This poem like the one in the last blog is about money. Horace praises his own modest lifestyle and pokes fun at the greedy rich, who when they are not oppressing the unwashed masses, have the sense to come by in their purple robes to pay him homage. I don't know who Horace thinks he's kidding in this ode. Perhaps he's having a good time playing poor and living in his villa.
I will concede that the poem takes on an Omar-Khayyamic tone: death, the great leveler, calls on the rich and poor alike, and the dust of the earth will embrace us all. Still I am amazed at Horace. Could he have been so unaware of the poor? No. He often talks about them. Was it more a matter of 'duty' and 'restraint'? Duty to take care of the poor by restraining one's greedy inclinations? I do not know enough about the Roman mind to answer these questions.
Apart from the message of the poem, one other thing has struck me: Horace's frequent use of enjambment. His thoughts spill over the end of the line into the next, then the next, until the mind is so filled with unfinished sentences that it has to stride over (enjamber) vast amounts of the poem to compute the meaning. Below I have colored the enjambment of the first few lines of the poem in red.
This type of enjambment doesn't take into account the Trollope-like sentences of mind-boggling length. The first sentence in today's ode ends at line 8, but the thought is not really finished until you get to line 14 because what Horace wants to say is this: I don't have a rich house but I am talented and I am modest.
Enjambment, they say, gives a hurried, worried tone to the poem. If this is so, perhaps he's rushing before anyone notices what a phony he is.
In the ode, Attalus [Ατταλος] was probably Attalus III of Pergamos, who discovered how to weave cloth into gold and made the Roman people his heir. The blue-veined marble came from a mountain called Hymettus in Attica. The yellow marble came from Ancient Numidia, somewhere below modern Algeria or Tunisia. Laconia, today a prefecture of Sparta, produced beautifully dyed purple cloth. Orcus is a bearded giant of a god who lives in the underworld. I have decided to translate him as 'ogre.' Why not? Our word 'ogre,' some say, is a corruption of the god's name. Finally, Baia was a famous Roman resort on the Bay of Pozzuoli near Naples. Today it is a small, unpretentious town, with most of the Roman villas resting quietly at the bottom of the sea—a fitting end, given what Horace says in this ode, to the greedy, arrogant people who once played there. Horace, of course, doesn't count himself among these people, even though he must have visited there often. Once he even wrote: nullus in orbe sinus Bais praelucet amoenis . . .nowhere in the world is more agreeable than Baia.
No ebony wood or gold
in my house makes the paneled ceiling gleam, no
blue-veined marble beams bear down
on yellow columns quarried in Africa's
outback, nor have I, long lost
heir, occupied the palace of Attalus,
nor do upper-crust matrons
come by trailing Laconic purple. But there's
trust, a rich vein of talent;
so the rich want un-rich me; I don't pester
the gods nor hound powerful
friends for even larger gifts, for I'm happy
enough with my Sabine farm.
Day after day pushes forward, and a new moon
rushes onward to vanish.
You hire marble slabs to be set, with your own
funeral near, and heedless
of the grave, you construct houses, making them
go beyond the crashing shore
into the sea at Baia, poor rich thing hemmed
in by beachfront property.
What's this? You rip out the stone markers of your
neighbors and, greedy, leap past
the tenants' boundaries; man and wife are forced
out clutching their household gods,
their ragged kids in their arms. No destiny's more
certain than the ogre's hall,
rapacious and awaiting the rich lord. What
more do you want? To the poor,
to the sons of kings alike, the earth opens;
the Ogre's minion, having
seized clever Promethius, does not bring him
back for gold. He keeps control
of Tantalus, even of his tribe. Whether
he has been called on or not
to relieve the poor man of his work, he hears.
translation © 2010 by James Rumford
In domo mea, lacunar non ebur neque aureum renidet. Trabes Hymettiae ‹columnas Africa ultima recisas› non premunt, neque heres ignotus Attali regiam occupavi, nec clientae honestae purpuras Laconicas mihi trahunt.
At [mihi] est fides et vena benigna ingeni, divesque me pauperem petit. Nihil supra deos lacesso, nec amicum potentem largiora flagito. Satis beatus [sum] unicis Sabinis.
Dies die truditur lunaeque novae pergunt interire. Tu marmora secanda locas—sub ipsum funus—et, sepulcri immemor, domos struis urgesque ‹litora maris Bais obstrepentis› submovere, parum locuples, ripa continente.
Quid quod terminos proximos agri usque [tu] revellis, et, avarus, ultra limites clientum [tu] salis? Et uxor et vir natosque sordidos ‹deos paternos in sinu ferens› pell[un]tur.
Nulla aula tamen certior ‹fine destinata Orci rapacis› erum divitem manet. Quid ultra tendis?Tellus aequa pauperi puerisque regum recluditur, nec satelles Orci ‹Promethea callidum captus› auro revinxit. Hic Tantalum superbum atque genus Tantali coercet. Hic audit, vocatus atque non vocatus, ‹pauperem laboribus functum› levare. [revised March 27, 2015]
Nōn ebur neque aureum
meā renīdet in domō lacūnar;
nōn trabēs Hymettiae
premunt columnās ultimā recīsās
Āfricā, neque Attalī
ignotus hērēs rēgiam occupāvī,
nec Lacōnicās mihi
trahunt honestae purpurās clientae.
at fidēs et ingenī
benigna vēna est pauperemque dīves
mē petit; nihil suprā
deōs lacessō nec potentem amīcum
satis beātus ūnicīs Sabīnīs.
trūditur diēs diē
novaeque pergunt interīre lūnae;
tū secanda marmora
locās sub ipsum fūnus et sepulcrī
immemor struis domōs
marisque Bāīs obstrepentis urgēs
parum locūples continente rīpā.
quid quod usque proximōs
revellis agrī terminōs et ultrā
salis avārus? pellitur paternōs
in sinū ferēns deōs
et uxor et vir sordidōsque nātōs.
nūlla certior tamen
rapācis Orcī fīne destinātā
aula dīvitem manet
erum. quid ultrā tendis? aequa tellūs
rēgumque puerīs, nec satelles Orcī
revinxit [revexit] aurō captus. hīc superbum
Tantalum atque Tantalī
genus coercet, hīc levāre functum
vocātus atque nōn vocātus audit.
:: 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.