Horace, Odes (tr. A.S. Kline)


BkIV:I Venus, be Merciful


Venus now you've returned again

to battles long neglected. Please, oh please, spare me.

I'm not prey to the power of kind

Cinara , as once I was. After fifty years,


cruel mother of sweet Cupids,

leave one now who's hardened to your soft commands:

take yourself there, where seductive

prayers, from the young men, invite you to return.


It would be better still for you,

lifted by wings of gleaming swans, to adventure

to Paulus Maximus's house,

if you want a worthy heart to set on fire.


Since he's noble and he's handsome,

and he's not un-eloquent, for anxious clients:

he's a lad of a hundred skills,

and he'll carry your army's standard far and wide:


and he'll laugh when he's successful

despite his rival's expensive gifts, and he'll raise,

just for you, by the Alban Lake,

a statue in marble, under a wooden roof.


You'll smell rich incense, and you'll take

delight in the notes of the lyre, when they're mingled

with the Berecyntian flute's,

and the sound of the reed pipes won't be absent, there:


while sweet, virgin girls celebrate

your power, there, twice every day, see the young boys

beat the ground with their snow-white feet,

in a triple measure, like Salian dancers.


Women and boys can't please me now,

nor those innocent hopes of mutual feeling,

nor wine-drinking competitions,

nor foreheads circled by freshly-gathered flowers.


But why, ah Ligurinus, why

should tears gather here on my cheeks, from time to time?

Why does my tongue, once eloquent,

fall indecorously silent while I'm speaking?


In dreams, at night, hard-hearted one,

I hold you prisoner, or follow you in flight,

over the grassy Fields of Mars,

or wing with you above the inconstant waters.



BkIV:VII Diffugere Nives


The snow has vanished, already the grass returns to the fields,

and the leaves to the branches:

earth alters its state, and the steadily lessening rivers

slide quietly past their banks:


The Grace, and the Nymphs, with both of her sisters, is daring enough,

leading her dancers, naked.

The year, and the hour that snatches the kindly day away, warn you:

don't hope for undying things.


Winter gives way to the westerly winds, spring's trampled to ruin

by summer, and in its turn

fruitful autumn pours out its harvest, barely a moment before

lifeless winter is back again.


Yet swift moons are always repairing celestial losses:

while, when we have descended

to virtuous Aeneas, to rich Tullus and Ancus, our kings,

we're only dust and shadow.


Who knows whether the gods above will add tomorrow's hours

to the total of today?

All those you devote to a friendly spirit will escape from

the grasping hands of your heirs.


When once you're dead, my Torquatus, and Minos pronounces

his splendid judgement on you,

no family, no eloquence, no righteousness even,

can restore you again:


Persephone never frees Hippolytus, chaste as he is,

from the shadow of darkness,

nor has Theseus, for his dear Pirithous, the power to

shatter those Lethean chains.