Journal of Catalan Studies/Revista Internacional de Catalanisme

[Ressenyes / Reviews]

Reviews / Ressenyes

A. W. Ibarz
Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

Lleixant a part l’estil d’Ausis March? Vicent Mariner, Humanism and his Translation of Ausias March into Latin
CORONEL RAMOS, Marco Antonio (, L’Ausis March llat de l’humanista Vicent Mariner, Arxius i documents, 21, Edicions Alfons el Magnanim, Instituci Valenciana d’Estudis i Investigaci, Valncia, 1997, 909 pp., ISBN: 84-7822-227-8.


Humanist, translator and poet, Vicent Mariner (1571 - c.1640), rubbed shoulders with the greatest literary minds of his generation. A close friend of Quevedo, he was acquainted with Lope de Vega and his entourage in the vibrant cultural centre that was Madrid in the early 1600s. An impassioned translator, his Spanish translations include the works of Aristotle, and he rendered Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles, Theocritus and Moschus into Latin. In the appreciative words of Quevedo:

…tu, mi Marineri, totos Graecae linguae thesauros antiquitate uenerabiles, mole et magnitudine inaccessibiles, difficultatum tenebris inuolutos, tam caeca noctis caligine submersos et iam pene obliuionis inertia et malignitate sepultos diserto calamo eruis…

In spite of such appreciation, the Valencian humanist found patronage hard to come by. Though he was finally appointed Royal Librarian in 1633 after years of petition (he had been seeking the position since 1619) by 1640, for reasons which are not clear, it seems he still had not succeeded in making the position his. Other letters testify his equally ill-fated attempts to be nominated Royal Chronicler. Towards the end of his life the Duke of Lerma provided some recompense in the form of a modest benefice in a parish church in Palencia.

His translation of the Catalan poet Ausias March (1397?-1459) is striking in itself, and might seem to be out of place in his humanist project. Unlike the staple diet of ancients Mariner sought to make accessible to a wider public, the poetry of Ausias March was not so remote from a Golden Age audience. By this time it was known in at least three Spanish translations, and must have reached a fairly wide readership. The attention paid to him by the likes of Joan Bosc, Garcilaso de la Vega and Jorge de Montemayor added to the interest which had generated the sixteenth century editions and translations of the poet. Perhaps for this reason, Mariner’s translation has been overlooked for so long. One might be excused for dismissing it as the most elaborate form of poetic tribute – more ambitious perhaps than Montemayor’s translations into Spanish – but, all in all, the product of an eccentric humanist and best left in the rare books collection of the nearest university library.

Marco Coronel questions this, posterity’s judgement on Mariner. His motives, writes his editor, strike at the core of his humanist vocation: to reveal un tresor ocult rere la llengua "llemosina". Implicit in Mariner’s project lies the belief that he can shed some light on March. His translation seems tantamount to placing March’s ‘difficulty’ on a par with that described by Quevedo of the treasures of the Greek tongue.

On the whole, Coronel judges the translation to be a fairly accurate one, though sometimes it seems that even the Valencian Mariner had difficulty in understanding some of March’s verses. In this regard Coronel’s introductory study, which focuses on the mechanics of Mariner’s translation, reveals a curiously exegetical side to the task, which seems concerned precisely with resolving some of the ‘obscurities’. Mariner’s dedication to March and his interpretative mission becomes apparent, for example, in his translating poem LVI twice, taking as his cue the two different versions of the incipit available to him in the 1545 and the 1555 editions respectively. Here are the opening strophes:

Ma voluntat amant vs se contenta, Noster amor uestro gaudet, laetatur et ingens,
havent desig de posseyr la vostra; dum sperat uestro semper amore frui,
yo s content de tal com se demostra; hoc oblector enim ueluti monstratur inesse,
lo furis desig prech Du no senta, sed precor ardenter ne mea uota ruant;
si b d’amor terme no puch atnyer non ueneris finem iam tandem attingere possum,
en aquell loch hon amadors coneixen: hic ubi amator habet uel loca nota sibi,
lur gros desig complit, d’amor se leixen, ardens nam uotum uel nullo munere complent,
e yo lladoncs me sent d’amor estrnyer. astringi at uideor semper amore truci.

(LVI edition d 1555)

(Coronel IV, 5, 1)


Ma voluntat amant vs se contenta,

Semper amore tuo gaudet mea tota uoluntas et tecum pleno stat mea uita sinu,

y en lo finit infinitat li s mostra,

infinita quidem finito est munere merces et pleno noster iure stat ipse fauor–,

e donchs de mi vullau haver-ne mostra,

ergo iam nostrum studeas ostendere uotum;

si pas les lleys qu amor als seus presenta. transeo si leges quas dat amorque suis,
Car en amor no puch terme atnyer nullus amore mihi subsistit terminus isto
lay hon los ms aquest terme atroben: aut ubi uel plures hunc reperere gradum,
propietat de ver amor derroben, hi proprium ueri detorquent munus amoris
el cam llonch en poch volent-lo strnyer et longam astringunt paruo in amore uiam

(LVI edition c 1545)

(Coronel IV, 4, 1)

Mariner seems to find the 1545 version more problematic.Where March presents a delphically lyrical ‘and in the finite, the infinite is revealed...’, Mariner resorts to lengthy paraphrase in order to link the emotion more explicitly to grace and the fusion of the poet’s will with his beloved’s. To some extent this seems to miss out on the strength of March’s insistence on his transgression of Love’s laws, which are not enough to constrain the quest of his desire’s for the infinite. The progression of the Catalan verse may serve to ironise the opening line, a possibility which is resolved by Mariner’s addition of ‘the lovers’ own law’, which binds lover to beloved while still allowing the possibility of the lover to break ‘Love’s’ laws, and thus assert his transcendent amorous identity. Mariner’s neat solution is somewhat artificial, and seems to respond to an unwillingness to consider the implications of March’s amorous condition, which seems to hang suspended beneath, in between or beyond idelogical divisions, never yielding to categorisation in the way imposed by Mariner.

