Monday, January 24, 2011

Half My Heart :: Sic Te Diva :: I:3

Virgil, Horace’s friend and the other half of his heart, as the Romans would say of true friends, has left for Greece. Horace uses the opportunity to say a prayer for his safe journey and comment upon the boldness as well as the arrogance of Man. 

Horace seems to ask: what makes us attempt the impossible? What gives us the right to go against the order of things? If we were meant to fly, we would have wings. If we were meant to cross the sea, we would have fins. And for our willfulness, is it small wonder that Jupiter is so busy hurling bolts of lightning our way?

Surely, there is more to this ode than this. And if there is, perhaps it is this: We must not be afraid to attempt new things. Those who went before us were fearless. Were their hearts not bound, as Horace says, with oak and copper?

These seem like the words destined for a nation at the height of its greatness. These are not arrogant words. They are proud words. They are the words of a Carl Sandburg writing as America assumes its position of dominance in the world, writing of the brawling city of Chicago, “laughing with white teeth, under the terrible burden of destiny.” A century before Sandburg, they would have been the words of Emerson, who wanted America to have its own poet to express the country’s strengths and weaknesses. Was this not what Virgil was doing—as well as Horace—for Rome?

You be with the potent goddess 
of Cyprus, you be with Helen’s bright star brothers,
let the father of the winds reign 
confining all but the Iapygian breeze,
O ship. Your duty’s to Virgil, 
entrusted to you; to the Attic frontier
deliver him safely I pray 
and keep watch over the other half of my heart.
Oak and three layers of copper
had he round his heart who first sent some fragile craft
over the truculent water;
he did not fear the dangerous African winds
battling those out of the north
nor the depressing rains, the rabid Notus winds,
no Adriatic ruler is
there greater—his call to rile the sea or calm it.
What way to die would terrify
him who dry-eyed looked upon the swimming monsters,
who saw the tumultuous sea 
and the ill-famed rocks of Acroceraunia?
In vain did the all-knowing God, 
by the sundering seas, separate the countries, 
if in spite of that, impious
craft leap across seas never meant to be tested.
Daring to endure anything,
mankind rushes to do forbidden, sinful things,
Daring, the son of Iapetus
by evil deceit brought fire down to the people.
After fire was stolen from its 
ethereal home, gauntness and a new cohort
of fevers lay upon the earth,
and the previously slow-moving demands of 
distant death then hurried her step.
Daedalus tested out the empty atmosphere
on wings not meant for man;  and for 
one of his labors Hercules broke through to Hell.
Nothing’s hard for mortal beings:
we wish for heaven itself out of folly and,
in our wrongdoing, we do not
give Jove the chance to put down his bolts of anger. 

translation © 2011 by James Rumford

delphin ordo: 

Ita te salvam ducant Cypri Domina, et Helenæ fratres, astra fulgentia, et parens ventorum, conclusis reliquis, excepto Iapyge; O navis, quæ debes Virgilium tibi commissum, oro ut eum sospitem applices ad littus Atheniense, ac tuearis partem dimidiam animæ meæ. 
Is profectò circa cor habebat lignum tresque aeris laminas, qui primus mari sævo credidit navim frangi facilem, neque metuit Africum violentum eum Boreâ pugnantem, neque Hyadas noxias, neque furorem Austri: quo nullus est dominator in Adriatico mari potentior, sive concitare sive placare fluctus velit. 
Quid mortis genus formidavit, qui oculis rectis aspexit pisces monstrosos nantes, ac mare intumescens, et alta Ceraunia rupes naufragiis famosas? 
Frustrà Deus providus terram segregavit à mari disjungendo, si naves sceleratæ transeunt nihilominus vada minimè tentanda. 
Mortalium genus quidlibet aggredi non veretur, ferturque ad facinora prohibita. 
Temerarius Iapeti filius populis advexit ignem furto improbo. 
Post ignem cœlo subreptum, terras invasit macies et frequentia morborum insolita; atque sera necessitas mortis antea dilatæ passum acceleravit. 
Dædalus per inanem aërem volare tentavit alis homini non concessis. 
Vis Herculis sibi patefecit aditum ad Inferos. 
Nihil est hominibus intentatum. Cœlum ipsum affectamus per dementiam: et nostris criminibus non sinimus Jovem iratum dimittere fulmina.

in prose:

