A Many-Headed Song and Human Happiness

Pindar, Pythian 12.17-32

“Yet when the maiden [Athena] rescued that dear man [Perseus]
From his labors, she composed a song with every note of the pipes,
So she might recall the resounding wail elicited from *Euryale’s
Gasping cheeks with musical instruments.

The goddess created this, but she made it for mortal men to possess
And she named it the tune of many heads,
The well-famed reminder of the contests that attract people,
The sound that issues through fine bronze and reeds
That grow near to the city of beautiful dancing grounds,
The city of the Graces, in the precinct of Kephisos, trusty audiences for dancers.

If humankind has any happiness at all, it never shows up
Without hard work. But what is fated cannot be escaped–
A god will make it happen, maybe today, but
There will be a time that finds someone completely surprised
And give them one thing, but not yet another.”

… ἀλλ᾿ ἐπεὶ ἐκ τούτων φίλον ἄνδρα πόνων
ἐρρύσατο παρθένος αὐλῶν τεῦχε πάμφωνον μέλος,
ὄφρα τὸν εὐρυάλας ἐκ καρπαλιμᾶν γενύων
χριμφθέντα σὺν ἔντεσι μιμήσαιτ᾿ ἐρικλάγκταν γόον.
εὗρεν θεός· ἀλλά νιν εὑροῖσ᾿ ἀνδράσι θνατοῖς ἔχειν,
ὠνύμασεν κεφαλᾶν πολλᾶν νόμον,
εὐκλεᾶ λαοσσόων μναστῆρ᾿ ἀγώνων,

΄λεπτοῦ διανισόμενον χαλκοῦ θαμὰ καὶ δονάκων,
τοὶ παρὰ καλλίχορον ναίοισι πόλιν Χαρίτων
Καφισίδος ἐν τεμένει, πιστοὶ χορευτᾶν μάρτυρες.
εἰ δέ τις ὄλβος ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν, ἄνευ καμάτου
οὐ φαίνεται· ἐκ δὲ τελευτάσει νιν ἤτοι σάμερον
δαίμων—τὸ δὲ μόρσιμον οὐ παρφυκτόν—ἀλλ᾿ ἔσται χρόνος
οὗτος, ὃ καί τιν᾿ ἀελπτίᾳ βαλών
ἔμπαλιν γνώμας τὸ μὲν δώσει, τὸ δ᾿ οὔπω.

*One of Medusa’s sisters

Schol. In Pind. P 12. 39a

She invented an aulos melody and handed it over for humans and named it the “many headed song”. This is because there were many hissing heads of snakes around [Euryale’s] head.

Some people call this many-headed and explain that there were fifty men in the chose that performed the song as an aulete led them. Others claim that the heads are preludes. They claim that an ode is made up of many preludes and that Olympos was the first to invent them”

ἀλλά νιν εὑροῖσα: ἀλλ’ εὑροῦσα τὸ τοῦ αὐλοῦ μέλος μετέδωκε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἔχειν, καὶ ὠνόμασε τὸ μέλος πολυκέφαλον νόμον· ἐπεὶ καὶ αἱ τῶν δρακόντων πλείους ἦσαν κεφαλαὶ αἱ συρίξασαι· ὧν κατὰ μίμησιν συνέθηκε. τινὲς δὲ πολυκέφαλον, φασὶν, εἶπεν, ἐπειδὴ πεντήκοντα ἦσαν ἄνδρες, ἐξ ὧν ὁ χορὸς συνεστὼς προκαταρχομένου τοῦ αὐλητοῦ τὸ μέλος προεφέρετο. οἱ δὲ κεφαλὰς ἀκούουσι τὰ προοίμια. ᾠδὴ οὖν διὰ πολλῶν προοιμίων συνεστῶσα, ἣν λέγουσι τὸν ῎Ολυμπον πρῶτον εὑρηκέναι.

he frieze illustrates human desire for happiness in a suffering and tempestuous world in which one contends not only with external evil forces but also with internal weaknesses. The viewer follows this journey of discovery in a stunning visual and linear fashion. It begins gently with the floating female Genii searching the Earth but soon follows the dark, sinister-looking storm-wind giant, Typhoeus, his three Gorgon daughters and images representing sickness, madness, death, lust and wantonness above and to the right. Thence appears the knight in shining armour who offers hope due to his own ambition and sympathy for the pleading, suffering humans. The journey ends in the discovery of joy by means of the arts and contentment is represented in the close embrace of a kiss. Thus, the frieze expounds psychological human yearning, ultimately satisfied through individual and communal searching and the beauty of the arts coupled with love and companionship.
Gustav Klimt, “The Hostile Powers, the Titan Typhoeus, the Three Gorgons” 1901

Flaccan Friday: Quoting Horace

When I was younger, I didn’t have much time for Quintus Horatius Flaccus. (O Fons Bandusiae? Please.) I remember loathing him for his Epistles when studying for the AP in high school, slogging through the Sermones as an undergraduate  and even in graduate school proudly declaring that his Odes were simply untranslatable.

But now? He’s one of our most quoted authors. So, here’s to Friday, and some old wine in a new vase. (Yeah, that’s backwards.)

Here are some of our favorites on topics like Homer, Homer and drinking, style, fate exceptionality, etc. etc. But no fountains.

