Monday, January 11, 2010

A Poem is Forever :: Donarem Pateras :: IV:8

[An index to my blogs of Horace's odes can be found at the end of today's blog. It will be updated blogly—on the analogy of 'daily'?] 

Once again, in today's ode, Horace tells us of the value of poetry.

Poetry, he says,  is better than the finest gifts, even paintings by Parrhasius (Παρράσιος  Athens, late 5th C BC) or sculptures by Scopas (Σκόπας b. Greek Island of Paros, c395-350 BC). Public tribute written in stone is nothing compared to the epic poem by Ennius of Calabria (c239-169 BC), called the Annales, in which the entire history of Rome is retold ending with the time of the Punic Wars and Hannibal and the general Scipio Africanus, who returned from the wars enriched with nothing but his name.

Like some psychoanalyst, I am trying to figure out why Horace is so obsessed with telling us that poetry is important. Perhaps he has a bone to pick with his own society.

Underlying this poem and the others like it is the feeling that Horace does not think that poetry is given its due. What else is new? Such a criticism could be leveled against American society. Just ask any publisher of poetry or do the math to figure out how many seconds of air time in any given day are devoted to Garrison Keillor's poetry reading.

Horace has a point to make and he makes it well. Poetry trumps the finest pateras (those shallow drinking saucers), the most beautiful tripodas (those three-legged stands), even words carefully chiseled in marble. Poetry makes it possible to sing of Aeacus (son of Zeus and Aegina), of Hercules, of Tyndareus (father of Castor and Pollux, protectors of seamen) , and of Liber Bacchus. 

I'd like to agree with Horace, but I can't completely. A poem may make a person immortal, but so does a pyramid.  

Censorinus, I would gladly give my friends
those pateras, welcome bronzes, tripodas, 
those prizes of the brave Greeks, but you would not
take the worst of gifts even if I were rich 
in what Parrhasius did ably in paint 
or Scopas in stone, portraying now a man 
now  a god. But I have no such luxuries.
They are not what you like. You delight in poems. 
Poems I can give and I will tell you their worth.
Public records incised in marble do not 
return to good leaders life's breath after death
nor with Hannibal's swift flight, his threats repulsed, 
wicked Carthage burned, with the one who returned 
from crushed Africa name-enriched, does marble 
show praise more brilliantly than do the Muses
of  the Calabrian. And were books silent 
on what you've done well, you would have no reward. 
Where would the son of Ilia and Mars be, 
if jealous silence had blocked the merits 
of Romulus? It is Aeacus rescued 
from the waves of the Styx  whom the poets by
the strength of their virtue, favor, and tongue  
consecrate in the Blessed Isles. The muse will
not let the man worthy of praise fade away;
with heaven she rewards. Thus does Hercules,
tireless, eat from Jupiter's longed-for table,
thus does the clear star Tyndareüs rescue 
the battered ships from the deepest seas and
thus does Liber, his temples wreathed in green vines,
bring all prayer offerings to a good end.
translation ©2010 by James Rumford 

In prose:

[Ego] commodus, [o] Censorine, pateras aeraque grata meis sodalibus donarem. Tripodas, praemia Graiorum fortium, donarem. Neque tu pessima munerum [meorum] [au]ferres. 
Scilicet, me divite artium quas aut Parrhasius aut Scopas protulit—hic sollers [in] saxo, ille [in] coloribus liquidis nunc hominem nunc deum ponere. Sed mihi non [est] haec vis; res aut animus talium deliciarum tibi non est egens. Carminibus gaudes. Carmina possumus donare et muneri pretium dicere. 
Non ‹marmora notis publicis incisa, per quae spiritus et vita ducibus bonis post mortem redit›, non ‹fugae celeres Hannibalis minaeque retrorsum reiectae› indicant laudes eius ‹qui ab Africa domita nomen lucratus rediit› clarior quam Pierides Calabrae, neque mercedem tuleris, si chartae sileant quod bene feceris. 
Quid puer Iliae Mavortisque foret, si taciturnitas invida meritis Romuli obstaret? ‹Virtus et favor et ‹lingua vatum potentium›› Aeacum, fluctibus Stygiis ereptum, insulis divitibus consecrat. 

