Sunday, May 30, 2010

Decent Help :: Ne Sit Ancillae :: II:4

In today's ode, it is hard to tell whether Horace is being sarcastic, playful, fatherly, serious, or sly.  Is he talking to himself?  Is he the one who is smitten by someone of the lower classes? Or is there a real person named Xantias of Phocis, who is badly in need of advice? Scholars can't agree.

One thing is for certain.  This poem was written when Horace was forty years old. Now middle-aged, he takes up his stylus (I suppose he composed this poem on a wax tablet) and scratches out a few witty words to say that he is now beyond looking at a girl's pretty legs. Mirabile dictu! We have already seen what he can write when the sap returns to his aged, withered frame. 

I exaggerate. I only wish, in my translation, I could have taken the time to find the right amount of exaggeration (as if exaggeration were on a continuum from less exaggerated to most exaggerated) for this poem and to capture what I think he is saying about love between the classes, between the older and the young.

I also did not find the right words to capture the humor, which goes like this: 

Don't worry, Xan. Lots of guys've had trouble with their maids. Let me give you a few examples, like from Homer. You know, the girl you're interested in is so nice she must be a closet royal. And by the way, I think she's gorgeous—arms, face, and those legs! But don't think I'm . . . . no, listen. I'm way too old.


Pergama [Πέργαμα], a plural neuter noun meaning the citadel of Troy.
Tecmessa: the daughter of King Teuthras, and mistress of Ajax, son of the argonaut Telamo[n] [Τελαμών].
Hector [κτωρ]: the bravest of the Trojans, slain and dragged three times around Troy by Achiles.
Thessaly [Θεσσαλία]: the country of Thessaly in the northeastern part of Greece, but here refers to Achilles.
Atrides: Agamemnon and the 'virgo rapta' is Cassandra, Agamemnon's prize at the fall of Troy.
lustrum:  a period of five years. 


Do not let love for a maidservant be your shame, 
Xanthias of Phocis. Before, the servant girl, 
snow white Briseis, excited haughty Achilles.
The beauty of the captive Tecmessa excited 
the master Ajax, who was born of Telamon.
Atrides, in triumph, was consumed by that girl, 
seized after the barbarous squadrons, by Achilles' 
victory, fell, after Hector, though dragged off, made 
of Troy easy prey for the battle-weary Greeks. 
You don't know if blond Phyllis' well-off parents
will honor you as son-in-law, for surely 
she mourns her royal lineage and the unfair gods.
Believe it: one you picked is not of the unwashed, 
one so true, so anti money, couldn't've come 
from a mother disgraced. Her arms,  face, smooth thighs
all I laud. But don't get me, whose age has just rushed 
to the conclusion of its eighth lustrum, all wrong!

translation copyright © 2010 by James Rumford

In prose:

Ne sit amor ancillae ‹tibi pudori›, [o] Xanthia Phoceu. 
Prius serva Briseis ‹niveo colore› Achillem insolentem movit. Forma captivae Tecmessae dominum, Aiacem ‹Telamone natum›, movit. Atrides in medio triumpho virgine rapta arsit, postquam turmae barbarae victore Thessalo cecider[unt] et Hector ademptus Pergama leviora Grais fessis tolli tradidit. 
Nescias an parentes beati Phyllidis flavae te, generum, decorent. Certe genus regium et penates iniquos maeret. Crede illam tibi dilectam non de plebe scelesta [esse], nec sic fidelem, sic aversam lucro matre pudenda nasci potuisse. 

Bracchia et vultum surasque teretes integer laudo. Fuge [me] suspicari, cuius aetas trepidavit octavum lustrum claudere. 
[revised March 27, 2015]

Original Ode:

Nē sit ancillae tibi amor pudōrī,
Xanthia Phōcēu: prius insōlentem
serva Brīsēīs niveō colōre
   mōvit Achillem;
mōvit āiācem Telamōne nātum
forma captīvae dominum Těcmessae;
arsit ātrīdēs mediō in triūmphō
   virgine raptā,
barbarae postquam cecidēre turmae
Thessalō victōre et ademptus Hector
trādidit fessīs leviōra tollī
   Pergama Grāīs.
nesciās an tē generum beātī
Phyllidis flāvae decorent parentēs;
rēgium certe genus et penātıs
   maeret inīquōs.
crēde nōn illam tibi dē scelestā
plēbe dīlectam, neque sīc fidēlem,
sīc lucrō aversam potǔisse nascī
   mātre pudendā.
bracchia et vultum teretēsque sūrās
integer laudō: fuge suspicārī
cuius octāvum trepidāvit aetās

   claudere lustrum.

