Sunday, November 24, 2013

Modeling Clay :: Ibis Liburnis :: Epode 1

[from Snowmanradio]

The first lines of this Epode made me laugh when I finally figured them out. I had assumed Horace had presented us with the ibis bird for close inspection. Instead, he had meant just ibis, ‘you will go.’ Reminds me of a translation I once saw in an old yearbook…probably a translation that, like sub ubi for ‘underwear,’ is known by every high school Latin student. This translation was ‘Gail was invited to three parties in all.’ I’ll let you identify the original Latin.

Translation is difficult and I have talked about why and how it is difficult in past blogs. I know I have mentioned the notion of ‘lost in translation,’ but I do not think I have mentioned everything that is lost because, it occurred to me the other day that what is abandoned, whether intentionally or not, is complexity. This thought occurred to me after reading an article about Daniel Ladinsky, who has made a success of himself translating Hafez and Rumi for modern ears.

Modern ears? Yes, those ears that desire to hear what is simple and clean. In architecture we seek clean lines. In typography uncluttered is beautiful. In music, it’s the beat, even over the dissonance of rap. In visual art, a few strokes of color will do for a painting, a few grains of rice scattered on a museum floor for three dimensional art. In literature, we admire the purity of the works of Hemingway. In the wasteland, beyond this aesthetic realm we have constructed, lies what is rejected: the busy, the ornate, the over-the-top. 

Was this also the aesthetics of Hafez or Rumi—or Horace, for that matter? What if complexity was as much a part of the art of their poetry as was the choice of words or the subject matter? Consider music. Think of Bach or Mozart. Now consider the works of these two simplified and reduced to what is essential. In other words, think of their work translated for modern ears. 

This is what has happened to the poems of Hafez and Rumi in the hands of a Ladinsky. This is what happens as I translate Horace. I seek the simple, the everyday speech that will make Horace speak to us. But I worry. Every time, I know I have left behind the complexity. I have lost the beauty of words weaving in and out, words corralled into fantastic sense groups. These things cannot be translated. And so, translation, is of necessity, to return to my analogy with music, monaural.

But is this comparison between music and non-English poetry a fair one? No. Bach can be appreciated in the original and in its many derivations. The Mona Lisa can be viewed by anyone and when translated onto a modern canvas by some Andy Warhol admired. Horace and Hafez, on the other hand, remain just sounds to English ears. There can be no appreciation beyond that. While an English speaker may appreciate the long and short vowels, even the cadence of the original poem, after a few lines, the mind shuts down. Without meaning, the sounds become noise.

And so, while Horace’s words may be eternal, his translations are not, for every few centuries new translations will be demanded not just to extirpate archaisms but to meet the aesthetics of the times. The Bible may have sung in the ears of Wycliff’s listeners, then a few hundred years later in those of King James; today it sings a different song. And tomorrow, there will be another.

Hafez in English may be in Ladinky’s voice today, but tomorrow it will have another’s voice. Horace, too, will continue to change, for, whether he could have  envisioned this or not, his monumentum aere is but modeling clay in the hands of his translators, now that Latin is dead and gone. 

But now a closer look at the work at hand. In this first of Horace’s epodes, his patron Maecenas is off to war. In what capacity? As a rich man, a thrill seeker, like those illuminati and glitterati of Washington D.C. who went off to see one of the first engagements of the Civil War at the Battle of Bull Run, and had to flee for their lives when the Union forces were overrun? Probably Maecenas was none of these. Daniel Garrison in his Horace:Epodes and Odes  [1991] states that Maecenas probably stayed in Rome to keep order at the time of the battle of Actium in 31 BC and went no where, no matter what Horace has implied in this epode. So what were Horace’s words for? Garrison suggests that they were a “statement of loyalty,” a “dedication to Horace’s benefactor.” They seem to be grand words to me, mainly because Horace often uses nos when he means ego. Perhaps here, as in Virgil’s Eclogues, nos is more self-deprecating than it is self-aggrandizing. 

