Epode XIII: Billy Calls a Union Meeting at the Burton
Quoting Mankin (1995 p.214) Harrison points out that in this poem ‘…banal philosophising and use of a mythological exemplum involving a speech all look back to the Greek lyric poets and forward to Horace’s Odes. The poem finished with an upbeat and consoling message in the mouth of the Centaur Chiron (17-18)’ (1)
‘Spry: in Latin “green”
My Torquatus: dates, including the vintages of wine, were given by the names of the consuls of the year. The Torquati were a distinguished Roman family. Lucius Manlius Torquatus is called “my Torquatus” because he was consul in 65 BC, the year in which Horace was born. Wine made from grapes pressed in that year would have been 35 years old when these poems were published.
Cyllenian: Mount Cyllene in Arcadia was the birthplace of Mercury, who invented the lyre.
Centaur… Assaracus: Cheiron the Centaur was the tutor of the young Achilles. Here he prophesises that Achilles will die at Troy of which Assaracus, great-grandfather of Aeneas, had been king.’ (2)
This poem really does epitomise Horace’s ‘seize the day’ thinking. Because things look as if they are going to get rough Horace suggests, as he often does, that they drown their sorrows with wine.
Whereas the original prophesises that Achilles will die at Troy, in my version Billy, the Trade Union leader, prophesies the death of Head Wrightson’s works in Thornaby and along with it, the death of the surrounding community. He advises the men to drown their sorrows in beer.
(1) Harrison, S.J. Some Generic Problems in Horace’s Epodes: or, On (Not) Being Archilochus. http://users.ox.ac.uk/~sjh/document/epodes.doc (downloaded July, 2003)
(2) West, D. Horace: The Complete Odes and Epodes (1997) Oxford University Press: Oxford. (p.137-8)