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Horace’s Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi
Toward the end of his introduction to Horace in English, D. S. Carne-Ross tried to summarize the long history of Horatian translations in English. He observed that there had been an unexpected degree of poetic success in the last four centuries, but it was a success purchased at the price of making Horace sound far too much like an English poet, and argued for a new kind of poetic speech in translation: “A speech that, we must hope, translators in the days to come will learn to write, in the process giving us, sometimes (the word should be stressed), not English Horace but difficult, foreign, Latin Horace through whose intricate stanzas we make our careful way as we do with the originals.” 1 In his new edition of Horace’s odes, Stuart Lyons has given us another English Horace in the long, nearly unbroken line from the sixteenth century. This is a fully revised text of his translations from the 1996 edition and comprises two main parts, Horace’s Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi and Horace Odes: English Verse Translation, which are then followed by three appendices (discussed below), a Bibliography, a Note on Research and a Glossary of Proper Names.
The first part of the book, Horace’s Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi, falls into three chapters: (1) a sketch of Horace and his work in context of the Augustan Age, (2) an argument for Horace as a songwriter and (3) an explanation of how Guido d’Arezzo created the do-re-mi solmization. I will take them in that order before turning to an assessment of the translations.
The first chapter, “Horace and the Augustan Age” (1-14), provides a cursory tour of Horace’s biography and a highly compressed summary of the main political events down to Philippi (1-8) before turning to an equally cursory account of Horace’s literary career (8-14). Considering the brevity of the treatment, Lyons does a reasonably good job at placing the period of the odes’ composition, from 29BCE to publication in 23BCE, against the background of Augustus’ consolidation of power and his break with Maecenas. What he does not do is provide a nuanced view of Horace’s ethical and political stance toward the Augustan reformation. We only learn that Horace “responded to the emergence of the Augustan Age and to the changing moral environment” (10) with the Roman Odes. While not rejecting the “moral hedonism” of his earlier odes, Horace “acknowledged the horror and futility of civil war, and supported the reinstatement of religious and moral values,” in which he may have served as advanced propagandist for Augustus’ later social legislation (11). Here Lyons should have forewarned his readers about simplistic biographical readings of poetry. The Roman Odes have long been a quarry from which critics try to extract hard traces of sincerity or insincerity, as if these were binary opposites, but the job of a court-poet is to reflect court agendas and not his own private opinions. We don’t know the degree of Horace’s sincerity and never will. There is on the other hand no reason to think, as Nisbet and Rudd state, “that Horace’s view of the national interest was at variance with that of the Princeps: he could advocate military training without feeling any desire to take part in operations (he had had quite enough of that) he could urge the rebuilding of temples and the revival of traditional rituals as a way of promoting national solidarity, without accepting the concomitant beliefs he could support the institution of marriage without becoming a husband or father.” 2 Sincerity is a poetic illusion created by the poet’s verbal and structural dexterity. We have no instrument to probe behind the illusion to mental states, even in the case of modern poets where we possess letters and contemporary documents.
The second chapter, “Horace the Songwriter” (15-25), attempts to persuade us that Horace was an accomplished musician who meant what he said when he called his odes carmina, ‘songs,’ arguing against the opinion of virtually all twentieth-century commentators. “The evidence is inescapable,” Lyons claims, that Horace wrote songs that he performed with his own musical accompaniment (15). Lyons begins with the “Carmen Saeculare,” which we know was performed by a chorus of 27 boys and 27 girls, all freeborn with living parents, on June 3 as the climax to the Centennial Games of 17 BCE. Is it feasible, Lyons asks us, that the Princeps and the Quindecimviri, the college of priests, “would have asked a writer who was musically illiterate and allowed a choir that could not sing to create and perform such an important political and religious showpiece?” (16) The second half of that rhetorical question is hardly credible: a large chorus of 54 voices would have been carefully selected and trained to sing the hymn. The authorities would never have assigned the job to a choir that couldn’t sing. The first half is pure speculation. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support the notion that Horace was a skilled musician or trained the chorus himself. Lyons cites IV.3:23 as proof that Horace was adept at playing a stringed instrument like the tortoiseshell lyre since, with Lady Pieria’s inspiration, he is pointed out by passers by as “Romanae fidicen lyrae.” In calling himself a fidicen, one who plays a stringed instrument, Horace is employing a convention that links his poetic art to the great lyric poets of Greece. This convention invites us to deduce confidently, Lyons asserts, that the Romans, who derived the bulk of their literary culture from Greece, “would have followed suit in the world of music” (17). That is, the use of a conventional topos about music entails musical performance. But a convention that is separated by six centuries from its origin cannot vouch for an actual performance practice. We simply don’t know how Horace performed his odes, and given the general conservatism of Roman literary adoptions from Greece, it’s quite likely that Latin poets repeated early Greek performance practices to authorize their own poetry and set it in a traditional genre. At this point, Lyons suddenly veers off into a short digression on Greek music (17-20) before returning to his main theme, that musical references abound in the odes because they are carmina, songs meant for singing to music. He cites more examples of musical imagery in the odes, particularly I.26, IV.9, IV.6 and II.12, before concluding that “Horace is not just a poet but a songwriter” (22) who “was regularly involved in some form of theatrical performance” (23). Whatever Horace’s own theatrical performance might have involved, there is nothing to suggest his contemporary readers sang such complex, intricate, allusive, ambiguous and rhetorically informed odes. The only way to comprehend their riches is by reading. Lyons shows himself far too confident in drawing “inescapable” conclusions from literary conventions that lack the slightest external corroboration. Lyons then tries to cap his argument by citing the German musical historian Guido Adler, who reported that “he was aware of melodies for six of Horace’s odes” including I.1, I.3, I.33, III.9 and III.13 (24). None of these melodies can be shown to date from ancient times and all are certainly medieval in origin, but that allows Lyons to segue into his discussion of Guido d’Arezzo by reminding us that the musical fragments confirm “a Horatian musical tradition and its survival through the Dark Ages in some of the courts and monasteries of Europe” (25). But this musical tradition has no historical connection with Horace, so it lacks evidentiary value for Horace as fidicen who sang his odes in theatrical performances and is thus quite tangential.
The third chapter, “Guido d’Arezzo” and the Do-re-mi Mystery” (26-40), is by far the most interesting and informative. Although Lyons would seem to imply that the unraveling of this “mystery” supports his contention that Horace was a songwriter, it does no such thing, but is a fascinating bit of detective work. Guido d’Arezzo was a Benedictine monk who invented the musical stave and the “do-re-mi” solmization system. Guido found the original do-re-mi music in a melody set to “The Ode to Phyllis” (IV.11). The music dates to sometime between the tenth and early eleventh centuries, but was not of course composed by Horace or any other ancient musician for that matter. Guido then transferred the melody from the Phyllis ode to a Latin hymn by Paul the Deacon in praise of St. John the Baptist and created the do-re-mi mnemonic. The full details of Lyons’ detective work are quite fascinating but of nugatory value for his claim that Horace was a poet “who set his work to music and entertained the Roman aristocracy with his songs” (24). For those interested in the precise way Guido created his mnemonic, a series of three short appendices inserted rather illogically after the translation provides the music and texts in detail.
Following these three chapters, we have a chronological Life of Horace, a Translator’s Note and an Index of Odes. The Translator’s Note sets out Lyons’s approach to translation. After the obligatory confession that no English verse translation can “fully replicate the polish and compactness of Horace’s Latin” (43), Lyons tells us that he has used traditional English meters and rhyme schemes. For I.4 Lyons says that he employed the metrical scheme of Gray’s Elegy, as if this were unique among the translations, but he uses the same iambic pentameter quatrains with cross rhymes (abab) in many other places. That aside, he turns I.34 and IV.10 into sonnets, casts the more formal hymns I.2, I.12 and the Carmen Saeculare into “an anglicized version of Horace’s Sapphics” and gives III.12, the song to Neobule, an English reflection of the original Ionic a minore meter. Let’s look more closely at the English versification since that is the only unique feature of this translation.
Except for the two sonnets and the faux-imitation Sapphics, the vast majority of the translations run smoothly along in well-varied iambic pentameter that has been molded into a few standard rhyme schemes: couplets, 3 quatrains with abab cross rhymes, 4 quatrains with enveloping abba rhymes 5 and quatrains consisting of two aabb couplets. 6 Lyons relieves metrical monotony by scattering iambic trimeter and tetrameter versions in the same rhyme schemes throughout the four books 7 and even turning the final ode in Book III, III.30, into a ghost of blank verse with half-rhymes that are almost imperceptible:
I’ve made a monument to outlast bronze,
Rise higher than the pyramid of a king
no gnawing rain, no north wind’s violence,
Or countless ranks of years and the fleeing
Of time could e’er this monument erase.
I shall not all die some great part of me
Will escape Death’s goddess. With posthumous praise,
I’ll freshly grow, be renewed constantly,
So long as priest with silent priestess shall
Climb upward to the Roman Capitol.
The final four lines lapse into overt rhymed couplets, perhaps to provide a rounding cadence to the poem, but the contraction “e’er” in line four—like its presence throughout the translations—is a stylistic blemish. Besides the common iambic rhythms, Lyons shows himself a true craftsman in a number of other metrical and stanzaic forms. He deploys the “Venus and Adonis” ababcc rhyme scheme in I.14 and III.27, the former in regular iambic tetrameter and the latter in iambic rhythms that slide between three and four beats with a strong dolnik movement. The meter of I.14 is too light and brisk for the stanza, trivializing Horace’s “Ship of State” imagery, though it ends with a memorable rhyme (“Avoid the currents of the seas/Around the shining Cyclades”) that recalls the thrilling sound of the cuckoo in the second stanza of Wordsworth’s “The Solitary Reaper” (“Breaking the silence of the seas/Among the farthest Hebrides”). The versification works better in III.27 because the stanza is a natural narrative form and the meter is more highly modulated to avoid facile precision. In I.18 Lyons tried his hand—very unsuccessfully I would say—at a more complex irregularly rhymed stanza that seems to have the nominal form abcdedbb with alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter lines. Besides these three, Lyons also applies a quatrain of three iambic pentameter lines and one trimeter line rhyming abab to IV.2, the famous description of Pindar’s style and its dangers for imitators. This isn’t a bad choice for Horace’s Sapphic stanza and achieves some good sonic effects in lines 1-16:
Whoever, Iullus, strives to emulate
Pindar, reaches with Daedalus for the sky
On waxen wings and is destined to donate
His name to the glassy sea.
Just as a mountain river downward flows,
When heavy rains have fed it far beyond
Its usual banks, Pindar boils, falls and grows
Massive, with a voice profound.
How he deserves Apollo’s crown of bay!
In audacious dithyrambic refrain
He rolls down new words and is borne away
On rhythms no laws constrain,
Or he sings songs of gods, kings and gods’ blood,
Those at whose hands the Centaurs rightly came
To their last fall, and others who subdued
Fearful Chimaera’s flame.
Scattered throughout the translation are four trochaic tetrameter poems (I.3, I.19, I.30 and III.15) and one anapaestic tetrameter poem (I.26) that will almost certainly not be recognized by the average reader. The somewhat irregular anapaestic song for Lamia is too rolling and expansive as it sloshes through the couplets for Horace’s three concise Alcaic stanzas, but the trochaic meter in couplet form works surprisingly well for I.3 with its pulsing, rhythmical echo of Part III to Auden’s “In Memory of W. B. Yeats.” It is however perfect for I.19 and III.15. Here are the first two stanzas from I.19 followed by lines 1-14 from III.15 for comparison:
Mother of Cupids, Venus wild,
Bacchus, Theban Semele’s child,
All put me under duress
To give back my heart and mind
To the love I once resigned.
I’m on fire with passion for
Glycera, whose skin glows so pure
Parian marble can’t impress
More than her own loveliness.
I burn at her wanton grace
And her too seductive face.
You are just a poor man’s wife
Living an immoral life
Now it’s time for you to shirk
All your infamous hard work
As you near your dying day,
You must now retire from play
Among the girls you must desist
From blanketing the stars with mist.
What suits Pholoe well enough
May on you, my dear, look rough
It’s more proper for your daughter
To lead young men to slaughter,
Like a Bacchante in their home
Roused by a pulsing drum.
Lyons shows his rhythmical skill again in the opening poem of Book IV, which is really an imitation of Milton’s meter in “L’Allegro” with the lines shifting seamlessly between trochaic and iambic tetrameters. Here’s an energetic passage from lines 9-22 with some clever rhymes that ring with Gilbert-and-Sullivan wit:
You had better fly at once
On the wings of purple swans
And hurry to Paullus’ home,
Where your fever can consume
A ready heart for he’s well-born,
Decent and no taciturn
Advocate of tough defences,
With a hundred competences.
Far and wide the boy will carry
The colors of your military
And, when he has won success,
And laughed at his rival’s largesse,
He’ll see your marble statue gleams
By the Alban lake beneath citrus beams.
The Sapphic imitations I.2, I.12 and the Carmen Saeculare utilize an abba stanza consisting of three strongly-varied iambic pentameter lines that often tend toward stress rhythms and a fourth two-beat Adoneus. The form has a gravity that is suitable for hymns, and Lyons makes good use of his flexible Adoneus to round off each stanza. Lyons’s version of the Carmen Saeculare is one of his better experiments with rhyme, though it is not very redolent of Rome with its mixture of Marvell, Yeats and Auden. Here is just a brief passage from lines 57-68:
Now Faith, Peace, Honour, ancient Modesty
And Manliness neglected dare return,
And blessed Plenty’s overbrimming horn
Gladdens the eyes.
Prophetic Phoebus decked with shining bow,
Beloved and welcomed by the Muses nine,
Raising to health the weary limbs of men,
May he with grace look on the Palatine,
May he prolong the Commonwealth of Rome
And happy Latium for a further term
And age more fine.
This short tour of Lyons’s metrical inventiveness and wit brings us back to the issue with which I opened this review: his decision to use traditional English versification has dressed Horace in such traditional garb that he vanishes into the mob of pallid imitations that stretch back to the sixteenth century. No matter how hard Lyons tries to make the odes sing, they sound like Thomas Gray on a bad day when he had nothing better to do than write his “Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat.” The metrical and stanzaic forms he has chosen to use find their best outlet, with a few exceptions noted above, in the sympotic and erotic odes. In the political, moralizing, mythological and religious odes, these forms sweep nearly all Horace’s allusive complexity beneath a smooth, vapid flow of sound that drowns the irony Lyons P. Wilkinson once memorably said lies in wait for his seriousness. 8 The sheer musical grace that Lyons imparts to the odes with traditional versification must, given the exigencies of rhyme, distort most where Horace is at his most ironical, intricate, ambiguous and rhetorical. The formal weight, seriousness and somber magnitude of the Roman Odes vanish into song that sounds like late Romantic pastiche. Ode I.37, the great tribute to Cleopatra, is a typical example of what happens when you compress Horace into iambic tetrameter quatrains. They jingle along without any sense of the growing irony that will transform a drunken, cowardly woman who plotted ruin for the Capitol into a proud, courageous queen who preferred death to capture. Here are the last two stanzas:
She dared with face serene to see
Her fallen palace then bravely
Fondled her deadly snakes until
Her body drank the poison vile.
More fierce when she resolved to die,
Scorning a jailer’s cruel galley,
No humble woman, she ne’er sank
To grace a proud triumph, stripped of rank.
The syntactical inversions forced by rhyme, the elision, the compression of rhetoric, the loss of imagery due to the short meter and the anticlimax of the final phrase “stripped of rank,” all simply erase Horace. In a few cases, like II.14, Lyons is able to maintain the overall structure and content without too much distortion, but the norm is far more like the famous ode to Licinius, II.10, from which I quote the first two stanzas:
You life would be in better shape
If you stopped pressing out to sea
Or clinging too close to the rocky cape
While eyeing storms too warily.
He, who adopts the golden mean,
Safely avoids a squalid place
With a rotten roof, and isn’t seen
Courting envy in a grand palace.
Horace and rhyme rarely go together. James Michie’s rhymed and metered translations of Horace 9 are still to my mind the best in English, but he had the good sense to abandon rhyme where it would wrench Horace too much out of shape. He used variously, for example, an accentual template of the Sapphic stanza for his version of II.15, which is one of the masterpieces of Horatian translation, an iambic stanza of two pentameters, a trimeter and a pentameter for III.4 and an iambic stanza consisting of three pentameters and one trimeter for his outstanding Carmen Saeculare translation. We should hope to see no more rhymed Horace for the next century.
Lyons’s translation is well worth reading for his wit and his often inspired rhymes, but it has no place in a classroom due to Horace’s frequent absence in the Lake District and the lack of detailed annotations. The Glossary of Names is no substitute for good notes in such a difficult and allusive poet. It seems to me that anyone who offers a complete translation of an ancient poet these days ought to provide it with an extensive historical introduction, a full set of annotations and a really comprehensive glossary. The model here is Peter Green in his translation of The Argonautika or The Poems of Catullus: A Bilingual Edition. 10
1. Horace in English, ed. D. S. Carne-Ross and Kenneth Haynes, intro. D. S. Carne-Ross (Penguin, 1996) 58.
2. A Commentary on Horace: Odes Book III, ed. R. G. M. Nisbet and Niall Rudd (Oxford, 2004) 99.
3. I.1, I.7, I.15, III.21 [arranged in three eight-line stanzas] and IV.8.
4. I.6, I.11, I.16, I.17, I.22, I.23, I.29, I.32, I.35, I.36, I.38, II.1, II.5, II.6, II.7, II.8, II.11, II.15, II.20, III.1, III.3, III. 5 III.6, III.10, III.14, III.16, III.19, III.22, III.23, III.28, IV.4, IV.6, IV.13, IV.14 and IV.15.
