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Orpheus and Eurydice
Classical Latin
Church Latin

Non te nullivs exercent numinis irae
Nōn tē nūllīus exercent nūminis īræ;
Don’t think they don’t have gods’ support, the angers you are weighted with,
magna lvis commissa tibi has miserabilis Orphevs
magna luis commissa: tibi hās miserābilis Orpheus
you’re paying for a grievous offence. For it is Orpheus, the pitiful,
havdqvaqvam ob meritvm poenas ni fata resistant
haudquāquam ob meritum pœnās, nī fāta resistant,
who is handing down this punishment, by no means as much as you deserve,
svscitat et rapta graviter pro conivge saevit
suscitat et raptā graviter prō conjuge sævit.
had fate not stood in the way, for his bitter rage about his bride’s abduction.
Illa qvidem dvm te fvgeret per flumina praeceps
Illa quidem, dum tē fugeret per flūmina præceps,
It’s true, in hasty flight from you, she failed to see –
immanem ante pedes hydrvm moritura pvella
immānem ante pedēs hydrum moritūra puella
doomed as she was – hiding in tall grass and right in front of her,
servantem ripas alta non vidit in herba
servantem rīpās altā nōn vīdit in herbā.
the seven-headed serpent, a sentry on the river bank.
At chorvs aeqvalis Dryadvm clamore svpremos
At chorus æquālis Dryadum clāmōre suprēmōs
Then the chorus of her peers, the Dryads, filled the mountaintops with their lament,
implervnt montes flervnt Rhodopeiae arces
implērunt montēs; flērunt Rhodopēiæ arcēs
the heights of Rhodope cried out, too, in mourning,
altaqve Pangaea et Rhesi mavortia tellvs
altaque Pangæa et Rhēsī māvortia tellus
as did lofty Pangaea, and the land of warring Rhesus,
atqve Getae atqve Hebrvs et Actias Orithyia
atque Getæ atque Hebrus et Actias Ōrīthyia.
and the Getae, the river Hebrus and the princess Orithyia.
Ipse cava solans aegrvm testudine amorem
Ipse cavā sōlāns ægrum testūdine amōrem
Heartsick and sore, Orpheus sought consolation on his lyre,
te dvlcis conivnx te solo in litore secvm
tē, dulcis conjunx, tē sōlō in lītore sēcum,
a hollowed tortoiseshell. Of you, sweet wife, of you, he sang his sorry song,
te veniente die te decedente canebat
tē veniente diē, tē dēcēdente canēbat.
all lonesome on the shore, at dawning of the day, of you, at day’s decline, of you.

Taenarias etiam favces alta ostia Ditis
Tænariās etiam faucēs, alta ōstia Dītis,
He risked even the gorge of Tænarus, the towering portals of the underworld,
et caligantem nigra formidine lucvm
et cālīgantem nigrā formīdine lūcum
and the abode of spirits where darkness reigns like a dismal fog;
ingressvs manesqve adiit regemqve tremendvm
ingressus mānēsque adiit rēgemque tremendum
these he passed through to approach the shades and their scaresome lord,
nesciaqve humanis precibvs mansvescere corda
nesciaque hūmānīs precibus mānsuēscere corda.
those hearts that don’t know how to be swayed by human pleas for prayers.
At cantu commotae Erebi de sedibvs imis
At cantū commōtæ Erebī dē sēdibus īmīs
But, unsettled by his singing, from the nether reach of Hell,
vmbrae ibant tenves simvlacraqve luce carentvm
umbræ ībant tenuēs simulācraque lūce carentum,
came insubstantial phantoms, like those who have lived long away from light,
qvam mvlta in foliis avivm se milia condvnt
quam multa in foliīs avium sē mīlia condunt
teeming like the countless birds that lurk among the leaves
vesper vbi avt hibernvs agit de montibvs imber
vesper ubī aut hībernus agit dē montibus imber,
until, at evening time, winter rains herd them home from the hills,
matres atqve viri defvnctaqve corpora vita
mātrēs atque virī dēfunctaque corpora vītā
mothers and men, the build of once big-hearted heroes,
magnanimvm herovm pveri innvptaeqve pvellae
magnanimum hērōum, puerī innuptæque puellæ,
now dead and done with; boys, too, and unwed girls,
impositiqve rogis ivvenes ante ora parentvm
impositīque rogīs juvenēs ante ōra parentum,
and youths borne on their funeral pyres before their parents’ eyes –
qvos circvm limvs niger et deformis harvndo
quōs circum līmus niger et dēfōrmis harundō
around whom lay the clabber, and disfigured reed beds by Cocytus, that kept them
Cocyti tardaqve palus inamabilis vnda
Cōcȳtī tardaque palūs inamābilis unda
locked in, among stagnant pools and murky marshes,
alligat et noviens Styx interfusa coercet
alligat et noviēns Styx interfūsa coercet.
and the Styx’ nine coils that kept them prisoner.
Qvin ipsae stvpvere domus atqve intima Leti
Quīn ipsæ stupuēre domūs atque intima Lētī
Instead they froze, spellbound, Death’s inner rooms and depths of Tartarus,
tartara caervleosqve implexae crinibvs angves
tartara cæruleōsque implexæ crīnibus anguēs
the Furies, too, their hair a knot of writhing snakes,
Evmenides tenvitqve inhians tria Cerbervs ora
Eumenidēs, tenuitque inhiāns tria Cerberus ōra
and gawking Cerberus stopped in his tracks, his three mouths open wide,
atqve Ixionii vento rota constitit orbis
atque Ixīoniī ventō rota cōnstitit orbis.
and Ixion’s wheel, wind-propelled, settled to a standstill.

