Translating Apuleius's Syrian-goddess oracle

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lpetrich
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Translating Apuleius's Syrian-goddess oracle

Post by lpetrich » Mon Sep 04, 2017 9:26 am

In Lucius Apuleius's novel "The Golden Ass" or "Metamorphoses", the hero gets turned into a donkey in the literal sense, and he gets used as a beast of burden by several people. Among them are the eunuch priests of a Syrian version of Cybele. They had an oracle that they interpreted for everybody's circumstances (Bk. 9, Chap. 8), and some translations of it seem rather creative:

Ideo coniuncti terram proscindunt boves,
Ut in futurum laeta germinent sata.

Robert Graves (1950):
Yoke the oxen, plough the land,
High the golden grain will stand.

Sarah Ruden (2011):
An ox team cleaves the soil for just this reason:
Sown grain will sprout abundantly in season.

Joel C. Relihan (2007):
For this the team of oxen plows the furrowed earth,
So fertile fields of grain will sprout in times to come.

E.J. Kenney (1998, 2004):
The yokèd oxen drive the furrow now,
So that one day luxuriant crops shall grow.

Thomas Taylor (18th cy.?):
Together yok'd the oxen, till the ground,
That stocks abundant may from thence arise.

William Adlington (1566, 1639):
The Oxen tied and yoked together,
Doe till the ground to the intent it may bring forth his increase.

lpetrich
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Re: Translating Apuleius's Syrian-goddess oracle

Post by lpetrich » Mon Sep 04, 2017 10:25 am

I couldn't resist an additional bit. Translating the description of the depravity of the baker's wife (Bk 9, Chap 14):

Nec enim vel unum vitium nequissimae illi feminae deerat, sed omnia prorsus ut in quandam caenosam latrinam in eius animum flagitia confluxerant: saeva scaeva viriosa ebriosa pervicax pertinax, in rapinis turpibus avara, in sumptibus foedis profusa, inimica fidei, hostis pudicitiae. Tunc spretis atque calcatis divinis numinibus in viceram certae religionis mentita sacrilega praesumptione dei, quem praedicaret unicum, confictis observationibus vacuis fallens omnis homines et miserum maritum decipiens matutino mero et continuo corpus manciparat.

Robert Graves (1950):
There was no single vice which she did not possess: her heart was a regular cesspool into which every sort of filthy sewer emptied. She was malicious, cruel, spiteful, lecherous, drunken, selfish, obstinate, as mean in her petty thefts as she was wasteful in her grand orgies, and an enemy of all that was honest and clean. She also professed perfect scorn for the Immortals and rejected all true religion in favour of a fantastic and blasphemous cult of an ‘Only God.’ In his honour she practised various absurd ceremonies which gave her the excuse of getting drunk quite early in the day and playing the whore at all hours; most people, including her husband, were quite deceived by her.

Sarah Ruden (2011):
There wasn’t a single fault missing from that dame, who had nothing whatsoever to recommend her; on the contrary, every wicked passion, bar none, had flooded into a heart that was like some slimy privy. A fiend in a fight but not very bright, hot for a crotch, wine-botched, rather die than let a whim pass by— that was her. She pillaged other people’s property without the slightest shame or restraint and threw money away on the lowest self-indulgence. She was in a long-running feud with trust, and in the army storming chastity. Besides all this, she spurned the powers of heaven and trampled them under her feet. In place of the self-evident divinities we cultivate, she posited a god— sacrilegiously and on no basis but her own lies— whom she proclaimed as the Only One. With fabricated, meaningless rites she hoodwinked the whole community and deceived her miserable mate, which meant she could dedicate her person to straight-up booze from dawn onward and to debauchery without a break.