5. I.10, I.24, II.2, II.9, II.17, II.19, III.11, III.13 and IV.12.
6. I.10, I.27, II.4, III.2, III.8, III.17, III.28, IV.5 and IV.7.
7. I.5, I.8, I.9, I.13, I.21, I.25, I.31, I.33, I.37, II.3, II.10, II.12, II.13, II.14, II.16, II.18, III.4, III.7, III.9, III.10, III.18, III.20 [arranged in two eight-line stanzas], III.24, III.25, III.26, III.29, IV.3, IV.9 and IV.11.
8. L. P. Wilkinson, Horace and His Lyric Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 1968) 55.
9. James Michie, The Odes of Horace (Penguin, 1967).
10. Peter Green, The Argonautika By Apollonios Rhodios (University of California Press, 1997) The Poems of Catullus: A Bilingual Edition (University of California Press, 2005).
Celebrating the past: horace's odes as aide memoire.
In this discussion of memory, Kapuscinski does not ask what memory is. He simply assumes a very basic definition namely that memory's primary function is to preserve what has gone before.1 However, Kapuscinki's reflection on why an "unsuccessful process" such as memory is so fundamental, is more interesting. Memory provides a starting point. One cannot step into the same river twice, but at least the river of memory is there. Without memory no progress of any kind would be possible. Memory establishes what the past contained so that the present can move forward. This is the very basis for all human development. The fact is, as individuals and collectively, we cannot and do not have to start over all the time. Because it already contains the past . even though a fragmented past . memory provides us with a springboard into the future.
Taking the importance of memory as a given, I would like to consider briefly why Horace would engage with and celebrate the past so consistently. Subsequently I would like to consider more carefully how this celebration of the past functions as an aide-memoire for his audience.
One of the most pervasive of ancient topoi is the belief that immortality is dependent on memory, for if a person's deeds or works are not remembered such a person's existence is eventually wiped out as if it had never happened. Pindar's claim to fame is not only that he writes memorable poetry. (2) His poetry, because it is memorable, will grant immortality to whatever object or person he chooses to mention "for great deeds of valour / remain in deep darkness when they lack hymns" (Pindar Nemean 7.14). (3) Catullus can threaten permanent damnation in his poetry, because just like the gods, his poetry remembers (di meminerunt, meminit Fides, 30.11). (4) Augustus may list his achievements in the Res Gestae, but he needs a Virgil to remind the Roman people of their pre-history in poetry. Virgil's poetry . because it will be remembered . will also immortalise the new empire where Augustus Caesar, Divi genus is at its helm (Aeneid 6.792). (5)
As most ancients Horace sees being remembered as proof of immortality. He picks up on this essential aspect of poetry in much the same way as Pindar does. (6) In Odes 4.9 Horace points out that:
because they had no special poet, no Homer, to immortalise and proclaim their deeds. (7) Horace goes on to emphasize that there is no difference between a life of glory and one of insignificance when both are followed by an "unremembered" death--that is a death not remembered in literature. (8) Memory then--or to be remembered--is essential for immortality, and poetry in all its facets, is a fundamental aide for memory.
The first point Horace aims to establish in his Odes is the "unceasing memory" or the immortality of his work. He opens his book of Odes, his magnum opus, with a reminder to his audience that evergreen ivy--a symbol of immortality . will link him as a poet to the immortals. He has no doubts about the quality of the work that will justify this immortality. He acknowledges that there is only one condition, namely that two of the daughters of Memory, the muses, Euterpe and Polyhymnia, should do their duty and guarantee "remembrance" of his work. The prerequisite for immortality then is ongoing or unceasing memory of his achievement.
Having opened his collection of odes with the theme of immortality, Horace returns to this theme at the end of Book 2 and again at the end of Book 3. Both books conclude with Horace stating with absolute certainty that he will not die, since his poetry that is, the physical reminder of his work, guarantees his immortality. In Odes 2.20.5--7 his transformation is already taking place. He is no longer earth-bound, but will soon transcend time and space as a creature of the air. (9) Odes Book 3 concludes with yet another statement of absolute certainty: as long as his poetry is remembered, the most significant part of him--his work--will have escaped death. (10) Of course Horace does not deny his physical death. He merely affirms the general belief that remembrance of his poetry grants him immortality.
It is clear that Horace uses the lyric tradition that preceded him as springboard for taking his own work into the future. Like any artist, he takes into account the efforts of those who went before him. By recalling the past so consistently Horace claims an established and recognisable context. Because of this context he can claim legitimacy for his own efforts in continuing a well-honed tradition. Furthermore there is a distinct advantage in suggesting that a new collection of poems continues a tradition of past achievements already recognised for their quality and durability. And if this is the case, reminding the audience repeatedly of the past which he claims to continue and surpass, makes further good sense.
There is a further reason why Horace celebrates the past so consistently. If, as Kapuscinski points out, the only real repository of memory is the individual, the burden of memory falls on the individual. If Horace takes up the burden of "lyric memory", he (through his work) becomes the repository for that memory. His audience may share this memory but they are not the final repository for memory. His work represents the means by which the transmission of that memory becomes possible--to the audience of the present as well as the future. His work therefore has to ensure the continuation or "immortality" of the memory of his lyric achievement.
But memory is not the only guarantee of or requirement for immortality. There is another prerequisite, namely quality. (11) How Horace wrote is therefore of paramount importance because the quality of his work was the fundamental prerequisite for the survival of the work. In short immortality for Horace is not only dependant on the aid of Mnemosyne and the Muses but also on producing the kind of work that deserved to be remembered. Horace himself--with the aid of Mnemosyne and the Muses--grants immortality to his predecessors and his peers by quoting or reflecting them in work of outstanding quality. The quality of Horace's work serves as a direct reminder of his predecessors, since he has to match or surpass them to claim the poets' prize that would elevate him to his rightful place amongst the immortal gods (Odes 1.1.29-30). (12) To achieve this objective--of granting as well earning immortality through his work--Horace has to keep reminding his audience of the benchmarks he aims to achieve or surpass.
The scholarship on Horace's use of these reminders to his audience is vast and seemingly unending. The fact that Horace reflected the work of individual early Greek lyric poets or of his more immediate precursors, the Alexandrians, is indicated as a matter of course in commentaries on Horace. (13) Scholarship may further encompass the tracing of verbal echoes, contextual similarities, generic applications or enhancements, or engaging in general with the "intertextuality" presented in Horace's work. Together these reminders function as an aide-memoire and contribute directly and in an on-going manner to his audience's remembrance of his predecessors.
One of the most direct ways of remembering something is to make a list. (14) In claiming to implement the same tool as his Greek precursors, Horace unfortunately does not list the Greek lyric poets on whose individual metrical examples he based his own poetry. However, in his fourth book of Odes, (15) Horace does list a number of poets by name. In Odes 4.9 he specifically mentions Pindar (4.9.6), (16) Alcaeus (4.9.7), Anacreon (4.9.9) and Stesichorus (a Sicilian Greek poet) (4.9.8). He refers to the Greek elegist Simonides (4.9.7) by referring to his place of origin, Ceos, implying that he is so well-known that mention of his birthplace is sufficient to recall the poet. The Greek epic poet Homer (4.9.6) is indicated as being in a class of his own. The Greek lyric poetess Sappho is not mentioned by name (17), but she is portrayed by means of describing the effect of her poetry in great detail. (18) Listing these poets then is the most direct and simple way to remind the audience of the early Greek lyric poets in whose footsteps Horace so clearly follows and whose tradition he continues so successfully. (19)
Horace himself claimed that he would be remembered for being the first to adapt a Greek tool (metre) for transmitting Latin thought, or as he puts it to fit Aeolian song to Latin verse. (20) Just how difficult this must have been becomes clear when we look for instance at two other quintessentially Roman poets--one who preceded and one who followed Horace. The natural flow of Catullan hendecasyllables depends on a metre that seems ideally suited to the cadence of the Latin language. Ovid too pointed out the ease of his own writing, indicating that whatever he tried to write, seemed to "came out in verse" (as he puts it in a masterly pentameter in Tristia 4.10.26: et quod temptabam scribere versus erat). Horace on the contrary underlines the effort required in producing lasting creative writing. (21) He refers to his poems as operosa carmina, (Odes 4.2.31-32). Just given the complexity of using Greek metre for Latin verse, the creative process must have been labourintensive or operosa indeed. (22)
Be that as it may, Horace stakes his claim as worthy successor especially to the great early Greek lyric poets by recalling their metrical ability and in turn, by proving his own mastery of metre. In doing so he also keeps reminding his audience of his Greek precursors in whose footsteps he follows so confidently.
That Horace uses metre as a mnemonic device is clear. How he exploits metre illustrates how successfully he employed this device. Horace opens his new lyric collection of odes with the so-called other Parade Odes (Odes 1.1-10) where he uses ten different Greek metres one after the after. Each metre is based on patterns created by or associated with Greek poets like Sappho, Alcaeus, Archilochus, Alcman, Asclepiades. The metres used by these and other Greek poets are distinct, memorable--and therefore easy to recognise throughout the whole collection of odes. Horace knows his educated audience was brought up on the Greek poets.23 He can therefore safely assume that his audience will recognise the metrical patterns he has used to such remarkable effect in his own poetry. He can also assume that his audience will recognise his own exceptional abilities.
But Horace's audience does not only recognise patterns. They are also familiar with Greek and the Greek world reflected in the work of Horace's precursors. This means that echoes of the Greek language in Horace's poetry, such as the use of Greek constructions (24) or a play on the original Greek meaning of words or names25 also function as a trigger to remind Horace's Roman audience of a Greek past that is now masterfully continued by a Roman artist. In addition contextual echoes,26as well as specific references to for instance, the Muses, (27) Greek gods, (28) to Greek characters from Mythology, (29) famous historical Greeks, (30) to name but a few examples, repeatedly remind his audience of the great tradition that Horace continues.
But direct references are not the only type of reminder to keep the memory of Horace's precursors alive for his audience. Even association or intertextuality can serve this purpose. Here the reflection of a specific idea or incident associated with or recognised as one that occurred in a Greek precursor is the more interesting, since Horace's poetry, apart from standing on its own, in this case responds directly to what went before. Horace's cheerful admittance to having left his shield behind (Odes 2.7, relicta non bene parmula) is a direct reference to Archilochus fleeing from battle, leaving his shield behind, living to see another day--and of course, because of this, to being in a position to write the poem (fr. 5).
Not only ideas or expressions are taken over from Greek predecessors. More general examples of intertextuality occur where a poet like Horace reworks an original Greek or Alexandrian theme / topos. An example would be his use of the exclusus amator theme in for instance Odes 1.25, where Horace pushes the theme to its disconcerting and logical end. Lydia, initially in a position of power, is the traditional disdainful mistress scorning the excluded lover outside her closed door where he is pleading for admittance. At the end of the poem the positions have been drastically reversed. She has become the aged, spurned, exclusa amatrix, bewailing her former conquests and the irrevocable passage of time. Adding insult to injury is the disjunction or incongruity suggested by the Sapphic metre of the poem, commenting implicitly on flawed rather than satisfying human relationships. Here the metre is used to enhance what in essence is a harsh threat, even if the reworking of the stock paraclausithyron31 theme in such realistic detail, is surprisingly successful.
However, by using recognisable Greek examples so profusely, Horace not only supplies his audience with a handy aide-memoire to his predecessors, he also takes up the burden to continue the Greek lyric tradition. By bringing into play the original Greek poetry associated with a specific poet or metre, Horace's own poetry comments on or engages with the work of his precursors. The reference to his (and Archilochus') abandoned shield thus also contains a reference to the natural instinct for self-preservation expressed by two lyric poets that in turn represents a dig at epic where heroes seem prepared to throw away their lives without further ado. This is a perspective associated primarily with lyric's focus on the individual. The idea of lyric is thus continued in Horace's take on the incident.
Horace's work as aide-memoire does not only embody fleeting reminders of the Greek world of lyric that preceded his word, he also reminds his audience of his precursors in a more sustained fashion. I will look more closely at only two of the Greek poets with whom Horace engages in this way. (32)
The Alcaic metre used so strikingly in all six of the Roman Odes (Odes 3.1-6) not only gives a distinct sound to each of the poems. The Alcaic association imbedded in the metre also holds up as foil--against which the Roman poet should be read--the original work of the Greek poet Alcaeus who focused on life's vicissitudes and the grim consequences of war. (33) Like a basso continuo, the metre and the example contained in Alcaeus' oeuvre, keep the grim reminder of Greek decline before the Roman audience in each of the Roman odes.34 The Roman people's ongoing moral and physical decline continues this trend as it were sub specie aeternitatis. The fact that this is a social pattern that keeps repeating itself, adds to the gravitas of the Roman odes--an important perspective for a lyric poet who usually concerns himself with individual issues rather than public or collective experience.
Horace also engages directly with the poetry of the Greek lyric poetess, Sappho, who was especially concerned with individual experience and understanding of life. Even for Horace, the classic example of using the content of a Greek precursor as direct foil for a Latin poem, must have been Catullus using Sappho 31 ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] moi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) as basis for Catullus 51 (ille mi par esse [deo videtur]). The experience described in the Catullan poem assumes detailed memory of its forerunner. Catullus 51 cannot be read without Sappho 31 sounding clearly in the background and commenting implicitly on the Latin poem.
In the same way, the sly wit of Odes 3.8, where Horace as a bachelor celebrates the Matronalia--a feast held exclusively for married women--is underlined by the Sapphic metre of the poem. Because of this supposed holiday, Horace is free and wants his friend Maecenas to celebrate the day with him. In the poem expressing this wish, a metre, normally associated with the great love poetry of Sappho with its focus on relationships, is used to celebrate a bachelor's freedom from entanglements and his focus on carpe diem. (35) However, there is a relationship at stake in this poem--that of friendship between Horace and Maecenas. And Horace wants what any lover would want--some unencumbered time with his friend. In this way the Sapphic metre at first apparently suggests a witty incongruity between the original and its application in Odes 3.8. In the end though, the Sapphic metre reinforces the poem's complexities by reminding the reader (and especially the addressee, Maecenas) of the importance of human relationships. The metre, furthermore, reminds the audience of the mastery of both the original and the present poet. Horace has written a new Latin lyric poem--but the audience has heard the Sapphic echo and is directly reminded of one of the great masters of the past.
Horace's work does not only function as an aide-memoire for the work of his precursors. His work also becomes the repository for memory of real events that form part of Horace's individual experience and of the communal experience of Horace's contemporary audience. These real events underpin the author's aim in reworking living reality into a literary achievement that becomes accessible to generations of readers not only by means of individual memory but also via a collective memory of common human experience. (36) This memory, individual or collective, becomes the springboard from which the future can be approached.
It is because as a lover Horace is reminded of his own past lapses that he can turn around (poetically at least) a situation of individual emotional loss and open up a new future. The temple wall (the paries sacer of Odes 1.5) exhibits the evidence of a young man's near fatal brush with experience. The votive tablet serves as a permanent reminder of his being subjected to the danger of Pyrrha's changeable sea.37 However, Horace survived to tell the tale, offering his audience his own individual version of a Song of Innocence and Experience.
Neobule (Odes 3.12) has learned through personal experience that the remedies open to an exclusus amator, do not work for a female in the same position. If, however, in memory of others who preceded her, who shared her experience, she puts her position into words, the situation becomes memorable and with remembrance, some order is imposed on or sense is made of experience. Whether this personal memory will serve to avoid a similar situation in future, is not at issue here. What is at issue is that a situation of loss has been transformed into a poem. Memory will take the poem with it and not the original experience of loss.
It is because Horace can rely on the collective memory of a time when citizens readied the sword against each other (civis acuisse ferrum, 1.2.21) that he can call upon the Roman people to work together towards a better future without war (Odes 1.2). (38) This is a remarkable leitmotif for Horace--given that he is a lyric poet more interested in convivial themes, such as the battles between the sexes rather than the epic battles of war (Odes 1.6). (39) This reminder of past battles and the call to unite for a better future happens to be a motif to which Horace returns in each of his Books of odes. Immediately after his dedicatory ode to Maecenas (Odes 1.1), Horace chooses as the second poem of his first Book of Odes, a poem that points out that a continuation of the civil war must be avoided. (40) In the opening poem of his second Book of odes, the lyric poet Horace finds it necessary once again to remind his audience of the horrors of civil war. He opens Book Two with an address to Pollio, who is writing a history of the civil strife (metum . civicum, 2.1.1) and its causes (bellique causas, 2.1.2). (41) It is as if Horace has to make sure that memory of the civil war can never be eradicated in his audience before he turns to the themes more suited to his lyric muse in the rest of Book Two. (42) However, in his Roman odes, the first six poems of Book Three, Horace, once again, returns to war and the memory of war.43 Horace ends his Roman odes in despair since collective memory did nothing to avoid an even more damning future.44 Significantly Horace's fourth and final Book of Odes, that saw the light some time after the first three Books were published,45 again takes up the theme of civil war. It is much less pronounced than in the previous three Books, since time has lessened the immediate threat of war. However, it remains necessary for Horace to point out that curae sagaces (wise forethought) will continue to be needed to avoid even the threat of war (curae sagaces / expedient per acuta belli, Odes 4.4.75-76).
