25. Horace (65 BC – 8 BC)

Original language: Latin.

I read the Odes, the Epodes, and Ars Poetica.

For the Odes and Epodes I read the Joseph P. Clancy translation published 1960 by U. of Chicago Press.

I found Horace’s lyric poetry beautiful. The Clancy translations are excellent. They flow, they are idiomatic English, they feel and look poetic.

I love how freely and unashamedly Horace talked of desire and sex. He was frankly bisexual and expressed desire for both boys and girls. In one poem he calls himself a “poet of parties.” I can hear echoes of Horace’s voice in Ezra Pound’s poetry.

And I was struck once again with how the Trojan War remains a fertile source of literature. It’s the topic of Ode I-15. 

I will quote in full Ode II-4, one of my favorites. More Iliad references!

No need to blush for your love of a slave girl,
Xanthias of Phocis. In earlier days
Briseis the slave, her skin like snow, aroused
aloof Achilles;

Ajax, the son of Telamon, was mastered
By the beauty of his captive Tecmessa;
as he conquered, the fire seized Atreus' son
for a captured girl,

after the armies of Troy had succumbed to
Achilles' triumph, and the loss of Hector
handed Ilium, now an easy victim,
to the weary Greeks.

For all that you know, your golden-haired Phyllis
has wealthy parents, credits to their new son;
her blood must be royal, and she laments for
her gods' unkindness.

Believe me, this girl you adore does not come
from nasty commoners: no, such loyalty,
such disdain for money, could not be born of
a shameful mother.

Her arms and her face and her smooth slender legs
win my cool approval. Have no fear of me,
whose life has already gone hurrying past
its fortieth year.


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