Iamqve pedem referens casus evaserat omnes
Jamque pedem referēns cāsūs ēvāserat omnēs;
And now, on his way home, he had avoided every pitfall,
redditaqve Evrydice svperas veniebat ad avras
redditaque Eurydicē superās veniēbat ad aurās,
and Eurydice, restored to him and trailing close behind (as Proserpina
pone seqvens namqve hanc dederat Proserpina legem
pōne sequēns, namque hanc dederat Prōserpina lēgem,
had decreed), was emerging into heaven’s atmosphere
cvm svbita incavtvm dementia cepit amantem
cum subita incautum dēmentia cēpit amantem,
when a stroke of madness caught him, who loved her, off his guard –
ignoscenda qvidem scirent si ignoscere manes
īgnōscenda quidem, scīrent sī īgnōscere mānēs.
a pardonable offence, you’d think, if the Dead knew how to pardon.
Restitit Evrydicenqve svam iam luce svb ipsa
Restitit Eurydicēnque suam jam lūce sub ipsā
He stopped, and for a moment wasn’t thinking – no! –
immemor hev victvsqve animi respexit Ibi omnis
immemor heu! victusque animī respexit. Ibi omnis
Eurydice was his again and on the brink of light, and who knows what possessed him
effusvs labor atqve immitis rvpta tyranni
effūsus labor atque immītis rupta tyrannī
but he turned back to look. Like that, his efforts were undone, and the pacts he’d entered
foedera terqve fragor stagnis avditvs Avernis
fœdera, terque fragor stagnīs audītus Avernīs.
with that tyrant had dissolved. Three peals of thunder clapped across that paludal hell.
Illa  “Qvis et me inqvit miseram et te perdidit Orphev
Illa : “Quis et mē, inquit, miseram et tē perdidit, Orpheu,
“What,” she cried, “what wretched luck has ruined me – and you, O Orpheus,
qvis tantvs fvror En itervm crudelia retro
quis tantus furor? Ēn iterum crūdēlia retrō
what burning need? Look, cold-hearted fate is calling me
Fata vocant conditqve natantia lumina somnvs
Fāta vocant, conditque natantia lūmina somnus.
again; sleep draws its curtain on my brimming eyes.
Iamqve vale feror ingenti circvmdata nocte
Jamque valē: feror ingentī circumdata nocte
And so, farewell, I’m carried off in night’s immense embrace,
invalidasqve tibi tendens hev non tva palmas”
invalidāsque tibī tendēns, heu nōn tua, palmās!”
and now reach out my hands to you in vain – for I am yours no more.”
dixit et ex ocvlis svbito cev fumvs in avras
dīxit et ex oculīs subitō, ceu fūmus in aurās
So she spoke, and suddenly, like wisps of smoke, she vanished
commixtvs tenves fugit diversa neqve illvm
commixtus tenuēs, fūgit dīversa, neque illum,
in thin air. She watched him for the final time, while he,
prensantem neqviqvam vmbras et mvlta volentem
prēnsantem nēquīquam umbrās et multa volentem
with so much still to say, attempted to cling on to shadows.
dicere praeterea vidit nec portitor Orci
dīcere, prætereā vīdit, nec portitor Orcī
No longer would the ferryman permit him cross
amplivs obiectam passvs transire paludem
amplius objectam passus trānsīre palūdem.
the marshy pool that lay between them.
Qvid faceret Qvo se rapta bis conivge ferret
Quid faceret? Quō sē raptā bis conjuge ferret?
What was left for him to do? Where could he turn, his wife now taken
Qvo fletu Manis qvae numina voce moveret
Quō flētū Mānīs, quæ nūmina vōce movēret?
twice from him? Would any wailing move the shades – or please the gods?
Illa qvidem Stygia nabat iam frigida cvmba
Illa quidem Stygiā nābat jam frīgida cumbā.
Already she was making her stiff way across the Styx.

