(part of speech)

A few months ago I took down from a high shelf the works of the ancient Roman poet Horace, which I read in high school Latin class. Inside were still folded-up sheets of lined paper with my translations of some of Horace’s odes written neatly on them in my best high-school handwriting. The first one, which was always my favorite, even before I had any real understanding of what it meant, began, “Alas, how the years fly…”. Yes, so they do.

These are poems with a very definite meter, which rely heavily on sound for their effect. So I read them aloud. And then again, a few more times, because sometimes I’m in love with the sound of my own voice. They sounded great. I became a little bit jealous of Horace. For one thing, he didn’t have the Internet to distract him. For another, even if you don’t know Latin from Klingon, you can tell that this is some kickass poetry:

frustra cruento Marte carebimus
fractisque rauci fluctibus Hadriae,
frustra per autumnos nocentem
……corporibus metuemus Austrum:

at least, if you have ears you can; and you might even be able to guess that it has something to do with waves and wind and cold and sickness and death and gut-cracking fear. The gist of it, which is highly relevant to all of us in North America this winter, is that it’s stupid to spend our lives terrified of all the crap nature throws at us when — not to put too fine a point on it — we’re all going to die anyway, somehow, some day. (In a later verse, Horace rubs it in by pointing out that after we die our descendants are going to drink up all the good wine we were saving. Moral [I guess?]: Drink more. Now.)

So Horace and I leave you with these uplifting thoughts. A, if you get worried this winter that if you spend five more minutes outside they’re going to find you frozen in a snowbank in the morning, just remember, worry is pointless–you’ll be waiting to cross the River Styx any day now anyway! B, while you’re waiting, you can take your teeth-gnashing agony and makeĀ a kickass poem out of it, or at least a small, unobtrusive poem that makes you feel a little bit better. You’re welcome.

*
February
another part of speech
goes missing

*

8 thoughts on “(part of speech)

  1. susandiri says:

    glad glad glad i’m glad to see these red dragonfly posts. loved the last one & love love love this one.and the ku is immediately memorable.red dragonfly you have come to save us

  2. . . . .and still you make me smile. awe-more. (meaning not just some awe, more awe. oh. well. i tried). and your haiku are still stunning. cool.

    the night fan rattles
    I point it away from my feet
    and leave it on

    okay. so i can’t keep up with you. that doesnt mean i can’t try.

    fun and aloha on.

  3. antantantantant says:

    I took Latin in High School with a former Catholic Nun who happened to be an Existentialist. Taught amazing literature classes. Anouilh, Camus, Sartre. Gave me an abiding love for Homer and Ovid. I recently learned that Ovid wrote poems in the adopted language of his exile. Getic. None of it survives.

    • Wow, that’s fascinating about Ovid ( also about the existentialist nun, who I now want to write a novel about). Yes, Ovid is one of my favorites too, the Metamorphoses are so subversive.

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