:: 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.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Moriturus te saluto :: Æquam Memento :: II:3

Sumus omnes morituri.  We are all about to die. Morituri is a phrase often heard in the coliseum from gladiators addressing the emperor: morituri te salutant: those who are about to die salute you. And in today's ode, Horace ironically salutes this intimate friend of Emperor Augustus named Dellius as 'O Dellus, about to die."    

As an aside, translated word for word into Chinese, moriture would become a very pejorative term: 要死的, meaning 'damn.' Different cultures. Different ideas about death.

As for Horace's ideas about death, they are pretty clear by now. Death is inevitable. Its hour unpredictable. Its manner surprising. But above all, death is something we shouldn't worry about. 

Some scholars find this ode a good excuse to talk about les grandes idées, but I see it as a good opportunity to see Horace at his best: unpretentious and straight forward.

This ode is also a good opportunity to explain a little more about the strategy I use to understand Horace. In the first stanza of this ode, Horace writes:

Aequam memento rebus in arduis
servare mentem non secus ac bonis
ab insolenti temperatam
laetitia, moriture Delli,

My strategy is to consider each word complete in itself.

  • Aequam memento — remember the equal one
  • rebus in arduis — things in hard ones
  • servare mentem — to keep the mind

At this point, I begin reordering the phrase, putting words of the same gender and number and case together and come up with:

Remember to keep the mind equal in hard matters/things

I continue:

  • non secus ac bonis – just as good ones
  • ab insolenti – from an unaccustomed one
  • temperatam — a tempered one
  • laetitia – joy
  • moriture – O one who is about to die, 
  • Delli O Dellus

When I put this together, I get:

just as good ones from unaccustomed joy a tempered one, 
O Dellus, who is about to die.

The question now is: what do the 'one's' refer to? Gender and number and case help me make connections to the first part of the stanza. 'Good ones' must refer to 'matters.' 'Tempered one' must refer 'mind.' Thus the stanza must read:

Remember to keep the mind equal in hard matters just as [you keep] a tempered one 
in good matters due to unaccustomed joy, O Dellus, who is about to die.

I have no name for this take-each-word-as-it-comes strategy. Shall I call it "the Horace Strategy"? Perhaps. 

Psycholinguistically there is nothing new here. As we receive linguistic information our minds are constantly formulating hypotheses about what is being said. We revise and double check all along the way until we've decided we understand.  If not, we simply say, "Huh? Could you repeat that?" Being proficient in a language means being able to formulate these hypotheses with lightning speed. Although I am still in first gear on a uphill climb, clarifying in my mind what I must do to understand Horace has made things a whole lot easier.

And as an experiment, my translation below contains no capitalization or punctuation. Native speakers, have at it. Hypothesize away!


an even mind remember keep that
in steep times and when things are 
good because of unaccustomed joy
my mortal dellius

or you can live out your days in sadness
or you can treat yourself to some quiet 
lawn come the holidays with falerno 
from the cellar's depths

he the giant pine and she the white poplar
why do they love joining branches of welcoming 
shade why does the water fly struggle rush 
down the winding bank

over here wine and oil and sweet roses 
all too short-lived order them brought
while things life the black thread of the 
three sisters let us.

you'll give up lands houses the villa 
washed by the yellow tiber you'll give 
them up and the riches piled high
your heir will take

are you a rich man of the ancient inachus line,
who cares if you die a pauper and come 
from the lowest class under heaven o victim 
of the uncaring monster

we're all being herded to the same place
everyone's urn will be turned over and 
sooner or later out will come our number 
to put us on eternal exile's boat.
copyright © 2010 by James Rumford


Falernus: a famous wine of the Campania region
Inachus [ναχος]: the first king of Argos
Orcus: Pluto; some say the origin of our word 'ogre'
Sororum trium: of the three fates, the third of whom cuts the black thread of life that the other two have spun and woven. 

in prose:

In rebus arduis memento mentem aequam servare non secus ac [in rebus] bonis ab laetitia insolenti [mentem] temperatam [servare], moriture Delli, seu maestus omni tempore vixeris, seu ‹te reclinatum [cum] nota interiore Falerni in gramine remoto per dies festos› bea[ve]ris. 
Quo pinus ingens populusque alba amant umbram hospitalem [cum] ramis consociare? 
Quid lympha fugax laborat [in] rivo obliquo trepidare? 
Huc iube vina et unguena et flores nimium breves rosae amoenae ferre, dum res et aetas et fila atra sororum trium patiuntur. 
Saltibus coemptis et domo villaque ‹quam Tibiris flavus lavit› cedes. Cedes et heres [tuus] divitiis ‹[a te] in altum exstructis› potietur. 
Nil interest ‹divesne ab Inacho prisco natus› ‹an pauper et de gente infima›, sub divo moreris—victima Orci nil miserantis. 

