Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace) was born in 65 BCE and studied in Rome and Athens. He was a friend of Vergil's and
through him became a beneficiary of Maecenas' patronage. He died in 8 BCE.
David R. Slavitt is a poet, novelist, translator, and journalist who has published more than 100 books. His latest volume is The Crooning Wind, a translation of three Greenlandic poets. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife and two cats.
Maecenas atavis edite regibus,
o et praesidium et dulce decus meum:
sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum
collegisse iuvat metaque fervidis
evitata rotis palmaque nobilis.
terrarum dominos evehit ad deos
hunc, si mobilium turba Quiritium
certat tergeminis tollere honoribus,
illum, si proprio condidit horreo
quidquid de Libycis verritur areis.
gaudentem patrios findere sarculo
agros Attalicis condicionibus
numquam demoveas, ut trabe Cypria
Myrtoum pavidus nauta secet mare.
luctantem Icariis fluctibus Africum
mercator metuens otium et oppidi
laudat rura sui; mox reficit rates
quassas indocilis pauperiem pati.
est qui nec veteris pocula Massici
nec partem solido demere de die
spernit, nunc viridi membra sub arbuto
stratus, nunc ad aquae lene caput sacrae.
multos castra iuvant et lituo tubae
permixtus sonitus bellaque matribus
detestata. manet sub Iove frigido
venator tenerae coniugis inmemor,
seu visa est catulis cerva fidelibus
seu rupit teretes Marsus aper plagas.
me doctarum hederae praemia frontium
dis miscent superis, me gelidum nemus
Nympharumque leves cum Satyris chori
secernunt populo, si neque tibias
Euterpe cohibet nec Polyhymnia
Lesboum refugit tendere barbiton.
quodsi me lyricis vatibus inseres,
sublimi feriam sidera vertice.
Maecenas, scion of kings, my great protector,
and author of all my achievements and my fame,
you know how some take pleasure at the track
when the chariots churn up Olympic dust
and the winner is raised up to be like a god
because of his horses’ strength and his driver’s skill
in just kissing the turning posts with his axles,
and the citizens give him the palm of triple honors;
another, who has been shrewd and has stored up
Libyan wheat in his granary achieves
a momentary renown. The cautious peasant,
breaking the clods in his field, never gives thought
to Attalus’ brave exploits nor does he imagine
sailing in Cyprian ships. The nervous merchant,
worried about the tricky African winds,
envies that farmer but not his poverty
and after disaster rebuilds his shattered ships
to regain what he’s lost. Another likes
his cups of Massic wine and lies on the grass
for much of the day in the arbutus’ shade
or near some babbling brook. Others there are
who love the sound of trumpets, the danger of battle,
and the risks that wives and mothers hate. Hunters
out in the woods, under the frozen skies,
never troubled by their wives’ reproaches,
are eager for the hounds to sound their cries
at having caught sight of a deer or a wild boar
struggling in the meshes of rope nets.
My predilection is learning, the scholar’s ivy,
which raises me to the gods in their groves on high
where dancing nymphs and satyrs invite me to join them,
leaving the crowds behind me and below.
If Euterpe lends me her flute and Polyhymnia
strums on her Lesbian lyre in my behalf,
and if you, my friend and patron, enter my name
in the lists of lyric poets, I shall soar up
to feel my head tingle, touching the stars.
Solvitur acris hiems grata vice veris et Favoni
trahuntque siccas machinae carinas
ac neque iam stabulis gaudet pecus aut arator igni
nec prata canis albicant pruinis.
iam Cytherea choros ducit Venus imminente luna
iunctaeque Nymphis Gratiae decentes
alterno terram quatiunt pede, dum gravis Cyclopum
Volcanus ardens visit officinas.
nunc decet aut viridi nitidum caput impedire myrto
aut flore, terrae quem ferunt solutae,
nunc et in umbrosis Fauno decet immolare lucis,
seu poscat agna sive malit haedo.
pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
regumque turris. o beate Sesti,
vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam;
iam te premet nox fabulaeque Manes
et domus exilis Plutonia; quo simul mearis,
nec regna vini sortiere talis
nec tenerum Lycidan mirabere, quo calet iuventus
nunc omnis et mox virgines tepebunt.
Winter loosens its icy grip and the western winds
announce the spring: sailors drag the their vessels
down to the water; the flocks are freed from their pens;
the plowman leaves his hearth to turn the earth
no longer clad in morning hoarfrost; and Venus calls
her dancers into the moonlight. The Graces come
to join with the Nymphs in their intricate steps. Vulcan rouses
and stokes his forge’s fires deep in his cave.
We pay our respects to the season, bedecking our heads with garlands
of green myrtle or whatever flowers we find
from the barely thawed earth. Now is the time to give thanks
with sacrifice to Faunus of lamb or kid.
Death with his impartial foot knocks at the door
of the poor man’s hovel or prince’s imposing gate.
Sestus, my dear friend, the span of our lives is brief
and whatever the time of day, the night comes on
to crush our spirits in Pluto’s insubstantial halls
where no one can drink wine or play at dice
or ogle Lycidas for whom the boys now burn
as the girls will too as he sparks their tender tinder.
Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa
perfusus liquidis urget odoribus
grato, Pyrrha, sub antro?
cui flavam religas comam
simplex munditiis? heu quotiens fidem
mutatosque deos flebit et aspera
nigris aequora ventis
qui nunc te fruitur credulus aurea,
qui semper vacuam, semper amabilem
sperat, nescius aurae
fallacis. miseri, quibus
intemptata nites. me tabula sacer
votiva paries indicat uvida
vestimenta maris deo.
Ah, the poor slip of a youth supposes
that bed of fragrant rose petals is real
in the grotto where he lies
for the moment with pretty Pyrrha
with her godlike nimbus of hair of molten gold.
But he will learn that time and the gods are fickle
and, in bad weather, try
to believe this happened to him.
Now he is blinded by dazzle: let him enjoy it.
If he is wise he will not become embittered
by the loss of the fragrance of roses
the breezes will blow away.
As for me, I have hung my seagoing gear
and dripping garments up on the wall of the temple
in thanks that I have survived
all those terrible storms.