Public Reading

Keene Theater, University of Michigan
August 4, 2011

Officium Vatis

Officium vatis quid sit? Si forte Latinas
Audeat ad Musas hodierna voce venire,
Audax sit. Cur non? Famam sperare furorem
Indicat; at placeat primo sibi – nemine laudem
Praestante aut meritam aut aliter, privata parentur
Gaudia: se pellat scribendi pura cupido.
Ast aliis cupiat monstrare cupidine natum
Carmen. Ad hunc finem facile – aut non ardua – semper
Percipienda canat: quod clare percipit auctor,
Sensibus haud hominum diversis omne videtur.
Carmina si vis redde nova vernacula veste:
Musa tamen proprias mavult res. Apta creare
Adfectes linguae. Numeros vi strenuus urge –
Parce sed ipse tuis nugis sollemniter uti.
Cui loqueris? Tantum tibi – nec iocus evitandus.
Quanquam mentitur non numquam quisque poeta,
Veros exponat (quantum licet) aequus amores
(Nomine mutato, si sic sit tutius): ergo
Per noctes valeat longum tolerare laborem.

The poet’s duty
What might the poet’s duty be? If by chance he dares to approach the Latin Muses in today’s voice, let him be bold. Why not? To hope for fame is an indication of poetic frenzy. But let him first please himself – if no one proffers praise (whether deserved or otherwise), let private joys be prepared; let the pure desire of writing push itself on. Yet he should desire to show to others the song born from his desire. To this end let him always sing things which are easily understood (or at least not hard); something which the author himself sees clearly is not necessarily quite obvious to people’s differing senses. If you like, dress up vernacular songs in some new clothes: but the Muse nevertheless prefers her own fresh material. You should strive to create things fitted to the language. Push on your rhythms forcefully – but don’t take your own stuff too seriously. Who are you talking to anyway? Just to yourself – nor should a chance for joking be neglected. Although each poet lies often enough, let him fairly lay down his true loves (as much as he can get away with; under a pseudonym, if that’s the safer course?); and thus may he have the strength to endure long nocturnal labours.

Back to Top

Conspectus Americae ex Aere

Iam video late pandentia desuper arva,
    Cum non magna volans ferrea saltat avis.
Saltat enim medio trans parvas aere nubes,
    Ast infra coeli nubila, triste sagum.
Immensamque oculis extendit America terram,
    Quamquam ingens, tamen est desuper et Liliput.
Ut puer, hoc flumen luteum procul aequora miscens
    Lucida caerulei mingit in alta lacus.
Vastaque perspicio fundos ad litora; sentit
    Se carpi fundis Aeolus ipse novis.
Quadratos sinuat trans agros rivulus errans,
    Linea namque vias undique recta regit.
Roma suis rectum fecit legionibus olim
    Michigan at raedis rectius aptat iter.
Transiliunt pontes raedarum flumina, semper
    Mobilia, et semper vivida vena fluit.
In magnam e coelo tandem descendimus urbem
    Formaque iam crescit quaeque minuta mihi.
Urbis et aspicio vitas: piscina natando
    Apta domo laeta gemmula saepe nitet.
Nec semper nitet urbs: loca stant vacua undique raedis,
    Haud secus exesis piscibus ossa rigent.
Perventum est: variam tellurem mane saluto,
    Omnibus et dictum est, “Sit tibi laeta dies.”

View of America from the air
Now I see from above the fields spread wide, as the small iron bird [aeroplane] bounces about. For it bounces through the little clouds in the middle of the sky, beneath the sad cloak of the cloud layered above. And America lays open its huge land to my sight: huge though it is, it appears Lilliputian from above. This muddy river, mixing its waters from far off, pisses like a young boy into the clear deeps of a blue lake. And I can see farms on its vast shores; Aeolus himself feels that he is being harvested by a new kind of farm. A wandering creek snakes across rectangular fields, for right-angles everywhere rule the roads. Rome once made straight routes for its legions, but Michigan makes straighter ones for its automobiles. Motorised rivers, ever moving, hasten across bridges, and always the lively vein of traffic flows. At length we descend from the sky towards the big city, and now each tiny form grows bigger to my sight. And I can see the life of the city; many a swimming-pool shines jewel-like behind fortunate homes. But the city is not always shining; there are empty parking-lots everywhere, stiff white lines not unlike the bones of fish that have been eaten. We have arrived; I can greet the diverse earth in the morning, and everyone can say “Have a nice day!”

Back to Top

Febris aestiva, sive foenisecis

Sternuere est faustum (priscorum rite parentum)
    Significare potest omen adesse bonum.
Ergo ultra meritam sortem sum saepe beatus:
    Auspiciis tantis ominibusque fruor.
Vexat enim nares foenum, cum flore venusto,
    Nasum per campos innocua herba nocet.
Solvere vexando mucum corpuscula certant,
    Phlegmatis ut rapidi flumine cuncta ruant.
Contineo strepitum, rabidis dum naribus actus
    Sternuo, seu viso sternuo sole simul.
Finis erit? Dubium est, longoque haeremus hiatu –
    Stern- stern- stern- stern- stern- sternuimusque iterum.
Sternutamentum sternutamenta sequuntur
    Plura (moram spernunt) continua serie.
Quae requies? Oculos purgo, purgoque lavando
    Nasum ut sit gelidae dulce levamen aquae.
Multa mihi placeant aestate: at febris amorem
    Foenisecis placidum saepe fragore fugat.

