English Poetry Translated to Latin

Wow, just wow… So way back when, when all the educated English gents knew Latin, some of them published a book of English (and American) Victorian Poetry that was translated into Latin. It’s hundreds of pages long and includes dozens of well-known poets from that era. Here is Edward Lear, for a very lighthearted example:

Smyrnaeo coluit Smymam virgo aemula vati :
quae, minitante avia saevis comburere flammis, arrepta fele, "Hanc" ait "banc, avia alma, cremato." prudentes adeo neptes tu, Smyrna, creasti!
--trans. Robert Velverton Tyrrell

There once was a maiden of Smyrna
Whose grandmother threaten’d to burn her:
But she snatch’d up the cat
And said “Granny, burn that,”
That ingenious young person of Smyrna.
–Edward Lear


This book is called the Florilegium Latinum: Victorian Poets (Volume 2). What a fun find! There is also a volume of Pre-Victorian Poetry translated into English–it’s Florilegium Latinum: Pre-Victorian Poets (Volume 1), naturally. It has some Shakespeare in it, and so I will leave you all this morning with a sample of that–enjoy!

En confecta aevi pereunt monumenta peracti,
temporis infesta despoliata manu :
celso procumbunt aequatae vertice turres,
firmaque mortalis destruit aera furor :
ingruit oceanus, fluctuque instante rapaci
litora in imperium subtrahit usque suum ;
inque vicem tractus invadit terra madentes ;
cuique aliena nocet copia, damna iuvant.
mutatos quotiens ego sic contemplor honores ;
sive etiam totum deperiisse decus,
hoc me perpetuae rerum monuere ruinae,
tempore quam noster sit periturus amor,
sic ego discrucior moriens, lacrimisque coactis
perdere quae metuo, dum fruor ipse, fleo.
--W. C. G.


When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced / The rich proud cost of out-worn buried age; / When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed,/ And brass eternal slave to mortal rage; / When I have seen the hungry ocean gain/ Advantage on the kingdom of the shore, / And the firm soil win of the watery main. / Increasing store with loss and loss with store; / When I have seen such interchange of state. / Or state itself confounded to decay; / Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate — / That Time will come and take my Love away : — This thought is as a death, which cannot choose / But weep to have that which it fears to lose. –Shakespeare. (Sonnet 64.)

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