Translations from the
Carmina Burana
© 2002 by David Parlett
Part 1: Wheel of Fortune
imperatrix mundi
Lady Luck
Empress of the World

0 Fortuna,     velut luna
   statu variabilis,
semper crescis     aut decrescis;
   vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat    et tunc curat
   ludo mentis aciem,
egestatem,     potestatem
   dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis     et inanis,
      rota tu volubilis,
status malus,      vana salus
      semper dissolubilis,
obumbratam     et velatam
      michi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum     dorsum nudum
      fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis     et virtutis
      michi nunc contraria
est affectus     et defectus
      semper in angaria.
hac in hora     sine mora
      corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem     sternit fortem,
      mecum omnes plangite!

O how Fortune,     inopportune,
   apes the moon's inconstancy:
waxing, waning,     losing, gaining,
   life treats us detestably:
first oppressing     then caressing
   shifts us like pawns in its play:
destitution,     restitution,
   melting them like ice away.

Fate, as vicious     as capricious,
      you're a wheel whirling around:
evil doings,     worthless wooings,
      crumble away to the ground:
darkly stealing,      unrevealing,
      working against me you go:
for your measure     of foul pleasure
      bare-backed I bow to your blow.

Noble actions,      fair transactions,
      no longer fall to my lot:
powers that make me     only to break me
      all play their parts in your plot:
now it's your time -     waste no more time,
      pluck these poor strings and let go:
since the strongest     fall the longest
      may the world share in my woe!

Fortune plango vulnera The cruel cuts of Fate

Fortune plango vulnera
     stillantibus ocellis,
quod sua michi munera
     subtrahit rebellis.
verum est, quod legitur
     fronte capillata,
sed plerumque sequitur
     occasio calvata.

In Fortune solio
     sederam elatus,
prosperitatis vario
     flore coronatus;
quicquid enim florui
     felix et beatus,
nunc a summo corrui
     gloria privatus.

Fortune rota volvitur:
     descendo minoratus;
alter in altum tollitur;
     nimis exaltatus
rex sedet in vertice -
     caveat ruinam!
nam sub axe legimus
     Hecubam reginam.

I cry the cruel cuts of Fate
     with eyes worn red from weeping,
whose fickle favours travel straight
     back into her keeping:
as ye read, so shall ye find -
     luck comes curly-headed
from the front, but round behind
     not a hair is threaded!

Dame Fortune once invited me
     to enjoy her blessing:
to riches' throne exalted me,
     caring and caressing:
but from maximum renown,
     garlanded and feted,
Fate stepped up and threw me down -
     glory dissipated!

Fortune's wheel goes round and round,
     down go all my talents;
others rising from the ground
     fly too high to balance:
so beware Fate's old routine,
     kings and lords and ladies -
for beneath her throne lies Queen
     Hecuba in Hades.
horse back
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