Sic te regat ‹diva potens Cypri›, sic [regant] ‹fratres Helenae, sidera lucida›, ‹paterque ventorum, aliis obstrictis praeter Iapyga›, [o] navis, quae Vergilium, tibi creditum, debes. Precor [eum] incolumem [in] finibus Atticis reddas et dimidium animae meae serves.
Robur et aes triplex circa pectus illi erat, qui primus ratem fragilem pelago truci commisit. Nec Africum praecipitem Aquilonibus decertantem timuit nec Hyadas tristes nec rabiem Noti, quo arbiter Hadriae non maior, vult freta tollere seu ponere.
Quem gradum mortis [ille] timuit qui oculis siccis monstra natantia [vidit], qui mare turbidum et scopulos infames, Acroceraunia [nomine], vidit? 
Nequiquam deus prudens terras oceano dissociabili abscidit, si tamen rates impiae ‹vada non tangenda› transiliunt. Gens humana, omnia pepeti audax, per nefas vetitum ruit. 
Genus audax Iapeti ignem ‹fraude mala› gentibus intulit. Post ignem [ex] domo aetheria subductum, macies et cohors nova febrium terris incubuit necessitasque Leti semoti, prius tarda, gradum corripuit.  
Daedalus aera vacuum ‹pennis non homini datis› expertus [est]. Labor Herculeus Acheronta perrupit. Nil mortalibus ardui est. Caelum ipsum stultitia petimus neque per scelus nostrum patimur Iovem fulmina iracunda ponere.
[revised and updated March 26, 2015]

Fratres Helenæ: Castor and Pollux.
Pater ventorum: Either Aeolus, god of the winds, or Neptune. 
Iāpyx: a wind that blows in the south of Italy, good for sailing to Athens, also a son of Daedalus.
Aquilon: the north wind, opposite to Auster Africanus or Libonotus.
Notus: the south wind
Hyades: seven stars in Taurus associated with rainy weather.
Hādria: the Adriatic.
Ācroceraunia: a promontory in Epirus jutting into the Ionian Sea.
Īapetus: a Titan, son of Uranos and Gæa, the father of Atlas, Prometheus, and /Epimetheus.
Acheron: the lower world, also a river in the lower world.
perpeti: infinitive of perpetior, endure.
aëra: the Greek accusative form of ήρ, air.

original ode:

Sīc tē dīva potēns Cyprī,
sīc frātrēs Helenae, lūcida sīdera,
   ventōrumque regat pater
obstrictīs aliīs praeter Iāpyga,
   nāvīs, quae tibi crēditum
dēbēs Vergilium; fīnibus Atticīs
  reddās incolumem precor
et servēs animae dīmidium meae.
  illī rōbur et aēs trīplex
circā pectus erat, quī fragilem trucī
   commīsit pelagō ratem
prīmus, nec timuit praecipitem Āfricum
dēcertantem Aquilōnibus
nec tristıs Hyadās nec rabiem Notī,
   quō nōn arbiter Hādriae
māior, tollere seu pōnere vult freta.
   quem mortis timuit gradum
quī sīccīs oculīs monstra natantia,
   quī vīdit mare turbidum et
infāmıs scopulōs ācroceraunia?
   nequicquam deus abscidit
prūdēns ōceanō dissociābilī
   terrās, sī tamen impiae
nōn tangenda ratēs transiliunt vada.
   audax omnia perpetī
gens hūmāna ruit per vetitum nefas;
   audax īapetī genus
ignem fraude malā gentibus intulit;
   post ignem aetheriā domō
subductum maciēs et nova fēbrium
   terrīs incubuit cohors
sēmōtīque prius tarda necessitās
   lētī corrīpuit gradum.
expertus vacuum Daedalus āěra
   pennīs nōn hominī datīs;
perrūpīt Acheronta Herculeus labor.
   nīl mortālibus arduī est;
caelum ipsum petimus stultitiā neque
   per nostrum patimur scelus

īrācunda Iovem pōnere fulmina.

:: 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, January 14, 2011

The Mirror of Death :: Te Maris et Terrae :: I:28

Put yourself on this beach on the Adriatic coast of Italy near modern Mattinata.

Now, as hard as it is, facing such beauty, say to yourself, “I am going to die one day, and it will be up to others to care for my bones.”

Here on this beach, according to Horace, Archytas, a Greek philosopher of the Pythagorean school and friend of Plato, met his end. Perhaps here his corpse rotted. Perhaps some sailor passing by threw three handfuls of sand over the body in a symbolic gesture of burial.  Perhaps none of this happened.

