PEGASUS FALTERS

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.

 

 

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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.

 

Then, what!

 

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]

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Author: rjsiersk

contact: rjsiersk@xs4all.nl Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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