O Fortuna from Carmina Burana

Lyrics in Latin with English Translation

By J. E. Pérez

O Fortuna is the opening and closing movement in the Latin cantata Carmina Burana by German composer Carl Orff. Although O Fortuna is a popular score for dramatic film scenes, it is also frequently parodied in "misheard lyrics" videos. It is composed in Latin and traditionally sung by huge choirs, so the words are difficult to make out.

The first two movements Carmina Burana comprise the Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (Fortune, Empress of the World) section. The first song in the section is O Fortuna and the second song is Fortunae Plango Vulnera, a shorter number with male-only verses. Both are translated below with the English and original Latin side by side. See the entire performance by the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra.

Lyrics to Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi in Latin with English Translation
O Fortuna

O Fortuna,
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem;
dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis
et inanis,
rota tu volubilis,
status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis,
et velata
mihi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis
et virtutis
mihi nunc contraria;
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
sine mora
cordae pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem
sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!

Fortunae Plango Vulnera

Fortunae plango vulnera
stillantibus ocellis,
quod sua mihi munera
subtrahit rebellis.
verum est, quod legitur
fronte capillata,
sed plerumque sequitur
Occasio calvata.

In Fortunae solio
sederam elatus,
prosperitatis vario
flore coronatus;
quicquid enim florui
felix et beatus
nunc a summo corrui
gloria privatus.

Fortunae rota volvitur;
descendo minoratus;
alter in altum tollitur;
nimis exaltatus
rex sedet in vertice
caveat ruinam!
nam sub axe legimus
Hecubam reginam.
O Fortune

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
and waning;
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
it melts them like ice.

Fate, savage
and empty,
you are a turning wheel,
your position malevolent,
vain health
always dissolves,
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
my naked back
I bring to your villainy.

Fate, in health
and in virtue,
is now against me,
and defeat
always enslaved.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating string;
since Fate
strikes down the strong,
everyone weep with me!

I bemoan the wounds of Fortune

I bemoan the wounds of Fortune
with weeping eyes,
for the gifts she made me
she perversely takes away.
It is written in truth,
she has hair in the front
but in the back
she is bald.

On Fortune's throne
I used to sit raised up,
crowned with
the multi-colored flowers of prosperity;
however much I flourished
happy and blessed,
now I fall from the summit
deprived of glory.

The wheel of Fortune turns:
I sink, debased;
another is raised up;
far too high up
a king sits at the summit
o let him fear ruin!
for under the axis is written
Queen Hecuba.

© Had2Know 2010