Sledgehammer's Cycles

Sledgehammer's Cycles
Sledgehammer's Performance and Custom Cycles

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My favorite Roman poet

Really, it's a lot more interesting than you'd think.  I came to Horace via a back door education - introduced to him by the great English 17th and 18th Century poets.  Milton himself translated part of Odes I.  Byron penned an apology that spoke perfectly to my own poor comprehension:
Then farewell, Horace, whom I hated so
Not for thy faults, but mine; it is a curse
To understand, not feel thy lyric flow,
To comprehend, but never love thy verse.
My own Latin abilities were never very good - good enough to impress people who never learned any Latin, to be sure.  Good enough to (once I had learned the ancient Roman formula for inscriptions on  monuments) impress the lovely and is-actually-an-accomplished-linguist Mrs. Borepatch when we visited Rome, as I rattled off what was carved on the various ruins in the Forum.  She knew that I was most definitely not a linguist.  What she didn't know was that I was cheating: the Romans were lovers of formula, and I learned the formula.

And so I was able to stumble my way through Horace's Odes, like Byron.  That's a shame, because you yourself know some of his poetry:
dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum
credula postero.


While we speak, envious time will have already fled
Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future
Carpe Diem.  You've likely run across that one before.  It's from Odes 1.11.  Military veterans may have run across this one:
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
mors et fugacem persequitur uirum

nec parcit inbellis iuuentae
poplitibus timidoue tergo.
It’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.
Yet death chases after the soldier who runs,
and it won’t spare the cowardly back
or the limbs, of peace-loving young men.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. You might have run across that one, too.

Horace was the most famous and influential of the ancient poets.  If I were as educated as I'd like, I'd improve my Latin to where I could not just stumble through the Odes, but actually appreciate them.  It's a bit odd to think that I'm decently educated for our time but would be functionally illiterate for two centuries back.

Horace died on this day in 8 B.C.  A friend of Caesar Augustus himself, he willed his estate to the Emperor.

3 comments:

Bob said...

I wouldn't mind giving Martial a try in the original Latin.

Old NFO said...

I remember Horace but vaguely from college...

Anonymous said...

Catullus:
Soles occidere et redire possunt.
Nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux —
Nox est perpetua una dormienda.

Suns that set can rise again.
With us, once our brief light has set,
The night we must sleep is eternal.

(Definitely pagan in theology.)