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.


  1. I think you'll find Cypri in the first line is 'of Cyprus' (Venus' island) not 'of Cypress' ( a tree). Otherwise, nice work!

  2. Thank you for your comment. I'll make the correction right away. Homonyms--always a problem! Wonder if there are any in Latin.