Horace's Original: Carmina 1/11

An illustration for: Nine Maxims On Translation
E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts / 5 Dec 2002

Horace's original is in a quantitative meter for which the only workable English equivalent is syllable; the syllable form consists of two stanzas, each with four lines having 6 + 4 + 6 syllables (there are length requirements also, but we ignore these as not linguistically transferable). Identifying glosses have been appended to give an idea of where the morphemes are, not to constitute a translation. The Latin elements must be rearranged to work as an English statement. For one such rearrangement, see the Anonymous interlinear gloss. Where an adjective and its associated noun have been separated by an intervening word, they have been marked by [brackets]. Doing this is a major point of artistry with Horace. The separations are modest in this poem; they can be much greater.

[The elements of the translations corresponding to the Latin oppositis and pumicibus, which in the original, below, are separated by the verb debilitat, are shown in red both here and in the following translations, for easier technical comparison].

Carmina 1/11
8(6 + 4 + 6 syllables)












tu ne quaesieris -
you / should not / seek -

finem di dederint,
end / the Gods / have given,

temptaris numeros.
try / [numbers]

Seu plures hiemes
whether / more / winters

quae nune oppositis
which / now / [on opposed]

Tyrrhenum. sapias
Tyrrhenian. / Be wise

spem longam reseces.
hope / long / cut back.

aetas: carpe diem,
Time. Pluck / the day;

scire nefas -
to know / is wrong -


Ut melius,
How much / better,

seu tribuit
[or] whether / allots

wears out

vina liques,
wines / strain out

dum loquimur,
while / we speak,

quam minimum
[as little as possible]

quem mihi, quem tibi
what / to me / [or] what / to thee

nec Babylonios
nor [Babylonian]

quicquid erit, pati!
whatever / shall be, / accept

Iuppiter ultimam,
Jupiter / the last

pumicibus mare
[worn rocks] / the sea

et spatio brevi
and / to a space / short

fugerit / invida
there shall flee / jealous

credula postero.
put faith / in later time.


Commentary at this point would spoil the chances of the examples. But readers may wish to try their hands with a version of their own, to see how much they can see, and how many difficulties they can solve, before turning to the published translations.


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