Monday, March 31, 2014

Poetic Eye :: Beatus Ille Qui :: Epode 2

The first three words of this epode say it all: 

beatus ille qui happy is he who

because with three simple words, Horace lays the groundwork for a poem that describes a utopia where a simple rustic tends field and flock, as his ancestors did free of loans and banks. Every tree bears fruit. Sheep and cattle are happy, and the wife ever attentive and dutiful. It’s nice to dream of such a life, Horace, but what is it you want to tell us?

We heard your call in Epode 16 for us to return to a simpler life. Is this poem more of the same? Maybe. Maybe not, for what Horace has written could be taken as the words of the money-lender, who while praising the bucolic life, insists on collecting what is owed him just the same. The money-lender reinforces the myth that a farmer’s life is a happy life. 

A myth? 

No, a lie. 

“You happy folk keep working hard,” says the faenerator, “so that I can take my cut of your hard work. Sorry, but this is the way things are, and a guy’s gotta make a living. Just keep living the lie.” 

Behind this poem of honey and wine and happy cows is an indictment against Roman society, which created a class of people enslaved. In other times, in other places, these people would be described as ‘sharecroppers’ or ‘beholden to the company store’ or ‘drowning in credit card debt.’  

Grammar-wise, this poem is not difficult, if you know Poet-ese. You know: the o’er, the ’twas, the ere stuff we learned in English class. The only trouble is: you have to know what’s considered Poet-ese in Latin. 

In this poem, you will find the accusative plural -is. It is an alternative to the more usual -es and looks a lot like the ablative plural. You have to pound it into your head that the accusative -is only occurs with nouns and adjectives of the third declension. But we are not talking about any third declension word—just those with -i stems such as civis, imber, mons, tristis, ācer, fēlix, ingens, and all the present participles. There are quite a few instances of the accusative -is in today’s epode. I have underlined them and, to make this ending stand out even more, I have done what I usually do: replace the dotted i with an undotted one: ı

It appears that Horace enjoys juxtaposing -ıs with the non poetic accusative plural, which must have pleased his audience greatly:

errantıs greges roaming flocks
infirmas ovıs  unsteady sheep
imbrıs nivesque  rain and snow
obstantıs plagas  opposing traps
dulcıs liberos  sweet children
pastas ovıs  grazing sheep
renidentıs Lares  shining Lares

(You can read more about this annoying variation in my blog of September 23, 2009.) 

Another bit of Poetese is the use of multus to mean ‘many a.’ This occurs in this briar patch of thorny Latin:

aut trudit acrıs hinc et hinc multā cane
      apros in obstantıs plagas

where multā cane means ‘by many a dog.’

Still another poetic/rare construction is found in the lines

quis non malarum, quas amor curas habet, 
      haec inter obliviscitur?

where malarum, the genitive object of obliviscitur, modifies curas, an accusative plural noun. How is this possible? Apparently, according to grammarians, a “noun, when placed after a relative, is sometimes put in the same case with it, though a different case is required by its own connexion” (Karl Zumpf in his A Grammar of the Latin Language, 1832, pg. 237). This verbal mud means that Horace’s lines would become in high-school Latin:

Quis curarum malarum quas amor habet non obliviscitur?
Who does not forget the evil cares which love has?

Now that you see how it works, you could change this sentence:

Hic cani magno quem vides non nocet.
He isn’t hurting the big dog you see.

into (although Zumpf and others warn against any such imitation of the ancient authors) this Latin gem:

Hic magno quem vides canem non nocet.

This grammatical trick serves to add emphasis. Thus our made up sentence might sound like this in English:

He isn't hurting the big one, the dog you see.

And returning to Horace, we might improve our translation with: 

who does not forget about the bad, 
which [are] the worries love makes use of?

Translation ::

