Salve Ex Ovidio (Adele's "Hello" in Latin)

Allegra Forbes |

Ovid Joins Adele for an All-time Classic Pity Party

 

 

 Adele (from Wikimedia Commons — by Christopher Matsurak)
Adele (from Wikimedia Commons — by Christopher Matsurak)


[Editor’s note: Two years ago someone asked me to translate Adele’s “Hello” but I ran into the obvious difficulty: Latin has very few words of greeting, and none of them have two syllables with the accent on the last syllable. “Sal-VE” just didn’t sound very convincing. “From the other side” — “ex altero latere”? — didn’t work well either. The song would have to be reimagined to work in Latin. I then thought about who the song reminded me of, and the answer was Ovid’s Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto. “Hello, it’s me,” quickly became the beginning of a letter: “Naso tibi,” and I had myself the setting for a poem: Ovid in exile, writing to Augustus, begging to be taken back. Things moved easily from there. As with most Adele songs, this is not nearly as easy to sing as she makes it sound, and there are a few awkward lines still left in the translation which require some practice (or editing: feel free to comment with slightly smoother versions). But the chorus works well, and among experienced Latinists the part about Julia always gets some laughs.]

 

HELLO (SALVE EX OVIDIO) (Adele)(Adkins/Kurstin)(tr. Kuhner) [2015]

 

Naso tibi:

Post tot annos dubitabam — meministine mei?

Ore legebar — populi

Dicunt tempus sanare omnia

Sed ego nihil vidi

 

Scribo — mene legis?

Versor in Ponto somnians vae qualis vita fuit mihi

Cum essem Romae pauper

Obliviscor vitae claram ante, ah, miseriam

O quantum distas a memet

Et statu meo

 

[chorus]

Salve ex Ovidio

Qui miser Tomis habito

Omnium affectus poenitentia

Sed apud te numquam est clementia

 

Salve ex exilio

Vae perii ingenio

Et si potuissem non erravissem in te

Sed nunc nil refert sum dejectus de spe misere.

 

Salve, Auguste

Semper de memet ipso loquor est mos mihi ignosce

Spero valeas

Quidnam factum est difficili cum illa filia?

Patet ambos nos miseros

necesse esse

 

[chorus]

Nunc salve ex Ovidio

Qui miser Tomis habito

Omnium affectus poenitentia

Sed apud te numquam est clementia

 

Salve ex exilio

Et morient’ Ovidio

Et si potuissem nil scripsissem Hercle

At carmine damnatus sum et errore

 

Ooooohh, errore

Ooooohh, errore

Ooooohh, errore

Errore

 

Salve ex Ovidio

Qui miser Tomis habito

Omnium affectus poenitentia

Sed apud te numquam est clementia

 

Salve ex exilio

Vae perii ingenio

Et si potuissem non erravissem in te

Sed nunc nil refert sum dejectus de spe misere.

 

[This piece was ex post facto included in our series about reading Ovid for his bimillennial. For more information on the series, and for links to the other nine pieces included, click on the link immediately below.]

John Byron Kuhner is the former president of SALVI, the North American Institute of Living Latin Studies, and editor of In Medias Res.

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Allegra Forbes

In Medias Res is the online magazine for lovers of Latin and Greek, published by the Paideia Institute.

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