A Feast during the Plague – extract from my translation

A Feast during the Plague

Hymn to the Plague – lines 138-173

When mighty Winter, like the head
of a bold army boldly led,
attacks us with her spiky squadrons
of icicles and frost and snow –
the fireplace parries with a crackle,
the festive season’s all aglow.  

 But now the Plague, that dreaded queen,
 is marching on us, feared, unseen,
cocksure of an abundant harvest;
 and on our windows day and night
she taps with her great graveyard shovel …
 we’re trapped!  Who’ll help us in our plight?

 Just as on Winter’s tricks before,
so on Queen Plague let’s lock our door!
Let’s light the torches, fill the glasses,
and drown our minds in jollity,
and, rousing feast and dance to frenzy,
let’s hail the Plague Queen’s sovereignty!

 There is a thrill in waging war,
 or treading a dark chasm’s door,
or tossing on the ocean’s fury
’mid stormy gloom and seas that drench,
or braving an Arabian sandstorm,
or breathing in the plague’s vile stench.

In anything that bids to kill
there lurks that strangely pleasing thrill
for mortal beings – could this offer
a pledge of immortality?
This thrill if man can find and savour
’mid all life’s tempests, lucky he!

 So – Plague, it’s you we celebrate!
We’ve no dread of the tomb’s dark gate;
your summons causes us no terror.
Let’s breathe our girlfriends’ fragrant breath,
and drink the foaming cup together –
what if we breathe, and drink, our death!

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