Blessèd is he, who far from business deals,
          like the first race of mortal men,
works his father’s lands with his own oxen,
          freed from all the money lending;
no soldier is he, harsh bugle-called,
          no ill-tempered sea does he fear,
but shuns the forum, the haughty doorways
          of city folk more powerful.
In this way, he marries the tall poplars 
        with the mature shoots of grapevines,
or in a far off valley of bawling 
        cattle looks at the errant herds,
or, pruning off the dead branches with a 
        hook, grafts on more rewarding ones,
or stores up extracted honey in clean 
        jars or shears the unsteady sheep;
or, when fall raises its head glorious 
        with ripe fruit above the fields,
how glad he is picking grafted pears and
        the grape vying with purple dye!
He honors you so, Priapus, and you 
        Father Silavanus, keeper 
of the land. It’s a joy to lie under 
        the old oak or in the thick* grass:
meanwhile streams glide by high banks, 
      the birds quarrel in the woodlands, 
and the springs resound with water flowing, 
      [all] to bring about pleasant sleep
But when a wintertime of thundering skies*
      brings on rain and snow, either he
drives wild beasts from here*, from here boars with dogs
    aplenty into snares set up
or with light forked sticks he puts out loose* nets, 
     a trap for voracious thrushes 
and captures in a snare a scared rabbit 
     a migrant crane, happy prizes.
Who amidst all this does not forget about 
      the bad, the cares love holds?
But if a chaste woman loves for her part 
      her home and sweet children, like a 
Sabine or a wife burned dark by the sun 
      of some lively Apulian,
she piles the hallowed fireplace with dry* wood
      at the return of her tired mate
and, shutting the fat* herd in a pen of
     woven brush, drains their hanging teats,
and, bringing out this year’s wines from fresh* jars*, 
      fixes up no store-bought dinner: 
The Lucrine oysters wouldn’t please me more 
      or the turbot, even the wrasse,
should the thundering winter in waves from 
      the east veer them into our sea,
no guinea fowl will descend into my belly,
      no Ionian hazel grouse
more delightful than an olive picked from 
      the fattest* branches of the trees
or meadow-loving sorrel leaves, mallow 
      healthful for the ailing body,
or a lamb killed for the Terminus Day
      or a kid ripped away from a wolf.
How it is a joy while dining to see 
      these sheep having grazed hurry home,
to see the exhausted oxen dragging 
      the upturned plow round their tired necks 
and in any rich house a swarm of slaves*
      seated round the sparkling Lares!
When Money-lender Alfius said this, 
     thinking* he’d be a farmer too,
he called in all the cash on the fifteenth,
     planning to place it on the first.
translation © 2014 by James Rumford

Notes ::

thick : tenaci means ‘tenacious’ and sometimes refers to matted fiber.
skies  : Jove sometimes refers to the sky
beasts : translators take acris as an adjective for apros, but I wonder whether Horace intended this, especially since he separates the two words with et hinc.
loose : rara can refer to something loosely woven as a net.
dry : vetustus means ‘old,’ or as Niall Rudd has translated it ‘seasoned.’ I chose ‘dry’ because it seemed to sound better in the line I had constructed.
fat : laetus usually means ‘happy’ but it can also mean ‘fat’ in reference to cattle. English has its ‘fat and happy.’
fresh : dulcis means sweet, but here I took it to mean ‘fresh’ as in the expression ‘sweet water.’ I suppose that dulcis could also mean ‘fine’ or ‘nice.’
jars : the word is singular in Latin, but since wine was in the plural, I decided to make jar plural, unless the Romans were into wine-blending and put different wines into one jar.
fattest : we don’t use ‘fat’ this way in English but I thought: why not?
slaves : vernas not only means ‘slaves’ but those born to the master’s slaves.
thinking : I think that the verb puto is understood here.

Some Vocabulary ::

propāgine : the first o of propago is either long or short; in its declined form, it is long.
insitiva : grafted
classico : <classicum, trumpett
exercet : <exerceo, to work 
ames -itis : [m] pole for spreading bird nets.
trudit : drive forward
multā : many a [ablative, poetic]  Acronis: Femino genere canem dixit, ut Vergilius: Visaeque canes ululare.
levis : according to the meter, the e must be short, precluding the word lēvis, which means “smooth, flowing.” Levis here must mean the opposite of gravis, that is not heavy or painful or unpleasant.
retia rara : loosely-woven net. I suppose this means that the string is rare, meaning that there is not as much as would be if the net were tightly woven.
turdos : thrushes
crātibus: : wickerwork of some kind
siccet : milks
horna : hic annus
Lucrina : adj. for Lake Lucrinus in Campania
Eois : dawning, of the dawn
attagēn : a meadow-bird, a grouse of some kind
lapathi : sorrel
Terminalibus : the Terminialia, a festival celebrating the god of boundaries, Terminus
vernas : slaves born at their master’s home <verna, ae: masc. or fem.
redegit: called in <redigo, drive back

In Prose ::

“Beatus [est] ille qui procul negotiis, omni faenore solutus, ut gens prisca mortalium, rura paterna bubus suis excercet neque miles classico truci excitatur neque mare iratum horret forumque et limina superba civium potentiorum vitat.

