The Odes and Carmen Saeculare/Notes

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Horace Satires etc tr Conington (1874) - headpiece from page 97.jpg


Book I, Ode 3.

The estranging main.

THE unplumb'd, salt, estranging sea." Matthew Arnold.

And slow Fate quicken'd Death's once halting pace.

The commentators seem generally to connect Necessitas with Leti; I have preferred to separate them. Necessitas occurs elsewhere in Horace (Book I, Ode 35, v. 17; Book III, Ode 1, v. 14; Ode 24, v. 6) as an independent personage, nearly synonymous with Fate, and I do not see why she should not be represented as accelerating the approach of Death.

Book I, Ode 5.

I have ventured to model my version of this Ode, to some extent, on Milton's, "the high-water mark," as it has been termed, "which Horatian translation has attained." I have not, however, sought to imitate his language, feeling that the attempt would be presumptuous in itself, and likely to create a sense of incongruity with the style of the other Odes.

Book I, Ode 6.

Who with pared nails encounter youths in fight.

I like Ritter's interpretation of sectis, cut sharp, better than the common one, which supposes the paring of the nails to denote that the attack is not really formidable. Sectis will then be virtually equivalent to Bentley's strictis. Perhaps my translation is not explicit enough.

Book I, Ode 7.

And search for wreaths the olive's rifled bower.

Undique decerptam I take, with Bentley, to mean "plucked on all hands," i.e. exhausted as a topic of poetical treatment. He well compares Lucretius, Book I, v. 927—

"Juvatque novos decerpere flores,
Insignemque meo capiti petere inde coronam
Unde prius nulli velarint tempora Musæ."

'Tis Teucer leads, 'tis Teucer breathes the wind.

If I have slurred over the Latin, my excuse must be that the precise meaning of the Latin is difficult to catch. Is Teucer called auspex, as taking the auspices, like an augur, or as giving the auspices, like a god? There are objections to both interpretations; a Roman imperator was not called auspex, though he was attended by an auspex, and was said to have the auspicia; auspex is frequently used of one who, as we should say, inaugurates an undertaking, but only if he is a god or a deified mortal. Perhaps Horace himself oscillated between the two meanings; his later commentators do not appear to have distinguished them.

Book I, Ode 9.

Since this Ode was printed off, I find that my last stanza bears a suspicious likeness to the version by "C. S. C." I cannot say whether it is a case of mere coincidence, or of unconscious recollection; it certainly is not one of deliberate appropriation. I have only had the opportunity of seeing his book at distant intervals; and now, on finally comparing his translations with my own, I find that, while there are a few resemblances, there are several marked instances of dissimilarity, where, though we have adopted the same metre, we do not approach each other in the least.

Book I, Ode 15.

And for your dames divide
On peaceful lyre the several parts of song

I have taken feminis with divides, but it is quite possible that Orelli may be right in constructing it with grata. The case is really one of those noticed in the Preface, where an interpretation which would not commend itself to a commentator may be adopted by a poetical translator simply as a free rendering.

Book I, Ode 27.

Our guest,
Megilla's brother.

There is no warrant in the original for representing this person as a guest of the company; but the Ode is equally applicable to a tavern party, where all share alike, and an entertainment where there is a distinction between hosts and guests.

Book I, Ode 28.

I have translated this Ode as it stands, without attempting to decide whether it is dialogue or monologue. Perhaps the opinion which supposes it to be spoken by Horace in his own person, as if he had actually perished in the shipwreck alluded to in Book III, Ode 4, v. 27, "Me . . . non exstinxit . . . Sicula Palinurus unda," deserves more attention than it has received.

Book II, Ode 1.

Methinks I hear of leaders proud.

Horace supposes himself to hear not the leaders themselves, but Pollio's recitation of their exploits. There is nothing weak in this, as Orelli thinks. Horace has not seen Pollio's work, but compliments him by saying that he can imagine what its finest passages will be like—"I can fancy how you will glow in your description of the great generals, and of Cato." Possibly "Non indecoro pulvere sordidos" may refer to the deaths of the republican generals, whom old recollections would lead Horace to admire. We may then compare Ode 7 of this Book, v. 11—

"Cum fracta virtus, et minaces
Turpe solum tetigere mento,"

where, as will be seen, I agree with Ritter, against Orelli, in supposing death in battle rather than submission to be meant, though Horace, writing from a somewhat different point of view, has chosen there to speak of the vanquished as dying ingloriously.