There are three areas in this epode that deserve some grammatical sleuthing. The first of these is:

Ibis Liburnis inter alta navium,
    amice, propugnacula,
paratus omne Caesaris periculum
    subire, Maecenas, tuo.

Besides the lexical hurdle of Liburna [a light, fast-sailing bireme-type ship named after the Liburnians, an Illyrian (Albanian) people] and propugnaculum [a tower on a ship], we have two vocatives (amice and Maecenas) and a ablative/dative (tuo) dangling at the end of the sentence. The vocatives can be dealt with but tuo has caused translators heaps of trouble.

Signore Ramous ignores the problem in Italian:

Su un battello, amico mio, te ne andrai fra le alte torri delle navi, preparato ad affrontare per Cesare qualsiasi rischio, Mecenate [Mario Ramous]

Señor Salinas does the same in Spanish:

¿Iras en los bajeles liburnos, amigo Mecenas, entre las altas fortalezas de las naves, resuelto a afrontar todos los peligros del Cesar? [Germán Salinas, 2005]

Mlle. Carlès explains the word in French:

tu iras sur nos liburnes, au milieu des hautes forteresses navales, ami, prêt à affronter tous les dangers de César, Mécène, au péril de ta vie. [Danielle Carlès, 2012]

And the Reverend Francis offers a different take in eighteenth-century English:

While You, my brave, illustrious Friend, would Caesar’s Person with your own defend: and Anthony’s high-tower’d Fleet, with light, Liburnian Gallies fearless meet, [Philip Francis, 1747]

When we turn to Latin speakers we find that Acron tells us: tuo. Subaudi periculo.

Porphyrio makes an even clearer relationship between tuo and periculum. He writes:

Non videtur verecundiae Horatii convenire, ut amicum se Maecenatis dicat, cum clientem debeat dicere. Numquid ergo sic ordinanda phrasis est, ut amice Caesaris intellegamus, et ideo bis Caesaris accipiendum erit, ut sit tale: Amice Caesaris, Maecenas, ibis Liburnis paratus [omne] periculum Caesaris tuo periculo subire? 

It doesn’t seem to fit Horace’s modesty that he would call himself Maecenas’ friend, when he ought to say that he is under his protection. What then must be the order of the phrase so that we might understand it to be ‘O friend of Caesar,’ and for that reason Caesaris must be taken twice so that it might be this: O friend of Caesar, Maecenas, you will go on Liburnians readied to undergo the danger to Caesar with danger to you? 

Along with his insight about the meaning of amice (for who am I to judge a native speaker?), I see more clearly what I should write in English:

You’ll go on Liburnians among high-towered 
     ships, O friend of Caesar, 
prepared to undergo every danger, 
     Maecenas, with your own

The second place where the grammar gets tricky follows hard on the heels of the first:

quid nos, quibus te vita si superstite
    iucunda, si contra, gravis?

If we add a few missing verbs, we might see things more clearly:

quid faciemus nos, quibus te vita si superstite
     sit iucunda, si sit contra, erit gravis

I’m not sure whether I have the tenses/moods right, but you get the picture. The only unclear part is quibus te vita si superstite iucunda. It seems that we are dealing with a relative clause and an ablative absolute. The relative clause is:

quibus vita iucunda

and means 

qui vitam iucundam habeamus

The ablative absolute is tricky because Horace has carefully wrapped it around vita, the subject of the relative clause and he has added the conjunction si to strengthen the meaning of the ablative absolute—something I didn’t think was possible. At any rate, we get:

What am I to do, who’ll have a happy life, if you survive; if not, hard?

The third sticky place is here:

comes minore sum futurus in metu,
    qui maior absentıs habet;
ut adsidens implumibus pullis avis
    serpentium allapsūs timet
magis relictis, non ut adsit auxilī
    latura plus praesentibus.

