Saturday, October 3, 2009

About Wine III:21

A poem about wine. What would poets do without it? Chinese poets would have no way to salute the moon. Persian poets would have no metaphor—so they say— to describe the elixir of mystics, and Horace, in particular, would pretty much be silent.  He would sing no tales of speciality wines from this or that vineyard, no wines bottled and labeled on some significant date, as is the case with this poem:

O nata mecum consule Manlio

O born with me in the time of Consul Manlius (65 BC)

[What a wonderful thing it would be to bring out such a special wine for a very special friend! When my son was born, I saw a bottle of wine from the year of my birth. It was then valued at over two thousand dollars. A fleeting thought: What if I bought a bottle of wine for my son to mark the year of his birth? Too bad I didn't.  I have missed the pleasure of deciding with whom and for what reason to share such a treasure.]

O Nata Mecum is about the joys and ills of drinking wine. Were his poem doggrel it would have become a college drinking song in the Middle Ages. As it is, I suppose in the two thousand years since it was written, it has, on more than one occasion, been quoted by drunken students straining under the burden of some demanding Latin teacher, for any smart student could see that Horace is having a lot of fun.

Scholars say that in this poem, Horace treats wine as if it were a god. His poem imitates, and thus satirizes, the praise poems uttered in temples. In one line, he speaks directly to the wine, invoking it with:

Descende Corvino iubente
promere languidora vina

Come down [like a god], since [my friend] Corvinus demands
more languid wines be brought

I suppose I should have translated languidora as mellower, but the thought of a 'languid wine' captivates me and turns mere vino into . . . a daughter of the vine, as Hafiz would say, an object of physical beauty:

جمال دختر رز نور چشم ماست مگر
که  در نقاب زجاجی و پرده عنبیست

the beautiful daughter of the vine is the light of our eye,
whether veiled by glass or secluded within the grape,
[Poem 65, line 6: my translation]

In my last blog entry, I talked about null-subjects. In this poem, Horace decides than pronouns are needed, maybe because, as scholar Daniel Garrison suggests, the pronouns help turn this poem into a mock prayer.

Tu lene tormentum ingenio admoves
plerumque duro, tu sapientium
curas et arcanum iocoso
consilium retegis Lyaeo

Such is the flexibility of Latin. Such is its plasticity in the hands of an artist. En français on compte parmis les arts plastiques la peinture et la sculpture. La poésie latine n'en est-elle pas un?

Oh là! Oops! Not so fast. Latin is even more flexible that I had thought. The ending -as in curas could mean 'you care about' or it could mark the plural of the noun cura 'care.' Endings often do double, triple, even quadruple duty. Languages are so economical.  I suppose that

curas curas [you care about the cares]

is correct Latin, but I wonder whether Romans would have thought such a sentence interesting or just plain silly.

English puts the ending -s to a lot of different uses.

It's the address he bills Bill's bills to.

And we don't think much about it.

Were I a native speaker of Latin, I would have immediately understood the function of curas in the stanza quoted above.

With merry Lyaeus
you apply soft torture 
to rather hard minds. 
You unlock the savants'
problems & secret thoughts

My prose rendition:

O testa pia, consule Manlio mecum nata, seu tu querelas, sive iocos, seu rixam et amores insanos, seu somnum facilem geris—quocumque nomine—Massicum lectum servas. [O] digna die bono moveri, descende, Corvino iubente, languidora vina promere. Non ille horridus, quamquam sermonibus Socraticis madet, te negleget. Narratur et virtus Catonis prisci saepe mero caluisse.
Tu ‹tormentum lene› ‹ingenio duro› plerumque admoves. Tu curas sapientium et consilium arcanum Lyaeo iocoso retegis.
Tu spem viresque ‹mentibus anxiis› reducis et cornua pauperi addis—neque post te, apices iratos regum trementi neque arma militum. 

Liber et Venus si laeta aderit, Gratiaeque, nodum solvere segnes, lucernaeque vivae te producent dum Phoebus, rediens, astra fugat.  

[revised March 28, 2015]
lectum: delectum, electum
promere: portare, adportare
madet: est ebrius
prisci: veteris
caluisse: fuisse calidum
admoves: applicas
et prisci catonis . . . virtus: etiam vir optimus est Cato vetus
plerumque: ferme, fere
sapientium curas; quaestiones philosophorum
vire[i]s: potentias, potestates
Lyaeus: Bacchus
Liber: vinum, deus latinus vetus, Bacchus
producent: extendent tempus
Phoebus: sol
fugat: expellit

Ō nāta mēcum consule Manliō,
seu tū querellās sīve geris iocōs
   seu rixam et insānōs amōrēs
        seu facilem, pia testa, somnum,
quocumque lectum nōmine Massicum
servās, movērī digna bonō diē,
   descende, Corvīnō iubente
        prōmere languidiōra vīna.
nōn ille, quamquam Sōcraticīs madet
sermōnibus, tē negleget horridus:
   narrātur et priscī Catōnis
        saepe merō caluisse virtus.
tū lēne tormentum ingeniō admovēs
plērumque dūrō; tū sapientium
   cūrās et arcānum iocōsō
        consilium retegis Lyaeō.
tū spēm redūcis mentibus anxiīs
virısque et addis cornua pauperī,
   post tē neque irātōs trementī
        rēgum apicēs neque mīlitum arma.
tē Līber et sī laeta aderit Venus
segnēsque nōdum solvere Grātiae
   vīvaeque prōdūcent lucernae,

        dum rediēns fugat astra Phoebus.


:: 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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