Quando profectus fueram / A Storm in Devon


Quando profectus fueram
usque diram Domnoniam
per carentem Cornubiam
florulentis cespitibus
et foecundis graminibus
elementa inormia
atque facta informia
quassantur sub aetherea
convexi coeli camera
dum tremet mundi machina
sub ventorum monarchia.
ecce nocturno tempore
orto brumali turbine
quatiens terram tempestas
turbabat atque vastitas
cum fracto venti federe
bacharentur in aethere
et rupto retinaculo
desevirent in saeculo.


(after lines from Aldhelm’s Carmen Rhythmicum, Latin, 7th c.)

I passed through Cornwall, fearfully,
as far as Devon. All that way,
no crops sprang up, no meadows bloomed.
The giant thunder-anvils loomed
ugly and dark, in shapes that shifted
eerily as their masses lifted,
battered, butted. The sky-vault cracked.
The whole world’s engine rattled, racked
under the storm cloud’s tyrant blows.
Look: where a winter whirlwind rose
at night, the land turned upside down
and grinding ruin raked the ground.
The peace pact of the winds undone,
their bonds burst and their halters torn,
they raved across the upper air
like maenads, trailing wind-ripped hair.

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