How to Make a Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem

The Latin saying Carpe Diemwho deals with Pick the day and Enjoy the day translates, goes on the odeTo Leukonoë back, which was written by the ancient poet Horace around 23 BC. Chr. In the last line of verse of the odenstrophe you can find the well-known word order. This represents an appeal to enjoy the short time in life and not to postpone it until tomorrow. The saying has become a winged word and is sometimes also called Carpe Diem reproduced. However, this translation does not entirely meet the intention that Horace with the words Carpe Diem pursued.

Carpe Diem at Horace

Horace(65 BC - 8 BC), actually Quintus Horatius Flaccus, is one of the most important poets of the Augustan era alongside Virgil, Properz, Tibullus and Ovid. Horace ‘artistic oeuvre contains numerous odes, some satires as well as several letter poems, which as Epistles have become known. There are many expressions in the works that are now popular words (cf. sapere aude, in medias res).

Horace also wrote four books of poetry, which were published as Liber I – IV and contain a total of 104 poems which were published as Carmina are designated. The eleventh poem of the first book, Carmen I, 11, is the ode To Leukonoëwhose last verse in the original looks like this:


[…] Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

This line can be with Enjoy the day and trust as little as possible in the following! translate. The whole thing can be interpreted as an appeal to live your own life in the moment and not think about tomorrow, whereby the positive aspects of life should always be considered. It is essential here that the verb carpe basically pick means, so only figuratively as enjoy is to be interpreted.

At this point, becomes the difference to the word use clear. Because if you enjoy the day, you let it sink in with joy and wellbeing. But if you use something, you make it as effective as possible and try to achieve a certain goal. Whoever uses something to achieve a goal, however, does not live in the moment, but thinks of the following. However, that would contradict Horace's intention.


Carmen I, 11


Tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. Ut melius quicquid erit pati!
Seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum, sapias, vina liques et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.


Note: Incidentally, the above ode follows a rare meter of ancient poetry. This is the meter asclepiadeus maior, which corresponds to the pattern - - | - v v - | - v v - | - v v - | v x corresponds to (- stressed, v unstressed, x syllaba anceps, i.e. a stressed or unstressed syllable).

Carmen I, 11


Do not ask (because an answer is impossible) which end the gods for me, which end they give you,
Leukonoe, and don't try Babylonian calculations!
How much better it is to endure whatever is to come!
No matter whether Jupiter has assigned you more winters or whether this one now,
who just lets the Tyrrhenian Sea crash against the cliffs, your last is
do not be stupid, filter the wine and forego any further reaching hope!
While we are still talking, the unfortunate time has already fled:
Enjoy the day and trust as little as possible in the following!

Horatius travestitus I, 11th


Don't ask questions! Don't worry about the day!
Martha! Don't go any more, please, to the stupid gypsy!
Take your lot as it falls! Dear God, if this year is the last
that sees us together, or whether we are old like Methuselah
become: just see: that, dear darling, is not in our power.
Have fun and enjoy the wine and confectionery as before!
Sighing makes me nervous. But that's it! All of this is a waste of time!
Kiss me, mon amie! Today is today! Après nous le déluge!


Note: The above parody of the ode is by the German poet Christian Morgenstern, who is best known for his comic poetry (cf. Nonsense, Concrete Poetry). Morgenstern's work not only imitates the basic structure of the original, but even imitates the rare meter.

Carpe Diem and the baroque

Baroque is an era in European art history that lasted from around 1575 to 1770. The baroque spread from Italy all over Europe, with three motifs of transience as its basis: Vanitas, Memento mori and Carpe diem.

Vanitas, that deals with empty glow or Nullity can be translated is a word that stands for the transience of the earthly, whereby the main thing is that humans have no power over life. This motif is often shown directly through a strong imagery, such as the depiction of skulls or hourglasses, or expressed indirectly through naming.

Memento mori, a phrase that remember that you have to die means, grasps the basic idea of ​​the transitory again. Here, too, the focus is on one's own death and the reminder that everything earthly will pass away at some point. The transience of life is also taken up by the words, which is why the last motif of that time is only a logical consequence.

Carpe Diem! Because if everything is fleeting, so one's own life is not in the power of the person, he must be in the Here and now, so live in the moment and enjoy the day and don't care about tomorrow. The Baroque motifs mentioned are therefore all appeals to humanity to enjoy the moment and experience the present in all its fullness.

Brief overview: The most important things about the Latin saying at a glance
  • Carpe Diem is a Latin word sequence that goes back to the ancient poet Horace and is related to Pick the day translates. In a figurative sense, the whole can be called Enjoy the day interpreted, whereas the long-running translation Carpe Diem partially bypasses the intention of the poet, since enjoyment is no longer in the foreground.
  • The Latin expression was best known in the Baroque, an epoch of European art history, and formed part of it Vanitas and Memento mori the central motifs of that time. These motifs can be clearly identified in the literary products of the epoch, for example in the sonnets of Andreas Gryphius, as well as in art.
  • The linguistic equivalent to Carpe Diem forms the turn carpe noctem. This saying goes with pick or enjoy the night translate. This sequence of words has no equivalent in the literature, but is only derived from the phrase Carpe Diem from.

  • Note: All sorts of other expressions in Latin can be traced back to Horace, such as the terms in medias res or ab ovo, which mean narrative techniques, as well as the well-known sapere aude, which became the leitmotif of the Enlightenment.