Another interesting case occurs, as Coronel Ramos points out, where, for example, Mariner has semper amare placet for its opposite ne.m plau amar (IV,16, 76) which results, argues the editor, from the translators failure to appreciate the import of a preceding Marchian image. The poet paints himself leaving the house of Venus through one door, only to reenter it immediately by another, his legs broken, les cames trencades, pedibus laceris.

Per un portal ixch per l’ostal de Venus, aedibus ex Veneris certa tandem exeo porta
per altre y torn ab les cames trencades, atque alia redeo iam pedibus laceris
e yo no pens que n ser amat abaste nec puto iam satis esse mihi vel forsan amari,
ne m plau amar, ne menys me n desespere. semper amare placet nec cado spe penitus;
Yo so aquell qu<e>n leig officis cria ille ego sum turpi qui iam nutritur in arte,
sab e no sab qu s mal e no n pren altre, scit nescitque simul protinus esse malam
car no pot ser bit sens delit reste et sine delitiis habitus non linquitur ipse
e a par en covarts hmens d’armes. hoc atque armatos comprimit inde uiros.

It would perhaps be a little unfair, however, to view Mariner’s translation merely as an exercise in exegesis which, in this case, fails in its reduction to grasp the import of March’s paradox. This particular case seems to be a clarifyingly ideological assertion of what it is to love, where March seems to be using it with a curious indeterminacy. Which love does March abhor, the carnal or the spiritual? Where the two become blurred, it may be Mariner goes to lengths to separate such ambiguity.

Under literalitat textual the problematic of Mariner’s relation to March becomes apparent. Coronel observes: Mariner, dient Vita breuis longisque subest ars cursibus ipsa/ fallitur in cunctis rebus et usus adhuc, s’ha limitat a reproduir March sense alludir a la referencia hipocrtica. In terms of intention it is poignant that precisely where March is classicising, Mariner reinforces the Valencian poet’s sense of originality – and his own – by leaving the source analogously modified.

If Mariner can show such hypersensitivity to his source text, it seems sensible to allow for the possibility that, where he diverges, he intends fully to do so. Sometimes he promises to provide the reader with something they might not have noticed. Compare, for example, the following the opening of March’s famous Cant XXIII:


Leixant apart l’estil dels trobads Alta poetarum cernens sacra carmina tandem
qui, per escalf, trespassen veritat, qui semper quodam vera furore tacent
e sostrahent mon voler afectat qui vel, cantanti ut fundunt modulamina Phoebo,
perqu no m trob, dir l que trobe n vs transiliunt verum, dum furor ore calet
(XXIII, 1-4) (I, XI,1-4)

Ausias’s relation to early Italian humanism has not received much attention; but his awareness of it is exemplified here. Mariner standing right at the other end of the tradition picks this up and draws it out with his transiliunt verum. Unable to find the truth, March’s poetic goes beyond the rhetorical conceit often attributed to these lines, in order to settle for a truth. Although Mariner foresakes the pun on trobar, he reads these lines carefully and finds in them an allusion to the humanist poetic of divine revelation. By rejecting this poetic, March links this poem to his wider concerns: the use of poetry as a means of exploring the ethical problems of desire and subjectivity in this world. By purposefully foresaking the troubadour framework he casts light on a humanist context which is not simply his own addition but lies latent in the original.

Within the humanist tradition, the homage paid to March by the Turnoni edition of 1633, is significant. Mariner’s translation bears testimony to the recognition of the Valencian’s originality. This is no post-romantic notion. He values the power of the Marchian logos and is fundamentally intent on proferring an interpretation of Marchian Amor which, if at times seems to direct the ‘poeta philosof’ less ambiguously in the direction of metaphysics, is nonetheless highly suggestive.

Mariner, with characteristic humanist modesty, never aimed to be a poet. In an unedited letter dated 1620, and cited by Coronel: …hos [his authors] emmitto, hos offero horumque in omnes defflecto utilitatem. Though he pursued his craft through translation, and in spite of this rhetorical humility, it may turn out that Mariner’s is a poetic document of some significance. His relation to poetic tradition is very different to March’s, and this promises to make him all the more valuable for students not only of March, and his Golden Age reception, but also of the humanist poetic in a more general sense. Why on earth is it that March, alone of his generation, managed to forecast poetic taste two centuries after his death? How, why and what does March become, gain, or lose by conversion into the language of Catullus and Horace, via a humanist marriage with the Christian-Neoplatonism of Vicent Mariner?. Scholars are in Marco Coronel’s debt for being alerted to the possibility that Mariner is not merely of antiquarian interest.