tíorace addresses many women in his odes, but whether they really existed outside his imagination we have no way of knowing. In the following clever seduction poem, which plays on the well-worn theme of life's shortness, he suggests to Leuconoe, who, like his other lovers, has a Greek name, that she should not postpone enjoying life, presumably under Horace's guidance.
Among the many echoes of this poem in modern literature, perhaps the most famous is that of the sixteenth-century French poet Pierre de Ronsard: "Vivez, si m'en croyez, n'attendez à demain, Cueillez dès aujourd'hui les roses de la vie."
Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quern mihi, quem tibi finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios temptaris numéros, ut melius, quidquid erit, pati, seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam, quae nunc oppositis débilitât pumicibus mare 5
text Q. Horati Flacci Opera, éd. D. R. Shackleton Bailey
(Bibliotheca Teubneriana, 2001) meter fifth Asclepiad [§m 14]
tu në I quâêsiërïs || scïrë nëfàs || quëm mïhï quëm | tïbï finëm I dl dëdërînt || Lëûcônoë j| nëc Bâbylô|nïds iff. në quaesieris (2 sg. perf. subj. act. quaerô -ere ask) neg. command with the perf. subj. [§072], followed by an indirect question, quem ... dederint; scire nefas [est] a parenthetical expression, it is wrong to know, i.e., it is not for us to know; quem interr. adj. modifying finem, what end; Leuconoë (voc.) is the name of the woman addressed; nec ... numéros a second neg. command; temptaris (= temp-tàverïs) 2 sg. perf. subj. act. temptd -are try out, play around with; Babylôniôs ... numéros i.e., calculations made according to Babylonian astrology to determine one's horoscope and so predict the date of one's death; ut exclamatory how (the exclamation ends with Tyrrhënum in 1. 6); with melius (nom. sg. neuter of me-lior better) supply est; quidquid whatever; pati here to endure. 4Íf. seu ... seu ... whether ... or ...; take plùrïs (acc. pi. of plüs) with hiemës (hiems hiemis f. winter); take tribuit (tribuó -ere assign) Iuppiter with what follows each seu; ultimam (i.e., hiemem) quae ... [as our] last [winter, the one] which ...; oppositis ... pümicibus (pümex púmicis m. lit., pumice) instrumental abl. [§G47] with rocks set opposite [to the sea]—the rocks are called pûmicës because of their corroded appearance; the subject of débilitât (debilito -are weaken) is quae, and its object is mare Tyrrhënum, the sea on the west coast of Italy. 6ff. sapiâs (sapió -ere be wise) ... liquës (liquô -are strain) ... resecës (resecó -are cut short) subj. used to express an order [§g6ç)]; vina (pl. for sg. [§g53]) liquës—wine was not prestrained in antiquity as it is today; spatiô brevi abl. of time within which [§037]—Leuconoe is being told to cut short her long-term
Tyrrhenum! sapias, vina liques et spatio brevi spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas, carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.
hopes within a brief time span; dum here while; fugerit 3 sg. fut. perf. act. will have fled; invida aetas (aetatis f.) envious time; carpe diem pluck (carpo -ere) the day (the metaphor is from plucking a flower or fruit), i.e., seize the day; quam minimum as little as possible; credula (trusting in; feminine because it agrees with the understood subject you, i.e., Leuconoe) is followed by the dative postero [diel] (the next [day]).
Making the most of passing time is a recurring theme in Horace (cf. fugaces ... labuntur anni (the fleeting years slip by) (Odes 2.14.1-2, page 98) and carpe diem (seize the day) (1. 8 above)).
Horace urges his friend and patron Maecenas to leave Rome and visit him on the,farm that Maecenas has bought for him:
Eripe te morae. Odes 3.29.5
Escape (lit., Tear yourself away) from delay. .
In the midst , of a terrible storm, he urges his friends to make the most of the moment:
Rapiamus, amici, oecasionem.de die>dumque virent genua et decet, obducta solvatur fronte senectus.
tu vina Torquatomoveconsulepressa meo. Epodes 13. 3fF. Let us seize the opportunity before the day passes (lit., from ■■•■.• the day), [my] friends, and while our limbs are strong and :. [the time] isright, let, old age be banishedfromfour] darkened brow. Bringfsome] wine pressed when Torquatus was my consul.
Elsewhere; he cautions against putting off what needs to be done:
Dimidium facti, qui coepit, habet; sapere aude> incipe. Epistulae 1.2.40E
Once begun, half done, (lit., He who has begun has half the deed.) Dare to be wise, begin!
For more Horatiana, see pages 28, 86, 97,100, and 176.
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