Guest poem submitted by Divya Sampath:
(Poem #633) Odes: Book 1, Verse 11
Stop these efforts to learn - knowing is banned - what will be my, and your, final god-given end, Leuconoe, cease Babylonian divination by stars. Better by far: all that will come, endure! Whether Jupiter grants many a long winter, or this our last, which now tires, against pumice-strewn shores lying below us, that vast Tyrrhenian Sea. Learn to be wise, strain out the wine, and prune lavish hopes to the quick. While we converse, envious time will have vanished: harvest today, placing the least credence on what's to come.
Or, in the original: "Carmina, Liber Primus, XI" Tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios temptaris numeros. Vt melius quicquid erit pati! Seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam, quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare Tyrrhenum, sapias, uina liques et spatio breui spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit inuida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. -- Q. Horatius Flacci [Notes] I quote the Latin, because there is a definite music in Horace, especially when read aloud. It's amazing, the vivid imagery he conjures, in the sparest, most economical phrases. The translation above is by Steven J. Willett. He is Professor of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Shizuoka. This is excerpted from his published translation of excerpts from Horace's Odes at Diotima: http://www.stoa.org/diotima My attachment to this particular verse stems, I confess, from the oft-quoted last line :-) [On the Odes] Horace portrayed himself as a poetic craftsman working in the tradition of Greek lyric poetry as it was practiced about 600BC on the island of Lesbos by the Greek poets Alcaeus and Sappho. However, rather than any similarity of emotion, tone, or content, what the Odes reflect are the meter of the Greek poets. Of the 103 odes, 37 are Alcaic and 25 Sapphic. (The rhythms of both Greek and Latin poetry are based on the absolute quantitative length of syllables). [References] 1. Babylonians were held to be diviners and mystics of repute. Their skills in Astrology were well known in Rome, though Horace deprecates them here. 2. Jupiter - the supreme god in the Roman pantheon, often equated with the Greek Zeus, but more probably finding his roots in the Etruscan Patriarch-God, Tin/Tinia. The Romans worshipped him as Jupiter Optimus Maximus - Jupiter, Best and Greatest. Most often associated with Juno and Minerva. 3. Tyrhennian=Etruscan. [Biography] b. December 65 BC, Venusia, Italy d. Nov. 27, 8 BC, Rome QUINTUS HORATIUS FLACCUS (Horace): outstanding Latin lyric poet and satirist under the emperor Augustus. The most frequent themes of his Odes and verse Epistles are love, friendship, philosophy, and the art of poetry. Horace was probably of the Sabellian hillman stock of Italy's central highlands. His father had once been a slave but gained freedom before Horace's birth and became an auctioneer's assistant. In about 46 BC Horace went to Athens, attending lectures at the Academy. After Julius Caesar's murder in March 44 BC, the eastern empire, including Athens, came temporarily into the possession of his assassins Brutus and Cassius, who could scarcely avoid clashing with Caesar's partisans, Mark Antony and Octavian (later Augustus), the young great-nephew whom Caesar, in his will, had appointed as his personal heir. Horace joined Brutus' army and was made tribunus militum, an exceptional honour for a freedman's son. In November 42, at the two battles of Philippi against Antony and Octavian, Horace and his fellow tribunes (in the unusual absence of a more senior officer) commanded one of Brutus' and Cassius' legions. After their total defeat and death, he fled back to Italy--controlled by Octavian--but his father's farm at Venusia had been confiscated to provide land for veterans. Horace, however, proceeded to Rome, obtaining, either before or after a general amnesty of 39 BC, the minor but quite important post of one of the 36 clerks of the treasury (scribae quaestorii). Early in 38 BC he was introduced to Gaius Maecenas, a man of letters from Etruria in central Italy who was one of Octavian's principal political advisers. He now enrolled Horace in the circle of writers with whom he was friendly. Before long, through Maecenas, Horace also came to Octavian's notice. After Octavian had defeated Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, off northwestern Greece (31 BC), Horace published his Epodes and a second book of eight Satires in 30-29 BC. Then, while the victor, styled Augustus in 27 BC, settled down, Horace turned, in the most active period of his poetical life, to the Odes, of which he published three books, comprising 88 short poems, in 23 BC. Horace, in the Odes, represented himself as heir to earlier Greek lyric poets but displayed a sensitive, economical mastery of words all his own. He sings of love, wine, nature (almost romantically), of friends, of moderation; in short, his favourite topics. Some of the Odes are about Maecenas or Augustus: although he praises the ancient Roman virtues the latter was trying to reintroduce, he remains his own master and never confines an ode to a single subject or mood. At some stage Augustus offered Horace the post of his private secretary, but the poet declined on the plea of ill health. Notwithstanding, Augustus did not resent his refusal, and indeed their relationship became closer. The best poems, Horace thought, edify as well as delight; the secret of good writing is wisdom (implying goodness); the poet needs teaching and training to give of his best. In 8 BC Horace died, after naming Augustus as his heir. He was buried on the Esquiline Hill near Maecenas' grave. -- EB Divya.