Horace: The Epistles

Book I: Epistle XII

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

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BkIEpXII:1-29 An introduction and an exhortation

Iccius, if you’re using the income you collect

From Agrippa’s Sicilian estates, as you ought,

Jove couldn’t bless you more. Stop complaining:

He’s not poor whose enjoyment of things suffices.

If your lungs, stomach and feet are healthy, royal

Wealth can add nothing. And if you happen to be

Abstemious amongst good things, living on nettles

And vegetables, you’d still live that way, even if

Fate’s stream were suddenly to drench you with gold,

Either because money can’t alter your nature,

Or because you prize one thing, virtue, above all.

We wonder at Democritus’ herds spoiling his meadows

And crops, while his swift mind strayed far from his body:

As you with the contagious itch for wealth around you,

Still betray nothing mean, and aim for the sublime:

What forces constrain the sea, what regulates the year:

Whether planets wander and stray at will, or by law,

What hides the moon’s disc in darkness, what reveals it:

The meaning, the effects, of nature’s harmonious

Discord: is Empedocles crazy or subtle

Stertinius ? Whether you’re ‘murdering’ fish or only

Leeks and onions, greet Pompeius Grosphus, give freely

If he asks: he’ll only request what’s right and proper.

When good men are in need, friendship’s cheap at the price.

So you’re in touch with how things are going in Rome,

Cantabria’s fallen to Agrippa’s valour,

Armenia to Tiberius’: Phraates submits

On his knees to Caesar’s imperial rule: golden

Plenty pours her horn, full of fruits, on Italy.

End of Book I Epistle XII