Musa vetat ‹virum laude dignum› mori. Musa [eum] caelo beat. Sic Hercules impiger epulis optatis Iovis interest. [Sic] sidus clarum Tyndaridae rates quassas ab infimis aequoribus eripiunt. [Sic] Liber vota ad exitus bonos ducit.

[revised March 28, 215]

Horace's Ode ::

Dōnārem paterās grātaque commodus,
Censōrīne, meīs aera sodālibus,
dōnārem trīpodās, praemia fortium
Grāiōrum neque tū pessima mūnerum
ferrēs, dīvite mē scīlicet artium 
quās aut Parrhasius prōtulit aut Scopǎs,
hīc saxō, lǐquidīs ille colōribus
sollers nunc hominem pōnere, nunc deum.
sed nōn haec mihi vīs, nōn tibi tālium
rēs est aut animus dēliciārum egēns. 
gaudēs carminibus; carmina possumus
dōnāre et pretium dīcere mūnerī.
nōn incīsa notīs marmora publicīs,
per quae spīritus et vīta redit bonīs
post mortem ducibus, nōn celerēs fugae
rēiēctaeque rětrorsum Hannibalis minae,
ēius, quī domitā nōmen ab Āfricā
lūcrātus rediit, clārius indicant
laudēs quam Calabrae Pīerides, neque, 
sī chartae sileant quod bene fēceris,
mercēdem tuleris. quid foret Īliae
Māvortisque puer, sī taciturnitās
obstāret meritīs invida Rōmulī?
ēreptum Stygiīs fluctibus Aeacum
virtus et favor et lingua potentium
vātum dīvitibus consecrat insulīs.
dignum laude irum Mūsa vetat morī,
caelō Mūsa beat. sīc Iovis interest
optātīs epulīs impiger Hercules,
clārum Tyndaridae sīdus ab infimīs
quassās ēripiunt aequoribus ratıs,
Līber vōta bonōs dūcit ad exitūs.

:: 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.

Index of Poems


5 Quis Multa Gracilis Sep 14 09
8 Dic Lydia Sep 18 09
11 Tu Ne Quaesieris  Aug 18 09
14 O Navis Nov 8 09
18 Nullam Vare Sacra Aug 31 09
19 Mater Saeva Cupidinum Sep 20 09
20 Vile Potabis Modicis Sep 1 09
23 Vitas Inuleo Me Sep 2 09
24 Quis Desiderio Sep 27 09
26 Musis Amicus Sep 3 09
31 Quid Dedicatum Sep 29 09
38 Persicos Odi Sep 9 09


9 Non Semper Imbres Oct 27 09
10 Rectius Vives Sep 15 09
19 Bacchum in Remotis Nov 2 09
20 Non Usitata Oct 23 09


2 Puer Robustus Dec 3 09
8 Martiis Caelebs Oct 11 09
9 Donec Gratus Tibi Oct 8 09
10 Extremum Tanaïn Dec 18 09
12 Miserarum Est Dec 15 09 
13 O Fons Bandusiae Sep 12 09
15 Uxor Pauperis Ibyci Sep 24 09
17 Aeli Vetusto Oct 5 09
19 Quantum Distet Dec 12 09
20 Non Vides Quanto Sep 23 09
21 O Nata Mecum Oct 3 09
22 Montium Custos Oct 1 09
23 Caelo Supinas Oct 21 09
26 Vixi Puellis Nuper Sep 10 09
30 Exegi Monumentum Aug 27 09


3 Quem Tu Melpomene Dec 6 09
7 Diffugere Nives Nov 6 09
8 Donarem Pateras Jan 11 10
10 O Crudelis Adhuc Aug 29 09
12 Iam Veris Comites Jan 3 10
13 Audivere Lyce Dec 23 09

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