Latin ode to Hester Thrale
On 6 September 1775 Samuel Johnson wrote a Latin Ode to Thrale whilst on a tour of the Scottish Shetlands.
I am not a Thrale but found your website enthralling. I hope my attempt at verse will please some of your readers.
Dr. Johnson is arguing that the tough, squalid and filthy life that a crofter was compelled to lead precluded all culture. The Sapphic verse is a metre perhaps invented by Sappho, the Greek poetess of Lesbos, which was taken into Latin by Catullus and later, with brilliant success, by Horace. Johnson uses it here and I have attempted to use it here in an English dress.
|Permeo terras, ubi nuda rupes
Saxeas miscet nebulis ruinas,
Torva ubi rident steriles coloni
|Through lands I travel, where the naked cliff-top
Merges in cloud its stark and craggy ruins,
Where the stern landscape ridicules the crofter's
|Pervagor gentes, hominum ferorum
Vita ubi nullo decorata culto,
Squallet informis, tigurique fumis
|Through tribes I wander where barbarian clansmen
Live a rude life, unbeautified by culture,
Squalid, distorted, by but-and-ben's1 thick vapours2
Eclipsed and filthy.
|Inter erroris salebrosa long,
Inter ignotae strepitus loquelae,
Quot modis mecum, quid agat requiro,
|Through all the joltings of a lengthy journey
Through all the babel of an unknown language
In countless ways I ask myself the question:
"How's my sweet Thralia?"
|Seu viri curas pia nupta multe,
Seu fovet mater sobolem benigna,
Sive cum libris novitate pascit
|Whether, as good wife, she soothes her husband's worries,
Whether, as mother, gently tends her offspring,
Whether, as scholar, feasts her mind on reading
Gaining new knowledge:
|Sit memor nostri, fideique merce,
Stet fides constans, meritoque blandum
Thraliae discant resonare nomen
|May she remember me! Be her faith rewarded!
Her faith stand firm; and deservedly enchanting
The name of Thralia, learn, Skye, to re-echo
Through all your headlands!
- 1. 'But-and-ben' is the traditional crofter's cottage in the Highlands of Scotland. It translates the Latin 'tugurium' which means 'cottage'. Johnson wanted to make the point that the tough, grimy and squalid crofter's life stymied all culture.
- 2. The 'thick vapours' is the Latin 'fumis', which means 'smokings'. Dr. Johnson is referring to the black soot which is characteristic of the old croft's walls and general interior.
|Henry Thrale M.P.
1724/9 - 2 May 1821
|Henry Thrale||Images · Family tree · Father: Ralph Thrale M.P. · Homes · H. Thrale & Co. brewery · Parliamentary career · Pets · Travels · Coaching accident · Ill health · Death · Mourning tablet · Burial vault · Will · Testimonials|
|Hester Salusbury||Courtship · Marriage dowry · Marriage · Children · 13th anniversary|
|People||Arthur Murphy · Samuel Johnson · Jeremiah Crutchley · Sir John Lade · Streatham Worthies · King Louis XVI & Queen Marie Antoinette|
|Writings about||Dr Johnson's 'Own Dear Master · The Thrales of Streatham Park · Three Centuries · Thraliana|
|Hester Lynch Thrale née Salusbury
1741 - 2 May 1821
|Hester Thrale||Images · Family tree · Homes · Works · Thraliana · Pets · Travels · 80th party · Criticism · Death · Obituaries|
|Henry Thrale||Courtship · Marriage dowry · Marriage · Children · 13th anniversary|
|Gabriel Piozzi||Marriage · 7th anniversary · Adopted son · Miscarried daughter|
|People||Samuel Johnson · Streatham Worthies · Proposal from Mr. Swale · King Louis XVI & Queen Marie Antoinette|
|Writings about||The Thrales of Streatham Park · Dr Johnsons Women · Intimate letters · Hester Lynch Piozzi · Dr Johnsons Women · Doctor Johnson's Mrs Thrale · By Samuel Johnson: Ode to · 35th verses · By Herbert Lawrence: Song to Hester|