Tag: Horace

173. Odes by Horace (c. 23-12 BC)

173. Odes by Horace (c. 23-12 BC)

Plot:   Four books of lyric poetry dealing with a range of topics, including ample praise for Augustus Caesar, as well as Horace’s patron Maecenas, his friends Virgil and Varius, and the Gods. A recurring theme, particularly in Book 1, is to live for today : Carpe diem!

My version was The Odes and Epodes of Horace : a modern English verse translation by Joseph Clancy (University of Chicago Press, 1960)

My thoughts: I rarely warm to poetry so I confess I pushed through Horace’s Odes quickly. I found them less interesting than his Epodes, but did enjoy his repeated advice to enjoy life.

“All of life is only a little, no long-term plans are allowed.”  I.4

“I am a poet of parties …”  I.6

“Today, banish worry with wine ; back to the deep sea tomorrow”  I.7

“Take the chill off, piling plenty of logs by the fireside, and pour out the wine … with a free hand. Leave the rest to the Gods, …. Do not ask of tomorrow what it may hold; mark in the black each day you are granted by Chance: you are young … now is the time for … soft whispers as night covers lovers meeting, and now is the time for giveaway giggles from the far corner and the girl in hiding”   I.9

“Who can say if the Gods will add to our present sum tomorrow’s bonus of hours? Keep all you can from your sticky-fingered heir by giving now to your precious self.”   IV.7

And most famously Carpe diem.  Not so much about taking the leap on a new adventure as I has mistakenly defined it myself, but to make every day special.

“Reap today: save no hopes for tomorrow.”   I.11

Favourite lines/passages:

Besides his good advice above, I also liked his verbal attack on the unknown gardener who originally planted the tree that nearly killed him.

“He planted you a day the omens were dark, whoever he was, and his defiling hands raised you as a tree to destroy his descendants and disgrace the neighbourhood. He was, I should think, a man who would crush his own father’s throat and at midnight spatter the sanctuary of home with the blood of a guest; and he had dealings with Colchic poisons and every conceivable kind of vice, that man who stood you on my farm, sad excuse for a tree, to fall on the head of your undeserving owner…”   II, 13

 

Some of his reflections on love:

“I burn with her charming teasing, and with the tempting yes-and-no of her glances.”  I.19

And his praise of poetry as a means of everlasting glory, including his own.

“My memorial is done: it will outlast bronze. It is taller than the Pyramids’ royal mounds, and no rain and corrosion , no raging Northwind can tear it down, nor the innumerable years in succession and the transitory ages. I will not wholly die; the greater part of me shall escape the goddess of death: I will grow on, kept alive by posterity’s praise”     III.30

Personal rating:   only a 4/10 overall

Other reading:

The Regulators by Stephen King under his pen name Richard Bachman. Sort of a deliberate alternate-universe retelling of another King book, Desperation, but tied to consumerism and television. A young boy is possessed by a demon which uses its powers to bring the boy’s favourite cartoon heroes to terrifying life and inflict carnage on a suburban American street. Mesmerising but not his best.

 

The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude. British Library reprint of the 1935 murder whodunnit/howdunnit proved irresistible as I was actually walking the coastal path where the murder was set. Relatively low number of suspects and a very low key single clue still built nicely thanks to good writing. Enjoyed.

 

Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?  by Philip K. Dick.

The scifi book filmed as Blade Runner. Much more cerebral than the movie, with the nature/difference between real and fake a major thread through the story. With androids almost indistinguishable from humans (sometimes even to themselves) the ability to show and feel empathy towards animals and people leads to a social urge to possess a live animal as an expensive status symbol. Rick Deckard the bounty hunter assigned to terminate rogue androids, is driven to spend all his pay on upgrading from an electric sheep, while his wife is entranced with the prevalent religion Mercerism which allows people to share a virtual religious pilgrimage as a way of bonding with others. Very good and prophetic scifi.

Next :  The War with Hannibal (Books XXI-XXX of Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy

 

Advertisements
165. Epodes by Horace (30 BC)

165. Epodes by Horace (30 BC)

Plot:   17 short poems, a mixture of vicious attacks, lovesick swoons, and social commentary.

My thoughts: 

“The Epodes are, on the whole, the least interesting and satisfactory work of Horace”          W. Y. Sellar, Horace and the Elegaic Poets, 1891.

Despite the less-than-ringing endorsement above, I headed back to the library and grabbed several different editions to try and find the most approachable. The easiest to follow and most attractive, mimicking the long-short alternative line structure used by Horace was found in  The Odes and Epodes of Horace : a modern English verse translation by Joseph Clancy (University of Chicago Press, 1960)

Horace has become more strident and personal, although the poems attacking others are unsatisfying vague – readers outside his own circle of friends and intimates would not know who Horace is ranting against, or wishing to be shipwrecked. The only target named is Canidia (the witch from Satire I, viii) who reappears in Epode 5 in a horrific scene where she and her accomplices plan to sacrifice a young boy by burying him up to the neck and starving him, while food lies tantalisingly close, in order to plunder his remains for the final ingredient for a love potion; and again in the last Epode where the subject of the poem (Horace himself?) is begging her to remove the curse afflicting him.

