Saturday, November 27, 2010

Virtuous Lovers :: Quid Fles Asterie :: III:7

There are a lot of ways to interpret this ode.

Here’s the gist:  Asteria is crying over her man Gyges, who is away on a business trip. Horace tells her that he’s being tempted by a ‘hostess’ named Chloe. Even so, he remains unmoved and super pure. As for Asteria, Horace feels compelled to remind her to remain faithful, even if the guy next door is irresistible and insistent.

I suppose the usual take on this ode would be to say it’s a cozy poem describing true love. Another might be to say its a study in virtue and patience. A third: one more love poem written by a male chauvinist pig touting the unshakable virtues of the male of the species while the female must be constantly guarded and watched lest she fall into ill repute. My gosh, according to Horace, she can’t even look out the window!

This last interpretation is post 1970 and the feminist movement, but how else am I to understand what Horace is saying? He hammers home his point by having Chloe’s nuntio-pimp bring up two similar stories from Ancient Greece. Each one is about a perfidious woman who falls for a man, but when he doesn’t return her love, she falsely accuses him of rape!  The pimp’s message is surely: you’d better do what Chloe wants or you’ll have the devil to pay. 

But if I take off my 1970s glasses, I might see something else. Maybe I have Horace all wrong. Maybe he is trying to comfort Asteria with, “By the way, if you hear rumors about Gyges’ conduct, don’t believe them. He’s as virtuous as Bellerophon, as unsullied as Peleus.” Maybe Horace is doing the usual male thing: shoring up his bud’s reputation. 

Thynia is Bithynia and refers to the region just east of modern Istanbul.

Favonii are the pleasant spring winds.

Capra rises in September and heralds the stormy season.

Tartarus are the infernal regions.

Orikum is a town in modern Albania named for the ancient Oricum.

Icarus Cliffs refers to the island of Icarus in the Aegean.  

Enipeus was simply a Roman youth with a name that recalled entre autres a river in Thessaly, a river god and lover of Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus.

Tuscus usually refers to the Etruscans, but here to the Tiber River, which flows through Etruria.


What are you crying for, Asteria?
That one—the cloudless west winds will bring back 
to you in springtime, rich from his dealings 
in Thynia, that youth of constant faith,
your Gyges, driven by the south wind to 
Orikum after mad Capra’s rising;
frigid nights, sleepless, with many tears, he 
manages even if that ‘messenger’ 
for the solicitous hostess Chloe 
says the poor woman sighs and burns with your 
fire.That cheat tempts Gyges a thousand ways.
He mentions how a lying woman forced 
the gullible Proetus by false charges 
to hasten the demise of super pure 
Bellerophon. He talks of Peleus, 
almost handed over to Tartarus, 
spurning the Magnesian Hippolyta 
as he flees. That liar pushes stories 
to teach wrong doing, but it doesn’t work; 
for, deafer than the Icarus Cliffs, he 
hears talk but is not moved. Now, your neighbor 
Enipeus—mind you don’t find him more
pleasing than you should, even if no one else 
is as admired for knowing how to turn 
his horse on the Field of Mars, even if 
no one else swims as fast down the Tiber. 
Night fall, close up the house and at the sound 
of his plaintive pipes don’t look down into 
the streets, and with the one who often calls 
you hard, you keep on being difficult.

translation © 2010 by James Rumford

in prose:

[O] Asterie, quid fles Gygen, iuvenem ‹fidei constantis›, merce Thyna beatum, quem Favonii candidi tibi [in] primo vere restituent? 
Ille, [a] Notis ad Oricum post sidera insana Caprae actus, noctes frigidas non sine multis lacrimis insomnis agit. Atqui, nuntius hospitae sollicitae, dicens Chloen miseram suspirare et tuis ignibus uri, vafer mille modis [Gygen] temptat. [Nuntius] refert ut mulier perfida Proetum credulum [a] criminibus falsis impulerit, necem ‹Bellerophontae nimis casto› maturare. Narrat Pelea paene Tartaro datum [esse], dum Magnessam Hippolyten abstinens fugit. Et [nuntius] fallax historias peccare docentes monet—frustra!—nam, scopulis Icari surdior, [Gyges], adhuc integer, voces audit. 
At cave ne vicinus Enipeus tibi plus iusto placeat, quamvis non alius equum flectere sciens, aeque [in] gramine Martio conspicitur, nec quisquam aeque citus [in] alveo Tusco denatat. 
Prima nocte, domum claude neque in vias sub cantu tibiae querulae despice et saepe ‹te duram vocanti› difficilis mane. 
 [revised March 27, 2015]

