(part of speech)
by Melissa Allen
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 make a kickass poem out of it, or at least a small, unobtrusive poem that makes you feel a little bit better. You’re welcome.
another part of speech