The ode becomes confusing, the story line difficult to follow. So I wonder: is Horace talking to himself? Maybe. Is not the death of another like a mirror? In such a mirror, one sees one’s own end: as that one died so shall I. Then I think, carrying out this metaphor of the mirror a bit farther: Who hasn’t had a conversation with one’s self standing in front of a mirror?  Horace, it seems, stands before this mirror of death and says sometimes in his voice, sometimes in the voice of Archytas, sometimes using the words of a sailor: 

A small reward, it confines you, Archytas, who measured sea 
and land and the numberless grains of sand, 
the bit of dust near the Matinus shore. And it does no good 
at all that mortal you had attempted 
the mansions in the air and in your mind scanned the vaulting sky.
Pelops’ father, guest of the gods, died.
So did Tithonus, carried off to heaven, and Minos too,
admitted to Jove’s secrets. Pluto holds 
Panthoides, sent down again to Orcus; in your judgment, 
no mean observer of nature and truth, 
he proved he was from Trojan times by taking down the shield; 
nothing beyond sinew and skin did he 
give over to black death. Yet the One Night remains for all and 
it has to be traveled on, death’s road once.
With some the Furies make spectacles for fierce-eyed Mars. For sailors 
the way out is the insatiable sea.
Funerals are densely packed, young and old mixed up. And cruel 
Proserpina turns not one head away.
Me, too, with Orion about to set, his friend, the Notus 
wind overwhelmed with Illyrian waves.
Now damn it, sailor, don’t begrudge these bones and head unburied 
one grain of loose sand. It won’t matter what 
threats Eurus makes to Hesperian waves—let the Venosa 
Woods be pounded—you’ll be safe, and may much
reward flow to you from whom it is possible: fair Jove and 
Neptune, keeper of holy Tarento.
Don’t you care about committing a crime that will hurt those born
innocent after you? Perhaps the law 
of fate, a rude turn of events, awaits you. I won’t be left 
here with useless prayers. No sin-offerings 
will release you. Ah, you are in a rush, it will not take long. 
Three hand throws of dust then you can run on. 

Translation © 2011 by James Rumford

This poem bears reading more than once. There are odd bits that almost defy interpretation. Horace mentions the Venosa Woods. Venosa is the modern Venusia, the small town where Horace was born. Why did the poet choose these woods? Was he doing what all writers do, write about what is familiar? Or did he have some other reason in mind? Is he saying: I too will be assailed by the same winds? One day, I will need someone to bury my bones? I don’t know the answer, and it doesn’t matter. Ambiguity, uncertainty, even paradox are the stuff of poetry. From here the creative mind of the reader takes over and, if the poet has done his job right, soars.

Before leaving this ode, I must mention two pitfalls: Merces is the plural of merx (goods, merchandise) but it also happens to be a feminine noun meaning ‘reward.’ Both words come from mereo: ‘what is deserved, earned.’ Devexī is the past tense of deveho meaning ‘I have carried down,’ but it also is the genitive of the adjective devexus, ‘setting, inclining downwards.’ It took me days to figure this out. I can hear the thwack of the schoolmaster’s ruler upon my knuckles now and see the gleam in his eye at having snared another witless student in his trap. 

Notes:  The constellation Orion sets in November, when storms arise off the coast of Illyria, today’s Albania, and the south wind called the Notus blows. There is also the southeast wind, the Eurus, and reference to Hesperian waves, which might mean waves anywhere off the coast of Italy. Horace also mentions several figures in history and mythology: Pelopis genitor refers to Tantalus;  Tithonus was given immortality but not youth and thus shriveled away until he was but the sound of a cicada; Jove helped King Minos of Crete write the laws for his kingdom; Orcus, the god of the underworld was also known as Pluto; and Panthoides refers to Pythagoras, who believed in metempsychosis, the transmigration of souls, and who claimed to be the Trojan Euphorbus in a past life. To prove this, he entered the temple where Euphorbus’ shield was kept and reclaimed it.   

in prose:

[Nauta mortuus Archyta alloquens:] “Prope litus Matinum, [o] Archyta, ‹munera parva pulveris exigui› te, mensorem maris et terrae ‹harenaeque ‹numero carentis››, cohibent. 
“Nec quicquam tibi prodest [te] domos aerias [cum] animo morituro temptasse, polumque rotundum percurisse. 
“Et genitor Pelopis, conviva deorum, occidit. Tithonusque in auras remotus [sublatus] et Minos [in] arcanis Iovis admissus. 
“Tartaraque Panthoiden, Orco demissum, iterum habent, quamvis tempora Troiana clipeo refixo testatus [est]. Te iudice: auctor non sordidus naturae verique, nihil ultra nervos atque cutem morti atrae concesserat. Sed omnis una nox manet et via leti semel calcanda. 
“Furiae alios Marti torvo [propter] spectacula dant. Mare avidum exitio nautis est. Funera senum ac iuvenum mixta densentur. Proserpina saeva nullum caput fugit. 
[Nauta mortuus nautam viventem alloquens:]
Notus rapidus, comes ‹Orionis devexi›, me quoque undis Illyricis obruit.”
“At tu, nauta malignus, ne parce particulam harenae vagae ossibus et capiti inhumato dare. Sic quodcumque Eurus fluctibus Hesperiis minabitur, silvae Venusinae plectantur, te sospite. Mercesque multa tibi—unde potest—defluat, ab Iove aequo Neptunoque, custode Tarenti sacri. 