original ode:

Quid flēs, Asteriē, quem tibi candidī
prīmō restituent vēre Favōniī
Thȳnā merce beātum,
       constantis iuvenem fīdeī
Gȳgēn? ille Notīs actus ad ōricum
post insāna Caprae sīdera frīgidās
   noctēs nōn sine multīs
       insomnis lacrimīs agit.
atquī sollicitae nuntius hospitae,
suspīrārě Chloēn et miseram tuīs
   dīcēns ignibus ūrī,
       temptat mille vafer modīs.
ut Prōetum mulier perfida crēdulum
falsīs impulerit crīminibus nimis
   castō Bellerophontae
       mātūrāre necem, refert;
narrat paene datum Pēlea Tartarō,
Magnessam Hippolyten dum fūgit abstinēns,
   et peccāre docentıs
       fallax historiās monet[movet].
frustrā: nam scopulīs surdior īcarī
vōcēs audit adhūc integer. at tibi
   nē vīcīnus ēnipēus
       plūs iustō placeat cavē;
quamvis nōn alius flectere equum sciēns
aequē conspicītur grāmine Martiō,
    nec quisquam citus aequē
       Tuscō dēnatat alveō,
prīmā nocte domum claude neque in viās
sub cantū querulae dēspice tībiae
   et tē saepe vocantī
       dūram difficilis māne.

:: 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, November 19, 2010

Cute, Brown Calf :: Pindarum Quisquis Studet :: IV:2

This ode, some say, is another recusatio: Horace refusing to write a poem of praise for Caesar Augustus and his triumphal return from the wars in Germania. Others say this ode is a satire on writing poems of praise.

Horace begins by telling a certain Julius Antonius, writer, politician, and son of Mark Anthony, that it wouldn’t be a good idea to write in the style of the Ancient Greek poet Pindar, who lived in the sixth century BC and who wrote in a vigorous style. Julius Anthony would only crash and burn.

Pindar, Horace tells us, could make men immortal, fashion for them in words a monument more lasting then a statue in stone. No one could expect to do the same. Yet . . . . Horace cleverly and gradually turns the ode, scholars say, into a Pindar-like poem, doing what he warned Julius Antonius not to do. I will have to accept the opinion of scholars; I have not read Pindar. And from what I see, there is not much of Pindar’s work left. Still, I suppose there is enough for scholars to make this bold statement.

It is at this point in the poem that Horace calls Julius Antonius by his second name. I don’t know what the significance of this is. Is this like suddenly switching from Bill to Billy in an attempt to be on more intimate terms? Does this signal a definite change in status? Is Horace now treating him as his inferior, an inexperienced boy, or a dear friend? I simply don’t know the sociolinguistic rules used in Rome to ‘feel’ what’s going on in this poem.  

Horace ends with a remark about the opulent sacrifices that Julius Antonius (should I call him ‘Tony’ à la mafia here?) will make and how simple Horace’s will be. “Mine will be just a calf,” Horace says, “my cute, brown calf with one little white spot on his head.” I leave it to you to decide what the symbolism is here. Just a calf or Horace’s entire poetic offering? Horace being modest or ceuille-t-il du persil, as they say in French, picking simple parsley to garnish his own dish?

As for the grammar and structure of this poem, from a language learner’s viewpoint, right off there is trouble. The first few lines are horribly tangled (the colors show which words go together grammatically):

Pindarum quisquis studet aemulari
Iule, ceratis ope Daedalea
nititur pennis vitreo daturus
nomina ponto. 

