Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bristling Waves :: Mala Soluta Navis :: Epode 10

Horace uses a lot of colorful words in this epode of, well, curses and pure hate for a guy—perhaps a fellow poet—named Mevius. Not much is known about Mevius, if he even existed at all. He is mentioned briefly in Virgil’s Ecologues. Perhaps Mevius was an invention of either Virgil or Horace, a kind of symbolic bad poet the two paragons of literature could shower with hate and abuse. Virgil speaks directly to Mevius in his Ecologues, chapter III:90, when his character Menalcas says: 

Qui Bavium non odit, amet tua carmina, Mevi,
atque idem iugat vulpes et mulgeat hircos.

Let him who doesn’t hate Bavius love your poems, Mevius,
and let him likewise yoke foxes and milk billy goats.

Oddly Mevius doesn’t answer. Oddly we know nothing about Mavius. Was he a poet, too? Was the whole set of Eclogues addressed to Mevius? I doubt it.  

But back to the colorful words used in today’s epode: 

mari inverso: in an upturned sea 
latus verbere: lashing the side
horridis fluctibus: with horrid waves, bristling? ones like in this famous Japanese woodcut by Hokusai done in the early nineteenth century:

impiam ratem: godless raft because Ajax had raped Cassandra in Pallas Athena's sanctuary as shown here:

pallor luteus: a weed-yellow pallor
non virilis eiulatio: a not manly warbling
opima praeda: fat or rich booty or the prey of an animal caught or killed. Interestingly, I have just come across the same two words in Apuleius’ Golden Ass (Book VIII, chap. V): . . . tam opimam praedam mediis manibus amittimus? I have found two translations, one says this means ‘rich prize,’ the other ‘rich prey.’ As for Nial Rudd’s translation of the epode in the Loeb series, he offers us ‘fat carcase.’ I suppose that we have to make a decision here: either Horace wants Mevius dead and ‘opima praeda’ means his ‘rich corpse,’ or Horace just wants a guy named Mevius, who could just as well be, for all we know, a merchant, to be financially ruined as his rich cargo is scattered by the raging sea upon the shore. If praeda means ‘booty,’ then perhaps I should let ‘booty’ suffice, since it now has two meanings in American English: ‘rich spoils’ and ‘fat ass!”  
libidinosus caper: a lustful he goat
immolabitur: will be dusted with sacred meal just before being sacrificed. 
Tempestatibus: to the goddesses who control the weather (who haven’t paid a bit of attention to me this hot day in Honolulu)

But I’m still worried about Mevius. Was he real or not? If he was a poet, are Virgil and Horace trying to say that Latin poetry has high standards and that not anyone can aspire to their heights? My question is: why didn’t Virgil and Horace just brush him aside as one would a pesky fly? Why this epode? Something is missing in this story, something lost to us now two thousand years years down the line.

Perhaps. But it is possible that Horace used the name Mevius because it fit the meter and, beginning with a nasal (m), seemed to reinforce the image of an oily, smelly guy who merited no good wishes as his ship left port:

mala soluta navis exit alite, 
ferens olentem Mevium

Translation ::

Rope-freed, the ship went out 
under an evil bird,
bearing foul Mevius.
Remember to lash at 
both sides with bristling waves, 
south wind.

May the luckless east wind 
scatter, on an up-turned sea, 
the ship’s ropes and smashed oars. 
May the north wind rise up—
as it does in the high 
mountains and shatters 
the tremendous oaks.
May no-friend star appear, 
night dark, when Orion,
sad, sets. May the poet
be borne upon a sea 
quieter than the one that
carried the Greek band of
victors, when Pallas turned
her ire from Illium 
burned toward Ajax’s godless

Oh, how much sweat will stand
upon your sailors and how
weed yellow your pallor!
And that unmanly warble,
the prayers to Jove adverse,
when the Ionian 
Gulf growling from wet wind
from the south breaks your ship

But if your fat booty
spread out on the curved shore
gladdens the birds,
a lustful goat and a
lamb will be slain to the

translation © 2014 by James Rumford

Original words ::
    Prose rendition ::
      DDelphin Ordo :: 
          Notes ::

