its roots.
The maggot creeps: to rob this toothless garden.
The root of the palate – faugh!
is choked and swarms with snakes.

(tr. Karl Maurer)

 

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