Horace: The Epistles

Book I: Epistle III

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2005 All Rights Reserved

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BkIEpIII:1-36 To a friend campaigning with Tiberius

Julius Florus I’m anxious to know whereabouts

Augustus ’ stepson Tiberius is campaigning.

Does Thrace entertain you, the Hebrus, constrained

By bonds of snow, the straits between the two towers,

Or Asia Minor with its fertile plains and hills?

What works are his learned staff penning? This too,

Who’s chosen to record Augustus’ initiatives?

Who’s proclaiming war and peace to distant ages?

What about Titius, soon to arrive on Roman lips?

He’s dared to disdain the common ponds and streams,

Unafraid of drinking from the Pindaric source.

How is he? Does he speak of me? Blessed by the Muse,

Does he work to fit Theban measures to Latin lyres,

Or is he raging and thundering in tragic mode?

What’s Celsus doing? He was warned, and he often

Needs warning, to depend more on inner resources,

And keep from fingering the books Apollo’s received

For the Palatine library, lest when the birds some day

Flock to reclaim their plumage, the little crow stripped

Of his stolen colours is jeered. And what do you dare?

What thyme do you buzz among? You’ve no small gift,

It’s not coarse, or uncultivated, or unsightly.

You’ll bear first prize, the victor’s ivy, whether you whet

Your tongue for the courts, or advise on civil law,

Or compose delightful verse. Yet if you could shed

Your care, that cold compress, you could travel

To the place where heavenly wisdom leads you.

Let us, great or small, further this task, these studies,

If we wish to be dear to our country and ourselves.

Reply concerning this too, do you care as much as

You should for Munatius: or does your friendship

Badly stitched, knit together in vain then tear apart?

Yet, whether it’s your hot blood or your inexperience

Spurs on you wild and untamed horses, and wherever

You may be, both too noble to break brotherhood’s bond,

A sacrificial heifer’s fattening, for your return.

End of Book I Epistle III