Thursday, August 28, 2014

Guy Talk :: Mollis Inertia :: Epode 14

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Maecenas was Horace’s benefactor, protector, the rich, well-connected guy who made it possible for Horace to rise to the top. In this poem, Horace, tells Maecenas that he’s having a bit of a problem getting some writing done. Why?

Well, to put it as a guy-friend once told me about why a married friend of mine wasn’t doing his work: “He’s having women problems….if I saw him, I’d know it in a heartbeat.” 

I never found out whether my friend was having ‘women problems’ or not, but I do remember the conversation. I was way younger then and naive. Don’t know if I’ve learned much in the intervening years. Probably not, since I had to do a considerable amount of thinking to understand this poem.

For one thing, Horace calls out: deus, deus. He doesn’t mention the god’s name, but every scholar assumes that this is the god of love. When you think about it, who else could it be? And here is Eros or Cupid as painted by Caravaggio:

In this epode, Horace isn’t talking about love in general terms. He is talking about a specific kind of love, the kind of love he wants from a freedwoman named Phryne, who is never satisfied with just one lover. And Horace is talking about the kind of love that comes from cheating on one’s wife—to put it in American terms—when he hints that Maecenas is having an affair…at least, I suppose Maecenas is having an affair. It couldn’t be that he is burning with passion for his wife. No, marital love was yet another kind of love.

Now, Horace, in exemplifying passionate love, mentions the Greek lyric poet Anacreon (582-485 BC) and his love for the boy Bathyllus. To Horace, I suppose, homosexual love and heterosexual love are, well, just love, blinding love. Some of my contemporaries are having trouble with this equation. The ancients, it seems, did not.

But what if Horace wasn’t suffering from love? What if this poem is a humorous poke at those who do—a jab at the very notion of what constitutes a bona fide excuse? We do not accept ‘the dog ate my homework’ but we do accept ‘my computer crashed’ or ‘we’re having trouble with the internet.’ And we men certainly understand the stuff Horace is talking about. This epode, I figured after much thought, is no more than just ‘guy talk.’ 

Translation ::

Soft inertia—why would it
pour so much forgetfulness
onto my deepest feelings
as if I—throat parched—had downed
sleep-bringing cups from death’s stream.
True-friend Maecenas, you are
killing me always asking.
God Eros, Eros, he is 
stopping me from winding up 
the song-poem promised some time 
ago, the iambs begun.
No different from the talk
about Bathyllus Samus
having burned Anacreon 
of Teius, who with his lyre 
kept crying over his love 
in unregulated verse.
You poor thing are burning up—
but if a fire no nicer
burned down beseiged Illium,
be happy with your fortune.
Me the freedwoman Phryne,
not happy with just one man,
is turning into mush.

translation © 2014 by James Rumford

Original Epode with Aids to Understanding ::

     Original epode
    Reordered in prose
    DDelphin Ordo

Mollis inertia cūr tantam diffūderit imīs
        oblīviōnem sensibus
           Inertia mollis cūr tantam oblīviōnem 
           sensibus imīs diffūderit
              DOptime Mæcenas, interficis me
              quærendo sæpius quare otiosa 
                diffuderit: ex diffundo
                   cf. Perché una noia snervante m’abbia 
                   diffuso dentro, in fondo al cuore, 
                   tanto oblio,  

pocula Lēthaeōs ut sī dūcentia somnōs
        arente fauce traxerim,
           ut sī pocula somnōs Lēthaeōs dūcentia, 
           fauce arente, traxerim,
              Dintimis præcordiis induxerit talem 
              oblivionem, velut si gutture sitibundo
                Lethaeos: Lethe flumen erat, dare alicui
                    oblivium habens. 

candide Maecēnas, occidis saepe rogandō;
        deus, deus, nam mē vetat
           candide Maecēnas, occidis saepe rogandō; 
           nam deus, deus mē vetat
              Dhauserim aquas Letæas soporem 
              conciliantes. Enimverò Deus, Deus, 
              inquam, me prohibet 
                 Maecenas: patronus artium, Horatii amicus
                 deus: amoris deus, id est vel Cupido vel Eros

inceptōs, ōlim prōmissum carmen, iambōs
        ad umblīcum addūcere.
           iambōs inceptōs, carmen ōlim prōmissum, 
           ad umbilīcum addūcere.
              Dinchoatum carmen Iambicum jam 
              pridem tibi promissum ad finem 
                  umbilicum: finem libri. Umbilicus erat nodus 
                    extremus bacilli circum quod liber volvebatur.

nōn aliter Samiō dīcunt arsisse Bathyllō
        Anacreonta Tēium
           nōn aliter dīcunt Anacreonta Tēium 
           Samiō Bathyllō arsisse,
              DSimili modo narrant Bathylli Samii 
              amore incensum fuisse Anacreontem 
                 Samio Bathyllo: Samus est insula in Aegaeo orientali sita.
                 Bathyllo: Bathyllus est puer Samius
                 Anacreonta Teium: Anacreōn poeta Tēius, id est, ex 
                    oppidō Īōniō Teiō

quī persaepe cavā testūdine flēvit amorem
        nōn ēlabōrātum ad pedem.
           quī amorem persaepe testūdine cavā amorem 
           nōn ad pedem ēlabōrātum flēvit.
              Dqui sæpe lyrâ amores cecinit ad 
              metrum facile.

ūreris ipse miser: quodsī nōn pulcrior ignis
        accendit obsessam Īlion,
           Miser ipse ūreris: quodsī ignis nōn pulcrior 
           Īlion obsessam accendit,
              Ipse verò tu amore cruciaris. Quòd si 
              non formosior ignis cremavit Trojam 

gaude sorte tuā; mē lībertīna, nec unō
        contenta, Phrȳnē mācerat.
           sorte tuā gaude; Phrȳnē lībertīna, 
           nec unō contenta, mē mācerat.
              Dlætare de tuâ conditione. Nam 
              urit me Phryne libertina, uno 
              amatore minimè contenta.

:: 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.

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