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Carm. I. Ad Maecenatem. (A. U. c. 729-731.)
This introductory ode serves both as a preface to the first three books, which were published together, and as a dedication to Horace's friend and patron Maecenas.
ARGUMENT.-Maecenas, sprung from ancestral kings, my shield, my joy, and my glory: some men delight in the Olympic palm, some in civic honors, some in their wealth of grain. Princely offers of wealth would not tempt the farmer to plough the seas; the trader, who on the stormy waves praised the tranquillity of his old country home, is restless on land. Here and there one takes his ease and his wine, stretched under the green tree or by the side of the brook. One loves the camp and the din of bloody war. The huntsman braves all weathers for his sport. But as for me, my joy is in the poet's ivy crown, and in the cool grove whither I retire with the nymphs and satyrs, while my muse breathes the flute or strikes the lyre. If thou rankest me among the masters of lyric song, I shall lift my head to the skies.
1. Maecenas. See the Index of Proper Names. Atavus (in its strictest sense 'great-great-great-grandfather') here is a general term for ancestor. Regibus, in apposition with atavis, and kindred in force to a relative clause: ancestors (who were) kings. Maecenas belonged to the family of the Cilnii (an ancient and leading house at Arretium), which was descended from Lucumones, or princes of Etruria (Carm. III. 29, 1; Sat. I. 6, 1, 2).
2. Ōēt. A spondee; the interjection not elided.-The friendship of Maecenas was a protection to Horace against the assaults of the envious and censorious, conferred upon him many solid advantages (as the gift of a quiet home in his Sabine farm), and was an ornament and an honor to him, from the social prestige attending an intimacy with the first gentleman of Rome. Notice the
alliteration in dulce decus, as in dulce et decorum, dulces docta, dulci digne, desine dulcium, dulci distinet a domo, Dauniae defende decus, etc., in subsequent odes.
3. Curriculo (from curro as vehiculum from veho) = curru, with the chariot. A few commentators give the other possible translation, in the race-course.
The Olympic were the most famous of the four sacred games of the Greeks (Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian), and no distinction was greater than to be a victor in them.
4. Collegisse. This inf. may be aoristic (C. 246, 1, a, b, and 2; H. 537, n. 2); A. 288, d. R.; G. 275, 2), but there is no difficulty in taking it as true perfect. The remembrance of the race is delightful, as well as the race itself; and even during the race the dust has been raised before it is thought of. Collegisse denotes the gathering together or collecting the dust into a cloud as by a whirlwind. Cf. Sat. I. 4, 31.—Juvat. The indic. is found sometimes after sunt qui instead of the subj., especially in poetry, as livelier, and particular rather than general. C. 227; H. 503, I. n. 3; A. 318, 3, n.; G. 634, R. 1.-Meta. At each extremity of the spina (a low wall running lengthways down the centre of the race-course) were three conical pillars of wood, called metae, -the goal. It was the mark of a skilful driver to turn the goal as closely as possible.-Fervidis, glowing (from their rapid motion).-5. Palma. A palm-branch was given to the victors in the Grecian games (after Alexander had opened the East), to be borne in the hand, in addition to the garland of olive, laurel, pine, or parsley for the head.
6. Terrarum dominos, in apposition with deos (wrongly taken by some as the object of evehit). Cf. Ovid. Pont. I. 9, 36: Terrarum dominos quam colis ipse deos.-Evehit ad deos, transports to the gods; i. e., makes them, applauded and proud, feel themselves great as the gods.
Notice how lively a picture Horace has given us by a few simple touches, the chariot, the cloud of dust, the skilful turning of the goal, and the palm-branch given to the proud victor.
7-9. In v. 3 sunt quos aliquos, and the construction is continued in hunc and illum, with which understand juvat. (Ki would supply here evehit ad deos; others, both evehit and juvat.) In translation the verb may be omitted, as in the original.
7. Mobilium, fickle. Cf. ventosae plebis, Ep. I. 19, 37; Cic. pro Murena, 17, 35.
8. Honoribus, abl. of means; to exalt him (or to adorn him) with the threefold honors. Cf. I. 21, 9. These honors are the
quaestorship, the praetorship, and the consulship, the three obligatory steps in the republican magistracies (Mommsen, Staatsrecht, I 519). Others place here the curule aedileship instead of the quaestorship, understanding the reference to be to the three curule offices.
9. Proprio horreo, abl. of mode or means; although it is usually explained, as it is most conveniently translated, as abl. of place with the prep. in omitted by poetical usage. Proprio, his own; he is a rich proprietor, and not (like Iccius, Ep. I. xii.) an agent for another.
10. Libya, Sicily, and Egypt were the most fertile provinces of Rome. The area was a raised floor on which the grain was threshed, under the open sky. After the wind had winnowed it, the floor was swept, and the grain was thus collected.-There seems to be a certain contempt for wealth and honors in the use of the words pulverem, mobilium, and verritur.-11. Gaudentem, sc. aliquem (one).-Patrius means belonging to one's fathers, ancestral; paternus, belonging to one's father.
12. Attalicis condicionibus, by Attalic offers, i. e., by the most splendid offers. The Attǎli (kings of Pergamus), and especially Attǎlus II. Philadelphus, were famous for the munificence with which they rewarded artists who adorned their palace with pictures and statues, and for the liberal prices they paid for books.
