Monday, November 06, 2006


Horace in the Holy Caves of India

Simon Winchester, In the Holy Caves of India (The New York Times, Nov. 5, 2006), on Captain John Smith of the Madras Army:
He clambered up the cliff and into the first cave: he found "a foetid smell arising from numerous bats ... the remains of a recent fire ... the entire skeleton of a man ... prints of the feet of tigers, jackals, bears, monkeys, peacocks etc., impressed into the dust formed by the plaster of the fresco paintings which had fallen from the ceiling." He reached a safe spot to sit in the sun, and there, gazing out over the river, he smoked a bidi and found himself moved — for seemingly he was an educated man — to quote Horace, the ode that begins "quae non imber edax non aquilo impotens ..." — "cannot be destroyed by gnawing rain or wild north wind, by the procession of unnumbered years or by the flight of time."
No ode of Horace begins with the words "quae non imber edax non aquilo impotens." Captain Smith was thinking of Ode 3.30, which starts as follows:
Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo inpotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
Hat tip: Jim K.

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