Book II, Ode 3.

Where poplar pale and pine-tree high.

I have translated according to the common reading "Qua pinus . . . . et obliquo," without stopping to inquire whether it is sufficiently supported by MSS. Those who with Orelli prefer "Quo pinus . . . . quid obliquo" may substitute—

Know you why pine and poplar high
Their hospitable shadows spread
Entwined? why panting waters try
To hurry down their zigzag bed?

Book II, Ode 7.

A man of peace.

Quiritem is generally understood of a citizen with rights undiminished. I have interpreted it of a civilian opposed to a soldier, as in the well-known story in Suetonius (Cæs. c. 70) where Julius Cæsar takes the tenth legion at their word, and intimates that they are disbanded by the simple substitution of Quirites for milites in his speech to them. But it may very well include both.

Book II, Ode 13.

In sacred awe the silent dead
Attend on each

"'Sacro digna silentio:' digna eo silentio quod in sacris faciendis observatur"—Ritter.

Book II, Ode 14.

Not though three hundred bullocks flame
Each year.

I have at last followed Ritter in taking trecenos as loosely put for 365, a steer for each day in the year. The hyperbole, as he says, would otherwise be too extravagant.

And richer spilth the pavement, stain.

"Our vaults have wept
With drunken spilth of wine."


Book II, Ode 18.

Suns are hurrying suns a-west,
And newborn moons make speed to meet their end.

The thought seems to be that the rapid course of time, hurrying men to the grave, proves the wisdom of contentment and the folly of avarice. My version formerly did not express this, and I have altered it accordingly, while I have rendered "Novæque pergunt interire lunæ" closely, as Horace may perhaps have intended to speak of the moons as hastening to their graves as men do.

Yet no hall that wealth e'er plann'd
Waits you more surely than the wider room
Traced by Death's yet greedier hand.

Fine is the instrumental ablative constructed with destinata, which is itself an ablative agreeing with aula understood. The rich man looks into the future, and makes contracts which he may never live to see executed (v. 17—Tu secanda marmora Locas sub ipsum funus"); meantime Death, more punctual than any contractor, more greedy than any encroaching proprietor, has planned with his measuring line a mansion of a different kind, which will infallibly be ready when the day arrives.

Book II, Ode 20.

I, whom you call
Your friend, Mæcenas.

With Ritter I have rendered according to the interpretation which makes dilecte Mæcenas' address to Horace; but it is a choice of evils.

Book III, Ode 1.

And lords of land
Affect the sea.

Terræ of course goes with fastidiosus, not with dominus. Mine is a loose rendering, not a false interpretation.

Book III, Ode 2.

Her robes she keeps unsullied still.

The meaning is not that worth is not disgraced by defeat in contests for worldly honours, but that the honours which belong to worth are such as the worthy never fail to attain, such as bring no disgrace along with them, and such as the popular breath can neither confer nor resume.

True men and thieves
Neglected Justice oft confounds.

"The thieves have bound the true men."

Shakespeare, Henry IV, Act ii. Scene 2;
where see Steevens' note.

Book III, Ode 3.

No more the adulterous guest can charm
The Spartan queen.

I have followed Ritter in constructing Lacænce adulteræ as a dative with splendet; but I have done so as a poetical translator rather than as a commentator.

Book III, Ode 4.

Or if a graver note thou love,
With Phœbus' cittern and his lyre.

I have followed Horace's sense, not his words. I believe, with Ritter, that the alternative is between the pipe as accompanying the vox acuta, and the cithara or lyre as accompanying the vox gravis. Horace has specified the vox acuta, and left the vox gravis to be inferred; I have done just the reverse.

Me, as I lay on Vultur's steep.

