Porphyrio in his ancient commentary says it all about this ode in his introductory remarks:
Hoc a Pindaro sumpsit. Continet autem haec ode
laudes deorum ac principum Romanorum.
He took this from Pindar. This ode has
in it praise for the gods and Roman leaders.
In reading this ode, I was struck by the sounds, perhaps for the first time. Up to now I have not appreciated the long and short syllables that make up Latin and Greek meter. This is because I am used to poetry based on stress. It is also because English poetry often rhymes. Latin poetry does not, ever, I guess, in classical times. However, in this ode, there is a repetition of sounds that seems like rhyming. Look at the end words for these lines:
2, 4 Clio - imago
7, 8 insecutae - silvae
10, 12 ventos - quercus
13, 16 parentis - horis
14, 15 deorum - mundum
21, 22 silebo - virgo
23, 24 certa - sagitta.
And so forth, throughout the ode. What is interesting is that I have not noticed this before. Yet, now, as I scan the end words of various odes, I sometimes see a similar phenomen:
ventos, arbutos (lines 4-5, I:17)
saxa, mea, copia (lines 12-14, I:17)
levis, nitendtis (lines 18-19, I:14)
but not as much as I do in today’s ode. I don’t know the reason for the high occurrence of rhyming, but because of the endings in Latin, a Roman poet has to work pretty hard not to rhyme. I have been using the word ‘rhyme,’ but these are not ‘full’ rhymes. Horace, I don’t think, ever pairs up words like imago and virago, horis and temporis, or ventis and mentis, as we might do in English.
Another interesting thing about this poem from a linguistic stand point is the expression parum castis in line 59. Parum castis means ‘unchaste, polluted.’ Literally, it means ‘little chaste.’ Apparently, parum can turn castus into its antonym, although there exists a bona fide antonym that Horace could have used: incestus. At this point, I don’t know if there are other antonyms made with parum, but this construction certainly found its way into French, cf. peu profond, peu intelligent, peu épais. Interestingly, not all of French adjectives have ‘trilogies,’ like intelligent—peu intelligent—stupide. Some have only two components, such as profond—peu profond. There is no word for ‘shallow.’ I wonder if there are any such examples in Latin. Would we need a real live native speaker to tell us? If so, it’s a bit too late.
Putting the last few lines under the microscope has brought up another point: what do they really mean?
tu parum castis inimica mittes
Nial Rudd translates this as ‘you will hurl your bolts of wrath upon groves that are ritually polluted.’ A French translation has: ‘et tu enverras les foudres vengeresses à qui profanera les bois sacrés.’ The Delphin Ordo has ‘tu infesta in contaminatos lucos tonitrua vibrabis.’ When you line up the translations with Horace’s words, you can see how difficult these lines are, how much the translator has had to explain.
TU you, tu, tu
PARUM CASTIS that are ritually polluted, à qui profanera, contaminatos
INIMICA of wrath, vengeresses, infesta
MITTES will hurl, enverras, vibrabis
FULMINA your bolts, les foudres, tonitrua
LUCIS upon groves, les bois sacrés, lucos.
I’m sure I’ve said this before: I am not convinced that explanation is a good thing in translation. There is no explanation in the translation of the Bible. There are cadres of priests and preacher and tele-evangilists to do the explaining. Why not just translate Horace’s words and let professors of Latin have at it? Isn’t it true that modern poetry in English sometimes begs interpretation and explanation, yet none is provided by the poet. It is the same with all art forms: music, painting, sculpture. The artist/poet/composer speaks to others through the medium he or she has chosen. The result is either confused, subtly nuanced, or brilliantly clear.
What man or hero by lyre or by shrill
pipe are you choosing to celebrate, Clio?
What god? Whose name will echo the joyful sound
either in the shady slopes of Helicon
or on top of Pindus or cold Haemus, where
the woods rashly followed Orpheus calling,
delaying by his mother’s art the rapid
rivers’ flow and the swift winds and coaxing
with singing lyre the oaks to perk up their ears?
First what, with the usual praise, shall I say
of the Father, who by the changing seasons,
rules the things of men and gods, sea, land, and sky,
from whom springs not one thing greater than himself,
nor thrives anything like him or comes close to him?
And yet, next to him Pallas holds the honors,
battle bold; and I’ll not keep silent about
you Liber and the Virgin, foe of wild beasts,
and you, Phoebus, dreaded for your sure arrow.
I shall talk of Alcides and Leda’s sons,
one famous for his horses, the other with
his fists. As soon as their gleaming star has shone
for sailors, water flows from the rocks stirred up,
the winds die down, the clouds fly away and the
threatening wave, as wished, settles down on the sea.
Should I speak of Romulus after them or
the quiet reign of Pompilius, Tarquin’s
proud rods, I’m not sure, or Cato’s noble death?
Of Regulus, of the Scauri, of Paulus,
careless of great life, when the Carthaginian
won, I shall sing grateful for Camena,
and of Fabricius, long-haired Curius,
and Camillus. Poverty, the ancestral
land with a fitting home, made each fit for war
Grows like a tree in time, secretly, the fame
of Marcellus: shines among all, the Julius
star like the moon among lesser fires.
Father of the human race and protector,
Saturn born, may you, entrusted by fate with
the great Caesar’s care, rule with him beside you.
He (whether the Persians threatening Latium
he drives conquered in just triumph or the Chinese
and Hindus bordering the rising sun)
will rule fairly the happy world next to you.
You’ll shake Olympus with heavy chariot.
