Monday, November 9, 2009

Horace, Ode 4.7

Horace's Ode 4.7 Diffugere nives, redeunt iam gramina campis arboribusque comae (The snows have fled, now grasses return to the fields and leaves to the trees), although it begins in hope and rebirth, within a few lines turns and bites: Immortalia ne speres, monet annus et almum quae rapit hora diem (The circling year and the hour which removes the kindly day warn you not to hope for everlasting things). Horace address Torqautus thus: non, Torquate, genus, non te facundia, non te restituet pietas(neither your high birth, Torquatus, nor your eloquence,nor your righteousness will bring you back). As Toulet put it, Prends garde à la douceur des choses. This happens to be the title of the most recent biography of Toulet, by Frederic Martin, and very readable it is. Martin subtitles it une vie en morceaux, which might apply equally to Toulet's life or to the structure of the book - it consists in the main of a series of brief chapters, like sound-bites. (Read-bites? Eye-bites?).

There are a few lines in this ode that encourage self-indulgence: Cuncta manus avidas fugient heredis, amico quae dederis animo (Every gift which you give to your own dear self will escape an heir's greedy hands).

Here it is in its entirety.

Horace, Ode 4.7

Diffugere nives, redeunt iam gramina campis
arboribus comae;
mutat terra vices et decrescentia ripas
flumina praetereunt;
Gratia cum Nymphis geminisque sororibus audet
ducere nuda chorus.
Inmortalia ne speres, monet annus et almum
quae rapit hora diem.
Frigora mitescunt Zephyris, ver proterit aestas,
interitura simul
pomifer autumnus fruges effuderit, et mox
bruma recurrit iners.
Damna tamen celeres reparant caelestia lunae:
non ubi decidimus
quo pater Aeneas, quo dives Tullus et Ancus,
pulvis et umbra sumus.
Quis scit an adiciant hodiernae crastina summae
tempora di superi?
Cuncta manus avidas fugient heredis, amico
quae dederis animo.
Cum semel occideris et de te splendida Minos
fecerit arbitria,
non, Torquate, genus, non te facundia, non te
restituet pietas;
infernis neque enim tenebris Diana pudicum
liberat Hippolytum,
nec Lethaea valet Theseus abrumpere caro
vincula Pirithoo.

And here is a translation by A.E. Housman. Housman is a poet that reminds me a little of Toulet, not because of his themes or content, but because of his consummate mastery of verse structure, and the jewel-like quality of his poems.

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 the 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;
Come 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 thou 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.

Samuel Johnson translated this ode shortly before his death. As this is not a Horace blog, I'll refer you to Michael Gilleland's blog.

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