Horace: The Odes

Book III

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved

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Translator’s Note

Horace fully exploited the metrical possibilities offered to him by Greek lyric verse. I have followed the original Latin metre in all cases, giving a reasonably close English version of Horace’s strict forms. Rhythm not rhyme is the essence. Please try reading slowly to identify the rhythm of the first verse of each poem, before reading the whole poem through. Counting syllables, and noting the natural rhythm of individual phrases, may help. Those wishing to understand the precise scansion of Latin lyric verse should consult a specialist text. The Collins Latin Dictionary, for example, includes a good summary. The metres used by Horace in each of the Odes, giving the standard number of syllables per line only, are listed at the end of this text (see the Index below).


BkIII:I Odi Profanum

I hate the vulgar crowd, and keep them away:

grant me your silence. A priest of the Muses,

I sing a song never heard before,

I sing a song for young women and boys.

The power of dread kings over their peoples,

is the power Jove has over those kings themselves,

famed for his defeat of the Giants,

controlling all with a nod of his head.

It’s true that one man will lay out his vineyards

over wider acres than will his neighbour,

that one candidate who descends to

the Campus, will maintain that he’s nobler,

another’s more famous, or has a larger

crowd of followers: but Necessity sorts

the fates of high and low with equal

justice: the roomy urn holds every name.

Sicilian feasts won’t supply sweet flavours

to the man above whose impious head hangs

a naked sword, nor will the singing

of birds or the playing of zithers bring back

soft sleep. But gentle slumber doesn’t despise

the humble house of a rural labourer,

or a riverbank deep in the shade,

or the vale of Tempe, stirred by the breeze.

He who only longs for what is sufficient,

is never disturbed by tumultuous seas,

nor the savage power of Arcturus

setting, nor the strength of the Kids rising,

nor his vineyards being lashed by the hailstones,

nor his treacherous farmland, rain being blamed

for the state of the trees, the dog-star

parching the fields, or the cruel winter.

The fish can feel that the channel’s narrowing,

when piles are driven deep: the builder, his team

of workers, the lord who scorns the land

pour the rubble down into the waters.

But Fear and Menace climb up to the same place

where the lord climbs up, and dark Care will not leave

the bronze-clad trireme, and even sits

behind the horseman when he’s out riding.

So if neither Phrygian stone, nor purple,

brighter than the constellations, can solace

the grieving man, nor Falernian

wine, nor the perfumes purchased from Persia,

why should I build a regal hall in modern

style, with lofty columns to stir up envy?

Why should I change my Sabine valley,

for the heavier burden of excess wealth?

BkIII:II Dulce Et Decorum Est

Let the boy toughened by military service

learn how to make bitterest hardship his friend,

and as a horseman, with fearful lance,

go to vex the insolent Parthians,

spending his life in the open, in the heart

of dangerous action. And seeing him, from

the enemy’s walls, let the warring

tyrant’s wife, and her grown-up daughter, sigh:

‘Ah, don’t let the inexperienced lover

provoke the lion that’s dangerous to touch,

whom a desire for blood sends raging

so swiftly through the core of destruction.’

It’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.

Yet death chases after the soldier who runs,

and it won’t spare the cowardly back

or the limbs, of peace-loving young men.

Virtue, that’s ignorant of sordid defeat,

shines out with its honour unstained, and never

takes up the axes or puts them down

at the request of a changeable mob.

Virtue, that opens the heavens for those who

did not deserve to die, takes a road denied

to others, and scorns the vulgar crowd

and the bloodied earth, on ascending wings.

And there’s a true reward for loyal silence:

I forbid the man who divulged those secret

rites of Ceres, to exist beneath

the same roof as I, or untie with me

the fragile boat: often careless Jupiter

included the innocent with the guilty,

but lame-footed Punishment rarely

forgets the wicked man, despite his start.

BkIII:III Stand Firm

The passion of the public, demanding what

is wrong, never shakes the man of just and firm

intention, from his settled purpose,

nor the tyrant’s threatening face, nor the winds

the stormy masters of the troubled Adriatic,

nor Jupiter’s mighty hand with its lightning:

if the heavens fractured in their fall,

still their ruin would strike him, unafraid.

By these means Pollux, and wandering Hercules,

in their effort, reached the fiery citadels,

where Augustus shall recline one day,

drinking nectar to stain his rosy lips.

