Songs from the Carmina Burana


Translations © by David Parlett

Estuans interius

Estuans interius
   ira vehementi
in amaritudine
   loquor mek menti:
factus de materia,
   cinis elementi,
similis sum folio,
   de quo ludunt venti.
Cum sit enim proprium
   viro sapienti
supra petram ponere
   sedem fundamenti,
stultus ego comparor
   fluvio labenti,
sub eodem tramite
   nunquam permanenti.
Feror ego veluti
   sine nauta navis,
ut per vias aeris
   vaga fertur avis;
non me tenent vincula,
   non me tenet clavis,
quero mihi similes
   et adiungor pravis.
Michi cordis gravitas
   res videtur gravis
iocus est amabilis
   dulciorque favis
quicquid Venus imperat
   labor est suavis
que numquam in cordibus
   habitat ignavis
Via lata gradior
   more iuventutis,
implicor et vitiis
   immemor virtutis,
voluptatis avidus
   magis quam salutis,
mortuus in anima
   curam gero cutis.

Inwardly boiling

Boiling over in the mind
   anger and aggression
bitterly compel me to
   make you my confession:
made of earthly elements,
   dusty and decaying,
I'm a leaf that's blown about
   when the winds are playing.
Given that the proper thing
   for a man of wisdom
is to build upon a rock
   following a system
I must be a fool - for I'm
   like a winding river:
never holding to a course,
   deviating ever.
Like a boat that's lost its crew
   I'm for ever drifting,
like a bird that's blown about
   when the wind is lifting;
chains have never shackled me
   never key confined me -
let me join depravity,
   to my kind I bind me.
Seems to me, a serious mien
   means a serious weakness:
fun's a finer thing by far,
   vies with honey's sweetness:
Venus orders me about
   in a job I much like:
one she never offers to
   sobersides and suchlike.
Broad the path I travel down,
   in a youthful fashion:
virtue leaves me cold - it's vice
   that enflames my passion:
self-indulgence I desire
   more so than salvation:
dead my soul, my flesh demands
   sole consideration.

Olim lacus colueram

Olim lacus colueram
olim pulcher extiteram
dum cignus ego fueram.
   Miser, miser! - Modo niger,
   et ustus fortiter!
Eram nive candidior,
quavis ave formosior:
modo cum corvo nigrior.
   Miser, miser! - Modo niger,
   et ustus fortiter!
Me rogus urit fortiter,
gyrat, regyrat garcifer;
propinat me nunc dapifer.
   Miser, miser! - Modo niger,
   et ustus fortiter!
Mallem in aquis vivere,
nudo semper sub aere,
quam in hoc mergi pipere.
   Miser, miser! - Modo niger,
   et ustus fortiter!
Nunc in scutella iaceo,
et volitare nequeo,
dentes frendetes video:
   Miser, miser! - Modo niger,
   et ustus fortiter!

Roast Swan-song

Once I had lakes to live upon,
once gloriously I swam along,
once - when I used to be a swan.
   Poor thing, poor thing- not a raw thing
   but done like anything!
Once I was whiter than the snow
Finer than any bird I know;
now see me - blacker than a crow!
   Poor thing, poor thing- not a raw thing
   but done like anything!
Cook on the spit is curving me,
flames sear through every nerve in me -
now here's a waiter serving me!
   Poor thing, poor thing- not a raw thing
   but done like anything!
I'd rather be in open air
out on a lake - or anywhere
but in this spiced-up gourmet fare.
   Poor thing, poor thing- not a raw thing
   but done like anything!
Now in a serving dish I lie
and I have lost the power to fly -
and grinding molars greet the eye.
   Poor thing, poor thing- not a raw thing
   but done like anything!

Abbas Cucaniensis

Ego sum abbas Cucaniensis
et consilium meum est cum bibulis,
et in secta Decii voluntas mea est,
et qui mane me quesierit in taberna
post vesperam nudus egredietur,
et sic denudatus veste clamabit:
   Wafna, wafna!
quid fecisti sors turpissima?
Nostre vite gaudia
abstulisti omnia!

