In World War II General Heinrich Kreipe, the German military Governor of Crete, was kidnapped by the British in a daring raid by a Special Operations Executive team, led by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
The story is that General Kreipe, when being conducted up Mount Ida by his British captors, gazed at the snow-covered peak and murmured the words of Horace’s ode Ad Thaliarchum, beginning:
“Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Patrick Leigh Fermor then recited the rest of it. The shared experience of Classical learning formed an improbable bond between the two.
The whole event is narrated in Ill met by Moonlight by W S Moss, widely popularised in the film of the same name (Dirke Bogarde, of course)…
Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte nec iam sustineant onus
silvae laborantes geluque
flumina constiterint acuto?
dissolve frigus ligna super foco
large reponens atque benignius
deprome quadrimum Sabina,
o Thaliarche, merum diota.
permitte divis cetera, qui simul
stravere ventos aequore fervido
deproeliantis, nec cupressi
nec veteres agitantur orni.
quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere et
quem Fors dierum cumque dabit, lucro
adpone nec dulcis amores
sperne puer neque tu choreas,
donec virenti canities abest
morosa. nunc et campus et areae
lenesque sub noctem susurri
conposita repetantur hora,
nunc et latentis proditor intumo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo
pignusque dereptum lacertis
aut digito male pertinaci.
See, how it stands, one pile of snow,
Soracte! ‘neath the pressure yield
Its groaning woods; the torrents’ flow
With clear sharp ice is all congeal’d.
Heap high the logs, and melt the cold,
Good Thaliarch; draw the wine we ask,
That mellower vintage, four-year-old,
From out the cellar’d Sabine cask.
The future trust with Jove; when he
Has still’d the warring tempests’ roar
On the vex’d deep, the cypress-tree
And aged ash are rock’d no more.
O, ask not what the morn will bring,
But count as gain each day that chance
May give you; sport in life’s young spring,
Nor scorn sweet love, nor merry dance,
While years are green, while sullen eld
Is distant. Now the walk, the game,
The whisper’d talk at sunset held,
Each in its hour, prefer their claim.
Sweet too the laugh, whose feign’d alarm
The hiding-place of beauty tells,
The token, ravish’d from the arm
Or finger, that but ill rebels.
Chosen by Nicholas Debenham. The translation is from Perseus.
The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.