nat markey

Translation Station: The Tricky Relationship Between Horace’s Poetry and a Few Well-Known English Translations

Nat Markey '20

The Project

I have always been really interested in translating Latin. Breaking the code of the language and putting it back together in English, which is pretty hard to do because they’re pretty different languages. I took a poet, Horace, a great poet, and I focused on one of his odes, and then I read that closely, read some well-known English translations and looked at similarities and differences, through time periods and by different translators, and then for the culminating project I made my own translation.

What I Learned

I was surprised by the wide variety of English translations I encountered of identical Latin words. Even in the very first lines of the Horace Ode, the translations I read immediately diverged in rhythm, phrasing, sentence structure, and nuanced meaning. Every translator was able to capture some aspects of Horace’s composition while forfeiting others. I anticipated this disparity to some extent, but the magnitude of differences (and of creative choices) in each translation definitely surpassed my expectations.