Specific indications of a period, such as references to civil war for instance, can speak to subsequent readers but never as part of the individual memory underpinning the original experience of the poems. However, whatever these indicators may be for the original audience, the subsequent reader can share in this communal memory of events. In this case the reader shares the general cultural memory of similar events. The reader does not share the individual memory of the particulars. Finally poetic representation appeals to common experience (a common shared memory) for its effectiveness. And in the end not only the events are remembered in poetry, but also the poet.
Given the quality of Horace's work and the fact that he consistently and in different ways reminds his audience of his Greek predecessors (and of his own time) it is clear that Horace's work has become a repository for lyric memory. However, in order for his work not only to be but also to continue operating as an aide-memoire, someone has to remember Horace.
Today when we read Horace, not only the ancient Greeks, the Alexandrians and the ancient Romans resound in his poetry. If we look at the reception of Horace since the Renaissance, much of a specific age is reflected in their approach to and interaction with this Roman poet. The reception of Horace, that is, responses to Horace in new literature or in books or articles about Horace, invariably reflect the concerns, "the conscious or unconscious thoughts and social institutions" (46) of the age responding to Horace's oeuvre. At the same time this response reinvents but also continues the original tradition founded by the early Greek lyric poets.
This is not the place for a thorough engagement with the reception of Horace through the ages. A single example will have to suffice. A poet such as Wilfred Owen writes a poem titled Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. This title refers us directly to Odes 3.2.13 even though the line originally occurs in Tyrtaeus fr. 10.1-2 (also in Simonides, Harrison 2001:260-271). However the Horatian context of this line has fundamental implications for its meaning in the Owen poem. In the Horace poem the line is preceded by a call not to rush to arms like a savage beast whose bloody rage (ira cruenta, Odes 3.2.11-12) thrusts him towards mindless bloodshed (per medias . caedes, Odes 3.2.12). In the following line Horace furthermore questions the value of dying for the fatherland in the first place. The rest of the poem is at great pains to argue that civic virtue and a life of quiet contemplation is as valuable to the fatherland, since something as passive as silence too can claim not only a reward, but a sure one (tuta . merces, Odes 3.2.25-26).47 In the end death, the great equalizer, overtakes soldier and civilian alike (mors et fugacem persequitur virum, 3.2.14) supporting a pronounced ironic take on the allegedly positive idea that death benefits the fatherland (dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, Odes 3.2.13). The perspective supplied by the Horatian aide-memoire therefore reinforces the basic thrust of the subsequent Owen poem. Memory of what Horace wrote, would colour any reader's expectation of the Owen poem and even a supposedly positive statement may have many different ramifications.
In conclusion something more general: many of our school and university mottoes still rely on Horace and others to provide a suitable Latin phrase to indicate something of the ambiance and aim of a specific institution. The University of Melbourne shares Horace's own vision for continuing recognition in future in crescam laude recens, I shall grow, always renewed in [future] glory, (Odes 3.30.8). The University of Stellenbosch proudly proclaims pectora roborant cultus recti (a sound education strengthens character, Odes, 4.4.34). My personal favourite is the Horace instruction sapere aude (dare to taste / browse Epistles 1.2.40) used at the entrance to the Classics Library at the University of Tubingen-probably the most immediately "unproductive" but at the same time best possible advice for those who enter. Such mottoes may not elicit immediate recognition of the source in a contemporary audience, but they do represent an ongoing reminder of that original thought. In this manner they, just like Horace's odes, reinforce the collective memory of the original. Both serve as solid preservation of the past, an ongoing cultural aidememoire to a new generation.
Feeney, D C 1993. Horace and the Greek Lyric Poets. In Rudd, N (ed.) Horace 2000: Essays for the Bimillennium, 41-63. London: Duckworth.
Gowing, A M 2005. Empire and memory: the representation of the Roman Republic in imperial culture. Series: Roman Literature and its Contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Feldherr, A 2007. The intellectual climate. In Skinner, M B (ed.) A companion to Catullus, 92-110. Oxford: Blackwell.
Harrison, S J 2001. Simonides and Horace. In Boedeker, D & Sider, D (eds.) The new Simonides: Contexts of Praise and Desire, 260-271. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kapuscinski, R 2008. Travels with Herodotus. London: Penguin (originally published in Krakow in 2004).
Leach, E W 1998. Personal and communal memory in Horace's Odes. Arethusa 31: 43-74.
McNeill, R L B 2007. Catullus and Horace. In Skinner, M B (ed.) A companion to Catullus, 357-376. Oxford: Blackwell.
Nisbet, R G M and Rudd, N 2004. A commentary on Horace, Odes, Book III. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Race, W H (ed. & trans.) 1997. Pindar I: Olympian Odes, Pythian Odes. LCL 56 Pindar II: Nemean Odes, Isthmian Odes, Fragments LCL 485. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Mass.
Skinner, M B (ed.) 2007. A companion to Catullus. Oxford: Blackwell.
Thom, S 1998. Lyric double talk in Horace's Odes 3.1-6. Akroterion 43:52-65.
Williams, G 1969. The third book of Horace's Odes. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
(1) Kapuscinski goes on to point out that memory is seldom successful since it is in flux and continually transforms what it preserves. This is true on the individual level, where ordinary forgetfulness as well as ongoing attempts to make sense of the past has a powerful effect. Memory is equally unsuccessful on the collective level, since it preserves a collection of different individual and often disparate experiences to begin with.The ongoing oral transmission of a people's experience is a basic attempt to aid memory.
(2) Pindar: Nemean 7.62-64: "I shall bring genuine fame with my praises to the man who is my friend, for that is the proper reward for good men."
(3) Cf. also other instances in Pindar such as Nemean 7.12-17: "If a man succeeds in an exploit, he casts a honey-minded / cause [theme for a song] into the Muses' streams, for great deeds of valor / remain in deep darkness when they lack hymns. We know of a mirror for noble deeds in only one way / if, by the grace of Mnemosyne with the shining crown, / one finds a recompense for his labours / in poetry's famous songs" Nemean 7.20-22: "I believe that Odysseus' story / has become greater than his actual suffering / because of Homer's sweet verse, for upon his fictions and soaring craft / rests great majesty, and his skill / deceives with misleading tales" and Nemean 7.30-35: "But to all alike comes / the wave of Hades and it falls upon the obscure / and the famous yet honor belongs to those whose fair story a god exalts after they die. As a helper, then, I have come to the great navel of the broad-bosomed earth." The Pindar translations are those of Race in the Loeb collection.
(4) si tu oblitus es, at di meminerunt, meminit Fides, but-if you [Alfenus] have forgotten, the gods remember, Fate remembers, Catullus 30.11. (All translations from Latin are my own.) Pindar too asserts this perspective in his first Olympian (1.63-65): "But if any man hopes to hide any deed from a god, he is mistaken."
(5) hic Caesar et omnis Iuli / progenies, magnum caeli ventura sub axem. / hic vir, hic est, tibi quem promitti saepius audis, / Augustus Caesar, Divi genus, aurea condet / saecula qui rursus Latio regnata per arva / Saturno quondam, super et Garamantas et Indos / proferet imperium (iacet extra sidera tellus, / extra anni solisque vias. Here is Caesar and the whole generation of Iulus, about to come in under the huge dome of the sky. He is the man, he it is whom more and more often you hear was promised to you-Augustus Caesar, descendant of a god, who will establish again the golden times in Latium on the fields once reigned by Saturn and who will enlarge his empire beyond the peoples of Garamant and India to a land that lies beyond the stars, beyond the pathways of the years and of the sun, Aen. 6.789-796. See also Horace Odes 1.12 where Augustus is indicated in terms of Republican exempla (Gowing 2005:20-21).
(6) Pindar Olympian 10. 91-94: "so, when a man who has performed noble deeds, Hagesidamos, goes without song to Hades' dwelling, in vain has he striven and gained for his toil but brief delight" Pythian 3.114-115: " excellence endures in glorious songs for a long time" Nemean 4. 6-8: "For the word lives longer than deeds, which, with the Graces' blessing, the tongue draws from the depths of the mind" and finally Nemean 6.28-31: "because when men are dead and gone, songs and words preserve for them their noble deeds."
(7) vixere fortes ante Agamemnona / multi: sed omnes inlacrimabiles / urgentur ignotique longa / nocte, carent quia vate sacro, Odes 4.9.24-28.
(8) paulum sepultae distat inertiae / celata virtus, hidden [unproclaimed] honour differs little from buried insignificance, Odes 4.9.29-30.
(9) et album mutor in alitem, and I am changing into a white swan, Odes 2.20.10.
(10) non omnis moriar multaque pars mei / vitabit Libitinam, I shall not die completely and a large part of me shall avoid death, Odes 3.30.6-7.
(11) Horace based his claim on immortality consistently on the quality of his work. It is important to remember that Horace's reminder to his audience of what went before consists of two aspects: that which needed to be remembered (the "who" or "what" Horace portrays in his poetry) as well as the "memorable action" proclaiming this incident-in this case how Horace constructed poetry that became an instrument of remembrance.
(12) me doctarum hederae praemia frontium / dis miscent superis, ivy, prize of learned heads, puts me amongst the gods above, Odes 1.29-30.
(13) Nisbet & Rudd 2004:53-54, for instance, indicates that Odes 3.4 reflects Pindar Pythian 1 and suggests possible aims of the poet in making use of material from a number of other predecessors. The impact of such references too will be discussed. Such usage may refer as well as give raise to a number of scholarly articles where the suggested contribution of the original to the Horatian poem will be discussed at length.
(14) In Epistles 1.19.21-25 and 32-33 Horace states that he was the first to portray Greek poetic forms in Latin. In this section he mentions Archilochus and Alcaeus specifically as never having been used in this way in Latin before. For a full discussion, see McNeill 2007:363.
(15) Horace's fourth Book of Odes was an afterthought which he was loath to publish, as is clear from parce, precor, precor / . desine dulcium / mater saeva Cupidum . flectere mollibus / iam durum imperiis, Spare me, I beg, I beg . O harsh mother of sweet Cupids, stop [trying to] turn back one already impervious to your gentle orders, Odes 4.2.4-7.
(16) Horace not only mentions but also sings Pindar's praises most fully in Odes 4.2.
(17) Horace mentions Sappho by name in Odes 2.13.25.
(18) spirat adhuc amor / vivuntque commissi calores / Aeoliae fidibus puellae, [her] love still breathes and the burning passions of the Aeolian girl committed to the lyre live on, Odes 4.9.10-12.
(19) Explicit mention or listing of his contemporaries also serves as a simple mnemonic device to remember them, for instance mention of Maecenas, Augustus and other authors, like Agrippa, Odes 1.6 or Pollio, Roman consul, writing a history of the civil war and its causes, Odes 2.1.
(20) dicar-princeps Aeolium carmen ad Italos / deduxise modos, I shall be spoken of-as one who was the first to fit Aeolian song to Latin verse, Odes 3.30.10-14
(21) Epistula 2.3, ad Pisos (de arte poetica) 291-294: vos, o / Pompilius sanguis, carmen reprehendite quod non / multa dies et multa litura coercuit atque / praesectum deciens non castigavit ad unguem, you o offspring of Numa Pompilius, must reject a poem that many days and much correction did not cut down to shape and improve ten times over to the point of a hair's breadth of difference (to the test of a close cut nail = metaphor from sculpture).
(22) Ovid chose to refer to Horace as many-metred or numerosus (Tristia 4.10.41-42, et tenuit nostras numerosus Horatius aures / dum ferit Ausonia carmina culta lyra ) giving him his due in terms of Horace's own claim to fame. This seems to suggest that Horace's strict adherence to Greek metre in his carmina culta (belaboured songs) may have set an impossibly high (or should that be strained?) metrical standard for Latin lyric poetry, that subsequently left the field open for elegy and its more natural metrical fit to the Latin language.
(23) A lyric poet like Horace had to take a learned predecessor like doctus Catullus into account. With Alexandrian and neoteric learning permeating the verses of his Latin predecessors, Horace could assume that his audience was at the least "well-read". Cf. Feldherr in Skinner 2007:98. One of the Greek poets that Horace mentions in Odes 4.9 (Simonides) is quoted by Cicero as an inventor of mnemonic systems (De Or. 2.352-253). Both Quintilian (Inst. 11.2 11.3) and Tacitus (Ann. 11.14.2) stress the importance of memory and the need for systems to support memory.
(24) In Odes 3.30.12 (regnavit populorum) for instance, the unexpected genitive is emphasised by its reflecting "the imitation of a Greek construction" and is explained as a sign of "high stylistic level" (Williams 1969:151) which in turn implies that the audience would have registered it as such.
(25) Word play where the Greek basis of the word has implications for the meaning of the Latin poem is common. For instance since Chloe's name is associated with "green vegetation" (Nisbet & Rudd 2004:139), the implication is an emphasis on youth-either youthful inexperience that will be outgrown in the natural course of time as in Odes 1.23 or as an advantage over age as in Odes 3.9 where Chloe is described as Lydia's rival.
(26) The following topics represent typical lyric preoccupations but can all be seen as reflecting Horace's Greek precursors as well: topics like avoiding to look into the future (permitte divis cetera, Odes 1.11) a lyric vs epic perspective on life (cano / canamus vs scribo nos convivia, nos proelia virginum-cantamus-non praetor solitum leves, Odes 1.6. 17-20) being bound to a sportive lyre, pointing to the crux for whole collection at the end of the Parade Odes (te canam, magni Iovis et deorum / nuntium curvaeque lyrae parentem, / callidum quicquid placuit, iocoso / condere furto, Odes 1.10.5-8 Odes 3.3) seasons (passage of time) and the brevity of life (Odes 1.4.15: vita summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam:1.4.15, Odes 1.9 (Soracte) the voice of experience (Pyrrha in Odes 1.5) exploit the moment, make the most of today (carpe diem, Odes 1.11 dona preasentis cape laetus horae ac linque severa (gladly grasp the gifts of the present time and abandon serious concerns, Odes 3.8.27) enjoy life since an heir will take power over [your] riches (divitiis potietur heres, Odes 2.3 the heir may even be more worthy, absumet heres Caecuba dignior, 2.14.25) country [life is] hidden from harsh reality (in reducta valle, Odes 1.17) a Sabine valley unburdened by wealth (cur valle permute Sabina / divitias operosiores? Odes 3.1.47- 48) the burden of wealth (divitias operosiores, Odes 3.1.48) moderation: recognising human boundaries (Odes 1.3) sensibly avoid ostentation or a house that causes envy (rectius vives-auream quisquis mediocritatem / diligit,--. caret invidenda / sobrius aula, Odes 2.10.1-8) be not anxious for the needs of life--life requires but little (nec trepides in usum poscentis aevi pauca Odes 2.11.4-5) death comes to all / position / wealth makes no difference (divesne,-nil interest an pauper-victima nil miserantis Orci, Odes 2.3.21-24) death is certain [no hall more certainly awaits the wealthy lord than the greedy underworld] (nulla certior tamen / rapacis Orci fine destinata / aula divitem manet / erum quid ultra tendis? Odes 2.18. 29-32) why strive for more than a sufficiency? (desiderantem quod satis est, Odes 3.1.25) what exile from his country ever escaped from himself as well? (patriae quis exsul / se quoque fugit? Odes 2.16 / 19-20) "ripeness" of time: Odes 1.23, 2.5 civic virtue (Odes 3.1-6).
(27) References to the Muses include mention of the muses in general in Odes 1.6.10 Odes 1.17.14 Odes 26.1, 4, 9, 21 Odes 1.32.9 Odes 2.1.9, 37 Odes 2.10.9 Odes 2.12.13 Odes 3.1.3 Odes 3.3.70 Odes 3.19.13 Odes 4.8.28, 29 Pieris Pierides Odes 4.3.18 Odes 4.8.20 as well as specific muses such as Calliope (of epic poetry) Odes 3.4.2 Clio Odes 1.12.2 Euterpe (lyric song) Odes 1.1.33 Melpomene (tragedy) Odes 1.24.3 Odes 3. 30.16 Odes 4.3.1 Polyhymnia Odes 1.1.33 Thalia (comedy) Odes 4.6.25.
(28) The Greek gods, whether they retain their Greek names or the Romanised version of those names, call up the Greek world, reminding the Roman audience of their Greek heritage. Examples are for instance Apollo in Odes 1.2.32 Odes 1.7.3, 28 Odes 1.10.12 Odes 1.21.10 Odes 1.31. 1 Odes 2.10. 20 Odes 3.4.64 Carmen Saeculare 34 Epod. 15.9 Bacchus in Odes 1.7.3 Odes 1.18.6 Odes 1.27.3 Odes 2.6.19 Odes 2.19. 6 Odes 3.3.13 Odes 3.16, 34 Odes 3.15.1 Diana (Cynthia) in Odes 3.28.12 Juppiter / Diespiter Odes 1.34.5 Odes 3.2.29.
