Epode XI: Johnny’s Crush
(Petti, nihil me)
[It Gives me No Joy]
‘This epode is unusual in that the even lines are longer than the odd. In Epodes xi-xvi the metres are mixtures of iambics and dactyls. Dactylic metres do not work in English so this translation continues to use iambics, except in xi and xii, which blend iambics with prose to give some sort of sample of the flavour of the original.’ (1)
This really is the poem of someone who’s love-sick; someone who feels that his love is not reciprocated and that he has therefore made a fool of himself: ‘Through all the city-and I am ashamed of it- I was a laughing stock. I can’t face my friends.’
The poem boasts that he now loves a man: ’But now Lyciscus is my love and he boasts he’s prettier than any mere woman could be.
So in Epode XI the speaker is complaining; he’d had a passion for Inachia and now that’s ended and he’s wondering if all she was after was his money,
’Is money all she wants? And are a poor man’s qualities no good to her?’ In other words the suggestion is that he feels he may not be good enough for her. This tone is also reflected in my version.
The suggestion is that the advent of love has changed the kind of verse which he writes, i.e. that love will now be a theme – the serious topic of unrequited love.
This poem is the starting point for an obvious generic interaction with love-elegy:
the suffering lover
the subject of talk in the city
the rich rival,
the role of friends in trying to release the lover from an affair.
In the Almond version we meet Johnny, he’s embarrassed by his crush on a girl who hardly knows he exists let alone returns his love. He comes to realise that his feelings for her are unreciprocated and he unburdens himself to his grandma. He recalls how his grandmother used to tell him there were ‘plenty more fish in the sea’
He tells his grandmother that at that time he just couldn’t get over her – he confesses how he used to stand outside her front door, just hoping for a glimpse of her – how he sometimes stood there for hours.
The poem ends where he tells his grandmother that now he’s back in with his gang of lad friends – he says he’s dropping the idea of girls for a while because, ‘Girls tease and mix my head up’
He says in one breath that he’s finished with romance, but yet keeps the door open,
’unless a really special girl comes along’ and then there’s the hint that he’d also consider a relationship with a boy. This exactly reflects the end of the original Epode:
’Another passion might, for some lovely girl, or a slender boy with his long hair tied up behind in a knot.’
(1) West, D. (1997) Horace: The Complete Odes and Epodes. Oxford University Press: Oxford. (p.137)