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
traduction explicative en français: http://agoraclass.fltr.ucl.ac.be/concordances/horace_OdesII/ligne05.cfm?numligne=26&mot=subacta#debut
[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-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.