[Nos] omnes eodem cogimur. Sors omnium [ex] urna versatur. [Sors] serius ocius exitura est, et in exsilium aeternum cumbae nos impositura.

[revised March 27, 2015]


Aequam mementō rēbus in arduīs
servāre mentem, nōn secus ac[in] bonīs
   ab insolentī temperātam
        laetitiā, moritūre Dellī,
seu maestus omnī tempore vixeris
seu tē in remōtō grāmine per diēs
   festōs reclīnātum beāris
        interiōre notā Falernī.
quō pīnus ingēns albaque pōpulus
umbram hospitālem consociāre amant        
   rāmīs? quid oblīquō labōrat
        lympha fugax trepidāre rīvō?
hūc vīna et unguena et nimium brevıs
flōrēs amoenae ferre iubē rosae,
   dum rēs et aetās et Sorōrum
        fīla trium patiuntur ātra.
cēdēs coemptīs saltibus et domō
villāque, flāvus quam Tiberis lavit,
   cēdēs, et exstructīs in altum
        dīvitiīs potiētur hērēs.
dīvesne priscō nātus ab īnachō
nīl interest an pauper et infimā
   dē gente sub dīvō morēris,
        victima nīl miserantis Orcī;
omnēs eōdem cōgimur, omnium
versātur urnā sērius ōcius
   sors exitūra et nōs in aeternum

        exsilium impositūra cumbae.

:: 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.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lolita Romana :: Nondum Subacta Ferre :: II:5

I doubt that this ode was part of every school boy's curriculum in the days when Horace was still one of the spokes of a well-rounded education, for this ode is about the sexual mores of the Romans—about themes that we moderns have only begun to talk about openly in art. You know: the Lolita stories of the past sixty years, the shocking transgender films like the "Crying Game" and "Boys Don't Cry." This ode is the kind that must have given Rome such a bad rap over the years, making a phrase like 'the decadence of Rome' sound almost axiomatic.

It is difficult to understand what Horace is saying in this ode. Some scholars see sexual metaphors and double entendres with every word. Other scholars are not so sure, perhaps because there is a depth of thought that goes beyond sexual innuendo. Horace presents us with a middle-aged man forced to admit the years have taken their toll and that the youth belong to a club he is no longer a member of.

Horace seems to be talking to someone in this ode, but I don't know who. Perhaps some friend of his enamored of a very young girl. Perhaps he is talking to himself, for he has mentioned the girl Lalage before in Ode I:22 [Jan 31 blog]. Or perhaps, as I suspect, he is talking to you, foretelling the future, if you are young, reminding you of the facts if you are old, while giving you images you won't soon forget.

A lot of the meaning of the poem hinges on line 16:

dilecta, quantum non Pholoë fugax,

which many translators/commentators read as 'more loved than flighty Pholoë' [Garrison, Horace Epodes and Odes] or as 'loved even more than shy Pholoë.' [Rudd, Horace, Loeb Classical Library].

Clearly Horace intends to make a comparison, but what kind of comparison?  Does quantum mean 'as much as' giving us:

[Lalage] loved, not as much as shy Pholoë

Perhaps 'loved not as much as' effectively means the same thing as 'more loved than,' but I see a difference, one that suggests that although Lalage is loved, she has her own special charms, charms unlike those of Chloris, Pholoë, or Gyges. 

I turn to Porphyrion, who had this to say about this line:

Dilecta generaliter accipe: a quocumque, qui eam viderit, dilecta; et hoc utique propter pulchritudinem, quam in ea praedicat praeferendo Chloridi et Foloae, quas aeque pulcherrimas fuisse intellegendum.

Generally take dilecta as: beloved by whomever sees her, prized; and this being due to beauty, which he mentions before concerning her, since he prefers her to Chloris and Pholoë, who are thought to have been equally beautiful.
I have to admit, I am not well-versed in the lingo of second-century African scholars on Horace, but the sense I get is this:

the quantum of Lalage's beauty is not that of Pholoë or Chloris or Gyges.

Obviously Horace sees something else in Lalage, something else that sets her apart from girls like Pholoë and Chloris or boys like Gyges.

And one more problem with this line: the word fugax. Does it mean 'flightly' as its root suggests, the same root that gave us the word 'fugitive'? Or does it mean 'shy,' quick to flee?  Or, as Porphyrion says, 

non Foloe fugax: quae viros fugeret

who puts men to flight, who discomfits men? I don't know.


