Monday, September 14, 2009

Quis Multa Gracilis I:5

What a famous ode this is! A favorite for centuries: une femme fatale, a young slip of a boy, and middle-aged Horace vowing he is through with love.

In this ode,  Horace dips his toe into, no, dives into erotic poetry, cleverly hiding his message multa . . . in rosa, in a 'bed' of roses.

Hiding? I suppose so. Isn't that what metaphors are supposed to do? What to make of the metaphors in this ode — grottoes (antro), rough seas (aequora aspera), black winds (ventis nigris), aurae fallacis (false winds) and sopping wet clothes (vestimenta uvida)? Scholars, Latin students in highschools and colleges have toiled over these images for centuries.  I suspect the teenagers never got the x-rated version.  I suspect, too, from the modern commentaries and translations I have read, the adults didn't either.

My gosh, maybe Horace's poems are all filled with erotic images. O Fons Bandusiae had a gushing spring, a sacrificed lamb and blood!

So what has turned my thoughts in this direction?  The words  perfusus liquidis odoribus 'steeped in a liquid odor' and their interpretation in the very early Acronis Commentarium, a collection of marginal notes on Horace done perhaps in the fourth century. The A.C. relied on some manuscripts we still have and others that have disappeared. The A.C. is not always reliable, but it did say this about perfusus liquidis urget odoribus

Pro flvxv seminali idest coitv et libidine

Of course, I'm not going to translate this. Why not imitate good Victorian practices and leave the meaning to those with the wits, and I presume, the moral armor to repel such an onslaught to common decency?  On the other hand, perhaps I shouldn't even have brought this subject up.  No modern commentaries I have read mention any fluxu at all.

Perhaps these are the dubious rewards of reading the poetry in the original.  Translators often shy away from the naked, raw words of ancient poets. Why? I don't know. Surely modern translators have their ears daily salted by rap, by TV sitcoms trying to attract an audience, by movies so filled with . . . You get the picture.  It's called hypocrisy.

I would now like to change the subject and talk about the construction of the poem, but I fear I have lost my readers' taste for the dry shredded-wheat structure of the poem, the dust of grammatical endings. They would rather lie in a damp bed of roses.

My prose rendition:

[O] Pyrrha, quis puer gracilis, odoribus liquidis perfusus, te sub antro grato in rosa multa urget? Cui [tu] comam flavam simplex munditiis religas? 
Heu! [Ille] quotiens fidem [tuam] deosque mutatos flebit et aequora aspera ventis nigris insolens emirabitur—[is] qui credulus nunc te aurea fruitur, qui, aurae fallacis nescius, sperat [te] semper vacuam, semper amabilem [futuram]. Miseri [sunt ii] quibus intemptata nites! 

Paries sacer tabula votiva indicat, me vestimenta uvida ‹deo potenti maris› suspendisse.

[revised March 26, 2015]

grato: invitanti
odoribus liquidis: pro fluxu seminali
rosa multa: rosis multis
aequore: mari
aspera: turbulenta
munditiis: elegantiis
credulus aurea: credens te auream esse
insolens: inexpectus
aurae: venti
fruitur: gaudet
uvida: umida

Quis multā gracilis tē puer in rosā
perfūsus liquidīs urget odōribus
   grātō, Pyrrha, sub antrō?
        cui flāvam religās comam,
simplex munditiīs? hēu quotiēns fidem
mūtātōsque deōs flēbit et aspera
   nigrīs aequora ventīs
        ēmīrābitur insolēns,
quī nunc tē fruitur crēdulus aureā,
quī semper vacuam, semper amābilem
   spērat, nescius aurae
        fallācis. miserī, quibus
intemptāta nitēs. mē tabulā sacer
vōtīvā pariēs indicat ūvida
   suspendisse potentī

        vestīmenta maris deō[deae].  

:: Latin books by James Rumford ::

For all 102 odes purchase Carpe Diem, Horace De-Poetizedfor $11.50 at 

For a Latin translation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at $12, click here: 

To find out more about Carpe Diem go to the blog of March 26, 2015; 
for more about Pericla Thomae Sawyer, go to the blog of November 22, 2016.

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