Horace, Odes (tr. A.S. Kline)
BkII:III One Ending
When things are troublesome, always remember,
keep an even mind, and in prosperity
be careful of too much happiness:
since my Dellius, you're destined to die,
whether you live a life that's always sad,
or reclining, privately, on distant lawns,
in one long holiday, take delight
in drinking your vintage Falernian.
Why do tall pines, and white poplars, love to merge
their branches in the hospitable shadows?
Why do the rushing waters labour
to hurry along down the winding rivers?
Tell them to bring us the wine, and the perfume,
and all-too-brief petals of lovely roses,
while the world, and the years, and the dark
threads of the three fatal sisters allow.
You'll leave behind all those meadows you purchased,
your house, your estate, yellow Tiber washes,
you'll leave them behind, your heir will own
those towering riches you've piled so high.
Whether you're rich, of old Inachus's line,
or live beneath the sky, a pauper, blessed with
humble birth, it makes no difference:
you'll be pitiless Orcus's victim.
We're all being driven to a single end,
all our lots are tossed in the urn, and, sooner
or later, they'll emerge, and seat us
in Charon's boat for eternal exile.
BkII:VII A Friend Home From the Wars
O Pompey, often led, with me, by Brutus,
the head of our army, into great danger,
who's sent you back, as a citizen,
to your country's gods and Italy's sky,
Pompey, the very dearest of my comrades,
with whom I've often drawn out the lingering
day in wine, my hair wreathed, and glistening
with perfumed balsam, of Syrian nard?
I was there at Philippi, with you, in that
headlong flight, sadly leaving my shield behind,
when shattered Virtue, and what threatened
from an ignoble purpose, fell to earth.
While in my fear Mercury dragged me, swiftly,
through the hostile ranks in a thickening cloud:
the wave was drawing you back to war,
carried once more by the troubled waters.
So grant Jupiter the feast he's owed, and stretch
your limbs, wearied by long campaigning, under
my laurel boughs, and don't spare the jars
that were destined to be opened by you.
Fill the smooth cups with Massic oblivion,
pour out the perfume from generous dishes,
Who'll hurry to weave the wreathes for us
of dew-wet parsley or pliant myrtle?
Who'll throw high Venus at dice and so become
the master of drink? I'll rage as insanely
as any Thracian: It's sweet to me
to revel when a friend is home again.
BkII:X The Golden Mean
You'll live more virtuously, my Murena,
by not setting out to sea, while you're in dread
of the storm, or hugging fatal shores
too closely, either.
Whoever takes delight in the golden mean,
safely avoids the squalor of a shabby house,
and, soberly, avoids the regal palace
that incites envy.
The tall pine's more often shaken by the wind,
and it's a high tower that falls with a louder
crash, while the mountainous summits are places
where lightning strikes.
The heart that is well prepared for any fate
hopes in adversity, fears prosperity.
Though Jupiter brings us all the unlovely
winters: he also
takes them away again. If there's trouble now
it won't always be so: sometimes Apollo
rouses the sleeping Muse with his lyre, when he's
not flexing his bow.
Appear brave and resolute in difficult
times: and yet be wise and take in all your sails
when they're swollen by too powerful
a following wind.
BkII:XIV Eheu Fugaces
Oh how the years fly, Postumus, Postumus,
they're slipping away, virtue brings no respite
from the wrinkles that furrow our brow,
impending old age, Death the invincible:
not even, my friend, if with three hundred bulls
every day, you appease pitiless Pluto,
jailor of three-bodied Geryon,
who imprisons Tityos by the sad
stream, that every one of us must sail over,
whoever we are that enjoy earth's riches,
whether we're wealthy, or whether we are
the most destitute of humble farmers.
In vain we'll escape from bloodiest warfare,
from the breakers' roar in the Adriatic,
in vain, on the autumn seas, we'll fear
the southerly that shatters our bodies:
We're destined to gaze at Cocytus, winding,
dark languid river: the infamous daughters
of Danaus: and at Sisyphus,
son of Aeolus, condemned to long toil.
We're destined to leave earth, home, our loving wife,
nor will a single tree, that you planted here,
follow you, it's briefly-known master,
except for the much-detested cypress.
A worthier heir will drink your Caecuban,
that cellar a hundred keys are protecting,
and stain the street with a vintage wine,
finer than those at the Pontiff's table.
It's peace the sailor asks of the gods, when he's
caught out on the open Aegean, when dark clouds
have hidden the moon, and the constellations
It's peace for Thrace, so furious in battle,
peace for the Parthians, adorned with quivers,
and, Grosphus, it can't be purchased with jewels,
or purple or gold.
No treasure, no consular attendants,
can remove the miserable mind's disorders,
and all of the cares that go flying around
our panelled ceilings.
He lives well on little, whose meagre table
gleams with his father's salt-cellar, whose soft sleep
isn't driven away by anxiety,
or by sordid greed
Why do we struggle so hard in our brief lives
for possessions? Why do we exchange our land
for a burning foreign soil? What exile flees
from himself as well?
Corrupting care climbs aboard the bronze-clad ship,
and never falls behind the troops of horses,
swifter than deer, swifter than easterly winds
that drive on the clouds.
Let the spirit be happy today, and hate
the worry of what's beyond, let bitterness
be tempered by a gentle smile. Nothing is
Bright Achilles was snatched away by swift death,
Tithonus was wasted by lingering old age:
perhaps the passing hour will offer to me
what it denies you.
A hundred herds of Sicilian cattle
low around you, mares fit for the chariot
bring you their neighing, you're dressed in wool:
has stained it twice: truthful Fates, 'the Sparing Ones',
the Parcae, gave me a little estate, and
the purified breath of Greek song, and my scorn
for the spiteful crowd.
BkII:XX Poetic Immortality
A poet of dual form, I won't be carried
through the flowing air on weak or mundane wings,
nor will I linger down here on earth,
for any length of time: beyond envy,
I'll leave the cities behind. It's not I, born
of poor parents, it's not I, who hear your voice,
beloved Maecenas, I who'll die,
or be encircled by Stygian waters.
Even now the rough skin is settling around
my ankles, and now above them I've become
a snow-white swan, and soft feathers are
emerging over my arms and shoulders.
Soon, a melodious bird, and more famous
than Icarus, Daedalus' son, I'll visit
Bosphorus' loud shores, Gaetulian
Syrtes, and the Hyperborean plains.
Colchis will know me, so will the Scythians,
who pretend to show no fear of Italian
troops, and the Geloni: Spain will learn
from me, the expert, and those who drink Rhone.
No dirges at my insubstantial funeral,
no elegies, and no unseemly grieving:
suppress all the clamour, not for me
the superfluous honour of a tomb.