Ergo [ille] aut populos altas prōpagine adultā vitium marītat aut greges errantıs in valle reductā mugientium prospectat, ramosque inutilıs falce amputans, feliciores inserit aut mella pressa [in] amphoris puris condit aut ovıs infirmas tondet.

Vel cum Autumnus caput pomis mitibus decorum agris extulit, ut gaudet pira insitiva decerpens et uvam purpurae certantem, qua muneretur te, Priape, et te pater silvane, tūtor finium.

Libet modo sub ilice antiquā, modo in gramine tenaci iacere: interim aquae ripis altis labuntur, aves in Silvis queruntur fontesque lymphis manantibus obstrepunt, quod somnos levıs invitet.

At cum annus hibernus Iovis tonantis imbrıs nivesque comparat, aut hinc et hinc apros acrıs multā cane in plagas obstantıs trudit aut amite levi retia rāra tendit, turdis edacibus dolos leporemque pavidum et gruem advenam laqueo praemiā iucundā captat.

Quis, inter haec, [curarum] malarum quas [curas] amor habet non obliviscitur? Quodsi mulier pudica in partem atque domum liberos dulcıs iuvet, qualis Sabina aut uxor solibus perusta Apuli pernicis, focum sacrum lignis vetustis sub adventum viri lassi exstruat, pecusque laetum [in] crātibus textis claudens, ubera distenta siccet et vina horna promens, dolio dulci dapes inemptas apparet:

Lucrina conchylia me non iuverint rhombusve magis aut scari, si quos hiems fluctibus Eois ad hoc mare vertat, non avis Afra in ventrem meum descendat, non attagēn Ionicus iucundior quam oliva de ramis pinguissimis arborum aut herba lapathi prata amantis et malvae corpori gravi salubres vel agna festis Terminalibus caesa vel haedus lupo ereptus.

Inter has epulas ut iuvet ovıs pastas domum properantıs videre, boves fessos collo languido vomerem inversum trahentıs videre vernasque positos, examen domūs ditis, circum  Laris renidentıs.”

Ubi Alfius faenerator haec locutus [est], iam iam rusticus futurus, pecuniam omnem Idibus redegit, quaerit Kalendis ponere. 

Original Epode :: [Revised April 14, 2015]

˜ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˜ / ¯ ˘ ¯ ˜ ¯ ˘ ˜
˜ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˜ ¯ ˘ ˜   [iambic strophe]

˜ indicates a long or short syllable and, in some cases, it indicates that various substitutions may occur such as ˘˘. Horace sometimes substitutes ˘˘ for a ¯.

Beātus ille / quī procul negōtiīs,
      ut prisca gens mortālium,
paterna rūra / bōbus exercet suīs
      solūtus omnī faenore
nēque excitātur / classicō mīles trucī
      nēque horret īrātum mare
forumque vītat / et superba cīvium
      potentiōrum līmina.
ergō aut adultā / vītium prōpāgine
      altās marītat pōpulōs
aut in reductā 
valle mūgientium

      prospectat errantıs gregēs
falce rāmōs amputāns

      fēlīciōrēs inserit
aut pressa pūrīs / mella condit amphorīs
      aut tondet infirmās ovıs;
vel cum decōrum 
mītibus pōmīs caput

      Autŭmnus agrīs extulit,
ut gaudet insi
/tīva dēcerpēns pira

      certantem et ūvam purpurae,
quā mūnerētur 
tē, Priāpe, et tē, pater

      Silvāne, tūtor fīnium.
libet iacēre 
mōdo sub antīquā īlice,

      mōdo in tenācī grāmine:
lābuntur altīs interim rīpīs aquae,
      queruntur in Silvīs avēs
fontēsque lymphis 
/ obstrepunt mānantibus,
      somnōs quod invītet levıs.
at cum tonantis 
annus hībernus Iovis
      imbrıs nivısque comparat,
aut trūdit acrıs 
hinc et hinc multā cane
      aprōs in obstantıs plagās
aut āmitĕ lĕv
ī / rāra tendit rētia

      turdīs edācibus dolōs
|quĕ lĕpŏrem | ĕt / ad|vĕnam | lăqueō | grŭem
      iūcunda captat praemia.
quis nōn malārum / quās amor cūrās habet
      haec inter oblīviscitur?
pŭdīc|ă / mŭlĭ|ĕr in | partem | iŭvet

