Saltemus

Gustav-Adolf Mossa, Valse macabre, 1906
Gustav-Adolf Mossa, Valse macabre (1906)

Saltemus: socias iungite dexteras.
iam Manes dubius provocat Hesperus.
per nubes tremulum Cynthia candidis
lumen cornibus ingerit.

in lodice senes non bene pendula,
in ferrugine cyclade Virgines:
sed picta violis grex tener instita,
alternos facimus pedes.

hic et Pontificum ture fragrantibus
rus pastoris olens pileus infulis,
et Regum Tyriis paenula vestibus
miscentur sine nomine.

nullus de tumulo sollicitus suo
aut pompae titulis, invidet alteri.
omnes mors variis casibus obruit,
nullo nobilis ordine.

Nobis nostra tamen sunt quoque sidera,
sed formosa minus. sunt Zephyri, licet
veris dissimiles auraque tenuior,
cupressisque frequens nemus.

o dulces Animae, vita quibus sua
est exacta, nigris sternite floribus
quam calcamus humum: spargite lilia
fuscis grata coloribus.

aptos choreis inferimus pedes!
ut nullo quatitur terra negotio!
dempta mole leves, et sine pondere,
umbrae ludimus alites.

ter cantum tacito murmure sistimus.
ter nos Elysium vertimus ad polum,
ter noctis tenebras (stringite lumina)
pallenti face rumpimus.

nos quicumque vides plaudere Manibus:
cantabis similes tu quoque nenias.
quod nunc es, fuimus. quod sumus, hoc eris.
praemissos sequere, et vale.

(Jacobus Balde, Carm. 2.33: Choreae Mortuales)

O let us dance. Partners, join hands. Already
doubtful the Dusk Star signals to the Shades!
Through the clouds flickering Cynthia heaps up
light with her brilliant horns.

Old men in rough wool that hangs awkwardly,
young girls in rust-red tunics with a hem
that violets embroider, form our flock
as round and round we go.

Mitres of Bishops redolent of incense,
a shepherd’s felt cap smelling of the field,
dark hooded raincoats, scarlet robes of Kings,
mingle without a name.

No one preoccupied about his tomb
or the inscription’s wording envies others.
By varying mishaps, in no order, noble
Death suffocated all.

Yet for us also Night has constellations,
although less beautiful; there is West Wind,
though not like spring’s, & breeze, a subtler breeze,
and woods too thick with cypress.

Sweet souls from whom the debt of life demanded
was paid in full, O sprinkle with black blossoms
this earth we trample upon: O scatter lilies
that please with duskier colors.

How apt for dancing are the feet we ply!
The earth is shaken—by no thing at all.
Light as our loss of mass and without weight
we wingèd shadows play.

Thrice we stop singing in a silent hum
and thrice we turn to the Elysian pole;
thrice the Night’s shadows (O unsheath your lights!)
we rout with pallid torches.

Stranger, who see us clapping, to the Shades
you will sing dirges too. What now you are
we, too, have been. What we are, you will be.
Follow us and fare well.

(tr. Karl Maurer)

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