Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Something old.

The Georgics 3.349-383
(Barbarians of the North)

It's different there, where Scythian tribes, where Lake Maeotis lies,
and tousled the Danube spins its golden sands,
where Rhodope bends stretching toward the central pole.
There penned in stalls they keep their herds, and no
green shows upon the steppe nor leaves in the trees,
but wide the earth slumps lumpen under mounds of snow
and mounts in deep ice seven cubits high.
Always winter, always the frosty wheezings of the northwind.
And the sun never dissipates the pale haze,
not when borne behind his steeds he steers for heaven's zenith, nor
when he splashes his breakneck chariot into Ocean's reddened scape.
Sudden ice crusts cluster upon the brisk beck
and soon the water hefts the iron-clad wheel on its back-
once ships, now bulky wagons welcoming.
Brass buckles everywhere, clothes freeze
upon the back, they chop with hatchets their liquid wine,
whole ponds into solid ice transform,
and the jagged icicle glazes upon the uncombed beard.
Meanwhile, no less, the sky entire is snowing:
the cattle perish, shrouded in frost
the bulls in their massive girth stock-still, and in a packed herd the deer
numb beneath the unaccustomed flurry and barely poke antler-tips out.
These the Scythians hunt not with hounds unleashed, nor any snares,
nor spooking with the red-feathered bogey,
but as they strive vainly to breast the mountain front
men butcher them with short-axes, hack them down
amid heavy bawlings, and with great whoops exultant bear them home.
The men themselves, in dug-out caves carefree and deep in earth
enjoy peace, rolling to the firepit whole elms,
heaped-up trunks, committing them to the blaze.
Here they spool out the night with play, and merry they pretend
cups of wine by barming sour service-berries.
Such is this race of men unbridled, Hyperborean, pitched
beneath the Bear's seven stars, buffeted by Rhipean easterlies,
their bodies bundled in the tawny pelts of beasts.


1 comment:

Lisa B. said...

your translation? Cool.

Also, I want you to know that I have (a) never read the Berryman poem and (b) am grateful you posted that link, and (c) find it hard to read on the internets. But I shall persevere.