Nubes Oriebatur: the eruption of Vesuvius

Nubes Oriebatur: the eruption of Vesuvius (2009)


a cappella SSATBB
Commissioned by the 2009-2010 Cherry Creek High School
Meistersingers (Denver, CO), Sarah Harrison, director

Secular

Listen
Preview Score

Text:

Nubes oriebatur.
(Praecesserat per multos dies tremor terrae.)

Nubes oriebatur, cuius similitudinem et formam non alia
magis arbor quam pinus expresserit.

Nam longissimo velut trunco elata in altum quibudam ramis
diffundebatur, credo quia recenti spiritu evecta.

Nubes atra et horrenda, ignei spiritus tortis vibratisque
discursibus rupta, in longas flammarum figuras dehiscebat;
Fulguribus illae et similes et maiores erant.

Candida interdum, interdum, sordida et maculosa
prout terram cineremve sustulerat.

Nec multo post illa nubes descendere in terras, operire maria;
Iam cinis, adhuc tamen rarus.

Mox dies verus; sol etiam effulsit.
Occursabant trepidantibus adhuc oculis
mutata omnia altoque cinere tamquam nive obducta.

- Pliny the Younger, Letters to Tacitus, 62-122 AD
- adapted by Timothy C. Takach

 

Translation:

A cloud was ascending.
(There had been noticed for many days before a trembling of the earth.)

A cloud was ascending, the appearance of whicih I cannot give you a more exact description than by likening it to that of a pine tree.

For it shot up to a great height in the form of a very tall trunk, which
spread itself out at the top into branches of a sort; Because, I believe, it
was occasioned by a sudden gust of air that impelled it.

A black and dreadful cloud, broken with rapid, zig-zag flahses, revealed
behind it variously shaped masses of flame:
these last were like sheet- lightning, but much larger.

it was sometimes clear and bright and sometimes dark and spotted,
according to whether it had picked up earth or cinders.

Soon afterwards, the clouds began to descend, and cover the sea;
The ashes now began to fall upon us, though it was still sparse.

Soon the real day returned, and even the sun shone out. Every object that presented itself to our faltering eyes seemed changed, being covered deep with ashes as if with snow.

- Translated by William Melmouth, with revisions by Anne Groton