The Abbott of Cockaigne

I am the abbot of Cockaigne,
and I take counsel with my drinking companions,
and my persuasion is that of the gambling fraternity,
and if anyone consults me in the tavern at matins,
come vespers, he'll have lost the shirt off his back:
and being thus stripped to his birthday suit will cry
   Save me! Save me!
What have you done, god-forsaken dice?
How you make us sacrifice
our only kind of paradise!
   Save me!

In taberna

In taberna quando sumus
non curamus quid sit humus
sed ad ludum properamus
cui semper insudamus:
quid agatur in taberna
ubi nummus est pincerna
hoc est opus ut queratur
si quid loquor, audiatur.
Quidam ludunt, quidam bibunt,
quidam indiscrete vivunt.
Sed in ludo qui morantur,
ex his quidam denudantur,
quidam ibi vestiuntur,
quidam saccis induuntur.
Ibi nullus timet mortem,
sed pro Baccho mittunt sortem:
Primo pro nummata vini,
ex hac bibunt libertini;
semel bibunt pro captivis,
post hec bibunt ter pro vivis,
quater pro Christianis cunctis,
quinquies pro fidelibus defunctis,
sexies pro sororibus vanis,
septies pro militibus silvanis.
Octies pro fratribus perversis,
nonies pro monachis dispersis,
decies pro navigantibus,
undecies pro discordantibus,
duodecies pro penitentibus,
tredecies pro iter agentibus.
Tam pro papa quam pro rege
bibunt omnes sine lege.
Bibit hera, bibit herus,
bit miles, bibit clerus,
bibit ill, bibit illa,
bibit servus cum ancilla,
bibit velox, bibit piger,
bibit albus, bibit niger,
bibit constans, bibit vagus,
bibit rudis, bibit magus.
Bibit pauper et egrotus,
bibit exul et ignotus,
bibit puer, bibit canus,
bibit presul et decanus,
bibit soror, bibit frater,
bibit anus, bibit mater,
bibit ista, bibit ille,
bibunt centum, bibunt mille:
Parum sexcente nummate
durant, cum immoderate
bibunt omnes sine meta,
quamvis bibant mente leta,
sic nos rodunt omnes gentes
et sic erimus egentes.
Qui nos rodunt confundantur
et cum iustis non scribantur!

In the tavern

In the tavern when we're drinking,
though the ground be cold and stinking
down we go and join the action
with the dice and gaming faction.
What goes on inside the salon
where it's strictly cash per gallon
if you'd like to know, sir, well you
shut your gob and let me tell you.
Some are drinking, some are playing,
some their vulgar side displaying:
most of those who like to gamble
wind up naked in the scramble;
some emerge attired in new things,
some in bits and bobs and shoestrings:
no one thinks he'll kick the bucket
dicing for a beery ducat.
First to those who pay for wallowing,
then we layabouts toast the following:
next we drink to all held captive,
thirdly drink to those still active,
fourthly drink to the Christian-hearted,
fifthly drink to the dear departed,
sixthly to our free-and-easy sisters,
seventhly to all out-of-work enlisters.
Eighthly drink to friars deconverted,
ninthly, monks from monast'ries diverted,
tenthly, sailors of the oceans,
eleventhly, louts who cause commotions
twelfthly, those who wear the penitential
thirteenth, and whose journey is essential;
to this fat pope, to that thin king
who the hell cares why they're drinking:
Drinking tinker, drinking tailor,
drinking soldier, drinking sailor,
drinking rich man, drinking poor man,
drinking beggarman, thief and lawman,
drinking servant, drinking master,
drinking mistress, drinking pastor,
drinking doctor, drinking layman,
drinking drunkard, drinking drayman:
Drinking rude man, drinking proper,
drinking tiddler, drinking whopper,
drinking scholar, drinking gypsy,
drinking drunk or maudlin tipsy,
drinking father, drinking mother,
drinking sister, drinking brother,
drinking husbands, wives and lovers
and a hundred thousand others -
Half a million pounds would never
pay for all we drink together:
for we drink beyond all measure,
purely for the sake of pleasure:
thus you see us, poor and shoddy,
criticised by everybody -
God grant that they be confounded
when at last the trump is sounded!