Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Reef of Uncharted Genitives :: Caelo Tonantem :: III:5

I suspect that this was once a famous poem, one learned by every school boy and girl. In the ancient days of a hundred years ago, when militarism was on the rise and a world war was just ahead, such a poem was a beacon directing young minds to unselfish service to King and country.

This bushido-like poem is about Regulus, a Roman general who was defeated by the Carthaginians and taken prisoner. The Carthaginians sent him to Rome to negotiate a prisoner exchange, but when he got there, he called on the Senate to make no terms with the enemy. Then, honoring his parole, like some samurai, he returned to enemy Carthage, where he was executed.

The stuff of monuments, no? Of lengthy odes . . . of scripts for Russel Crowe!

Rudyard Kipling even used Horace’s poem in a short story he titled “Regulus,” written in 1908[http://www.telelib.com/words/authors/K/KiplingRudyard/prose/DiversityOfCreatures/regulus.html]. Kipling describes a classroom of young men and their Latin teacher, Mr. King, as he prepares them for their army examinations in Latin.  What?! Could this be possible? Only a hundred years ago, soldiers studied Latin, as if their life depended on it? 

Kipling’s story is amusing and tinged with that bit of reality for which I think makes him one of the greatest of English writers. As I read “Regulus,” I felt that I, too, were in that classroom being interrogated by the teacher, tripping up on Latin conjugations, heading for, as Kipling writes: “a reef of uncharted genitives.” I recalled how I had suffered at the hands of merciless language teachers, who by the very nature of the subject, could outsmart and outmanoeuvre at every turn. And, if they were native speakers, they could do so with such ease. It is easy to make a fool of a language learner. That is why, I suspect, there are so few successful language learners. Anyone can learn a language—we have all done it once—but few can stand being made a fool of time and time again.

A few notes: Marcus Licinius Crassus [ca115 BC—53 BC] was killed in the Roman defeat at Carrhae against the Persians. The shield was the ancile, which fell from heaven one day and became a symbol of Rome. A Roman citizen had caput, head. Losing citizenship was minor capitis a lessening of the head, probably because, losing the rights of citizenship might mean losing one’s head.

When Jove thundered, we thought he ruled the skies,
but now Augustus will be thought a god,
by adding the British to the Empire
     and the burdensome Persians.

Didn’t the soldier under Crassus live 
dishonored, married to a savage
and—oh Senate! oh morals upside down!—
grow old under the Mede king

with the enemy weapons of in-laws? 
This Marsus-Apulus forgot the shield,
the name, the toga, eternal Vesta,
even with Jove and Rome intact.

This the far-seeing mind of Regulus 
dreaded when he rejected the loathsome
stipulations and a precedent that 
would bring disaster in time,

if our young men did not perish unpitied, 
captive. “Our standards in Punic temples
nailed up, our weapons too, without a fight,” 
he said, “I’ve seen this plunder. 

I’ve seen the arms of Citizens twisted 
behind their free-born backs, the city gates 
unlocked and fields once ruined by our warring 
now waiting to be tilled.

The soldier ransomed by gold will, I’m sure
come back braver. Why not add injury 
to disgrace! And wool steeped in dye will not 
bring back the color lost, and

true manliness, once it is gone, will not 
be restored to the degraded. The doe 
will fight her way out of the net; if so, 
will that one be courageous

who’s trusted untrusted enemies? Will 
he crush the Carthaginians again 
in war; the idle one who’s felt the straps bound 
round his arms and dreaded death?

That one, clueless about how to live life
has mixed up war with peace. The shame of it! 
The great city of Carthage, higher than 
Italy’s shameful ruins!

It’s said he pushed away his chaste wife’s kiss 
and his little ones as one would bereft 
of citizenship and sternly laid his
manly face upon the ground,

until he had convinced the wavering 
elders with counsel never before heard 
and, surrounded by grieving friends, he rushed 
away, glorious, exiled.

