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.



BkII:XVI Contentment


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

shine uncertainly:


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

altogether blessed.


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:

African purple


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.