Kipling and Horace

Some sources

(from the Kipling Journal of June 2003 by David Page)


We have published relatively little on Kipling and Horace – most of the early
references are fairly minor, the most significant being in No.97, pp.3—4 (Apr
1950) which carries “The Preface to the Fifth Book of Horace’s Odes
translated by S.A. Courtauld”. An excellent overview appears in
No. 124, pp.8-11 (Dec 1957) with an article by Roger Lancelyn Green
entitled “Kipling and Horace”. After this, there is “Kipling’s Classics”
by Susan Treggiari in No.181, pp.7-12 (Mar 1972), and finally,
several references to the publication in 1978 of Kipling’s Horace by
Prof C.E. Carrington with a review of this by Mrs P.E. Easterling in
No.224, pp.31-36 (Dec 1982). These have all been quarried for this

Although aware of Q. Horati Flacci Carminum Liber Quintum, I
had not looked at it, nor followed up the references made in Something
of Myself
(p.33), nor those by the various biographers – hence a visit
to our Library was called for. Although Kipling wrote several poems
which he attributes to Book V, only three of the Odes and one prose
version of “The Pro-Consuls” in the ‘fake’ fifth book are by Kipling –
Ode 1 “A Translation” (collected as Ode 3 in A Diversity of
Creatures), Ode 6 “The Pro-Consuls” (collected in The Years
Between), and Ode 13 “Lollius”, the only one written specifically for
the collaborative work.

Charles Graves, who contributed the remaining twelve odes, wrote
in a letter on 10 September 1941 that

It occurred to him [Kipling] about the blackest time of the last
war, end of 1917 and early months of 1918, as a means of
keeping up one’s spirits and distracting our thoughts from present
troubles, and he wrote to me outlining his plan and making many
admirable suggestions for subjects of the sham odes … he was
“the begetter” of the scheme. His next step was to secure a band
of scholars to translate them into Latin, and he could not have
got a better-equipped company, [Arthur] Godley, [Monsignor
Ronald] Knox, [Alan] Ramsay and [John] Powell.

The Preface was written in Latin by Knox and Godley, and contains
some delightful ‘authoritative sources’ – for example, the codex
preserved in the ‘Grosspaniandrumpinacotheca’ – another in the
‘Padoviensium Museum Trentunosettembrense’.

By chance, I found that Godley was no mean versifier in his own right, as illustrated by this
extract from his poem titled “After Horace” [Lyra Frivola (1899)],
found in The New Oxford Book of Light Verse, edited by Kingsley
Amis, O.U.P., 1987, pp. 168-9:

What asks the Bard? He prays for naught
But what the truly virtuous crave:
That is, the things he plainly ought
To have.

Let epicures who eat too much
Become uncomfortably stout:
Let gourmets feel th’ approaching touch
Of gout —

The Bard subsists on simpler food:
A dinner, not severely plain,
A pint or so of really good

Grant him but these, no care he’ll take
Though Laureates bask in Fortune’s smile,
Though Kiplings and Corellis make
Their pile:

Contented with a scantier dole
His humble Muse serenely jogs,
Remote from scenes where authors roll
Their logs:

Far from the madding crowd she lurks,
And really cares no single jot
Whether the public read her works
Or not!

Kipling clearly found congenial co-workers for this project.

The poems that Kipling attributed to Book V were composed in
English – but he did other work which started from the Latin. The
translation of Book III Ode ix “Donec gratus eram” into pure Devon-
shire dialect whilst at U.S.C. is described in “An English School”
[Land & Sea Tales, p.268] and can be found in Charles Carrington’s
Rudyard Kipling or Rutherford’s Early Verse. But the true delights of his
translations are to be found in the 55 epigrams which capture the essence
of the original Horace, and which Kipling wrote down in the margins
of his own copy of the Odes [edited by E.G. Wickham, 1910]. This
he acquired in 1912. Eleven of them are given in Mrs Easterling’s
review, fourteen in R.L. Green’s The Freer Verse Horace, three in
CE. Carrington’s biography, Rudyard Kipling, and all in his Kipling’s
, published in a Limited Edition of 500 (Methuen & Co,
London, 1978), then in facsimile as a private printing of 100 in 1980.

Here are three examples of the lighter variety which have not appeared
in the Journal before – the full translations of Horace are by Prof John
Conington, M.A., abstracted from the Project Gutenberg ebook of his
Odes and Carmen Saeculare of Horace (c. 1863).


For ladies’s love I late was fit,
And good success my warfare blest,
But now my arms, my lyre I quit,
And hang them up to rust or rest.

Here, where arising from the sea
Stands Venus, lay the load at last,
Links, crowbars, and artillery,
Threatening all doors that dared be fast.

O Goddess! Cyprus owns thy sway,
And Memphis, far from Thracian snow:
Raise high thy lash, and deal me, pray,
That haughty Chloe just one blow! (Horace)

I once was a joy to the Ladies
But, now I am laid on the Shelf,
I’d like to see Chloe get Hades
Before I descend there myself! (Kipling)



Naughty Lydia with a kiss
Ruined poor old Sybaris.
He can neither ride not swim—
Lydia’s been to much for him! (Kipling)

And one last sample –


Ah Lyce! though your drink were Tanais,
Your husband some rude savage, you would weep
To leave me shivering, on a night like this,
Where storms their watches keep.

Hark! how your door is creaking! how the grove
In your fair court-yard, while the wild winds blow,
Wails in accord! with what transparence Jove
Is glazing the driven snow!

Cease that proud temper: Venus loves it not:
The rope may break, the wheel may backward turn:
Begetting you, no Tuscan sire begot
Penelope the stern.

O, though no gift, no “prevalence of prayer,”
Nor lovers’ paleness deep as violet,
Nor husband, smit with a Pierian fair,
Move you, have pity yet!

O harder e’en than toughest heart of oak,
Deafer than uncharm’d snake to suppliant moans!
This side, I warn you, will not always brook
Rain-water and cold stones. (Horace)

Won’t you take me, vice
Your lawful mate?
I hate to wait—
The weather’s simply icy! (Kipling)


David Page June 2003


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