Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Roar of Poetry :: Divis Orte Bonis :: IV:5

دیـدیـم شـعـر دلـکـش حافظ به مدح شاه 

یک بیت از آن صفینه به از صد رساله بود
I saw a heart-pulling poem by Hafiz in praise of the shah
One line from that divan—better than a hundred books

It is hard to imagine the Sufi poet holding out his ink-stained hand for a crust of bread from his sultan, but he did so time and time again. Poets gotta eat. Simple as that. 

Today, poets don’t write praise poetry anymore. Unsullied by thoughts of money, eschewing the laurels of the state, they busy themselves instead with the human condition. Thus, they write verities that few read or care about. Thus, they have reduced the function of poetry to echo but the squeaks and sighs of those who send us news from the frontiers of reality. Not so in centuries past. Poetry was the roaring voice of the state and the chronicler of the nation’s deeds. And the people listened—to Homer’s account of the Trojan War, of Virgil’s take on the founding of Rome, of Fedowsi’s history of the Iranian state. In this context, it is only natural that there were poems of praise. What better way to advertise the prowess of the emperor than through the mouth of the poet? 

But I suspect that poems of praise are not always what they seem to be. Poets are clever and sly with words. What looks like praise may in fact be just a glittering outer garment, a covering for the real meaning deep inside. In the line above, Hafiz, after having praised the sultan, decides to praise himself.

In today’s ode, Horace, while praising Caesar Augustus, who is away fighting for the empire during the years 16 to 13 BC, is using this opportunity to extol the virtues of the simple life, the joy of living in one’s own hills, tending one’s own vinyards, drinking one’s own wine. Horace starts off in grand style comparing Caesar Augustus to the sun, but he also ends with sun. This time it is the setting sun. The day is done. The toiling farmer lays down his tools and takes up the drinking cup, living out his life in peace. Surely, this makes all of the imperial campaigns worth the treasure spent and the blood spilled.

*   *   *   *

There is in this ode a very interesting line [20]:

culpari metuit fides
to be blamed fears faith

Many translators have struggled with this line, for what can this mean?  How could faith be blamed for anything?  The key to understanding this, comes from Niall Rudd’s translation done for the Loeb Series. As a footnote, he writes, “A reference to the Julian law against adultery (18 B.C.).” Thus, in some very tangled way [at least in my mind], one remains faithful because one is afraid of being found guilty of adultery. Once this is understood, many other lines fall into place: the chaste house [line 21], the homeland struck by fidelity [line 15], the waiting mother [lines 9–14], and the offspring who look like their fathers [line 23]. Soon we see an ethical perpetual motion machine that Horace has constructed: fidelity to the laws and values brings chastity and chastity means fidelity, and fidelity means obeying the laws, and so on ad infinitum. 

Castor, of Castor and Pollux, was the twin who was not a god, unlike his brother; nevertheless, the Greeks raised both Castor and Hercules to godlike status, much as Horace is suggesting the Romans do with Caesar Augustus. Notus is the south wind. The sea around the island of Karpathos in the eastern Mediterranean was called the Carpathian Sea. Ceres is the Roman goddess of grain, commonly associated with the Greek Demeter. Faustitas is a personification of Favor, from the adjective faustus (lucky, auspicious). Hesperia is the west and, to the Greeks, Italy.


You from good gods risen, best guardian of 
the Roman race, you’ve now been gone so long! 
You promised the sacred Senate a quick 
return. Come back!

Good leader, give your homeland back the light.
When your face flashes upon the people
as in spring, the day goes happily by, 
suns shine better.

Like a mother not moving her eyes from 
the curving seashore, calling with vows and
omens and prayers her boy, whom the south wind
by jealous gusts

takes far from his sweet home to be waylaid 
overseas in Karpathos—thus our nation, 
struck by a faithful longing, watches for 
the emperor. 

The cattle safely roam the countryside. 
Kind Ceres and Faustitas nourish us.
Sailors sail on peaceful seas. Constancy
fears being blamed.

The chaste house: unsullied with lust. Spotted
sin: tamed by mores and laws. Mothers: praised 
for their like offspring. The guilty: hounded 
by punishment.