He knew all along what the barbarous 
executioner had in store for him; 
even so, he brushed aside those close to him, 
turned away the bystanders,

as if, having concluded some drawn-out 
business dispute with a client, he was 
leaving for the fields of Vanafro 
or Spartan-built Taranto.

translation © 2010 by James Rumford

in prose:

Credidimus Iovem tonantem [in] caelo regnare. Praesens Augustus divus habebitur, Britannis Persisque gravibus imperio adiectis. 
Milesne Crassi maritus coniuge barbara turpis vixit et—pro curia moresque inversi!—in armis hostium socerorum sub rege Medo consenuit. Marsus et Apulus, ‹et anciliorum nominis, et togae, Vestaeque aeternae oblitus›, incolumi Iove et urbe Roma? 
Hoc mens provida Reguli caverat, condicionibus foedis dissentientis et exemplo in aevum perniciem veniens trahenti, [ni] si pubes captiva immiserabilis periret. 
“Ego [in] delubris Punicis signa adfixa et arma [a] militibus [nostris] derepta sine caede vidi,” dixit. “Ego vidi: bracchia [in] tergo libero civium retorta, portasque non clausas et arva, [a]Marte nostro populata, [iterum] coli. 
“Miles auro repensus scilicet acrior redibit? [Tu] amnum flagitio additis! Neque ‹lana fuco medicata› colores amissos refert? Nec virtus vera, cum semel excidit, curat deterioribus reponi? Si cerva, plagis densis extricata, pugnat, [idem] ille erit fortis qui hostibus perfidis se credidit et Poenos Marte altero proteret, qui iners lora lacertis restrictis sensit mortemque timuit? Hic, unde inscius vitam sumeret pacem duello miscuit. O pudor! O Carthago magna, altior ruinis probrosis Ītaliae!”
Fertur [Regulum] osculum coniugis pudicae natosque parvos, ut capitis minor, ab se removisse et vultum virilem humi torvus posuisse, donec [Regulus] auctor patres labantes ‹consilio numquam alias dato› firmaret interque amicos maerentes properaret, exul egregius.
Atqui sciebat, quae tortor barbarus sibi pararet. Non aliter tamen propinquos obstantes et populum morantem dimovit, [sed] reditus [est] quam si clientum, negotia longa lite diiudicata, relinqueret, in agros Venafranos aut Tarentum Lacedaemonium tendens. 

[revised  March 37, 2015]

for an excellent translation done by Andrew Lang [1844–1912], see:  http://www.kipling.org.uk/rg_ode.htm

original ode:

Caelō tonantem crēdidimus Iovem
regnāre: praesēns dīvus habēbitur
   Augustus adiectīs Britannīs
        imperiō gravibusque Persīs.
mīlesne Crassī coniuge barbarā
turpis marītus vixit et hostium,
   prō[proh] cūriā inversīque mōrēs!
        consenǔit socerōrum in armīs
sub rēge Mēdō Marsus et āpulus
ancīliōrum et nōminis et togae
   oblītus aeternaeque Vestae,
        incolumī Iove et urbe Rōmā?
hōc cāverat mens prōvida Rēgulī
dissentientis condiciōnibus
   foedīs et exemplō trahentī[trahentis]
        perniciem veniēns in aevum,
sī nōn perīret immiserābilis
captīva pūbes: ‘Signa ego Pūnicīs
   adfixa dēlūbrīs et arma
        mīlitibus sine caede’ dīxit
‘dērepta vīdī; vīdī ego cīvium
retorta tergō bracchia līberō
   portāsque nōn clausās et arva
        Marte colī populāta nostrō.
aurō repensus scīlicet acrior
mīlēs redībit. flāgitiō additis
   damnum. neque amissōs colōrēs
        lāna refert medicāta fūcō,
nec vēra virtus, cum semel excidit,
cūrat repōnī dēteriōribus.
   sī pugnat extricāta densīs
        cerva plagīs, erit ille fortis,
quī perfidīs sē crēdidit hostibus,
et Marte Poenōs prōteret alterō,
   quī lōra restrictīs lacertīs
        sensit iners timuitque mortem.
hīc, unde vītam sūmeret inscius,
pācem duellō miscuit. ō pudor!
   ō magna Carthāgō, probrōsīs
        altior ītaliae ruīnīs!’
fertur pudīcae coniugis osculum
parvōsque nātōs ut capitis minor
   ab sē remōvisse et virilem
        torvus humī posuisse vultum,
dōnec labantıs consiliō patrēs
firmāret auctor numquam aliās datō
   interque maerentıs amīcōs
        ēgregius properāret exul.
atquī sciēbat quae sibi barbarus
tortor parāret; nōn aliter tamen
   dīmōvit obstantıs propinquōs
        et populum reditus morantem
quam sī clientum longa negōtia
dīiūdicātā līte relinqueret,
   tendēns Venāfrānōs in agrōs
        aut Lacedaemonium Tārentum.

