By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Now, Horace

He seems to have been a mellow fellow, son of a freedman (former slave), who lived life realistically (at least as he portrays it in his poems).

Selections (English translations from the Loeb Classical Library unless stated otherwise):

1. He disdained the busyness of the ambitious and contrasted his own tastes:

Odes (Carmina) Book I.1:

"the frightened trader recommends an easy life on a farm near his home town; a little later he repairs his shattered fleet, for he cannot learn to put up with modest means. One man does not refuse cups of old Massic [wine], and is prepared to take a slice out of the working day, stretched out at length beneath a leafy arbutus [tree] or at the gentle source of a sacred stream" (circa lines 16-22).

Horace is that one man.

The old question arise: if every one were so sane, would our economy be so prosperous?

The old question assumes the answer, namely, that the most important thing is higher GDP.

2. He was proud of his father, the former slave, who gave him an excellent education, both academic and moral:

Satires (Sermones) I.vi (circa ll. 89-97)

"Never while in my senses could I be ashamed of such a father, and so I will not defend myself, as would a goodly number, who say it is no fault of theirs that they have not free-born [Horace's father was born a slave and later freed] and famous parents. Far different from this is what I say and what I think: for if after a given age Nature should call upon us to traverse our past lives again, and to choose in keeping with our pride any other parents each might crave--content with my own, I should decline to take those adorned with the rods and chairs of state."

Yes! Here is the humanitas which motivates the study of the classics. In the lines immediately preceding the above excerpt, Horace describes in detail the parental guidance he received. It is a tribute to every dedicated parent.

3. Finally, I cannot pass over his most famous lines (blogger's translation; feel free to ignore my grammatical notes in the Latin--they are for my own use):

Horace, Ode I.11

XI

Tu ne quaesieris [syncopated, Fut. Pf.] (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
temptaris [syncopated Fut. Pf.] numeros. Vt melius quicquid erit pati!
Seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare 5
Tyrrhenum, sapias (hortatory), uina liques (strain) et spatio breui
spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit (future perfect tense) inuida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula (adj. feminine vocative) postero (to the future; 2nd masc.).

Do not ask, Leuconoe--it is contrary to divine law to know--what end the gods will give to me, what end to you, nor consult the Babylonian star charts. How much better to endure whatever happens!
Whether Jove has assigned more winters [for us] or the last,
which now pummels the Tyrrhenian Sea against the cliffs,
be wise, prepare your wine, and scale back your distant hope because time is brief.
While we speak, hateful age and time slip away: seize the day, trusting as little as possible to the future.

Blogger comment: The older you get, the more you should pay attention to your priorities and concentrate on what you must do. In a way, it is a time of great freedom to jettison what needs to go, as you make your final approach for landing.



(Public domain image from University of Toronto library)