Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Horace 3.15: too old.

There are elderly women who think they can still compete with young women in the prime of their beauty. This is not a modern phenomenon – far from. Horace makes fun of such a woman in the following poem. The particular scene is fictitious: Chloris, the widow of Ibycus, behaves like her daughter Pholoe, who is in love with Nothos. The names are all Greek and the name Ibycus is undoubtedly a reference to the Greek poet Ibycus (6th century BC), famous for his libidinous life and poems. This poem is funny and a bit wicked, but I wonder whether Horace would have dared to publish this poem had he lived now.

     Uxor pauperis Ibyci,
tandem nequitiae fige modum tuae
     famosisque laboribus;
maturo propior desine funeri
     inter ludere virgines               5
et stellis nebulam spargere candidis.
     Non, si quid Pholoen satis,
et te, Chlori, decet. Filia rectius
     expugnat iuvenum domos,
pulso Thyias uti concita tympano.               10
     Illam cogit amor Nothi
lascivae similem ludere capreae:
     te lanae prope nobilem
tonsae Luceriam, non citharae decent
     nec flos purpureus rosae               15
nec poti, vetulam, faece tenus cadi.

nequitia: vileness, wickedness
tandem: finally
fige modum: put an end to
famosus: ill-famed (fama in Latin mean `report, rumor’, independent of the content is positive or negative)
laboribus: labor means `exertion, toil’ and often not `labour’ in the modern sense
maturo propior funeri: very close to your timely burial (i.e. she had reached an age at which no one would be surprised about her death)
desino desii: to cease, leave
spargere nebulam: to spread a cloud
stellis candidis: the virgins
si quid Pholoen satis (decet): if something is sufficiently fitting for Pholoe (Pholoen is a Greek Acc.)
et: also
Chlori: vocative
expugno: to attack (i.e. with her beauty and lust)
Thyas Thyadis: a Bacchante or Maenad (a female devotee of Bacchus; according to legend they roam in groups through the wilderness, dancing in ecstatic frenzy)
uti = ut
concito: to rouse, excite
tympanum: drum, tambour
lascivus: playful
caprea: wild she-goat, roe
lanae prope nobilem tonsae Luceriam = lanae tonsae prope nobilem Luceriam
lana: wool (spinning and weaving was seen as decent work for women)
tondeo totondi tonsum: to shear, shave
Luceria: a place famous for its wool
flos purpureus rosae: the rose as symbol of love and youth
nec poti faece tenus cadi = nec cadi poti tenus faece (nor jars (cadi) drained/drunk (poto potavi potum or potatum) as far as (tenus + abl.) to the dreg (faex –is f, )
vetula: old woman, old hag (vetulam agrees with te)

Translation by A.S. Klyne (2003)

Too old.

O, dear wife of poor Ibycus,
put an end to your wickedness, at last, and all
of your infamous goings-on:
now you are nearer the season for dying,
stop playing about with the girls,
and scattering a mist over shining stars.
What fits Pholoe is not quite
fitting for you, Chloris: while your daughterís more
suited to storming the houses of lovers,
like a Bacchante stirred by the beating drum.
Her love for Nothus forces her
to gambol like a lascivious she-goat:
the wool thatís shorn near to noble
Luceriaís fitting for you, sad old thing,
not the dark red flower of the rose,
nor the lyre, nor the wine-jars drained to their dregs