[ilds] Loeb Classical Library

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Fri May 9 12:06:26 PDT 2008

Bill & Bruce,

A very fine turn in this conversation!  Bravo Bill, and brava to that 
unknown woman who wasn't afraid to take a pen to Horace.

> so on which margins are the marginalia?
> On the Latin poetry or on the English 
> prose?  

That, I'm afraid, is something only a reader can answer -- there's no 
record of a book of Horace poetry in Carbondale, and I don't have any 
note of it in Nanterre, though I suppose it's possible.  My hunch is 
that Eve didn't read Latin, so she likely would have written in the 
English margin, but that all depends on whom we cast as the lover here.

Moreover, which margin does the poet use when he answers the woman's 

> Why would Durrell choose a dual language 
> text over any number of English translations,

'Cause that's the one Eve wrote in, unless that's a conceit.  Maybe 
that's the translation that bugged him the most...  More to the point, 
the poem tells us at the very outset that this is not the poet's own copy:

   I found /your/ Horace with the writing in it;

This is not Durrell's Horace, if we even equate Durrell with the poet (I 
do in this instance).  This is someone else's Horace that has been left 
with messages for a future reader.

> Durrell surely knew some Latin (how could 
> he get through an English public school 
> without studying it?).

MacNiven says he was second in his class for Greek (albeit a class of 
8), so it would seem highly likely at St Edmunds.  He has Latin jokes in 
/Pied Piper of Lovers/ and /Panic Spring/.

> I argue that you have the Loeb text with its 
> Latin because Durrell wanted to make pointed 
> reference(s) to Horace's language, and that 
> was part of his debunking strategy.

Unless, of course, he's looking at the marginalia written in English by 
a woman who doesn't know Latin and who is writing the note for the poet 
to find...

I suppose neither of us will budge, but perhaps by digging in our heels, 
we'll shuffle the dust off of some lovely mosaic in the poem.

I'm curious though about the fourth stanza and Horace's relation to the 
"dead, his stainless authors" who apparently lead him to rest his reed 
in the margin of his sheet of paper.  "This" Horace (though not "the" 
this poem) ruminates over the shadow his predecessors throw over his pen 
and paper, just as Durrell seems to be doing, until the moment of 
rupture appears through the curt marginalia someone left.

Moreover, "this" Horace's predecessors are "stainless," and I'd have to 
ask why Durrell's Horace must then be presumed to be "stained" by this 
poem?  I particularly like, however, the way that the poet reading the 
book and marginalia revised and corrects the unjust and cruel comments 
made in that margin, yet another margin, by the woman who left her book 
behind.  Horace's poets are stainless, yet her Loeb edition of Horace 
has stained margins -- it's as if Horace could contemplate and she could 
only put her pen down in the margin to leave a stain.

More than that, Durrell has only a "barbarian grammar" for his poetry, 
and even that is derivative of Horace's "mason's tongue."  This Horace 
has faults and bitterness, but after all, elsewhere in the same book of 
poetry, Durrell describes poetry as a sickness shared among the unhappy.

Bruce, I'd like to know more closely how you see the debunking of Horace 
here.  We'll surely disagree, but wouldn't it be nice to disagree more 
precisely -- that said, I don't want to steal the thunder from your 
forthcoming piece, which I'll look forward to adding to the bibliography.


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