So often in this blog I have discussed word order in Horace’s poems—how it seems, to me as a language learner, an impenetrable barrier to the meaning. Like brambles, his seemingly scrambled word order catches me every time and I fail to understand what he is saying.
Then a few weeks ago, I came across a book written almost a hundred years ago by an Australian, Henry Darnley Naylor, called Horace:Odes and Epodes; A Study in Poetic Word-Order. Meticulously, Mr. Naylor has gone over what Horace wrote and extracted sentence pattern after sentence pattern. Like some structuralist method of language learning so popular in the fifties and sixties (the so-called audio-lingual method), the author presents his readers with more than fifty patterns.
He writes this in his introduction [pg. xiii] about the order of words in Latin poetry:
Suppose we enter a room and see upon a table a red flower in a silver bowl, what makes more impression on the mind? Is it the antithetical colours, red and silver, and the antithetical objects, flower and bowl? Or is it the antithesis of the combinations, red flower and silver bowl? English decides for the latter; Latin poetry, more often, for the former; and, with rare exceptions, the two colours, literal or metaphorical, are put first and the two objects last. Thus while prose might write flos purpureus stat in lance argentea, poetry will prefer the order purpureus argentea stat flos in lance . . . .
Mr. Naylor goes on to say that such a grouping in prose is quite rare but commonplace in poetry. Then with this example, he begins to set out an array of patterns, each one carefully indexed to Horace’s odes and epodes.
Now, at last, after struggling with Horace’s turns of phrase for so long, I have something to hold on to. I even feel like writing audio-lingual-like transformation drills, as I had done as a teacher in Peace Corps, to engrain these patterns in my head. Okay, if you are a language teacher, you know the limits of methods based on behavior modification versus cognitively-based ones, still you might find some use for a transformation drill like this, following Mr. Naylor’s pattern #21 (for which he gives some 348 examples from Horace!):
Reorder the following phrases so that the adjective precedes and is separated from the noun it modifies.
Example: Nec colubras viridis metuunt >
Nec viridis metuunt colubras [answer: v. Hor.I:17:8]
1 Per scelus nostrum patimur [v. Hor.I:3:39]
2 Nec prata pruinis canis albicant [v. Hor.I:4:4]
3 Mors pede aequo pulsat [v. Hor.I:4:13]
4 Cui comam flavam religas [v. Hor.I:5:4]
5 Cras aequor ingens iterabimus [v. Hor.I:7:32]
6 Cur campum apricum oderit [v. Hor.I:8:3,4]
7 Cum ad oscula flagrantia detorquet [v. Hor.II:7:25]
8 Aut lyncas timidos agitare [v. Hor.II:13:40]
As for today’s ode, it is written to Tyndaris, a woman Horace knows. It seems to be an invitation to come to his farm in the hills not far from Rome. There the air is cool even in the heat of summer. The goats (which Horace describes as husbands and wives) roam freely. The sounds of the woods, the running streams all make music. There will be singing and wine and thoughts of love. An idyllic scene, but all along there is danger: green serpents, wolves, storms, and the violence of a lover ready to tear the flower crown from his mate’s hair and rip away her innocent clothes.
Swift Faunus often switches sweet
Lucretilis for Lycaeus,
defending goats from fiery summer
and mine from rainstorm winds.
Unharmed through safe woods,
they, the wives of a stinking husband,
seek, off the beaten track,
strawberry trees hiding and thyme.
Of green snakes they’re not afraid,
neither are their kids, of wolves sacred to Mars,
whenever, my Tyndaris, from a sweet pipe
the vales and the rocks,
worn smooth of sloping Ustica,
fill with sound.
The gods make me safe.
My muse and piety please the gods.
Here copious wealth, the land’s reward,
shall flow for you fully from the blessed horn.
Here in a secluded valley
you will escape the dog days of summer,
and with Tean lyre, sing of Penelope
and gleaming Circes,
love-suffering over the same man.
Here in the shade you’ll enjoy
cups of innocent Lesbos wine;
Semeleius Thyoneus and Mars
won’t get into a fight,
and you, whilst under suspicion,
won’t be afraid, though badly matched,
of violent Cyrus putting his wild hands
upon you, shredding
your flower crown, hair-entangled,
your clothes, so undeserving.
translation © 2011 by James Rumford
Tyndaris: a woman’s name, probably fictitious.