Gyges: a boy's name of Near Eastern origin.
Gnidus or Cnidos [Κνίδος]: an ancient city in northeastern Cyprus, home of the sculptor Praxiteles.


Not yet able, neck pushed down, to carry
the yoke, to be equal partners, to bear 
the heft of a bull rushing through sex.

your young heifer's heart is in the green fields, 
fond of streams in the heavy heat of day, 
longing to play in the damp willow grove

with the young bulls. put aside your lust for 
unripe grapes. soon hued autumn will turn the 
pale blue clusters scarlet purple for you.

soon she'll follow you; life runs on snatching 
years from you to give to her. soon, forehead
out, Lalage will rush toward her mate—

prized, not as coy Pholoë, nor Chloris,
her white shoulders shining so, like a pure 
moon on night seas, nor Gyges of Cnidus,

who, in a girls chorus, would most likely 
fool shrewd guests, obscuring distinctions with 
his flowing hair and ambiguous face. 

translation © 2010 by James Rumford

in prose:

[Lalage] nondum valet, cervice subacta, iugum ferre. Nondum munia comparis aequare nec pondus tauri ruentis in venerem tolerare. 
Est animus iuvencae tuae, nunc circa campos virentes fluviis aestum gravem solantis, nunc in salicto udo cum vitulis ludere praegestientis. 
Cupidinem uvae immitis tolle. Iam Autumnus ‹colore purpureo varius› tibi recemos lividos distinguet. [Lalage] iam te sequitur. Aetas ferox enim currit, et [aetas] ‹annos quos tibi dempserit› illi apponet. 

Iam Lalage, fronte proterva, [te] maritum petit. Pholoe fugax non [est] quantum dilecta, non Chloris, ‹umero albo sic nitens, ut luna pura [in] mari nocturno renidet›, Cnidiusve Gyges. Quem, si [in] choro puellarum insereres, discrimen ‹[ab] crinibus solutis vultuque ambiguo obscurum› ‹hospites sagaces› mire falleret.  
[revised March 27, 2015]


Nondum subactā ferre iugum valet
cervīce, nondum mūnia comparis
   aequāre nec taurī ruentis
        in venerem tolerāre pondus.
circā virentıs est animus tuae
campōs iuvencae, nunc fluviīs gravem
   sōlantis aestum, nunc in ūdō
        lūdere cum vitulīs salictō
praegestientis. tolle cupīdinem
immītis uvae: iam tibi līvidōs
   distinguet autumnus racēmōs
        purpureō varius colōre;
iam tē sequētur; currit enim ferox
aetās et illī quōs tibi dempserit
   adpōnet annōs; iam protervā
        fronte petet Lalagē marītum,
dīlecta, quantum nōn Pholoē fugax,
nōn Chlōris albō sīc umerō nitēns
   ut pūra nocturnō renīdet
        lūna marī Cnidiusve Gȳges,
quem sī puellārum insererēs chorō,
mīrē sagācēs falleret hospitēs
   discrīmen obscūrum solūtīs
        crīnibus ambiguōque vultū.

:: 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.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Friend Returned :: O Saepe Mecum :: II:7

Horace addresses this poem to a friend named Pompeius. Nothing is really known about this man, but the apparent affection the two have for each other seems real and touching.  They have shared much together, and now on his friend's return to civilian life, there is cause for much celebration.

This poem is interesting to Horace scholars because it recalls a time of civil war when Horace was fighting with Brutus at the disastrous battle of Philippi of October, 42 BC. During that battle, Brutus and his pro-Republic forces were soundly defeated by the pro-Empire army of Antony and Octavian. When peace returned, all was forgiven. Horace became a staunch supporter of Octavian. Perhaps this fact is behind Horace's use of the diminuative parmula for parma, 'shield' [line 10]. Maybe Horace was saying that his opposition to Antony and Octavian was  ineffectual and, now that Octavian is the emperor Augustus, even inconsequential.

As far as the structure of the poem is concerned, I must admit that I was once again fooled by my slippery grasp of case endings. Here are two examples. In line 2, deducte is the vocative of deductus and means together with the first word of the ode: 'Oh one carried off.'  Prime in line 5 is also vocative: 'Oh first one.' Even with these difficulties, I was able, for the very first time since I started last August, to understand almost the entire poem after the first reading.


