I was watching an episode of Vikings, and there was a scene where King Ecbert was reciting a Latin poem to his daughter-in-law. It said:
Don’t ask, we may never know, Leuconoe, what the Gods plan for you and me. Leave the Chaldees to parse the sentence of the stars. Of expectations, life’s short. Even while we talk, time, hateful, runs a mile. Don’t trust tomorrow’s bough for fruit. Pluck this. Here. Now.
In my curiosity I looked for the original text, and found it was one of Horace’s odes, to be specific Ode 1-11. Its full text is here:
Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoë, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. Ut melius, quicquid erit, pati!
Seu plures hiemes, seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam
(quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum). Sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.
Now, the translation in the Vikings was probably meant to be poetic, and therefore slightly different. Also, the last few sentences in the translation refer to the last two lines of the poem, so the middle body has been cut out.
Here is how I would have translated Horace’s poem (with a little help from a few other sources):
Don’t ask, for we don’t know, what ending the gods
will give me or you, Leuconoë, nor try to make sense
of the Babylonian numbers. How much better it is
to accept it, whatever it will be. Whether Jupiter gives us
many winters to come, or whether this is the last one
(currently weakening the shores across the Tyrrhene
sea). Be wise, strain the wine, and for life is short
cut back on your far-flung hopes. As we talk, so flies away
our hateful age. Seize the day, with little trust in tomorrow.
One thought on “Carpe diem”
I should visit morannon.org more often. I have read your translation of Horace 1-11, just now. Well done, very well done, especially for a bêta 😉