The other remarkable Epodes were number 2 which describes in increasingly sentimental and idealised words, the idyllic pastoral life of ease as imagined by a city moneylender,

“when through his lands Autumn lifts his head

with a crown of ripening fruit,

how delighted he is, plucking the grafted pears

and the purple clusters of grapes ….

How pleasant to rest, sometimes beneath an old oak,

sometimes on a carpet of grass;

all the while the brook glides by between its high banks,

the birds are trilling in the trees,

and the splashing waters of springs play counterpoint,

a summons to easy slumber”

and number 3 which describes Horace’s overwhelming horror after he realises his patron has added some poisonous plant into Horaces’s meal.

“deadlier than hemlock … Have I been tricked by a salad with a dressing of viper’s blood?” 

Yes, it’s Garlic!!!

Personal rating:  Enjoyed these more than the Satires. Across all 17 poems, a 5/10

Next :  The Georgics by Virgil

164. Satires by Horace (c.35-30 BC)

164. Satires by Horace (c.35-30 BC)

Plot:   Two books of poetry gently attacking men’s foibles.

My versions this time were (i) The Satires by Horace, translated by A. M. Juster (University of Pennsylvania, 9780812240900) and (ii) my trusty Penguin edition Horace, Satires and Epistles; Persius, Satires, translated by Niall Rudd (0140455086)

My thoughts:  Trying to break my addiction to Penguin Classics, I brought home a nice shiny library copy of Juster’s rhyming version, but after four attempts at trying to follow Horace’s train of thought, I had to admit defeat and buy an e-copy of Rudd. After reading his introduction and explanation of the structure, I realised the main section of the poems in Book 1 (published circa 33 BC) often contain an unlabelled dialogue which presents different sides of the argument (these dialogues are more clearly labelled in Horace’s second book of Satires, published around 30 BC). After that, I read Rudd’s prose translation, checking back with Juster on verses I especially like to see how he handled them.

Horace was the son of an ex-slave, who left university and joined Brutus’ armies and was routed at the Battle of Philipi, only to return home to find his beloved father dead and his farmland inheritance confiscated. Luckily, his writing left a favourable impression with Virgil, who introduced him to a wealthy patron Maecenas, which set Horace up for the rest of his days.

Although labelled satires, these poems are more rebukes against various vices and follies – greed, ambition, adultery, intolerance, gluttony etc. Unlike his predecessor, Horace rarely attacks individuals by name – he is not barbed or abusive but aims his criticism as suggestions for us all

“if you expect your friend to put up with your boils

You’ll forget about his warts”                   Satire I, iii   Lines 73-74 (Rudd)

Not all the poems are cast in this mould – some are like letters home on the personal events of Horace’s day, but my favourite was a story of a wooden statue carved from a tree trunk and placed in a paupers’ graveyard who happens to witness two loathsome witches performing black magic and decides ..

“With a sudden report like a burst balloon I let a fart

Which split my fig-wood buttocks; the hags scurried off downtown;

Canidia dropped her false teeth, the high wig

Tumbled from Sagana’s head …. If only you’d seen it!”         Satire I, viii   Lines 46-50 (Rudd)

And surprisingly one of the last poems in the second book (II, vi) includes Aesop’s fable of the town mouse and the country mouse!

Favourite lines/passages:

“We can rarely find a man who says

He has lived a happy life and who, when his time is up

Contentedly leaves the world like a guest who has had his fill”        Satire I, i   Lines 117-119 (Rudd)

“Winter may be drawing the snowy day into a smaller circle, but go I must”    Satire II, vi  Lines 25-26 (Rudd)

And this statement from Rudd’s introduction resonated with me:

“[Horace] did believe that men could spare themselves a great deal of misery by acceptance, restraint, good humour and tolerance”  p.18-19

Personal rating:  4/10

Also in those years:

Herod is made King of Judea by the Romans (37 BC)

The second Roman Triumvirate (Lepidus, Antony and Octavius) begins to split apart, as Lepidus and Octavius spar over each other’s lands in Africa and Sicily. Antony marries Octavius’ sister Octavia, averting civil war; but then goes and falls in love and bigamously marries Cleopatra (36 BC). Octavius (the future Emperor Augustus) defeats Antony and Cleopatra’s fleet at the Battle of Actium (31 BC), and the losing couple escape to Egypt and commit suicide (30 BC)

The reads in between: 

The Man with Two Left Feet, and other stories, by P. G. Wodehouse. Notable for the first appearance of Bertie Wooster and (albeit briefly) his butler Jeeves in the second story. A mixed bag of stories, including two told from a dog’s point of view. Still not old Plum’s very best, but even an average Wodehouse is streets ahead of most authors.

Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson. A slave girl in ancient China runs away with the Emperor’s last dragon. Aimed at readers 10-14 and very enjoyable despite one unpleasant scene towards the end. Recommended.

Next :  Epodes by Horace