Ella Hochstadt Visitatur A Visione Ignis
[Editor’s note: this is a brand-new poem in Latin hexameters. A translation is found below, but we encourage you all to savor the Latin!]
Invisebamur visu modo granditer ignis
cum tam palpebrae fessae mihi tempore factae
ut cupido claudi visae sint numine quodam.
crura premebant lecto mihi fortiter illi
sicut divi ipsi presserunt firmiter ossa. 5
tam mea nubila mens subito sic tam abdita fumo
ut fortasse dei miscerent ingenia illi.
tandem Somnus me vicit non invalidam altus.
et visum illo me non esse in tempore lecto
sed subito Phoebi sita culmine nescia celso. 10
illene Apollo qui me huc misit duriter atrox,
et qui succurrit Somno ut me ceperit ipsam?
utebaturne in me hoc arcu aut carmine Phoebus?
certe carmen erat quod musica fortior armis.
mox verti caput et conspexi flumina clara. 15
tam rivus fluxit numerose dulceque montis
spectare ut possem modo rivum et conspicuum amnem.
ales cantabat sic tam pulchre ut modo versum
auguris audire hunc possem, cui carmina semper.
fragravit blandus mi hyacinthus tam acriter omnis 20
olfacere ut possem modo sertam caeruleam illam.
tam transfixa ut non vidissem graminis aestum,
audirem venti non vocem praevalidum acris
indicium olfacerem non perspicuum hospitis intrans.
exspectata hospes cum ventus finditur una, 25
gramen partit se mutatque et turbidus aer.
mons totus subito quatiebat fortiter altus,
et tandem stupor est ruptus mihi duriter amplus.
suspexi caelum et conspexi territa magnam
huc accedentem me stellam lentius altam. 30
dum accedebat me, fiebat clarior igne
e cui mortiferis radiis mea lumina averti.
marcescebat lux et visus fortior ustus
fiebat mihi iam. cum oculus mihi panderet ille
praeclusus primum rursum, vidi attonita ergo 35
me non iam solam Phoebi illo gramine canto.
stabam cum domina candenti culmine quasso.
flos pulcherrimus est mi visa ex omnibus umbris
his hyacinthis hic ad montem purior altum.
non similis florum, stetit illic fortiter ultro. 40
luxit tamquam si decorata sit ignibus ardens.
spectavi et stupui: vox nulla ex venerat ore
nuper diviso mi, non sententia venit
in stupefactum mi hunc animum, nunc utile verbum
nullum oppressae mi veniebat, venerit ullum 45
non. tandem venit dominae sententia certe:
vox ex ore suo veniebat desubito acris.
dulcior et magis haec numerosa flumine multo.
sed quoque fortior haec quam ventus durior asper.
“Sappho sum,” dixit. mihi factus hic halitus haesus 50
gutture mi, tamen at mussavi mitior illa:
“misitne huc Phoebus te?” dixi et pectore crebro
mi saliebat cor multum et mi corpora visa
sunt, nescivi quam, nunc nullis ossibus uti.
“plane accivi ipsam me,” risu rettulit acri. 55
non intellexi. de ope iam optavi omnia tantum
scire ut dedidici terrorem tempore raptim:
non ab se missus. cur tu te mittere, Sappho,
sic poteras?” tunc mox me aspexit lumine laeto 60
in flagrantibus his oculis et me inscia sensi
subridere ipsam. nunc nictu leniter, “illae,”
inquit, “non partem tenuerunt invalidae umbrae
in Musarum ullam sacrarum floribus harum,
errantesque feri. sic palluit inritus omnis. 65
autem ego hic dulces teneo illas praevalidas has
dotes.” sic dixit stupuique ad tam omnia mira
quae mihi cantavit: non misit victima certe
mi, nullusque deus misit plane insuper ipsi.
“cur surrexisti iam pridem mortua tantum 70
ut possis ad me venisse huc?” nubila densa
mi mens optavit multum cognoscere. Sappho
fatur, “credo in te mi animam nunc vivere rursus.”
os iterum mihi iam stupefactum panderat amens:
“hoc non possibile est. non verum!” territa valde 75
vox mea dixit. “cur?” respondit callida Sappho.
dixi: “poetria tu clarissima. dum interea ipsa
non sum. porro vos scripsistis carmina vestra
feminae amanti immo. modo nullo clarius ipsa
sum similis vestri,” dixi quia debilis olim. 80
iam timui ne urat violenter femina tam ira
ut detestetur me. risit molliter autem
quaesivitque haec sic: “scribis cui carmina vestra?”