Bacchus, for such virtues your tigers drew you,

pulling at the yoke holding their untamed necks:

for these virtues, Romulus, escaped

with horses that were Mars’, from Acheron,

while Juno, in the council of the gods, spoke

welcome words: ‘Ilium, Ilium is in

the dust, through both Paris’s fatal,

sinful judgement, and that foreign woman:

Ilium was mine, and virgin Minerva’s,

and its citizens, and its treacherous king,

from the time when Laomedon robbed

the gods, withholding the payment agreed.

The infamous guest no longer shines for his

Spartan adulteress, nor does Priam’s house,

betrayed, hold back the fierce Achaeans,

with Hector’s help: now the ten-year battle,

which our quarrels long extended, is ended.

From this moment on I’ll abandon my fierce

anger, and I’ll restore my hated

grandson, he who was born of a priestess

of Troy, to Mars: I’ll allow him to enter

the regions of light, and to drink sweet nectar,

and to be enrolled, and take his place,

here, among the quiet ranks of the gods.

Let the exiles rule happily in any

place they choose, so long as there’s a width of sea,

roaring, between Ilium and Rome,

so long as the cattle trample over

the tombs of Paris and of Priam, and wild

beasts hide their offspring there with impunity:

and let their Capitol stand gleaming,

let warlike Rome make laws for conquered Medes.

Let her extend her dreaded name to farthest

shores, there where the straits separate Africa

and Europe, there where the swollen Nile

irrigates the lands beside the river,

firm in ignoring gold still undiscovered, 

that’s better where it is while earth conceals it,

than mining it for our human use,

with hands that grasp everything that’s sacred.

Whatever marks the boundaries of the world,

let Rome’s might reach it, eager to see regions

where solar fires perform their revels,

or places where the mists and rain pour down.

But I prophesy such fate for her warlike citizens,

with this proviso: that they show no excess

of piety, or faith in their powers,

wishing to rebuild Troy’s ancestral roofs.

Troy’s fortunes would revive with evil

omens, and they’d repeat their sad disaster,

while I, who am Jove’s wife and sister,

would lead the victorious armies.

If her bronze walls were to rise again three times

with Apollo’s help, three times they’d be destroyed,

shattered by my Argives, and, three times,

the captive wife would mourn sons and husband.’

What are you saying, Muse? This theme doesn’t suit

the happy lyre. Stop wilfully repeating

divine conversations, and weakening

great matters with these trivial metres.

BkIII:IV Temper Power With Wisdom

O royal Calliope, come from heaven,

and play a lengthy melody on the flute,

or, if you prefer, use your clear voice,

or pluck at the strings of Apollo’s lute.

Do you hear her, or does some lovely fancy

toy with me? I hear, and seem to wander, now,

through the sacred groves, where delightful

waters steal, where delightful breezes stray.

In my childhood, once, on pathless Vultur’s slopes,

beyond the bounds of nurturing Apulia,

exhausted with my play and weariness,

the fabled doves covered me with new leaves,

which was a wonder to everyone who holds

Acherontia’s high nest, and Bantia’s

woodland pastures, and the rich meadows

of low-lying Forentum, since I slept

safe from the bears and from the dark vipers,

the sacred laurel and the gathered myrtle

spread above me, a courageous child,

though it was thanks to the power of the gods.

Yours Muses, yours, I climb the high Sabine Hills,

or I’m carried off to my cool Praeneste,

to the slopes of Tibur, if I please,

or the cloudless loveliness of Baiae.

A friend of your sacred fountains and your

choirs, the rout of the army at Philippi

failed to kill me, and that accursed

tree, and Palinurus’ Sicilian Sea.

Whenever you are with me, as a sailor

I’ll attempt the raging Bosphorus, or be

a traveller in the burning sands

of the Syrian shore: as a stranger

I’ll see the fierce inhospitable Britons,

the Spaniards that love drinking horses’ blood,

I’ll see the quiver-bearing Thracians,

and, unharmed, visit the Scythian stream.

It’s you then who refresh our noble Caesar,

in your Pierian caves, when he’s settled

his weary troops in all the cities,

and he’s ready to complete his labours.

