When in 1944 Helen Waddell (1889 – 1965) had almost finished the first draft of a manuscript for a second book of Mediaeval Lyrics, she began to have mental fall outs and lapses of memory, probably due to brain strokes or dementia preacox. The book was published posthumously in 1976 with the effort of friends and scholars detecting sources and filling now and then a gap in the translation
This poem by Boethius concludes book 1 of his Consolatio Philosophiae, written in his cell and waiting for his death. Philosophia, a majestic woman, is speaking to him and encouraging him to clear his mind from passions in order to see the truth. The poem starts with three nature comparisons: like stars are hindered by dark clouds in spreading their light and the clear sea is made muddy by a storm and the course of a mountain river is sometimes stopped by a rock having strolled down from the top, so our mind is cloudy when still filled with passions.
But whereas Boethius in his imprisonment still had his mind as a resource and escape, Hellen Waddell was in her final years a prisoner of her own and once brilliant mind, with no possibility of escape.
Boethius, Consolatio Philosophiae 1, m.7
(Meter: Adonic - u u | - -)
nubibus atris ater: dark
condita nullum conditus: hidden
fundere possunt fundo: to pour out, shed, spread
si mare uoluens acc. !
turbidus Auster Auster: South Wind
misceat aestum, stirs up till a storm
uitrea dudum vitrea (unda): clear / dudum: just, recently
parque serenis par + dat: equal to, resembling
sordida caeno filthy by dissolved mud (caenum)
uisibus obstat, hampers (clear) vision
quique uagatur vagor: to roam, wander
saepe resistit resisto: to stop, stand still
rupe soluti by a rock (rupes f.), a dam (obex f.) of a fallen stone
tu quoque si uis
cernere uerum, cerno: to discern / verum : the truth
tramite recto take your mountain path (calles) on a straight side-path(trames)
gaudia pelle, pello: to cast out
spemque fugato fugato: 2nd sg fut imperat act
nec dolor adsit,
nubila mens est
uinctaque frenis subdued by reigns (frenum)
haec ubi regnant. haec: gaudia, timor et spes
Translation by Helen Waddell:
Stars hidden by dark clouds
Can give no light,
If the South Wind stirs up the rolling sea.
The wave that once was like crystal
Clear as a shining day
Now fool with loosened mud
Decieves the light.
The stream that strayed
Down from the mountain top
Is dammed by fallen fragments of loose chalk.
And you, if you would look clear-eyed on truth,
Would take the mountain track,
Be rid of joy and fear and hope and pain.
The mind is fogged
Held in with bit and reign
When these have power.
More Latin Lyrics: From Virgil to Milton (posthumous, edited by Dame Felicitas Corrigan, 1976)