1 Malā solūta nāvis exit ālite
      ferens olentem Maevium:
       Nāvis solūta, Maevium olentem
       ferens, alite malā exit.
         DNavis abit soluta portu infelici auspicio, 
         vehens fætentem Mævium.
         Maevium: Mevius erat homo quidam aut poeta ineptus 
               Virgilii contemporaneus.

ut horridīs utrumque verberēs latus,
     Auster, mementō fluctibus;
      Auster, mementō ut latus utrumque
      fluctibus horridīs verberēs.
         DAuster fac ut tetris fluctibus vexes 
         utrumque latus navis.
           Auster: ventus est qui ab meridie flat
               verberes: in subjunctivo ex verbero/verberavi

5niger rudentıs Eurus inversō mari
     refractōsque rēmōs differat;
       Eurus niger, inversō mari, rudentēs
       rēmōsque refractōs differat.
         DEurus ater mari perturbato despergat 
         funes et remos disruptos.
           Eurus: ventus est qui ab oriente flat

insurgat Aquilo, quantus altīs montibus
     frangit trementıs īlices;
       Aquilo insurgat—quantus montibus altīs
       ilicēs trementēs frangit
         DExsurgat Aquilo tam vehemens, quàm cum 
         frangit ilices in excelsis montibus concussas.
           Aquilo: ventus est qui ab septentrione flat
nec sīdus atrā nocte amīcum appāreat,
     quā tristis Ōrīon cadit;
       nec sīdus amīcum nocte atrā appāreat,
       quā Ōrīon tristis cadit.
         DNec propitium ullum affulgeat astrum nocte 
         obscurâ quâ Orion occidit.
           Orion: sidus est qui tempus malum in mense Novembris

11quiētiōre nec ferātur aequore
     quam Grāia victōrum manus,
       nec [in] aequore quiētiōre quam manus
       Grāia victōrum ferātur,
         DNec tranquilliore mari naviget quàm 
         exercitus Græcorum victor,
           Graia: Graeca. Ludovicus Desprez scribit: 
              “Ad Caphareum Eubœæ promontorium dijecta 
              classis Græcorum tempestatibus tantàm non tota 
              periit, cùm reverterentur post expugnatam Trojam.” 

cum Pallas ustō vertit īram ab Īliō
     in impiam Āiācis ratem.
       cum Pallas īram ab Īliō ustō
       in ratem impiam Āiācis vertit.
         Dquando Minerva ab incensâ Trojâ 
         iram convertit in sceleratam Ajacis navim. 
            Pallas: dea Minerva (Athena). Aiax Cassandram in ara 
            Palladis (Athenae) violavit et rapuit. Ira commota, 
            Pallas e Neptuno auxilium petivit, et Neptunus Aiacem 
            e navi in scopulum iniecit, et Aiax nectus est. 

15o quantus instat nāvītīs sudor tuīs
     tibique pallor lūteus
       o quantus sudor nāvītīs tuīs instat—
       tibique pallor lūteus,
         DO quantus sudor imminet tuis nautis; 
         tibi verò pallor flavus,
et illa nōn virīlis ēiulātio
     precēs et adversum ad Iovem,
       et illa ēiulātio nōn virīlis et
       precēs ad Iovem adversum.
         Datque ejulatio viro indigna, et 
         vota ad Jovem surdum; 

19Īōnius ūdō cum remūgiens sinus
     Notō carīnam rūperit.
       cum Sinus Īōnius Notō ūdō remūgiens
       carīnam rūperit.
         Dcùm murmurans Ionium mare fregerit 
         navim Austro humido!
           Ionius: Ludovicus Desprez scribit: “Ionium mare inter Epirum ac Peloponnesum
                 ab ortu, et magnam Græciam Siciliamque ab ocasu
              Noto: Notus est ventus australis.
                 ruperit: ex rumpo
opīma quodsi praeda curvō lītore
     porrecta mergōs iuverit,
      Quodsi praeda opīma [in] lītore curvō
      porrecta mergōs iuverit
         DQuod si tu in curvo littore jacens 
         pascas mergos, opimum spolium,

libīdinōsus immolābitur caper
     et agna Tempestātibus.
       caper libīdinōsus immolābitur
       (et agna) Tempestātibus.
         Dà me procellis sacrificabitur lascivus 
         hircus, et nigra ovicula.
           Tempestatibus: Tempestates erant deae tempestatis et
                   erat Romae templum eis dedicatum

:: 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.