Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A thaw

I got up yesterday and got dressed and went outside and it was warm. By which I mean that it was not cold. I walked to brunch (what sort of brunch joint doesn't sell pancakes on Pancake Day? What sort of brunch joint doesn't sell pancakes at all?) through streets running with water, although there neither was nor had been any rain. Very odd. Shopowners were out poking their canvas awnings with sticks to dislodge the melted snow before it dripped on potential custom. Passers-by were dodging the puddles. The drains ran and the mountains of snow piled up along the edges of every road and pavement shrank and thinned, and the sun was shining, and it felt like spring.
It put me in in mind of Horace Ode 4.7, which begins
"Diffugere niues", " The snows have scattered" and which A.E.Housman famously considered "the most beautiful poem in ancient literature". It is rather lovely, but not, I think, as lovely as Odes 1.4. I am conscious of the danger of this blog becoming tediously rebarbative to non-classicists, but on the truly astonishing upliftingness of spring, Horace has it nailed.
Besides which, thinking about this poem is an accurate reflection of What I Have Been Up To, since I have just spent the last five hours making a translation of it. Just for fun. I am not putting it up here, however, since making other people read your poetry is like making them smell your socks. If anyone is interested I'll send it to them.

Soluitur acris hiems grata uice ueris et Fauoni
trahuntque siccas machinae carinas,
ac neque iam stabulis gaudet pecus aut arator igni
nec prata canis albicant pruinis.
Iam Cytherea choros ducit Venus imminente luna
iunctaeque Nymphis Gratiae decentes
alterno terram quatiunt pede, dum grauis Cyclopum
Volcanus ardens uisit officinas.
Nunc decet aut uiridi nitidum caput impedire myrto
aut flore, terrae quem ferunt solutae;
nunc et in umbrosis Fauno decet immolare lucis,
seu poscat agna siue malit haedo.
Pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
regumque turris. O beate Sesti,
uitae summa breuis spem nos uetat inchoare longam.
Iam te premet nox fabulaeque Manes
et domus exilis Plutonia, quo simul mearis,
nec regna uini sortiere talis
nec tenerum Lycidan mirabere, quo calet iuuentus
nunc omnis et mox uirgines tepebunt.

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