Ode 1.22

by Michael Gilleland

Synopsis (by C.H. Moore): "The upright man is safe, no matter where he roams. I know that this is true, friend Fuscus, for once in Sabine wood as I sang of Lalage, a monster wolf fled from me, though I was unarmed. Put me in chill northern gloom or beneath the torrid sun, still will I ever sing of my Lalage."

Text Crib
Integer uitae scelerisque purus
non eget Mauris iaculis neque arcu
nec uenenatis grauida sagittis,
  Fusce, pharetra,
The man who is upright in life and free of sin
has no need of Moorish spears or a bow
or a quiver heavy with poisoned
arrows, Fuscus,
siue per Syrtis iter aestuosas
siue facturus per inhospitalem
Caucasum uel quae loca fabulosus
  lambit Hydaspes.
whether he's about to embark on a journey
through the hot Syrtes or the barren
Caucasus or the places which the Hydaspes
(famous in story) washes.
Namque me silua lupus in Sabina,
dum meam canto Lalagen et ultra
terminum curis uagor expeditis,
  fugit inermem,
For in the Sabine forest, as I'm singing
of Lalage and wandering beyond my boundary
marker (without a care in the world), a wolf
runs away from me[, although I'm] unarmed,
quale portentum neque militaris
Daunias latis alit aesculetis
nec Iubae tellus generat, leonum
  arida nutrix.
such a monster as warlike Apulia
doesn't produce in its broad oak forests
and Juba's land (dry nurse of lions)
doesn't spawn.
Pone me pigris ubi nulla campis
arbor aestiua recreatur aura,
quod latus mundi nebulae malusque
  Iuppiter urget;
Put me in barren fields where no tree
is refreshed by a summer breeze,
a corner of the world which clouds and
bad weather oppresses;
pone sub curru nimium propinqui
solis, in terra domibus negata;
dulce ridentem Lalagen amabo,
  dulce loquentem.
put me beneath the chariot of the
too-close sun, in a land bereft of houses;
I'll [still] love Lalage, who laughs sweetly
and speaks sweetly.


There is a fine recording of a Latin recitation of this ode by Robert Sonkowsky (in RealMedia format).

1 The upright man doesn't need to fear anything.

But the seriousness of the first two stanzas dissolves into mock seriousness in the third stanza, where Horace makes it clear that by the "upright man" he really means the steadfast lover, who is under divine protection.

2 The Moors were handy with their spears.

3 Poisoned arrows were the chemical weapons of antiquity.

4 Almost all we know about Horace's friend, the schoolmaster Aristius Fuscus, comes from Horace himself.

5 "Syrtes" is plural. There are two gulfs named Syrtis on the north coast of Africa:

They can be seen at the top of this map of Africa. The name applies not only to the gulfs, but also to the deserts behind them on the African mainland. In 47 BC Cato marched 700 miles across the big Syrtis desert, from Berenice (Benghazi) to Leptis, with 10,000 men. The march took a month.

7 The Caucasus mountain range runs for about 750 miles along the northern borders of modern-day Georgia and Azerbaijan, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Some of its peaks exceed 15,000 feet. Here is a map of the Caucasus region.

8 The Hydaspes (modern-day Jhelum) is a river in Punjab, a region of northwest India and Pakistan whose name (in Persian) means "five waters" -- Persian "panj" is five and "ab" is water. The other four rivers are Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas. All five rivers merge into the Panjnad, which flows into the Indus. For a map of the river system, go here and click on "Physical."

In classical times, the Hydaspes was best known as the site of a battle between Alexander the Great and the Indian prince Porus in June, 326 BC.

9 Horace mentions woods on his Sabine farm elsewhere in his poems:

The question of wolf attacks on humans is a bitterly contentious one today, because of support for and opposition to the re-introduction of wolves into their former habitats. There is an extensive, world-wide review of the question by John D.C. Linnell et al., entitled "The fear of wolves: A review of wolf attacks on humans," published by the Norsk Institutt for Naturforskning (Jan. 2002). This report claims (section 5.8) that "There are no documented reports of wolves attacking or killing humans in Italy in the period after world war two," but Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957), p. 184, note 3, provides some evidence to the contrary:

Not very long ago in a very cold winter wolves were seen near the railway-line Rome-Monte Cassino-Naples. Higher up, in the mountains of the Abruzzi, a soldier was recently killed by a wolf (report of the Rome correspondent of The Times in the issue of 25 Oct. 1950). [I can now add that during the exceptional cold spell of February 1956 a postman was attacked and eaten by wolves near the village of Mandela, in the immediate neighbourhood of Horace's farm.]

10 Lalage is a real name (occurs also in Odes 2.5.16, Propertius 4.7.45), but probably doesn't refer to a real person here. It is derived from the Greek verb lalagein, which means "chatter," "prattle." Its significance becomes clear in the last line of the ode.

14 Horace calls Apulia "Daunias," the land of Daunus, a mythical king of northern Apulia. If you regard Italy as a boot, Apulia (modern-day Puglia) is the heel, as shown in this map of Italy's regions. Here is another map of ancient Apulia by itself. This was Horace's homeland -- he was born in Venusia (modern-day Venosa), a city in Apulia.

The section on coins from Apulia in Barclay V. Head, Historia Numorum: A Manual of Greek Numismatics (1911), mentions a bronze coin from Venusia with a "head of dog or wolf," but there is no picture.

15 There were two Jubas:

Juba II is probably meant here. He was educated in Rome, and wrote a book (in Greek) on Africa. This book is probably the source of the following stories about lions preserved in later authors:

16 A "dry nurse" is an oxymoron, the opposite of a wet-nurse.

17 Some ancient geographers regarded the world as divided into zones, some of which were habitable, others (at the equator and poles) uninhabitable.

So Horace is saying that, whether you put him in one of the frozen zones (penultimate stanza) or in the torrid zone (last stanza), his love for Lalage won't die.