18 April, 2009

Poem o' the Day

I think most of us know Carmina Burana in one form or another. There's Carl Orff's glorious classical music based on it, o' course. Vampire: the Masquerade was terribly fond of quoting it. And Therion covered Carl Orff's "O Fortuna," bringing us full circle.

The Middle Ages weren't quite the cultural black hole the Renaissance men wanted us to believe. Some extraordinary art came out of it, including poems and songs that have lost none of their power down through the centuries. Carmina Burana's one of those that earned its survival. Besides, it was apparently written by clergy students who gave the Church ye olde Daily Show treatment. And like the Daily Show, their satire and fun concealed (barely) some vitally important themes. What's not to love?

The incomparable Tony Kline did this translation. Therion's cover follows. Enjoy!

O Fortuna’ – CB17

O Fortuna

like the Moon there

ceaselessly you’re varying,

always waxing

ever waning;

how detestable a thing

life, that teases

and then eases,

powers of mind in play,

our poverty


it melts like ice away.

Fortune monstrous

wholly worthless,

your swift wheel you’re whirling,

ill condition,

vain remission

evermore dissolving,

veiled and shaded


on me too you’re pressing;

at your pleasure

my bare back there

wretch to you I bring.

Fortune, easing,


turned now away from me,

you’re withering

you’re weakening

ever in misery.

Now today

without delay

pluck the quivering heart-string;

since by ill fortune

strength is brought down,

all join with me in weeping!

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