Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Speech-Poem :: Qualem Ministrum :: IV:4

This ode is another long one, full of Horace’s tricks. He has pulled out all of the stops to praise one of the Nero boys, Drusus—at the request Caesar Augustus himself or so we are told by the first-century Roman historian Suetonius. Suetonius also tells us that Augustus got Horace to write Book IV in order to praise the imperial step-sons Drusus and Tiberius. Perhaps because of this, I almost get the sense that Horace wrote this ode as though he were writing a political speech, using a time-honored rhetorical device: the delayed subject. You’ve heard these kinds of speeches a million times: “This man who . . . , this citizen who . . . , this caring father who . . . , this warring soldier who . . . , this  leader who . . . I nominate for President, Percy Beaverstock! [Ten minutes of cheering and general ruckus.] 

Such speeches are a lot of fun. Everyone knows who’s being talked about. Everyone can join in the excitement of mock anticipation. Unfortunately, after two thousand years, it’s a little hard to join in the fun. Maybe this is a case of “you had to be there.”  

I was completely baffled by the first word qualem, ‘like.’ And it took me days to figure out who the subject was: Vindelici, an Alpine tribe to the north. In fact, what a disappointment this ode was, not because I found it boring, but because after all of the time spent studying Horace, I found it so difficult.

There have been some benefits in toiling over this poem. For the last several months I have been spending my time, not writing blogs about Horace, but writing a companion guide to my next children’s picture book From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World, which will be on bookshelves this September (see more at

The companion guide explains all of the illustrations I did for the picture book and goes into detail about the various processes involved in making a book in the fifteenth century. My research lead me to learning about the city of Mainz, Germany, where Gutenberg printed the first books from movable type. It turns out that Mainz has some bearing on this poem. Drusus, the hero of today’s ode, founded the city around 13 BC as a military outpost, calling it Castrum Mogontiacum, which over the centuries evolved into the word ‘Mainz.’ Drusus was a popular general. After he died in 9 BC, the legionnaires stationed in Mogontiacum erected a monument to him. It is still there and is known as the Drususstein. In drawing a panorama of Mainz in the year 1450, I used old etchings and woodcuts of the city. The Drususstein was prominent in all of them. Also, close to Mainz, in those days, were the Germanic tribes called the Vindelici and the Rhaeti, both mentioned in today’s ode.


In my translation, I decided to imitate Horace’s rhetorical tricks in English. I am not sure that it works to begin a poem with ‘him!’ but I will see what you think. Also, if you compare my translation with other ones, you will notice that I haven’t followed ‘party’ lines. I have had my own take on how to weave the bit about the Amazonian ax into the narrative of the poem, on what the temples ruined by the Carthaginians did, and on what happened in Thebes and Colchis. To show you the structure of the beginning of the ode, I have also done some coloring: the green is the object of the verb videre (blue), whose subject is in red. 

Notes ::

Ganymede: a Trojan boy carried off by Jupiter’s eagle
Metaurus: Meturo River famous for the defeat of Hasdrubal
Hasdrubal: Hannibal’s brother
Eurus: southeast wind
Ausonian: early inhabitants of Italy 
Algido: a mountain (Monte Compatri) 20 miles southeast of Rome
Colchi: people of Colchis (Medea), at the eastern end of the Black Sea (Georgia). Celebrated because of the golden fleece and Medea. Perhaps the homeland of the Amazons.
Echionian: Echion sprang up from the dragon’s teeth sown by Cadmus; later he helped Cadmus found Thebes.

Translation ::

Him! Like thunder’s winged servant whom 
the king of the gods let reign over errant birds. 
Him! Jupiter found faithful like yellow-haired 

Him! Youth and force of instinct propelled, 
ignorant of hardships, from the nest and 
Him! the spring breezes, taught, still 
frightened, unusual ascents in the far-off clouds.

Him! the enemy, a lively push 
soon sent into the sheepfold. 
Him! the love of feast and fight had 
already driven into hostile serpents.

Him! Like a lion, with his new teeth,
already pushed away from the milk
of his tawny mother’s stretched out teat, 
saw the soon-to-die roe in the rich fields.