(29) References to Greek mythology include for instance Achilles Odes 1.15.34 Odes 2.4.4 Odes 2.16.29 Odes 4.6.4, Epod. 17. 14 Aeneas (as Trojan) Odes 4.6.23 Odes 4.7.15 Anchises, father of Aeneas Odes 4.15.11 Carmen Saeculare 50 Agamemnon Odes 4.9.25 Andromeda & Perseus Odes 3.29.17 the Atrides (Agamemnon & Menelaus) Odes 1.10.13 Odes 2.13.7 Ulixes, Ulysses Odes 1.6.7 Epod 16.60 17.16 Bellerophon Odes 3.7.15 Odes 3.12.8 Odes 4.11.28.
(30) Famous Greeks such as the philosophers Archytas Odes 1.28.2 and Pythagoras Odes 1.28.14 Epod. 15.21 as well as the sculptor Scopas Odes 4.8.6.
(31) Nisbet & Rudd 2004:141 defines a paraclausithyron as "the lament sung by an excluded lover in front of the woman's closed door" further indicating that this type of lament is "attested as early as Alcaeus 374 L-P" also that "Hellenistic epigrammatists provide variations on the theme".
(32) Horace's use of his Greek precursors individually and collectively has been the topic of academic research for many years. Cf. Oates' The influence of Simonides of Ceos on Horace, a dissertation dated from 1932 referred to in the more recent survey by Feeney of Horace's debt to Greek lyric in general (1993:41-63).
(33) For Horace the poetry of Alcaeus focused on life's harshness (dura): et te sonantem plenius aureo /Alcaee, plectro dura navis, / dura fugae mala, dura belli, and you, Alcaeus, resounding more fully with a golden plectrum, the harsh circumstances of the seafarer, the harsh evils of the refugee, the harsh travails of war, Odes 2.13.26-28.
(34) aetas parentum, peior avis, tulit / nos nequiores, mox daturos / progeniem vitiosiorem, the age of our parents, worse than our grandparents', has produced us-worse (yet again)-the ones soon about to produce an even more evil generation, Odes 3.6.46-48.
(35) As Horace indicates at the end of the poem in dona praesentis cape, take the gifts of the present, Odes 3.8.27.
(36) Leach 1998:46 refers to Verrall 1884:90-120, indicating that a "sequence of 'historically based' poems established a frame for the reader's experience of the book." She goes on to point out that "visible events, available to the contemporary reader through memory stand out as temporal markers to be grasped in their relationship to the moment of reading" (1998:46).
(37) me tabula sacer / votiva paries indicat uvida / suspendisse potenti / vestimenta maris deo, the temple wall with votive tablet indicates that I have hung up my wet clothes to (in acknowledgment of) the powerful god of the sea, Odes 1.5.13-16.
(38) grave ne redirect / saeculum Pyrrhae, lest the burdensome age of Pyrrha return, Odes 1.2.5-6.
(39) nos convivia, nos proelia virginum sectis in iuvenes unguibus acrium cantamus, I, I sing of feasts, of the battles of girls with trimmed finger nails [fighting] young men, Odes 1.6.17-19.
(40) The error of the previous generations where youth paid the price for their elders' offence (vitio parentum / rara iuventus, Odes 1.2. 23-24) must not be perpetuated by a similar transgression of the present generation vitio parentum (1.2.23) vs nostris vitiis (1.2.47).
(41) Since the memory of civil war is still so fresh, this reminder is not for the present but for future generations who may forget that once no blood-drenched river failed to bear witness to war and that no coast was ignorant of Roman blood (quae flumina lugubris ignara belli?, which rivers [are] ignorant of grim war, Odes 2.1.33-34), quae caret ora cruore nostro? which coast lacks our [Roman] blood? Odes 2.1.36).
(42) As Horace puts it at the end of this introductory poem: mecum . quaere modos leviore plectro, seek with me for metres (themes) with a lighter touch, Odes 2.1.40.
(43) Because collective memory has not served its purpose a generation wallowing in sin (fecunda culpae saecula, 3.6.13) has come forth, instead of a generation who managed to act on the lessons that memory provided, who managed to redeem the mistakes of the past.
(44) aetas parentum, peior avis, tulit / nos nequiores, mox daturos / progeniem vitiosiorem, the age of our parents, worse than our grandparents' time, has produced us-worse (yet again)-(and we are the ones) soon to produce an even more evil generation, Odes 3.6.46-48.
(45) Odes Books 1-3 were published in 23 BC. The publication date of Odes Book 4 is generally taken as 13 BC.
Horace Ode II.1 on Pollio’s History of Civil War
Note: Pollio fought with Caesar during the Civil War 49 to 45BC serving as his legate in Africa and Spain. After Caesar’s assassination in 44BC he shifted his allegiance to Anthony, became consul in 44BC and won a triumph in 39BC for his victory over the Parthini. He then retired from military life and devoted himself to poetry, drama and history. He used the spoils from his triumph to build and supply the first national public library in Rome. It had Latin and Greek book wings for open consultation of texts. After Anthony became entangled with Cleopatra, he backed away and refused to sail with Octavian to the battle at Actium. His response to the request is wonderfully discrete in its irony: “mea in Antonium maiora merita sunt, illius in me beneficia notiora itaque discrimini vestro me subtraham et ero praeda victoris” (“My services to Antony have been exemplary, and his benefits to me are very well known I shall therefore withdraw from your disagreements and will be the spoils of the victor”). I’d like to see any American multi-star general who could even approach Pollio’s mastery in battle, negotiation, social affaires consultation and literary skills.
Horace presents this ode as praise of Pollio for his Civil War history, but it’s less praiseworthy than fiercely realistic of all human and destructive ruin that war has brought to the world and especially to Italy. In a true encomium he would not have put the endless bloody chaos of battle into a description of what Pollio wrote. Unfortunately Pollio’s history has been lost, so we have no way to compare Horace with its emotional ambiance. The meter of this ode is in the asclepiad strophe.
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6 Responses to Horace Ode II.1 on Pollio’s History of Civil War
Look at that face! A noble intelligent leader, scholar as this will never be found again among Western men. Per usual his nose has been hacked off most likely by early Christian zealots who hated all things Roman/pagan. The way left for the West is Ragnarok with a vengeance.
“mea in Antonium maiora merita sunt, illius in me beneficia notioro…”
My Latin is a little rusty. Prof, how does this work?
“I wuz tight with Antonio, we did some great deals together, it was out there on the street that I wuz his main man, for real.
I’m chillin’ on dis ting between you two. I be OK with it when it gets straightened out, know what I mean? Winner take all. Do that mean me? Up to you. Whatever. “
Oh yeah, you got something…無意味 at its best. 汚らわしい
“A little nothing without meaning or flavor.”
Precise, elegant, snooty. I dig. Still, transgressive was never meant to soar, particularly in the tour d’Ivoire. “Toujours gai, Archie, toujours gai, ” as Mehitabel was wont to say…
Just a couple of things, though, boss. What would Strunk, White, Orwell say about your NOT translating for us Pollio’s ‘ironic’ begging off pleas?
And how would you translate them?
I posted the translation early in the morning around 3am and wanted sleep. I’ve added a translation to the note.
Your comments have no bearing on the ode or my translation. They are, like those of another poster, just 無意味.
Expiation — one of my favorite words, concepts. A primal cry we are hearing today on so many issues.
If we can only do something, say something, pay something, fix something we can expiate the alleged sins of our pasts. And somehow this is tied into a Saudi Arabian heir apparent Prince paying $450 million dollars for da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi? How does of make sense in this unsettling time.
Classical Studies Support
Not comfortable with analysing poetry? Don’t know what sort of thing to look for? Don’t see what the point of it all is? Well, I’m here to help! On this page I’ll be pulling apart a short poem by the Augustan poet Horace, to show you some of the interesting quirks it contains. Hopefully that will give you a stronger sense of what you’re looking for when you analyse a Latin poem.
Horace, Odes Book 1, Poem 11 (usually written as Odes 1.11)
Don’t try to predict the future, Leuconoe the gods don’t like it. Enjoy the day, pour the wine and don’t look too far ahead.
Tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi
Finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
Temptaris numeros. Ut melius quicquid erit pati
Seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
Quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum, sapias, vina liques et spatio brevi
Spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.
You should not ask – to know is a sin – which end
the gods have given to me, or to you, Leuconoe, nor
should you meddle with Babylonian calculations. How much better to suffer
whatever will be, whether Jupiter gives us more winters, or whether this is our last,
which now weakens the Tyrrhenian sea on the pumice stones
opposing it. Be wise, strain the wine, and cut back long hope
into a small space. While we talk, envious time will
have fled: pluck the day, trusting as little as possible to the future.
Take a look at the Latin, now that you know what it means. Make a note of the features that stand out to you. You can listen to it, too:
Let me guess… You probably noticed carpe diem. Most people do, because it’s one of those Latin phrases which even people with no Latin tend to know! It pops up all over the place, from tea towels to motivational posters, and everyone knows that it means ‘seize the day’.
The interesting thing about carpe diem is that it’s usually mistranslated. If you know a bit of Latin already, you probably know enough to realise that if you wanted to write ‘seize the day’ in Latin, you’d use an imperative verb and an accusative noun (just like carpe diem), but the verb you would choose would probably be ‘rape’ from ‘rapio’, or maybe ‘cape’ from ‘capio’. You probably wouldn’t even think of ‘carpe’ because it’s a much more obscure verb, which means ‘pluck’ or ‘harvest’.
So take a moment to think about the implications of this mis-translation. Does it matter that popular culture translates carpe diem incorrectly, on its wall decals and mugs and tattoos?
If your answer is ‘yes’, then maybe you’d like to think about what the difference is. How different are the two metaphors: ‘seize the day’ and ‘harvest the day’? What are the connotations? What is the tone of each one? How does ‘harvest the day’ fit with the rest of the poem? Would Robin Williams have made an inspirational speech about it?
There’s another interesting thing about carpe diem, and it’s to do with metre. Now, Latin metre is complex, particularly in Horace’s poems but you don’t have to know all about it to appreciate what’s going on here.
The lines of this poem have a metre which, in its basic form, goes like this…
dum-dum, dum-di-di-dum, dum-di-di-dum, dum-di-di-dum, dum-dum.
The three feet in the middle of each line go ‘dum-di-di-dum’ (long-short-short-long), and those are called choriambs. Mostly, words and phrases run across these choriambs: but every now and again they fit into a choriamb precisely, and that’s when your Roman audience would sit up and take notice. So, take a close look at this beauty of a line:
quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Look how it fits into the metre. The first two words, quae nunc, are the introductory ‘dum-dum’: and then we’re off, with three words which fit perfectly into three choriambs. oppositis, debilitat and pumicibus are all dum-di-di-dum words. It’s the sort of neatness which might generate a spontaneous round of applause from the audience!
Listen to it again: in the final read-through, you might spot how this line stands out!
All the way through this poem, Horace fits particularly catchy phrases into the choriambs. So vina liques (‘strain the wine’) is a dum-di-di-dum phrase, as is dum loquimur (‘while we are speaking’), and even the multi-syllabic Greek name for the girl in this poem, Leuconoe. And of course (you know where I’m going with this, I suspect!), so is our famous Latin phrase carpe diem. It takes a moment to spot that, because we’re so accustomed to putting a strong emphasis on the first syllable of diem but metre is about length of syllables, not emphasis.
So the metre is what made carpe diem so catchy to a Roman reader, because it’s a single, evocative command which fits neatly into just one choriamb. Lovely stuff!
What else do you notice about the Latin of this poem? If you’re stumped, take a look at this advice:
There are no strict rules here. If you notice something that you like – in the arrangement of words or sounds, perhaps – then you can talk about it. As long as you discuss its effect, you’re doing it right! Take a look at this list for inspiration if you get stuck:
Another way to find something to say about a poem is to look for the things that confuse you. If something doesn’t make sense to you immediately, then that suggests that it’s worthy of a closer look.
I’d guess that one bit of Ode 1.11 that made you scratch your head was the bit about the pumice stones and the Tyrrhenian Sea – and that’s why you should take another look at it. The reason why this may have puzzled you is that Horace is doing something clever here.
For a start, he’s twisting a popular image. Instead of the sea battering the rocks and wearing them down, a process familiar to poets and geologists alike, we see the rocks wearing down the sea itself. It’s a bit silly, and may have made the audience smile. But while he’s doing this, Horace is also laying down clues about where he is and what is happening. He’s by the shore, and pumice is a volcanic rock. So it’s not a big leap for us to imagine that he’s staying in one of the seaside villas on the Bay of Naples.
And he’s there with Leuconoe, another element of the poem that may justifiably have confused you, because Horace doesn’t explain who she is. Horace rarely explains: he simply drops clues, like breadcrumbs to follow and by the end we’ve collected enough of them to form a picture.
Leuconoe has a Greek name, shared with some very minor characters from mythology. It’s a woman’s name. (It’s also, as we’ve noticed, a choriamb, which is probably why this name was chosen!) So this woman is not a Roman woman, present at a social occasion. No, her Greekness and the fact that Horace gives her domestic chores to do (‘strain the wine’) suggests that she might be a slave.
Horace is talking to her in a way that implies her concerns and interests. He tells her to stay away from Babylonian astrology, which suggests that she has some non-Roman superstitions. He tells her not to seek to know what is going to happen to both of them in the future, which suggests that she’s been worrying about what their future holds. There’s a whole back-story here, about the relationship between Horace and Leuconoe, which is left tantalisingly out of view.
Another point to note is that this is a seduction poem. Horace, with his ‘harvest the day’ line, is trying to seduce Leuconoe. It’s interesting to compare this to more ‘modern’ seduction poems, like Andrew Marvell’s famous 1681 poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’:
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow
A hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
Marvell’s poem is not subtle. It’s so blatantly unsubtle, in fact, that some people think it’s meant to be ironic. In contrast, Horace’s address to Leuconoe is so subtle and restrained that we could almost miss the seduction element.
That’s one of the reasons why people who are starting out in Latin can find Roman poetry difficult to analyse: in our tradition of English poetry we’re used to much more blatant stuff! Roman poetry is circuitous and subtle it often dumps you into the middle of a scenario which you have to piece together and the clever elements take some work to identify. The Romans, for instance, rejected rhyming poetry as too childish, many generations before the Augustan poets. They had standards of sophistication in poetry which we still struggle to understand. They wouldn’t have been impressed with poor Marvell at all.
Another point worth mentioning is that, throughout this discussion, I’ve been referring to the character in the poem as ‘Horace’. But this isn’t necessarily the “real” Horace. It’s a character, a persona, which he creates through his poetry, and it’s very persuasive because it’s consistent across a lot of the poems. But we should be wary of thinking that this character in the poem actually is Horace. To appreciate the poem, we don’t need to believe that Horace really was staying in a seaside villa on the Bay of Naples on a winter’s day with a Greek slavegirl called Leuconoe. This is not history or autobiography. It’s art, and we need to take it with a big pinch of salt.
There’s a great deal more that we could say about this poem, in relation to the word order, the agricultural metaphors, the role of the gods, the sound effects, etc. And it’s only a short poem! One of the problems people run into at this stage is feeling that there’s nothing more to say: but if you really look at a poem, questioning the choices that the poet has made, you’ll always spot something!
A lot of the points I’ve made here (particularly in relation to metre) have been inspired by David West’s wonderful edition of Horace, Odes 1. It’s pretty expensive, but if you get the chance, do pick up a copy. It’s the most accessible and readable introduction to Horace that there is, and it will really help you with the Latin.
I hope this discussion of Ode 1.11 has helped you to make sense of Latin poetry appreciation – or at least has highlighted some of the reasons why you might find the process confusing!
(You might want to follow Horace’s advice now. Break out the wine…!)
If you’ve found this helpful, do check out the ongoing Comfort Classics series, featuring text interviews with Classics enthusiasts from all over the world, including academics, museum curators, teachers, authors and artists. You might particularly enjoy Llewelyn Morgan’s thoughts on Horace – and do check out his blogpost on ‘carpe diem’!
And this is me, reading one of Horace’s poems from Book 3 of his Odes for the Actors of Dionysus Daily Dose…
#DailyDose we're delighted to cont. #Contemplation #Reflection #SelfCare week
with a reading from Dr. Cora Beth Knowles @drcorabeth associate lecturer @OpenUniversity and the mind behind #ComfortClassics.
Horace Odes II: Vatis Amici
In the preface to Horace Odes II: Vatis Amici, West reiterates the aim proposed in Horace Odes I: Carpe Diem (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995) of making Horace’s lyric greatness accessible to non-Latinists and to “young people who have to study the poems” (v). As he did in Carpe Diem, West also means to challenge current readings. Vatis Amici follows the format of Carpe Diem, presenting the Latin text (with six variations from Wickham’s OCT) with West’s English translation (“slightly adjusted,” v, from his Complete Odes and Epodes of Horace. Oxford, 1997) and a commentary accompanying each poem “to describe how the poetry works” (v). The preface is followed by an introduction with sections devoted to Horace’s life (3 pg.), the odes of Book II (6.5 pg.), and a brief (4.5 pg.) discussion of the music of the poems. The introduction offers a clear and concise overview of West’s reading of the book (and students should perhaps consult the paragraph pertinent to each poem before they tackle the commentary proper) he groups the poems according to Horatian themes (with some poems belonging to more than one category) of politics, love, friendship, carpe diem, ethics, and poetry. A list of works cited, a catalogue briefly identifying authors named in the commentary, and an index of topics close the volume.
