Strange Arts & Visual Delights
My favorite version of I.37, so far, is the translation by Ellen Bryant Voight:
The translation was published in J.D. McClatchy, ed., Horace: the Odes (Princeton, 2002, p. 103), a volume well worth owning if you’re interested in the odes. Around thirty-five leading poets from the US, the UK, and Ireland were “specially commissioned” to write the translations (“Introduction,” 5).
Voight's translation (see below) is a model of clarity and craft. The poem makes admirable use of alliteration (for example, "dizzy with desire and drunk," "the hawk harasses the helpless dove, / or the hunter the hare"). As the poem nears the conclusion, slant rhymes begin to point line ends, culminating in the long i sound that caps the last four lines.
I.37, translated by Ellen Bryant Voigt
Now it’s time to drink, not loosen your shoes
and dance, now bring around elaborate couches
and set the gods a feast, my friends! Before,
the time wasn’t right to pour the vintage wines,
not while that queen and her vile brood of advisors,
dizzy with desire and drunk on luck,
were busy in deluded plots against us.
What sobered her up was seeing her fleet on fire--
hardly a ship survived—nightmare she woke to
sending her fleeing, flying, from our shores,
Caesar at the ores in close pursuit--
the way the hawk harasses the helpless dove,
or the hunter the hare in the snow-packed open field--
intent on dragging the monster back in chains.
And yet the death that she resolved was grand:
a woman who did not shrink from the drawn blade,
who did not try to slip away and hide,
she looked straight at the palace now in ruins,
her face composed, and without blinking took
into her arms the scaly venomous snakes
in order to drink each drop of their black wine,
and by that cup this woman of such fierce pride
made the triumph hers: that she would die
not as a slave, and not as someone’s prize.
Edited 2 Nov 2023
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