“ulli homini nondum. scripsi adhuc carmina nulla,”
voce susurravi parva, dum sum intuita herbam. 85
“o! nondum prudens et clara poetria tu ipsa
quod tu scripsisti non umquam carmina certe.
cum studeas cupide scribendo, tu maxima forsan.”
verba transibant Sapphus velociter ampla
per mentem mihi sed percepi lentius illa. 90
cum non respondi, dixit, “cui scripseris, Ella?”
“certe si carmen scripsissem, fervida valde
scripsissem cordi domini ipsi. femina sisto.
nonne ego debebam virum amare et quaerere?” quaeso.
Sappho narravit, “Veneris tu mancipium ipsa 95
insidias acres texentis. scribere debes
vere carmina tu cuicumque haec indicat esse
te dilecturam quam et, di, non cui iudicat esse
te dilecturam hic vulgus.” sic fortiter orat.
os patefeci mi, sed verba haud reppereram ulla. 100
os occlusi mi. Sapphus verba augurium ipsa
verum, non vana et mentis sententia falsae.
sensi. finita est postremo ab principe pausa
“ecce: necesse est ut quaeras quas diligis unas.
non facile est semper: nonnumquam extranea sola 105
in terra patris videaris. sauciet ille
te labor, assimilis saevi ignis, pectore fervens,
saepe autem vita haec lucebit clarior ipsa
quam ardens Sol noster. nunc scribe et de ignibus illis
et lucentibus his de horis in versibus, Ella.” 110
sic Sappho docuit. tunc illo tempore iam ipso
quam penitus scivi vatem ipsam dicere verum!
adhuc nunc metuens sed me spectaverat ipsa
spe tali haec ut non ego possem opponere magnae.
inquit, “consentis mecumne scribere certe 115
te debere et te debere scribere vere?”
annui caute at dubitans nihil nunc.
“tradam alumnae mi tibi huic rosarum
partem enim Musarum hodie meam ipsam.”
accipiam nunc. 120
lately we were visited sublimely by a vision 1
at that moment when my eyelids became so tired
that they seemed to be closed by some eager divinity.
they were pressing my legs so powerfully to that bed of mine
as if the gods themselves pressed upon my bones steadfastly. 5
my mind was suddenly so cloudy, so suppressed by smoke in this way
that perhaps those gods were mixing my disposition.
at last, deep Sleep conquered not weak me.
and it seemed that I was not in my bed at that moment,
but suddenly, unaware, I was placed on the lofty summit of Apollo. 10
was it that cruel Apollo who harshly sent me here,
and who helped Sleep so that He could capture me myself?
was Apollo using his bow or his song against me?
certainly it was his song because music is stronger than weapons.
soon I turned my head and beheld illustrious rivers. 15
the stream of the mountain flowed so rhythmically and sweetly
that I was able to watch only the stream and the striking rapid water.
a bird was singing so beautifully in this way that I was able to hear only
this verse of the augur, of that being to which there is always song.
each hyacinth smelled so fiercely alluring to me 20
that I was able to smell only that blue garland.
I was so transfixed that I hadn’t seen the movement of the grass,
I wasn’t hearing the prevailing voice of the sharp wind.
I wasn’t smelling the clear mark of a visitor entering.
when a visitor is awaited, the wind divides at once, 25
the grass splits apart, and even the murky air changes itself.
suddenly the whole tall mountain began to shake powerfully,
and at last my magnificent trance was broken roughly.
I looked up at the sky and, frightened, I saw
a great lofty star approaching me rather slowly. 30
while it was approaching me, it was becoming brighter than fire,
from the death-bearing rays of which I avert my eyes.
now the light was becoming weak, and my sight, having been burnt,
was already becoming stronger. when that eye of mine, having been closed
was first opening again, stunned, I consequently saw 35
that I was no longer alone on that recited grass of Apollo.
I was standing with a dazzling mistress on a shaken summit.
she clearly seemed to me to be purer, the most beautiful flower out of all
these ghost hyacinths here by the lofty mountain.
unlike the flowers, she stood in that place powerfully of her own accord. 40
the woman glistened as if she, ablaze, had been adorned with fires.
but the flowers were ice cold with respect to both appearance and great strength.