Him . . . Drusus! . . . warring beneath 
the Rhaetan Alps, did the Vindelici see,
about them I have put off asking 
whence the custom they have

of always arming their right hand with 
an Amazonian ax, but it’s not fated everything 
to know, even so, their long-winning,
wide-winning forces, conquered by the 

young man’s strategies, found out, what 
intellect, what genius, rightly fed beneath 
a sky of fortune, what Augustus’ fatherliness 
toward the Nero boys was capable of.

The strong? Made by the strong and the good. 
It’s in the young bulls, it’s in the 
horses—the fathers’ manliness; wild eagles 
do not spawn a warless dove.

But teaching does promote the power within 
and right training does steel the heart. 
Wherever morals are lacking,
disgraced are the well-bred through sin.

What do you, O Rome, owe the Neros? 
The Metaurum River stands witness and Hasdrubal 
defeated and that first, beautiful day, 
when darkness fled Latium,

when the rewards of valor kindly smiled,
as the dire African galloped through 
the cities of Italy like a flame through the pines 
or Eurus the waves of Sicily.

After that, through ever successful work, 
Roman youth grew, and the temples, ruined 
by ungodly wars with the Carthaginians 
at our borders, set their gods aright.

Didn’t the perfidious Hannibal say, 
“We deer, the prey of rapacious wolves, 
are doing the hunting—wantonly 
and the best triumph is to feign and flee.

Those people from Ilium burned,
thrown into Tuscan Seas, who valiantly 
brought over to Ausonian cities their religion,
their children, their elderly, their fathers,

like an oak cut by a hard two-headed ax,
dark fronds in fertile Algido,
through losses, through bloodshed, 
they take strength and courage from the iron itself.

The Hydra, its body cut up, didn’t grow 
stronger against Hercules, smarting from 
being beaten, nor did Colchi produce a greater 
monster or Echionian Thebes.

Knock him way down, he, more glorious, 
comes up fighting and pulls down an 
unbeaten victor to much praise, and fights 
a battle for wives to tell.

To Carthage I’ll not now send proud 
messengers. It has fallen, fallen, 
all the hope and the fortune of our 
name, with Hasdrubal destroyed!”

There isn’t a thing they cannot do,
the hands of the Claudians, which Jupiter 
with a favorable nod defends and wise counsel   
readies through the keenness of war. 

In Prose ::

Qualem ministrum alitem fulminis, cui rex deorum regnum in aves vagas permisit—Iuppiter, expertus fidelem in Ganymede flavo. 
Olim iuventas et vigor patrius laborum inscium [ex] nido protulit. Ventique verni iam paventem nisus insolitos nimbis remotis docuer[unt]. Mox impetus vividus hostem in ovilia demisit. Iam amor dapis atque pugnae in dracones reluctantes egit. 
Qualemve leonem, ‹iam ab lacte [et] ubere matris fulvae depulsum›, [quem] ‹caprea, dente novo peritura›, ‹pascuis laetis intenta› vidit. 
[Sic] Vindelici Drusum, ‹bella sub Alpibus Rhaetis gerentem› videre.
Sed, [ego] distuli quaerere [a] quibus [gentibus] deductus [sit] mos, unde in omne tempus securi Amazonia dextras obarmet. Nec fas est omnia scire.
Sed, catervae diu lateque vitrices, consiliis iuvenis revictae, senser[unt] quid mens, quid indoles ‹sub penetralibus faustis rite nutrita›, quid animus paternus Augusti in pueros Nerones posset. 
Fortes ‹fortibus et bonis› creantur. Virtus est in iuvencis, est in equis patrum, neque aquilae feroces columbam imbellem progenerant. 
Sed doctrina vim insitam promovet, cultusque recti pectora roborat. Utcumque mores defecer[unt], bene nata culpae indecorant. 
Quid, o Roma, Neronibus debeas? Testes: flumen Metaurum et Hasdrubal devictus et pulcher ille dies, Latio tenebris fugatis, qui primus adorea alma risit, ut Afer dirus per urbes Ītalas equitavit, ceu flamma per taedas vel Eurus per undas Siculas. 
Post hoc ‹laboribus usque secundis› pubes Romana crevit et fana, tumultu impio Poenorum vastata, deos rectos habuer[unt].
Perfidusque tamen Hannibal dixit, “Cervi, praeda luporum rapacium, ultro sectamur, [cervi] quos triumphus opimus est fallere et effugere. Gens, quae fortis ab Ilio cremato, aequoribus Tuscis iactata, sacra natosque maturosque et patres ad urbes Ausonias pertulit—ut ilex bipennibus duris tunsa, frondes nigrae in Algido feraci, per damna, per caedes ab ferro ipso opes animumque ducit. 
Hydra, corpore secto, in Herculem, vinci dolentem, firmior non crevit; monstrum Colchi[ve] Thebaeve Echionae maius [non] submisere.
“Profundo merses, pulchrior evenit. Luctere cum multa laude victorem integrum proruet. Proeliaque coniugibus loquenda geret. 
“Ego nuntios superbos Carthagini iam non mittam, spes omnis et fortuna nominis nostri occidit, occidit, Hasdrubale interempto.”
Nil manus Claudiae, quas Juppiter in numine benigno defendit, non proficiunt et curae sagaces per belli acuta expediunt.  
  [revised March 28, 2015]