Although West does not offer a sustained discussion of the methods or goals he applied in translating, the translations themselves testify that he has chosen fidelity to Horace’s words rather than a free rendering of Horace’s sense, as Ferry’s recent translation (1997) or imitation of the meter, as in Lee’s 1998 rendition. The translations at times read like well-rendered and precise prose divided into verses for example, Od. 2.5 opens thus:
She’s not broken in yet and her neck hasn’t the strength
To bear the yoke. She can’t share duties
With a partner yet or bear the weight
Of a bull plunging into love.
In his discussion of Od. 2.12 lines 25-28, West confirms the evidence from the translations. The final stanza runs as follows:
cum flagrantia detorquet ad oscula
cervicem aut facili saevitia negat,
quae poscente magis gaudeat eripi,
interdum rapere occupet?
when she bends down her neck to burning kisses,
or cruelly teases by refusing them, though she enjoys
stolen kisses more than the one who asks for them,
and sometimes is quick to steal them herself.
He calls his own translation “labored” and compares it with that of Shepherd (1983), which he judges “accurate, but not a pleasure to read,” and with Mitchie’s (1964), which he says is “a joy to read, and close to the Latin, but not close enough for a reader who wants to know what Horace has said” (87).
In the course of the book West offers his readers a wealth of information on each poem and addresses topics important to understanding Horace’s poetry. Observations on what makes a particular poem “Horatian” are interwoven with his analyses in such a way that particular details add to West’s presentation of the overall texture of the corpus. The commentary often notes genre (e.g., recusatio, 80, curse poetry, 91, hymnic style, 59) and literary devices (e.g., schema Horatianum, 24) and is enriched by frequent discussions of context, language, imagery, metaphor, sound. References — ranging from brief citations to relatively lengthy discussions — to Horace’s Greek predecessors, to Lucretius, Virgil, and Catullus (among others) as well as to other poems in the Horatian corpus lend perspective. Citations from Greek authors are presented in English translation the Latin verses accompany translated citations from Latin authors. Lucretius’s influence on Horace is treated with particular care and skill. Synopses of the work of other scholars are sometimes invoked as background for West’s own readings.
In explicating structure, West’s is especially attentive to “characteristic Horatian modulations from topic to topic and tone to tone” (xvii). At times these modulations of tone are pressed into service to explain difficult poems, with Horace’s sense of humor accounting for some poems often deemed odd or difficult. Od. 2.19, for example, is by turns burlesque, serious, then burlesque again: “If these comments are right, the first and last stanza of this poem are irreverent, and the second stanza is a serious statement of the role of the divine in the composition of poetry. This is an extraordinary suggestion, but then Horace is an extraordinary poet” (140). A similar mixture of humor and gravity explains Od. 2.20, where self-deprecating wit softens Horace’s proclamations of his success (145).
Abounding good humor exonerates Horace from charges of being crude, morose, or insensitive. In his portrait of an amorous and dancing Licymnia in Od. 2.12, Horace good-naturedly jokes about his patron’s notorious love for his wife” (86). Od. 2.14 is not gloomy, as many critics hold, but “on close study … turns out to have a lightness of tone and to be full of humor” (98). Against critics who argue that Od. 2.17 depicts Maecenas as “a morbid hypochondriac” (120), West presents the poem as a lighthearted encouragement to a recovering Maecenas not to worry about his health it expresses “pure friendship, totally innocent of criticism or displeasure” (127). West’s exploration of Horace’s jocularity in these poems is so pervasive that under “humor” in the Index of Topics is written simply “passim.” The readings which follow from West’s presentation of the rich vein of Horatian humor are both valuable in themselves and likely to commend the poems to fledgling Horatians, who often find the Odes humorless and confusing.
Classifying 13 of the 20 poems as “ad hominem poetry” (4), West identifies, where possible, the addressee as fully as evidence allows. Septimius ( Od. 2.7) and Grosphus ( Od. 2.16) are exceptions West does not mention Epist. 1.9, Epist. 1.12, or Nisbet and Hubbard’s researches into the Grosphi. From the historical evidence West interprets the poems according to an analysis of contemporary events, culture and the character of the recipient and/or poet. Occasionally he wants to have it both ways: the poems represent “real life” (68) except when real life gets in the way of his portrait of Horace. So, for example, West attacks Davis’s (1991) reading of Od. 1.38 as a metaphor for literary composition (65-67) as a prelude to his own reading of Od. 2.9 as completely literary: “The difference between 1.38 and 2.9 is that 1.38 works superbly as a poem taken to mean what it says, but if we take 2.9 to mean that Horace is telling Valgius to stop mourning his beloved, and write a panegyric of Augustus instead, it is crass, insensitive, nauseating, and therefore we are wrong” (67).
West paints a traditional portrait of Horace as a man of personal and political astuteness devoted to friendship ( Od. 2.7, 2.6, 2.17, 2.12), to ethical thought in general ( Od. 2.16, 2.18) and especially to living in the present ( Od. 2.11, 2.3, 2.14), and to his art ( Od. 2.9, 2.13, 2.19, 2.20). West’s Horace is also an unquestioning and untroubled supporter of Augustus. Six odes are categorized as primarily political ( Od. 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.7, 2.10, 2.15). Horace is termed “an Augustan court poet” and “among other things, a praise poet [whose] patron was Maecenas” (xii). Against those who find criticisms of Maecenas beneath the surface of the poems, West affirms the abiding affection of poet and patron: “patronage and friendship can subsist together and great art is sometimes financially rewarded” (xv). Questions as to whether the poetry criticizes Augustus “could be debated, but they are all superficial and insensitive” (12).
West’s Horace is pretty emphatically not a lover. Lyric demands love as an Augustan poet filling a “gap in the Augustan renaissance,” Horace writes only as “an amused observer of the experiences of others” (xv). He himself, as West concludes in the introduction’s brief discussion of Od. 2.4, “of course, is past all that … he is over 40” (xiv). The poet does indeed end his poem to Xanthias by saying at over 40 he is past falling in love, but even if we take this statement as sincere (how then to explain, for example, Od. 4.1?) and not part of Horace’s lyric argument, surely we should not assume all the love odes were written when Horace was past 40, past falling in love? Again in Od. 2.5 West offers us a “cool, detached, sophisticated, ironic” (39) Horace who plays the role of praeceptor amoris, discouraging an overly amorous lover from a premature lust.
Generally West is quite reticent about sex in the odes. In translating Horace’s impatient summons to Lyde in Od. 2.11, West omits scortum, transferring the epithet devium to her house instead ( quis devium scortum eliciet domo Lyden ? becomes “Won’t someone tempt Lyde/ from her secluded home,” 74-75). West comments “Lyde is no lady of the street, but … was so prosperous that she could afford to live in a secluded area of Rome” (76) — the Latin-less reader is left to scratch her head and wonder what is going on. West is generally alert to Horace’s sense of humor it’s too bad he passed by the wit of the paradoxical devium scortum.
West bristles at what he sees as overly erotic interpretations of Od. 2.5: “it is absurd to press all these metaphorical details into sexual service” (36). If the images of poem have been overly “milked for their sexual application” (36), West seems to go too far in the other direction. In Od. 2.8, he clearly enjoys setting the record straight on the role of smell in sexuality ( tua ne retardet aura maritos, 24). We need not share the offence taken by some scholars, however, since the whole thing is a joke, a literary inversion of the motif of the betrayed woman, and anyway “Horace did not say these things to any woman. Barine is not a credible person, but a poetic creation. She never existed” (60). Well, maybe, but how does West know this?
Vatis Amici, unlike Carpe Diem, addresses literary theory, categorized as “worse than a waste of words”: “My own theory is that the duty of those who write about literature is to point out what is there and, where necessary, explain it historically. The target is to understand the texts as they were understood by contemporary readers” (v). Nisbet and Hubbard’s commentary, cited on virtually every poem, is held up as a foil to literary theory. Under specific attack are metapoetry (65-67) and intertextuality (44-49). The polemic on intertextuality seems particularly out of place and of little profit to the proposed audience. Better, it seems to me, to persuade on the strength of one’s own readings rather than to vituperate the approaches of others, especially in a book aimed at the general reader.
West’s objective in Vatis Amici — introducing Horace to the uninitiated while disputing current interpretations — demands a book clear and elementary enough to be read by high-school students, yet sophisticated enough to challenge scholarly opinion — a formidable task. At times I got the feeling that I was listening to an undergraduate lecture to which visiting scholars had been invited. I was happy to be in the audience — West’s command the poems themselves and their cultural and historical context is truly impressive, his readings of the poems thought-provoking, the narrative tight and well written. On occasion I got the feeling he was talking to the invited eavesdroppers more than his stated audience and I fretted a bit about students and general readers getting mired down by some comments — particularly polemical ones. The challenge will be, nonetheless, profitably accepted, and Horatii studiosi will be much enriched by West’s contribution.
Davis, G. (1991). Polyhymnia: The Rhetoric of Horatian Lyric Discourse. Berkeley.
The Odes of Horace
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Now and Always,
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Horace: The Odes
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Horace fully exploited the metrical possibilities offered to him by Greek lyric verse. I have followed the original Latin metre in all cases, giving a reasonably close English version of Horace’s strict forms. Rhythm not rhyme is the essence. Please try reading slowly to identify the rhythm of the first verse of each poem, before reading the whole poem through. Counting syllables, and noting the natural rhythm of individual phrases, may help. Those wishing to understand the precise scansion of Latin lyric verse should consult a specialist text. The Collins Latin Dictionary, for example, includes a good summary. The metres used by Horace in each of the Odes, giving the standard number of syllables per line only, are listed at the end of this text (see the Index below).
- Translator’s Note
- BkII:I To Pollio, Writing His History of the Civil Wars
- BkII:II Money
- BkII:III One Ending
- BkII:IV Loving A Servant Girl
- BkII:V Be Patient
- BkII:VI Tibur and Tarentum
- BkII:VII A Friend Home From the Wars
- BkII:VIII Faithless Barine
- BkII:IX Stop Weeping
- BkII:X The Golden Mean
- BkII:XI Don’t Ask
- BkII:XII Terentia’s Singing
- BkII:XIII Nearly, Tree
- BkII:XIV Eheu Fugaces
- BkII:XV Excess
- BkII:XVI Contentment
- BkII:XVII We’ll Go Together
- BkII:XVIII Vain Riches
- BkII:XIX To Bacchus
- BkII:XX Poetic Immortality
- Index of First Lines
- Metres Used in Book II.
BkII:I To Pollio, Writing His History of the Civil Wars
You ’re handling the Civil Wars, since Metellus
was Consul, the causes, errors, and stages,
Fortune’s game, and the heavy friendships
of princes, and the un-expiated
stain of blood over various weapons,
a task that’s filled with dangerous pitfalls,
so that you’re walking over embers
hidden under the treacherous ashes.
Don’t let the Muse of dark actions be long away
from the theatre: soon, when you’ve finished writing
public events, reveal your great gifts
again in Athenian tragedy,
you famous defendant of troubled clients,
Pollio , support of the Senate’s councils,
whom the laurel gave lasting glory
in the form of your Dalmatian triumph.
Already you’re striking our ears with the sounds,
the menace of blaring horns, and the trumpets,
already the glitter of weapons
terrifies horses, and riders’ faces.
Now I seem to hear magnificent leaders,
heads darkened, but not with inglorious dust,
and all the lands of earth are subdued,
but not implacable Cato’s spirit.
Juno, and those gods friendly to Africa,
who, powerless to avenge the land, withdrew,
make funeral offerings to Jugurtha,
of the grandchildren of his conquerors.
What fields are not enriched with the blood of Rome,
to bear witness with their graves to this impious
struggle of ours, and the sound, even heard
by the Persians, of Italy’s ruin?
What river or pool is ignorant of these
wretched wars? What sea has Roman slaughter failed
to discolour, and show me the shores
that are, as yet, still unstained by our blood.
But Muse, lest you dare to leave happy themes,
and take up Simonides’ dirges again,
search out a lighter plectrum’s measures,
with me, in some deep cavern of Venus.
Crispus , silver concealed in the greedy earth
has no colour, and you are an enemy
to all such metal unless, indeed, it gleams
Proculeius will be famous in distant
ages for his generous feelings towards
his brothers: enduring fame will carry him
You may rule a wider kingdom by taming
a greedy spirit, than by joining Spain
to far-off Libya, while Carthaginians
A fatal dropsy grows worse with indulgence,
the patient can’t rid himself of thirst unless
his veins are free of illness, and his pale flesh
Though Phraates is back on the Armenian
throne, Virtue, differing from the rabble, excludes
him from the blessed, and instructs the people
instead conferring power, and security
of rule, and lasting laurels, on him alone
who can pass by enormous piles of treasure
BkII:III One Ending
When things are troublesome, always remember,
keep an even mind, and in prosperity
be careful of too much happiness:
since my Dellius, you’re destined to die,
whether you live a life that’s always sad,
or reclining, privately, on distant lawns,
in one long holiday, take delight
in drinking your vintage Falernian.
Why do tall pines, and white poplars, love to merge
their branches in the hospitable shadows?
Why do the rushing waters labour
to hurry along down the winding rivers?
Tell them to bring us the wine, and the perfume,
and all-too-brief petals of lovely roses,
while the world, and the years, and the dark
threads of the three fatal sisters allow.
You’ll leave behind all those meadows you purchased,
your house, your estate, yellow Tiber washes,
you’ll leave them behind, your heir will own
those towering riches you’ve piled so high.
Whether you’re rich, of old Inachus’s line,
or live beneath the sky, a pauper, blessed with
humble birth, it makes no difference:
you’ll be pitiless Orcus’s victim.
We’re all being driven to a single end,
all our lots are tossed in the urn, and, sooner
or later, they’ll emerge, and seat us
in Charon’s boat for eternal exile.
BkII:IV Loving A Servant Girl
Phocian Xanthis, don’t be ashamed of love
for your serving-girl. Once before, Briseis
the Trojan slave with her snow-white skin stirred
and captive Tecmessa’s loveliness troubled
her master Ajax, the son of Telamon:
and Agamemnon, in his mid-triumph, burned
while the barbarian armies, defeated
in Greek victory, and the loss of Hector,
handed Troy to the weary Thessalians,
You don’t know your blond Phyllis hasn’t parents
who are wealthy, and might grace their son-in-law.
Surely she’s royally born, and grieves at her
Believe that the girl you love’s not one who comes
from the wicked masses, that one so faithful
so averse to gain, couldn’t be the child of
I’m unbiased in praising her arms and face,
and shapely ankles: reject all suspicion
of one whose swiftly vanishing life has known
BkII:V Be Patient
She ’s not ready to bear a yoke on her bowed
neck yet, she’s not yet equal to the duty
of coupling, or bearing the heavy
weight of a charging bull in the mating act.
The thoughts of your heifer are on green pastures,
on easing her burning heat in the river,
and sporting with the eager calves
in the depths of moist willow plantations.
Forget this passion of yours for the unripe
grape: autumn, the season of many-colours,
will soon be dyeing bluish clusters
a darker purple, on the vine, for you.
Soon she’ll pursue you, since fierce time rushes on
and will add to her the years it takes from you,
soon Lalage herself will be eager
to search you out as a husband, Lalage,
beloved as shy Pholoë was not, nor your
Chloris , with shoulders gleaming white, like a clear
moon shining over a midnight sea,
nor Cnidian Gyges, that lovely boy,
whom you could insert in a choir of girls,
and the wisest of strangers would fail to tell
the difference, with him hidden behind
his flowing hair, and ambiguous looks.
BkII:VI Tibur and Tarentum
Septimus , you, who are prepared to visit
Cadiz with me, and its tribes (they’re not used
to bearing our yoke) and barbarous Syrtes,
I’d rather Tibur, founded by men of Greece,
were my home when I’m old, let it be my goal,
when I’m tired of the seas, and the roads, and all
But if the cruel Fates deny me that place,
I’ll head for the river Galaesus, sweet
with its precious sheep, on Spartan fields, once ruled
That corner of earth is the brightest to me,
where the honey gives nothing away to that
of Hymettus, and its olives compete with
where Jupiter grants a lengthy spring, and mild
winters, and Aulon’s hill-slopes, dear to fertile
Bacchus, are filled with least envy for those rich
That place, and its lovely heights, call out to me,
to you: and there’ll you’ll scatter your debt of sad
tears, over the still-glowing ashes of this,
BkII:VII A Friend Home From the Wars
O Pompey, often led, with me, by Brutus,
the head of our army, into great danger,
who’s sent you back, as a citizen,
to your country’s gods and Italy’s sky,
Pompey, the very dearest of my comrades,
with whom I’ve often drawn out the lingering
day in wine, my hair wreathed, and glistening
with perfumed balsam, of Syrian nard?
I was there at Philippi, with you, in that
headlong flight, sadly leaving my shield behind,
when shattered Virtue, and what threatened
from an ignoble purpose, fell to earth.
While in my fear Mercury dragged me, swiftly,
through the hostile ranks in a thickening cloud:
the wave was drawing you back to war,
carried once more by the troubled waters.
