Epode VI: Mams at War (Part II) (Quid immerentis hospites)
[Why Pick on the Harmless]
According to West ‘It would be wrong to make heavy weather of this cheerful poem, but Horace seems to tell us that he is warning off some critic who has attacked an innocent victim. The critic is seen as a dog barking at passers-by from the safety of a farm. To bribe him into silence, the farmer throws out some scraps of food. In line 5 Horace compares himself to a hunting dog of formidable Greek breed but by lines 11-12 he has become a bull. In the couplet which follows he claims to be like Archilochus, who wooed Lycambes; daughter, was refused, and by his verse drove Lycambes to suicide; or like Hipponax, who had violent words for the sculptor Bupalo, whose statue of the poet displeased the sitter.’(1)
In my poem too, I refer to the ‘innocent victim’ but here Maureen’s mother is fighting with the mother of yet another boy in the community who has been picking on Maureen. This is a notorious family, members of which are always in trouble and who bully other children. Basically, what’s happening here is that Maureen’s mother is pointing out to the boy’s mother, that her son only dare pick on innocent kids and not those who are likely to fight back. She points out that she’s not scared of this notorious family, or the way they shout and throw their weight about. The original Epode (according to West) says, ‘And don’t imagine if you come at me with poison tooth, I’ll burst out weeping like a helpless boy’. Whereas my version says, ‘I’m not scared of your big mouth…. I’ll roll my sleeves up to anybody…’ and ends, ‘so don’t think your reputation scares me one little bit. And we’re not leaving ‘till he says ‘sorry’.
My version of this Epode, like its Horatian equivalent, ends with a rhetorical question, ‘I made mincemeat out of her if you remember’ and ends with a weak demand for an apology.
(1) West, D. (1997) Horace: The Complete Odes and Epodes. Oxford University Press,:Oxford (135)