A SUBALTERN'S LOVE-SONGFILIA VENANTI...
Sir John Betjemantrans. Timothy Adès
Miss J Hunter Dunn, Miss J Hunter Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won.
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father's euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with
sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing's the light on your hair.

By roads 'not adopted', by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car-park the dance has begun.
Oh! full Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us, the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice,

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.
Filia Venanti, castris te finxit Apollo,
tinxit et aere artus, pinxit et arte genas.
strinximus undecima clavas (pila pellitur!) hora,
altera tu vehemens, strenuus alter ego!

tu superas pueros motu, cita qualis hirundo:
laetor, inops puncti; ter, quater ipsa notas.
risisti, pariter secura ac sedula victrix:
conficior forma, pulchra Atalanta, tua.

filia Venanti, Venanti filia nostri,
palma tua est: uror, laetor, amore feror!
conditur in prelum capulo modo clava tepente,
sed mea me victrix (stat coma!) semper amat.

tendimus ad patrem. Venanti euonymus albet;
fundimus incepta, qua casa, verba via;
porticus excepit zephyris; nova nuntiat aether;
iuniperus tilia tingitur, apta bibi.

sub thalamo lucet maculoso semita musco;
calda aqua mi resonat; conifer hortus olet.
papilione agitor duplici: fas cingere collum!
haud aequi petimus, qua pila parva, choros.

at tua braca chlamysque iacent, thalamique renidet
pariete lacteola plurima palma pilae.
sol tetigitque trabem tingitque, Atalanta, fenestram:

occidit, exquirens quid tibi fata parent.

Niliacae splendent species in pariete pictae:
aula micat taedis: nos rota parva manet.
quernus ubi gradus est, ibi sum; laqueata supersunt,
crine refulgenti qua, mea vita, nites.

autumno petimus - lora ipsa dat - aere turbam,
quo nemore, aedilis, non tua cura via est!
venimus in vicum sero multum aere sonantem;
boleti et viridi germine pinus olent.

filia Venanti, Venanti filia nostri,
sistimus: ingeminat coeptus in aure chorus.
tibia nil cessans! perfecta crepuscula campi!
laetor, Amazoniam me tetigisse manum.

undique circumstant bigae, procul undique currus;
clam nos sub grato culmine noster habet:
naribus incurvis capior vocisque canore:
unica mi laevo dextra puella sedet.

ecquid haruspicii vetat adfectare choreos?
fragrat odor pallae: conscia lingua tacet!
quattuor in curru sub nocte remansimus horas,
tempore et ex illo sponsa Atalanta mihist.

Permission granted by the Literary Estate of Sir John Betjeman. Trans. copyright also: Timothy Adès. Trans. first published in "Oxford Today".

next
index
translator's next