Buildings (writers' immortality)

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on February 1, 2008 0 Comments

Talking about critique in
the Gather Essentials: Books group
again this week, I remembered
an old set of variations on a famous
ode of the Latin (Roman) writer
Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus),
which later writers (perhaps including Shakespeare in his Sonnet 74) often embraced for its sentiments:

I have built myself a monument more lasting than bronze…
I shall not entirely die…

Shakespeares more intimate lines are:

My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.

It was Pushkin’s version which brought the original to my attention.
Here’s the Latin original and an unidentified translation.

My three runs at it:

Variations on a theme of Horace
(“Exegi monumentum…”)


i – impromptu

a monument i’ve built
beyond all measure
increased by either toil or leisure
which therefore sadly gives no pleasure

(the verses cease, unable, as you see,
to keep pace with the extension and rami-
fication of the author’s monument, other-
wise briefly described in A Thorough,
Instantaneous and Circumstantial Account
of My Thought and Doings, volume 3


ii – tomb

a monument i build
it is my own, it is for me

rising from silent mists
its footing is not seen, nor to the eye
is any form revealed above that fog

its presence undeniable, still it
no wonderment provokes, this monument to be

all pleasure of uncertainty
of size, of line, can thus
to me accrue, exclusively


iii – for the desert

a monument i’ll raise, impertinent
to my small world, unbounded and
unweathered by the seas of time

for when the dust reclaims
my share of space
and winds sweep over
plastic plains
by my form

then, even, will a living mind
attune with present wit
to this refrain


(c) John Harris Beck

About the Author ()

Words and ideas, head and heart, nature and nurture, global and local

Leave a Reply