Hay Fever
To sneeze is lucky (according to the ancients): it can indicate a good omen. Therefore I am often blessed beyond my deserts, as I enjoy such great auspices and omens. For hay vexes my nostrils, as do pretty flowers; the innocent grass harms my nose throughout the fields. Little pollen grains strive to loosen the mucus by causing irritation, with the result that everything rushes out in a river of rapid phlegm. I hold back the din, until driven by raging nostrils I sneeze – or sneeze as soon as I see the sun. Will that be all? It’s doubtful, and we wait in a long pause: ah – ah – ah – ah – ah – and we sneeze again. More sneezes follow on top of that sneeze (they scorn delay) in a continual series. What relief is there? I wash the eyes, purge the nose with washing, to gain the sweet relief of cold water. Many things might please me in the summer: but hayfever often puts quiet love to flight with its noise.

Back to Top

De Platypo: ad Thomam Opsomer et Michaelem Pratensem, platypi fautores laudatoresque.

Exhibet os anatis, villosum et bestia corpus:
    Australes populos talia monstra iuvant.
Sed ne ridiculum ridentes laedere possint,
    Calcar habet pede, et hic dira venena latent.
Nonne professores huius cognovimus aedis
    Qui naturam anatis nunc imitantur eam?

On the Duck-billed Platypus
The beast has a duck’s mouth, and a furry body: such monsters please people in Australia. But to prevent those who laugh at its ridiculous nature from being able to harm it, it has a spur on its foot, and here terrible poison lurks. Surely we’ve known professors of this university, who now imitate the nature of this breed of duck?

Back to Top

Ad Felem

Lac cape, lac minimo servatum dulce culullo,
Utque soles, dominae placeas captesque bibendo
Pectus, inurbanis vix unquam moribus usa.
Perge foras, terror ridendis muribus audax
Et ranis, gressu tandem tua regna superbo
Lustres; post duo lustra bibendi suaviter, annum
Undecimum laete tetigisti lactis aperti.
Perge, sagax feles: quamquam non carmina condis,
Praebes et munus (quod curet Lipsius) aequum,
Exerces tacito naturam felis honore,
Laetitiam doctae dominae feliciter offers.
Ullum rivalem fastidis cauta; perenni
Praeponis glaucum corpus languore susurrans,
Perque dies dominae reditum patienter amatae
Exspectas: ita lac dignum famamque mereris.

“To Jeanine de Landtsheer’s cat ‘Luppe’, on her tenth birthday (born 1 Sept. 1997)” [acrostic, in dactylic hexameters; mentioning various features of Luppe’s character, as noted by her mistress] Take some milk, saved for you in a little coffee-shop carton, and may you please your mistress and captivate her heart with your drinking, as you are accustomed to do, being scarcely ever ill-mannered. Go outside, a terror to laughable mice and frogs, and step proudly around your domain. After ten years [two ‘lustra’, or five-year periods] of elegant drinking, you have touched your eleventh year of opened milk. Go on, clever cat: though you compose no poems, you offer an equal gift (which Lipsius might care for [‘Luppe’ is named after the great humanist scholar, whom Jeanine studies]), you fulfil the nature of a cat with quiet honour, you offer pleasure felicitously to your learned mistress. You are shy of any rival; you place your grey body in the way, purring with perennial languor; and through every day you patiently await the return of your beloved mistress: so you deserve your milk, and your fame.

Back to Top

Extracts from a mock epic, ‘The Demmiad’, dedicated to Dr Demmy Verbeke of Leuven, Belgium
Demmiados liber tertius
auriga ad oppidum Caroli Regis in Wallonia (vulgo Charleroi) venit.

Iamque rotis currum rapidis auriga peritus
pellit, agit, flectit, tactu moderatur acuto.
Cursus sit velox: uxori occurrimus ambo
vatis; ad obscurum volat illa per aethera portum,
Julia nec tardos tractat sine bile maritos.
Festinare decet lente, nam cautior urget
Demmius huc currum, leges nec spernit agendi,
atque patris memor est vigilis, felicis in urbe
custodis patria, comitum cui copia paret.
Flictum vult primo, et flictus vitare pudorem.

Demmiados liber quartus
liber brevis, sed misericordia plenus.


Demmiados liber quintus
liber valde epicus ac mythologicus (anglice: ‘in the airport car-park’).

