Poems: Horace, Alexander Pope, William Gladstone, and an Ungreat Unknown
Alexander Pope's Version of part of Odes IV
Lest you should think that verse shall die,
Which sounds the Silver Thames along,
Taught on the wings of Truth, to fly
Above the reach of vulgar song;
Tho' daring Milton sits Sublime,
In Spencer native Muses play;
Nor yet shall Waller yield to time,
Nor pensive Cowley's moral Lay—
Sages and Chiefs long since had birth
E're Caesar was, or Newton nam'd,
These rais'd new Empires o'er the Earth,
And Those, new Heav'ns and Systems fram'd.
Vain was the Chief's, and Sage's pride!
They had no Poet, and they dyd.
In vain they schem'd, in vain they bled!
They had no Poet, and are dead.
Gladstone's Translation of the Entire Ode
To Lollius Think not these words are doomed to die Which, wedded to the tuneful string, With newborn arts of minstrelsy From sounding Aufidus I sing. If Homer on the throne be set, Stesichorus is stately still, Alcaeus brave; and Pindar yet, And Cean song their places fill. The sportive tales Anacreon told Years have not blurred. Love cannot die, And warms to-day, and warmed of old Th' Aeolian maiden's poesy. Were there like Spartan Helen none That loved the trim adulterer's hair, The gold upon his vestments spun, His train, his port, of royal air? Was Teucer first to learn the use Of Cretan shafts? Was Troy subdued At once? Fought huge Idomeneus, Or Sthenelos, in solitude? War is the Muse's theme. Not first Deiphobus, or Hector's rage, For their pure spouses dared the worst, Or did for children battle wage. Ere Agamemnon saw the light There lived brave men: but tearless all, Enfolded in eternal night, For lack of sacred minstrels, fall. Test hidden baseness, buried worth; 'Tis little odds. So, Lollius, I Will set thy deeds and virtues forth ; Too many and too great to die, And moulder, dark Oblivion's prey. Thou hast a soul for high affairs, Art formed to hold unchanged thy way, When Fortune smiles, or Fortune scares. O scourge of greed and trick, O freed From Money's all-absorbing sway, Who, whensoe'er the State had need, No consul of the year or day, Took'st not the useful for the good, Flung'st back the guilty gift with scorn, Through adverse hosts along thy way In Virtue's arms triumphant borne. Not him wilt thou for happy bless, Whose goods are large. Far happier he, Who shall for wisdom's use possess The bounties that the gods decree. And pinching poverty can bear, And baseness more than death can dread. For love of friends, or country's care, That man will gladly give his head. A Scholarly Translation by John Conington
Which, cradled 'mid the echoing roar
Of Aufidus, to Latium's lyre
I sing with arts unknown before.
Though Homer fill the foremost throne,
Yet grave Stesichorus still can please,
And fierce Alcaeus holds his own
With Pindar and Simonides.
The songs of Teos are not mute,
And Sappho's love is breathing still:
She told her secret to the lute,
And yet its chords with passion thrill.
Not Sparta's queen alone was fired
By broider'd robe and braided tress,
And all the splendours that attired
Her lover's guilty loveliness:
Not only Teucer to the field
His arrows brought, nor Ilion
Beneath a single conqueror reel'd:
Not Crete's majestic lord alone,
Or Sthenelus, earn'd the Muses' crown:
Not Hector first for child and wife,
Or brave Deiphobus, laid down
The burden of a manly life.
Before Atrides men were brave:
But ah! oblivion, dark and long,
Has lock'd them in a tearless grave,
For lack of consecrating song.
'Twixt worth and baseness, lapp'd in death,
What difference? You shall ne'er be dumb,
While strains of mine have voice and breath:
The dull neglect of days to come
Those hard-won honours shall not blight:
No, Lollius, no: a soul is yours,
Clear-sighted, keen, alike upright
When fortune smiles, and when she lowers:
To greed and rapine still severe,
Spurning the gain men find so sweet:
A consul, not of one brief year,
But oft as on the judgment-seat
You bend the expedient to the right,
Turn haughty eyes from bribes away,
Or bear your banners through the fight,
Scattering the foeman's firm array.
The lord of boundless revenues,
Salute not him as happy: no,
Call him the happy, who can use
The bounty that the gods bestow,
Can bear the load of poverty,
And tremble not at death, but sin:
No recreant he when called to die
In cause of country or of kin.
Digging the Past
Great nations have existed without rhyme,
and lullabied by warhoops apes have laid
their heads on silk, mute till their files of crime
are scrabbled by the antiquarian's spade.
The chronicles of Nineveh and Tyre,
the riddled tablets of the Tigris mud
reburied rest in journals, while the lyre
of David rouses angels in our blood.
There is no history of Assyrian sheiks,
whose deeds were droned by scribes on the evening news;
they live as fallguys for the well-greaved Greeks,
or footnotes to the sufferings of the Jews.
They ate, drank themselves sick, and drew up plans
for Babel's tower--such Good Americans.
Some Probably Unnecessary Notes Marcus Lollius, consul in 21 BC, suffered a disastrous military feat but, trusted by Augustus, was sent as governor to Syria, where he died or committed suicide. Aufidus, a river near Horace's home town of Venusia. Stesichorus, a great writer of early lyric verse in epic vein. Quintilius says he sustained the weight of Homeric epic on his lyre and was often regarded as second greatest ancient Greek poet. Alcaeus, powerful lyric poet from Lesbos, contemporary of Saphho "the Aeolian maiden." Anacreon of Teos celebrated wine, women, and song. Until fairly late, he was known to moderns only in inferior imitations, though he was in fact an exquisite writer of lyric verse. Ceos, home to two great poets, both Simonides and his nephew Bacchylides Teucer, Greek Homeric hero who employed the bow. Deiphobus, a Trojan hero. "The Great Unknown" was a nickname applied to the author of Waverley