Horace and the Daily Constitutional

O fons Bandusiae” is the entirety of what I remember of this ode from Horace. In my mind it is linked to possibly the worst head cold I ever had in my life during an examination, and a rather strange “D” symbol next to the word “Latin” on my O-level result slip back in the previous century, due in part, no doubt, to the worst translation of anything I have ever done. At least it is buried in some archive somewhere – or perhaps now has found a more appropriate home in some landfill in England.

This phrase is also is a poetic reminder that you cannot remember what you never learnt in the first place. Loads of interesting stuff on this link, by the way. If anyone ever feels inclined to resuscitate their love of Latin, this may well be a good place to start. Rather curiously, I find it easier now to commit things to memory now than I did when I first encountered Horace, double entendre entendu.

You might think I am being all very literary, and high brow. Not at all. I only recalled these oft-muttered words quoted at the outset because I could not remember this morning who exactly recounted a tale of some famous figure, possibly from 19th century Britain (may have been Scottish), who had a high regard for Horace but not much respect for the paper on which his Odes were printed. He kept a volume of Horace in his outhouse, where, enthroned in magnificent solitude every morning, he would memorise what he read – instantly, apparently – whereupon he would tear the pages from his precious volume and use them as toilet paper. Such strength of mind is admirable!

Learning things by heart seems to have gone out of fashion, except amongst those who have yearnings for theatrical greatness. Singing has a mnemonic function, as tribes with an oral tradition (and not much written down, even in the 21st century) know, as does poetry. Try saying something that you have learnt as a song; you will soon discover you do not know the words as well as all that.

A poem is a song not yet set to music. Make up your own, or use the intrinsic musicality of the words to help you remember. I reckon I will find one I have never seen before, and learn it today, so that I have one more thing in my arsenal for that unlikely day in the future when I might find myself alone in an empty room.


The word in bold appeared in the previous post.

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