Saturday, February 26, 2011

Horace, Ode 1.13

Cum tu, Lydia, Telephi
cervicem roseam, cerea Telephi
laudas bracchia, vae, meum
fervens difficili bile tumet iecur.

Tum nec mens mihi nec color
certa sede manent, umor et in genas
furtim labitur, arguens
quam lentis penitus macerer ignibus.

Uror, seu tibi candidos
turparunt umeros immodicae mero
rixae, sive puer furens
impressit memorem dente labris notam.

Non, si me satis audias,
speres perpetuum dulcia barbare
laedentem oscula quae Venus
quinta parte sui nectaris imbuit.

Felices ter et amplius
quos irrupta tenet copula nec malis
divulsus querimoniis
suprema citius solvet amor die.

When you, Lydia, praise the
red neck of Telephus, the waxen
arms of Telephus, alas, my
burning liver swells with hard bile.

Then neither my mind nor my color
remains in a sure seat, and a tear
secretly slips down my cheek, proving
how deeply I am soaked with slow fires.

I am burned, whether your bright
shoulders are disfigured from excessive drunken
fights, or if the angry boy
stamped an unforgettable mark on your lips with his teeth.

If you listen to me enough, you should not
hope for sweet lips striking barbarically to be
perpetual which Venus has drenched
with a fifth part of her own nectar.

Happy three times and more are those
for whom love holds unbroken bonds
and will not quickly unbind, broken up from
evil quarrels, until the last day.


  1. May I venture to propose another variant for the fourth stanza?

    If you'd listen to me enough, you should not
    hope that be constant the one striking barbarically
    your sweet lips which Venus
    has drenched with a fifth part of her nectar.

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  2. Whenever and for as long as you,
    Lydia, mention the rose neck and
    wax-arms of Telephus, screw it, my
    boiling liver swells difficult bile.

    It's at these moments that neither my
    mind or color stay seated; secret
    liquid runs on my cheeks; it argues
    how much, now that I’m sorry, I’m devoured

    by slow fires. I burn: whether it is
    these out of control beatings that foul
    your luminescent shoulders due to
    the wine, or this kid, now insane,
    who clearly patched a mark on your lips

    with his teeth. No: if you were only
    to listen to me would you never
    crave a perpetual slaughter of sweet
    lips Venus herself imbued with a fifth

    of her nectar by a barbarian.
    Three times and more are they happy whom
    an unbroken lock binds, unbroken
    by evil reminders of old quarrels

    until love more quickly unlocks them
    on the final day.


  3. Note:
    how brilliant Horace is:

    "macerer" has not but one, but two ambiguities.

    "Macerer" can mean three separate things:

    to be lean, meagre

    macerer - verb 1st sg imperf subj pass

    to make soft, make tender, soften, soak, steep, macerate

    macerer: verb 1st sg pres subj pass

    to maul, beat, hack

    macerer- verb 1st sg imperf subj pass

    So, it can mean: "(as if) I had been made lean/ I was softened/tenderized (as we tenderize meat)

    - fire makes meat "lean"
    - fire "tenderizes" and "macerates" - eats away at meat
    - hunters "haul, beat, hack" meat; in metaphor, fire does the same thing

    So the line can read:
    - "my tears argue how much I, sorry, had been made lean by slow fires"
    - "my tears argue how much I, sorry, are eaten away by slow fires"
    - "my tears argue how much I, sorry, had been hacked at by slow fires"

    If one will, Horace is saying:
    "by the slow fires of love for you I have been made lean and hacked away at (before now), and (now), as I watch you praise this Telaphus, I am devoured.".

    So many words to say something so simple and passionate when we are jealous in love! How many thoughts run through our heads!

    There is no true translation of subjunctive into English; although the essential multiplicity of two times remains in English.


  4. Several other ambiguities on:
    - penitus: "inwardly", "pentetrare", penis, Peneus
    - barbare: adverb of "in a barbarous manner", which given the Greek-ism, means, an uncultivated man who cannot speak; + barbarus "a plaster applied to raw wounds", if this term for plaster existed at this time, which may easily have been.
    - "Quinta", ingeniously a play on words of the feminine of Horace's first name, "Quintus".

    - the neologism of Cicero "querimonia":
    there is no record of this word in latin before Cicero in "Against Verres".

    It is typical of Cicero's playful use of the language to describe exactitude through his cynicism; in modern English, the translation is "lamentation". However, literally, Cicero makes this "an asking of reminding", "to ask to remember" quaerere + monere. The term, although useful today, was undoubtedly far-fetched in Cicero's first use of it, but adequately expressed the legal use of the term, to "remind" someone of "warning" something, when the original warning is unheard. This is heard immediate in the context of the delivery of Contra Verres.

    Horace says it is inimical for lovers to "ask to remember in a bad way"; they are over-joyously happy when they are unbroken by these bad "reminders", but keep loving despite them until the final day (when they die). Tear.

    Contra Verres, 132:
    (CAPS mine.)

    esto, cetera negare non potes; ne illud quidem tibi reliquum1 fecisti, ut hoc posses dicere, nihil eorum te audisse, nihil ad tuas auris de infamia tua pervenisse. QUEREBANTUR cum luctu et gemitu aratores: tu id nesciebas? fremebat tota provincia: nemo id tibi renuntiabat?

    Romae QUERIMONIAE de tuis iniuriis conventusque habebantur: ignorabas haec? ignorabas haec omnia?

    "Be it so; you cannot deny the rest. You have not even left yourself this resource, to be able to say that you heard nothing of this,—that no mention of your infamy ever came to your ears; for the cultivators were complaining with groans and tears. Did you not know it? The whole province was loud in its indignation. Did no one tell you of it?

    Complaints were being made of your injuries, and meetings held on the subject at Home,—were you ignorant of this? Were you ignorant of all these facts?"

    1. Sorry, I would expand on vocabulary ambiguities and possible, but am much too tired now.


  5. - "Solvere", in the tense of "soluti" was also used in Cicero's Contra Verres. This widely suggests Horace either somehow heard this oration live, or read it, or heard of the language Cicero used.
    However - was Cicero's orations "published" next to immediately, and for so controversial a cause?
    Why would other political professionals discuss "neologisms" of a recent heated cause, in a space where Horace could here them?

    It seems highly likely Horace heard these legal cases himself.

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