Tuesday, January 24th, 2012...11:08 am

Horace’s Lyric Meters 2: Sapphic (Odes 1.2)

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This is the second in a series dealing with Horace’s lyric meters. The previous installment covered Asclepiadeans.┬áThis one discusses the Sapphic stanza, so named because of its association with Sappho, the famous Greek lyric poet.

Odes 1.2 is summarized as follows by Nisbet and Hubbard: God has sent enough ill-omened weather. We begin to be afraid that the age of the Flood might return. We have seen the avenging Tiber make for the temple of Vesta; our descendants will hear that we fought each other instead of the Parthians. To which of the gods will the people and Vestals turn for succour? Who will expiate our sin? Come and save us, Apollo, or Venus, or Mars. Or perhaps Mercury is already here on earth in the guise of a young man, condescending to be known as Caesar’s avenger. May you live long amongst us, and take vengeance on the Parthians–Caesar. A translation can be found here.

There is an excellent article on Sapphics by Andrew Becker of Virginia Tech that I heartily recommend to anybody interested in Latin metrics or performance: “Listening to Lyric: Accent and Ictus in the Latin Sapphic Stanza,” Classical World 103.2 (2010), 159-182. It’s not freely available on the internet, but very much worth tracking down (more info. about Classical World is here). I follow his approach closely. The English Sapphics I quote come from John Greene, “A Practical method of Presenting the Lyric Meters of Horace,” Classical Journal 4.3 (1909), 116-123, at p. 120.

Horace, Odes 1.2

Iam satis terris nivis atque dirae
grandinis misit pater et rubente
dextera sacras iaculatus arces
terruit urbem,

terruit gentes, grave ne rediret 5
saeculum Pyrrhae nova monstra questae,
omne cum Proteus pecus egit altos
visere montis

piscium et summa genus haesit ulmo,
nota quae sedes fuerat columbis, 10
et superiecto pavidae natarunt
aequore dammae.

vidimus flavom Tiberim retortis
litore Etrusco violenter undis
ire deiectum monumenta regis 15
templaque Vestae,

Iliae dum se nimium querenti
iactat ultorem, vagus et sinistra
labitur ripa Iove non probante u-
xorius amnis. 20

audiet cives acuisse ferrum,
quo graves Persae melius perirent,
audiet pugnas vitio parentum
rara iuventus.

quem vocet divum populus ruentis 25
imperi rebus? prece qua fatigent
virgines sanctae minus audientem
carmina Vestam?

cui dabit partis scelus expiandi
Iuppiter? tandem venias precamur 30
nube candentis umeros amictus
augur Apollo;

sive tu mavis, Erycina ridens,
quam Iocus circum volat et Cupido;
sive neglectum genus et nepotes 35
respicis auctor,

heu nimis longo satiate ludo,
quem iuvat clamor galeaeque leves
acer et Marsi peditis cruentum
vultus in hostem; 40

sive mutata iuvenem figura
ales in terris imitaris almae
filius Maiae patiens vocari
Caesaris ultor,

serus in caelum redeas diuque 45
laetus intersis populo Quirini,
neve te nostris vitiis iniquum
ocior aura

tollat: hic magnos potius triumphos,
hic ames dici pater atque princeps, 50
neu sinas Medos equitare inultos
te duce, Caesar.



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