Malabathrum: A fragrant oil. Although Horace calls this oil Assyrian, it actually came from the Malabar Coast of India, where the leaves of the Cinnamomum tamala were used to make a fragrant oil that was much prized in Greek and Roman times. Today, the leaves, sometimes known as 'Indian bay leaves,' are used for cooking and for making tisanes.  

Ciborium [κιβώριον]:  a large cup in the shape of colocasia [κολοκασία, κολοκσιον] leaves, a kind of Egyptian water lily. Pliny mentions this and so does Porphyrio in his commentary on Horace. Ciborium is a word still used today, if you are familiar with ecclesiastical terms. It means the cup containing the sacrament during the mass and it is also a free-standing canopy over the altar. As for the history of this word, I might give it an Egyptian origin. There are plenty of candidates:  khbb 'pot,' khba 'lotus,' qbh 'vase,' qabw 'pot.'  What is more, if you add the Egyptian adjective wr 'big' to any of these words you might come up with something close to the cibor in ciborium. Perhaps, too, Porphyrio, a native of Africa, who lived sometime during the second or third century after Christ, spoke Coptic or even knew how to read hieroglyphs and wrote about the word ciborium with some authority.

Edonis: Edoni [δωνο] a people of Thrace, worshippers of Bacchus.

Venus: In this context, a venus was name of a particular throw of the dice, something like our 'snake eyes' or 'boxcars.' 


Ah, Pompeius, often dragged with me through 
the worst times when Brutus led the army—
who returned you, a civilian, to your 
father's gods and the skies of Italy? 
First of my friends, we'd drink wine to break up
the time, my hair gleaming with Syrian 

With you, I went through Philippi and a 
hasty retreat, not a good thing leaving 
my little shield behind, when our broken
manhood and threatening warriors struck
chins on shameful ground.

But frightened me Mercury quickly raised 
up past the enemy in a thick cloud, 
while you waves from a seething sea swallowed  
and carried back to war.

So give Jove his due a feast, and lay down
your long military service and your 
tired self under my laurel tree and 
don't hold back from the jars marked for you, 
fill to overflowing the thin lotus cup 
with Massicum to forget, pour oil from 
the large conch shell. 

Who's to rush around making up garlands 
of wet parsley or myrtle? Who's to be
the drinking master by the Venus dice?
Am I not the sanest to celebrate
Bacchus? It's sweet to go crazy over 
a friend returned.
translation © 2010 by James Rumford

in prose:

O Pompei, saepe mecum in tempus ultimum, Bruto duce militiae deducte! Quis te, Quiritem, dis patriis caeloque Italo redonavit? [O] prime sodalium meorum, cum quo diem morantem saepe mero fregi, [ego] coronatus, capillos malobathro Syrio nitentes! 
Tecum Philippos et fugam celerem sensi, parmula [mea] non bene relicta, cum virtus fracta [est] et [milites] minaces turpe solum mento tetigere. Sed Mercurius me paventem celer [in] aere denso per hostes sustulit. Te unda, fretis aestuosis, rursus in bellum resorbens, tulit. 
Ergo dapem obligatam Iovi redde, [ab] militiaque longa [tuum] latus fessum sub lauru mea depone nec cadis tibi destinatis parce. Ciboria levia Massico oblivioso exple. Ungenta de conchis capacibus funde. Quis curat apio udo myrtove coronas deproperare? Quem Venus arbritrum bibendi dicet? Non ego sanius Edonis bacchabor; dulce mihi est amico recepto furere. [revised March 27, 2015]

original poem:

Ō saepe mēcum tempus in ultimum
dēducte Brūtō mīlitiae duce,
   quis tē redōnāvit Quirītem
        dīs patriīs Ītalōque caelō,
Pompeī, meōrum prīme sodālium?
cum quō morantem saepe diem merō
   frēgī, corōnātus nitentıs
        mālobǎthrō Syriō capillōs?
tēcum Philippōs et celerem fugam
sensī relictā nōn bene parmulā,
   cum fracta virtus et minācēs
        turpe solum tetigēre mentō;
sed mē per hostıs Mercurius celer
densō paventem sustulit āěre,
   tē rursus in bellum resorbēns
       unda fretīs tulit aestuōsīs.
ergo obligātam redde Iovī dapem
longāque fessum mīlitiā latus
  dēpōne sub laurū meā, nec
        parce cadīs tibi destinātīs.
oblīviōsō lēvia Massicō
cibōria explē, funde capācibus
   unguenta dē conchīs. quis ūdō
        dēproperāre apiō corōnās
cūratve myrtō? quem Venus arbitrum        
dīcet bibendī? nōn ego sānius
   bacchābor ēdōnis: receptō

        dulce mihī furere est amīcō.

:: 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.