De Luscinia / Alcuin: Concerning a Nightingale


Quae te dextra mihi rapuit, luscinia, ruscis,
illa meae fuerat invida laetitiae.
Tu mea dulcisonis implesti pectora musis,
atque animum moestum carmine mellifluo.
Qua propter veniant volucrum simul undique coetus
carmine te mecum plangere Pierio.
Spreta colore tamen fueras non spreta canendo.
Lata sub angusto gutture vox sonuit,
dulce melos iterans vario modulamine Musae,
atque creatorem semper in ore canens.
Noctibus in furvis nusquam cessavit ab odis,
vox veneranda sacris, o decus atque decor.
Quid mirum, cherubim, seraphim si voce tonantem
perpetua laudent, dum tua sic potuit?


Jealousy, that’s what it was. It was thin-fingered envy that nabbed you,
stealing away my delight, Nightingale, out of the broom!
Sour as my soul had become, you could fill it with honeying sweetness,
lilting it into my ears, lifting it into my heart.
Come, all you creatures with wings! Let them come from the corners of heaven
adding their grief to my own, singing the song of the muse.
Not much to look at for color, but sound that could carry my heart off:
sound with the breadth of the air poured from your throat’s little strait,
sweetness in dollops and pours and melismas, repeating, renewing,
always a song in your mouth to him who is maker of all.
Everywhere night and its terrible blackness, yet still you were singing,
voice that should still us to prayer, ornament hung on the dark.
Why should we wonder at all at the angels eternally chanting
praise to the Lord of the storm? You could sing endlessly too.

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