Many thanks to Steve Lubman for sending me links to Forty-three translations of Hadrian’s “Animula, Vagula, Blandula” (at coldewey.cc) and Lev Oborin’s LJ post collecting a few Russian versions. Of the English translations, my favorites are the first two:
Minion soul, poor wanton thing,
The body’s guest, my dearest darling,
To what places art thou going?
Naked, miserable, trembling,
Reaving me of all the joy
Which by thee I did enjoy.
My soul, my pleasant soul and witty,
The ghest and consort of my body,
Into what place now all alone
Naked and sad wilt thou be gone?
No mirth, no wit, as heretofore,
Nor Jests wilt thou afford me more.
—Henry Vaughan (1652)
I don’t know if “Molle” is the John Molle, or Mole, who died in January 1639 in an Inquisition prison in Rome where he had been kept for decades, but if so, he certainly had sufficient personal experience to underlie his excellent version; the only flaw for me is the final rhyme, but I presume it was perfectly OK in his day to rhyme “joy” and “enjoy.” The nineteenth-century versions are pretty much uniformly awful (again, from my point of view); I would single out as an exception this one:
Wandering, gentle little sprite,
Guest of my body and its friend,
Pale, and stiff, and naked quite,
All thy jests are at an end.
—W. A. S. Benson
It would be nice if someone were to collect later versions (the ones at the coldewey.cc post appear to be from this 1876 book, which has translations into other languages as well, including Ancient Greek) — I imagine the twentieth century did a better job. The Russian ones are certainly superior to most of the English ones; I particularly liked Olga Sedakova‘s:
Душенька, беженка, неженка,
дружок и гостья бренности,
куда теперь отправишься,
голодная, сирая, босая?
утехи твои кончились!