You give calm advice, and you delight in that

giving, kindly ones. We know how the evil

Titans, how their savage supporters

were struck down by the lightning from above,

by him who rules the silent earth, the stormy

sea, the cities, and the kingdoms of darkness,

alone, in imperial justice,

commanding the gods and the mortal crowd.

Great terror was visited on Jupiter

by all those bold warriors bristling with hands,

and by the brothers who tried to set

Pelion on shadowy Olympus.

But what power could Giant Typhoeus have,

or mighty Mimas, or that Porphyrion

with his menacing stance, Rhoetus,

or Enceladus, audacious hurler

of uprooted trees, against the bronze breastplate,

Minerva’s aegis? On one side stood eager

Vulcan, on the other maternal

Juno, and Apollo of Patera

and Delos, who is never without the bow

on his shoulder, who bathes his flowing hair

in Castalia’s pure dew, who holds

the forests, and thickets of Lycia.

Power without wisdom falls by its own weight:

The gods themselves advance temperate power:

and likewise hate force that, with its whole

consciousness, is intent on wickedness.

Let hundred-handed Gyas be the witness

to my statement: Orion too, well-known as

chaste Dian’s attacker, and tamed

by the arrows of the virgin goddess.

Earth, heaped above her monstrous children, laments

and grieves for her offspring, hurled down to murky

Orcus by the lightning bolt: The swift

fires have not yet eaten Aetna, set there,

nor the vultures ceased tearing at the liver

of intemperate Tityus, those guardians placed

over his sin: and three hundred chains

hold the amorous Pirithous fast.


BkIII:V No Surrender

We believe thunderous Jupiter rules the sky:

Augustus is considered a god on earth,

for adding the Britons, and likewise

the weight of the Persians to our empire.

Didn’t Crassus’ soldiers live in vile marriage

with barbarian wives, and (because of  our

Senate and its perverse ways!) grow old,

in the service of their hostile fathers.

Marsians , Apulians ruled by a Mede,

forgetting their shields, Roman names, and togas,

and eternal Vesta, though Jove’s shrines

and the city of Rome remained unharmed?

Regulus’s far-seeing mind warned of this,

when he objected to shameful surrender,

and considered from its example

harm would come to the following age,

unless captured men were killed without pity.

‘I’ve seen standards and weapons,’ he said,

‘taken bloodlessly from our soldiers,

hung there in the Carthaginian shrines,

I’ve seen the arms of our freemen twisted

behind their backs, enemy gates wide open,

and the fields that our warfare ravaged

being freely cultivated again.

Do you think that our soldiers ransomed for gold,

will fight more fiercely next time! You’ll add

harm to shame: the wool that’s dyed purple

never regains the colour that vanished,

and true courage, when once departed, never

cares to return to an inferior heart.

When a doe that’s set free, from the thick

hunting nets, turns to fight, then he’ll be brave

who trusts himself to treacherous enemies

and he’ll crush Carthage, in a second battle,

who’s felt the chains on his fettered wrists,

without a struggle, afraid of dying.

He’s one who, not knowing how life should be lived,

confuses war with peace. O, shame! O mighty

Carthage, made mightier now because

of Italy’s disgraceful decadence.’

It’s said he set aside his wife’s chaste kisses,

and his little ones, as of less importance,

and, grimly, he set his manly face

to the soil, until he might be able

to strengthen the Senate’s wavering purpose,

by making of himself an example no

other man had made, and hurrying,

among grieving friends, to noble exile.

Yet he knew what the barbarous torturer

was preparing for him. Still he pushed aside

the kinsmen who were blocking his way,

and the people who delayed his going,

as if, with some case decided, and leaving

all that tedious business of his clients,

he headed for Venafrum’s meadows,

or Lacedaemonian Tarentum.

BkIII:VI Moral Decadence

Romans, though you’re guiltless, you’ll still expiate

your fathers’ sins, till you’ve restored the temples,

and the tumbling shrines of all the gods,

and their images, soiled with black smoke.

You rule because you are lower than the gods

you worship: all things begin with them: credit

them with the outcome. Neglected gods

have made many woes for sad Italy.

Already Parthians, and Monaeses

and Pacorus, have crushed our inauspicious

assaults, and laugh now to have added

our spoils to their meagre treasures.

Dacians and Ethiopians almost toppled

the City, mired in civil war, the last feared

for their fleet of ships, and the others

who are best known for their flying arrows.

