Horace: The Epistles

Book I: Epistle V

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

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BkIEpV:1-31 An invitation to dinner

If you can bear to recline at dinner on a couch

By Archias, and dine off a modest dish of greens,

Torquatus, I’ll expect to see you here at sunset.

You’ll drink wine bottled in Taurus’ second term,

Between marshy Minturnae, and Mount Petrinum

Near Sinuessa. If you’ve better, have it brought,

Or obey orders! The hearth’s bright, the furniture’s

Already been straightened. Forget airy hopes, the fight

For wealth, and Moschus’ case: tomorrow, Caesar’s birthday

Gives us a reason for sleeping late: we’re free to spend

A summer’s night in pleasant talk with impunity.

What’s the use of my fortune if I can’t enjoy it?

The man who scrimps and saves on behalf of his heirs,

Too much, is next to mad. I’ll start the drinking, scatter

Flowers, and even allow you to think me indiscreet.

What can’t drunkenness do? It unlocks secrets, and makes

Secure our hopes, urges the coward on to battle,

Lifts the weight from anxious hearts, teaches new skills.

Whom has the flowing wine-bowl not made eloquent?

Whom constrained by poverty has it not set free?

Here’s what, willing and able, I commit myself

To provide: no dirty seat-covers, no soiled napkins

To offend your nose, no plate or tankard where you can’t

See yourself, no one to carry abroad what’s spoken

Between good friends, so like may meet and be joined

To like. I’ll have Butra and Septicius for you,

And Sabinus unless he’s detained by a prior

Engagement, and a prettier girl. There’s room too

For your ‘shadows’: but goatish smells spoil overcrowded

Feasts. You reply with how many you want, then drop

Your affairs: out the back, evade the client in the hall!  

End of Book I Epistle V