AG: Pardon me?
Student: (“Thracian”) (What’s the origin of “Thracian”?)
AG: Thrace – part of Greece. (Where is that, where Thrace is, mind you) – Thrace? What part of Greece is Thrace? – Orpheus lived in Thrace wasn’t it? The worst part.. (Pelopponesian Islands?) Who knows Thrace?
Student (1): Thrace is in Macedonia.
Student (2) : Sparta?
AG: No, Sparta’s down south.
Student: Sparta’s down South…
AG: Oh god, we should all know this! – Thracia! – Oh – [Allen consults, again, his classical dictionary] – “In earlier times the name of the vast space of country bounded on the north by the Danube, in the south by the Propontis and the Aegean, on the East by the Pontus Euxinus, and on the West by the River Strymon and the easternmost of the Ilyrian tribes..” (I don’t know where that is)
Student Ilyrian’s.. Yugoslavia
AG; Yeah.. Well, I don’t know. [continues consulting] – So, (I guess we’re taking about) Byzantium – the Thracian Bosphoros – so . towards the East.. Yes?
Student: Okay, two, I notice.. how come two, out of three (translators of Horace I – 25) mention a specific character by name, Lydia, and one leaves it out?
AG: One didn’t feel it was necessary. I mean, they’re adapting the poems. None of them are translating them one-to-one word-for-word, they’ve got to fit it and squeeze them in the way they want to squeeze them in
Student; It seems like an important oversight to leave out…
AG: Maybe not..
Student (2): – They’re already new poems , from…
AG: Yeah, you find if you do see a lot of translations..If you look through these translations you’ll see that they’re all different . You know, some people leave out the names, some people don’t keep the rhythmic form…. Okay, yes, the (Fitzgerald translation) – “The young men….”
Student 3: [begins reading Horace – Book I – Ode XXV (translated by Robert Fitzgerald]
“The young men come less often – isn’t it so -/ To rap at midnight on your fastened window;/ Much less often. How do you sleep these days?/ There was a time your door gave with proficiency/On easy hinges; now it seems apter at being shut./I do not think you hear many lovers moaning./ “Lydia, how can you sleep?”/ “Lydia, the night is so long!” /”Oh, Lydia, I’m dying for you!”/ No. The time is coming when you will moan /And cry to scornful men from an alley corner/In the dark of the moon [AG: Wow!] – when the wind’s in a passion/ With lust that would drive a mare wild/Raging in your ulcerous old viscera/You’ll be alone and burning then/ To think how happy boys take their delight/In the new tender buds the blush of myrtle, /Consigning dry leaves to the winter sea.”
AG: What is this myrtle? What’s the significance of myrtle? Does anybody know? I’l look it up (It’s useful to have a little classical dictionary when you’re dealing with these people) – M-Y-R.. no.. how do you spell myrtle?
AG: I don’ t have it in here. What was a myrtle anyway?
Student: It’s connected with the poetic laurel. It doesn’t seem to be (however, with) this one.
AG: But laurel is laurel and myrtle is myrtle, or something. “They must have the myrtle brow for the young maidens!” – “the myrtle brow of the young maidens”..
Student: ((So) maidens clothe themselves (then) in leaves of myrtle?)
AG: (No, palm leaves… – “myrtle brow for the young maidens”…
Student: Oh sorry
AG: … so myrtle must be for the virgin – virginal myrtle?
Okay, then, another translation of it, by Joseph P Clancy, which is done also in Sapphics and the.. just to give you the adonics within that, it’s “door hugs its threshold”, “and the moon is dark”, “can you stay sleeping” “and you will complain to the winter wind” – “and you will complain” “to the winter wind” (two, separate)
Student: This was written in Sapphics? – the original?
AG: Yeah well, The original is translated Sapphics, the original is Latin Sapphics – from Sappho to Catullus – Archaeus and Sappho to Catullus – to Horace. Horace was maybe twenty years later than Catullus
AG (reads the entire poem) : “Less and less often the roaring boys/toss their pebbles against your closed shutters/they don’t rob you of sleep any more and the/door hugs its threshold/ that once turned gladly all night on its/ hinges…” – (talking about her cunt actually, “the door that once turned gladly all night on its hinges”! ) – “You hear fewer and fewer wailing:/ “While I spend the long night dying for you, Lydia,/ can you stay sleeping?”/ Your turn is coming: a crone alone in the street/You will cry that your lovers all hate you,/as the Northwind howls like a bacchante/and the moon is dark,/ and the fire of love and longing is in you,/the itch that drives a mare mad for a stallion,/you will rage with the lust that gnaws your belly/and you will complain/ that the goodtime boys now find their fun/with the green ivy and the dark green myrtle,/and the withered leaves are tossed away/ to the winter wind.”
Now what do you have for yours for that one? – That’s 1-25 – Let’s see what they”ve got (as long as we’re on this particular one. The one I just did was Joseph P Clancy – The Odes and Epodes of Horace, that was 1-25. You want to read that?
Student (reads entire poem, in different translation, by James Michie) – Yeah –
“The young bloods come round less often now,/Pelting your shutters and making a row/And robbing your beauty sleep. Now the door/Clings lovingly close to the jamb – though before. It use to move on its hinge pretty fast./ Those were the days – and they’re almost past -/ When lovers stood out all night long crying,/”Lydia, wake up, save me, I’m dying!”/ Soon your time’s coming to be turned down/ And to feel the scorn of the men about town -/ A cheap hag haunting alley places/On moonless nights when the wind from Thrace is/ Rising and raging, and so is the fire/in your raddled loins, the brute desire/That drives the mothers of horses mad./You’ll be lonely then and complain how sad/ That the gay young boys enjoy the sheen/Of ivy best or the darker green/Of myrtle: dry old leaves they send/As a gift to the east wind/winter’s friend.”
AG: Does that remind you of any poem that we touched on during the year? Because remember (Sir) Thomas Wyatt? – “Vengeance shall fall on thy disdain that makest but game on earnest pain..” [Allen reads from Wyatt’s poem,“My Lute Awake”] – “Think not alone under the sun/Unquit to cause thy lovers plain: Although my lute and I have done./Perchance thee lie withered and old/The winter nights, that are so cold,/Plaining in vain unto the moon./ Thy wishes then dare not be told:/Care then who list as I have done./And then may chance thee to repent/The time that thou hast lost and spent,/To cause thy lovers sigh and swoon;/Then shalt thou know beauty but lent/And wish and want as I have done.”
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-one minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in]