Saturday, November 10, 2012


Authorship of a Conjecture in Horace

Horace, Odes 1.20 (tr. Niall Rudd):
You will drink from modest cups a cheap Sabine wine that I stored away in a Greek jar and sealed with my own hand on the day when you, dear Maecenas, illustrious knight, were given such applause in the theatre that the banks of your fathers' river, yes, and the playful echo from the Vatican Hill, repeated your praises. At home you can drink Caecuban and the grape that is crushed in the presses of Cales; my cups are not mellowed by the vines of Falernum or Formian hillsides.
Latin text from D.R. Shackleton Bailey's Teubner edition (rpt. 2008), p. 24:
Vile potabis modicis Sabinum
cantharis, Graeca quod ego ipse testa
conditum levi, datus in theatro
    cum tibi plausus,

c<l>are, Maecenas, eques, ut paterni        5
fluminis ripae simul et iocosa
redderet laudes tibi Vaticani
    montis imago.

Caecubum et prelo domitam Caleno
tu bibes uvam; mea nec Falerni        10
temperant vites neque Formiani
    pocula collis.
In his critical apparatus Shackleton Bailey records a conjecture for potabis in line 1:
potabo H. Schütz
This conjecture was proposed in Q. Horatius Flaccus, erklärt von Hermann Schütz...Erster Theil: Oden und Epoden, 2. Aufl. (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1880), p. 93, note on 1.20.10. But Schütz was not the first to conjecture potabo.

H. Paldamus, Horatiana (Gryphisvaldiae: Typis Friderici Guilelmi Kunike, 1847), p. 5 (note) attributes the same conjecture to Praedicovius:
laude sua non defraudandus lepidissimus poetae editor, Praedicovius, qui urbane correxit: Vile potabo immodicis Sabinum.
Praedicovius is Johann Christian Gottfried Praedicow, in his Quinti Horatii Flacci Opera, qualia restituit, suisque ipsius sumtibus, adjuncta textus, in carminibus quidem Mitscherlichiani, in sermonibus vero atque epistolis Bentlejani, diversitate, typis exscribenda curavit Jo. Christ. Godofr. Praedicow (Vitebergae: Apud auctorem, 1806), a book unavailable to me. Apparently Praedicow (or Prädikow) made more than 900 "emendations" of Horace in this edition!

But in his conjecture potabo for potabis Praedicow was anticipated by the English poet John Byrom (1692-1763). In Byrom's Miscellaneous Poems, Vol. I (Manchester: J. Harrop, 1773), there is a curious series of "Critical Remarks in English and Latin, Upon several Passages in Horace" in verse form. One of these (on pp. 335-338) discusses Horace's Ode 1.20:
Vile potabis modicis Sabinum
,—— Hor. Lib. I. O. 20.


Have ye no Scruple, Sirs, when ye rehearse
This hissing Kind of an Horatian Verse?
To me, I own, at Sight of triple ——is,
Suspicion said that something was amiss;
And, when one reads the triple Sapphic thro',
'Tis plain that what Suspicion said was true.


Critics, as Custom goes, if one shall bring
The plainest Reason, for the plainest Thing,
Will stick to Horace, as he sticks to Print,
And say, sometimes, that there is Nothing in't.
Or, here, Mistake perhaps, may be my Lot;
Now tell me, Neighbours, if 'tis so, or not.


This Ode, or (since apparently Mishap
Has lost the true Beginning of it) Scrap,
Informs Mæcenas that poor Sabine Wine
Shall be his Drink, in Horace's Design;
Wine which the Poet had incask'd, the Day
That People shouted for the Knight away.


This is the first Thing that it says——the next,
Without one Word of intervening Text,
Says, he shall drink (and in poetic Shape
Wine is describ'd) the very richest Grape;
My Cups Falernian Vintage, Formian Hill
(Is all that follows after) never fill.


These, and these only, in the printed Code,
Are the two Periods of this pigmy Ode:
And how they stand, in Contradiction flat,
Whoe'er can construe Latin must see that.
The Critics saw it, but forsook their Sight,
And set their Wits at work, to make it right.


How they have done it——such as have a Mind
To know their Fetches, if they look, may find;
And smile thereat; one Ounce, that but coheres,
Of Mother Wit, is worth a Pound of theirs;
Who having, by their Dint of Learning, seen
That Moon is Cheese, soon prove it to be green.


'Twill be enough to give ye just a Taste,
From Delphin here, of criticising Haste;
"Mæcenas, setting on some Journey out,
"Sent Horace word, before he took his Rout,
"As Cruquius, Lubin, Codex too pretend,
"That he would sup with his assured Friend.


Horace writes back——and this, it seems, the Ode——
'Tis mighty kind to take me in your Road;
But you must be content with slender Fare,
Such as my poor Tenuity can spare:
Vile potabis——Sabine wine the best——
As learnedly Theod. Marcil. has guest.


So far, so good——but why should Horace, slap,
Say you shall drink the Wines of richest Tap?
That is, quoth Margin of the Delphin Tome,
Domi potabis——you shall drink at Home;
Hæc vina quidem bibes apud te,
Says Note, non ita vero apud me.


Certè, it adds, as Pliny understood,
The Knights own Wine was exquisitely good——
Good, to be sure, tho' Pliny had been dumb;
But how does all that has been said o'ercome
The Contradiction? —— Why, with this Assistance,
'Tis plain they supp'd together —— at a Distance.


One easy Hint, without such aukward Stirs,
Dissolves at once the Difficulty, Sirs:
Let Horace drink himself of his own Vinum——
Vile POTABO modicii Sabinum
——and Mæcenas do so too——
Tu bibes Cæcubum——and all is true.


No verbal Hissing spoils poetic Grace,
Nor Contradiction stares ye in the Face;
But Verse Intention, without farther Tours:
I'll drink my Wine, Mæcenas——and you yours.
Should not all Judges of Horatian Letter
Or take this Reading, or propose a better?
All three men (Schütz, Praedicow, and Byrom) seem to have arrived at the conjecture potabo independently. But credit for being the first belongs to Byrom.

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