Live and let die, and then remember. Let’s go all poetic today.
Do you know how you sometimes can’t tell exactly what a Latin proverb means? Is memento mori remember the dead or remember to die?
In any case, I see it as the imperative so I impair (which I hope is an old English word for learn, if not – false friend).
When I was studying English at the university, there was a poem that especially got to me. Plus it includes Patrick’s key word for this week, remembrance.
I wonder if you know it. This is how it begins:
Before the beginning of years
There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
Grief, with a glass that ran;
Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
Summer, with flowers that fell;
Remembrance fallen from heaven,
And madness risen from hell;
Strength without hands to smite;
Love that endures for a breath;
Night, the shadow of light,
And life, the shadow of death.
This is the chorus from Atalanta in Calydon, poetic play by Algernon Charles Swinburne from a couple of centuries ago, of whom I never heard before or since.
What follows is a poem on death and the nation by Slovenian contemporary poet Tone Pavček, who by now is also gone, just like we all will be one day. Unless we forget to die. Here it is in my translation, since translating is what I do and should be doing more often.
The Final Poem
by Tone Pavček
Translated by Manja Maksimovič
How neat are Slovenians as we go,
our search for perfection drains the cup,
in dying persistent and far from slow,
we perish before our time is up.
Moreover, our death has Slovenian flair:
by fire or water, poison or gas,
it’s all such a grave and solemn affair,
as if country or god were calling express.
One day, maybe soon, we’ll go to the last,
but before we can rot and turn into pus,
new names will be given to everything fast,
while death will be named after us…
Tone Pavček: Zadnja
Kako Slovenci lepo umiramo,
vztrajno in ne ravno počasi,
iskalci popolnosti scagamo, shiramo,
še preden se stečejo naši časi.
A tudi umiramo tako po slovensko:
z vrvjo, v vodi, s strupom in s plinom,
zmeraj nekako slovesno in hudo resno,
kot bi šlo za boga ali za domovino.
Nekoč, morda kmalu, pomremo do zadnjega.
In potem, še preden zgnijemo v jami,
dajo nova imena vsemu na tem koščku sveta,
a smrt poimenujejo z nami. . .
Recently I’ve realised that I do photography in the same way I translate: I keep out by staying in.
In the photo part of the post, twenty images from my graveyard hopping in Slovenia this summer. I visited:
- Žale Cemetery in Ljubljana (first five photos);
- Nova vas above Dragonja in Istria (next three photos);
- Piran on the coast (next five photos); and
- Žužemberk in the southern region of Dolenjska (the last seven photos).
So as you go through life, keep in mind: there is a space for you.
As for me, I’m off to Slovenia for a week and won’t be posting much. They promise some inches of drama on Tuesday. This is how amore calls snow. Be well and grateful.
If you like cemeteries, here are two more posts from Žale Cemetery and one from the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome:
In response to Patrick Jennings’ Pic and a Word Challenge #161: Remembrance