Our age, fertile in its wickedness, has first

defiled the marriage bed, our offspring, and homes:

disaster’s stream has flowed from this source

through the people and the fatherland.

The young girl early takes delight in learning

Greek dances, in being dressed with all the arts,

and soon meditates sinful affairs,

with every fibre of her new being:

later at her husband’s dinners she searches

for younger lovers, doesn’t mind to whom she

grants all her swift illicit pleasures

when the lights are far removed, but she rises,

openly, when ordered to do so, and not

without her husband’s knowledge, whether it’s for

some peddler, or Spanish ship’s captain,

an extravagant buyer of her shame.

The young men who stained the Punic Sea with blood

they were not born of such parentage, those who

struck at Pyrrhus, and struck at great

Antiochus, and fearful Hannibal:

they were a virile crowd of rustic soldiers,

taught to turn the furrow with a Sabine hoe,

to bring in the firewood they had cut

at the instruction of their strict mothers.

when the sun had lengthened the mountain shadows,

and lifted the yokes from the weary bullocks,

bringing a welcome time of rest,

with the departure of his chariot.

What do the harmful days not render less?

Worse than our grandparents’ generation, our

parents’ then produced us, even worse,

and soon to bear still more sinful children.


Why weep, Asterie, for Gyges, whom west winds

will bring back to you at the first breath of springtime,

your lover constant in faith,

blessed with goods, from Bithynia?

Driven by easterlies as far as Epirus,

now, after Capella’s wild rising, he passes

chill nights of insomnia,

and not without many a tear.

Yet messages from his solicitous hostess,

telling how wretched Chloë sighs for your lover,

and burns with desire, tempts him

subtly and in a thousand ways.

She tells how a treacherous woman, making

false accusations, drove credulous Proteus

to bring a too-hasty death

to a too-chaste Bellerophon:

she tells of Peleus, nearly doomed to Hades,

fleeing Magnesian Hippolyte in abstinence:

and deceitfully teaches

tales that encourage wrongdoing.

All in vain: still untouched, he hears her voice, as deaf

as the Icarian cliffs. But take care yourself

lest Enipeus, next door,

pleases you more than is proper:

even though no one else is considered as fine

at controlling his horse, on the Campus’s turf,

and no one else swims as fast

as him, down the Tiber’s channel.

Close your doors when it’s dark, and don’t you go gazing

into the street, at the sound of his plaintive flute,

and when he keeps calling you

cruel, you still play hard to get.

BkIII:VIII Celebration

You, an expert in prose in either language,

wonder what I, a bachelor, am doing

on the Kalends of March, what do the flowers mean,

the box of incense,

and the embers laid out on the fresh cut turf.

I vowed sweet meats to Bacchus, vowed a pure white

goat, at that time when I was so nearly killed

by a falling tree.

When this festive day returns again I’ll draw

a tight-fitting cork, sealed with pitch, from a jar

laid down to gather the dust in that year when

Tullus was Consul.

So drink a whole gallon of wine, Maecenas,

celebrating your friend’s escape, and we’ll quench

the flickering lamps at dawn: keep far away

the noise and anger.

Leave the cares of state behind in the City:

Cotiso’s Dacian army’s been destroyed,

the dangerous Medes are fighting each other,

in grievous battle,

our old Cantabrian enemies are slaves,

subdued, in chains, at last, on the Spanish coast,

and now the Scythians, their bows unstrung, plan

to give up their plains.

A private citizen for now, don’t worry

yourself, overmuch, what troubles the people,

and gladly accept the gifts of the moment,

and forget dark things.

BkIII:IX A Dialogue

‘While I was the man, dear to you,

while no young man, you loved more dearly, was clasping

his arms around your snow-white neck,

I lived in greater blessedness than Persia’s king.’

‘While you were on fire for no one

else, and Lydia was not placed after Chloë,

I, Lydia, of great renown,

lived more gloriously than Roman Ilia.’

‘Thracian Chloe commands me now,

she’s skilled in sweet verses, she’s the queen of the lyre,

for her I’m not afraid to die,

if the Fates spare her, and her spirit survives me.’

‘I’m burnt with a mutual flame

by Calais, Thurian Ornytus’s son,

for whom I would die twice over

if the Fates spare him, and his spirit survives me.’