Est fragor – at brevis – haud currusve hominisve videtur
ullum vulnus: ego subita in nos saxa viae vi
e latere insiluisse reor (vix credere possim
errorem aurigae sonitum fecisse vel ictum).
Dicuntur tali motu Symplegades olim
erravisse, suum et pretium exegisse cruentum
de peregrinorum concursu puppibus acri.
Heu! Furor auratus scopulosaque pectora cogit
atque humana vias iussu intercludere avaro.
(Nam conferre deis mortalia carmen oportet.)
E dubiis tandem saxis evasimus omnes
incolumes, pretium solvendo denique nullum.

Demmiados liber sextus
proelii campos visimus, vulgo Waterloo.

Haud procul in campis clarae sunt aequora pugnae:
namque leo spatium visentibus indicat altus.
Scandimus inde gradus multos, collemque leonis
ut videamus: quid? Vacuus patet undique campus.
Huc tamen instabant (animo si fingere rursus
conamur scenam) Gallorum vestibus in nos
agmina caeruleis; hic rauco tympana pulsu
significant saevam per fumum accedere mortem.
Linea sed tenuis nostrorum expectat acerbos
pone iugum Gallos, celeri quos reicit igne
agminaque instanti dat ferro immensa ruinae.
Hic equitum vastas virtute repellere turmas
stant acie firmi quadrata longius Angli,
et Belgae patriam socii defendere certant.
Perpetuam sociis famam Dux Ferreus armis
obtinuit; multi tamen admirantur amore
oppugnatorem miro victumque tyrannum.
Semper erunt qui laude velint decorare superbos:
Actiacas quidam celebravit carmine caedes.

Back to Top

Somnia Kentuckiana

Fluctuant herbae per amoena ruris
Prata, constantes iterant cicadae
Somniis magnum sonitum minutis,
    Sudat et aer.

Nocte clarorum suboles equorum
Cogitat cursus rapide peractos;
Nempe post metam veniet relictam
    Gloria certa.

Kentucky Dreams
The grass waves in the pleasant meadows of the countryside; unvarying crickets repeat a loud noise, with their tiny dreams; and the air sweats.

At night, the offspring of thoroughbreds thinks over the racetracks that he has swiftly completed; indeed, there will come, as the winning-post is left behind, glory for certain.

Back to Top


Vitae sub illo pondere, senties
Te stare semper fortiter? Aut simul
Mersis rues membris, et undas
    Trans dubias veniet procella?

Quis audet amens omina persequi
Devota stulto sollicitudinis
Scrutationi, dum volucres
    Per liquidum volitant canorum?

Fati cavendum est tempore lubrico
Immite fulmen; pauperibus minax
Constructus auro murus in se
    Inque suos vigiles superbos

Labetur olim. Qui lacrimis carens
Vanis ruinas spectat, et aureum
Constanter e saxis futurum
    Exstruit aedificator, ille

Excessit aegrae consiliis modum
Humanitatis. Quid tibi senties?
Sentire suspirantis aurae
    Sufficiet digitive tactum?

‘Fortitude’ (alcaics)
Under that weight of life, will you feel that you always stand with fortitude? Or will you collapse with sunken limbs, as soon as a storm will come across the uncertain waves? Who is so mad as to dare to examine omens, which are doomed to worry’s foolish scrutiny, while birds fly across the resonant air? One should beware the unkind bolt of fate, at a time of crisis; at some point a wall built of gold [Wall St.?], threatening to the poor, will collapse on itself and on its proud watchmen. A person who can look on the ruins without vain tears, and steadily build a golden future from the debris, has indeed exceeded in ambition the bounds of weak humanity. What will you feel for yourself? Will it suffice to feel the touch of a sighing breeze, or a finger?

Back to Top

To My Wife

Ut calor aestatis cito sic Proserpina migrat.
Semper stant tacitum vacuus campusque pecusque.
Propter reginae defectum nubila gignunt
et diros imbres atros et fulmina magna.
Frigidus ac sedeo iam pro fornace colonus.
Nunc hodie, mea amans, remane mecum et requiesce.
Cras penitus me confoveas et confoveam te.
Esto Persephone mea meque reliquere noli.

Just as the heat of summer departs, so does Persephone
Always now the fields stand empty and the cattle quiet.
Because of her departure the clouds give birth to
dire black rain and great flashes of lightning
I now, a mere farmer, sit cold in front of the fireplace
Today, my love, remain with me and rest
Tomorrow, may you keep me warm inside and may I keep you warm
Be my Persephone, and abandon me not.

Back to Top

De Impetu Erucarum
Tentoria Construentum

Ulmus in altum stans aestivo tempore frigus
Avibus lanugerisque bidentibus ut dea dabat.
Erucarum autem struit aedes impia turba
Bestiolarum acies mordaces ordinat audax.
Vae misera arbor, tu quae tum mihi opaca dedisti,
Mox insecta tuas frondes comedent viridantes
Et dein exanimis stirps sole ardente jacebis.

All summer long, this tall elm stood
Bestowing, like a goddess, shade and coolness
On the birds and wool-providing sheep.
But now a godless gang of caterpillars,
Biting battle-lines of little beasts,
Has built its breeding nest — a foolish act!

