March 06, 2010

Odes of Horace

For my lit project, I read Horace's Odes.

I do not have much to say. It was only into Book II or so that I began to feel the rhythm of these poems. An obsession with death runs through them, sometimes in a Stoic way, sometimes an Epicurean. I would call the Odes Stoic, though. Live today that you may die tomorrow. Such is his theme.

I had been aware of the problems of translation before this, but only with Horace have I realized how distant these Ancient poets are in translation. Horace exists only in Latin; what I encounter is a shade. I discovered this after reading multiple translations of one poem (I did this for several poems). What I read was not Horace.

Translated by A.E. Housman-- IV.7:
The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
And altered is the fashion of the earth.

The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fear
And unapparelled in the woodland play.
The swift hour and the brief prime of year
Say to the soul,
Thou wast not born for aye.

Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn, with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams:
we where Tullus and where Ancus are,
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.

Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall add
The morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has had
The fingers of no heir will ever hold.

When though descendest once the shades among,
The stern assize and equal judgment o'er,
Not thy long lineage nor thy golden tongue,
No, nor thy righteousness, shall friend thee more.

Night holds Hippolytus the pure of stain,
Diana steads him nothing, he must stay;
And Theseus leaves Pirithous in the chain
The love of comrades cannot take away.
But still beautiful. From here, I am torn about where to take my project: to lesser Ancient poets or to modern philosophy? I feel the Shades may win.


DG said...

did you edit this? i thought there was a jab at me in the first paragraph somewhere.

Ian said...

When you told me that you did not plan to start up this lit project again, I decided it was no use jabbing you anymore. You have torn my heart into a thousand pieces. I shall proceed alone.

DG said...

sorry to disappoint

not really though