Of Paradise and Light: Essays on Henry Vaughan and John Milton in Honor of Alan Rudrum

By Donald R. Dickson; Holly Faith Nelson | Go to book overview

Boethius and Henry Vaughan: The
Consolatio Translations of Olor Iscanus

Jonathan Nauman

HENRY VAUGHAN'S VERSE TRANSLATIONS FROM BOETHIUS HAVE received only passing commentary from his biographers and critics, and the tenor of such notice has usually been dismissive. Stevie Davies's recent study can stand for general opinion: it mentions the Boethius renderings only once, in the context of detecting “an absence of direction and a want of stable identity” in Vaughan's early verse. Vaughan “plagiarizes and flatters, ” Davies says, filling out “his slender inspiration by translating chunks of Boethius, Casimer, Ovid, and Juvenal.” 1 It could reasonably be argued that judgments of this sort miss Vaughan's remarkable facility for relaying the force of Boethius's arguments in rhyme, alliteration, and meter. I have not read a concluding couplet in English for the first metrum of the Consolatio that surpasses

Why then, my friends, judged you my state so good?
He that may fall once, never firmly stood.

(21—22)

Nor have I seen in English verse or prose a more spirited rendering of the first book's fourth metrum than the lyric found in Olor Iscanus:

Who se calm soul in a sett led state
Kicks under foot the frowns of fate,
And in his fortunes bad or good
Keeps the same temper in his blood,
Not him the flaming Clouds above,
Nor Aetna's fiery tempests move,

No fretting seas from shore to shore
Boiling with indignation o're

-192-

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