Monday, August 18, 2008


Carpe Diem

Carpe diem ("seize the day") is a familiar Latin phrase. It comes from the last line of Horace, Odes 1.11. Here is Horace's poem in English translations by two 20th century poets.

Louis MacNeice:

Do not, Leúconoé, seek to inquire what is forbidden, what
End the gods have assigned to you or to me; nor do you meddle with
Astrological numbers. What shall arise count to your balance if
God marks down to you more winters—or perhaps this very one is the
Last which now on the rocks wears out the fierce Mediterranean
Sea; but be wise and have wine, wine on the board, prune to a minimum
Long-drawn hopes. While we chat, envious time threatens to give us the
Slip; so gather the day, never an inch trusting futurity.

C.H. Sisson:

You do not ask — useless to ask, Leuconoë —
What end the gods will give, to me, to you.
Consult no augurers. Suffer what comes,
Whether some winters still, or this one only
Which now wears out the sea under the cliffs.
Think, take your wine. You are better off with sleep
And no long hopes. For, while we speak, age falls.
Collect your day, and have it. The next, you may not.

Here is Horace's Latin:

Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. ut melius, quidquid 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.

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