Saturday, April 14, 2018


Marriage Law

Horace, Carmen Saeculare 17-20 (tr. Niall Rudd):
O goddess, be pleased to rear our young, and to grant success to the Fathers' edicts on the yoking together of men and women and on the marriage law for raising a new crop of children...

diva, producas subolem, patrumque
prosperes decreta super iugandis
feminis prolisque novae feraci
         lege marita...
Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (1957; rpt. London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 374:
But, seriously, without idealizing the past, should we not try to understand that not everything that to us sounds dry or technical or downright prosaic must necessarily have sounded so to an Athenian or a Roman? Could we not consider the possibility that a subject which we shy at when when we meet it in the daily paper may, to many contemporaries of Augustus, despite all their sophistication, still have seemed dignified enough for serious poetry? But even if we keep to our own primary reaction, unaffected by any thought of historical relativity, even then we ought to find it easy to respond to the feeling in this particular stanza. For the legislation which is the theme of these lines is not concerned with technicalities of private or public law but goes straight to the roots of the life of human society. I, for one, am not ashamed to confess that I am moved when I picture these handsome children, who represent Rome's finest youth, singing to the goddess diva, producas subolem, patrumque prosperes decreta .... Here they are, radiant, grateful for the unique distinction that has come to them, and aware that, while they are singing and praying, the eyes and ears of the men and women of Rome and of thousands of boys and girls are upon them, and that they are singing and praying for them all. Will they not wish that in a future saeculum there will again be Roman children, many Roman children, to be as happy as they and the others are now, and is it not fitting for them to implore Heaven's favour for the decrees of the Fathers (what a blessing for a poet if the constitutional life of his nation knows such a term)?

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