In this and the two following stanzas I have paraphrased Horace, with a view to bring out what appears to be his sense. There is, I think, a peculiar force in the word fabulosæ, standing as it does at the very opening of the stanza, in close connection with me, and thus bearing the weight of all the intervening words till the very end, where its noun, palumbes, is introduced at last. Horace says in effect, "I, too, like other poets, have a legend of my infancy." Accordingly I have thrown the gossip of the country-side into the form of an actual speech. Whether I am justified in heightening the marvellous by making the stock-doves actually crown the child, instead of merely laying branches upon him, I am not so sure; but something more seems to be meant than the covering of leaves, which the Children in the Wood, in our own legend, receive from the robin.

Loves the leafy growth
Of Lycia next his native wood.

Some of my predecessors seem hardly to distinguish between the Lyciæ dumeta and the natalem silvam of Delos, Apollo's attachment to both of which warrants the two titles Delius et Patareus. I knew no better way of marking the distinction within the compass of a line and a half than by making Apollo exhibit a preference where Horace speaks of his likings as co-ordinate.

Strength mix'd with mind is made more strong.

"Mixed" is not meant as a precise translation of temperatam, chastened or restrained, though "to mix" happens to be one of the shades of meaning of temperare.

Book III, Ode 5.

The fields we spoil'd with corn are green.

The later editors are right in not taking Marte nostro with coli as well as with populata. As has been remarked to me, the pride of the Roman is far more forcibly expressed by the complaint that the enemy have been able to cultivate fields that Rome has ravaged than by the statement that Roman captives have been employed to cultivate the fields they had ravaged as invaders. The latter proposition, it is true, includes the former; but the new matter draws off attention from the old, and so weakens it.

Who once to faithless foes has knelt.

"Knelt" is not strictly accurate, expressing Bentley's dedidit rather than the common, and doubtless correct, text, credidit.

And, girt by friends that mourn'd him, sped
The press of kin he push'd apart.

I had originally reversed amicos and propinquos, supposing it to be indifferent which of them was used in either stanza. But a friend has pointed out to me that a distinction is probably intended between the friends who attended Regulus and the kinsmen who sought to prevent his going.

Book III, Ode 8.

Lay down that load of state-concern.

I have translated generally; but Horace's meaning is special, referring to Mæcenas' office of prefect of the city.

Book III, Ode 9.

Buttmann complains of the editors for specifying the interlocutors as Horace and Lydia, which he thinks as incongruous as if in an English amcebean ode Collins were to appear side by side with Phyllis. The remark may be just as affects the Latin, though Ode 19 of the present Book, and Odes 33 and 36 of Book I, might be adduced to show that Horace does not object to mixing Latin and Greek names in the same poem; but it does not apply to a translation, where to the English reader's apprehension Horace and Lydia will seem equally real, equally fanciful.

Book III, Ode 17.

Lamia was doubtless vain of his pedigree; Horace accordingly banters him good-humouredly by spending two stanzas out of four in giving him his proper ancestral designation. To shorten the address by leaving out a stanza, as some critics and some translators have done, is simply to rob Horace's trifle of its point.

Book III, Ode 23.

There is something harsh in the expression of the fourth stanza of this Ode in the Latin. Tentare cannot stand without an object, and to connect it, as the commentators do, with deos is awkward. I was going to remark that possibly some future Bentley would conjecture certare, or litare, when I found that certare had been anticipated by Peerlkamp, who, if not a Bentley, was a Bentleian. But it would not be easy to account for the corruption, as the fact that the previous line begins with cervice would rather have led to the change of tentare into certare than vice versâ.

Book III, Ode 24.

Let Necessity but drive
Her wedge of adamant into that proud head

I have translated this difficult passage nearly as it stands, not professing to decide whether tops of buildings or human heads are meant. Either is strange till explained; neither seems at present to be supported by any exact parallel in ancient literature or ancient art. Necessity with her nails has met us before in Ode 35 of Book I, and Orelli describes an Etruscan work of art where she is represented with that cognizance; but though the nail is an appropriate emblem of fixity, we are apparently not told where it is to be driven. The difficulty here is further complicated by the following metaphor of the noose, which seems to be a new and inconsistent image.

