Epode IX: Martin and Mrs. L. Share a Gill
[When Can I Celebrate?]
‘It seems that Horace and Maecenas are on board ship after the battle of Actium … and have just heard of the flight of Anthony and Cleopatra.
Horace is wistfully looking forward to returning to convivial pleasures in Maecenas’ palace in Rome.
Neptune’s Admiral: Sextus Pompeius had been defeated at Naulochus in 36BC.
Stakes…eunuchs..mosquito nets: this satirizes the behaviour of Anthony’s troops at the court of Cleopatra & on campaign before battle of Actium. Roman soldiers carried stakes for building palisades.
Galli: these are not Gauls here, but Galatians from Asia Minor who came over to Octavian’s side just before the battle. Nevertheless, the thought of Galli singing the praises of Caesar would put a Roman reader in mind of other Galli and another Caesar, the Gauls whom Julius had conquered in the fifties BC
Seasickness: Roman writings on wine are heavily concerned with its medicinal effects. Wine is said by Pliny to check vomiting (Natural History xxiii. 38), but Horace can scarcely be serious here. It sounds like a cheerful excuse.
Lyaeus: a title of Bacchus, god of wine, in Greek, ‘the Releaser’.’ (1)
In my version Martin is pro- Second World War and acts as a foil for Billy. (See ‘Billy Drowns His Sorrows after the ’51 General Election’) In this pub conversation between Mrs. L (see the first poem ‘Mrs. L’) and Martin, he tries to impress Mrs. L who has once again taken on the role of Maecenas in my version. He is using the opportunity to praise Winston Churchill and at the same time score a point on Billy who takes an anti-war stance.
Martin’s racist abuse picks up the anti-Egyptian abuse about eunuchs etc. in the original, and just as the narrator in the original wants to know when victory can be celebrated and when they can return home, so too in my version Martin wants to know when he can proudly celebrate our victory in the Second World War.
Also look out for:
Winston Churchill as Augustus
Mussolini as Sextus Pompey
Hitler as Anthony
Eva Braun as Cleopatra
Anthony, like Hitler, died through suicide in a kind of bunker having retreated to his capital
(1) West, David (1997) Horace: The Complete Odes and Epodes. Oxford University Press, Oxford (p.136)