You’ll send hostile thunderbolts to unclean woods.
translation © 2011 by James Rumford
Clio: a muse
Helicon: Greek mountain sacred to Apollo
Pindus: Greek mountain range
Haemus: Greek mountain
Orpheus: Apollo’s son by a muse
Pallas: Athena’s title
Leda: mother of Castor and Pollux
Pompilus: second king of Rome
Tarquinius: last king of Rome, a tyrant
Cato: consul 195 BC, a venerated Roman statesman
Regulus: captured in the First Punic War and died a noble death
Scaurus: either M. Aemilius Scaurus, who drove his son to suicide around 100 BC, or M. Aurelius Scaurus, consul in 108 BC, who showed honor in defeat.
Paulus: noble who married Augustus’ cousin
Fabricius: 3rd century soldier and statesman
Curius: 3rd century soldier, honest and frugal
Camillus: dictator 396 BC
Marcellus: consul and general during the third century BC
Julius star: refers to Augustus but comes from the comet sighted in 44 BC, when Julius Caesar was assassinated.
Accents & Symbols Used
(Standard accents for Latin have been modified to
accommodate the internet)
italics = short vowels—flava
ˆ long vowels—tacitâ
ı poetic long e—habentıs for habentês
[ ] words added for clarity—[ego] princeps
‹ › sense groups—‹ex humili potens›
Quem virum aut heroa lyrâ vel tibiâ acri sumis celebrare, Clio? Quem deum? Cuius imago iocosa nomen recinet— aut in oris umbrosis Heliconis, aut super Pindo gelidove in Haemo, unde silvae temerê insecutae [sunt] Orphea vocalem, lapsûs rapidos fluminum ventosque celerıs arte maternâ morantem et blandum quercûs auritâs fidibus canorîs ducere?
Quid prius laudibus parentis solitîs dicam, [parentis] qui res hominum ac deorum, qui mare et terras mundumque horis variis temperat? Unde nil maius ipsô generatur? Nec quicquam simile [Iovis] aut secundum [Iovem] viget.
Pallas, proeliis audax-—honores proximos tamen illi [Iovi] occupavit. Neque te, [o] Liber, silebo, et virgo belvis saevis inimica, nec te, [o] Phoebe, sagittâ certâ metuende.
Et dicam—Alciden puerosque Ledae: hunc equis, illum pugnis superare; quorum simul stella alba [in] nautis refulsit, umor agitatus saxis defluit, venti concidunt nubesque fugiunt et unda minax, quod sic [Castor et Pollex] voluere, [in] ponto recumbit.
Post hos, dubito prius Romulum an regnum quietum Pompili, an fascıs superbos Tarquini, an letum nobile Catonis memorem.
[Ego] gratus Regulum et Scauros, ‹Paulumque animae magnae prodigum, Poeno superante›, Fabriciumque Camenâ insigni referam. Et paupertas saeva et ‹fundus avitus cum lare aptô› hunc [Fabricium] et Curium ‹capillis incomptis› et Camillum util[iles] bello tulit. Fama Marcelli velut arbor, aevo occulto, crescit.
Sidus Iulium inter omnis micat— velut luna inter ignıs minores. [O] pater gentis humanae atque custos, [o â] Saturno orte, tibi ‹cura Caesaris magni› [â] fatis data. Tu regnes, Caesare secundo. Ille, seu Parthos, Latio imminentıs, domitos [in] triumpho iusto egerit, sive Seras et Indos subiectos orae Orientis. [Ille] te minor, orbem laetum aequus reget. Tu Olympum curru gravi quaties. Tu fulmina inimica lucis parum-castis mittes. [revised August 2013]
Quem virum aut heroa lyra vel acri
tibia sumis celebrare, Clio?
quem deum? cuius recinet iocosa
aut in umbrosis Heliconis oris
aut super Pindo gelidove in Haemo,
unde vocalem temerê insecutae
arte materna rapidos morantem
fluminum lapsûs celerısque ventos,
blandum et auritas fidibus canorîs
quid prius dicam solitîs parentis
laudibus, qui res hominum ac deorum,
qui mare et terras variisque mundum
unde nil maius generatur ipso,
nec viget quicquam simile aut secundum:
proximos illi tamen occupavit
proeliis audax, neque te silebo,
Liber, et saevis inimica virgo
belvis, nec te, metuende certâ
dicam et Alciden puerosque Ledae,
hunc equis, illum superare pugnis
nobilem; quorum simul alba nautis
defluit saxis agitatus umor,
concidunt venti fugiuntque nubes
et minax, quod[quia or qui] sic voluere, ponto
Romulum post hos prius an quietum
Pompili regnum memorem, an superbos
Tarquini fascıs, dubito, an Catonis
Regulum et Scauros animaeque magnae
prodigum Paulum superante Poeno
gratus insigni referam Camenâ
hunc et incomptis Curium capillis
utilem bello tulit et Camillum
saeva paupertas et avitus apto
cum lare fundus.
crescit occulto velut arbor aevo
fama Marcelli; micat inter omnis
Iulium sidus, velut inter ignıs
gentis humanae pater atque custos,
orte Saturno, tibi cura magni
Caesaris fatis data: tu secundo
ille seu Parthos Latio imminentıs
egerit iusto domitos triumpho
sive subiectos Orientis orae
Seras et Indos,
te minor laetum reget aequus orbem;
tu gravi curru quaties Olympum,
tu parum castis inimica mittes
For the other 102 odes, annotated and rendered into prose, get a copy of Carpe Diem, Horace De-Poetized.
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