Alas poor tree! You once gave me too shade,
But soon these bugs will chomp away
Each last green leaf; and you will lie,
A lifeless stump, beneath the beating sun.

Back to Top

Error Versuum

Vultū tortō verba aliena tragoedus avarus
Mandit et exspuit. Heus! Fabula falsa tacet.

Back to Top

Servus Fidus

O dominē, exspectas sine cruribus esse viator.
Tū cum vī prodīs. Vah! Ego fessus equus.

Back to Top

On a 19th century painting of Tintern Abbey.

Isti homines qui sunt? Quae garrula lingua quietem
Tam sanctam turbat? Nobis intrantibus olim
Numinis has aedes et procedentibus ultra
In navem lente lente, subito sonuit vox
Lusciniae parvae. Cecinit sub imagine Christi
Fundens ex anima pacem mortalibus nobis.

Who are those people? What blaring tongue
Disturbs this silence, so holy? Once when we
Entered into this divine dwelling and were proceeding
Slowly down the middle aisle, moving so slowly,
The song of a small nightingale suddenly echoed.
She was singing beneath a statue of the Christ,
Pouring out with all her being peace to us mortals.

Back to Top

Querella poetae
Heroic couplets suggested from opening of A.
Pope’s Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot.

“Janitor, O custos, citius nunc obrue postes.
    Solve canes nostros! Pestifer hostis adest.
Voces et fremitus audis? Audisne: ‘Camenam’?”
    “Ain tu?” “Sic, dico! Garrula Musa permit!
Ducit Musa viros, vetulos, omnes sine mente.
    Me tege, sīs, posco. Me miserum, veniunt!
Matronas, nymphas video nuptasque puellas
    Carmina portantes. Res lyricae pereant!
Cur opus est semper mihi volvere carmina nequam?
    Omnia pessima sunt! Me jugulā subito.”

“Doorkeeper, oh guardian, quick– bar the door now!
Let lose my dogs! The deadly enemy’s here.
Do you hear their voices and cries?
Do you hear their: ‘Hey there poet’?”
“What do you mean?” “I’m saying this:
The jabbering Muse has come! The Muse
Is bringing up the men, the old, everyone gone mad!
Hide me please, I beg you. Woe is me. They’re coming!
I see matrons and young girls and married ones
Bringing me their poems. To hell with poetry!
Why do I always have to read a stinking poem?
Damn all of it. Come, slit my throat right now.”

Back to Top

Murus Magnus

Primo mane: meum tonitru Kentuckia tellus
Accipit adventum fausto, pluviisque salutat
Terque quaterque novos peregrinos, dum redit aestus.
Vincula contemplor patrias iungentia nostras,
Vincula amicitiae fuscis firmata procellis;
Inscribuntur enim magno iam nomina muro
(Ire domo pedibus possum) ne quisque futurus
Obliviscatur. Placuit mihi visere murum
Atque die Solis fortes exquirere cives
Quos bello nobis olim Kentuckia misit.
Dormit humo sancta nobiscum femina quaedam
emily harper rea, mensis namque ultimus illam
Pugnandi rapuit. Privatus nomine sellars
Cum legione sua passus sub mense Decembri
Nobiscum dormit: tumulumque habet hic, habet illa.
Qui tamen in muro scribuntur, semper egebunt
Indicio tumuli proprio signove sepulchri.
Seu mare, seu terra (caelum plerisque per altum)
Dissoluuntur eis passim primordia vitae,
Ignotisque locis requiescunt; nomina restant,
Commemoranda mihi. Cur non? Num carmine distat
Tam procul a nostro labor? Ergo nomina reddo
Anglica ceu solito resonantia tympana pulsu:
begley, bailey, adair, heginbotham, harrison, harris,
funkhauser, owens, payne, smith, shelton, mccowan, mccoy.
Virgilius quidam, quidam pugnavit Homerus:
homer c. brewer cecidit, cum virgil reynolds
Kentukiani ambo. troy dobson trans mare venit
Subsidiumque dabat nostris moriturus in agris.
truitt, turner, malone, metz, mullins, miller, pash, parson,
Stirpibus e multis vexillum tolllitur unum:
kelley, kelly, stein, van noy, swope, robinson, reitman,
wisdom (cui nomen dederat sapientia mundi);
Instructus yelton latitantes sub mare naves
Desuper e caelo patiens reperire volatu,
Navibus eque suis beaumont arcere paratus
Terribiles flammas. Horum plerique laborem
Suscepere gravem, bombis punire superbos
Cottidie exacte, dum circum fulminat aer;
overbey, cornwell, wright, et scrivner, donaldson, creamer,
conner dicuntur robustius arce volasse:
Arx tamen explodi cito dirumpique solebat.
Turma eadem cepit craddock et cepit Homerum,
Purpureo ornatos ob vulnera corde; relictae
Aere caeruleae reminiscebantur et herbae?
Privatus raymond l. lane descendit in hostem
Cum legione (secundus et octogesimus illam
Distinxit numerus) telis maioribus aptus:
Vicinus muro tamen haud est civis ab ulla
Parte suae patriae: gerald lane, Anglus, adibat
Bombarum turmas socias cognataque castra.
stewart, tuttle, slate, hall, hadley, johnson, walden,
slusher, barry, brashear, bratton, pennington, farnsley;
Tympana continuantur, et haud iam deficit ille
Murus, perpetuum nostro aevo pignus amoris.

