Elegy to forgotten things

Accidit post finem, meipso vagante, scholarum
ut iam per mensas quolibet scriptorias
hic ego inveniam stylorum opercula quaedam,
praefractas regulas, deinde feras plagulas.
Magnus ut Oceanus motionibus semper in oris
seu quibus Normannis seu etiam Armoricis
recedit destituens, ubi mires, sabula vasta,
gemmas vel lapides, anxia fossilia
atque animalia quae impetus alitis undae
iam captiva tenet, insidiose capit.
Aurem tandem nunc super illa et oblita reclinans
an mare percipias sive vocesque suas.

Francesco Forlani in latin elegiac couplets (translations at the bottom).

I thought it would be fun to have a go. Little did I know the hours and hours I’d spend re-acquainting myself with the rules of prosody and metric, verifying time and again the quantity of vowels and the sequences of consonants.

First attempt was a car-crash: within minutes of proudly posting the first version in a Latin chatroom I was politely told it did not stack up.

Humble pie and a lot hard work followed to produce the above. It’s certainly not Ovid, but made me appreciate a lot of things that, as a reader of ancient poetry, I had taken for granted.

In these circumstances, social media worked really well – truly inspiring and motivating. No matter how niche your hobby, there are people out there, friends and “friends”, who are ready to lend a hand just for the pleasure of it in a pay it forward kind of way.

Special thanks go to the person who pointed out, without judging, that my “quantitative approach” was found wanting. And then to Giuseppe Germano and Antonio Stango for snaggings.

— my English translation

It can happen at the end of the lessons
when I wander through the desks
empty, to come across pen lids
cracked rulers, wild bits of paper.
As when the Ocean of certain beaches
in Brittany or Haute Normandie
pulls back leaving behind for miles and miles
of sand, uncertain seabed jewels, fossils
or even living creatures which the tidal waters
have taken by surprise and apprehended.
And so to put one’s ear to those
forgotten things, one almost feels the voices and the sea.

— Francesco Forlani’s Italian original

Può capitare alla fine dei corsi
quando mi aggiro tra i banchi
vuoti, di ritrovare dei tappi di penne
righelli sbrecciati, piccole carte selvatiche.
Come quando l’Oceano di certe spiagge
in Bretagna o in Alta Normandia
si ritira lasciando per miglia e miglia
di sabbia, monili incerti dei fondi, fossili
o allora creature viventi che il moto d’acqua
ha sorpreso e fatto prigionieri.
Così appoggiando l’orecchio a quelle
dimenticanze, quasi ne senti le voci ed il mare.


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