‘What if that former love returned,

and forced two who are estranged under her bronze yoke:

if golden Chloë was banished,

and the door opened to rejected Lydia?’

‘Though he’s lovelier than the stars,

and you’re lighter than cork, and more irascible

than the cruel Adriatic,

I’d love to live with you, with you I’d gladly die!’

BkIII:X Cruel One

If you drank the water of furthest Don, Lyce,

married to some fierce husband, you’d still expose me

to the wailing winds of your native North country,

stretched out here by your cruel door.

Hear how the frame creaks, how the trees that are planted

inside your beautiful garden moan in the wind,

and how Jupiter’s pure power and divinity

ices over the fallen snow.

Set aside your disdain, it’s hateful to Venus,

lest the rope fly off, while the wheel is still turning:

you’re no Penelope, resistant to suitors,

nor born of Etruscan parents.

O, spare your suppliants, though nothing moves you,

not gifts, not my prayers, not your lover’s pallor,

that’s tinged with violet, nor your husband smitten

with a Pierian mistress,

you, no more pliant than an unbending oak-tree,

no gentler in spirit than a Moorish serpent.

My body won’t always put up with your threshold,

or the rain that falls from the sky.

BkIII:XI Remember the Danaids

Mercury (since, taught by you, his master,

Amphion could move the stones, with his singing),

and you, tortoise shell, clever at making your

seven strings echo,

you, who were neither eloquent nor lovely,

but welcomed, now, by rich tables and temples,

play melodies to which Lyde might apply

a reluctant ear,

who gambols friskily, like a three year old

filly, over the widening plain, fears being

touched, a stranger to marriage, who’s not yet ripe

for a forceful mate.

You’ve the power to lead tigers and forests as

attendants, and hold back the swift-running streams:

Cerberus, the frightful doorkeeper of Hell,

yielded to your charms,

though a hundred snakes guarded his fearful head,

and a hideous breath flowed out of his mouth

and poisoned venom was frothing around

his triple-tongued jaws.

Even Ixion and Tityos smiled, with

unwilling faces, and, for a little while,

the urns were dry, as your sweet song delighted

Danaus’ daughters.

Lyde should listen to those girls’ wickedness

and their punishment, it’s well known: their wine jars

empty, water vanishing through the bottom:

that fate long-delayed

that still waits for wrongdoers down in Orcus.

Impious (what worse could they have committed?)

impious, they had the power to destroy their

lovers with cruel steel.

Hypermnestra alone of the many was

worthy of marriage, splendidly deceiving

her lying father, a girl rendered noble

for ages to come,

‘Up, up,’ she cried to her young husband, ‘lest sleep,

that lasts forever, comes, to you, from a source

you wouldn’t expect: escape from my father,

my wicked sisters,

ah, they’re like lionesses who each has seized

a young bullock, and tears at it: I, gentler

than them, will never strike you, or hold you

under lock and key.

Let my father weigh me down with cruel chains,

because in mercy I spared my wretched man:

let him banish me in a ship to the far

Numidian lands.

Go, wherever your feet and the winds take you,

while Venus, and Night, both favour you: luck be

with you: and carve an epitaph on my tomb,

in fond memory.

BkIII:XII Neobule, to Herself

Girls are wretched who can’t allow free play to love, or drown their cares

with sweet wine, those who, terrified, go around in fear of a tongue

lashing from one of their uncles.

Neobule, Cytherea’s winged boy snatches your wool stuff away

and your work, your devotion to busy Minerva, whenever

shining Liparean Hebrus,

that lover of yours, has bathed his oiled shoulders in Tiber’s waters,

even better a horseman than Bellerephon, never beaten

through slowness of fists or of feet,

clever too at spearing the deer, as they pour, in a startled herd,

across the wide open spaces, and quick to come at the wild boar

as it lurks in the dense thicket.

BkIII:XIII O Fons Bandusiae

O Bandusian fountain, brighter than crystal,

worthy of sweet wine, not lacking in flowers,

tomorrow we’ll honour you

with a kid, whose brow is budding

with those horns that are destined for love and battle.

All in vain: since this child of the playful herd will

darken your ice-cool waters,

with the stain of its crimson blood.

The implacable hour of the blazing dog-star

knows no way to touch you, you offer your lovely

coolness to bullocks, weary

of ploughing, and to wandering flocks.

