Epode XIV: Billy Talks of Love
[Why am I So Ineffective?]
‘The opening word Mollis (soft, effeminate, inert) is a key term for the Epodes.
The point of the poem is that the writer is distracted by love/love-
poetry : the deus of line 6 is Cupid, and Horace suggests that both he and Maecenas are in love, and that writing love-poetry/being in love is what prevents him (Horace) from finishing his book. Maecenas is not writing love-poetry but is teased for being in love himself.
Horace’s poem says “I’m in love like a great Greek poet used to be, and so are you, Maecenas. You enjoy your better love: I’m in love with the promiscuous Phryne”’. (1)
‘the roller: The Roman book was a scroll on rollers. “To reach the roller” therefore means to get to the end of the book.’ (2)
Phyrne is a slave/tart name, which is why I introduce a local ‘bike’ here.
In the original it is Maecenas who is pressing Horace to finish his current poetry book – here I get Mrs L (whom I have likened to Maecenas in other poems in this collection) to exercise some pressure on Billy by nagging that his men aren’t spending enough in her shop.
Of course Billy is a union man and not a poet. And because the element of being diverted from finishing a project is key to original, I make the task he’s unable to finish into Union business, in other words he can’t concentrate his efforts into upping their wages, because he’s distracted by love.
(1) Harrison, S.J. (in personal correspondence)
(2) West, D. The Complete Odes and Epodes (1997) Oxford University Press: Oxford. (p.138)