So grant Jupiter the feast he’s owed, and stretch
your limbs, wearied by long campaigning, under
my laurel boughs, and don’t spare the jars
that were destined to be opened by you.
Fill the smooth cups with Massic oblivion,
pour out the perfume from generous dishes,
Who’ll hurry to weave the wreathes for us
of dew-wet parsley or pliant myrtle?
Who’ll throw high Venus at dice and so become
the master of drink? I’ll rage as insanely
as any Thracian: It’s sweet to me
to revel when a friend is home again.
BkII:VIII Faithless Barine
If any punishment ever visited
you, Barine, for all your perjuries, if you
were ever harmed at all by a darkened tooth,
I’d trust you. But no sooner have you bound your
faithless soul by promises, than you appear
much lovelier, and shine out, as everyone’s
It helps you to swear by your mother’s buried
ashes, by all night’s silent constellations,
by the heavens, and the gods, who are free from
Venus herself smiles at it all, yes she does:
the artless Nymphs, smile too, and cruel Cupid,
who’s always sharpening his burning arrows
Add that all our youths are being groomed for you,
groomed as fresh slaves, while none of your old lovers
leave the house of their impious mistress, as
All the mothers fear you, because of their sons,
and the thrifty old fathers, and wretched brides,
who once were virgins, in case your radiance
BkII:IX Stop Weeping
The rain doesn’t fall from the clouds forever
on the sodden fields, and capricious storm-winds
don’t always trouble the Caspian
waters, nor does the solid ice linger,
Valgius , dear friend of mine, through all twelve months,
and the oak woods of Garganus aren’t always
trembling, because of the northern gales,
or the ash trees stripped of their foliage:
But you’re always pursuing in tearful ways
the loss of your Mystes, and your endearments
don’t ebb with the evening star’s rising
or when it sinks before the swift sunrise.
Yet Nestor, who lived for three generations,
didn’t mourn his beloved Antilochus,
every moment, nor were the youthful
Troilus’s Trojan parents and sisters,
always weeping. Stop your unmanly grieving
now, and let’s sing about Augustus Caesar’s
new trophies instead, the ice-bound Mount
Niphates , and the Persian waters,
with its flow reduced, now the Medes are added
to the subject nations, and then the Thracians,
riding over their meagre landscape,
within the bounds that we’ve now set for them.
BkII:X The Golden Mean
You ’ll live more virtuously, my Murena,
by not setting out to sea, while you’re in dread
of the storm, or hugging fatal shores
Whoever takes delight in the golden mean,
safely avoids the squalor of a shabby house,
and, soberly, avoids the regal palace
The tall pine’s more often shaken by the wind,
and it’s a high tower that falls with a louder
crash, while the mountainous summits are places
The heart that is well prepared for any fate
hopes in adversity, fears prosperity.
Though Jupiter brings us all the unlovely
takes them away again. If there’s trouble now
it won’t always be so: sometimes Apollo
rouses the sleeping Muse with his lyre, when he’s
Appear brave and resolute in difficult
times: and yet be wise and take in all your sails
when they’re swollen by too powerful
BkII:XI Don’t Ask
Don ’t ask what the warlike Spaniards are plotting,
or those Scythians, Quinctius Hirpinus,
keeps off, don’t be anxious about the needs
of life: it asks little: sweet youth and beauty
are vanishing behind us, and dry old age
is driving away all our playful
affections, and all our untroubled sleep.
And the glory of spring flowers won’t last forever,
and the blushing moon won’t always shine, with that
selfsame face: why weary your little
mind with eternal deliberations?
Why not drink while we can, lying, thoughtlessly,
under this towering pine, or this plane-tree,
our greying hair scented with roses,
and perfumed with nard from Assyria?
Bacchus dispels all those cares that feed on us.
Where’s the boy now, who’ll swiftly dilute for us
these cups of fiery Falernian,
with clear water drawn from the passing stream?
Who’ll lure Lyde, that fickle jade, from the house?
Go, tell her to hurry, with her ivory lyre,
her hair done in an elegant knot,
tied up, as if she were a Spartan girl.
BkII:XII Terentia’s Singing
You ’d not wish the theme of Numantia’s fierce wars
matched to the lyre’s soft tones, nor cruel Hannibal,
nor the Sicilian Sea turned to dark crimson
by the Carthaginians’ blood,
nor the savage Lapiths, and drunken Hylaeus
filled with excess wine, nor Hercules with his hand
taming the sons of earth, at the danger of which
ancient Saturn’s glittering house
was shaken: you’d be better yourself, Maecenas,
at writing prose histories of Caesar’s battles,
and telling us about all those menacing kings,
now led by the neck through the streets.
The Muse wishes me to speak of the sweet singing
of your lady Terentia, and speak of her bright
flashing eyes, and speak of that heart of hers, that is
so faithful in mutual love:
she to whom it’s not unbecoming to adopt
the lead among the dancers, or compete in wit,
or, that holy day that honours Diana, give
her arm in play to shining girls.
Would you exchange now, one hair of Terentia’s
for what rich Achaemenes owned, Mygdonian
wealth of fertile Phrygia, or
the Arabians’ well-stocked homes,
while she bends her neck for those passionate kisses,
or in gentle cruelty refuses to yield them,
more than he who asks likes having them taken: then
at times surprises by taking?
BkII:XIII Nearly, Tree
Tree , whoever planted you first it was done
on an evil day, and, with sacrilegious
hands, he raised you for utter ruin
of posterity, and this region’s shame.
He’ll have broken his father’s neck, I guess:
he’ll have sprinkled the blood of a guest around,
in an inner room, in deepest night:
he’ll have dabbled with Colchian poisons,
and whatever, wherever, evil’s conceived,
that man who one planted you there in my field,
you, sad trunk, who were destined to fall
on the head of your innocent master.
Men are never quite careful enough about
what they should avoid: the Carthaginian
sailor’s afraid of the Bosphorus,
but not the hidden dangers, beyond, elsewhere:
Soldiers fear the Persians’ arrows and rapid
flight, the Persians fear Italian power, and chains:
but they don’t expect the forces of death,
that have snatched away the races of men.
How close I was, now, to seeing the kingdom
of dark Proserpine, and Aeacus judging,
and the seats set aside for the good,
and Sappho still complaining about
the local girls, on her Aeolian lyre,
and you, Alcaeus, with a golden plectrum,
sounding more fully the sailor’s woe,
the woe of harsh exile, the woe of war.
The spirits wonder at both of them, singing,
they’re worth a reverent silence, but the crowd,
packed shoulder to shoulder, drinks deeper
of tales of warfare and banished tyrants.
No wonder that, lulled by the songs, the monster
with a hundred heads lowers his jet-black ears,
and the snakes that wriggle in the hair
of the Furies take time out for a rest.
Even Prometheus, even Tantalus,
are seduced in their torments by the sweet sound:
to chase the lions, or wary lynxes.
BkII:XIV Eheu Fugaces
Oh how the years fly, Postumus, Postumus,
they’re slipping away, virtue brings no respite
from the wrinkles that furrow our brow,
impending old age, Death the invincible:
not even, my friend, if with three hundred bulls
every day, you appease pitiless Pluto,
jailor of three-bodied Geryon,
who imprisons Tityos by the sad
stream, that every one of us must sail over,
whoever we are that enjoy earth’s riches,
whether we’re wealthy, or whether we are
the most destitute of humble farmers.
In vain we’ll escape from bloodiest warfare,
from the breakers’ roar in the Adriatic,
in vain, on the autumn seas, we’ll fear
the southerly that shatters our bodies:
We’re destined to gaze at Cocytus, winding,
dark languid river: the infamous daughters
of Danaus: and at Sisyphus,
son of Aeolus, condemned to long toil.
We’re destined to leave earth, home, our loving wife,
nor will a single tree, that you planted here,
follow you, it’s briefly-known master,
except for the much-detested cypress.
A worthier heir will drink your Caecuban,
that cellar a hundred keys are protecting,
and stain the street with a vintage wine,
finer than those at the Pontiff’s table.
Not long now and our princely buildings will leave
few acres under the plough, ornamental
waters appearing everywhere, spread
wider than the Lucrine Lake is, plane trees,
without vines, will drive out the elms: and violet
beds, and myrtles, and all the wealth of perfumes
will scatter their scent through olive groves
that gave their crops for a former owner.
Then thick laurel branches will shut out the sun’s
raging. It wasn’t the case under Romulus,
or long-haired Cato, it wasn’t the rule,
that our ancient predecessors ordained.
Private property was modest in their day,
the common lands vast: no private citizen
had a portico, measuring tens
of feet, laid out facing the shady north,
nor did the laws allow ordinary turf
to be scorned for altars, ordering cities
and the gods’ temples, to be adorned,
at public expense, with rarest marbles.
It ’s peace the sailor asks of the gods, when he’s
caught out on the open Aegean, when dark clouds
have hidden the moon, and the constellations
It’s peace for Thrace, so furious in battle,
peace for the Parthians, adorned with quivers,
and, Grosphus, it can’t be purchased with jewels,
No treasure, no consular attendants,
can remove the miserable mind’s disorders,
and all of the cares that go flying around
He lives well on little, whose meagre table
gleams with his father’s salt-cellar, whose soft sleep
isn’t driven away by anxiety,
Why do we struggle so hard in our brief lives
for possessions? Why do we exchange our land
for a burning foreign soil? What exile flees
Corrupting care climbs aboard the bronze-clad ship,
and never falls behind the troops of horses,
swifter than deer, swifter than easterly winds
Let the spirit be happy today, and hate
the worry of what’s beyond, let bitterness
be tempered by a gentle smile. Nothing is
Bright Achilles was snatched away by swift death,
Tithonus was wasted by lingering old age:
perhaps the passing hour will offer to me
A hundred herds of Sicilian cattle
low around you, mares fit for the chariot
bring you their neighing, you’re dressed in wool:
has stained it twice: truthful Fates, ‘the Sparing Ones’,
the Parcae, gave me a little estate, and
the purified breath of Greek song, and my scorn
BkII:XVII We’ll Go Together
Why do you stifle me with your complaining?
It’s neither the gods’ idea nor mine to die
before you, Maecenas, you’re the great
glory, and pillar of my existence.
Ah, if some premature blow snatches away
half of my spirit, why should the rest remain,
no longer as loved, nor surviving
entire? That day shall lead us to ruin
together. I’m not making some treacherous
promise: whenever you lead the way, let’s go,
let’s go, prepared as friends to set out,
you and I, to try the final journey.
No Chimaera’s fiery breath will ever tear
me from you, or if he should rise against me
hundred handed Gyas: that’s the will
of all-powerful Justice and the Fates.
Whether Libra or fearful Scorpio shone
more powerfully on me at my natal hour,
or Capricorn, which is the ruler
of the waters that flow round Italy,
our stars were mutually aspected in their
marvellous way. Jupiter’s protection shone,
brighter for you than baleful Saturn,
and rescued you, and held back the rapid
wings of Fate, that day when the people crowding
the theatre, three times broke into wild applause:
I’d have received the trunk of a tree
on my head, if Faunus, the guardian
of Mercurial poets, hadn’t warded off
the blow with his hand. So remember to make
due offering: you build a votive shrine:
I’ll come and sacrifice a humble lamb.
BkII:XVIII Vain Riches
There ’s no ivory, there’s no
gilded panelling, gleaming here in my house,
marble rest on pillars quarried in deepest
to Attalus, become unwitting owner
ladies trail robes of Spartan purple for me.
But I’ve honour, and a vein
of kindly wit, and though I’m poor the rich man
seeks me out: I don’t demand
anything more of the gods, or my powerful
friend, I’m contented enough
blessed with my one and only Sabine Farm.
Day treads on the heels of day,
and new moons still continue to wane away.
Yet you contract on the edge
of the grave itself for cut marble, forget
the tomb and raise a palace,
pushing hard to extend the shore of Baiae’s
roaring seas, not rich enough
in mainland coast. What’s the point of tearing down
every neighbouring boundary
edging your fields, leaping over, in your greed,
the limits of your tenants? Both the husband
and wife, and their miserable
children, are driven out, and they’re left clutching
their household gods to their breast.
Yet there’s no royal courtyard
that more surely waits for a wealthy owner,
than greedy Orcus’ fateful
limits. Why stretch for more? Earth’s equally open
to the poorest of men and
the sons of kings: and Orcus’s ferryman
couldn’t be seduced by gold
to row back and return crafty Prometheus.
Proud Tantalus, and Pelops
his son, he holds fast, and whether he’s summoned,
or whether he’s not, he lends
an ear, and frees the poor man, his labours done.
BkII:XIX To Bacchus
I saw Bacchus on distant cliffs - believe me,
O posterity - he was teaching songs there,
and the Nymphs were learning them, and all
the goat-footed Satyrs with pointed ears.
Evoe ! My mind fills with fresh fear, my heart
filled with Bacchus, is troubled, and violently
rejoices. Evoe! Spare me, Liber,
dreaded for your mighty thyrsus, spare me.
It’s right to sing of the wilful Bacchantes,
the fountain of wine, and the rivers of milk,
to sing of the honey that’s welling,
and sliding down from the hollow tree-trunks:
It’s right to sing of your bride turned goddess, your
Ariadne, crowned among stars: the palace
of Pentheus, shattered in ruins,
and the ending of Thracian Lycurgus.
You direct the streams, and the barbarous sea,
and on distant summits, you drunkenly tie
the hair of the Bistonian women,
with harmless knots made of venomous snakes.
When the impious army of Giants tried
to climb through the sky to Jupiter’s kingdom,
you hurled back Rhoetus, with the claws
and teeth of the terrifying lion.
Though you’re said to be more suited to dancing,
laughter, and games, and not equipped to suffer
the fighting, nevertheless you shared
the thick of battle as well as the peace.
Cerberus saw you, unharmed, and adorned
with your golden horn, and, stroking you gently,
with his tail, as you departed, licked
your ankles and feet with his triple tongue.
BkII:XX Poetic Immortality
A poet of dual form, I won’t be carried
through the flowing air on weak or mundane wings,
nor will I linger down here on earth,
for any length of time: beyond envy,
I’ll leave the cities behind. It’s not I, born
of poor parents, it’s not I, who hear your voice,
beloved Maecenas, I who’ll die,
or be encircled by Stygian waters.
Even now the rough skin is settling around
my ankles, and now above them I’ve become
a snow-white swan, and soft feathers are
emerging over my arms and shoulders.
Soon, a melodious bird, and more famous
than Icarus, Daedalus’ son, I’ll visit
Bosphorus’ loud shores, Gaetulian
Syrtes, and the Hyperborean plains.
Colchis will know me, so will the Scythians,
who pretend to show no fear of Italian
troops, and the Geloni: Spain will learn
from me, the expert, and those who drink Rhone.
No dirges at my insubstantial funeral,
no elegies, and no unseemly grieving:
suppress all the clamour, not for me
the superfluous honour of a tomb.
Index of First Lines
- You’re handling the Civil Wars, since Metellus
- Crispus, silver concealed in the greedy earth
- When things are troublesome, always remember,
- Phocian Xanthis, don’t be ashamed of love
- She’s not ready to bear a yoke on her bowed
- Septimus, you, who are prepared to visit
- O Pompey, often led, with me, by Brutus,
- If any punishment ever visited
- The rain doesn’t fall from the clouds forever
- You’ll live more virtuously, my Murena,
- Don’t ask what the warlike Spaniards are plotting,
- You’d not wish the theme of Numantia’s fierce wars
- Tree, whoever planted you first it was done
- Oh how the years fly, Postumus, Postumus,
- Not long now and our princely buildings will leave
- It’s peace the sailor asks of the gods, when he’s
- Why do you stifle me with your complaining?
- There’s no ivory, there’s no
- I saw Bacchus on distant cliffs - believe me,
- A poet of dual form, I won’t be carried
Metres Used in Book II.
The number of syllables most commonly employed in each standard line of the verse is given. This may vary slightly for effect (two beats substituted for three etc.) in a given line.
Alcaic Strophe : 11 (5+6) twice, 9, 10
used in Odes: 1,3,5,7,9,11,13,14,15,17,19, 20
Sapphic and Adonic : 11(5+6) three times, 5
First Asclepiadean : 12 (6+6) all lines
Second Asclepiadean: 8, 12 (6+6), alternating
Third Asclepiadean : 12 (6+6) three times, 8
Fourth Asclepiadean : 12 (6+6) twice, 7, 8
Fifth Asclepiadean : 16 (6+4+6) all lines
Alcmanic Strophe : 17 (7+10) or less, 11 or less, alternating
First Archilochian : 17 (7+10) or less, 7 alternating
Fourth Archilochian Strophe : 18 (7+11) or less, 11 (5+6) alternating
The works of Horace/First Book of Odes
Mæcenas ,  descended from royal ancestors, O both my protection and my darling honor! There are those whom it delights to have collected Olympic dust in the chariot race and [whom] the goal nicely avoided by the glowing wheels, and the noble palm, exalts, lords of the earth, to the gods.
