In this poem Horace is back with women, his last woman, as he avows in the last stanza. This lass is Phyllis, which is Φυλλας 'greenery' in Greek. Horace is telling her about all of the festivities in honor of his friend's birthday, Maecenas, who was an important patron of the arts. Phyllis is apparently on the rebound. Her love, Telephus, whom we have met in previous odes, has been gobbled up by some rich lady who has no intention of giving him up. Horace consoles Phyllis by telling her he is not her sort of people. I suppose she goes on pouting and pining, but Horace gets her to learn a few of his? poems so that in her sweet, young voice, she can chase away the sadness.
Poetry had a far different use then. Today, poetry is silent—just letters on a page. There is no music to accompany it. It is dumb. Irrelevant. Have I gone too far? Maybe, but who would think to use poetry in today's society to calm the heart and mind? Too few, I suspect.
The Latin in this poem was fairly difficult. There are syncopated forms of the verb (meaning that the middle was skipped over) as in noris for noveris. There were ancient forms like spargier for spargi, and there were intranstive past participles which became transitive such as gravatus. Add to this references to mythology like Pegasus throwing off his rider Bellerophon, Phaëthon getting burned to death when he rides his father's sun chariot, and April being Venus of the Sea's month and you have a poem almost impossible to crack without reading the two thousands years of scholarship that accompany everyone of Horace's poems.
And my translation is not much help, I suppose. I don't explain about a celery-like plant apium that was woven into wreathes along with ivy, this last being sacred to the god Bacchus. And I have used a rather odd phrase 'floured lamb' to translate immolato agno, which was the sacrificial lamb dusted with sacred meal before it was slaughtered. Would 'mealed lamb' have worked better? No, but I wanted to make the reader stop and think about what was going on in a household over two thousand years ago.
I have a full jar of nine year Alban wine
well aged; and in the garden, Phyllis, there are
celery leaves for you to make a wreath and
there is ivy, tons
of it—with which you'll shine with your hair bound up.
The house grins with the silver. The shrine, with clean
leaves adorned, cries out to be sprinkled with blood
from a floured lamb.
Every hand is rushing around, here and there,
the servant girls and boys are bustling about,
the flames are flicker-dancing, whirling the soot-
blackened smoke aloft.
Just so you know what kind of party you've been
invited to, you have the ides coming up,
the day that splits April in two, the month of
Venus of the Sea,
as fun a day, I'd swear, as my own birthday,
almost more sacred, since by the light of this
dawn my friend Maecenas counts up the flow of
years enriching him.
Telephus, the youth you're after—not your rank.
A girl, rich and naughty, has her hooks in him
and she has clamped him tight and conquered in
welcoming leg irons.
Phaëthon burned scares away greedy hopes and
Pegasus, having thrown off the earth-heavy
rider, Bellerophon, sets a serious
example for you
always to follow what is right, and avoid
someone so different, knowing it is wrong
to hope for more than is allowed. So come now,
the last of my loves,
(for I am not going to be aroused by
other women) learn some lines by heart, lines which you'll
repeat with your loving voice, letting poetry
fade away black care.
Translation © 2010 by James Rumford
the ode in prose:
Est mihi cadus plenus ‹Albani nonum annum superantis›.
[O] Phylli, in horto est ‹apium coronis nectendis›. Est multa vis hederae, qua [tu]-crines-religata fulges.
Domus argento ridet. Ara ‹verbenis castis vincta› avet agno immolato spargier. Manus cuncta huc et illuc festinat. Puellae mixtae pueris cursitant. Flammae vertice rotantes fumum sordidum trepidant.
Ut tamen noris quibus gaudiis advoceris—Idus tibi sunt agendae, qui dies mensem Aprilem Veneris marinae findet, iure [dies est] mihi sollemnis sanctiorque paene proprio natali, quod, ex hac luce, meus Maecenas annos affluentes ordinat.
Puella dives et lasciva Telephum occupavit, quem tu [Phylli] petis, iuvenem non sortis tuae, vinctumque compede grata [illa] tenet.
‹Phaéthon ambustus› spes avaras terret, et Pegasus ales, ‹equitem terrenum Bellerophontem› gravatus, exemplum grave praebet: ut [est]: semper ‹te digna› sequare, et ultra quam licet vites, putando nefas disparem sperare.Age iam, [o] finis amorum meorum, posthac enim femina alia non calebo. Modos condisce, quos voce amanda [tua] reddas. curae atrae carmine minuentur. [revised March 28, 2015]
the original ode:
Est mihi nōnum superantis annum
plēnus Albānī cadus, est in hortō,
Phyllī, nectendīs apium corōnīs,
est hederae vīs
multa quā crīnıs religāta fulgēs,
rīdet argentō domus, āra castīs
vincta verbēnīs avet immolātō
cuncta festīnat manus, hūc et illuc
cursitant mixtae puerīs puellae,
sordidum flammae trepidant rotantēs
ut tamen nōrīs quibus advocēris
gaudiīs, īdus tibi sunt agendae,
quī diēs mensem Veneris marīnae
iūre sollemnis mihi sanctiorque
paene nātālī propriō, quod ex hāc
lūce Maecēnās meus affluentıs
Tēlephum, quem tū petis, occupāvit
nōn tuae sortis iuvenem puella
dīves et lascīva tenetque grātā
Terret ambustus Phaéthōn avārās
spēs et exemplum grave praebet āles
Pēgasus terrēnum equitem gravātus
semper ut tē digna sequāre et ultrā
quam licet spērāre nefas putandō
disparem vītēs. Age iam, meōrum
(nōn enim posthāc aliā calēbō
fēminā), condisce modōs, amandā
vōce quōs reddās; minuentur ātrae
:: Latin books by James Rumford ::
For all 102 odes purchase Carpe Diem, Horace De-Poetized, for $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
1 Intermissa Diu Jan 17 10
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
11 Est Mihi Nonum Jan 22 10
12 Iam Veris Comites Jan 3 10
13 Audivere Lyce Dec 23 09