I stumbled a lot through this poem. I mistook the endings: Thracum is genitive plural not accusative. Acinaces is nominative singular not plural. Dicat is not indicative but subjunctive. Erubescendis is not the second person form of the verb but a passive participle. Finally, expediet has nothing to do in this ode with expedite but everything to do with its literal meaning: ex + ped [out + foot], that is: extricate. So, I sit here, erubescens. But what else is new?
Reading poetry is hard. Poets, as I have said before, tend to push the language to its very limits. If it’s not your native language, you’re in unchartered territory. If it is your language, you’ve got a fighting chance to figure out the nuances.
But my mistakes were not nuances. They were language learner mistakes. Even so, after two thousand years, there are things about this ode, in particular, that make it difficult to understand.
Some scholars take severi in
vultis severi me quoque sumere partem Falerni
as an adjective for the wine:
Do you also want me to have some of that ‘severe’ Falernian wine?
But others think severi is a noun:
Do you severe ones also want me to have some of that Falernian wine?
Similarly, some take beatus in line 11 to refer either to the brother or to his demise. Others say its the wound that makes him blessed.
Then there’s erubescendis in line 14. It’s like a diamond: hard and multifaceted. Does
non erubescendis adurit ignibus
she burns by fires one must not get reddened by
. . . by fires one must not blush over . . .
by fires you can’t get red over
. . .by fires when there’s nothing to blush about . . .
The possibilities seem endless. Perhaps the closest one can get to the meaning is found in Anthony Hecht’s translation of lines 14 and 15:
There’s nothing to blush about, since you only go
For the classy and hightoned . [ . . . .]
Finally, there’s ingenuo in line 15. Does it modify amore? If so, how? Ingenuus gave us our ‘ingenuous.’ It can mean ‘natural, native, noble, delicate, tender, upright, frank, candid, a free-born person,’ that is, not a slave. Anthony Hecht took it to mean ‘classy and hightoned.’ An unknown translator in French thought it meant ‘un amour honnête.’ And Niall Rudd [Loeb] thought it meant ‘you always fall for the more respectable type.’
The usual Thracian thing’s to fight
with wine cups that were born for merriment.
Enough barbarity! Keep shy Bacchus
out of this bloody brawl!
How horribly jarring: a Persian sword
with wine and lights! Friends, keep the ungodly
racket down and stay where you are with your
elbows pressed upon the couch.
Do you want me to have some of that severe
Falerno too? Well then, make Megylla’s
brother from Opus say what love wound, what shaft,
happy he will die from.
No desire to? I won’t drink otherwise.
No matter which Venus dominates you,
burns you with fires. No need to blush, since you
always fall in love with
the high born. Come on now, pour your heart out
to these safe ears. Ah, miserable thing!
Look how much girl trouble you’ve had, my boy!
You deserved a better flame!
What witch, what Thessalian drug wizard,
what god could free you? I doubt Pegasus,
now that you’re tied up, can get you away
from the tri-form Chimaera.
translation© 2010 by James Rumford
a chimaera with three bodies: snake, goat, lion
[O] sodales, in usum Thracum est [cum] scyphis, laetitiae natis, pugnare. Morem barbarum tollite, Bacchumque verecundum rixis sanguineis prohibete. Quantum immane ‹acinaces Medus› ‹vino et lucernis› discrepat! Clamorem impium lenite, et cubito presso remanete.
Vultis me quoque [meum] partem Falerni severi sumere? Frater Megyllae Opuntiae dicat, quo vulnere, qua sagitta beatus pereat. Voluntas [tua] cessat? Mercede alia non bibam.
Quaecumque Venus te domat, ignibus erubescendis non adurit, amoreque ingenuo semper peccas.
Quicquid habes, age, [in meis] auribus tutis depone.A! Miser! Quanta Charybdi laborabas, [o] puer flamma meliore digne. Quae saga, quis magus venenis Thessalis, quis deus poterit te solvere? Pegasus vix te ‹Chimaera triformi illigatum› expediet.
[Revised March 27, 2015]
Nātīs in ūsum laetitiae scyphīs
pugnāre Thrācum est; tollite barbārum
mōrem verēcundumque Bacchum
sanguineīs prohibēte rīxīs.
vīnō et lucernīs Mēdus acīnacēs
immāne quantum discrepat; impium
lēnīte clāmōrem, sodālēs,
et cubitō remanēte pressō.
vultis sevērī mē quoque sūmere
partem Falernī? dīcat Opuntiae
frāter Megyllae quō beātus
vulnere, quā pereat sagittā.
cessat voluntās? nōn aliā bibam
mercēde. quae tē cumque domat Venus
nōn ērubescendīs adūrit
ignibus ingenuōque semper
amōre peccās. quicquid habēs, age,
dēpōne tūtīs auribus. ā! miser,
quantā labōrābās Charybdī,
digne puer meliōre flammā.
quae sāga, quis tē solvere Thessalīs
magus venēnīs, quis poterit deus?
vix illigātum tē triformī
Pēgasus expediet Chimaerā.
:: 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.