Sunday, 22 September 2013

Horace, Odes 1.33: Cheer up, Tibullus!



The poets Horace and Albius Tibullus knew each other well, so when Tibullus complained that his Glycera has left him for a younger man, Horace consoles him by pointing to the vicissitudes of Love. It is still a prominent subject: the pub I visit is often frequented by young women, talking to each other about who has left whom, and who has a new relationship. Sometimes they seek comfort with each other once a relationship has been broken and I have witnessed some dramatic scenes. In my observation men are far less likely to do the same in public.
Back to this poem: there is a problem: no Glycera is known from Tibullus love elegies. Nemesis and Delia were the women he loved and both these names are pseudonyms. What Horace does is making fun of pseudonyms and – I think – making fun of love elegies. This is a light hearted poem in which he both takes Tibullus and himself not too serious in rebus Veneris.

Meter: third asclepiad:  - - - uu-  -uu-ux (3x) and the last line - - - uu - ux

Horace Odes 1.33

Albi, ne doleas plus nimio memor
inmitis Glycerae neu miserabilis
decantes elegos, cur tibi iunior
     laesa praeniteat fide.

Insignem tenui fronte Lycorida               5
Cyri torret amor, Cyrus in asperam
declinat Pholoen: sed prius Apulis
     iungentur capreae lupis,

quam turpi Pholoe peccet adultero.
Sic uisum Veneri, cui placet imparis               10
formas atque animos sub iuga aenea
     saeuo mittere cum ioco.

Ipsum me melior cum peteret Venus,
grata detinuit compede Myrtale
libertina, fretis acrior Hadriae               15
     curuantis Calabros sinus.

ne doleas plus nimio: be not in pain too much
memor –oris (+ gen.): mindful, remembering
inmitis –is: not soft, harsh (contrary to Glycera, which means `sweet’)
miserabilis elegos = miserabiles elegos (It was thought that elegi was derived from Greek e legein `to lament’)
decanto: to sing (time and again, as the prefix de suggests)
elegi –orum (only plural): elegy
cur tibi iunior laesa praeniteat fide: because a younger man is more attractive than you (praeniteo + dat.), now love has been broken.
laesa fide = litt. faith being hurt  
torret amor: Amor makes x (acc,) burn for y (dat.)  
insignis –is: noted
tenui fronte: Lycoris was thus noted for her small forehead i.e a small distance between eyebrows and hair, which was a sign of beauty. The name, as the others, is fictitious.
Cyrus in asperam declinat Pholoen: Cyrus turns away (from Lycoris) to cruel Pholoe
caprea: a wild she-goat
Apulis lupis: Horace was born in Venusia, which is in Apulia. (Note the comma! The sentence continues.)
turpis: shameful
uisum Veneri: it pleases Venus. The expression is rather pompous and has a sacral-religious touch, which makes what follows even more funny.
imparis formas: `The predilection of tall men for short women and vice versa is supposed to be an established fact.’ Thus T.E. Page in his commentary of 1895. But why have girls of about 1,80 – not that uncommon here in the Netherlands –   mostly taller boy friends? So far the established facts of the Victorian age.
sub iuga aenea: a yoke of bronze is even more unpleasant than a yoke of wood Of course in reality no yoke of bronze exists .
melior Venus: a higher mistress (in opposite to libertina: a freedwoman)
peto: to strife for
grata detinuit compede Myrtale libertina:  Myrtale held me with a pleasing chain. (A compes was a feet-chain worn by slaves.)
libertine fretis acrior Hadriae  curuantis Calabros sinus: a feedwoman more tempestuous than the Adriatic Sea curving the Gulf of Calabria. (i.e. the Gulf of Naples.)


Translation by John Conington (1863):


     What, Albius! why this passionate despair
       For cruel Glycera? why melt your voice
     In dolorous strains, because the perjured fair
         Has made a younger choice?
     See, narrow-brow'd Lycoris, how she glows
       For Cyrus! Cyrus turns away his head
     To Pholoe's frown; but sooner gentle roes
         Apulian wolves shall wed,
     Than Pholoe to so mean a conqueror strike:
       So Venus wills it; 'neath her brazen yoke
     She loves to couple forms and minds unlike,
         All for a heartless joke.
     For me sweet Love had forged a milder spell;
       But Myrtale still kept me her fond slave,
     More stormy she than the tempestuous swell
         That crests Calabria's wave.

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