A TALE OF ROMAN LIFE
Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою.>A TALE OF ROMAN LIFE

 

A TALE OF ROMAN LIFE

(1833, 1835)

CAESAR was traveling; a number of us, with Titus Petronius, were following him at a distance. When the sun set, the slaves erected the tent and arranged the couches; we lay down to feast and engaged in cheerful conversation. At dawn we resumed our journey and, fatigued by the heat and the night's amusements, pleasantly dozed off, each on his litter.
We reached Cumae and were about to proceed farther when a messenger from Nero arrived. He brought Petronius an order from Caesar to return to Rome and there to await word about his fate - the consequence of an invidious denunciation.
We were horror-stricken. Petronius alone listened to the verdict with equanimity; he dismissed the courier with a gift and announced to us that he intended to remain in Cumae. He sent off his favorite slave to choose and rent a house for him, while he waited in a cypress grove consecrated to the Eumenides.
We gathered around him anxiously. Flavius Aurelius asked him how long he intended to stay in Cumae and whether he was not afraid of rousing Nero's ire by his disobedience.
"Not only do I not intend to disobey him," answered Petronius with a smile, "but I propose to anticipate his wishes. As for you, my friends, I advise you to return. On a clear day a traveler will rest in the shade of an oak, but in a storm he will be wise to move away from it for fear of thunderbolts."
We all declared our wish to remain with him, and he thanked us warmly. The servant returned and led us to the house he had chosen. It was on the outskirts of the city. An old freedman was looking after it in the absence of its owner, who had left Italy a long rime ago. A few slaves, under his supervision, kept the rooms and the gardens tidy. On the wide portico we found images of the Nine Muses, and two centaurs stood at the entrance.
Petronius stopped at the marble threshold and read the greeting carved on it: "Welcome!" A sad smile came over his face. The old custodian led him to the bibliotheca, where we inspected some scrolls; then we proceeded to the master bedroom. It was appointed simply, with only two statues, both of the family. One represented a matron seated in an armchair, the other a little girl playing with a ball. A small lamp stood on the bedside table. Petronius stayed here for a rest, dismissing us and inviting us to gather in his room toward evening.

My heart was so full of sorrow that I could not go to sleep. I regarded Petronius not only as a generous patron, but also as a friend, genuinely attached to me. I respected his capacious mind and loved his exquisite soul. My conversations with him gave me a knowledge of the world and people -subjects I otherwise knew more from the teachings of the divine Plato than from my own experience. His judgment was usually quick and sure. His indifference to everything saved him from bias, and his forthright attitude toward himself made him perspicacious. Life could no longer present anything new to him; he had experienced all its pleasures; his feelings were dormant, dulled by habit, but his mind had preserved an astonishing freshness. He loved the free play of ideas as much as the euphony of words. An avid listener to philosophical discussions, he himself composed poems no worse than those of Catullus.
I went out into the garden and spent a long time walking along the paths, which meandered under old trees. I sat down on a bench, in the shade of a tall poplar, next to the statue of a young satyr carving a reed pipe. Wishing somehow to dispel my sad thoughts, I took out my writing tablet and translated one of Anacreon's odes. Here is my translation, preserved in memory of that sad day:

Ever rarer, ever paler
Grow the locks that grace my skull,
In my jaws the teeth are frailer,
In my eyes the spark grows dull.
A few days are left me merely
Till sweet life is due to fade,
Atropos keeps count severely,
Tatarus awaits my shade. –
Dread the nether vault and chilly,
Whither all the entrance find,
None the exit; willy-nilly
All descend - and pass from mind.

The sun was declining toward the west; I went to Petronius. I found him in the library. He was pacing up and down: his personal physician, Septimius, was with him. Seeing me, Petronius stopped and jokingly recited the following lines:

Any highly mettled steed
By the branded haunch is known.
And the boastful Parthian's breed
By the hood which forms a cone.
For a happy pair you need
Look into their eyes alone.

"You have guessed correctly," I answered him, handing him my tablet. He read my verses. A cloud of pensiveness passed over his features but immediately dispersed.
"When I read poems like these," he said, "I am always curious to know about the fate of those who had been so struck by the thought of death: how did they actually die? Anacreon insists that the Tatar frightened him, but I don't believe him any more than I believe in Horace's faintheartedness. Do you know this ode of his?

Which god has brought you back again,
The one with whom I shared the random
Affright of arms, my first campaign,
When desperate Brutus chased the phantom
Of liberty for us in vain?
You, in whose tent I sat, in lively
Carousal drowning war's alarm,
And ringlets garlanded with ivy
Anointed with the Syrian balm?
Recall the battle to perdition,
When shamefully I dropped my shield,
All vows and prayers, and quit the field,
A pusillanimous patrician!
Oh, how I trembled, how I fled!
But Hermes, sudden vapors shaping,
Enwrapped me and to safety sped
From death which seemed beyond escaping...

"The shrewd versifier wanted to make Augustus and Maecenas laugh at his faintheartedness only because he did not want to remind them that he had been a comrade-in-arms of Cassius and Brutus. I don't know how you feel, but I find more sincerity in his exclamation: 'A sweet and seemly thing is death for country.' "



 

Оригінал твору

Бібліотека ім. О. С. Пушкіна (м. Київ).
А.С. Пушкин. Полное собрание сочинений в десяти томах