Lycaeus: mountain in Arcadia where Jupiter and Pan [Faunus] were worshipped, now called Lykaion, although some insist that it is Diaphorti. Lykaion is related to the French word lycée (Lyceum).
Lucretilis: hill in the Sabine country, now Monte Gennaro; on its slopes was Horace’s farm.
Ustica: was a small hill in the Sabine country near Horace’s villa, perhaps a village, the modern Licenza on the hill opposite Horace’s villa, according to Sidney Alexander’s The Complete Odes and Satires of Horace, 1999, pg. 321.
Copia: the goddess of abundance.
Teius: belonging to Teos, birthplace of Anacreon (poet, fl. 540 B.C.)
Circe / Penelope: Ulysses spent a year with Circe before going back to his wife Penelope.
Semele: daughter of Cadmus and mother of Bacchus by Jupiter.
Thyoneus: son of Thyone, i.e., Bacchus.
Cyrus: the name of an unknown youth. See ode I:33, blog March 20, 2010.
Faunus velox saepe Lucretilem amoenum Lycaeo mutat et aestatem igneam ventosque pluvios usque capellis meis defendit.
Impune per nemus tutum, uxores mariti olentes arbutos latentes et thyma deviae quaerunt, nec colubras virides metuunt, nec haediliae lupos Martiales, [o] Tyndari, utcumque fistula dulci valles et saxa levia Usticae cubantis personuer[unt].
Di me tuentur. Pietas mea et musa cordi dis est. Hic copia opulenta [ex] cornu benigno honorum ruris tibi ad plenum manabit. Hic in valle reducta aestus Caniculae vitabis et fide Teia Penelopen Circenque vitream, in uno laborantes, dices.Hic pocula Lesbii innocentis sub umbra duces, nec Thyoneus Semeleius cum Marte proelia confundet, nec [tu] suspecta Cyrum protervum metues, ne [suas] manus incontinentes [tibi] male dispari iniciat et ‹coronam crinibus haerentem› ‹vestemque immeritam› scindat. [revised March 27, 2015]
Celer Faunus Lycæum frequenter commutat Lucretili jucunde; caprasque meas tuetur semper ab aestate fervidá, ventisque imbriferis. Feminæ masculi fœtentis citra periculum errantes per silvam, securæ investigant arbutos occultas ac thymum, hædi verò non timent lupos Martios, neque colubros virides; quandocunque, ô Tyndari, suavi ejus tibiâ resonuere valles, rupesque haud asperæ montis Usticæ declivis. Numina me protegunt; pietas mea poësisque placent Numinibus. Illinc tibi liberali cornu fluet affatim dives abundantia opum agrestium. Ibi profundâ in convalle fugies ardorem Caniculæ; chordâque Teïâ cantabis Penelopen, et Circen fulgidam pro eodem solicitas. Illic innoxii Lesbii scyphos hauries in umbrâ: neque furens Semeles filius cum Marte pugnas miscebit: neque timebis suspicionem creare pertulanti Cyro, ne tibi minimè æquali intemperantes manus adhibeat, frangatque corollam impositam capillis, et innocens vestimentum.
Vēlox amoenum saepe Lucrētilem
mūtat Lycaeō Faunus et igneam
dēfendit aestātem capellīs
usque meīs pluviōsque ventōs.
impūne tūtum per nemus arbutōs
quaerunt latentıs et thyma dēviae
olentıs uxōrēs marītī
nec viridıs metuunt colubrās
nec Martiālıs haediliae lupōs,
utcumque dulcī, Tyndarī, fistulā
vallēs et Ustīcae cubantis
lēvia personuēre saxa.
dī mē tuentur, dīs pietās mea
et Mūsa cordī est. hīc tibi cōpia
mānābit ad plēnum benignō
rūris honōrum opulenta cornū;
hīc in reductā valle Canīculae
vītābis aestūs et fide Tēiā
dīcēs labōrantıs in ūnō
Pēnelopen vǐtriamque Circen;
hīc innocentis pōcula Lesbiī
dūcēs sub umbrā nec Semelēius
cum Marte confundet Thyōnēus
proelia nec metuēs protervum
suspecta Cȳrum, nē male disparī
incontinentıs īniciat manūs
et scindat haerentem corōnam
crīnibus immeritamque vestem.
:: Latin books by James Rumford ::
For all 102 odes purchase Carpe Diem, Horace De-Poetized, for $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.