Richibi’s Weblog

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Category: Horace

on odes

                          "The Daphnephoria" - Frederic Leighton

The Daphnephoria (c. 1875)

Frederic Leighton


odes, with their suggestion of music
– despite a history of merely words
spoken in the intervening interim,
counting on meaning and rhythm
without music’s attendant tonality –
go back to the Greeks, the Seventh
Century, BCE, Sappho, for instance,
one of history’s most honoured
women poets, surely quite an
achievement for her in an age of
predominant, indeed
disenfranchising, masculinity

the ode was meant to accompany
tributes to people, events, things,
thereby acquiring an element of
acclamation and praise within its
dimensions, Pindar, ca 552 – 442
BCE, wrote odes for heroes of the
original Greek Olympics, for

by the time of Horace, 65 – 8 BCE,
odes had become stylized,
independent of music, here’s one,
not inappropriately in this season’s
vernal context, to spring

odes remained spoken throughout
their resurrection in the wake of the
rediscovery of the Ancient World
during the Renaissance, onwards
through some famous Romantic
ones, Shelley, for instance, Keats,
up to even this one, by Stanislaw
, which I found in the
New Yorker
, April 20th, a gem, I
think, and in the very spirit of our
Age of Irony


O plywood, second best to the real stuff,
believe me, one day I will say “Enough”

to my stooping shoulders, my slouched spine;
my sloped shape and your stiff boards will align,

and you’ll see how my backbone will unbend
and I’ll be standing straight until the end

of my makeshift but rectilinear
prayer, one stiff-backed as a chest of drawers

when we shove heavy furniture around;
I will rise from the dead, though on what ground

and which I, I don’t know; I’ll stand erect,
though my vertebrae’s hierarchic sect

won’t outlive plywood, no, it just can’t win
against that vertical eternity, so thin

and yet so sturdy in its ersatz pride;
as if the moon had shown me its dark side,

I lean, my ear glued to a cupboard’s back,
and I can hear its hollow and exact

hymn to its own cheap immortality;
no, wait, I still can straighten, still can be

square with this upright world (you knew I could),
just as plumb as four planks of real wood.

Stanisław Barańczak

(Translated, from the Polish,
by Clare Cavanagh and the author.)


though you mightn’t’ve caught an “Ode”
in the title, the clue to its essence is in
the initial “O”, an acclamation

and yes, “O, Canada” is therefore also
an ode, as would be most anthems

incidentally Beethoven put the music
back into the form with his incendiary
use of Schiller’s poem for his vocal
triumph in his ninth Symphony, An
die Freude
the Ode to Joy,
incomparable in this rendering for
an improbable 10,000
, yes 10,000, just


“Riposte to Ode” – Michael Homolka‏

Anton von Werner - "Horace"


Anton von Werner


Riposte to Ode

It isn’t like that Horace Life stresses us out
However many hundreds of decades later we’re told
to welcome anxiety is beneficial
and to quote honor our imperfections

You’ve got the Adriatic Sea We’ve got what
the Finger Lakes? Not quite as conducive
to worrying the infinite question so we worry
about other things equities statistics

I’m not really a wine man either
not in the unmixed sense where Alcibiades
might barge in any moment and out-naked us all
I’m an American so I prefer pig iron

Wildflowers abound somewhere I’m sure
I don’t know anything about flowers though
Few of us in the cities follow them
the way you seem to as if tracking currencies

But to speak to your point about an actual
battlefront approaching Main Street who knows?
Maybe we would resort to hookers and crack
per your suggestion I can’t say Horace I wish I could

Michael Homolka


which “Ode” remains a mystery, so
one should suppose Michael Homolka
is “ripost[ing]” to Horace’s entire body
of odes, he wrote four books of them,
23 – 11 B.C.E., during the time of

I found the Odes too steeped in
Roman and mythological arcana to
follow their uneasy referents, too
esoteric, I thought, to even look
them up, seems Michael Homolka
thought the same

but his Ars Poetica“, if you’ll pardon
the expression, spoke directly to my
heart, On style“, “On metre“, on
How to be a good poet“, for
instance, topics I find irresistible

you’ll note that whereas I’ve used
commas ever to indicate pauses
in what I write, Homolka uses
spaces, if you’ll allow me that,
perhaps immodest, conjunction,
you’ll find these in his original
, WordPress won’t allow me
that, click here for that original

he also allows himself question
marks, something I never do

go figure

you’ll also note his dramatic
monologue, my favourite, if
you haven’t already done so


psst: “None knows the reason why this curse
Was sent on him, this love of making verse.” – Ars Poetica“, line 470