Septem illvm totos perhibent ex ordine menses
Septem illum tōtōs perhibent ex ōrdine mēnsēs
For seven whole long months, they say, one following the other,
rupe svb aeria deserti ad Strymonis vndam
rūpe sub āeriā dēsertī ad Strȳmonis undam
he slumped in mourning, alone beneath a towering cliff, by the waterside of Strymon,
flesse sibi et gelidis haec evolvisse svb antris
flēsse sibi et gelidīs hæc ēvolvisse sub antrīs
expounding under frozen stars his broken-hearted threnody
mvlcentem tigres et agentem carmine qvercus
mulcentem tigrēs et agentem carmine quercūs;
to the delight of tigers, and even drew the oak to him with his style of singing,
qvalis popvlea maerens philomela svb vmbra
quālis pōpuleā mærēns philomēla sub umbrā
just as a nightingale will sorrow under poplar shade
amissos qveritvr fetus qvos durvs arator
āmissōs queritur fētūs, quōs dūrus arātor
for her lost brood which some brute ploughboy spotted
observans nido implumes detraxit at illa
observāns nīdō implūmēs dētraxit; at illa
and pilfered from the nest, though it was not yet fledged.
flet noctem ramoqve sedens miserabile carmen
flet noctem rāmōque sedēns miserābile carmen
That bird still weeps by night and, perched in a tree, repeats
integrat et maestis late loca qvestibvs implet
integrat et mæstīs lātē loca questibus implet.
her plaintive keen, filling far and wide with the ache of her heartbreak.
Nulla Venvs non ulli animvm flexere hymenaei
Nūlla Venus, nōn ūllī animum flexēre hymenæī.
No thought of love, or marriage, could distract him.
Solvs Hyperboreas glacies Tanaimqve nivalem
Sōlus Hyperboreās glaciēs Tanaimque nivālem
Disconsolate, through icefields of the north, the snow-kissed river Tanais,
arvaqve Riphaeis nvmqvam vidvata prvinis
arvaque Rīphæīs numquam viduāta pruīnīs
and the Riphaean range whose peaks are never free from frost,
lustrabat raptam Evrydicen atqve inrita Ditis
lūstrābat raptam Eurydicēn atque inrita Dītis
he drifted, lamenting lost Eurydice and Pluto’s broken boon.
dona qverens spretae Ciconvm qvo munere matres
dōna querēns; sprētæ Ciconum quō mūnere mātrēs
But the bacchantes thought themselves scorned by such devotion
inter sacra devm noctvrniqve orgia Bacchi
inter sacra deum nocturnīque orgia Bacchī
and, one night of rites and revelling,
discerptvm latos ivvenem sparsere per agros
discerptum lātōs juvenem sparsēre per agrōs.
tore him apart, this youth, and broadcast the pieces through the land.
Tvm qvoqve marmorea capvt a cervice revvlsvm
Tum quoque marmoreā caput ā cervīce revulsum
Even then, sundered from a neck as pale as marble
gvrgite cvm medio portans OEagrivs Hebrvs
gurgite cum mediō portāns Œagrius Hebrus
and carried in the current down the Hebrus,
volveret “Evrydicen” vox ipsa et frigida lingva
volveret, “Eurydicēn” vōx ipsa et frīgida lingua
that voice, that stone-cold tongue, continued to cry out,
“Ah miseram Evrydicen” anima fvgiente vocabat
“Āh miseram Eurydicēn!” animā fugiente vocābat:
“Eurydice, O poor Eurydice”, as its life’s blood drained out of it
“Evrydicen” toto referebant flumine ripae
“Eurydicēn” tōtō referēbant flūmine rīpæ.
and the river banks repeated that “Eurydice”, a dolorous refrain.

The Greek myth of Orpheus going to the Underworld to fetch back his wife Eurydice who died by a snakebite, swaying the infernal deities by the wonder of his music, but ultimately failing because of his impatient love, has been dealt with repeatedly from Ancient times onwards in European literature. J. R. R. Tolkien himself studied Sir Orfeo, a Middle English rewriting as a Breton lay (featured with an excerpt on this website) and translated it into Modern English verse. The myth evidently inspired him the end of the tale of Beren et Lúthien, where he switched however the parts of the spouses.

Here we present the Latin version composed by the poet Virgil (70 - 19 BC) at the end of the fourth book of his Georgics.

We have supplemented the text with macrons to mark etymologically long vowels.

The text’s transcription emulates the capitalis rustica, a style of the Latin alphabet that was in use in the imperial Rome and Late Antiquity for writing on papyrus or parchment with a reed pen. We made use of Hasan Guven’s typeface Vatican Rough Letters.

Publius Vergilius Maro. P. Vergili Maronis opera. Georgicon libri IV. Recognovit brevique adnotatione critica instruxit Roger Aubrey Baskerville Mynors. Oxonii: E typographeo clarendoniano, 1969. XV-452 p. (Scriptorum classicorum bibliotheca Oxoniensis). 🌍 Bibliotheca Augustana.
Virgil. The Georgics: A Poem of the Land. Translated and edited by Kimberley Johnson. London; New York: Penguin Books, 2009. XXVII-193 p. (Penguin Classics). ISBN 978-0-141-19131-7.

The works of John Ronald Reuel and Christopher Tolkien are under the copyright of their authors and/or rights holders, including their publishers and the Tolkien Estate.
Quotations from other authors, editors and translators mentioned in the bibliography are under the copyright of their publishers, except for those whose copyright term has ended.
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