Translations from Ocaso Press

 
       
 
Kalidasa's Meghaduta

Translated from the Sanskrit by C. John Holcombe

The Cloud Messenger is a masterpiece of Sanskrit literature, and was composed by the court poet Kalidasa some time before AD 634 in northern India. A Yaksha or nature deity begs a passing cloud to carry a message across the subcontinent to his grieving consort in the fabled city of Alaká. Under this fiction, Kalidasa presents a sympathetic portrait of northern India, and weaves in the various moods of love traditional in classical Sanskrit poetry. The version here is taken from the standard 1912 Hultzsch text, and employs accomplished English verse to render the simple magnificence of the original while remaining faithful to the meaning. Free.

 

Gita Givinda

Translated from the Sanskrit by C. John Holcombe

The Gita Govinda is a cycle of Sanskrit songs, commentaries and invocations that depict Krishna's courtship of the cowherdess Radha. The text was added to temple inscriptions, set to music, choreographed for dance, and studied as a religious text. Countless poems, recitations, songs and dances point to its continuing popularity. With frank lyricism, the Gita Govinda explored the many aspects of passion, from first awakening through fierce regrets and jealousies to the rapture and contentment of bodily possession. On one level it narrates the loves of Radha and Krishna as simple cowherds, but the poem also celebrates nature's regeneration through sexual congress, the interplay of the human and divine, and the profound mystery of erotic experience. Free.

Racine's Phaedra

A new translation by C. John Holcombe

Phaedra is Racine's best known play and contains some of the most celebrated lines in French poetry. It was performed in 1677, when Jean Racine had nine plays to his credit, but was poorly received, causing the writer to retire to marriage and a court position. With a character described as voluptuous, uneasy and jealous, Jean Racine was an ambitious courtier, an astute businessman, and a frequenter of actresses, but he was also a childhood believer in the Jansenist doctrine that man is a miserable creature saved only by God's grace.

A translation in rhymed couplets that closely follows the French hexameters. Free.

 

Sophocles's Oedipus at Colonus

A new translation by C. John Holcombe

Oedipus at Colonus was the last play Sophocles wrote, and was not performed until BC 401, four years after his death. Oedipus comes to Colonus as a defeated man, but grows in stature as he recognizes the old prophecies are coming true. The play is not realistic in our sense of the word, but has a taut dialogue interwoven with passages of poetry, music, singing and probably dance. The play is in verse, in places of a very high order, with several of the choral pieces among the most famous of Greek poetry.

A tightly-rhymed version that closely follows the structure and line length of the Greek. Free.

 

translations

Translations by C. John Holcombe

With over thirty poems from eight languages, this free Diversions ebook is both an handy compilation of some of the world's most famous poetry, and an introduction to the translator's art. Most pieces are faithful renderings, reproducing the form, content and rhyme schemes of the original. Each poem is accompanied by notes on the literary conventions of the time, help on unfamiliar words and allusions, and a summary of the challenges the form presents to reproduction in English.

Free in pdf format.

 

Sextus Propertius

A new translation by C. John Holcombe

Sextus Propertius published in his first collection of Elegies in 29 or 28 BC, and brought something new to Latin literature: a slavish subjection to love expressed in vivid elegiac couplets that no one has bettered. Catullus was more intense and personal, but published only short pieces in the metre. Tibullus was more continuously graceful, but seems over-refined when set against the turbulent moods that Propertius depicts in his love affair with Cynthia. Apuleius identified the model with Hostia, a vivacious demi-monde, which there is no reason to doubt, but Cynthia is also a literary stalking-horse, a persona Propertius created to explore the many facets of romantic infatuation.

Free in pdf format.

Sextus Propertius

A new translation by C. John Holcombe

Catullus belonged to the 'neoteroi' or new Roman poets drawing inspiration and technique from Alexandrian Greek models. The 114 poems extant derive from a single manuscript, and are very mixed, ranging from the witty, brilliant and moving, to the indifferent and unnecessarily obscene. Their arrangement seems an editorial convenience. The first 60 are lyrics in various meters. Poems 61-4 are long pieces modelled on those of the learned Greek scholar-poets of Alexandria. Poems 65-116 are in the elegiac metre but epigrams, i.e. short poems on a wide variety of topic. This collection coverss two thirds of the text from all three sections.

Free in pdf format.

Sextus Propertius

A new translation by C. John Holcombe

Medea, one of Euripides' masterpieces, was put on in 431 BC, together with his Philoctetes, Dictys and The Reapers, but won only third prize, losing out to work by Euphorion and Sophocles. The Medea legend was well known to Greek audiences. After the voyage of the Argonaughts, and the dangers which love-smitten princess helped him escape, Jason married Medea and brought her to Iolchus and then Corinth. Here, though she had borne him two sons, Jason threw Medea over for Glauce, the daughter of Creon, King of Corinth. The repudiated wife plotted revenge, and, as the play opens, faces exile for speaking against the royal house.

Free in pdf format.

Sextus Propertius

A new translation by C. John Holcombe

Athaliah was written for private performance at court, and has something of the gloom and piety that marked the later years of the Sun King's reign. It was staged in 1691 by the convent girls at St Cyr, and so belongs to the period between the Counter-Reformation and the grand operas of the following century.

The plot is largely based on Biblical history. Athaliah, widow of the king of Judah, has abandoned the Jewish religion for the worship of Baal, and believes she has eliminated other members of the royal family. In fact, however, the late king's son, Joash, has been rescued by Jehoshabeath, wife of the high priest, and secretly raised in the Temple as Eliacin.

Free in pdf format.

Sextus Propertius

A new translation by C. John Holcombe

Called by Dryden the best poem of Rome's best poet, the Georgics combines agricultural instruction, political reflection, country lore, mythology and allegory. Its appeal, at the time and ever since, has been its poetry, that unique fusion of beauty and expressiveness. Virgil's style exhibits an extraordinary ear for texture, felicity of phrasing, movement, imagery, and metrical subtlety and combines these with great literary tact.

The Georgics, ostensibly a guide to agriculture, and the most finished of Virgil's productions- indeed of all Latin literature - was written between 37 and 29 BC as the last phase of civil wars left Octavian in sole command of the Roman world.

Free in pdf format.

Sextus Propertius

A new translation by C. John Holcombe

Other Roman poets, notably Plautus and Catullus, had imitated the Greek lyric verse forms, but no one before had used them so widely or successfully.

Horace adapted the forms for the social life of Augustan Rome, and his Odes were not generally on ambitious themes: no epics or extended disquisitions, but 'occasional poems' on friendship, love, conviviality, patriotism, morality and day-to-day incidents, all treated with a wise and slightly self-deprecating modesty that Horace made his own.

Free in pdf format.