Last week I lectured on Horace to students reading in translation. I think it was Robert Frost who defined poetry as “what gets lost in translation,” but with some poets it seems to be more problematic than with others, and Horace is notoriously difficult to translate. For example, I commented that I didn’t like it where the translation we were using gave “hugging” to convey the force of “urget” in Odes 1.5 (the one addressed to Pyrrha: a whole book of translations of this one poem was collected by Ronald Storrs). You hug your mother… whatever Pyrrha and her youthful admirer are doing is a bit different. In order to convey something of the difference between translations of the same poem, I also gave the students the translation by Milton, where he tries to render the poem “almost word for word without Rhyme according to the Latin Measure, as near as the language will permit.”
I’m writing this on Friday evening without internet. Of course, by the time you read it, I shall necessarily have transferred this document to a networked machine. But that will be at work, and at home I am not online. The reason is that my flat was burgled, and my Lovely New Laptop stolen (I’m writing on the old and rickety laptop, whose ethernet port doesn’t work, and I don’t have wireless). The burglary was less traumatic than I would have imagined. The thieves (in my mind there were two; of course I don’t know this) broke the locks of the window, opened it and entered. (It’s a ground floor flat). Then they took the laptop, not forgetting the power cable, and put it into my rucksack and left, having first emptied the rucksack of everything else (so that they couldn’t be caught with a bag full of things with my name on, showing it wasn’t theirs: the policewoman kindly explained this).