And you too will be one of the famous fountains,

now I write of the holm oak that’s rooted above

the cave in the rock where your

clear babbling waters run down.

BkIII:XIV Augustus Returns

O citizens, conquering Caesar is home

from the Spanish shores, who, like Hercules, now

was said to be seeking that laurel, that’s bought

at the price of death.

May his wife rejoice in a matchless husband,

having sacrificed to true gods, appear now

with our famous leader’s sister, and, all dressed

in holy ribbons,

the mothers of virgins and youths, now safe and

sound. And you, O you boys and you young girls who

are still without husbands, spare us any of

your ill-omened words

This day will be a true holiday for me,

and banish dark care: I’ll not fear civil war,

nor sudden death by violence, while Caesar has

command of the earth.

Go, now, you boys, seek out perfumes and garlands

and a jar that’s old as the Marsian War,

if any of them have managed to escape

Spartacus’s eyes.

And tell that graceful Neaera to hurry

and fasten all her perfumed hair in a knot:

if her hateful doorkeeper causes

delay, come away.

My greying hair softens a spirit eager

for arguments and passionate fights:

I’d not have endured it in my hot youth, while

Plancus was Consul.

BkIII:XV Too Old

O, dear wife of poor Ibycus,

put an end to your wickedness, at last, and all

of your infamous goings-on:

now you are nearer the season for dying,

stop playing about with the girls,

and scattering a mist over shining stars.

What fits Pholoe is not quite

fitting for you, Chloris: while your daughter’s more

suited to storming the houses of lovers,

like a Bacchante stirred by the beating drum.

Her love for Nothus forces her

to gambol like a lascivious she-goat:

the wool that’s shorn near to noble

Luceria’s fitting for you, sad old thing,

not the dark red flower of the rose,

nor the lyre, nor the wine-jars drained to their dregs.

BkIII:XVI Just Enough

The towers made of bronze, and the doors made of oak,

and the watch-dogs sombre vigil, would, surely, have

been enough, to protect imprisoned Danaë,

from adulterers in the night,

if Jupiter, and then Venus, hadn’t been laughing

at Acrisius, the girl’s anxious guardian:

since they knew that the path would be safe and open,

with the god as a shower of gold.

Gold loves to travel in the midst of fine servants,

and break through the rocks, since it’s far more powerful

than lightning bolts: didn’t the Greek prophet’s house fall

because of his riches, and sink

to ruin: and with gifts, the Macedonian

burst the gates of the cities, brought rival kingdoms

to destruction: and gifts of gold, too, are able

to snare fierce naval commanders.

Anxiety, and the hunger for more, pursues

growing wealth. It’s right, then, that I shrank from raising

my head to be seen far and wide, dear Maecenas,

glory of the Equestrians.

The more that a man denies himself, then the more

will flow from the gods: so naked, I seek the camp

of those who ask for nothing, I’m a deserter,

eager to abandon the rich,

a more glorious lord of the wealth that I spurn,

than if it were said I conceal, deep in my barns,

whatever the busy Apulians harvest:

destitute among great riches.

A stream of pure water, a few woodland acres,

and a confident faith in the crops from my fields,

are more blessed than the fate that deceives the shining

master of fertile Africa.

Though it’s true the Calabrian bees don’t bring me

their honey, and no Laestrygonian wine-jar

mellows for me, with no glossy fleece thickening

for me in the pastures of Gaul:

yet there’s still no presence of grinding poverty,

nor if I wished for more would you deny it me.

I can eke out my income more effectively

by constraining what I desire,

than if I were to join the Mygdonian plains

to the Lydian kingdom. To those who want much,

much is lacking: he’s happy to whom the god grants

just enough, from a careful hand.

BkIII:XVII The Approaching Storm

Aelius, noble descendant of ancient

Lamus (and they say the Lamiae of old

were named from him, the ancestral line,

through all of our recorded history):

you come from him, the original founder,

who, it’s said, first held the walls of Formiae

and Latium’s River Liris where

it floods the shores of the nymph, Marica,

he the lord, far and wide. Tomorrow a storm

sent from the East, will fill all the woodland grove

with leaves, and the sands with useless weed,

unless the raven, old prophet of rain,

is wrong. Pile up the dry firewood while you can:

tomorrow, with your servants, released from their

labours, cheer your spirit with neat wine,

and a little pig, only two months old.