The Great Wall
It is early morning; the land of Kentucky greets my arrival with well-omened thunder and welcomes new arrivals three or four times with rain, until the summer’s heat returns. I contemplate the bonds that join our two fatherlands, bonds of friendship strengthened in dark storms; for names are now inscribed on a great wall (I can walk there from my home) so that no future person may forget. I decided to inspect the wall one Sunday, and find out who the strong citizens were whom Kentucky once sent to us in wartime. In sacred ground among us there sleeps a certain woman, Emily Harper Rea [civilian, American Red Cross], for the last month of fighting snatched her away [died April 14, 1945]. A private soldier named Sellars, who suffered with his division in the month of December, sleeps with us [Jesse F. Sellars, Private First Class, US Army, 175 Infantry Regiment, 29 Infantry Division, died December 20, 1944]. He has a burial-plot, and so does she [Sellars: plot F, row 7, grave 119; Rea: plot E, row 6, grave 69].

But those who are inscribed on the wall will always lack an individual indication of their burial place or a tombstone. Whether on sea or land (or, in most cases, in the sky) their atoms are dissolved, and they rest in unknown places; their names remain, for me to commemorate. Why not? Surely the task is not so far distant from our kind of [Latin] poetry? Therefore I give the names in English, like drums resounding to a regular beat: Begley, Bailey, Adair, Heginbotham, Harrison, Harris; Funkhouser, Owens, Payne, Smith, Shelton, McCowan, McCoy.

[James E. Begley, Private, US Army, 3422 Automotive Maintenance Company; William R. Bailey, 2nd Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 422 Bomber Squadron, 305 Bomber Group (Heavy); Jack G. Adair, 2nd Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 338 Bomber Squadron, 96 Bomber Group (Heavy); George W. Heginbotham, Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 568 Bomber Squadron, 390 Bomber Group (Heavy); Cleston K. Harrison, Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 423 Bomber Squadron, 306 Bomber Group (Heavy); John J. Harris, Private, US Army, 12 Field Artillery Observation Battalion; Eugene H. Funkhouser, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 506 Bomber Squadron, 44 Bomber Group (Heavy); Lonnie Owens, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 511 Bomber Squadron, 351 Bomber Group (Heavy); William R. Payne, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 368 Bomber Squadron, 306 Bomber Group (Heavy); Jesse E. Smith, Private First Class, US Army, 625 Ordnance Ammunition Company; Orville W. Shelton, Junior, 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 579 Bomber Squadron, 392 Bomber Group (Heavy); Eugene R. McCowan; 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 337 Bomber Squadron, 96 Bomber Group (Heavy); Robert E. McCoy, Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 358 Bomber Squadron, 303 Bomber Group (Heavy)]

There was a Virgil who fought, and a Homer too, both Kentuckians [Homer C. Brewer, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 755 Bomber Squadron, 458 Bomber Group (Heavy); Virgil Reynolds, Sergeant, Army Air Corps]. Troy Dobson came across the sea and gave his assistance, fated to die in our fields [Troy Dobson, Private First Class, US Army, 605 Ordnance Armament Maintenance Battalion]. Truitt, Turner, Malone, Metz, Mullins, Miller, Pash, Parson. From many origins a single flag is raised. Kelley, Kelly, Stein, Van Noy, Swope, Robinson, Reitman, Wisdom (named for the wisdom of the world).

[Joseph H. Truitt, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 338 Bomber Squadron, 96 Bomber Group (Heavy); Carlus Turner, 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 409 Bomber Squadron, 93 Bomber Group (Heavy); James C. Malone, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 322 Bomber Squadron, 91 Bomber Group (Heavy); Charles E. Metz, Junior, Technician 5th Class, US Army, 35 Signal Construction Battalion (also missing in action or buried at sea, commemorated in Normandy, was another Charles E. Metz, who entered the service in New York, Private in the 70th Tank Battalion, died on June 6, 1944: D-Day); James S. Mullins, 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 548 Bomber Squadron, 385 Bomber Group (Heavy); James E. Miller, Private, US Army, 3206 Quartermaster Service Company; Philip D. Pash, Senior, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 858 Bomber Squadron, 492 Bomber Group (Heavy); William C. Parson, 2nd Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 440 Bomber Squadron, 319 Bomber Group (Medium); Billy S. Kelley, Staff Sergeant, Army Air Corps; Patrick J. Kelly, 2nd Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 555 Bomber Squadron, 386 Bomber Group (Medium); Thomas W. Stein, 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 364 Bomber Squadron, 305 Bomber Group (Heavy); Russell N. Van Noy, 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 614 Bomber Squadron, 401 Bomber Group (Heavy); William L. Swope, Captain, US Army Air Forces, 548 Bomber Squadron, 385 Bomber Group (Heavy); Robert R. Robinson, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 323 Bomber Squadron, 91 Bomber Group (Heavy); Elmer L. Reitman, Technical Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 4 Bomber Squadron, 34 Bomber Group (Heavy); Glenn M. Wisdom, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 749 Bomber Squadron, 457 Bomber Group (Heavy)]