:: 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.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tormented Riches :: Odi Profanum Vulgus :: III:1

This ode, the first in Horace’s third book, begins as though the poet were some priest, not a priest of the gods but a prophet of his own muse. He then exposes the human condition: how do we find happiness in the face of death? 

What I’ve just written is a twenty-first century assessment, however. Death is not the problem—not to the Roman mind. Rather it is Necessitas: the Great Force, Inevitable Destiny.  It is Atra Cura, Black Care, the constant worry and anxiety we feel. It is the stress we cause ourselves, the reminder that over us there is always someone more powerful, and over that one another more powerful. On and on it goes until one reaches God Himself.

Instead of some Confucian model of the universe as a circle of responsibility: Heaven - Emperor - Man, Horace presents us with a flow chart of power to show us how weak we really are. No matter how high born we may be, no matter how rich or famous or virtuous, we are not in control. There is only one solution, and for this, you may choose any of the sayings from the sixties: from ‘drop out’ to ‘let it be.’ Or as Horace says: why be bothered by the divitias operosiores?—or as one French translation puts it ‘des richesses tourmentées.’ 

There are many lines in this ode that are difficult to interpret. Two of them are lines  5 and 6:

regum timendorum    in proprios greges
of dreaded kings      over own herds,
reges in ipsos              imperium est Iovis
over the same kings   the rule is Jove’s,

One translation might be:

over the particular herds of those dreaded kings
the rule over those same kings belongs to Jove

A French translation runs like this:

Les Rois redoutés de leurs troupeaux d’hommes,
les Rois eux-mêmes sont soumis à Jupiter.

Niall Rudd (Loeb) has:

Dreaded monachs have power over their own flocks, 
monarchs themselves are under the power of Jove,

But the clearest rephrasing belongs to Porphyrio, who writes:

Regum timendorum in proprios greges imperium est et in illos est Iovis.
Dominion belongs to the dreaded kings over their own flocks and over those [kings] it belongs to Jove.

While I agree with all of these interpretations, I do wonder whether there is yet an other, one that hinges on the word timendorum.  What if this is not an adjective describing the kings, but a noun meaning ‘the ones who are frightened’? What if these two lines run like this? —

Over the flocks of the frightened ones of the kings
Over those same kings the power belongs to Jove

I don’t know the answer. I have not the intuition of a native speaker.

Before I continue on to the translation of the entire ode, I have to mention an interesting use of Horace’s lines 5 and 6. George Buchanan (1506-1582), a Scotsman who apparently wrote Latin as though it were his mother tongue, used them to translate the first verse of the eighty-second psalm:
regum timendorum in proprios greges 
reges in ipsos imperium est Jovae.

אלהימ נצב בעדת אל בקרב אלחימ ישפט

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty;
He judgeth among the gods.

Surprisingly, Buchanan made but one small change. He turned Jove into Jehovah by writing Jovae instead of Jovis!


I loathe the unclean and keep my distance.
Speak no ill. I, priest of the Muses, sing
songs never heard before to girls and boys.

Over the very flocks of those frightened 
by their kings is Jupiter’s dominion, 
even over those same kings, he bright with
victory over the Titans, he who 
moves the whole universe with his eyebrow.

The thing is: one man might arrange the trees 
in furrows more widely than another.
A candidate might descend a noble  
to Campus Martius; another might stand 
on his character and reputation,
still another might be more important
with a circle of his supporters; yet
by some law of fairness, Necessitas 
draws both the high and the low, for there is 
room in the great urn for every name.

Over some godless neck hangs a drawn sword.
Sicilian feasts aren’t sweet for that one, 
and bird song and lute don’t lead to sleep. 
A farmer’s calm slumber does not despise
the humble home, the shady river bank,  
the valley stirred up by a gentle wind.

The tumultuous sea does not bother
the one satisfied with what he wants 
nor the fury of Arcturus setting,
nor of Capella rising, nor the vinyard
hail-pommeled, nor the farmland full of lies
with this tree complaining of water, those
fields burned by the stars, and winters unfair.

The fish feel the seas contracting as piers
are thrown up high. Here the contractor (and 
the lord bored with the land) has his servants
frequently unload quarry stone. But fear
and anxiety climb to where the lord is 
and do not forsake the coppered trireme
and Black Care sits behind the horse rider. 

