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The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2010

18-and-under, commended

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Nadan Hadzic

‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ from Metamorphoses XII
by Ovid

And as he shed tears and kisses over her familiar veil,
He said, ‘Now drink my blood as well as hers!’
And he sunk the sword he wore into his stomach,
Wrenching it out immediately from his seething wound.
As he lay on the ground prostrate, the blood gushed high,
Just as a damaged lead pipe splinters and spews
Towering streams through a minute hissing hole
And rips the air with a surge of water.
The berries of the tree are stained inky-black
From the surging gore and the blood-soaked root tinged
The dangling mulberries with a purple blood-colour.

Translated from the Latin by Christina Macsween

Metamorphoses IV, lines 63–73

utque dedit notae lacrimas, dedit oscula vesti,
‘accipe nunc’ inquit ‘nostri quoque sanguinis haustus!’
quoque erat accinctus, demisit in ilia ferrum,
nec mora, ferventi moriens e vulnere traxit.
ut iacuit resupinus humo, cruor emicat alte,
non aliter quam cum vitiato fistula plumbo
scinditur et tenui stridente foramina longas
eiaculatur aquas atque ictibus aera rumpit.
arborei fetus adspergine caedis in atram
vertuntur faciem, madefactaque sanguine radix
purpureo tinguit pendentia more colore.


Translation commentary

I came across this passage while studying Ovid hexameters for A level and liked how comically gruesome and hyperbolic it is. While translating I tried to stay as close to the original Latin as I could, as I think the humour of the imagery is diminished if the epic tone and style is lost. For this reason I chose the most hyperbolically onomatopoeic words I could think of. The ironic contrast between Pyramus’ noble intention to die with Thisbe and the reality of his gruesome and unnecessary death is conveyed in the Latin through the ridiculous image of Pyramus as a damaged lead pipe. This is why I tried to keep the style of the English as formal as possible, although I found it difficult to keep the poetry sounding fluent as I did this. Translating Latin into fluent English is difficult as the sentence structure is quite different, so direct translations into English often seem stunted and clumsy. For this reason I changed traxit (wrenched) to a present participle in my translation. I also missed out some conjunctions such as ‘and’ to make it flow better in English, and limited the repetition, but otherwise I tried to stay as close to the original as possible.

Christina Macsween