Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NUNC ET CAMPUS, ET AREAEUM ..., by JOHN BYROM



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NUNC ET CAMPUS, ET AREAEUM ..., by             Poet's Biography
First Line: By campus and by areae, my friends
Last Line: What further use have all the odes that horace writ?
Subject(s): Horace (65-8 B.c.); Odes (as Poetic Form); Poetry & Poets


BY campus and by areæ, my friends,
The question is what Horace here intends?
For, such expression with the current style
Of this whole ode is hard to reconcile:
Nay, notwithstanding critical pretence,
Or I mistake, or it can have no sense.

The ode, you find, proceeding to relate
A winter's frost in its severest state,
Calls out for fire, and wine, and loves, and dance,
And all that Horace rambles to enhance;
But how can this fair-weather phrase belong
To such a wintry, saturnalian song?

A learned Frenchman quotes these very lines
As really difficult; and thus refines,—
"We use these words," says Monsieur Sanadon,
"For nightly meetings hors de la maison;
"But 'tis ridiculous in frost and snow,
"Of keenest kind, that Horace should do so."

Right, Monsieur, right!—such incoherent stuff
Is here, no doubt, ridiculous enough.
The Campus Martius and its active scenes,
Which commentators say the expression means,
Have here no place; nor can they be akin
To scenes, not laid without doors, but within.

"Nunc must refer," proceeds the French remark,
"To donec—puer—age of Taliarque;
"Not to the frost; for which the bard before
"Design'd the two first strophes, and no more;
"As commentators rightly should have taught,
"Or inattentive readers else are caught."

Now inattentive critics too, I say,
Are caught sometime in their dogmatic way
United here, we must divide, forsooth,
The time of winter from the time of youth;
When all expressions of Horatian growth
Do plainly, in this ode, refer to both.

Youthful th' amusements, and for frosty week;
From drinking, dancing,—down to hide and seek:
But campus comes and areæ between,
By a mistake too big for any screen;
And how nonsensically join'd with "lispers,
"By assignation met, of nightly whispers!"

Strange how interpreters retail the farce
That campus here should mean the field of Mars!
When in their task they must have just read o'er
Contrast to this, the very ode before,
Where ev'ry manly exercise disclos'd
To love's effeminacy stands oppos'd.

In this no thought of any field on earth,
But warm fire-side, and Roman winter's mirth:
No thought of any but domestic ring
Where all Decembrian customs took their swing;
And where—but come, that matter we'll suppress;—
There should be something for Cantabs to guess.

I'll ask anon, from what has now been said,
If emendation pops into your head;
Or if you'll teach me how to comprehend
That all is right, and nothing here to mend.
Come, sharpen up your Latin wits a bit;
What further use have all the odes that Horace writ?





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