The Odes and Carmen Saeculare of Horace by Horace


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Page 3

The problem of finding English representatives for the other Horatian
metres, if a more difficult, is a less important one. The most pressing
case is that of the metre known as the second Asclepiad, the "Sic te
diva potens Cypri." With this, I fear, I shall be thought to have dealt
rather capriciously, having rendered it by four different measures,
three of them, however, varieties of the same general type. It so
happens that the first Ode which I translated was the celebrated
Amoebean Poem, the dialogue between Horace and Lydia. I had had at that
time not the most distant notion of translating the whole of the Odes,
or even any considerable number of them, so that in choosing a metre I
thought simply of the requirements of the Ode in question, not of those
of the rest of its class. Indeed, I may say that it was the thought of
the metre which led me to try if I could translate the Ode. Having
accomplished my attempt, I turned to another Ode of the same class, the
scarcely less celebrated "Quem tu, Melpomene." For this I took a
different metre, which happens to be identical with that of a solitary
Ode in the Second Book, "Non ebur neque aureum," being guided still by
my feeling about the individual Ode, not by any more general
considerations. I did not attempt a third until I had proceeded
sufficiently far in my undertaking to see that I should probably
continue to the end. Then I had to consider the question of a uniform
metre to answer to the Latin. Both of those which I had already tried
were rendered impracticable by a double rhyme, which, however
manageable in one or two Odes, is unmanageable, as I have before
intimated, in the case of a large number. The former of the two
measures, divested of the double rhyme, would, I think, lose most of
its attractiveness; the latter suffers much less from the privation:
the latter accordingly I chose. The trochaic character of the first
line seems to me to give it an advantage over any metre composed of
pure iambics, if it were only that it discriminates it from those
alternate ten-syllable and eight-syllable iambics into which it would
be natural to render many of the Epodes. At the same time, it did not
appear worth while to rewrite the two Odes already translated, merely
for the sake of uniformity, as the principle of correspondence to the
Latin, the alternation of longer and shorter lines, is really the same
in all three cases. Nay, so tentative has been my treatment of the
whole matter, that I have even translated one Ode, the third of Book I,
into successive rather than into alternate rhymes, so that readers may
judge of the comparative effect of the two varieties. After this
confession of irregularity, I need scarcely mention that on coming to
the Ode which had suggested the metre in its unmutilated state, I
translated it into the mutilated form, not caring either to encounter
the inconvenience of the double rhymes, or to make confusion worse
confounded by giving it, what it has in the Latin, a separate form of
its own.

The remaining metres may be dismissed in a very few words. As a general
rule, I have avoided couplets of any sort, and chosen some kind of
stanza. As a German critic has pointed out, all the Odes of Horace,
with one doubtful exception, may be reduced to quatrains; and though
this peculiarity does not, so far as we can see, affect the character
of any of the Horatian metres (except, of course, those that are
written in stanzas), or influence the structure of the Latin, it must
be considered as a happy circumstance for those who wish to render
Horace into English. In respect of restraint, indeed, the English
couplet may sometimes be less inconvenient than the quatrain, as it is,
on the whole, easier to run couplet into couplet than to run quatrain
into quatrain; but the couplet seems hardly suitable for an English
lyrical poem of any length, the very notion of lyrical poetry
apparently involving a complexity which can only be represented by
rhymes recurring at intervals. In the case of one of the three poems
written by Horace in the measure called the greater Asclepiad, ("Tu ne
quoesieris,") I have adopted the couplet; in another ("Nullam, Vare,")
the quatrain, the determining reason in the two cases being the length
of the two Odes, the former of which consists but of eight lines, the
latter of sixteen. The metre which I selected for each is the thirteen-
syllable trochaic of "Locksley Hall;" and it is curious to observe the
different effect of the metre according as it is written in two lines
or in four. In the "Locksley Hall" couplet its movement is undoubtedly
trochaic; but when it is expanded into a quatrain, as in Mrs.
Browning's poem of "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," the movement changes,
and instead of a more or less equal stress on the alternate syllables,
the full ictus is only felt in one syllable out of every four; in
ancient metrical language the metre becomes Ionic a minore. This very
Ionic a minore is itself, I need not say, the metre of a single Ode in
the Third Book, the "Miserarum est," and I have devised a stanza for
it, taking much more pains with the apportionment of the ictus than in
the case of the trochaic quatrain, which is better able to modulate
itself. I have also ventured to invent a metre for that technically
known as the Fourth Archilochian, the "Solvitur acris hiems," by
combining the fourteen-syllable with the ten-syllable iambic in an
alternately rhyming stanza. [Footnote: I may be permitted to mention
that Lord Derby, in a volume of Translations printed privately before
the appearance of this work, has employed the same measure in rendering
the same Ode, the only difference being that his rhymes are not
alternate, but successive.] The First Archilochian, "Diffugere nives,"
I have represented by a combination of the ten-syllable with the four-
syllable iambic. For the so-called greater Sapphic, the "Lydia, die per
omnes" I have made another iambic combination, the six-syllable with
the fourteen-syllable, arranged as a couplet. The choriambic I thought
might be exchanged for a heroic stanza, in which the first line should
rhyme with the fourth, the second with the third, a kind of "In
Memoriam" elongated. Lastly, I have chosen the heroic quatrain proper,
the metre of Gray's "Elegy," for the two Odes in the First Book written
in what is called the Metrum Alcmanium, "Laudabunt alii," and "Te maris
et terrae," rather from a vague notion of the dignity of the measure
than from any distinct sense of special appropriateness.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 28th Feb 2020, 11:56