Of Pindar’s works whoever studies to emulate,
Jullus, on waxen by means Daedalean
is carried on feathers to a glassy to give
names to a sea.

turns out to mean, unless you’ve already figured it out:

Whoever studies to emulate Pindar’s work,
Jullus, on waxen feathers like Daedalus
is carried [only] to give
[his] names to a glassy sea

The next few lines are the straw that is about to break this camel’s back. How can quem ‘whom/which’ be separated from the noun it is connected to and still make sense? Not to my ears, but then I am not Roman.

monte decurrens velut amnis, imbres
quem super notas aluere ripas

from a mountain running down like a stream, 
rains which over the observed have fed the banks

If you knew the gender of amnis, which is masculine, and you remembered that aluere is a poetic form of aluerant ‘they have overfed,’ then it would have been easy to come up with:

Like a stream running down the mountain side, 
whose well-known banks the rains have overfed

Then I realize: even in English, the relative pronoun can be separated from the noun to which it refers. Look how far ‘whose’ is from ‘stream.’ As English speakers, as human beings, we know that mountains don’t feed streams, rains do. So how about this general rule about language: knowledge about the world trumps grammar? Grammar says: relative pronouns should follow the noun they refer to. Reality says: Yes, but use your brain, stutule.

But using one’s brain is not always so easy.  As a language learner, I expect the grammar to help me. I rely on it like a crutch. Most of the time in reading Latin poetry, knowledge of the grammar is key to understanding. Not so, I might add, in classical Persian poetry. Persian grammar rules were repeatedly broken to accommodate the meter. Thus, in order to understand what is happening in an epic poem like the Shahnamah, you have to keep your mental television constantly tuned to reality and keep your mind on the story’s thread. Not such an easy task.

I suppose the only remedy to the difficulties of reading poetry in the original language is a daily dose of confidence. The more I think I can understand, the more I will.  This is more than holding a feather à la Dumbo to get one to jump off of the circus tent pole. It means the more I think I’ll understand, the more I’ll read. It is this daily practice that provides the real remedy.


The Sigambri were a powerful German tribe. 
A dithyramb was a song in honor of Dionysus, god of wine, and considered to be a wild and enthusiastic piece of writing. 
Elea refers to the ancient Olympics.
The boxer and the rider refer to the twins Castor and Pollux, according to the Porphyrionis Commentarium
Dircean is from Dirce, a fountain in Boeotia northwest of Thebes, where Pindar was born. 
Orcus was the god of the underworld and by extension death. 
Matinus is a mountain or promontory in Apulia (Horace’s home region), now called Matinata. 
Sacrus Clivus  [ Holy Hill] was part of the Sacra Via  [Holy Road] leading up to the capitol building in Rome.
tertium ortum, literally ‘third rising’ refers to the third night of the new moon, at which time it appears as a thin crescent.


Whoever’s eager to emulate Pindar,
Jules, on waxen wings à la Dedalus,
will soar then give his name to a glass-like sea. 

Rushing down down the mountain like a stream,
whose noted banks the rains have overfed, the
great Pindar seethes and basso profundo roars,

worthy of Apollo’s laurels or by
bold dithyrambs he unrolls new words and 
is carried away by lines free of rules, or 

sings of gods and kings, the blood kin of gods, 
by whom the Centaurs fell in righteous death,
fell the flame of the fearful Chimera, or 

he talks of those the Elea palm led 
back home divine, boxer or horseman, and 
gives a prize better than a hundred statues; 

he weeps over the young husband ripped from 
a tearful wife and lifts to the stars his 
strengths, heart and golden morals, spurning black death.

Many winds lift the Dircean swan, when he,
Anthony, is held aloft in the high 
clouds; I, like a Matinus bee happy to

work away feeding on the thyme in the 
woods and by the banks of the dank Tibur, 
small me, I do my elaborate verses.

