Could it be on purpose, ironical so to say? Or did the Great Horace of immortal Odes and Epodes simply trip up good old Pegasus.
Surely, the Poet’s Horse went down.
In Ode II.3 we read the fine metaphor in which he compares the infamous democracy of death to an urn:
All of us are being herded there, for all
lots are tossing in an urn: sooner, later,
out they will come and book our passage
on the boat for everlasting exile.
Magnificent verse, even in translation – one feels the waves already brushing one’s vessel.
However, in Ode III.1 Horace is praising his own originality:
I scorn the secular crowd and keep them out.
Be silent. I am the priest of the Muses
and I chant for young men and maidens
poems that have never been heard before.
Like a sledgehammer, only four strophes further in the poem, we are confronted once more with that very same ‘large urn’ in which ‘the lots of the highest and the lowest are cast’ and ‘every name is tossing’.
Could this, then, be the beginning of the end of Horace’s great art? This is what at least this anxious and admiring reader of the bard is asking himself. As if he were the prophet of his own doom… The transition from complex Odes to simpler Epodes.
Sierksma, La Roche 13.9/2016
[Translation of the Odes by Joseph P. Clancy]