Book III, Ode 29.

Nor gaze on Tibur, never dried.

With Ritter I have connected semper udum (an interpretation first suggested by Tate, who turned ne into ut); but I do not press it as the best explanation of the Latin. The general effect of the stanza is the same either way.

Those piles, among the clouds at home.

I have understood molem generally of the buildings of Rome, not specially of Mæcenas' tower. The parallel passage in Virg. Æn. i. 421—

"Miratur molem Æneas, magalia quondam,
Miratur portas strepitumque et strata viarum"—

is in favour of the former view.

What once the flying hour has brought.

I have followed Ritter doubtfully. Compare Virg. Georg. i. 461,—

"Quid vesper serus vehat."
Shall waft my little boat ashore.

I have hardly brought out the sense of the Latin with sufficient clearness. Horace says that if adversity comes upon him he shall accept it, and be thankful for what is left him, like a trader in a tempest, who, instead of wasting time in useless prayers for the safety of his goods, takes at once to the boat and preserves his life.

Book IV, Ode 2.

And spices strow
Before your train.

I had written "And gifts bestow at every fane;" but Ritter is doubtless right in explaining dabimus tura of the burning of incense in the streets during the procession. About the early part of the stanza I am less confident; but the explanation which makes Antonius take part in the procession as praetor, the reading adopted being Tuque dum procedis, is perhaps the least of evils.

Book IV, Ode 3.

On soft Æolian airs his fame shall nourish.

Horace evidently means that the scenery of Tibur contributes to the formation of lyric genius. It is Wordsworth's doctrine in the germ; though, if the author had been asked what it involved, perhaps he would not have gone further than Ritter, -who resolves it all into the conduciveness of a pleasant retreat to successful composition.

Book IV, Ode 4.

I have deranged the symmetry of the two opening similes, making the eagle the subject of the sentence in the first, the kid in the second, an awkwardness which the Latin is able to avoid by its power of distinguishing cases by inflexion. I trust, however, that it will not offend an English reader.

Whence in every field
They learned.

Horace seems to allude jokingly to some unseasonable inquiry into the antiquity of the armour of these Alpine tribes, which had perhaps been started by some less skilful celebrator of the victory; at the same time that he gratifies his love of lyrical commonplace by a parenthetical digression in the style of Pindar.

And watchful potencies unweave
For them the tangled paths of war.

On the whole, Ritter seems right, after Acron, in understanding curæ sagaces of the counsels of Augustus, whom Horace compliments similarly in the Fourteenth Ode of this Book, as the real author of his step-son's victories. He is certainly right in giving the stanza to Horace, not to Hannibal. Even a courtly or patriotic Roman would have shrunk from the bad taste of making the great historical enemy of Italy conclude his lamentation over his own and his country's deep sorrow by a flattering prophecy of the greatness of his antagonist's family.

Book IV, Ode 9.

'Twixt worth and baseness, lapp'd in death,
What difference?

I believe I have expressed Horace's meaning, though he has chosen to express himself as if the two things compared were dead worthlessness and uncelebrated worth. By fixing the epithet sepultae to inertiae he doubtless meant to express that the natural and appropriate fate of worthlessness was to be dead, buried, and forgotten. But the context shows that he was thinking of the effect of death and its consequent oblivion on worth and worthlessness alike, and contending that the poet alone could remedy the undiscriminating and unjust award of destiny. Throughout the first half of the Ode, however, Horace has rather failed to mark the transitions of thought. He begins by assuring himself and, by implication, those whom he celebrates, of immortality, on the ground that the greatest poets are not the only poets; he then exchanges this thought for another, doubtless suggested by it, that the heroes of poetry are not the only heroes, though the very fact that there have been uncelebrated heroes is used to show that celebration by a poet is everything.

Or bear your banners through the fight,
Scattering the foeman's firm array.

It seems, on the whole, simpler to understand this of actual victories obtained by Lollius as a commander, than of moral victories obtained by him as a judge. There is harshness in passing abruptly from the judgment-seat to the battle-field; but to speak of the judgment-seat as itself the battle-field would, I think, be harsher still.