A poet, you sing of Caesar with a 
greater plectrum, who, adorned with laurels 
deserved, drags the wild Sygambri along the 

Sacred Hill; he, no greater or better a 
gift on earth from kind gods and fate 
even if the golden days returned of yore. 

You’ll sing of happy days and public games 
over the wished for return of the great 
Augustus and a forum without law suits.

Then, if what I say’s worth hearing, my voice
will join in and happy me shall sing “O 
handsome Sun! O lauded One,” now Caesar’s home.

And you in the lead, “Io! Triumphe!”
Not once all Rome’ll say, “Io! Triumphe!” 
and incense we shall give to the yielding gods.

For you it’s ten bulls and as many cows,
For me a young calf, just left its mother, 
growing on thick grass, will be my offering,

its forehead soon to be the moon’s curved fires 
on the third night, where now there’s a spot, snow 
white it seems, the rest of him a yellow brown.
translation © 2010 by James Rumford

in prose:

[O] Iule, quisquis studet Pindarum aemulari, nomina [sua] ponto vitreo daturus, ope Daedalea pennis ceratis nititur. Velut amnis monte decurrens, quem imbres super ripas notas aluer[unt], Pindarus immensus, ore profundo, fervet ruitque, laurea Apollinari donandus, seu per dithyrambos audaces verba nova devolvit, fertur, numerisque lege solutis, seu canit (1) deos regesque, (2) sanguinem deorum, per quos morte iusta Centauri cecider[runt] [et] flamma Chimaerae tremendae cecidit, sive (3) pugilemve equumve ‹quos caelestes palma Elea domum reducit› et munere ‹potiore centum signis donat› dicit, (4) iuvenemve sponsae flebili raptum plorat et vires animumque moresque aureos [eius] in astra educit, Orcoque nigro invidet. 
Multa aura cycnum Dircaeum levat, [o] Antoni, quotiens in tractos altos nubium tendit: ego parvus, more modoque apis Matinae grata thyma per laborem plurimum circa nemusque ‹ripas Tiburis uvidi› carpentis, carmina operosa fingo. 
[Tu] poeta Caesarem plectro maiore [quam ego] concines, quandoque [ille] decorus [et] fronde merita, Sygambros feroces per clivum sacrum trahet; quo fata divique boni nihil maius meliusve terris donaver[unt] nec dabunt, quamvis tempora in aurum priscum redeant. Diesque laetos et ludum publicum Urbis super reditu impetrato Augusti fortis forumque litibus orbum concines. Tum, si quid audiendum loquar, pars bona vocis meae accedet et ‘o sol pulcher, o laudande!’ felix canam, Caesare recepto.
Teque, dum procedis, ‘Io Triumphe’ non semel dicemus, ‘Io Triumphe!’ civitas omnis tura divis benignis dabimus. Decem tauri totidemque vaccae te [solvent], vitulus tener me in vota mea solvet, ‹[vitulus] qui, matre relicta, herbis largis iuvenescit, fronte ignes curvatos ortum tertium lunae referentes imitatus, qua notam duxit, niveus videri, fulvos cetera.        [revised March 28, 2015]

original ode:

