Horace has a friend, Hirpinus, who felt a bit down: pressures on the Roman borders, middle aged with all its troubles etc. and for that reason he can’t enjoy life. `Your youth won’t come back’ says Horace,`just enjoy life as it is and let us lie down under some tree with a jar of wine.’
Commentators assume that we must imagine the whole scene as taking place in the garden of Hirpinus. We don’t know who he is, despite the full page Nisbet and Hubbard devote to his identification, but from epistle 1.16 it appears that he is a wealthy man. For that reason the question: `which slave will bring us water for mixing the wine?’ is fair enough, but then follows
`who will bring us the whore Lyde?’ For whore Horace uses the word scortum, but the name Lyde has associations with a hetaere, a luxury call-girl. Does Horace mean that at their age the lascivas amores (playful love affairs) are over and they have to resort to a prostitute? Thus far there is some hedonism in this poem: garlands of roses, exquisite unguent and a slave, but it also alludes to a pastoral setting. The last question is in my opinion over the top: a hetaere is called a whore and asked to come with an ivory lyre, but with a simple hair dress. This gives an ironical twist to the whole previous part of the poem. If I am right, then we should read this poem as ironical and a bit teasing.
Anyway, it is outside well over 30 degrees and I wish I could join these men under their tree, with or without Lyde!
Meter: Alcaic : u - u - u | - u u - u -
u - u - u | - u u - u -
u - u - u - u - u
- u u - u u - u - u
Horace, Odes 2.9
Quid bellicosus Cantaber et Scythes,
Hirpine Quincti, cogitet Hadria
diuisus obiecto, remittas
quaerere nec trepides in usum
poscentis aeui pauca: fugit retro 5
leuis iuuentas et decor, arida
pellente lasciuos amores
canitie facilemque somnum.
Cantaber: the Cantabri were a warlike tribe in Spain
Hadria diuisus obiecto: divided (from us) by the Adrian sea (masculine!) opposed (to the Scythe)
remittas quaerere: stop to seek
nec trepides in usum poscentis aeui pauca: and do not be anxious about the needs of a life demanding little.
posco poposci: to ask, demand
leuis iuuentas: smooth-faced youth
decor, -oris (m): beauty (note the contrast with arida.)
arida pellente caniete: abl.abs. (As scanty greyness (canietes , f.) is driving away etc.)
aridus: dry, arid, scanty
pello pepuli pulsum: to drive away
lasciuos amores: playful love affaires
facilemque somnum: as youth has no worries!
Non semper idem floribus est honor
uernis neque uno luna rubens nitet 10
uoltu: quid aeternis minorem
consiliis animum fatigas?
semper: both with est and nitet
floribus honor uernis: grace by means of spring flowers
neque uno luna rubens nitet uoltu: nor shines the blushing moon always with the same face (The whole sentence alludes to the transience of life.)
quid aeternis minorem consiliis animum fatigas: This sentence combines two meanings 1) Why do you weary your rather limited mind with deliberations about eternity (or: eternal deliberations) and 2) Why do you weary your mind, which is less than the deliberations of eternity. Of course this is impossible to combine in a translation!
Cur non sub alta uel platano uel hac
pinu iacentes sic temere et rosa
canos odorati capillos, 15
dum licet, Assyriaque nardo
potamus uncti? dissipat Euhius
curas edaces. Quis puer ocius
restinguet ardentis Falerni
pocula praetereunte lympha? 20
platanus (f.): platane tree
pinus (f.): pine tree
sic temere: just for fun, for pleasure, without plan
rosa canos odorati capillos: smelling as regarding to our grey hair (capillos: acc. of respect) of roses (rosa: singular for plural. A garland of roses is meant.)
dum licet: as long as it is still possible
nardus (f): nard-oil, made from the nardus-tree
poto: to drink, booze
ungo/unguo unxi unctum: to smear, anoint
dissipo: to scatter, disperse
Euhius: Bacchus (from the Greek euoi, the cry used to invoke Bacchus.)
edax edacis: consuming (from the root ed `to eat’.)
Quis puer ocius restinguet ardentis Falerni pocula praetereunte lympha?: which slave will quickly extinguish the bowls of burning Falernian wine with water streaming by? (Wine was normally mixed with water.)
Quis deuium scortum eliciet domo
Lyden? Eburna dic, age, cum lyra
maturet, in comptum Lacaenae
more comas religata nodum.
Quis deuium scortum eliciet domo Lyden: who will entice out of her house Lyde, the privately working whore?
devius: litt.`out of the way’ , but in this context it means something different: the name Lyde refers to a hetaere (a luxury call-girl), who did not prostitute in a public brothel, but who had to be sent for.
scortum: whore (Its primary meaning is `skin, hide’. How this developed into `whore’ is unclear to me, but I remember that I have once seen a reference to an article about this question by the German philologist W. Kroll from the 1925 or so. Normally he wrote in German, but for this occasion he used Latin….)
eburna lyra: hetaerae were not simply for sex, but also had to divert men with music and dance. In this respect they can be compared with Japanese geishas.
maturo: to hasten (maturet because it is an oblique question)
in comptum Lacaenae more comas religata nodum: I take the reading in comptum for incomptum and religata as a middle voice `having her hair tied up in a neat (comptum) knot (nodum) in the Spartan manner’ i.e. in a simple way.
O, Ask not what those sons of war,
Cantabrian, Scythian, each intend,
Disjoin'd from us by Hadria's bar,
Nor puzzle, Quintius, how to spend
A life so simple. Youth removes,
And Beauty too; and hoar Decay
Drives out the wanton tribe of Loves
And Sleep, that came or night or day.
The sweet spring-flowers not always keep
Their bloom, nor moonlight shines the same
Each evening. Why with thoughts too deep
O'ertask a mind of mortal frame?
Why not, just thrown at careless ease
'Neath plane or pine, our locks of grey
Perfumed with Syrian essences
And wreathed with roses, while we may,
Lie drinking? Bacchus puts to shame
The cares that waste us. Where's the slave
To quench the fierce Falernian's flame
With water from the passing wave?
Who'll coax coy Lyde from her home?
Go, bid her take her ivory lyre,
The runaway, and haste to come,
Her wild hair bound with Spartan tire.
John Conington (1882)