Saturday, February 26, 2011

Horace, Ode 1.11

Tu ne quaesieris - scire nefas - quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. Ut melius quicquid erit pati,
seu pluris hiemes, seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum. Sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

You should not seek - to know is a sin - which end (of life)
the gods have given to me, which end to you, Leuconoe, nor
should you test Babylonian numbers. How much better to suffer
whatever will be, whether Jupiter assigns many winters, or the last (day),
which now the Tyrrhenum sea weakens with the opposite
pumice (stones). Be wise, strain the wine, and cut back hope
for a long life in a short time. While we talk, envious time will
flee: seize the day, trusting as little as possible to the future.


  1. One of the nicest English translation.
    N.B. (1) "Tyrrhenian" sea, NOT Tyrrhenum [sic]

  2. Your lucid and closely literal version is far superior to the mishmash of this wonderful poem that David Ferry offers in his Noonday press translation of the Odes (1997). Gratias tibi.

  3. Few things:
    1) Why not "last (winter)"? Doesn't that seem more likely? Many winters or [this] last [winter]? I would've thought a substantive referring to "day" as a general day would more likely be masculine (though I'm not sure on this), and besides that, it makes more sense to use a version of "hiemes" (hiemem, in this case) to contrast with "hiemes"
    2) While "mare" could be nominative or accusative, quae must be nominative (it could only be accusative if it were neuter plural, but we know it refers back to ultimam, so it's feminine), and so in this context, mare will be the accusative direct object: the last [winter] which weakens [or wears out] the sea.
    3) I was going to challenge your translation of the prohibitive subjunctive, but I realized I don't know much on the subject and now I'm reading...