Thursday, November 02, 2006


Donec Gratus Eram: Franklin P. Adams

About ten years ago the following collections of English translations of Horace by various hands appeared:Neither collection contains any versions by one of my favorite Horatian translators, American newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960). An important figure in his day, Adams is now almost totally forgotten. Every single one of his books is out of print.

Here are some translations of Horace's Donec gratus eram ode (3.9) by Franklin P. Adams.

When I was your stiddy, my loveliest Lyddy,
  And you my embraceable she,
In joys and diversions, the king of the Persians
    Had nothing on me.

When I was the person you penned all that verse on,
  Ere Chloe had caused you to sigh,
Not she whose cognomen is Ilia the Roman
    Was happier than I.

Ah, Chloe the Thracian -- whose sweet modulation
  Of voice as she lilts to the lyre
Is sweeter and fairer? Would but the Fates spare her
    I'd love to expire.

Tush! Calais claims me and wholly inflames me,
  He pesters me never with rhymes;
If they should spare Cally, I'd perish totally
    A couple of times.

Suppose my affection in Lyddy's direction
  Returned; that I gave the good-by
To Chloe the golden, and back to the olden? --
    I pause for reply.

Cheer up, mine ensnarer! Be Calais fairer
  Than stars, be you blustery and base,
I'll love you, adore you; in brief, I am for you
    All over the place.

What time I was your one best bet
  And no one passed the wire before me,
Dear Lyddy, I cannot forget
  How you would -- yes, you would -- adore me.
To others you would tie the can;
  You thought of me with no aversion.
In those days I was happier than
    A Persian.

Correct. As long as you were not
  So nuts about this Chloe person,
Your flame for me burned pretty hot --
  Mine was the door you pinned your verse on.
Your favourite name began with L,
  While I thought you surpassed by no man --
Gladder than Ilia, the well-
    Known Roman.

On Chloe? Yes, I've got a case;
  Her voice is such a sweet soprano;
Her people come from Northern Thrace;
  You ought to hear her play piano.
If she would like my suicide --
  If she'd want me a dead and dumb thing,
Me for a glass of cyanide,
    Or something.

Now Calais, the handsome son
  Of old Ornitus, has me going;
He says I am his honey bun,
  He's mine, however winds are blowing;
I think that he is awful nice,
  And, if the gods the signal gave him,
I'd just as lieve die once or twice
    To save him.

Suppose I'm gone on you again,
  Suppose I've got ingrown affection
For you; I sort of wonder, then,
  If you'd have any great objection.
Suppose I pass this Chloe up
  And say: "Go roll your hoop, I'm rid o' ye!"
Would that drop sweetness in your cup?
    Eh, Lydia?

Why, say -- though he's fair as a star,
  And you are like a cork, erratic
And light -- and though I know you are
  As blustery as the Adriatic,
I think I'd rather live with you
  Or die with you, I swear to gracious.
So I will be your Mrs. Q.

Lyddy, am I right or wrong?
Was I there? Did I belong?
Did you not -- you know you did --
Call me once the Headline Kid?
I had everybody stopped;
Persian potentates I topped;
Dun and Bradstreet, if you'd love me,
Wouldn't rate a king above me.

Friend Horatius, all that you
Say is absolutely true.
I was happy as a queen
When -- oh, you know what I mean.
When you gave no Chloe praise,
Them, ah, them was happy days!
When you used to coax and con me
Ilia's self had nothing on me.

Thracian Chloe -- she's a bear --
Has Q.H. up in the air;
Her I lamp without fatigue;
Chloe leads the Flaccus League.
Listen, I'm a selfish guy,
But I'd really love to die
If I thought she'd get a giggle
At my mortuary wriggle.

Speaking, as you often do,
Of affection, I'm there, too.
Who is my idea of joy?
Calais -- and quantus boy.
Why, if I believed that he
Could elicit any glee
from the sentence Lydia non est,
I'd bichloride. I would, honest.

Lyddy, listen, get me right:
Do you think that perhaps we might
Sort of start it up again
As 'twas in the glorious When?
If I tell this Chloe that
I am going to leave her, flat,
Do you think that you would let me
Write to you, and? -- well, you get me.

Listen, Horace, though you be
Roaring as the raging sea,
Though he be a Broadway sign,
I'm for you -- Q.H. for mine.
Whether you're the ocean's roar,
Angry and ferocious; or
Lighter than a cork, and giddy,
I am yours

While I was fussing you at home
You put the notion in my dome
That I was the Molasses Kid.
I batted strong. I'll say I did.

While you were fussing me alone
To other boys my heart was stone.
When I was all that you could see
No girl had anything on me.

Well, say, I'm having some romance
With one Babette, of Northern France.
If that girl gave me the command
I'd dance a jig in No Man's Land.

I, too, have got a young affair
With Charley -- say, that boy is there!
I'd just as soon go out and die
If I thought it'd please that guy.

Suppose I can this foreign wren
And start things up with you again?
Suppose I promise to be good?
I'd love you, Lyd. I'll say I would.

Though Charley's good and handsome -- oh, boy!
And you're a stormy, fickle doughboy,
Go give the Hun his final whack,
And I'll marry you when you come back.

In the happier years gone by me
  In a well-remembered day,
Yours the custom was to eye me
  In a not unflattering way.
When than I none was than-whicher,
  When none other dared to fling
Arms about you, I was richer
  Than the noted Persian king.

Those the days when sweet the savor
  Of mine overbrimming cup,
When no Chloe found your favor,
  When I was not runner-up.
As I scan my memorabilia,
  I observe with girlish glee
That the famous Roman Ilia
  Hadn't anything on me.

Now the roomy heart Horatian,
  Beating loudly in this breast,
By the sweetly singing Thracian
  Chloe's utterly possessed.
If I thought that lovely lass'd
  Like to see me dead, I'd take
Half a pint of prussic acid
  Gladly for her shining sake.

What a fascinating game is
  Love! My current cause for joy --
Thurian Calais his name is --
  He is Ornytus's boy.
If I thought he'd like to view me
  Moribund; that he would laugh
At my corse, I'd pour into me
  All the poison I could quaff.

If no longer I should find her
  As I used to find her -- fair;
If I casually consigned her
  To the celebrated air;
This affair -- if I could quit it;
  If I gazed again on you;
Do you think that we could hit it
  Off the way we used to do?

Yes. Though Calais is brighter
  Than a coruscating star;
Madder than the sea, and lighter
  Than a piece of cork you are,
Horace, you're the only guy for
  Me. The others I resign.
You're the one I'd live for, die for --
  And I'll be your Valentine.

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