Sunday, December 6, 2009

I owe it all to you—Quem tu Melpomene—IV:3

Poets aren't always boxers or charioteers or decorated warriors standing on the capitol steps. They are sometimes, probably more often than not in the popular mind, those who are formed, invented, moulded by some idyllic place, who hear songs in the village stream and write down the words of the wind in sighing trees. To Horace, poets can be as celebrated heros, and like heros, pay homage to their guardian angel, which in the case of poets is the muse, which in this poem is the muse Melpomene [Μελπομενη from μελπομεναι, to sing to the lyre] of Piera, a valley just north of Mt. Olympus.  It is to her that Horace owes his fame and fortune, as we have already seen in ode III:30 (posted August 27, 2009).

At that time, I was concerned with grammar and word order. I still am. But now that I am able to carry that heavy load a bit easier, I find I have other concerns: do I like Horace? Is he really someone I would like to have dinner with? In III:30, I felt that I was embarking on an adventure to meet one of the greatest poets of all time. But as the months passed, I got to know a man who was self-centered, egotistical, and as I saw in ode III:2, a wee-bit fascist. 

In today's ode, I find him tumidus, puffed up.  He seems to delight in the fact that his status has raised him beyond the reach of Envy's biting tooth. Now, that's real boasting ! — as Daniel Garrison explains in his Horace, Epodes and Odes, a New Annotated Latin Edition [pg. 348]: ". . . since the time of Pindar, an oblique way of claiming success as a poet was to claim that one was being attacked by envious rivals. An even bigger boast would be that one was becoming too big for the dente invido.

Maybe I can get past Horace's ego and his contempt for those who do not share his views. Maybe I should go beyond the man and think about the art. Is that possible? I don't like what you've said, Horace, but I love the way you've said it? Clearly, I need to do more thinking.

Once you look with kind light on him at birth, 
Melpomene, no Isthmius games 
will praise his fighting, no spirited horse 
will carry him to victory 

in an Achaean chariot, no wars 
will parade him before the capitol 
a leader crowned by Delian laural 
because he's crushed the bloated threats 

of potentates, but him the stream flowing 
by fertile Tivoli, him the thick tuft 
of forest trees will turn nobly famous 
by Aeolian poetry.

The descendants of Rome, first of cities, 
deem me a place in the pleasant choir of 
poets; already am I less bitten 
by the tooth of jealousy.

The gold lyre, its sweet sound you temper, 
Pieri, you could give, if you wanted, 
the sound of swans even to silent fish—
all that you have given is this: 

that I am pointed out by passersby 
as the player of the Roman lyre, 
that I breathe and please, and if I do please, 
that, too, is all because of you.
                                                                                                          ©2009 by James Rumford 

My Prose rendition:

[O] Melpomene, tu [virum] quem nascentem lumine placido semel videris, labor Isthmius illum pugilem non clarabit, equus impiger victorem curru Archaico non ducet, neque res bellica ducem ornatum foliis Deliis, quod minas tumidas regum contuderit, [in] Capitolio ostendet. 
Sed aquae, quae Tibur fertile et ‹nemorem comae spissae nobilem› praefluunt, [poetam] carmine Aeolio fingent. 
Suboles Romae, urbium principis, dignatur me inter choros amabiles vatum ponere et iam minus dente invido mordeor. 
O Pieri, [tu] quae strepitum dulcem testudinis aureae temperas, o donatura quoque sonum cycni piscibus mutis, si [tibi] libeat. 
Hoc totum muneris tui est, quod [ego] fidicen lyrae Romanae digito praetereuntium monstror. 
Quod spiro et placeo, si placeo, tuum est.
 [revised March 28, 2015]

Horace's ode:

Quem tū, Melpomenē, semel
nascentem placidō lūmine vīderis,
   illum nōn labor Isthmius
clārābit pugilem, nōn equus impiger
   currū dūcet Achāicō
victōrem, neque rēs bellica Dēliīs
   ornātum foliīs ducem,
quod rēgum tumidās contuderit minās,
   ostendet Capitōliō;
sed quae Tībur aquae fertile praefluunt
   et spissae nemorum comae
fingent Aeoliō carmine nōbilem.
   Rōmae principis urbium
dignātur suboles inter amābilıs
   vātum pōnere mē chorōs,
et iam dente minus mordeor invido.
   ō testūdinis aureae
dulcem quae strepitum, Pīerī, temperās,
   ō mūtīs quoque piscibus
dōnātūra cȳcnī, sī libeat, sonum,
   tōtum mūneris hōc tuī est,
quod monstror digitō praetereuntium
   Rōmānae fidicen lyrae;
quod spirō et placeō, sī placeō, tuum est.

:: 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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