But then if neither Phrygian stone soothes 
the one in pain nor the use of purple 
more dazzling than a star nor Falernan 
grapevines nor Achaemenian spikenard, 
why would I build door posts to show off 
and grand entry halls that are all the rage? 
Why would I exchange Sabina Valley 
for riches that are too hard to come by?
translation © 2010 by James Rumford

in prose:

Vulgus profanum odi et arceo. Favete linguis. [Ego], sacerdos musarum, carmina, non prius audita, virginibus puerisque canto. Imperium regum timendorum est in proprios greges, [imperium] in ipsos reges [est] Iovis—triumpho Giganteo clari—cuncta [cum suo] supercilio moventis. 
Est ut vir arbusta sulcis Latius viro ordinet. Hic petitor generosior in Campum descendat. Hic moribus famaque melior contendat. Turba clientium illi maior sit. 
Necessitas, lege aequa, insignes et imos sortitur. Urna capax omne nomen movet. 
Dapes Siculae saporem dulcem [viro], cui ensis destrictus super cervice impia pendet, non elaborabunt, non cantus avium citharaeque somnum reducent. 
Somnus lenis virorum agrestium domos humiles, ripamque umbrosam, ‹Tempe Zephyris non agitata› non fastidit. Neque mare tumultuosum desiderantem ‹quod satis est› sollicitat nec impetus saevus Arcturi cadentis aut Haedi orientis, non vineae grandine verberatae, fundusque mendax—nunc, arbore aquas culpante, nunc agros sidera torrentia, nunc hiemes iniquas. 
Pisces aequora contracta sentiunt, molibus in altum iactis. Huc ‹redemptor cum famulis› ‹dominusque terrae fastidiosus› caementa frequens demittit. Sed Timor et Minae scandunt eodem quo dominus [scandit]. Neque Cura Atra triremi aerata decedit, et post equitem sedet. 
Quodsi nec lapis Phrygius dolentem delenit nec usus purpurarum sidere clarior nec vitis Falerna costumque Achaemeniumque, cur postibus invidendis et atrium sublime ritu novo moliar? Cur divitias operosiores [cum] valle Sabina permutem?   [revised  March 27, 2015]

original words:

Ōdī profānum vulgus et arceo.
Fāvēte linguīs: carmina nōn prius
   audīta Mūsārum sacerdos
        virginibus puerīsque cantō.
rēgum timendōrum in propriōs grēgēs,
rēgēs in ipsōs imperium est Iovis,
   clārī Gigantēō triūmphō,
        cuncta superciliō moventis.
est ut virō vir Lātius ordinet
arbusta sulcīs, hīc generōsior
   descendat in Campum petitor,
        mōribus hīc meliorque fāmā
contendat, illī turba clientium
sit māior: aequā lēge Necessitās
   sortītur insignıs et īmōs,
        omne capax movet urna nōmen.
dēstrictus ensis cuī super impiā
cervīce pendet, nōn Sīculae dapēs
   dulcem ēlabōrābunt sapōrem,
        nōn avium citharaeque cantūs
Somnum redūcent: somnus agrestium
lēnis virōrum nōn humilıs domōs
   fastidit umbrōsamque rīpam,
        nōn Zephyrıs agitāta Tempē.
dēsīderantem quod satis est neque
tumultuōsum sollicitat mare,
   nec saevus Arctūrī cadentis
        impetus aut orientis Haedī,
nōn verberātae grandine vīneae
fundusque mendax, arbore nunc aquās
   culpante, nunc torrentia agrōs
        sīdera, nunc hiemēs inīquās.
Contracta piscēs aequora sentiunt
iactīs in altum molibus: hūc frequēns
   caementa dēmittit redemptor
        cum famulīs dominusque terrae
fastidiōsus: sed Timor et Minae
scandunt eōdem quō dominus, neque
   dēcēdit aerātā trirēmī et
        post equitem sedet ātra Cūra.
quodsī dolentem nec Phrygius lapis
nec purpurārum sīdere [Sīdone] clārior
   dēlēnit ūsus nec Falerna
        vītis Achaemeniumque costum,
cūr invidendīs postibus et novō
sublime rītū mōliar ātrium?
   Cūr valle permūtem Sabīnā
        dīvitiās operōsiōrēs?