This man, if a crowd of the capricious Quirites strive to raise him to the highest dignities another, if he has stored up in his own granary whatsoever is swept from the Libyan thrashing floors: him who delights  to cut with the hoe  his patrimonial fields, you could never tempt, for all the wealth of Attalus, [to become] a timorous sailor and cross the Myrtoan sea in a Cyprian bark. The merchant, dreading the south-west wind contending with the Icarian waves, commends tranquility and the rural retirement of his village but soon after, incapable of being taught to bear poverty, he refits his shattered vessel. There is another, who despises not cups of old Massic, taking a part from the entire day,  one while stretched under the green arbute, another at the placid head of some sacred stream.
The camp, and the sound of the trumpet mingled with that of the clarion, and wars detested by mothers, rejoice many.
The huntsman, unmindful of his tender spouse, remains in the cold air, whether a hart is held in view by his faithful hounds, or a Marsian boar has broken the fine-wrought toils.
Ivy, the reward of learned brows, equals me with the gods above: the cool grove, and the light dances of nymphs and satyrs, distinguish me from the crowd if neither Euterpe withholds her pipe, nor Polyhymnia disdains to tune the Lesbian lyre. But, if you rank me among the lyric poets, I shall tower to the stars with my exalted head.
Enough of snow  and dreadful  hail has the Sire now sent upon the earth,  and having hurled [his thunderbolts] with his red right hand  against the sacred towers, he has terrified the city he has terrified the nations, lest the grievous age of Pyrrha,  complaining of prodigies till then unheard of, should return, when Proteus drove all his [marine] herd to visit the lofty mountains and the fishy race were entangled in the elm top, which before was the frequented seat of doves and the timorous deer swam in the overwhelming flood. We have seen the yellow Tiber,  with his waves forced back with violence from the Tuscan shore, proceed to demolish the monuments of king [Numa], and the temples of Vesta while he vaunts himself the avenger of the too disconsolate Ilia, and the uxorious river, leaving his channel, overflows his left bank, notwithstanding the disapprobation of Jupiter.
Our youth, less numerous by the vices of their fathers, shall hear of the citizens having whetted that sword [against themselves], with which it had been better that the formidable Persians had fallen they shall hear of [actual] engagements. Whom of the gods shall the people invoke to the affairs of the sinking empire? With what prayer shall the sacred virgins importune Vesta, who is now inattentive to their hymns? To whom shall Jupiter assign the task of expiating our wickedness? Do thou at length, prophetic Apollo, (we pray thee!) come, vailing thy radiant shoulders with a cloud: or thou, if it be more agreeable to thee, smiling Venus, about whom hover the gods of mirth and love: or thou, if thou regard  thy neglected race and descendants, our founder Mars, whom clamor and polished helmets, and the terrible aspect of the Moorish infantry against their bloody enemy, delight, satiated at length with thy sport, alas! of too long continuance: or if thou, the winged son of gentle Maia, by changing thy figure, personate a youth  upon earth, submitting to be called the avenger of Cæsar late mayest thou return to the skies, and long mayest thou joyously be present to the Roman people nor may an untimely blast transport thee from us, offended at our crimes. Here mayest thou rather delight in magnificent triumphs,  and to be called father and prince: nor suffer the Parthians with impunity to make incursions, you, O Cæsar, being our general.
TO THE SHIP, IN WHICH VIRGIL WAS ABOUT TO SAIL TO ATHENS.
So may the goddess who rules over Cyprus  so may the bright stars, the brothers of Helen  and so may the father of the winds, confining all except Iapyx,  direct thee, O ship, who art intrusted with Virgil my prayer is, that thou mayest land  him safe on the Athenian shore, and preserve the half of my soul. Surely oak  and three-fold brass surrounded his heart who first trusted a frail vessel to the merciless ocean, nor was afraid of the impetuous Africus contending with the northern storms, nor of the mournful Hyades  , nor of the rage of Notus, than whom there is not a more absolute controller of the Adriatic, either to raise or assuage its waves at pleasure. What path of death  did he fear, who beheld unmoved the rolling monsters of the deep who beheld unmoved the tempestuous swelling of the sea, and the Acroceraunians  –ill-famed rocks?
In vain has God in his wisdom divided the countries of the earth by the separating  ocean, if nevertheless profane ships bound over waters not to be violated. The race of man presumptuous enough to endure everything, rushes on through forbidden wickedness.
The presumptuous son of Iäpetus, by an impious fraud, brought down fire into the world. After fire was stolen from the celestial mansions, consumption and a new train of fevers settled upon the earth, and the slow approaching necessity of death, which, till now, was remote, accelerated its pace. Dædalus essayed the empty air with wings not permitted to man. The labor of Hercules broke through Acheron. There is nothing too arduous for mortals to attempt. We aim at heaven  itself in our folly neither do we suffer, by our wickedness, Jupiter to lay aside his revengeful thunderbolts.
Severe winter is melted away beneath the agreeable change of spring  and the western breeze and engines  haul down the dry ships. And neither does the cattle any longer delight in the stalls, nor the ploughman in the fireside nor are the meadows whitened by hoary frosts. Now Cytherean Venus leads off the dance by moonlight and the comely Graces, in conjunction with the Nymphs, shake the ground with alternate feet while glowing Vulcan kindles the laborious forges of the Cyclops. Now it is fitting to encircle the shining head either with verdant myrtle, or with such flowers as the relaxed earth produces. Now likewise it is fitting to sacrifice to Faunus  in the shady groves, whether he demand a lamb, or be more pleased with a kid.  Pale death knocks at the cottages of the poor, and the palaces of kings, with an impartial foot. O happy Sextius!  The short sum total of life forbids us to form remote expectations. Presently shall darkness, and the unreal ghosts,  and the shadowy mansion of Pluto oppress you where, when you shall have once arrived, you shall neither decide the dominion of the bottle by dice,  nor shall you admire the tender Lycidas, with whom now all the youth is inflamed, and for whom ere long the maidens will grow warm.
What dainty youth, bedewed with liquid perfumes, caresses you, Pyrrha, beneath the pleasant grot, amid a profusion of roses? For whom do you bind your golden hair, plain in your neatness?  Alas! how often shall he deplore your perfidy, and the altered gods and through inexperience be amazed at the seas, rough with blackening storms who now credulous enjoys you all precious, and, ignorant of the faithless gale, hopes you will be always disengaged, always amiable! Wretched are those, to whom thou untried seemest fair? The sacred wall [of Neptune's temple] demonstrates,  by a votive tablet, that I have consecrated my dropping garments to the powerful god of the sea.
Other poets shall celebrate the famous Rhodes, or Mitylene, or Ephesus, or the walls of Corinth, situated between two seas, or Thebes, illustrious by Bacchus, or Delphi by Apollo, or the Thessalian Tempe.  There are some, whose one task it is to chant in endless verse the city of spotless Pallas, and to prefer the olive culled from every side, to every other leaf. Many a one, in honor of Juno, celebrates Argos, productive of steeds, and rich Mycenæ. Neither patient Lacedæmon so much struck me, nor so much did the plain of fertile Larissa, as the house of resounding Albunea, and the precipitately rapid Anio, and the Tiburnian groves, and the orchards watered by ductile rivulets. As the clear south wind often clears away the clouds from a lowering sky, now teems with perpetual showers so do you, O Plancus,  wisely remember to put an end to grief and the toils of life by mellow wine whether the camp, refulgent with banners, possess you, or the dense shade of your own Tibur shall detain you. When Teucer fled from Salamis and his father, he is reported, notwithstanding, to have bound his temples, bathed in wine, with a poplar crown, thus accosting his anxious friends: "O associates and companions, we will go wherever fortune, more propitious than a father, shall carry us. Nothing is to be despaired of under Teucer's conduct, and the auspices of Teucer:  for the infallible Apollo has promised, that a Salamis in a new land shall render the name equivocal.  O gallant heroes, and often my fellow-sufferers in greater hardships than these, now drive away your cares with wine: to-morrow we will re-visit the vast ocean."
You see how Soracte  stands white with deep snow, nor can the laboring woods any longer support the weight, and the rivers stagnate with the sharpness of the frost. Dissolve the cold, liberally piling up billets on the hearth and bring out, O Thaliarchus, the more generous wine, four years old, from the Sabine jar. Leave the rest to the gods, who having once laid the winds warring with the fervid ocean, neither the cypresses nor the aged ashes are moved. Avoid inquiring what may happen to-morrow and whatever day fortune shall bestow on you, score it up  for gain nor disdain, being a young fellow, pleasant loves, nor dances, as long as ill-natured hoariness keeps off from your blooming age. Now let both the Campus Martius and the public walks, and soft whispers  at the approach of evening be repeated at the appointed hour: now, too, the delightful laugh, the betrayer of the lurking damsel from some secret corner, and the token ravished from her arms or fingers, pretendingly tenacious of it.
Mercury , eloquent grandson of Atlas,  thou who artful didst from the savage manners of the early race of men by oratory, and the institution of the graceful Palæstra: I will celebrate thee, messenger of Jupiter and the other gods, and parent of the curved lyre ingenious to conceal whatever thou hast a mind to, in jocose theft. While Apollo, with angry voice, threatened you, then but a boy, unless you would restore the oxen, previously driven away by your fraud, he laughed, [when he found himself] deprived of his quiver [also]. Moreover, the wealthy Priam too, on his departure from Ilium, under your guidance deceived the proud sons of Atreus,  and the Thessalian watch-lights, and the camp inveterate against Troy. You settle the souls of good men in blissful regions, and drive together the airy crowd with your golden rod,  acceptable both to the supernal and infernal gods.
Inquire not, Leuconoe (it is not fitting you should know), how long a term of life the gods have granted to you or to me: neither consult the Chaldean  calculations. How much better is it  to bear with patience whatever shall happen! Whether Jupiter have granted us more winters, or [this as] the last, which now breaks the Etrurian waves against the opposing rocks. Be wise rack off  your wines, and abridge your hopes [in proportion] to the shortness of your life. While we are conversing, envious age has been flying seize the present day, not giving the least credit to the succeeding one.
What man, what hero, O Clio, do you undertake to celebrate on the harp, or the shrill pipe? What god? Whose name shall the sportive echo resound, either in the shady borders of Helicon,  or on the top of Pindus,  or on cold Hæmus?  Whence the woods followed promiscuously the tuneful Orpheus, who by his maternal art  retarded the rapid courses of rivers, and the fleet winds and was so sweetly persuasive, that he drew along the listening oaks with his harmonious strings. But what can I sing prior to the usual praises of the Sire, who governs the affairs of men and gods who [governs] the sea, the earth, and the whole world with the vicissitudes of seasons? Whence nothing is produced greater than him nothing springs either like him, or even in a second degree to him: nevertheless, Pallas has acquired these honors, which are next after him.
Neither will I pass thee by in silence, O Bacchus, bold in combat nor thee, O Virgin, who art an enemy to the savage beasts nor thee, O Phœbus, formidable for thy unerring dart.
I will sing also of Hercules, and the sons of Leda, the one illustrious for his achievements on horseback, the other on foot whose clear-shining  constellation as soon as it has shone forth to the sailors, the troubled surge falls down from the rocks, the winds cease, the clouds vanish, and the threatening waves subside in the sea–because it was their will. After these, I am in doubt whom I shall first commemorate, whether Romulus, or the peaceful reign of Numa, or the splendid ensigns of Tarquinius,  or the glorious death of Cato. I will celebrate, out of gratitude, with the choicest verses, Regulus,  and the Scauri, and Paulus, prodigal of his mighty soul, when Carthage conquered, and Fabricius. 
Severe poverty, and an hereditary farm, with a dwelling suited to it, formed this hero useful in war as it did also Curius  with his rough locks, and Camillus.  The fame of Marcellus  increases, as a tree does in the insensible progress of time. But the Julian constellation shines amid them all, as the moon among the smaller stars. O thou son of Saturn, author and preserver of the human race, the protection of Cæsar is committed to thy charge by the Fates: thou shalt reign supreme, with Cæsar for thy second. Whether he shall subdue with a just victory the Parthians making inroads upon Italy, or shall render subject the Seres and Indians on the Eastern coasts he shall rule the wide world with equity, in subordination to thee. Thou shalt shake Olympus with thy tremendous car thou shalt hurl thy hostile thunderbolts against the polluted  groves.
O Lydia , when you commend Telephus’ rosy neck, and the waxen arms of Telephus, alas! my inflamed liver swells with bile difficult to be repressed. Then neither is my mind firm,  nor does my color maintain a certain situation: and the involuntary tears glide down my cheek, proving with what lingering flames I am inwardly consumed. I am on fire, whether quarrels rendered immoderate by wine have stained your fair shoulders or whether the youth, in his fury, has impressed with his teeth a memorial on your lips. If you will give due attention to my advice, never expect that he will be constant, who inhumanly wounds those sweet kisses, which Venus has imbued with the fifth part of all  her nectar. O thrice and more than thrice happy those, whom an indissoluble connection binds together and whose love, undivided by impious complainings, does not separate them sooner than the last day!
O ship , new waves will bear you back again to sea. O what are you doing? Bravely seize the port. Do you not perceive, that your sides are destitute of oars, and your mast wounded by the violent south wind, and your main-yards groan, and your keel  can scarcely support the impetuosity of the waves without the help of cordage? You have not entire sails nor gods,  whom you may again invoke, pressed with distress: notwithstanding you are made of the pines of Pontus,  and as the daughter of an illustrious wood, boast your race, and a fame now of no service to you. The timorous sailor has no dependence on a painted stern.  Look to yourself, unless you are destined to be the sport of the winds. O thou, so lately my trouble and fatigue,  but now an object of tenderness and solicitude, mayest thou escape those dangerous seas which flow among the shining Cyclades. 
When the perfidious shepherd  (Paris) carried off by sea in Trojan ships his hostess Helen, Nereus  suppressed the swift winds in an unpleasant calm, that he might sing  the dire fates. "With unlucky omen art thou conveying home her, whom Greece with a numerous army shall demand back again, having entered into a confederacy to dissolve your nuptials, and the ancient kingdom of Priam. Alas! what sweat to horses, what to men, is just at hand! What a destruction art thou preparing for the Trojan nation! Even now Pallas is fitting her helmet, and her shield, and her chariot, and her fury. In vain, looking fierce through the patronage of Venus, will you comb your hair, and run divisions  upon the effeminate lyre with songs pleasing to women. In vain will you escape the spears that disturb the nuptial bed, and the point of the Cretan dart,  and the din [of battle], and Ajax swift in the pursuit. Nevertheless, alas! the time will come, though late, when thou shalt defile thine adulterous hairs in the dust. Dost thou not see the son of Laërtes, fatal to thy nation, and Pylian Nestor, Salaminian Teucer, and Sthenelus  skilled in fight (or if there be occasion to manage horses, no tardy charioteer), pursue thee with intrepidity? Meriones  also shalt thou experience. Behold! the gallant son of Tydeus,  a better man than his father, glows to find you out: him, as a stag flies a wolf, which he has seen on the opposite side of the vale, unmindful of his pasture, shall you, effeminate, fly, grievously panting:—not such the promises you made your mistress. The fleet of the enraged Achilles shall defer for a time that day, which is to be fatal to Troy and the Trojan matrons: but, after a certain number of years, Grecian fire shall consume the Trojan palaces.”
TO A YOUNG LADY HORACE HAD OFFENDED.
O daughter , more charming than your charming mother, put what end you please to my insulting iambics either in the flames, or, if you choose it, in the Adriatic. Nor Cybele, nor Apollo, the dweller in the shrines,  so shakes the breast of his priests Bacchus does not do it equally, nor do the Corybantes so redouble their strokes on the sharp-sounding cymbals, as direful anger which neither the Noric sword can deter, nor the shipwrecking sea, nor dreadful fire, not Jupiter himself rushing down with awful crash. It is reported that Prometheus was obliged to add to that original clay [with which he formed mankind], some ingredient taken from every animal, and that he applied the vehemence of the raging lion to the human breast. It was rage that destroyed Thyestes with horrible perdition and has been the final cause that lofty cities have been entirely demolished, and that an insolent army has driven the hostile plowshare over their walls.  Compose your mind. An ardor of soul attacked me also in blooming youth, and drove me in a rage to the writing of swift-footed iambics.  Now I am desirous of exchanging severity for good nature, provided that you will become my friend, after my having recanted my abuse, and restore me your affections.
The nimble Faunus often exchanges the Lycæan  mountain for the pleasant Lucretilis,  and always defends my she-goats from the scorching summer,  and the rainy winds. The wandering wives of the unsavory husband  seek the hidden strawberry-trees and thyme with security through the safe grove: nor do the kids dread the green lizards, or the wolves sacred to Mars whenever, my Tyndaris, the vales and the smooth rocks of the sloping Ustica have resounded with his melodious pipe. The gods are my protectors. My piety and my muse are agreeable to the gods. Here plenty, rich with rural honors, shall flow to you, with her generous horn filled to the brim. Here, in a sequestered vale, you shall avoid the heat of the dog-star and, on your Anacreontic harp, sing of Penelope  and the frail Circe  striving for one lover here you shall quaff, under the shade, cups of unintoxicating Lesbian. Nor shall the raging son of Semele enter the combat with Mars and unsuspected you shall not fear the insolent Cyrus, lest he should savagely lay his intemperate hands on you, who are by no means a match for him and should rend the chaplet that is platted in your hair, and your inoffensive garment.
