Fortune Beguiled? ["O Fortuna," Third Stanza] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Final Notes
Sorrow maybe made Joyous
Closing

{Lady Fortune likes to greet those she favours with a fist bump – for obvious reasons. Image found on Doctor Michael Haldane’s Translation Homepage.}

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Abstract

The poem’s speaker finally gives in under the crushing weight of Fortune, and laments, calling all others to join him.

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Translation

Ah Fortune, you do invert
My health and my power,
Ay do you torture me with desire and weakness.
Now without hindrance let us strike
The chord in time, lament loudly with me,
For Fortune foils even the fortunate.
(“O Fortuna”, 3rd stanza)

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Recordings

Latin:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Final Notes

Once more, the translation above is not entirely literal – but that’s just not my modus operandi.

Though the most altered line is the final one. Not that the original Latin (“quod per sortem sternit fortem”) doesn’t come out to something similar when translated literally, word for word (“which by fortune overthrow the strong”). It’s just that the above translation dwells less on the words of the original and attempts to delve more into the sense of those original words.

The basic idea is that Fortune treats everyone equally, regardless of their merits. What better way to express that in English than to match “Fortune” with “fortunate”? Plus, though not necessarily a quality in thirteenth century Goliardic poetry, the alliteration is also very English.

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Sorrow maybe made Joyous

Now, although this poem ends on a pretty down note, one phrase is curious. In the original Latin it is “mecum omnes plangite,” in the above translation it’s “lament loudly with me.” What’s interesting here is that, though it’s framed by the sorrowful “lament” the speaker calls for everyone to come together to lament Fortune’s tyranny.

But, what usually happens when a bunch of people get together (even medieval people)? A cracking party ensues – of one sort or another.

So it might be something that’s coming from looking a little too deep, but including the call for everyone to come complain with him suggests that the speaker is aware that Fortune is not the only thing that runs in cycles.

It could be that he’s trying to start some kind of spirit boosting gathering, even if it’s just a bunch of monks getting together and moaning about their misfortunes. Unless they’re all Dominicans, chances are one will tell a joke or relate a misfortune that another will chuckle at, and things will go up from there.

Or, of course, they’ll reason that this Fortune stuff is all pagan nonsense and go off to read the loose-parchment copies of the story of Christ jousting against Satan that they’ve hidden in their bound books of theology.

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Closing

Come Thursday, Wiglaf is in the dragon’s hoard and does some hoarding of his own – while the poet ornaments his tale with a brief meditation on the dragon.

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