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Poems and Translations

Selected Odes of Horace

To Leuconoe

“Tu ne quæsieris (scire nefas)”
          Lib. I

Forbear to ask! ’tis vain to know
What doom th’ impartial gods bestow;
Nor seek a Syrian Augur’s aid,
To pierce the deep and sacred shade:
The placid Sage securely sees,
Whate’er unchanging fate decrees.

Then whether thirty winters more
Adorn with snow your temples hoar;
Or this, whose raving tempests urge,
O’er Baia’s* rocks the Tuscan surge,
Shall be your last—be wise, and taste
Your treasur’d wine with generous haste.
While thus in words we waste the day,
Our youthful summer steals away!
Does life, brief life! afford us scope
For anxious care and distant hope?
Ah! first the smiling hour arrest,
Nor wait to-morrow to be blest!

* This famous winter retreat of the old Romans stood on the shore of a bay about two miles and a half from Puzzuoli, near Naples. Not the least vestige of it remains.


To His Cupbearer

“Persicos odi, puer, apparatus.”
          Lib. I

Persian pomp, my boy, I scorn;
Why this fading crown compose?
Ask not on what lonely thorn,
Summer leaves her latest rose.
Now no more with lavish care,
Strive the myrtle to adorn:
Round our brows its honours twine;
Sweet its smiles on mine and thine,
While those hands the bowl prepare,
While the balmy juice I share,
Stretch’d beneath a mantling vine.


To Dellius

“Æquam memento
Servare mentem.”
       Lib. II

Above capricious fate’s contoul,
Preserve, my friend, an equal soul;
Amidst the toys of shining state,
Still be that soul serenely great.
This life, this cherish’d life must end,
Whether to empty cares consign’d:
Our barren moments waste away,
Or on sequester’d turf reclin’d,
Warm’d by the treasure of the vine,
We give to joy the festive day,
Where fondly with the ample pine,
The poplar’s silver tendrils blend;
While with slow lapse and suasive sound
Yon limpid fountain wanders round.
Yet call for odours, call for wine,
Here bring the brief but balmy rose;
While yet our brittle thread is twin’d,
Ere time and fortune are our foes!
Too soon to eager heirs resign’d,
On you these princely gates shall close
For you the Tiber’s saffron tide,
Shall leave these rural shades no more;
This dome shall be another’s pride,
And other grasp your golden store!
Tho’ from the far-fam’d Argive king,
Or from plebeian dust we spring;
Or tho’ beneath th’ unshelt’ring sky,
A prey to cruel fate we lie;
Alike our destin’d path is spread,
Our lots in equal order fall;
Alike to gloomy Styx convey’d,
Eternal exile waits us all!


To Quintus Hirpinus

“Quod bellicosus Cantaber et Scythes.”
           Lib. II

Can all the fierce Cantabrian dares,
Or Scythia’s frozen race prepares,
 Invade a Roman’s rest?
No, while between their hostile shores,
Her tide majestic Adria pores,
 Be careless and be blest!

Does scanty life our cares requite?
Joy’s vital glow and Beauty’s light,
 Relentless age denies;
Relentless age! whose iron reign,
The Graces and the Loves disdain,
 And light-wing’d slumber flies!

The rose its envied bloom resigns,
The moon with less’ning splendor shines,
 Nor boasts a constant ray;
Then why to ceaseless toil condemn
The soul, whose pure and radiant gem
 Too swiftly wears away!

Let us, Hirpinus, stretch’d supine,
When the rich plane and ample pine,
 Their velvet foliage wreathe;
Our cares in Tuscan nectar drown,
Our silver locks with roses crown,
 And Syrian odours breathe:

Come too, consuming sorrow’s foe,
Brisk Ævius, bid th’ Ambrosia flow,
 The chosen flask produce:
Can nimbler hands the goblet fill,
Or in the liquid crystal chill,
 Falernia’s flaming juice?

And haste! the devious nymph invite,
Bid Lyce, queen of new delight,
 Awake her polish’d lyre:
Bid her with frolic art prepare,
In Spartan wreaths her wand’ring hair,
 And mirth and love inspire.


To a Fountain

“O Fons Blanusiæ!...”
        Lib. III

Pure crystal fount, Blandusia’s pride!
For thee our rich libation flows,
For their the captive kid we wound,
His budding brow with garlands crown’d,
And while with love and rage he glows,
His blood shall warm thy gentle tide!
Far from the flaming dog-star’s sway,
Thy shades the fervid hour allay;
The vagrant flock and weary team
Seek the cool banquet of thy stream:
And Fame thy lov’d retreat shall trace,
When yon proud oak shall be my theme,
Whose arms thy parent rock embrace:
While from its arch with tuneful trills
Thy tide of liquid pearl distils.


Ode 11

(Another version)

What ire in dark Cantabria glows,
What treasons lurk ’midst Scythian snows,
Avails not us to learn:
Here, while between their hostile shores
Her tide pacific Adria pours,
Let Pleasure’s altar burn.
Life asks but little—lo! how soon
Brief Beauty’s smile,—its sweetest boon,
Relentless age denies. &c.


To Apollo

“Quid dedicatum poscit Apollinem Vates?...”
            Ode XXXI

What asks the poet at thy shrine,
Apollo! pouring generous wine?
Not rich Sardinia’s saffron fields,
Not the warm gifts Calabria yields:
Nor hoarded gold nor iv’ry fair
The Indian hunter’s precious care,
Delights him—nor yon vallies gay
Where silent Liris* steals her way.

Thy purple wealth, Calenian wine!
To fortune’s favour’d sons resign;
Let golden cups with nectar fraught
By sable Syria’s treasures bought,
Enrich the lip of him who rides
Triumphant o’er Atlantic tides
Thrice in the quick-revolving year,
A mortal to Immortals dear.

These humble herbs, this olive’s store
Supply my feast, I ask no more.
For me, Latona! may thy son
Preserve the wealth my fathers won:
Let health her glowing roses give,
Still may my soul unfetter’d live;
Then while my honour’d years descend,
Give me my lyre—my wishes end!

* Now called the Carigliano.