Process Notes on 1.13

See West’s Notes at: West, D. Horace Odes I Carpe Diem: Text, Translation and Commentary, Oxford: Clarendon Press, (1995), pp.62-65

In the fourth line the relation of bile to liver is not clear in the Latin, which could mean either by, with, from or in bile.  In the second stanza how odd to say that neither mind nor colour stays in its fixed seat, and how strange that a furtive tear should make anything clear, least of all how slow are tormenting fires. The slowness of the suffering, which is crucial to line 8 of the ode, seems to linger … where the metaphor may well be otherwise inactive.  In line 8 the word ‘torment’ loses the literal flavour of macerare, a technical term from cooking in Latin as in English….. Sometimes it is a dead metaphor meaning simply ‘to torment’ or ‘to weaken’.[1]

‘The symptomatology starts in the first stanza: ‘by boiling liver swells in indigestible bile’.  If liver were stewing in a pot, on this interpretation bile would be the stock and the liver would certainly swell.   Then in the next stanza, ‘my mind does not stay in its fixed place’.  Nor would a boiling liver.  ‘My colour,’, similarly, ‘does not stay in its place’.  Here the fit is not perfect, but the proposition that Horace himself changes colour is not too far away and it suggests colour changes in the cooking.  Moisture trickles down furtively on to Horace’s cheeks, as moisture may trickle down the side of a simmering pot.  Now we know why tears are here referred to, very unusually, as moisture, umor.  This overflow demonstrates that the liver is being cooked through and through by a slow heat which is to say that Horace’s tears reveal the depth and the duration of his suffering.[2]

I believe that this ode represents jealousy: ‘But Horace is Horace.  He is not going to have trembling in his breeze or go as green as grass or be near unto death as Sappho was and he is not going to end by being ashamed of himself like Catullus.  He has his feelings and ruefully admits to them, but smiles at Sapho and Catullus and at himself as he does so, by expressing his suffering in this whimsically detailed metaphor from cooking.’[3]

Horace’s ending suggests an alternative relationship as an ideal in contrast with the current unsatisfactory one – I put this in a literary context, referring to the ideal of a life-long erotic/patronage relationship.

The phrase ‘She’s gazing in your eyes for her reflection’ (line 2, stanza 4) is meant to suggest, that he (Robbie) is taking the gazing as admiration whereas as she (the latest protégée is gazing both to see the physical reflection of herself, but also to suggest the definition of reflection as ‘thoughts and thinking’ in other words that she has managed to make Robbie think and see things as she does.

[1] D. West, Horace Odes I Carpe Diem: Text, Translation and Commentary, Oxford:  Clarendon Press,
   1995,  P.62/3

[2] Ibid p.63

[3] Ibid p. 64

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