Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Bandusian spring

O fons Bandusiae, splendidior uitro,
dulci digne mero non sine floribus,
cras donaberis haedo,
cui frons turgida cornibus...
- Horace, Ode 3.13
Landscape poetry often evokes the sounds of nature and it would be interesting to take a subject like rivers and survey the ways words have been used to convey the different forms a river can take, from spring to sea. Modern writers like Ezra Pound, Louis Zukofsky and Basil Bunting have considered sound and musicality central to poetry, even to the extent that an audience can take pleasure from verse in another language when they do not understand the meaning of the words. Bunting once said ‘... all my life, since I was a youngster, I wanted to do the ‘O fons bandusaie’ and I can’t even get the first line. Like nearly all the great poets, Horace depended on sound and the ‘O fons Bandusiae creates throughout, but especially in the first lines, the actual sound of the running water of a stream. You might be able to create a spring in English, perhaps if you were skilful and able, but it wouldn’t bear any resemblance, however unique, to Horace’s sounds’ (quoted in Victoria Forde’s Basil Bunting).

The full text of Horace’s poem can be seen here along with various translations (including one by William Ewart Gladstone!) There are also a couple of paragraphs from Norman Douglas’s Old Calabria - he spends a chapter looking for the Bandusian spring. Gilbert Highet, whose visit to the springs of Clitumnus, I’ve mentioned here before, also went looking for the site of the poem. ‘We came to a slope, from which rushes a stream of clear water, absolutely clear and transparent, and – even in July, under the burning Dog-star – deliciously cold... This little place, because of Horace’s eloquence, became one of the ideal spots in the imagination of thousands of readers. It is not wildly romantic: not a savage place, holy and enchanted, beset by demoniac presences; nor even hallowed by the memory of a thirsty hero or a benign nymph or a saintly hermit. It is merely a spring, quiet and beautiful.’

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reference:- Edward Edmund Kemp