Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Horace at your back v: across the plains of the turbid sea

Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte, nec iam sustineant onus
  silvae laborantes, geluque
  flumina constiterint acuto?

See how Soracte, glistening,
stands out high in
its cape of snow, how laboring
woods let go of
their load, and all the streams
are frozen
over completely with sharpest
cold now?

drawn from the cruelest war ever fought,
of how an enterprising Special Operations
officer spirited the Wehrmacht general
of the occupying forces on Crete away to
British custody in Cairo, whom he'd kid-
napped by posing as his chauffeur. Escap-
ing Crete by hiking across Mt Ida, the
birthplace of Zeus, the General was heard
to recite the first line of this Ode, the
9th from Horace's first book, and his cap-
tor then resumed the recital to its end,
writing later, they had seemed to have
drunk from the same fountains, before.

It does not seem to most as likely that
the necessary task, ongoing now, to subdue
the forces of exploitation and cruelty in
American politics might later reveal them,
in their subjugation, as having been nur-
tured much by learning they are so merry
to revile. But heaven knows, they must do
Horace at Cranbrook sometimes, and it is
just possible that the poet may be shown
again to have been right:

Entrust, then, all the rest to the Gods
as soon as
they've calmed the winds that battle
across the plains of
  the turbid sea, the cypresses and
  ash trees of old will no longer tremble.

At the same time, we are entering the
season of book-signings, and soon the
most auspicious biography of that Brit-
ish officer will be in broad circula-
tion. The grand-daughter of Duff and
Lady Diana Cooper, and daughter of our
premier historian of Venice has had ac-
cess to everything and everyone who
could illuminate that life, beyond his
own undying memoirs in print. This is
an occasion of great news for people

The Odes, I, 9
  To Thaliarchus
John Hollander, translation
J.D. McClatchy, editor
op. cit.

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