These lines are so terse, so compact that they defy comprehension at a glance. I hope that a Roman went ‘huh?’ when he came across these, ‘cause I certainly did.

If I break up these lines into small prose sentences, the meaning might become clearer.

Si ego comes tuus sim, ego in metu minore ero.
Metus eos absentes maior habet.
Ut avis quae pullis implumibus adsidet. 
Si avis eos relinquat, allapsūs serpentium magis timet.
Non ut avis adsit, plus auxilii pullis praesentibus latura est?

Three observations: 1] Ut avis = qualis avis. 2] Auxili is the older genitive form of auxilium. In Latin the genitive is used as in French: plus d’aide. 3] Non ut + subjunctive turns ut into ‘although’ and here it seems like the English expression ‘not that….would.’

Does this help? If not, perhaps this French translation by Danielle Carlès [b. 1956] will. It is delightfully as complicated as the original:

À tes côtés je serai moins dans cette peur
qui s’épanouit dans l’absence,
comme un oiseau veillant sa couvée déplumée
craint une approche des serpents
bien plus quand il les laisse seuls, mais qu’il soit là
n’aiderait pas plus, face à eux.

Now compare this with a more melodious translation by Ugo Dotti [b. 1933]

Vicini, si prova meno il timore
     che attanaglia lontani,
come l’uccello che, se è presso ai suoi implumi,
     meno teme lo strisciare del serpe,
e non perché, vicino, li possa aiutare
    più di quando è lontano.

Now listen to the eighteenth century speak in the words of the Reverend Francis [c1708-1773]:

     Absence, my Lord, increases Fear;
The Danger lessens when the Friend is near;
     Thus, if the mother-Bird forsake
Her unfledg’d Young, She dreads the gliding Snake,
     With deeper Agonies afraid,
Not that her Presence could afford them Aid.

Finally a few vocabulary words to note:

Calabris: the region in the “toe” of Italy.
Lucana: from the Lucani, an Oscan-Umbrian tribe in the mountains of southern Italy.
Tusculi: Tusculum a city in Latium about 25 km southeast of Rome near present-day Frascati.
Circaea: an adjective based on Circe, whose son Telegonus, it was said, founded Tusculum 
Chremes: possibly a made-up name from the Greek χρηματα “money.” Was Horace being Dickensian before Dickens? Cf. Scrooge. 

Translation ::

You’ll go on Liburnians among high-towered 
     ships, O friend of Caesar, 
prepared to undergo every danger, 
     Maecenas, with your own!
What of me for whom life will be, if you make it,
     joyous, if not—aggrieved?
Is it that, bidden, I am to pursue idleness—
     unkind—unless one with you 
or am I about to bear this task with a mind
     soft men aren’t fit to bear?
I will bear it and you through the tips of the Alps,
     the inhospitable Caucasus,
or all the way to the furthest western bay I, 
     heart strong, will follow.
You ask how with my efforts I’ll help yours, me—
     no fighter, yielding?
As an attendant, I will be in less fear
     (which grips those absent more)
just as, sitting on unfledged chicks, a bird fears
     the snakes’ onslaught more when
they’re left—not that were she there, she’d bring
     more help to those nearby.
Willingly this and every war will be fought
     with the hope of your favor—
not so that many more cattle will struggle
     under my plow,
that the herd might before the Dog Star change pasture
     from Calabria to Lucania.
that a shining villa in high Tusculum 
     might touch its Circean walls.
Your kindness has given me riches enough,
     which I am not about,
like Miser Chremes, to bury in the earth,
     or a dissolute heir, to waste.
                   translation © 2013 by James Rumford

In Prose ::

