Songs from the Carmina Burana


Fortune's Wheel : translations © by David Parlett

Fortuna imperatrix mundi

O Fortuna,   velut luna
   statu variabilis
semper crescis   aut decrescis;
   vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat   et tunc curat
   ludo mentis aciem,
egestatem,   potestatem
   dissolvit ut glaciem.
Sors immanis   et inanis,
   rota tu volubilis,
status malus,   vana salus
   semper dissolubilis,
obumbratam   et velatam
   michi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum   dorsum nudum
   fero tui sceleris.
Sors salutis   et virtutis
   michi nunc contraria
est affectus   et defectus
   semper in angaria.
hac in hora   sine mora
   corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem   sternit fortem,
   mecum omnes plangite!

Fortune Empress of the World

O how Fortune,   inopportune,
   apes the moon's inconstancy:
waxing, waning,   losing, gaining,
   life treats us detestably:
first oppressing   then caressing
   shifts us like pawns in its play:
destitution,   restitution,
   melting them like ice away.
Fate, as vicious   as capricious,
   with your wheel whirl us around:
evil doings,   worthless wooings,
   crumble away to the ground:
darkly stealing,   unrevealing,
   working against me you go:
for your measure   of foul pleasure
   I bare my back to your blow.
Noble actions,   fair transactions,
   no longer fall to my lot:
powers that make me   only to break me
   all play their parts in your plot:
now it's your time -   waste no more time,
   pluck these poor strings and let go:
since the strongest   fall the longest
   let the world share in my woe!

Fortune plango vulnera

Fortune plango vulnera
   stillantibus ocellis,
quod sua michi munera
   subtrahit rebellis.
verum est, quod legitur
   fronte capillata,
sed plerumque sequitur
   occasio calvata.
In Fortune solio
   sederam elatus,
prosperitatis vario
   flore coronatus;
quicquid enim florui
   felix et beatus,
nunc a summo corrui
   gloria privatus.
Fortune rota volvitur:
   descendo minoratus;
alter in altum tollitur;
   nimis exaltatus
rex sedet in vertice -
   caveat ruinam!
nam sub axe legimus
   Hecubam reginam.

The Cruel cuts of Fate

I cry the cruel cuts of Fate
   with eyes worn red from weeping,
whose fickle favours travel straight
   back into her keeping:
as ye read, so shall ye find -
   luck comes curly-headed
from the front, but round behind
   not one hair is threaded!
Dame Fortune once invited me
   to enjoy her blessing:
to riches' throne exalted me,
   caring and caressing:
but from maximum renown,
   garlanded and feted,
Fate stepped up and threw me down -
   glory dissipated!
Fortune's wheel goes round and round,
   down go all my talents;
others rising from the ground
   fly too high to balance:
shun then Fortune's old routine,
   kings and lords and ladies -
for beneath her throne lies Queen
   Hecuba in Hades.