I watched her and was stupefied: No voice had come
recently from my parted mouth, not a thought came
into this stunned mind of mine, no useful word 45
was coming now, not any will have come here for overwhelmed me.
but at last, a thought surely came to the mistress:
a piercing voice was coming from her mouth unexpectedly.
it was much sweeter and much more rhythmic than the stream,
but it was also stronger than the rather hard, harsh wind. 50
“I am Sappho,” she said. my breath became stuck
in my throat, but nevertheless, I, rather meek, whispered those words:
“Did Apollo send you here?” I uttered and my heart was frequently
bouncing a lot in my chest and my legs
now seemed, I didn’t know how, to be boneless all at once. 55
“clearly I summoned myself.” she responded with a shrewd smile.
I did not understand. I now so wanted to know everything about her power
that I hastily unlearned my fear at that time:
“every dead person about whom I’ve read was sent by divine command,
not sent by themself. why could you summon yourself 60
in this way, Sappho?” then presently, she glanced at me with a delighted glimmer
shining in these fiery eyes and, not knowing, I felt that
I, myself, was smiling. now, with a wink, she said gently,
“those feeble shades had no share
in the flowers of these sacred Muses, 65
those wild roamers. each void man faded thus.
but I myself have those powerful, sweet
gifts.” she said thus and I marvelled so much at all these astonishing things
which she sang to me: a sacrifice certainly didn’t summon her for me,
and clearly, no god overhead summoned her for himself. 70
“why did you, dead for a long time, rise only
so that you would be able to come here to me?” my cloudy, crowded
mind greatly wanted to know. Sappho
said, “I believe that my soul now lives again in you.”
my frantic, astounded mouth had already opened again: 75
“this is not possible. it’s not true!” my terrified
voice said vehemently. “why?” shrewd Sappho responded.
“you are a brilliant, rather skilled poetess. Meanwhile, I
myself am not. besides, you indeed wrote your poems
for female lovers. quite clearly I myself am like you 80
in no way at all,” I said because I was weak at that time.
now I was afraid that the woman would burn violently with such anger
that she would curse me, but on the contrary, she laughed gently
and inquired thus: “for whom do you write your poems?”
“no one yet. I haven’t written any poems yet,” 85
I muttered with a small voice while I looked at the grass.
“oh! not yet are you yourself a skilled and brilliant poet
certainly because you have never written poems.
when you eagerly apply yourself to writing, perhaps you will be the greatest.”
Sappho’s magnificent words were passing quickly 90
through my mind, but I understood them rather slowly.
when I didn’t respond, she said to me, “for whom would you have written, Ella?”
“surely if I had written a poem, burning intensely,
I would have written to the heart of a man itself. I present myself as a woman.
was I not supposed to love and desire a man?” I asked urgently. 95
Sappho explained, “you yourself are a slave of Venus,
who weaves sharp wiles. you truly ought to write
poems for whomever she decides that
you will love and, god, not for the one whom these common
people decide that you will love.” she requests forcefully in this way. 100
I opened my mouth, but I had found no words.
I closed my mouth. Sappho’s words themselves were a true
omen, and not the empty opinion of a deceptive mind.
I felt it. at last the pause was ended by the conductor:
“look: it is necessary that you seek the ones whom you love. 105
it is not always easy: sometimes you may seem to be
a lonely foreigner in the land of your father. that task
may hurt you, like a cruel fire, boiling in your breast
but often this life will shine, itself brighter
than our flaming Sun. write now both about those fires 110
and about these shining hours in your verses, Ella.”
thus Sappho taught. then already at that very moment
how deeply I knew that Sappho herself was telling the truth!
I was still now afraid, but she herself had watched me
with such hope that I could not oppose Sappho. 115
she said, “do you agree with me that you certainly ought
to write and that you ought to write truthfully?”
I nodded carefully but not doubting. “therefore
I shall indeed pass my own share of the Muses’
roses to you, this pupil of mine, today.” 120
I shall accept it now.
Ella Hochstadt is a senior in high school, soon to graduate from Riverdale Country School and start the next leg of her Classics journey. For the time being, though, she lives in New York City with her parents and dog Oreo. When she’s not composing Latin poetry in dactylic hexameter, she enjoys acting in school plays, tutoring, and writing and producing short films. She’s the leader of Riverdale’s film club, and a member of the Classics Club.
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