     [O] amice Caesaris, [in] Liburnis inter propugnacula alta navium ibis, paratus omne periculum tuo, Maecenas, subire.
     Quid nos, quibus vita iucunda [erit], si te superstite—si contra, gravis?
     Utrumne [nos] iussi otium non dulce persequemur, ni[si] tecum simul, an [nos] hunc laborem mente laturi [sumus]—[mente] quā non decet viros mollıs ferre?
Feremus et te vel per iuga Alpium et Caucasum inhospitalem, vel usque ad sinum ultimum occidentis pectore forti sequimur.
     Roges quid [ego] ‹imbellis ac firmus-parum› [laborem] tuum [cum] labore meo iuvem? Comes, [ego] in metu minore—qui absentıs maior habet—futurus sum, ut avis, [cum] pullis implumibus adsidens—magis relictis—allapsūs serpentium timet, non ut adsit, plus auxili[i] praesentibus latura [est]. 
     Libenter hoc et omne bellum in spem gratiae tuae militabitur, non ut aratra iuvencis meis pluribus illigata nitantur, pecusve pascua Lucana pascuis Calabris ante sidus fervidum mutet, neque ut villa candens Tusculi superni moenia Circaea tangat. 
     Benignitasque tua super me satis ditavit; haud paravero quod aut, ut avarus Chremes, terra premam, aut [ut] nepos discinctus perdam.

Original ::

Ibis Liburnis inter alta navium,
    amice, propugnacula,
paratus omne Caesaris periculum
    subire, Maecenas, tuo.
quid nos, quibus te vita si superstite
    iucunda, si contra, gravis?
utrumne iussi persequemur otium
    non dulce ni tecum simul,
an hunc laborem, mente laturi decet
    qua ferre non mollis viros?
feremus, et te vel per Alpium iuga
    inhospitalem et Caucasum
vel occidentis usque ad ultimum sinum
    forti sequemur pectore.
roges, tuum labore quid iuvem meo,
    imbellis ac firmus parum?
comes minore sum futurus in metu,
    qui maior absentıs habet;
ut adsidens implumibus pullis avis
    serpentium allapsūs timet
magis relictis, non ut adsit auxilī
    latura plus praesentibus.
libenter hoc et omne militabitur
    bellum in tuae spem gratiae,
non ut iuvencis illigata pluribus
    aratra nitantur mea,
pecusve Calabris ante sidus fervidum
    Lucana mutet pascuis,
neque ut superni villa candens Tusculi
    Circaea tangat moenia.
Satis superque me benignitas tua
    ditavit; haud paravero,
quod aut avarus ut Chremes terrā premam,
    discinctus aut perdam nepos.

Delphin Ordo ::

Navigabis, O, amice, Liburnicis navibus inter excelsa navium munimenta, Augusti discrimen quodlibet promptus ovire tuo periculo. Quid agemus nos, quibus vita te vivente grata fuerit; si secùs, molesta? An ex mandatis otio fruermur minimè jucundo, nisi unà tecum? An verò istum laborem toleraturi sumus eo animo, quo tolerare debent viri non segnes? Tolerabimus, certè, atque te sectabimur generosâ mente per altas Alpes, et Caucasum inhabitabilem, et ad extrema Occidentis maria. Quæres, quid tuum laborem meo sublevem ego non aptus militiæ, minimèque strenuus: Scilicet te comitans minorem habebo pro te timorem, qui gravius angit absentes: veluti avis incubans pullis implumibus, plus iis relictis metuit incursiones anguium: majorem opem non præstitura, etiamsi præsentibus astiterit. Hanc et aliam quamlibet militiam obibo amicitiæ tuæ gratia; nequaquam ut pluribus meis bobus annexa aratra portentur; aut greges è pascuis Lucanis transeant in Calabra, ante ardens astrum: neque ut villa candidea vicina alti Tusculi pertingat muros Circæos. Imò tua munificentia locupletavit me sufficienter et abundè. Absit ut accumulem quæ vel terræ infodiam, velut Chremes avarus, vel dilapidem, sicut helluo dissolut

:: 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.