Horace: The Epistles

Book I: Epistle X

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

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BkIEpX:1-25 The delights of Nature

To Fuscus the city-lover I the country-lover

Send greetings. To be sure in this one matter we

Differ much, but in everything else we’re like twins

With brothers’ hearts (if one says no, so does the other)

And we nod in agreement like old familiar doves.

You guard the nest: I praise the streams and woods

And the mossy rocks of a beautiful countryside.

In short I live and I reign, as soon as I’ve left

What you acclaim to the skies with shouts of joy,

Seeing I flee sweet wafers like a priest’s runaway

Slave: for it’s bread I want now not honeyed cakes.

If we all should live in conformity with Nature,

And begin by choosing a site to build a house,

Do you know anywhere better than the country?

Where are the winters milder? Where does a more welcome

Breeze temper the Dog-Star’s rage and the Lion’s charge.

When maddened he’s felt the Sun’s piercing darts?

Where does Care’s envy trouble our slumber less?

Is grass poorer in scent or beauty than Libyan stone?

Is water that strains to burst lead pipes in city streets

Purer than that which sparkles murmuring down the stream?

Why, you yourself nurture trees among marbled pillars,

And admire a house with a prospect of distant fields!

Drive Nature off with a pitchfork, she’ll still press back,

And secretly burst in triumph through your sad disdain.

BkIEpX:26-50 Make much of little

The man unable to separate false from true.

Will suffer no less certain or heart-felt a loss,

Than he who lacks the skill to distinguish fleeces

Soaked in Aquinum’s dye, from Sidonian purple.

Those who’ve been quick to enjoy a following wind,

Are wrecked when it veers. You’ll be unwilling to lose

What you admire. Avoid what’s grand: and you’ll outrun

Kings, and companions of kings, in the race of life.

The stag could always better the horse in conflict,

And drive him from open ground, until the loser

In that long contest, begging man’s help, took the bit:

Yet, disengaged from his enemy, as clear victor,

He couldn’t shed man from his back, the bit from his mouth.

So the perverse man who forgoes his freedom, worth more

Than gold, through fear of poverty, suffers a master

And is a slave forever, by failing to make much

Of little. When a man’s means don’t suit him it’s often

Like a shoe: too big and he stumbles, too small it chafes.

You’ll live wisely, Aristius, if you’re contented

With your fate, and won’t let me go unpunished if I

Seem to be restlessly gathering more than I need.

The money we hoard is our master or our servant:

The twisted rope should trail behind, not draw us on.

I’m writing to you from the back of Vacuna’s

Crumbling shrine, happy, except that you’re not here too.

End of Book I Epistle X