13-15. The four proper names in these lines are introduced for the sake of particularity and consequent vivacity and picturesqueness. The specification of a particular kind of a vessel, and of particular seas and winds, brings more definite images before the mind than would be presented by general terms. It suggests, too, whatever poetic associations belong to the names; "Cypria," for example, calls up "dreamy recollections of all the lovely myths about Cyprus." Apart from such local coloring, the most obvious interpretation is that given by Lyt.: "You could not tempt him even to a short passage on board the best-built ship:" Cyprus being celebrated for ship-building, and the Myrtōan sea a short though rough passage.-Fluctibus, dative. Luctari, certare, decertare, contendere, are used by the poets with the dat., after the manner of the Greek μάχεσθαί τινι.
16, 17. To give the force of the pres. part., Wck. translates metuens, "at the moment when he fears."-Otium et oppidi rura sui, generally tr. as hendiadys (see Index of your grammar), the peaceful fields around his town. But in such cases we must not lose sight of the twofold object: the merchant praises both the tran
quillity (calm, freedom from care) of his native town, and the beautiful fields around it.
18, 19. Pati. Find in your grammar (by the Index) the rule for the infinitive after adjectives.—Massici, sc. vini.
20. Solido. The business-hours constituted what was called the solid day, from sunrise to about the tenth hour. signifies that which has no vacant part or space."
21, 22. Horace delights in pictures like this (very attractive in a warm country like Italy), of taking rest under grateful shade and by the side of murmuring streams.-Membra, acc. of specification, with stratus (from sterno).—The arbutus (arbutus unedo, or strawberry-tree) is a beautiful shrub, with bright evergreen leaves.-Lene, softly whispering, gently murmuring.—Caput, spring, well-head.-Sacrae, i. e., to the nymphs. Shrines were usually built at the fountain-head of a stream, dedicated to the nymphs that protected it. All springs were sacred for their "beauty, freshness, abundance."
23. The lituus or clarion was a bronze horn, curved at one end like an augur's staff. It was sharp or shrill in tone, and was used by the cavalry. The tuba, trumpet, was straight (as its name denotes) and of a deep tone, and belonged to infantry.-Lituo (abl. governed by permixtus) = litui sonitu, a brief mode of expression common in all languages.
24. Matribus. "Dat. of the agent with the passive part. detestata." C. 157, 1; H. 388; A. 232, b; G. 352. While the abl. with a or ab denotes the agent directly and simply, the more subtile construction with the dat. marks the action rather as affecting the interests of the agent, or as standing to him in a certain relation as here, wars, to mothers a thing abhorred. There are cases in the poets where this original distinction seems to have been lost sight of, as there is a tendency, in all languages, to the occasional disregard of distinctions so delicate.
25. Detestata, a deponent part. used passively, as modulatus (I. 32, 5), metatus (II. 15, 15), abominatus (Epod. 16, 8). Detestatus is nowhere else used passively, except by the law-writers, who use it of one convicted by evidence.”—Manet, stays all night. -Sub Jove, under the open sky, as sub divo (the latter word being derived from the same root as the Iov or Iû which in composition with pater makes Jupiter or Juppiter; compare interdiu). Ennius: Aspice hoc sublime candens, quem invocant omnes Jovem. The Romans often use Jupiter for the heavens or their phenomena.
27. Catulis, strictly, dat. of advantage; but see note on matri
28. Teretīs (smooth, rounded), close-twisted, well wrought; Sch. fine, and therefore easily broken; plagas, nets, toils.
28. Whenever in this edition final -is is marked with i long (1), as in teretīs, it denotes an accusative plural.
29. Doctus (like the Greek oopós) is an epithet of poets, musicians, and men skilled in any art.-Hederae. Pl., wreaths of ivy, The ivy was sacred to Bacchus, by whose inspiration poets wei often fired.
30. Dis, dative: join me to, place me among the gods: "admit me to a happy dreamland," says Wck.
31. The nymphs represent the sweet and graceful aspects of nature, the satyrs the wild and grotesque.-Leves, nimble-footed, lively.
32. Populo, abl. after a verb of separation. In the best prose, secerno is generally followed by the prep. ab. Tibias, most conveniently tr. flutes. The plural refers to two pipes played by one person. Their pitch was different, the low-pitched tibia being called 'dextra,' held in the right hand, and the high-pitched 'sinistra,' held in the left.
33. Euterpe ("the well-pleasing") is not unfitly spoken of as the muse of lyric song, but Horace knows nothing of any fixed division amongst the muses of the different branches of poetry. (Cf. I. 12, 2; III. 4, 2; I. 24, 3; IV. 3, 1).
34. Lesbōum, Lesbian; an allusion to Horace's great lyric models, the poets Alcaeus and Sappho, natives of the island of Lesbos.-Tendere, to strike, lit., stretch (the strings). The barbitos (-on) was larger than the ordinary lyre.
35. Quodsi, and if; moreover if. The quod is strictly acc. of specification, in regard to which, i. e., in regard to the matter in hand, or the general subject of our discourse. The conjunctive quality of the relative appears in our translation and.-Nine of the lyric poets of Greece were recognized as pre-eminent in merit: they were Pindar, Alcaeus, Sappho, Stesichorus, Ibycus, BacchylIdes, Simonides, Alcman (or Alcmaeon), and Anacreon. Inseris. The MSS. authority is about equal for inseris and inseres. The present implies no doubt, and befits the modest self-confidence of the poet.
36. A literal translation of this hyperbole is best. The poet means, I shall feel myself exalted to the skies, I shall be at the summit of my hopes.