In 5tam Novembris
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In 5tam Novembris
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Title/Paratext] "[Prose translation by J. R. [...]" H.W. Starr/J.R. Hendrickson, 1966.
"[Prose translation by J. R. Hendrickson:]
"On the fifth of November"
There has been a dispute, undecided and prolonged for many years, one not to be resolved easily by a judge: to whom is the prize for pre-eminence in evil now to be awarded? What man is so great an honour to ennoble as he deserves?
In Rome, cruel tyrants made many claims for themselves: the first one many for himself, and the later one, Nero, many for himself; he who brought sea-shells back as booty from our shore and the scion of the noble Flavian line did the same.
Phalaris made many an effort for himself, that bane of Sicily, and the dire cause of your funeral pyre, O great Diana.
It would take too long to recount one by one the monstrous deeds that fill up the annals of reluctant fame, each notorious for its own crime. But at last England, bright with the fame of countless triumphs won in war, proudly displays the trophies won by the soldier's hand; and yet it is not enough for her to shine distinguished by the twofold palm, in the arts and in war, and to be the glory of the world, if the glory of fame won by crime is not added and does not fill up the measure of her praise. From her sons arises a mind that scorns all those that came before, ingenious to try new paths, which knows how to entomb Mars in hidden coverts and to lurk in cunning ambushes hidden from the sight of the sun.
Verily, in order that he may go undetected, he does not hesitate to burrow into the bowels of the earth nor even to die in the same catastrophe. Already he has begun the work. It is my wish that it lack success; let Fortune, I pray, forbid (the completion of) that task, even though it has been started. Nor are my prayers in vain: suddenly the golden light of heaven blazes forth (behold!), until the black dwelling is revealed to the searching light. You see the ambush revealed, the labours of death, and gaze in wonder at caves filled with their own sulphur.
But if the divine grace of sacred heaven had not revealed this arsenal of impending death, he would now have a right to boast of his crime, that with his unaided hand he had overthrown a nation by destroying the leaders."
- The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek. Edited by Herbert W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1966.
Contractions, italics and initial capitalization have been largely eliminated, except where of real import. Initial letters of sentences have been capitalized, all accents have been removed. The editor would like to express his gratitude to library staff at Pembroke College, Cambridge, at the British Library, and at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, for their invaluable assistance.