Thomas Maitland

On a girl called Barbara Black

This short love-poem's central conceit is a play on the Latinised surname 'Fusca' (rendered here as 'Black', but 'dusky', 'dark-coloured', 'swarthy' and even 'drab' would be possible translations). Metre: elegiac couplets.

[174]

De puella, cui nomen Barbara Fusca

Barbara, mentito quae et nomine fusca puella est, 1
Barbara nec dici, fusca nec illa potest.
Nil tractabilius, nihil est formosius illa. 2
candor inest animo, pulcher et ore color.
Sed divina juvat verbis fœdare profanis,
non quadrant rebus nomina saepe suis.

[174]

On a girl called Barbara Black

Barbara Black is a girl who has a deceiving name, she can neither be called 'Barbara' a or 'Black'. Nothing is more amenable, nothing more beautiful than she. Dazzling whitness is present in her character, the same beautiful colour in her looks. But as it is pleasing to defile divine things with profane words, names often do not square up to the objects they represent.

Notes:


Original

1: 'mentito nomine': Ovid, Metamorphoses X.439; Statius, Thebaid VII.303; Apuleius, Metamorphoses V.26.11

2: 'vidisti pleno teneram candore puellam,/ vidisti fuscam, ducit uterque color': Propertius, Elegies II.25.41-2

Translation

a: ie, 'barbarous'.