Yelton was taught to find from above, patient in his flight, vessels hiding under the surface [Edwin A. Yelton, 2nd Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 19 Squadron, 25 Antisubmarine Wing]; and Beaumont was prepared to ward off terrible flames from his ships [James B. Beaumont, Junior, Fireman First Class, US Navy]. Most of these men undertook the hard task of punishing proud enemies with bombs, day by day, with precision, while the air flashed with explosions around them; Overbey, Cornwell, Wright, Scrivner, Donaldson, Creamer, Conner – they are said to have flown more robustly than a fortress: but a Flying Fortress quite often was exploded and destroyed.

[Burgess Overbey, 2nd Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 410 Bomber Squadron, 94 Bomber Group (Heavy); Harold R. Cornwell, 2nd Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 549 Bomber Squadron, 385 Bomber Group (Heavy); James F. Wright, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 322 Bomber Squadron, 91 Bomber Group (Heavy); Dwight A. Scrivner, Technical Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 544 Bomber Squadron, 384 Bomber Group (Heavy); Claude D. Donaldson, 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 577 Bomber Squadron, 392 Bomber Group (Heavy); John A. Creamer, Junior, 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 367 Bomber Squadron, 306 Bomber Group (Heavy); Fairce Conner, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 856 Bomber Squadron, 492 Bomber Group (Heavy)]

The same unit took in Craddock as well as Homer, both awarded the Purple Heart for their wounds [Harold C. Craddock, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 755 Bomber Squadron, 458 Bomber Group (Heavy): the same squadron as Homer C. Brewer, above]. Did they think, in the air, about the blue grass they had left behind? The private soldier Raymond L. Lane, fit to handle larger weapons, descended upon the enemy with his division, the 82nd [Private, US Army, 319 Field Artillery Battalion, 82 Airborne Division]. His neighbour on the wall, however, is not [listed as] a citizen from any state of his fatherland, but Gerald Lane, from England, who came to join his allies’ bomber squadrons, his relations’ camp [Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 335 Bomber Squadron, 95 Bomber Group (Heavy): entered the service in Great Britain]. Stewart, Tuttle, Slate, Hall, Hadley, Johnson, Walden; Slusher, Barry, Brashear, Bratton, Pennington, Farnsley; the drum-beats are continued, and still the wall goes on, a perpetual pledge of affection for our times.

[James M. Stewart, 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 367 Bomber Squadron, 306 Bomber Group (Heavy); Hillard Tuttle, Private First Class, US Army, 531 Engineer Shore Regiment (there is also a Charles H. Tuttle, Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, who does have a marked grave); Irven G. Slate, Technical Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, Headquarters Squadron, Eighth Air Force; Otis G. Hall, Private, US Army, 113 Field Artillery Battalion, 30 Infantry Division; Marcus W. Hadley, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Forces, 577 Bomber Squadron, 392 Bomber Group (Heavy); Farmer A. Johnson, Junior, Flight Officer, US Army Air Forces, 67 Bomber Squadron, 44 Bomber Group (Heavy); Baron S. Walden, Junior, 1st Lieutenant, US Army Air Forces, 643 Bomber Squadron, 409 Bomber Group (Heavy); Carl W. Slusher, Technical Sergeant, US Army, 35 Signal Construction Battalion; John R. Barry, Junior, Seaman 2nd Class, US Navy; Limuel Brashear, Seaman 1st Class, US Navy; John A. Bratton, Seaman 2nd Class, US Navy; Burl G. Pennington, Quartermaster 2nd Class, US Navy; Raymond J. Farnsley, Seaman 2nd Class, US Coast Guard]

Back to Top

A veteran remembers (from Ramillies)

‘Ex Gallis aliquid semper mirabile; rebus
Vexarique novis nuper dicuntur acerbis.
Eveniat bene; ego post plurima lustra senescens
Natalique solo sum mox moriturus, et omnem
Per vitam vidi multum volventia fata.
Centum annos vixi atque decem: sed terminus instat.
Quid memini? Ex nihilo nostri floruere coloni
Ingrati, nimiaque urbes mercede nigrescunt.
Nulla dies saeclo tamen est illustrior omni,
Firmior aut cordi, licet aegro plena dolore,
Quam pugna ad Ramiles: accepi vulnus, at horas
Corpore per longas robusto munera feci
Militiae. Numquam mihi pugnae gloria marcet.
Cum moriar, lapidem tollant sermone modesto:
hic ramiles vidit – quo scripto, cetera desint.’