:: 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.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

At Your Peril :: Quo Me Bacche :: III:25

It has taken me some time to understand this poem. Here’s the scene: 

Horace is overcome emotionally and spiritually by Bacchus. Perhaps he is drunk or, like some holy-roller, in a state of ecstacy. He envisions that his poetry will be new and exciting. He compares himself to an euhias ιάς] a female follower of Bacchus, as she wakes up and contemplates the streams and hills of Thrace. Spiritually Horace also walks in these hills and marvels at the power of the Naiades and the female bacchantes and exclaims how exhilarating it is to follow Lenaeus [yet another name for Bacchus].  

I know next to nothing about Bacchus and bacchanalia. I do a google search. Soon I am wading into a lake of information that stretches for gigabytes in front of me. Around me: nothing but controversy—about the origins of the god, about what went on during the orgies, even the god’s effect on Horace and his writing.

Was Horace drunk when he wrote? Was drunkenness a metaphor for poetic inspiration? Did Horace consider his poetry to be the stuff of gods? I have no answers to these questions. Just his words like distant stars and my telescope of understanding, its lenses so poorly polished.

But what I do sense in this poem is the rush of inspiration, the exhilaration of standing on a mountain top and seeing the world in a special way, thinking—no—knowing that one is capable of uprooting giant trees and treading in the footsteps of gods.

I write and illustrate books. I understand the impulse to create, the endorphin high of being inspired. It doesn’t happen all the time. Perhaps this is what Horace means by dulce periculum (line 18). Periculum, whence comes our word periculum, means both ‘danger’ and ‘risk.’ Sometimes the Romans used it for ‘attempt.’ It is this last definition that comes closest to describing the creative drive of artists: the desire to try.


Where are you rushing me, Bacchus, 
me overflowing with you? 
Into what woods or cave am I, rapid I, 
being driven by new thoughts? 
From what caves will I be heard as I 
practice how to sow among the stars, 
how to put before Jupiter’s council, 
peerless Caesar’s ageless virtue?
The new me will make his mark
and say what no one’s said before.
Not unlike some stunned Euhias 
from some mountain top, awake,
looking down upon the Hebrus 
and Thrace white with snow,
and Mount Rhodope 
crossed but by the feet of savages,
as I gladly wander along the banks
and through the empty woods in wonder.
Oh! The power of the Naiades, 
the strength of the Bacchae
to uproot with their hands the spreading ash!
I won’t be trivial or mean 
or mortal when I speak.
Sweet the risk, Lēnaeus, 
following a god, temples ringed with green.
translation ©copyright 2010 by James Rumford

in prose:

[O] Bacche, quo me plenum tui rapis? In quae nemora aut quos specus [ego] mente nova velox agor? [In] quibus antris audiar, meditans ‹decus aeternum egregii Caesaris› [in] stellis et consilio Iovis inserere? 
[Ego] recens, insigne ‹ore alio adhuc indictum› dicam. 
Non secus in iugis ‹Euhias exsomnis› stupet, Hebrum prospiciens et nive Thracen candidam ac Rhodopen pede barbaro lustratam ut ‹mihi devio libet› ripas et nemus vacuum mirari. 
O potens Naiadum ‹Baccharumque fraxinos proceras manibus vertere valentium›, nil parvum aut modo humili, nil mortale loquar. Periculum dulce est [te] sequi, o Lenæe, deum tempora pampino viridi cingentem!
 [revised March 28, 2015]

original words:

Quō mē, Bacche, rapis tuī
plēnum? quae nemora aut quōs agor in specūs
   vēlox mente novā? quibus
antrīs ēgregiī Caesaris audiar
   aeternum meditāns decus
stellīs inserere et consiliō Iovis?
   dīcam insigne, recēns, adhuc
indictum ōre aliō. nōn secus in iugīs
   exsomnis stupet Euhiās,
Hēbrum prōspiciēns et nive candidam
   Thrācen ac pede barbarō
lustrātam Rhodopēn, ut mihi dēviō
   rīpās et vacuum nemus
mīrārī libet. ō Nāiadum potēns
   Bacchārumque valentium
prōcērās manibus vertere fraxinōs,
   nīl parvum aut humilī modō,
nīl mortāle loquar. Dulce perīculum est,
   ō Lēnæe, sequī deum
cingentem viridī tempora pampinō.

:: 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.