I knew coming out of undergrad that I was going to grad school in Medieval Studies and would need Latin. I signed up for Latin I my first semester Senior year at Fordham. Due to an unfortunate accident to the professor, Dean Barker was promoted from TA to instructor, and became one of the most significant teachers in my life (that professor’s accident–a broken leg, as I recall–was clearly an act of fate). Dean convinced me to take CUNY’s Intensive Summer Latin Institute which he was teaching at that summer. My college graduation present from my parents was tuition, one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I can’t begin to express how important my 10 weeks in the Institute were. There, under the tutelage and encouragement of Dean, I discovered my love of Latin, Vergil, and his Eclogues in particular. I memorized the entire first Eclogue in Latin for fun that summer, and made significant progress on the second. I hoped to memorize them all. I never made it, and have lost most of what I had memorized, but have never lost the love of Latin that Dean inspired.
I was just cleaning up files on my computer and discovered a document I only had the dimmest recollection of creating: It’s a translation of half of Vergil’s first Eclogue. It might be my only semi-formal translation I’ve ever written. I mostly see translation as a means to an end; I only compose translations when necessary within scholarly publications. Reading it made me quite happy, so I’ve pasted it below. Enjoy!
Vergil’s First Eclogue
Translated (halfway) by Damian Fleming, c. 2002
MELIBOEUS: You, Tityre, you lie there under the expanse of the generous beechtree, you think on the woodland muse with you slender pipe. We, we abandon the borders of our homeland and our sweet fields. We flee the country. You, Tityre, you pliant in the shades teach the woods to resound songs of beautiful Amaryllis.
TITYRUS: Oh, Meliboee, a god made this leisure for us, for that one shall always be a god to me, whose altar a tender lamb from our flocks shall ever stain. That one lets my cows wander freely, as you can see, and lets me myself play as I wish on my rural flute.
MELIBOEUS: For sure I don’t envy, rather marvel. All around, throughout all the fields there is chaos. Een! I, sick and weary, have to, straight on, my goats, Look at this one, scarcely, I lead them. For she, just now, here amongst the dense hazels, birthed twins, the hope of the flock, Ah, had to abandon them exposed on bare rock. This evil, if my mind does not fail, was quite often foretold to us, I remember the strike from the skies, what it did to the oaks it touched…But anyway…This god of yours, who is he? Give us something Tityre.
TITYRUS: The city which they call Rome, Meliboee, me thought, stupid as I am, to be something like our city, whither we pastors were accustomed to drive the tender offspring of our sheep. You know, puppies to dogs are similar, kids to mothers, I know this, thus I was used to comparing great things to small. But this one so much holds its head above other cities, it’s like a cypress among clingy rose-bushes.
MELIBOEUS: And what was your so-great reason for seeing Rome?
TITYRUS: Liberty, which has too late looked upon lazy me, after the whitened beard fell at my clipping, it looked upon me, and after a long time arrived, after Amaryllis held us, and Galatea left us. For, I confess, while Galetea kept me, I had neither hope of Liberty or care for my meager savings. Although many a victim left my sheep fold, and my rich cheese sold to the ungrateful city, my hand never returned home burdened with cash.
MELIBOEUS: I wondered, Amaryllis, why you so sadly called upon the gods, wondered on whose account you let the fruits hang unplucked in their trees: Tityre had gone from here. Tityre, these pines, these founts, this very grove all were crying after you.
TITYRUS: What could I have done? I was neither allowed to leave my enslavement nor even to know that there are gods present elsewhere. There I saw that youth, Meliboee, for whom twice six times a year our altars smoke. There that one was first to give response to my beseeching, “Feed you cattle as you have before, boys, release the bulls.”
(you can find out how it ends here; I translated through line 45)