pleasure and pain

by Frederick W. Ricord
from the French of Charles Hubert Millevoye

Image: Tri-State Antiques
Image: Tri-State Antiques

Of old, within the realms of Jove,
Came Pleasure and his sister Pain—
Twin offspring of the Queen of Love,
Whom, e’en the gods, to woo, were fain.
The nurse, to Jove, the children brings,
Who throws on each a searching glance.
Pleased with the boy, he gives him wings,
But, to the sister, nothing grants.

“How shall I to the earth descend,”
Asks Pain, “from this abode so high?
How shall I, like my brother, wend
My way, in safety, through the sky?”
Jove answer’d: “Banish your alarms;
On Pleasure’s wings, hence, you may steal;
And, then, those injured by your arms,
Your brother will be near, to heal.”

As nothing, now, their flight could stay,
The twain departed from the sky;
And soon to earth they made their way,
And soon their pow’rs began to try.
With care, did Pain conceal her dart
Beneath her brother’s golden wing;
And, so, when one produced a smart,
The other did a solace bring.

Now Pain, by Pleasure, brought to naught,
Resolv’d, at length, to go alone;
But, then, was Pleasure still more sought,
While Pain, of course, was wish’d by none.
Yet Pain, while Pleasure, she reviles,
Will always near her brother keep;
So he, who with the brother smiles,
Must, also, with the sister weep.

Twice elected mayor of Newark, Frederick W. Ricord was an accomplished translator, issuing two volumes of English Songs from Foreign Tongues. The first, completed in 1878, included this version of “Plaisir et Peine.” Millevoye’s original follows.

                En même temps Plaisir et Peine
                Naquirent au divin séjour:
                De Cythère l’aimable reine
                À ces jumeaux donna le jour.
                Le dieu qui lance le tonnerre
                Leur départit des attributs:
                Il donna des ailes au frère;
                Pour la sœur il n’en resta plus.

                “Qui me conduira sur la terre,
                Dit-elle au monarque des dieux,
                Moi, qui ne puis, comme mon frère,
                Franchir l’espace radieux?”
                Il répond: “Bannis tes alarmes,
                Descends sur l’aile du Plaisir;
                Les blessures que font tes armes,
                Il prendra soin de les guérir.”

                Voilà donc que Peine et son frère
                Viennent nous imposer des lois;
                Sitôt qu’ils ont touché la terre,
                Ils font usage de leurs droits.
                Peine avec soin cachait son arme
                Sous l’aile de son protecteur:
                Quand l’une arrachait une larme,
                L’autre accordait une faveur.

                Et du Plaisir quittant les ailes,
                Peine veut seule voyager,
                Plaisir est caressé des belles,
                Peine … aucun ne veut s’en charger.
                Elle vient, malgré sa colère,
                Le reprendre pour conducteur,
                Et celui qui loge le frère
                Doit avec lui loger la sœur.

learned ignorance

by Frederick W. Ricord
from the Latin of Hugo Grotius

Image: Newark History
Image: Newark History

Who, curious, undertakes all things to span,
By dint of labor all his own, nor can
A limit to his mental pow’rs admit,
A poor judge makes—a valuer unfit
Of self and nature; for the God o’er all
Would have us wonder much, with knowledge small,
And touch alone what in our way is set.
This primal error leads to greater yet,
For he who lack of knowledge will deny,
Himself with fallacy must satisfy.
The mind that’s most at ease, will err the least,
Content on knowledge smoothly earned to feast;
Nor will it search for that which searching flies.
Not knowing some things, ofttimes is most wise.

Frederick W. Ricord was a man of letters and historian, a linguist and educator, and a two-term mayor of Newark. As librarian and secretary of the board of education, he produced three volumes on Roman history for schools.

“Learned Ignorance,” one of Ricord’s many verse translations, appeared with his rendering of Terence’s Self-tormentor in 1885. The original by Grotius follows:

                Qui curiosus postulat totum suae
                Patere menti, ferre qui non sufficit
                Mediocritatis conscientiam suae,
                Iudex iniquus, aestimator est malus
                Suique naturaeque: nam rerum parens,
                Libanda tantum quae venit mortalibus,
                Nos scire pauca, multa mirari iubet.
                Hic primus error auctor est peioribus.
                Nam qui fateri nil potest incognitum,
                Falso necesse est placet ignorantiam;
                Umbrasque inanes captet inter nubila
                Imaginosae adulter Ixion Deae.
                Magis quiescet animus, errabit minus,
                Contentus eruditione parabili,
                Nec quaeret illam, siqua quaerentem fugit.
                Nescire quaedam, magna pars Sapientiae est.