Horace: The Epistles

Book I: Epistle XX

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

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Conditions and Exceptions apply.


BkIEpXX:1-28 On your way!

No doubt, liber, you’re eyeing Vertumnus and Janus,

Eager for sale, polished with the Sosii’s pumice.

You dislike those locks and seals dear to the modest:

You grieve at private viewings, praise public life,

Though I didn’t rear you so. Off, where you itch to go!

Once out, there’s no recall. ‘Ah, what have I done?

What did I hope?’ you’ll say, when someone hurts you,

When you’re rolled up small, your sated lover weary.

But unless the augur, hating your errors, is fooling,

You’ll be dear to Rome till your youth deserts you:

Then when you’ve been well-thumbed by vulgar hands,

And start to grow soiled, silent you’ll be food for worms,

Or flee to Utica, or be sent, bound, to Ilerda.

He who warns you, unheeded, will laugh, like the man

Who pushed his stubborn donkey, in anger, over the cliff:

For who would bother to help a creature against its will?

And this fate awaits you: mumbling old age will overtake

You, teaching little boys to read on the street-corner.

When a warmer sun attracts a few more listeners,

You’ll tell them I was a freedman’s son, that, of slender

Means, I spread wings that were too large for my nest,

And though my birth lessens them, you’ll add to my merits:

Say, in war and peace, I found favour with our leaders,

Was slight of frame, grey too early, fond of the sun,

Quick-tempered, yet one who was easy to placate.

If anyone happens to ask about my age,

Tell him I completed my forty-fourth December,

When Lollius, as consul, was joined by Lepidus.

End of Book I Epistle XX