Original ::

Quālem ministrum fulminis ālitem,
cui rex deōrum regnum in avıs vagās
  permīsit expertus fidēlem
      Iuppiter in Ganymēde flāvō,
ōlim iuventās et patrius vigor
nīdō labōrum prōtulit inscium,
  vernīque iam nimbīs remōtīs
      insolitōs docuēre nīsūs
ventī paventem, mox in ovīlia
dēmīsit hostem vīvidus impetus,
  iam in reluctantıs dracōnēs
      ēgit amor dapis atque pugnae,
quālemve laetīs caprea pascuīs
intenta fulvae mātris ab ūbere
  iam lacte dēpulsum leōnem
      dente novō peritūra vīdit,
vidēre Rhaetīs bella sub Alpibus
Drūsum gerentem Vindelicī—quibus
  mōs unde dēductus sed in omne
      tempus Amāzoniā secūrī
dextrās obarmet, quaerere distulī,
nec scīre fās est omnia—sed diū
  lātēque victrīcēs catervae
      consiliīs iuvenis revictae
sensēre, quid mens rīte, quid indoles
nūtrīta faustīs sub penetrālibus
  posset, quid Augustī paternus
      in puerōs animus Nerōnēs.
fortēs creantur fortibus et bonīs;
est in iuvencīs est in equīs patrum
  virtus neque imbellem ferōcēs
      prōgenerant aquilae columbam;
doctrīna sed vim prōmōvet insitam,
rectīque cultus pectora robōrat;
  utcumque dēfēcēre mōrēs,
      indecorant bene nāta culpae.
quid dēbeās, ō Rōma, Nerōnibus,
testıs Metaurum flūmen et Hasdrubal
  dēvictus et pulcher fugātīs
      ille diēs Latiō tenēbrīs,
quī prīmus almā rīsit adōreā,
dīrus per urbıs āfer ut Ītalās
  ceu flamma per taedās vel Eurus
      per Siculās equitāvit undās.
post hōc secundīs usque labōribus
Rōmāna pūbes crēvit, et impiō
  vastāta Poenōrum tumultū
      fāna, deōs habuēre rectōs,
dīxitque tamen perfidus Hannibal
“cervī, lupōrum praeda rapācium,
  sectāmur ultrō, quōs opīmus
      fallere et effugere est triumphus.
gens, quae cremātō fortis ab īliō
iactāta Tuscīs aequoribus sacra
  nātōsque mātūrōsque et patrēs
      pertulit Ausoniās ad urbēs,
dūrīs ut īlex tunsa bipennibus
nigrae ferācī frondıs in Algidō,
  per damna, per caedēs, ab ipsō
      dūcit opēs animumque ferrō.
nōn Hydra sectō corpore firmior
vincī dolentem crēvit in Herculem,
  monstrumve submisēre Colchī
      māius Echīonaeve Thēbae.
mersēs profundō: pulchrior ēvenit:
luctēre: multā prōruet integrum
  cum laude victōrem, geretque
      proelia, coniugibus loquenda.
Carthāginī iam nōn ego nuntiōs
mittam superbōs: occidit, occidit
  spēs omnis et fortūna nostrī
      nōminis, Hasdrubale interemptō.”
nīl Claudiae nōn prōficiunt manūs,
quās in benignō nūmine Iuppiter
  dēfendit et cūrae sagācēs
      expediunt per acūta bellī.

:: 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.