Saturday, June 03, 2006


To the Grim Ferry All Must Go

When he was a schoolboy at Malvern College, C.S. Lewis wrote 'Carpe Diem' after Horace, based not on Horace's Ode 1.11, where the phrase carpe diem appears, but on Horace's Ode 2.3. Here are Lewis' poem, Horace's Latin, and finally another English version by John Addington Symonds.

C.S. Lewis:
When, in haughty exultation, thou durst laugh in
    Fortune's face,
Or when thou hast sunk down weary, trampled in
    The ceaseless race,

Dellius, think on this I pray thee — but the
    Twinkling of an eye,
May endure thy pain or pleasure; for thou knowest
    Thou shalt die,

Whether on some breeze-kissed upland, with a
    Flask of mellow wine,
Thou hast all the world forgotten, stretched be-
    Neath the friendly pine,

Or, in foolish toil consuming all the springtime
    Of thy life,
Thou hast worked for useless silver and endured
    The bitter strife,

Still unchanged thy doom remaineth. Thou art
    Set towards thy goal,
Out into the empty breezes soon shall flicker
    Forth thy soul.

Here then by the plashing streamlet fill the
    Tinkling glass I pray,
Bring the short lived rosy garlands, and be
    Happy — FOR TODAY.

Aequam memento rebus in arduis
servare mentem, non secus in bonis
    ab insolenti temperatam
    laetitia, moriture Delli,

seu maestus omni tempore vixeris
seu te in remoto gramine per dies
    festos reclinatum bearis
    interiore nota Falerni.

Quo pinus ingens albaque populus
umbram hospitalem consociare amant
    ramis? Quid obliquo laborat
    lympha fugax trepidare rivo?

Huc vina et unguenta et nimium brevis
flores amoenae ferre iube rosae,
    dum res et aetas et Sororum
    fila trium patiuntur atra.

Cedes coemptis saltibus et domo
villaque, flavus quam Tiberis lavit,
    cedes, et exstructis in altum
    divitiis potietur heres.

Divesne prisco natus ab Inacho
nil interest an pauper et infima
    de gente sub divo moreris,
    victima nil miserantis Orci;

omnes eodem cogimur, omnium
versatur urna serius ocius
    sors exitura et nos in aeternum
    exilium impositura cumbae.

John Addington Symonds:
In trouble keep your courage high
    And calm, but yet in happier fate
    Be not with rapture too elate —
For one day, Dellius, you must die.

Whether through dreary days you pine,
    Or on the far sequestered grass
    Luxurious holidays you pass
Quaffing your old Falernian wine:

I know the spot — by poplar pale
    And lofty pines a friendly shade
    With intertwining branches made;
And hard by struggles through the vale

The winding water: — there we'll set
    Wines and rich perfumes; boys shall bring
    Roses, too briefly blossoming;
While youth and Fortune smile, while yet

Their dark threads spin the sisters three.
    Ah me! your parks, your pleasant home
    Washed by the Tiber's tawny foam
You'll leave; and all your wealth shall be

But for your heir. If rich and one
    Of Inachus' old line and name,
    Or poor and basest born, the same
Your doom to Orcus pitying none.

To the grim ferry all must go;
    Our lots are cast into one urn,
    And soon or late comes out our turn
For endless banishment below.

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