Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Snow Job :: Vides Ut Alta :: I:9

This is a famous ode. It is winter, and Mount Soracte [today’s Soratte] near Horace’s villa is covered with snow. Time for fires and wine, and because such is the poet’s bent, a call to seize the day and make the most of youth and playful love.

Mount Soracte, painted by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot.


See how white Soracte stands in high snow,
how the laboring woods hold not the load,
how from the keen-edged cold have stopped the rivers still?

Loosen the frost; heap wood upon the fire;
Draw out a friendly portion from the jar
of Sabine wine, Thaliarch, aged four winter-years.

Then leave the rest to the gods; once they’ve spread 
the bickering winds o’er the raging sea,
are not shaken the ash, the ancient cypress trees.

Hold off asking what tomorrow will be.
Count as gold whatever days Fortune gives.
Turn not sweet love away nor dancing, boy,

as long as your green youthfulness is no 
where near [my] curmudgeon white. Now off
with you to Campo Marzio, the piazze, 

and soft whispers at the fall of night.
And now: a pleasing laugh giving away 
the girl in some intimate corner out of sight,

tokens of  love ripped from an upper arm
and from a finger, barely resisting at all.
translation © 2010 by James Rumford

According to scholars,the first two strophes were taken from the Greek poet Alcaeus. According to scholars, Roman houses don’t have outward facing windows to give Horace a view of Soracte. According to scholars, there were no fireplaces for logs, the opening scenes are metaphors for old age . . . . and on and on until, as one scholar even dared say: we’ve destroyed the poem! Thus, it seems: the ode becomes a metaphor for the heavy winter of scholarship: its stanzas laboring beneath the heavy snowjob of countless professors, its flowing lines stopped dead still by the bitter cold of their comments.

So I have not much to say about this ‘beloved’ ode. I’m afraid to utter one more word. Instead, I’ll show you another mountain, a watercolor of Mont Sante Victoire by Cézanne, for you to contemplate, as you reread this poem, and leave you with a quattrain [no. 88] from Omar Khayyam.

گوینــد بهشت و حــور و کوثر باشـد
جوی می و شیر و شهد و شکر باشد
پــر کــن قدح بـاده و بـر دستم نــه
نـقـدی ز هـزار نـسـیه خوشتر باشـد

They say there’s heaven, houris and the River Kauthar
There’s a stream of wine and milk and honey and sugar
Fill up the cup of wine and put it in my hand
Ready cash over credit's a thousand times sweeter.
[translation mine]

in prose:

Vides ut Soracte stet, candidum nive alta, nec iam silvae laborantes onus sustineant, fluminaque gelu acuto constiterint? 
Frigus dissolve, ligna super foco large reponens, atque benignius diota Sabina merum quadrimum deprome, o Thaliarche. 
Permitte cetera divis, qui simul ventos deproeliantes aequore fervido straver[unt], nec cupressi veteres nec orni agitantur. 
Fuge quaerere quid cras futurum sit et, quemcumque dierum Fors dabit, lucro adpone.
Nec amores dulces sperne neque, [o] puer, tu choreas, donec canities morosa virenti abest. 
Nunc—et Campus et areae susurrique lenes sub noctem hora composita repetantur. 

Et nunc, ab angulo intimo, risus gratus, proditor puellae latentis, pignusque lacertis dereptum aut [anulus] digito male pertinaci.

[revised March 26, 2015]

original ode:

Vidēs ut altā stet nive candidum
Sōrācte nec iam sustineant onus
   silvae labōrantēs gelūque
        flūmina constiterint acūtō?
dissolve frīgus ligna super focō
largē repōnēns atque benignius
   dēprōme quādrīmum Sabīnā,
        ō Thaliarche, merum diōtā.
permitte dīvīs cētera, quī simul
strāvēre ventōs aequore fervidō
   dēproeliantıs, nec cǔpressī
        nec veterēs agitantur ornī.
quid sit futūrum crās, fuge quaerere, et
quem Fors diērum cumque dabit, lǔcrō
   adpōne nec dulcıs amōrēs
        sperne, puer, neque tū chorēās,
dōnec virentī cānitiēs abest
mōrōsa. nunc et Campus et āreae
   lēnēsque sub noctem susurrī
        compositā repetantur hōrā,
nunc et latentis prōditor intimō
grātus puellae rīsus ab angulō
   pignusque dēreptum lacertīs

        aut digitō male pertinācī.

:: 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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