Pindarum quisquis studet aemulārī,
Iūle, cērātīs ope Daedalēā
nītitur pinnīs, vǐtreō datūrus
   nōmina pontō.
Monte dēcurrēns velut amnis, imbrēs        
quem super nōtās aluēre rīpās,
fervet immensusque ruit profundō
   Pindarus ōre,
laureā dōnandus Apollinārī,
seu per audācıs nova dīthyrambōs
verba dēvolvit numerīsque fertur
   lēge solūtīs,
seu deōs rēgēsque canit, deōrum
sanguinem, per quōs cecidēre iustā
morte Centaurī, cecidit tremendae
   flamma Chimaerae,
sīve quōs ēlēa domum redūcit
palma caelestıs pugilemve equumve
dīcit et centum potiōre signīs
   mūnere dōnat,
flēbilī sponsae iuvenemve raptum
plōrat et vīrıs animumque mōrēsque~
aureōs ēdūcit in astra nigrōque~
   invidet Orcō.
Multa Dircaeum levat aura cycnum,
tendit, Antōnī, quotiēns in altōs
nūbium tractūs; ego apis Matīnae
   mōre modōque
grāta carpentis thyma per labōrem
plūrimum circā nemus ūvidīque
Tīburis rīpās operōsa parvus
   carmina fingo.
concinēs maiōre poēta plectrō
Caesarem, quandōque trahet ferōcıs
per sǎcrum clīvum meritā decōrus
   fronde Sygambrōs;
quō nihil māius meliusve terrīs
fāta dōnāvēre bonīque dīvī
nec dǎbunt, quamvis redeant in aurum
   tempora priscum.
concinēs laetōsque diēs et Urbis
publicum lūdum super impetrātō
fortis Augustī reditū forumque
   lītibus orbum.
tum meae, sī quid loquar audiendum,
vōcis accēdet bona pars, et: ‘ō sōl
pulcher, ō laudande!’ canam receptō
   Caesare fēlix;
tēque, dum prōcēdis, iō Triumphe!
nōn semel dīcēmus, iō Triumphe!
cīvitās omnis, dǎbimusque dīvīs
   tūra benignīs.
tē decem taurī totidemque vaccae,
mē tener solvet vitulus, relictā
mātre quī largīs iuvēnescit herbīs
   in mea vōta,
fronte curvātōs imitātus ignıs
tertium lūnae referentis ortum,
quā notam duxit niveus vidērī,

   cētera fulvus.

:: 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, November 3, 2010

The Fruits of Peace :: Phoebus Volentem Proelia :: IV:15

This ode is the appropriate epilogue to the Fourth Book,of which the poems that celebrate the Roman victories under Drusus and Tiberius constitute the noblest portion. If it be true that the book was published on account of these odes, and at the desire of Augustus, Horace would naturally conclude by a special reference to the beneficial issues of the wars undertaken by Augustus, and from the final completion of which in Gaul, Germany, and Spain, he had just returned to Rome. Horace here begins by saying, that when he wished to sing of those wars Phoebus checked him. But Phoebus does not forbid him to sing the triumphs of peace; and, with a lively lyrical abruptness, he therefore at once bursts forth: — “Tua, Caesar aetas Fruges et agris . . . ”

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 104, August 1868 

The foregoing unauthored article from Blackwood’s says it all. Even so, I am now going to make a mountain out of a mole hill. 

Nowhere have I seen a discussion about the last five lines. Everyone seems to understand them, but I don’t. Does duces in line 29

virtute functos more patrum duces 
leaders by manliness exhibited 
in the fashion of [our] fathers

refer to nos ‘us’ [line 25], making us the leaders who exhibit manliness like our fathers?

Or is duces an object of apprecati [line 28], meaning we worship not only the gods but also the leaders?

Or is duces an object of canemus [line 32], meaning that we sing of the leaders as well as of Troy, Anchises and Venus?

There are problems with each of these possibilities. It is doubtful that Horace thinks of himself as a leader. I haven’t seen him act so bold, although he comes across as one who knows best for his people, a kind of poet-prophet. The second possibility has merit, but editors put a comma after apprecati, thus making it unlikely that we worship the leaders as well as the gods. The third possibility works until we realize that it is far removed form the verb canemus. In my translation, I am going to leave the ambiguity. 


The Tyrrhenian Sea is off the western coast of Italy.
The Tanais is the River Don in Russia.
Anchises was a Trojan and Venus’ mortal lover. It was he whom Aeneas carried on his shoulders out of the burning city of Troy.
The Getae are a Tracian tribe living on the Danube in what is modern Rumania.
The Julian Edicts were August Caesar’s laws and policies, which helped enforce pax Romana. 
The Ianus Quirinus was a temple or arch that was closed when there were no on-going wars. The Ianus Quirinus was closed only five times in Roman history, three of which occured during Augustus Caesar’s reign.


