Friday, November 23, 2007


Forget Tomorrow's Blueberries

At the local public library I recently happened upon Donald Hall's White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems, 1946-2006 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), and on a whim I checked it out. Browsing through it, I noticed several poems that seemed to be imitations of odes by Horace. Indeed, Hall based his collection The Museum of Clear Ideas (1993) entirely on Horace's first book of odes. Here is Hall's imitation of Horace, Ode 1.11, followed by the Latin original and my pedestrian literal translation.

Camilla, never ask when it will happen, for we'll never know
how it comes or when. Leave divination to Julia, our friend
who orders predestination from catalogues of remaindered
theologies. Let us determine to take what comes, hot or cold,
whether we stay alive into old age or drop dead next Tuesday,
which is doubtless as good a day as any. Tonight let us fill
our wineglasses without fretting about the future, which only
sours the Beaujolais. Forget tomorrow's blueberries; eat today's.

Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. ut melius, quicquid erit, pati,
seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum: sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

Don't ask (it's forbidden to know) what final fate the gods have given to me and you, Leuconoe, and don't consult Babylonian horoscopes. How much better it is to accept whatever shall be, whether Jupiter has given many more winters or whether this is the last one, which now breaks the force of the Tuscan sea against the facing cliffs. Be wise, strain the wine, and trim distant hope within short limits. While we're talking, grudging time will already have fled: seize the day, trusting as little as possible in tomorrow.

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