A very aged veteran of Ramillies looks back on his life. There’s always some new trouble from France: news has just arrived of the French Revolution. He’s seen a lot in his 110 years: England’s (ungrateful) colonies have flourished from nothing, towns are growing black from industry – but no memory is more vivid than that of Ramillies, where he did his duty, and was wounded. Soon he must die, a few yards from the place where he was born; all they need put on his tombstone is, ‘This man saw Ramillies’. (This remarkable man, William Billinge of Staffordshire, died in 1791, aged 112; his tombstone records his service at Ramillies, and elsewhere: Falkner, p. 115.)

Back to Top

From water to wine

Castelli vigiles languent post vina; secundo
    Incursu peditum moenia Gallus habet.
Quod facere haud potuit vastarum pondus aquarum
    Sic factum vini dicitur esse cado.

The watchmen of the outpost are relaxed after their wine – in a second infantry assault, the French seize their walls. What an immense weight of waters could not achieve was thus apparently achieved by a single wine-cask.

Back to Top

Extract from ‘1708’

Pulvere contendunt oculos implente per agmen,
Pulvere per nares, per guttur pulvere, adustam
Tegmine pulvereo sociorum albescere pellem
Cernunt, dum rivus (sudoris Scaldula) defert
Illuviem ad vestes spurco de fonte galeri.
Pulvis in omni sede manet pulvisque per auras
Tollitur, ut nubes siccatae segniter adstent,
Hostibus incursum monstrantes; denique pulvis
Caesuram implet, pulvis, pulvis et amplius urgens
Insinuat sese per rimas paene cerebri.

Dust fills the soldiers’ eyes, noses, throats; sweat runs from dirty hats to dirty clothes, like a little river Scheldt [‘Scalda’: the river at Oudenarde, which the Allied columns had to cross]; dust rises lazily in a dry cloud, showing the Allied advance to the enemy; dust fills every crevice – even in [each metrical ‘seat’ of] these verses – and almost seeps into the brain.

Back to Top

Responsum Feminae Cuiusdam ad Ovidium [Amores 1. 9]

Militat omnis amans? Melius sed femina pugnat:
    Debilia ardentis despicit arma viri.
Iste puer Veneris iactat puerilia tela,
    Praesidium docta femina mente tenet.
Quaeris, quot mulier ferat instrumenta cruentas
    Ad pugnas? Praedam quomodo certa petat?
Responsum’st: pulchras quot habet Tasmania chartas,
    Quot vigiles oculis insidiaeque latent;
Umida quot praebet iam Lexingtonia guttas
    Sudoris, tot sunt tela timenda viris.
Turpe senilis amor? Fortasse, sed omnibus aequum’st:
    Rarior est qui non turpiter ardet amans.
Forsitan una soror seniores quaerit amantes,
    Et petit aequales altera Marte soror.
Res facilis iuvenes est debellare superbos;
    Maturo servo parcere maior honor.
Nasule, perspicuis loquitur tibi femina verbis:
    Fortunatus eris si mea castra coles.

Translation [n.b. a rather rough draft translation, 17 March 2011]: Does every lover make war? But a woman fights better; she despises an ardent man’s weak weapons. That boy of Venus’ brandishes childish weapons; a woman keeps a garrison in her learned mind. You ask, how many pieces of equipment a woman might bring to bloody battles? How can she be certain to win the spoils? The answer is: as many as Tasmania has beautiful maps; as many as the watchmen and ambushes that lurk in her eyes; as many as the drops of sweat that humid Lexington now offers – so many are the weapons that men need to fear. Is an old man’s love a dirty thing? Perhaps; but it’s the same for all – it’s a rather rare lover whose passion isn’t dirty. Perhaps one sister seeks out older lovers, and another sister seeks to fight with those of her own age. It’s an easy thing to bring proud youths to submission; a greater honour to be kind to a mature servant. Little Ovid, a woman tells you clearly: you’ll be lucky if you conquer me.

Back to Top

Ambiguae Voces

Ambiguae voces certant, incertus et haeret
    Auditor pendens omnia mente sua.
Dulcia quae spirant inter se verba repugnant;
    Quid vult ex imo pectore cara loqui?
Cara quidem verbis mollisque puella videtur;
    Alter quam “carus” carior esse potest.
“Care” alio dixisse, alio “carissime” quondam
    Dicitur, atque novo verba referre viro.
Quot sunt orbe viri quibus haec “carissime” dicat?
    Et fortasse nimis sit numerare duos.
Quaeritur, ambiguo quid vult ea dicere verbo:
    Significatve nimis, significatve nihil?

‘Ambiguous voices’
Ambiguous voices compete, and the uncertain listener pauses, weighing everything up in his mind. Sweet-breathing words contradict each other: what does his dear one really mean to say? Indeed the girl seems dear and gentle in her words; but another can be dearer than her ‘dear’. She is said to have once addressed one as ‘dear’, another as ‘dearest’, and to repeat the words to a new man. How many men in the world are there to whom she might say ‘dearest’? And perhaps to count two of them might be too many. The question is, what does she mean to say with an ambiguous word: does it mean too much, or does it mean nothing?