Who fears the Parthians, the frozen Scyths,
horrid Germans breeding, with Caesar 
alive? Who worries about war with the 
wild Spaniards

The one who ends the day in his hills and 
leads vines to widowed trees; there to his wines 
he returns glad and invites you a god 
for food and drink;

you, by many prayers, he toasts with wine in 
cups and joins your numen to the house gods, 
as Greece did in memory of Castor, 
of great Hercules.

“May you grant Hesperia, good leader,  
long holidays!” we say, thirsty the whole 
day through—we say, juiced up, as the sun slips 
beneath the sea.
translation © 2010 by James Rumford

 in prose:

[O ab] divis bonis orte, [o] optime custos gentis Romulae, iam nimium diu abes. Pollictus [es] reditum maturum concilio sancto patrum. Redi, [o] dux bone. Lucem patriae tuae redde. Ubi enim vultus tuus, instar veris, populo adfulsit, dies gratior it, et soles melius nitent. 
Ut mater [quae vocat] iuvenem, quem Notus [a] flatu invido trans aequora maris Carpathii a domo dulci distinet, spatio annuo longius cunctantem, [mater] votis ominibusque et precibus vocat nec faciem [a] litore curvo dimovet. Sic patria, desideriis fidelibus icta, Caesarem quaerit. 
Bos tutus etenim rura perambulat. Ceresque Faustitas alma nutrit, navitae per mare pacatum volitant. Fides culpari metuit. Domus casta nullis stupris poluitur. Mos et lex nefas maculosum edomuit. Puerperae prole simili laudantur. ‹Poena comes› culpam premit. 
Quis Parthum paveat? Quis Scythen gelidum [paveat]? Quis [paveat] fetus quos Germania horrida parturit, incolumi Caesare? Quis bellum Hiberiae curet? 
Quisque diem in collibus suis condit et vitem ad arbores viduas ducit. Hinc ad vina laetus redit et, mensis alteris, te deum adhibet. Te, multa prece, te, mero [a] pateris defuso, prosequitur et numen tuum Laribus miscet, uti Graecia ‹Castoris et Herculis magni› memor. 
“O dux bone, utinam ferias longas Hesperiae prestes!” 
Mane, die integro, [nos] sicci [hoc] dicimus. Cum sol Oceano subest [nos] uvidi [hoc] dicimus. 

  [revised March 28, 2015]

original ode:

Dīvīs orte bonīs, optime Rōmulae
custos gentis, abēs iam nimium diū;
mātūrum reditum pollicitus patrum
   sanctō conciliō redī.
lūcem redde tuae, dux bone, patriae;
instar vēris enim vultus ubī tuus
adfulsit populō, grātior it diēs
   et sōlēs melius nitent.
ut māter iuvenem, quem Notus invidō
flātū Carpǎthiī trans maris aequora
cunctantem spatiō longius annuō
   dulcī distinet ā domō,
vōtīs ominibusque et precibus vocat,
curvō nec faciem lītore dīmovet,
sīc dēsīderiīs icta fidēlibus
   quaerit pātria Caesarem.
tūtus bōs etenim rūra perambulat,
nūtrit rūra Cerēs almaque Faustitās,
pācātum volitant per mare nāvitae,
   culpārī metuit fidēs,
nūllīs polluitur casta domus stuprīs,
mōs et lex maculōsum ēdomuit nefas,
laudantur similī prōle puerperae,
   culpam poena premit comes.
quis Parthum paveat, quis gelidum Scythen,        
quis Germānia quōs horrida parturit
fētus incolumī Caesare? quis ferae
   bellum cūret Hibēriae?
condit quisque diem collibus in suīs
et vītem viduās dūcit ad arborēs;
hinc ad vīna redit laetus et alterīs
   tē mensīs adhibet deum;
tē multā prece, tē prōsequitur merō
dēfūsō paterīs et Laribus tuum
miscet nūmen, utī Graecia Castoris
   et magnī memor Herculis.
‘longās ō utinam, dux bone, fēriās
praestēs Hesperiae!’ dīcimus integrō
sīccī māne diē, dīcimus ūvidī,
   cum sōl ōceanō subest.

:: 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.

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