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)



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)