      domum atque dulcıs liberōs,
Sabīna quālis
aut perusta Sōlibus

      pernīcis uxor Āpulī,
sacrum vetustīs 
/ exstruat lignīs focum

      lassī sub adventum virī
claudēnsque textīs 
/ crātibus laetum pecus

      distenta siccet ūbera
et horna dulcī 
vīna prōmēns dōliō

      dapēs inemptās apparet:
nōn mē Lucrīna iūverint conchȳlia
      magisve rhombus aut scarī,
sī quōs Eōīs 
/ intonāta fluctibus

      hiems ad hōc vertat mare,
nōn Āfra avis descendat in ventrem meum,
      nōn attagēn Iōnicus
iūcundior quam 
/ lecta dē pinguissimis

      olīva rāmīs arborum
aut her
|ba lăpă|thī / prā|ta amant|is et gravi

      malvae salūbrēs corporī
vel agna festīs 
/ caesa Terminālibus

      vel haedus ēreptus lupō.
hās in|ter ĕpŭ|lās / ut | iŭvat pastāsovıs

      vidē|re prŏpĕ|rantıs domum,
vidēre fessōs / vōmerem inversum bovēs
      collō trahentıs languidō
|que ver|nās, / dī|tis e|xamen | domūs,

      circum renīdentıs Larıs!
haec ubĭ lōcūtus 
/ faenerātor Alfius,
      iam iam 
| futūr|us rus|ticus,

omnem redēgit / Īdibus pecūniam,
      quaerit Kalendīs pōnere.

Delphin Ordo ::

Felix ille, qui longè à negotiis, et liber ab usuris omnibus, agros paternos colit propriis bobus, sicut homines antiqui: neque bellator excitatur gravi sono tubæ, nec timet procellosum mare: fugit lites et domos superbas opulentorum civium. Itaque vel palmites vitium crescentes alligat excelsis populis, atque steriles surculos falce resecans, fertiliores inserit: vel in remotâ valle pascentes mugientium greges contemplatur; vel extracta favis mella recondit in vasis mundis: vel tondet oves imbecillas. Cùm verò autumnus campis erexit caput dulcibus fructibus ornatum, quàm lætatur colligens pyra insitiva, et uvas purpuræ æmulas, quas tibi offerat, O Priape, tibique, Syvane parens, agrorum custos! Nunc placet recumbere sub annosâ quercu, nunc super herbam virescentem. Interea dum amnis defluit ripis sublimibus, canunt aves in nemoribus; rivulique murmur edunt aquis loquentibus, quod placidum conciliet soporem. Quando autem tempestas hyemalis Jove sæviente pluvias et nives procreat: vel plurimis canibus apros feroces undequaque propellit in retia opposita; vel perticâ lævigatâ plagas haud strictas expandit turdis veracibus insidiosas: ac timidum leporem, gruemque transmarinam prædam jucundam captat. Inter ista quis recordatur molestiarum quas amor gignit? Quòd si casta uxor ex parte suâ curans familiam dilectosque natos (velut Sabina vel conjux Apuli velocis, adusta solis ardore) è lignis aridis componat sacratum focum, paulò sante reditum mariti fatigati; et caulis includens gregem saturum, mulgeat plena ubera; atque vinum hujus anni educena ex amphorâ non insuavi paret cœnam non aliunde quæsitam: haec inquam si adsint, non prætulerim ostrea Lucrina, vel rhombos, vel scaros, si aliquos ex Orientali mari in hoc Italicum protrudat sæva tempestas: nec volucris Africana veniat in meum ventrem, vel attagena Asiana gratior, quàm oliva decerpta è ramis arborum pinguissimis; vel folia rumicis prata amantis, et malvæ salutares ægro corpori, aut agna immolata in sacro die Terminalium, aut hœdus lupo detractus. Inter istam cœnam, quàm jucundum est cernere oves saturas domum revertentes, intueri boves fatigatos languenti cervice inversum aratrum ducentes, et servulos opulentæ familiæ adjunctos velut examen, circa Lares splendentes, ordine dispositos! Postea quàm alphius fœnerator ista dixit, quasi mox rura habitaturus, universam pecuniam Idibus collegit, Calendis verò quærit collocare, ad fœnus.


:: 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. It makes me feel a little better, having gotten busy this year, to see that I've only missed three posts this year. That is a jab at both of us! Lots of love and no worries--I still have last year to catch up on!

  2. Amice: thanks for stopping by. My posts become fewer and farther between. Don't know if I'm too busy to keep up or if I know too much now to dash off a few comments, as I used to do in the beginning. Whatever the reason, one thing is for certain: Latin continues to be a challenge!