Joel C. Relihan (2007):
Because there was not a single fault that could not be found in that foul and loathsome woman; no, all outrages and offenses had flowed together into her soul as if into one slimy, sordid sump: sadistic and sinister, nymphomaniacal and dipsomaniacal, obstinate and extortionate; greedy in cheap, demeaning thieving; profligate in repulsive, riotous expense; the foe of faith and fidelity, the enemy of chastity and shame. And more than that: she turned her back on, she trampled in the dust, the gods and their powers. In place of a religion, tried and true, she—with a blasphemous and deceptively rigid belief in the god whom she proclaimed to be the only god—made up rite and observance without substance; deceived the people at large; tricked her husband—fool that he was; got drunk on undiluted wine at dawn; and surrendered her body like a slave to whoring all day long.

E.J. Kenney (1998, 2004):
Not a single vice was wanting in this abominable woman’s make-up; her heart was like a slimy cesspit in which every kind of moral turpitude had collected. She was hard-hearted, perverse, man-mad, drunken, and stubborn to the last degree. Tight-fisted in the squalid pursuit of gain, lavish in spending on debauchery, she had no use for loyalty and was a sworn enemy to chastity. Worse still, she had rejected and spurned the heavenly gods, and in place of true religion she had falsely and blasphemously set up a deity of her own whom she proclaimed as the One and Only God; and having bamboozled the world in general and her husband in particular by meaningless rituals of her own invention, she was able to give herself over to a day-long course of drinking and prostitution.

Thomas Taylor (18th cy.?):
For there was no vice that was not present with that most iniquitous woman. But there was entirely a conflux of all crimes in her mind, as in some miry privy. She was inauspicious, cruel, addicted to men and wine, pervicacious and pertinacious, greedy in base rapine, profuse in filthy expenditure, inimical to fidelity, and hostile to chastity. Then despising and trampling on the divine powers, instead of the true religion, counterfeiting, a nefarious opinion of God, whom she asserted to be the only deity [to the exclusion of other Gods who proceed from, and are rooted in the first God,] devising also vain observances, and deceiving all men, and likewise her miserable husband, she enslaved her body to morning draughts of pure wine, and to continual adultery.

William Adlington (1566, 1639):
for she had not one fault alone, but all the mischiefes that could be devised: shee was crabbed, cruell, lascivious, drunken, obstinate, niggish, covetous, riotous in filthy expenses, and an enemy to faith and chastity, a despise of all the Gods, whom other did honour, one that affirmed that she had a God by her selfe, wherby she deceived all men, but especially her poore husband, one that abandoned her body with continuall whoredome.


Part of the description -- saeva scaeva viriosa ebriosa pervicax pertinax, in rapinis turpibus avara, in sumptibus foedis profusa, inimica fidei, hostis pudicitiae. -- has some rhythm in it, and only some of the translators tried to capture it.

lpetrich
Posts: 144
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2014 6:20 am

Re: Translating Apuleius's Syrian-goddess oracle

Post by lpetrich » Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:31 am

Getting back to my OP, I've found The All-Purpose Oracle - PaganSquare - PaganSquare - Join the conversation!: "Robert Graves' doggerel couplet perfectly captures the Hallmark banality of the original."

Ideo coniuncti terram proscindunt boves,
Ut in futurum laeta germinent sata.

Word for word,
Therefore/for-that-reason joined-together(pl) earth(obj) plow-up(3p) oxen,
So-that in future abundant grow(3p-subj) crops/standing-grain.

Robert Graves's translation, with accented syllables:
YOKE the OXen, PLOUGH the LAND,
HIGH the GOLden GRAIN will STAND.

It has a nice rhythm, even if it does not follow the original's grammar very well. Some of the others are somewhat closer in their grammar, like Sarah Ruden's and John Relihan's.

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DCHindley
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Re: Translating Apuleius's Syrian-goddess oracle

Post by DCHindley » Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:04 am

Kind of reminds me of the "sator/rotas" square.

S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

Farmer Arepo Masters Working (his) Plow.

God, that could mean ANYTHING!

A perfect oracle!

DCH

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