“Neglegis te postmodo fraudem natis immeritis nocituram committere? Et fors, iura debita vicesque superbae te ipsum maneant. [Meis] precibus inultis non linquar, nullaque piacula te resolvent. Quamquam festinas, non est mora longa. Pulvere ter iniecto, licebit curras.” [revised march 27, 2015]

Latin Rewrite: [I have discovered the Delphin Ordo. The Delphin Ordo was a series of books on classical literature created in the 1670s by a group of scholars for le Grand Dauphin, who was the son of Louis XIV but who died before he could ascend the throne. Among other things The Delphin Ordo contained an ordo verborum for each piece of classical literature. Below is the ordo verborum from the Delphin Ordo for today’s ode, taken from a book written in 1832 titled Opera by the Rev. Henry Pemble.] 

O Archyta, te qui mare terramque et sabulum innumerabile dimensus es, modici pulveris donum tenue coercet juxta oram Matinam. Nil ergo proficit tibi mortali, quòd cœlestes regiones lustrâsti, ambitumque orbis mente circuisti. Sic et Pelopis obiit pater, Numinum conviva, Tithonus etiam in cœlum sublatus, nec non Minos seretorum Jovis particeps: Panthoi filius quoque rursum ad inferos trusus ibidem tenetur; quanquam detracto scuto res Trojanas testificatus, praeter nervos et pellem nigro letho nihil tradiderat, te arbitro, non ignobilis testis naturae et veritatis. Verùm nox eadem cunctos expectat; semelque mortis iter peragendum est. Quosdam Furiæ præbent ludum atroci Marti; perniciosum mare est nautis cupidis. Confusæ vetulorum ac juvenum mortes conglobantur: caput nullum eripitur crudeli Proserpinæ. Sic etiam me Illyricis fluctibus submersit Auster declivis Orionis assecla præceps. Tu verò nauta, ne improbus mihi sis, neve te pigeat errantis sabuli portionem injicere ossibus et capiti insepulto. Ita quicquid Eurus minitabitur Italico mari, luant silvæ Venusinæ, te incolumi: præmium quoque muliplex, undecunque fas erit, tibi conferatur à Jove justo et à Neptuno sacrati Tarenti defensore. Quòd si fortè spernis admittere dilictum posteris innocentibus exitio futurum: ipsi tibi jus acquisitum ac vices arrogantes reddantur. Haud ego destituar votis inutilibus: te verà nullæ purgabunt expiationes. Itaque licèt properes, non diu tardabis; ter injecto pulvere, transgredi fas erit.

original ode:

Tē maris et terrae numerōque carentis harēnae
   mensōrem cohibent, Archȳtā, 
pulveris exiguī prope lītus parva Matīnum
   mūnera nec quicquam tibi prōdest
āeriās temptāsse domōs animōque rotundum
   percurrisse polum moritūrō.
occidit et Pelopis genitor, convīva deōrum,
   Tīthōnusque remōtus in aurās
et Iovis arcānīs Mīnōs admissus habentque
   Tartara Panthoiden iterum Orcō
dēmissum, quamvis clipeō Trōiāna refixō
   tempora testātus nihil ultrā
nervōs atque cutem mortī concesserat ātrae,
   iūdice tē nōn sordidus auctor
nātūrae vērīque. sed omnis ūna manet nox
   et calcanda semel via lētī.
dant aliōs Furiae torvō spectācula Martī,
   exitiō est avidum mare nautīs;
mixta senum ac iuvenum densentur fūnera, nūllum
   saeva caput Prōserpina fūgit.
mē quoque dēvexī rapidus comes Ōrīōnis
   īllyricīs Nōtus obruit undīs.
at tū, nauta, vagae nē parce malignus harēnae
   ossibus et capitī inhumātō
particulam dare: sīc, quodcumque minābitur Eurus   
   fluctibus Hesperiīs, Venusīnae
plectantur silvae tē sospite multaque mercēs,
   unde potest, tibi dēfluat aequō
ab Iove Neptūnōque sacrī custōde Tārenti.
   neglegis immeritīs nocitūram
postmodō tē nātīs fraudem committere? fors et
   dēbita iūra vicēsque superbae
tē maneant ipsum: precibus nōn linquar inultīs
   tēque piācula nūlla resolvent.
quamquam festīnās, nōn est mora longa; licēbit
   iniēctō ter pulvere currās.

:: 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.