IAM DUDUM TEMERASSE ... PROBA'S PURPOSE
Faltonia Betitia Probatr. Josephine Balmer
Iam dudum temerasse duces pia foedera pacis
regnandi miseros tenuit quos dira cupido
diversaque necus, regum crudelia bella
cognatasque acies, pollutos caede parentum
insignis clipeos nulloque ex hoste tropea
sanguine conspersos tulerat quos fama triumphos,
innumeris totiens viduatas civibus urbes
confiteor, scripsi: satis est meminisse malorum.
Nunc, deus omnipotens, sacrum, precor, accipe carmen
aeternique tui septemplicis ora resolve
spiritus atque mei resera penetralia cordis,
arcana ut possim vatis Proba cuncta perferre.
non nunc ambrosium cura est mihi quaerere nectar
nec libet Aonio de vertice ducere Musas.
non mihi saxa loqui vanus persuadeat error
laurigerasque sequi tripodas et inania vota
iurgantesque deos procerum victosque penates:
nullus enim labor est verbis extendere famam
atque hominum studiis parvam disquirere laudem.
Castalio sed fonte madens imitata beatos,
quae sitiens hausi sanctae libamina lucis,
hinc canere incipiam. praesens, deus, erige mentem;
Vergiliam cecinisse loquar pia munere Christi.
Once I wrote of leaders violating sacred tracts,
of those who cling to their terrible thirst for power;
of so many slaughters, the cruel campaigns of Kings,
of blood-brothers at battle, illustrious shields spattered
with kindred gore, trophies taken from would-be allies,
cities widowed once again of their countless peoples:
of these, I confess, I once wrote.
It is enough to record such evil.
Now, all-powerful God, take, I pray, my sacred song,
loosen the voices of your eternal, seven-fold
Spirit; unlock the innermost chambers of my heart,
that I, Proba, the prophet, might reveal its secrets.
Now I spurn the nectar of Olympus, find no joy
in calling down the Muses from their high mountain haunts;
not for me to spread the idle boast that rocks can speak,
or pursue the theme of laureled tripods, voided vows,
the brawling gods of princes, vanquished votive idols:
Nor do I seek to extend my glory through mere words
or court their petty praise in the vain pursuits of men.
But baptised, like the blest, in the Castalian font -
I, who in my thirst have drunk libations of the Light -
now begin my song: be at my side, Lord, set my thoughts
straight, as I tell how Virgil sang the offices of Christ.

Transl. Copyright © Josephine Balmer 1996 - publ. Bloodaxe Books


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