Friday, October 22, 2010


Persicos Odi, Puer, Apparatus

Horace, Odes 1.38 (tr. Niall Rudd):
I dislike Persian frippery, my boy: I do not care for garlands tied with linden bast; don't go looking for a place where the late rose lingers. Please don't go to the trouble of adding anything to plain myrtle; myrtle is entirely suitable for you as a servant, and for me as I sit drinking beneath the thick vine leaves.

Persicos odi, puer, apparatus,
displicent nexae philyra coronae;
mitte sectari rosa quo locorum
        sera moretur.

simplici myrto nihil allabores
sedulus curo: neque te ministrum
dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta
        vite bibentem.
I recently happened on an amusing translation of this ode by John Davis Long (1838-1915), with the title To the Boys:
I hate this Persian gingerbread,
These fixins round a feller's head;
I want the roses in their bed
        All in a body.

Give me the myrtle as it grows;
And let me take my sweet repose
Beneath the vine, unless it snows,
        And sip my toddy.
Long, born in Buckfield, Maine, was governor of Massachusetts and later U.S. Secretary of the Navy. He also translated Vergil's Aeneid (Boston: Lockwood & Brooks, 1879). See Richard F. Thomas, Virgil and the Augustan Reception (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 173 ff.

Here is a jocular adaptation of Horace's ode by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863):
Dear Lucy, you know what my wish is,—
    I hate all your Frenchified fuss:
Your silly entrées and made dishes
    Were never intended for us.
No footman in lace and in ruffles
    Need dangle behind my arm-chair;
And never mind seeking for truffles,
    Although they be ever so rare.

But a plain leg of mutton, my Lucy,
    I pr'ythee get ready at three:
Have it smoking, and tender, and juicy,
    And what better meat can there be?
And when it has feasted the master,
    'Twill amply suffice for the maid;
Meanwhile I will smoke my canaster,
    And tipple my ale in the shade.
A macaronic version by Mortimer Collins (1827-1876):
Persicos odi, puer, apparatus;
Bring me a chop and a couple of potatoes:
When we are dining care should not await us,
        Spoiling our glory.

Simplici myrto nihil adlabores;
All ostentation a confounded bore is...
After, a glass of port that sound at core is
        Will suit a Tory.
Finally, two humorous paraphrases by Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960), the first from Tobogganing on Parnassus:
Nix on the Persian pretence!
    Myrtle for Quintus H. Flaccus!
Wreaths of the linden tree, hence!
    Nix on the Persian pretence!

Waiter, here's seventy cents—
    Come, let me celebrate Bacchus!
Nix on the Persian pretence!
    Myrtle for Quintus H. Flaccus.
and the second from In Other Words:
The Persian pomp and circumstance are things I do not like;
I shall not buy a motor-car while I possess a bike;
I will not buy a Panama to place upon my head,
A simple sennitt bonnet, boy, purchase for me instead.

For such a thatch will do for you as it has done for me—
An ordinary straw hat, for a dollar thirty-three.
Then to the coolest bar in town for some Milwaukee liquor,
Where I may watch the ball-game—as it comes over the ticker.

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