It is very common to hear the expression Carpe Diem, but what does Carpe Diem mean? It means “seize the occasion, enjoy the moment”. In short, it means: “don’t ask what our future will be; accept what is coming and since life is short, enjoy what you can now”.
One of the advantages that ancient poets and writers in general have is that their work is not as extensive as some of the modern writers. So if we wanted, we could read their complete poetry in a few days. To the requirement of classical perfection, which only allows a very polished production, we have to add the havoc of time that makes us to have lost many extraordinary creations.
Who said the phrase Carpe Diem?
One of the most notable poets for his maturity and reasonable epicureanism is Horatio (Quintus Horatius Flaccus).
He is the author, among several other famous ones, of the phrase carpe diem, quoted to satiety, used and abused constantly since Antiquity.
Horace uses it in his Ode number 11 of the book I. The poem, which has only eight verses, is dedicated to a woman, Leucónoe, who some authors interpret as “the lucid-minded one”, to whom perhaps he makes a subtle insinuation of love.
The poet explains very well the meaning of Carpe Diem in his Ode number 11, and although poetry, and more so ancient poetry, has certain difficulties in understanding, I will offer the text in Spanish and also in Latin, in case anyone has the opportunity to read it in its original language, which is always the best, if possible.
Do not wonder (knowing it would be a sacrilege) what end
the gods have decided for you and me, Leuconoe;
or consult the Babylonian tablets *.
The best will be to bear whatever comes.
Whether Jupiter has still given us many winters
as if this, that now hits the porous rocks of the Tyrrhenian Sea,
is the latest in our lives, be wise, enjoy your wine
and do not have a long hope.
While we’re talking about, our time is escaping enviously.
Enjoy the moment and trust in the future the least as possible.
(* the horoscope ….)
Tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
temptaris números. Vt melius quicquid erit pati!
Seu plouris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum, sapias, vina liques et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. Dum loquitur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam mínimum crédula postero.
Note: immemorial poem, immortal poem, as meaningful today as yesterday. We will often talk about Horace, the quiet poet, the poet of maturity.