Otium Divos Rogat: Horace Ode 2.16

For @Noxrpm whose Tweet yesterday inspired me to translate this Horace Ode.

2.16

While being caught on the rough Aegean, as a black cloud
hides the moon and the fixed stars are not shining for him,
the sailor begs the gods for peace;

The Thracians, frantic in war, beg for peace;
The Parthians, decorated archers, beg for peace,
dear Grosphus, a peace that cannot be bought with
gems or with purple or with gold.

Neither royal treasures nor political power can
erase the wretched anxieties of the mind or the
cares flying around the paneled walls of the home.

He who lives modestly lives well—the type of man
who is proud of an inherited antique salt dish that
shines on his modest table, the type of man who does
not let a little fear or sordid desire disturb his sleep.

Why, when we have such a short life, do we strive to
accumulate wealth? Why do we exchange our current
clime for a foreign one that is hotter? Can the man who is
an exile from his own homeland also flee from
himself?

Corrupted care climbs aboard bronze ships and
it keeps pace with a squadron of cavalry, and is
swifter than deer, and is swifter  than the East Wind
that drives along the clouds.

Let the soul, which loathes worrying about the
future, be happy in the moment and assuage any
bitterness with a calm smile. Nothing in this
life is completely perfect.

Swift Death snatched away that renowned Achilles
and Old Age greatly diminished Tithonus; perhaps
the hour will offer to me what it has denied to you.

One-hundred herds of Sicilian cattle bellow around you
and horses fit for the chariot raise up their neighing
to you, and you dress yourself in wool dyed twice with

African purple; The Fates, never false, have given me
a modest country estate, and the tender spirit of
Greek Song and the ability to reject the spiteful mob.

 

Horace’s Ode, written to Grosphus who was a wealthy Sicilian rancher, reflects his tendency towards Epicurean philosophy as he advocates for a simple life without cares or anxieties.  The sailor and sailing images, typical of Horace, also bring to mind Lucretius 2.1-19 where the stresses of a shipwreck are compared to the calm of the Epicurean spirit.  In addition, the anaphora with otium (peace) in this Ode must have been influenced by Catullus’s Carmen 51 which is also composed in Sapphic strophe meter.  Catullus, however (whom I’ve always thought of as a bad Epicurean), thinks otium is a negative thing—it is what keeps him from approaching the woman he loves (I translate the lines here and discuss them in relation to Flaubert).  I also bought a complete set of Montaigne’s essays so I can read “Of Solitude” which Nox quoted on Twitter in relation to this Horace Ode.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Otium Divos Rogat: Horace Ode 2.16

  1. Very nice!
    Ytes, Horace repeats otium thrice to remind us of Catullus and show that he is rejecting that poet’s negative view of otium. I think Catullus repeated it thrice because he was rejecting his model, Sappho, who had sung that *Love* had ‘destroyed kings and cities’ (= Trojan War, initiated by Paris’s choice of Aphrodite). This helped me suggest how Sappho’s poem (31) might originally have run…https://www.armand-dangour.com/sensational-sappho/

    Like

  2. Very nice!
    Ytes, Horace repeats otium thrice to remind us of Catullus and show that he is rejecting that poet’s negative view of otium. I think Catullus repeated it thrice because he was rejecting his model, Sappho, who had sung that *Love* had ‘destroyed kings and cities’ (= Trojan War, initiated by Paris’s choice of Aphrodite). This helped me suggest how Sappho’s poem (31) might originally have run…https://www.armand-dangour.com/sensational-sappho/

    Liked by 1 person

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