O Varus , you can plant no tree preferable to the sacred vine, about the mellow soil of Tibur, and the walls of Catilus. For God hath rendered every thing cross to the sober nor do biting cares disperse any otherwise [than by the use of wine]. Who, after wine, complains of the hardships of war or of poverty? Who does not rather [celebrate] thee, Father Bacchus, and thee, comely Venus? Nevertheless, the battle of the Centaurs  with the Lapithæ,  which was fought in their cups, admonishes us not to exceed a moderate use of the gifts of Bacchus. And Bacchus himself admonishes us in his severity to the Thracians when greedy to satisfy their lusts, they make little distinction between right and wrong. O beauteous Bacchus,  I will not rouse thee against thy will, nor will I hurry abroad thy [mysteries, which are] covered with various leaves. Cease your dire cymbals, together with your Phrygian horn, whose followers are blind Self-love and Arrogance, holding up too high her empty head, and the Faith communicative of secrets, and more transparent than glass.
The cruel mother of the Cupids, and the son of the Theban Gemele, and lascivious ease, command me to give back my mind to its deserted loves. The splendor of Glycera, shining brighter than the Parian marble, inflames me: her agreeable petulance, and her countenance, too unsteady to be beheld, inflame me. Venus, rushing on me with her whole force, has quitted Cyprus and suffers me not to sing of the Scythians,  and the Parthian,  furious when his horse is turned for flight, or any subject which is not to the present purpose. Here, slaves, place me a live turf here, place me vervains and frankincense, with a flagon of two-year-old wine. She will approach more propitious, after a victim has been sacrificed.
My dear knight Mæcenas, you shall drink [at my house] ignoble Sabine wine in sober cups, which I myself sealed up in the Grecian cask,  stored at the time, when so loud an applause was given to you in the amphitheatre,  that the banks of your ancestral river,  together with the cheerful echo of the Vatican mountain, returned your praises. You [when you are at home] will drink the Cæcuban,  and the grape which is squeezed in the Calenian press but neither the Falernian vines, nor the Formian  hills, season my cups.
The man of upright life and pure from wickedness, O Fuscus, has no need of the Moorish javelins, or bow, or quiver loaded with poisoned darts. Whether he is about to make his journey through the sultry Syrtes,  or the inhospitable Caucasus,  or those places which Hydaspes,  celebrated in story, washes. For lately, as I was singing my Lalage, and wandered beyond my usual bounds, devoid of care, a wolf in the Sabine wood fled from me, though I was unarmed:  such a monster as neither the warlike Apulia nourishes in its extensive woods, nor the land of Juba,  the dry-nurse of lions, produces. Place me in those barren plains, where no tree is refreshed by the genial air at that part of the world, which clouds and an inclement atmosphere infest. Place me under the chariot of the too neighboring sun, in a land deprived of habitations [there] will I love my sweetly-smiling, sweetly-speaking Lalage.
You shun me, Chloe, like a fawn that is seeking its timorous mother in the pathless mountains, not without a vain dread of the breezes and the thickets: for she trembles both in her heart and knees, whether the arrival of the spring has terrified by its rustling leaves, or the green lizards have stirred the bush. But I do not follow you, like a savage tigress, or a Gætulian lion, to tear you to pieces. Therefore, quit your mother, now that you are mature for a husband.
What shame or bound can there be to our affectionate regret for so dear a person? O Melpomene,  on whom your father has bestowed a clear voice and the harp, teach me the mournful strains. Does then perpetual sleep oppress Quinctilius?  To whom when will modesty, and uncorrupt faith the sister of Justice, and undisguised truth, find any equal? He died lamented by many good men, but more lamented by none than by you, my Virgil. You, though pious, alas! in vain demand Quinctilius back from the gods, who did not lend him to us on such terms. What, though you could strike the lyre, listened to by the trees, with more sweetness than the Thracian Orpheus yet the blood can never return to the empty shade, which Mercury, inexorable to reverse the fates, has with his dreadful Caduceus once driven to the gloomy throng. This is hard: but what it is out of our power to amend, becomes more supportable by patience.
The wanton youths less violently shake thy fastened windows with their redoubled knocks, nor do they rob you of your rest and your door, which formerly moved its yielding hinges freely, now sticks lovingly to its threshold. Less and less often do you now hear: “My Lydia, dost thou sleep the live-long night, while I your lover am dying?” Now you are an old woman, it will be your turn to bewail the insolence of rakes, when you are neglected in a lonely alley, while the Thracian wind  rages at the Interlunium:  when that hot desire and lust, which is wont to render furious the dams of horses, shall rage about your ulcerous liver: not without complaint, that sprightly youth rejoice rather in the verdant ivy and growing myrtle, and dedicate sapless leaves to Eurus, the companion of winter. 
A friend to the Muses, I will deliver up grief and fears to the wanton winds, to waft into the Cretan Sea singularly careless, what king of a frozen region is dreaded under the pole, or what terrifies Tiridates.  O sweet muse, who art delighted with pure fountains, weave together the sunny flowers, weave a chaplet for my Lamia.  Without thee, my praises profit nothing. To render him immortal by new strains,  to render him immortal by the Lesbian lyre,  becomes both thee and thy sisters.
To quarrel over your cups, which were made for joy, is downright Thracian. Away with the barbarous custom, and protect modest Bacchus from bloody frays. How immensely disagreeable to wine and candles  is the sabre of the Medes! O my companions, repress your wicked vociferations, and rest quietly on bended elbow. Would you have me also take my share of stout Falernian? Let the brother of Opuntian Megilla then declare, with what wound  he is blessed, with what dart he is dying.—What, do you refuse? I will not drink upon any other condition. Whatever kind of passion rules you, it scorches you with the flames you need not be ashamed of, and you always indulge in an honorable, an ingenuous love. Come, whatever is your case, trust it to faithful ears. Ah, unhappy! in what a Charybdis art thou struggling, O youth, worthy of a better flame! What witch, what magician, with his Thessalian incantations, what deity can free you? Pegasus himself will scarcely deliver you, so entangled, from this three-fold chimera.
The [want of the] scanty present of a little sand  near the Mantinian shore, confines thee, O Archytas,  the surveyor of sea and earth, and of the innumerable sand: neither is it of any advantage to you, to have explored the celestial regions, and to have traversed the round world in your imagination, since thou wast to die.  Thus also did the father of Pelops, the guest of the gods, die and Tithonus  likewise was translated to the skies, and Minos,  though admitted to the secrets of Jupiter and the Tartarean regions are possessed of the son of Panthous,  once more sent down to the receptacle of the dead notwithstanding, having retaken his shield  from the temple, he gave evidence of the Trojan times, and that he had resigned to gloomy death nothing but his sinews and skin in your opinion, no inconsiderable judge of truth and nature. But the game night awaits all, and the road of death must once be traveled. The Furies give up some to the sport of horrible Mars: the greedy ocean is destructive to sailors: the mingled funerals of young and old are crowded together: not a single person does the cruel Proserpine  pass by. The south wind, the tempestuous attendant on the setting  Orion, has sunk me also in the Illyrian waves. But do not thou, O sailor, malignantly grudge to give a portion of loose sand to my bones and unburied head. So, whatever the east wind shall threaten to the Italian sea, let the Venusinian woods suffer, while you are in safety and manifold profit, from whatever port it may, come to you by favoring Jove, and Neptune, the defender of consecrated Tarentum. But if you, by chance, make light of  committing a crime, which will be hurtful to your innocent posterity, may just laws and haughty retribution await you. I will not be deserted with fruitless prayers and no expiations  shall atone for you. Though you are in haste, you need not tarry long: after having thrice sprinkled the dust over me, you may proceed.
O Iccius ,  you now covet the opulent treasures of the Arabians, and are preparing vigorous for a war against the kings of Saba,  hitherto unconquered,  and are forming chains for the formidable Mede. What barbarian virgin shall be your slave, after you have killed her betrothed husband? What boy from the court shall be made your cup-bearer, with his perfumed locks, skilled to direct the Seric arrows with his father’s bow? Who will now deny that it is probable for precipitate rivers to flow back again to the high mountains, and for Tiber to change his course, since you are about to exchange the noble works of Panætius, collected from all parts, together with the whole Socratic family,  for Iberian armor, after you had promised better things?
O Venus , queen of Gnidus  and Paphos, neglect your favorite Cyprus, and transport yourself into the beautiful temple of Glycera, who is invoking you with abundance of frankincense. Let your glowing son hasten along with you, and the Graces with their zones loosed, and the Nymphs, and Youth possessed of little charm without you and Mercury.
What does the poet beg from Phœbus on the dedication of his temple?  What does he pray for, while he pours from the flagon the first libation? Not the rich crops of fertile Sardinia: not the goodly flocks of scorched Calabria: not gold, or Indian ivory: not those countries, which the still river Liris eats away with its silent streams. Let those to whom fortune has given the Calenian vineyards, prune them with a hooked knife and let the wealthy merchant drink out of golden cups the wines procured by his Syrian merchandize, favored by the gods themselves, inasmuch as without loss he visits three or four times a year the Atlantic Sea. Me olives support, me succories and soft mallows. O thou son of Latona, grant me to enjoy my acquisitions, and to possess my health, together with an unimpaired understanding, I beseech thee and that I may not lead a dishonorable old age, nor one bereft of the lyre.
We are called upon. If ever, O lyre, in idle amusement in the shade with thee, we have played anything that may live for this year and many, come on, be responsive to a Latin ode, my dear lyre—first tuned by a Lesbian citizen, who, fierce in war, yet amid arms, or if he had made fast to the watery shore his tossed vessel, sung Bacchus, and the Muses, and Venus, and the boy, her ever-close attendant, and Lycus, lovely for his black eyes and jetty locks. O thou ornament of Apollo, charming shell, agreeable even at the banquets of supreme Jove! O thou sweet alleviator of anxious toils, be propitious to me, whenever duly invoking thee!
Grieve not too much, my Albius, thoughtful of cruel Glycera nor chant your mournful elegies, because, as her faith being broken, a younger man is more agreeable, than you in her eyes. A love for Cyrus inflames Lycoris, distinguished for her little forehead: Cyrus follows the rough Pholoë but she-goats shall sooner be united to the Apulian wolves, than Pholoë shall commit a crime with a base adulterer. Such is the will of Venus, who delights in cruel sport, to subject to her brazen yokes persons and tempers ill suited to each other. As for myself, the slave-born Myrtale, more untractable than the Adriatic Sea that forms the Calabrian gulfs, entangled me in a pleasing chain, at the very time that a more eligible love courted my embraces.
A remiss and irregular worshiper of the gods, while I professed the errors of a senseless philosophy, I am now obliged to set sail back again, and to renew the course that I had deserted. For Jupiter,  who usually cleaves the clouds with his gleaming lightning, lately drove his thundering horses and rapid chariot through the clear serene which the sluggish earth, and wandering rivers at which Styx, and the horrid seat of detested Tænarus,  and the utmost boundary of Atlas  were shaken. The Deity is able to make exchange between the highest and the lowest, and diminishes the exalted, bringing to light the obscure rapacious fortune, with a shrill whizzing, has borne off the plume from one head, and delights in having placed it on another.
O Goddess , who presidest over beautiful Antium  thou, that art ready to exalt mortal man from the most abject state, or to convert superb triumphs into funerals! Thee the poor countryman solicits with his anxious vows whosoever
plows the Carpathian Sea  with the Bithynian  vessel, importunes thee as mistress of the ocean. Thee the rough Dacian,  thee the wandering Scythians, and cities, and nations, and warlike Latium also, and the mothers of barbarian kings, and tyrants clad in purple, fear. Spurn not with destructive foot that column which now stands firm, nor let popular tumult rouse those, who now rest quiet, to arms–to arms–and break the empire. Necessity, thy minister, always marches before thee, holding in her brazen hand huge spikes and wedges, nor is the unyielding clamp absent, nor the melted lead. Thee Hope reverences, and rare Fidelity robed in a white garment nor does she refuse to bear thee company,  howsoever in wrath thou change thy robe, and abandon the houses of the powerful. But the faithless crowd [of companions], and the perjured harlot draw back. Friends, too faithless to bear equally the yoke of adversity, when casks are exhausted, very dregs and all, fly off. Preserve thou Cæsar, who is meditating an expedition against the Britons, the furthest people in the world, and also the new levy of youths to be dreaded by the Eastern regions,  and the Red Sea. Alas! I am ashamed of our scars, and our wickedness, and of brethren. What have we, a hardened age, avoided? What have we in our impiety left unviolated! From what have our youth restrained their hands, out of reverence to the gods? What altars have they spared? O mayest thou forge anew our blunted swords on a different anvil against the Massagetæ and Arabians.
This is a joyful occasion to sacrifice both with incense and music of the lyre, and the votive blood of a heifer to the gods, the guardians of Numida who, now returning in safety from the extremest part of Spain, imparts many embraces to his beloved companions, but to none more than his dear Lamia, mindful of his childhood spent under one and the same governor, and of the gown, which they changed at the same time.  Let not this joyful day be without a Cretan mark of distinction  let us not spare the jar brought forth [from the cellar] nor, Salian-like, let there be any cessation of feet nor let the toping Damalis conquer Bassus in the Thracian Amystis  nor let there be roses wanting to the banquet, nor the ever-green parsley, nor the short-lived lily. All the company will fix their dissolving eyes on Damalis but she, more luxuriant than the wanton ivy, will not be separated from her new lover.
Now , my companions, is the time to carouse, now to beat the ground with a light foot: now is the time that was to deck the couch of the gods with Salian  dainties. Before this, it was impious to produce the old Cæcuban stored up by your ancestors while the queen, with a contaminated gang of creatures, noisome through distemper, was preparing giddy destruction for the Capitol and the subversion of the empire, being weak enough to hope for any thing, and intoxicated with her prospering fortune. But scarcely a single ship preserved from the flames  bated her fury and Cæsar brought down her mind, inflamed with Egyptian wine, to real fears, close pursuing her in her flight from Italy with his galleys (as the hawk pursues the tender doves, or the nimble hunter the hare in the plains of snowy Æmon), that he might throw into chains  this destructive monster [of a woman] who, seeking a more generous death, neither had an effeminate dread of the sword, nor repaired with her swift ship to hidden shores. She was able also to look upon her palace, lying
in ruins, with a countenance unmoved, and courageous enough to handle exasperated asps, that she might imbibe in her body the deadly poison, being more resolved by having pre-meditated her death: for she was a woman of such greatness of soul, as to scorn to be carried off in haughty triumph, like a private person, by rough Liburnians. 
Boy , I detest the pomp of the Persians chaplets, which are woven with the rind of the linden, displease me give up the search for the place where the latter rose abides. It is my particular desire that you make no laborious addition to the plain myrtle for myrtle is neither unbecoming you a servant, nor me, while I quaff under this mantling vine.
by Yirgil he is called Grandaevus. Nereus is also sometimes taken for the sea. Watson.
Some say the lark makes sweet division,
This is not so.
And all the while sweet music did divide
Her looser strains with Lydian harmonies."
Spenc. F. Q., quoted by Howell.— M c Caul.
"Candida formosi venerabimur ora Lyaei." Anthon.
This ode was written when the affair was depending, and we may judge how Tiridates must have been alarmed, while he was afraid of being sent to Phraates, from whom he could expect nothing but tortures and deat. San.
However, this changing the strings of the lyre seems rather a poetical, metaphorical expression for the change of the subject. Fran.
The Complete Odes and Satires of Horace
Horace has long been revered as the supreme lyric poet of the Augustan Age. In his perceptive introduction to this translation of Horace’s Odes and Satires, Sidney Alexander engagingly spells out how the poet expresses values and traditions that remain unchanged in the deepest strata of Italian character two thousand years later. Horace shares with Italians of today a distinctive delight in the senses, a fundamental irony, a passion for seizing the moment, and a view of religion as aesthetic experience rather than mystical exaltation&thinsp—&thinspin many ways, as Alexander puts it, Horace is the quintessential Italian. The voice we hear in this graceful and carefully annotated translation is thus one that emerges with clarity and dignity from the heart of an unchanging Latin culture.
Alexander is an accomplished poet, novelist, biographer, and translator who has lived in Italy for more than thirty years. Translating a poet of such variety and vitality as Horace calls on all his literary abilities. Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 bce), was born the son of a freed slave in southern rural Italy and rose to become one of the most celebrated poets in Rome and a confidante of the most powerful figures of the age, including Augustus Caesar. His poetry ranges over politics, the arts, religion, nature, philosophy, and love, reflecting both his intimacy with the high affairs of the Roman Empire and his love of a simple life in the Italian countryside. Alexander translates the diverse poems of the youthful Satires and the more mature Odes with freshness, accuracy, and charm, avoiding affectations of archaism or modernism. He responds to the challenge of rendering the complexities of Latin verse in English with literary sensitivity and a fine ear for the subtleties of poetic rhythm in both languages. This is a major translation of one of the greatest of classical poets by an acknowledged master of his craft.
"This new translation promises to be a grand adventure for the imaginations of graduates, undergraduates, and general readers."—Choice
"Alexander's translations of the satires are unusually readable. . . . They project an image of the poet as a Socratic loner, edgy, irritable, ultimately at odds with the city he loves. . . . But having rendered the satires and the odes in one go, Alexander allows us glimpses of a more subtle Horace."—Tom D'Evelyn, The Boston Book Review
"Alexander's translations are accurate yet vigorous and fluent, avoiding both archaisms and contemporary idioms."—Library Journal