"O ship,a ground swell threatens
to set you adrift - look out!
Hurry to reach the harbor - no, don't stop
to look, but you've lost your oars.
The mast has snapped. Sails slap at the wind.
You hull needs rope to tie it back together.
Canvas has torn, but you no longer
have gods to get you out of trouble.
Though you're built of the best pine
from the most noble forest, upon a plank
of which your famous name is lettered -
and so beautifully - who can trust paint?
You make a sailor nervous. Be careful,
or you'll become a toy of the storm.
You who, not that long ago, were just
my headache, my pain in the neck,
but who now have my heart aboard,
steer clear of those narrow seas
making the rocks of the Cyclades."
- translated by Debora Greger,
from Horace - The Odes: New Translations by Contemporary Poets, edited by J.D. McClatchy, Princeton University Press: 2002.
As recorded history goes, Joseph Urban (1872-1933) and Horace (65 BCE-8 BCE) were far apart. In talent, zest, and influence, both were ardent practitioners of Horace's motto: "Carpe diem." I like Debora Gregor's spirited translation of Ode 1:16. More of Joseph Urban soon.
1. Joseph Urban - Sailor Song from Kling Klang Gloria, 1907 by Heinrich Lefler, Joseph Urban Archives, Columbia University, NYC.
2. Joseph Urban - Design for a scene from Tristan und Isolde, 1916, Joseph Urban Archives, Columbia University, NYC.