Seven Poems from the Latin of John Owen

Charles Martin

Winter 2002

Now when the Lion, sated, leaves the feast,
The Jackal and Hyena come a-gnawin’;
With such apology, O Regal Beast,
I offer these translations of John Owen.

 

I.  Expansive Poetry
Can I express how much I cherish you
In just one line? Not possible. Take two.

 

II.  To a Reluctant Donor
Nothing you give me, but this—I’m in your will.
—That’s less than nothing, for you aren’t ill!
A gift that is swiftly given doubly pleases:
My gift for you? The swiftest of fatal diseases.

 

III.  On Epigrams
“’What ‘art of brevity’?  It’s Art diminished!”
—Yet trust me, it’s not easy to be brief,
To give, from lengthy dullness, some relief—
This poem may be boring—but it’s finished.

 

IV.  Ars Amatoria
The young read Ovid for his tender art,
But what he knows of Love is no great matter,
For Nature teaches matters of the heart
Through our eyes, not through some poet’s chatter.

 

V.  On “The Lives of the Saints”
Merely to read of virtue is in vain?
Not if their virtue is to entertain.

 

VI.  The Courtier’s Ladder
A courtier by many small steps rises,
Yet, for a single misstep, his demise is.
or
A courtier by many small steps rises—
Yet, for his fall, one misstep suffices.

 

VII. Marital Colloquy
“Cuckolds,” says Pontius, “should be ducked in ponds—”
“Learn how to swim then,” his Pontia responds

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