Apollo, when I wanted to speak of 
battles and cities won, sounded his lyre 
that I not set my little sail to cross
the Tuscan Sea. Your era, O Caesar,

has brought back fruitful and abundant fields, 
has restored to our god insignia 
ripped from the arrogant doorways of the 
Persians, has closed the Quirini Temple

now empty of war and has seized the reins
of correct order because of errant 
lawlessness and driven away misdeeds
and invited back the veteran arts 

by which the name of Latinum and the 
strength and fame of Italy have grown with 
the majesty of the empire stretching 
to the rising sun from its western bed.

With Caesar custodian of the State, 
civil anger and strife will not drive off 
repose, and ire, which pounds out swords, 
won’t make enemies of wretched cities.

Those who drink the deep Danube will not break 
the Julian Edicts, not the Getae, 
the Chinese or the faithless Persians, not  
those arising around the River Don. 

And we these days both profane and sacred, 
amidst the gifts of joyous Bacchus, with 
our children and our wives, first worshipping  
the gods according to what is custom, 

leaders showing manliness as did our 
fathers, by the Lydian flutes mixed with 
song, sing of Troy and Anchises and of 
the progeny of bountiful Venus. 
translation © 2010 by James Rumford

in prose:

Phoebus, ‹me volentem proelia et urbes victas loqui,› lyra increpuit, ne per aequor Tyrrhenum vela parva darem. 
[O] Caesar, aetas tua ‹et fruges uberes [ex] agris› rettulit ‹et signa postibus superbis Parthorum derepta Iovi nostro› restituit ‹et ianum Quirini duellis vacuum› clausit et ‹frena licentiae ordinem rectum evaganti› iniecit, ‹culpasque emovit et artes veteres› revocavit, ‹per quas nomen Latinum et vires famaque Italae crever[unt] et maiestas imperi ad ortus solis ab Hesperio cubili porrecta [sunt]›. 
Caesare rerum custode, furor civilis aut vis otium non exiget, et ira, quae enses procudit, urbes miseras non inimicat. [Is] qui Danuvium profundum bibunt edicta Iulia non rumpent, non Getae, non Seres Persaeque infidive, non prope flumen Tanain orti. Nosque et lucibus profestis et sacris inter munera Liberi iocosi cum prole matronisque nostris, prius deos rite apprecati, more patrum duces virtue functos, carmine tibiis Lydis remixto, Troiamque et Anchisen et progeniem Veneris almae canemus.          [revised March 28, 2015]

original ode:

Phoebus volentem proelia mē loquī
victās et urbıs increpuit lyrā,
   nē parva Tyrrhēnum per aequor
       vēla darem. tua Caesar, aetās
frūgēs et agrīs rettulit ūberēs
et signa nostrō restituit Iovī
   dērepta Parthōrum superbīs
       postibus et vacuum duellīs
Iānum Quirīnī clausit et ordinem
rectum ēvagantī frēna licentiae
   iniēcit ēmōvitque culpās
       et veterēs revocāvit artıs
per quās Latīnum nōmen et ītalae
crevēre vīrēs fāmaque et imperī
   porrecta māiestās ad ortus
       sōlis ab Hesperiō cubīlī.
custōde rērum Caesare nōn furor
cīvīlis aut vīs exiget ōtium,
   nōn īra, quae prōcūdit ensıs
       et mīserās inimīcat urbıs.
nōn quī profundum Dānuvium bibunt
ēdicta rumpent Iūlia, nōn Getae,
   nōn Sēres infīdīve Persae,
       nōn Tanaīn prope flūmen ortī.
nōsque et profestīs lūcibus et sǎcrīs
inter iocōsī mūnera Līberī
   cum prōle mātrōnīsque nostrīs
       rīte deōs prius apprecātī,
virtūte functōs mōre pǎtrum ducēs
Lȳdīs remixtō carmine tībiīs
   Trōiamque et Anchīsen et almae
        prōgeniem Veneris canēmus.

:: 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.