Back to Top

Stipula (vulgo, “Stubble”)

Sunt quae despiciunt barbas, quibus horridus ardor
    Displicet, ut frustra barbarus usque petat.
Rusticus apparet rudis atque hirsutus amator:
    Inculto teneras perfricat ore genas.
Vero sunt aliae, quibus ingens barba placebit,
    Quae numquam digitis tangere densa timent.
Sunt mento segetes constanti messe metendae,
    Atque solent nitide radere menta viri.
Agris ut stipulae, stipulae tamen ore latebunt:
    Post messem cautam plusve minusve manent.
Perque diem durant stipulae firmantque virorum:
    Non, dico, pueri corpore pluma levis.
Abhorrent multae: tamen et muliebre per orbem
    Quod gaudet stipulis dicitur esse genus.
Non credis? Mirum est. Fateor me audivisse rogantem
    Quae petit has stipulas, quae rogat, urget, habet.
Sentire ad mammas cupiebat, tangere vivam
    Duritiem stipulae deliciasque suas.
“Tange cutem stipulis” iussit, sua basia donans
    “Suras tange meas, intima tange, frica.”
“Tange femur” iussit; tandem suspiria crescunt;
    Asperitas placuit multiplicata satis.
“Tange femur, fac, fac quod vis, fac” iussit, ut illa
    Dicat “Io” clamans, et repetatur “Io.”
Excita sic stipulis partes matrona petivit
    Scorti (vix possum credere; mira loquor):
Hoc tamen audivi; mirandus denique mundus
    Gustibus apparet, foemineumque genus.
Fabula si vera est, homines qui se sine cura
    Raserunt, quondam spem tetigere rudem.

There are women who despise beards, who are displeased by prickly passion, so that a barbarian might always woo them in vain. A rustic lover appears rough and hairy: he scratches their tender cheeks with his unshaven face. But indeed there are others whom a huge beard will please, who never fear to touch thick [hairs] with their fingers. There are crops on the chin which need to be mown with a constant harvesting, and men tend to shave their chins smoothly. But like stubble on the fields, stubble will lurk on the face: after a careful harvest, more or less of it will remain. As the day progresses, men’s stubble endures and hardens: I’m not talking about the light down of a boy’s body. Many women abhor it; nevertheless, there is said to be a type of woman throughout the world which rejoices in stubble. You don’t believe me? It is extraordinary. I admit that I’ve heard [of] a woman’s requests, who seeks this stubble, who asks, demands, and gets it. She desired to feel it on her breasts, to touch the living hardness of stubble and her delights. ‘Touch my flesh with stubble,’ she ordered, giving her kisses, ‘touch my legs, touch intimately, rub … touch my thigh,’ she ordered; at last the sighs increase, the rough touch repeated sufficiently has pleased her. ‘Touch my thigh, do it, do what you want, do it,’ she ordered, so that she might shout out ‘oh,’ and the ‘oh’ might be repeated. Thus excited by the stubble a mature woman has sought the role of a slut (I can scarcely believe it: I’m telling an amazing tale). But that’s what I’ve heard, anyway; in the end, the wide world, and the female sex, appear amazing in their tastes. If this tale is true, men who have shaved themselves without much care did at one time attain a bristly hope.

Back to Top

‘O Mensa’ – Iambics, addressed politely ‘To a Table’

O mensa: plana, comis, utilis comes,
Modesta virgo: rarius quisquam vocat
Te voce clara; rusticos passim pudet
Videre mores, nec politioribus
Circumdari (mi mensa) collegis domi.
Misella mensa, maesta ne fias, locum
Honoris amplum praebeo domestici.
Nam crura laudo semper aequali modo
Bene ordinata: sic et exemplum potes
Monstrare nobis, mensa docta, commodum.
Si corda violens nostra tempestas quatit,
Vivenda vita semper est aequaliter.

The inspiration for this reflection on the vocative of ‘mensa’ is the oft-repeated story (most recently seen in a film commemorating the late, distinguished Danish linguist, Hans Ørberg, who pioneered the teaching of Latin as a living language, which was shown at the Accademia Vivarium Novum, Rome, 2010) of the young Winston Churchill’s puzzlement at the vocative case (Churchill, ‘My Early Life’). The boy asks his teacher what ‘o mensa’, in the grammar book, means; the teacher answers, “‘o table’, used when addressing a table”, to which the boy replies, “but I never do address a table”. I thought the table, to whom no one ever does seem to say anything, might be feeling a little sorry for itself, so I composed this to cheer it up…

Translation [n.b. a rough draft translation, 17 March 2011]: O table, level, kind, useful companion, o modest female: rarely does anyone address you openly; I’m ashamed to see such poor manners, and that you are not, my dear table, surrounded by politer colleagues at home. Poor little table, don’t be sad: I offer you an ample place of domestic honour. For I praise your legs, always well-ordered, in an equal manner – and thus you are able to show us a worthwhile example, o learned table: if a violent storm shakes our hearts, life must always be lived levelly.

Back to Top