Thursday, March 26, 2015

Carpe Diem Revised

A few weeks ago, I decided to revise my book Carpe Diem. I wanted to mark the long vowels for all of the odes and indicate the meter. This turned out to be no easy task. There are no books on the web or in the library that show vowel length, as it is indicated in a Latin dictionary, for each of the odes. Meter is everywhere discussed, but the peculiarities of Latin meter make it sometimes difficult to figure out the scansion for each line Horace wrote. 

Here are the first few lines of the "non omnis moriar" ode (III:30):

Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens

Unless you are the most excellent of students, these lines are difficult to penetrate. With the long vowels marked, you might have a better chance to see the grammatical glue holding them together:

Ēxēgī monumentum aere perennius
rēgālīque sitū pȳramidum altius,
quod nōn imber edax, nōn Aquilō impotens

As for the meter, the books say that it is the first asclepiad, which looks like this with a pattern of long ( ¯ ) and short ( ˘ ) symbols and a squiggly line ( ~ ) to indicate that the syllable may be either long or short:

¯ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ | ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ~
Knowing the meter is only the first step. Applying that meter, in other words, making it fit the lines can be excruciatingly difficult. Take the first line. There are too many syllables. Something has to give. What gives are the syllables like -um and situations were two vowels collide. These syllables are elided, erased—not said. If I mark these syllables in grey, you begin to see how the meter works, and, more importantly, how the line is to be read.

Ēxēgī monumentum aere perennius
rēgālīque sitū pȳramidum altius,
quod nōn imber edax, nōn Aquilō impotens

Thus these lines should be read something like this:

Ēxēgī monumentaere perennius
rēgālīque sitū pȳramidaltius,
quod nōn imber edax, nōn Aquilimpotēns

Of course, in revising Carpe Diem in this way meant that I had to redo much of the book. In the course of such travail précieux, as a French editor of mine once said, I found many inconsistencies and errors in the first edition of the book, which I corrected, keeping my fingers crossed that I didn't inadvertently spawn a new generation of mistakes.

Below is the introduction to the revised edition along with some sample pages. For more about this book, go to my blog posting of  October 13, 2013:

And if you are interested in purchasing a copy for only $11.50, go here:

or go to and paste this in search: Rumford diem