Horace, Ars poetica 25

“I try to be brief, and I become unintelligible”

brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio

Horace, Epistulae 1.17.39

“What we’re looking for is here – or nowhere”

hic est aut nusquam quod quaerimus

Horace, Epistulae 1.11.27

“Those who travel beyond the sea change the weather, not their spirits”

caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt

Horace, Ars Poetica 359

“Sometimes even good Homer nods off”

quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus

Horace, Odes 3.29.29-30

“Prudently the god covers the outcome of the future in dark night”

prudens futuri temporis exitum
caliginosa nocte premit deus

Horace, Odes 2.10.11-12

“Lightning tends to strike the highest peaks”

…feriuntque summos / fulmina montes

Horace, Odes 1.18.3-4

“For teetotalers the god has made all things difficult, nor do biting troubles flee in any other way”

siccis omnia nam dura deus proposuit neque
mordaces aliter diffugiunt sollicitudines

Horace, Ars Poetica 99

“It is not enough that poems be beautiful; they should be pleasant, too.”

“Non satis est pulchra esse poemata; dulcia sunto”

Horace, Epistles 1.1.76

“You are a beast of many heads”.

bellua multorum es capitum

Horace, Epistulae 1.19.6

“Homer is said to have been a drunkard because of his praise of wine”

laudibus arguitur vini vinosus Homerus

Horace, Sermones 1.1.27

“Let’s put aside these games and focus on serious things”.

amoto quaeramus seria ludo

Horace, Ars Poetica 309

“The origin and source of good writing is good judgment”.

scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons.

Horace, Epistles 1.1.41-42

“Virtue’s first rule is to avoid vice, and wisdom’s is to not be stupid”.

Horace, Ars Poetica -285-287

“Our poets have left nothing untried, and deserve some honor for daring to stray off the Greek path, and celebrate our own domestic deeds.”

Nil intemptatum nostri liquere poetae, 285
nec minimum meruere decus uestigia Graeca
ausi deserere et celebrare domestica facta

Horace, Epistles 1.2

“The one who has begun has completed half the task.”

dimidium facti, qui coepit, habet.

Horace, Sermones 1.1.43-56

“What good is it to heap up a mound of gold and silver and furtively stash it away in a hole? ‘Because, if you lessen it, it will be reduced to a worthless penny.’ But barring that, what beauty does a heaped up mound have? Suppose that your granary held a hundred thousand bushels: your stomach won’t hold any more than mine! If you were carrying around a backpack of bread upon overburdened shoulders, you couldn’t take more than the man who carries nothing. Tell me: what does it matter to someone who lives within the bounds of nature whether he farms a hundred acres or a thousand? ‘But it’s a fine thing to pluck something out of a huge heap!’ While you would only leave us to take a drink from the smallest remaining fraction, why would you praise your granaries above our little baskets? It is as if, needing no more than a little urn or cup worth of water, you said, ‘I would rather drink from a river than this piddly little fountain!’”

quid iuvat inmensum te argenti pondus et auri
furtim defossa timidum deponere terra?
‘quod, si conminuas, vilem redigatur ad assem.’
at ni id fit, quid habet pulcri constructus acervus?
milia frumenti tua triverit area centum: 45
non tuus hoc capiet venter plus ac meus: ut, si
reticulum panis venalis inter onusto
forte vehas umero, nihilo plus accipias quam
qui nil portarit. vel dic quid referat intra
naturae finis viventi, iugera centum an 50
mille aret? ‘at suave est ex magno tollere acervo.’
dum ex parvo nobis tantundem haurire relinquas,
cur tua plus laudes cumeris granaria nostris?
ut tibi si sit opus liquidi non amplius urna
vel cyatho et dicas ‘magno de flumine mallem 55
quam ex hoc fonticulo tantundem sumere.’

Continue reading “Flaccan Friday: Quoting Horace”

Visiting Arezzo, Translating the Untranslatable: Horace, Odes 1.1

Today I visit Arezzo with my students. Arezzo? Once one of the capitols of the Eruscan kings and eventually the home city of that Patrons of patrons, Maecenas, whose largesse helped to support Vergil, Propertius and Horace. In honor of the visit, I sat down to read some Horace, only to be reminded that his Odes remain almost untranslatable.

Horace addresses Maecenas in the first line of his first Ode:

“Maecenas, son of royal ancestors,
My fortress and sweet glory:
there are those who take pleasure in gathering
Olympian dust and the high trophy from the race
when they have passed the turning point with burning wheels.
Let the crowd of fickle Romans praise
That man to the divine rulers of the lands
And choose to raise him in triple honors
If he has stored up in his own granary
A volume surpassing the count of Libyan sands.
But you may never move a man who is pleased
To turn the fields of his fathers
With the promised riches of Attalus
To ride a Cyprian ships as nervous sailor on Myrtoan seas.
The merchant fears the wind that churns Icarian waves
And praises the calm peace of his own home;
But soon, intolerant of his own poverty
He rebuilds his broken ship.”

Maecenas atavis edite regibus,
o et praesidium et dulce decus meum:
sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum
collegisse iuvat metaque fervidis
evitata rotis palmaque nobilis.
terrarum dominos evehit ad deos
hunc, si mobilium turba Quiritium
certat tergeminis tollere honoribus,
illum, si proprio condidit horreo
quidquid de Libycis verritur areis.
gaudentem patrios findere sarculo
agros Attalicis condicionibus
numquam demoveas, ut trabe Cypria
Myrtoum pavidus nauta secet mare.
luctantem Icariis fluctibus Africum
mercator metuens otium et oppidi
laudat rura sui; mox reficit rates
quassas indocilis pauperiem pati.