Faunus, the lover of Nymphs who are fleeing,

may you pass gently over my boundaries,

my sunny fields, and, as you go by, be kind

to all my new-born,

if at the end of the year a tender kid

is sacrificed to you: if the full bowls of wine,

aren’t lacking, friend of Venus: the old altar

smoking with incense.

All the flock gambols over the grassy plain,

when the fifth of December returns for you:

the festive village empties into the fields,

and the idle herd:

the wolf wanders among the audacious lambs:

for you the woods, wildly, scatter their leaves:

the ditcher delights in striking the soil he

hates, in triple time.

BkIII:XIX Let’s Drink

You can tell me the years between

Inachus and Codrus, who wasn’t afraid to

die for his country, Aeacus’

line, and the fights by the walls at sacred Troy:

but you can’t say what price we’ll pay

for a jar of Chian wine, who’ll heat the water,

or under whose roof, at what time,

I can escape at last from Paelignian cold.

Don’t wait: drink to the new moon, boy,

to the midnight hour, to the augur, Murena:

the wine is mixed in three measures,

or nine, depending which of the two is fitting.

The poet, inspired, who’s in love

with the odd-numbered Muses, will ask for three times

three: fearing our quarrels, the Grace,

who ’ s hand in hand with her naked sisters, forbids

more than triple. I like to rave:

why have the blasts of the Berecyntian flute

fallen silent? Why is the pipe

hanging there speechless, next door to the speechless lyre?

I dislike those hands that refrain:

scatter rose petals: and let envious Lycus

hear our demented noise-making,

and the girl who’s next door, who won’t suit old Lycus.

Ripe Rhode is searching for you,

Telephus, you with the glistening hair, oh you,

who are like the pure evening star:

while a slow love, for Glycera, has me on fire.

BkIII:XX The Conflict

Pyrrhus, you can’t see how dangerous it is

to touch the Gaetulian lioness’ cub?

Soon you’ll be running from all that hard fighting,

a spiritless thief,

while she goes searching for lovely Nearchus,

through obstructive crowds of young men: ah, surely

the fight will be great, whether the prize is yours,

or, more likely, hers.

Meanwhile, as you produce your swift arrows, as

she is sharpening her fearsome teeth, the battle’s

fine judge is said to have trampled the palm leaf,

beneath his bare foot,

and he’s cooling his shoulders, draped in perfumed

hair, in the gentle breeze, just like Nireus,

or like Ganymede, who was snatched away from

Ida rich in streams.

BkIII:XXI Praise Of Wine

Faithful wine-jar, born, with me, in Manlius’

Consulship, whether you bring moans or laughter,

whether you bring mad love, and quarrels,

or whether you bring us gentle slumber,

whatever the end of the vintage Massic

you guard, that’s worthy of some auspicious day,

be emptied, Corvinus orders us

to bring out a much less powerful wine.

Though he’s steeped in Socratic dialogue,

He’ll not shiver with the cold, and reject you,

For they say that even old Cato

Was often warmed by a powerful vintage.

You apply gentle torture to wits that are

mostly dull: you reveal the cares of the wise,

and you uncover their secret thoughts,

by means of Bacchus’ happy pleasantries:

you bring fresh hope to those minds that are distressed,

and grant the poor man strength and courage, through you

he no longer trembles at the crowns

of angry kings, nor at soldiers’ weapons.

You, Bacchus, and delightful Venus, if she

would come, the Graces, reluctant to dissolve

their knot, and the bright lamps, will be here,

till Phoebus puts the stars to flight again.


Virgin protectress of the mountain and the grove,

who, called on three times, hears young girls, labouring

through childbirth, and rescues them from dying, O

triple formed goddess,

may it be yours, this pine-tree above my farm,

so that I may, happily, through passing years,

offer it the blood of a boar, that’s trying

its first sidelong thrusts.

BkIII:XXIII Pure Hands

Phidyle, my country girl, if you raise your

upturned palms to heaven, at the new-born moon,

if you placate the Lares with corn

from this year’s harvest, with a greedy pig:

your fruiting vines won’t suffer the destructive

southerlies, nor your crops the killing mildew,

nor will the young of the flock be born

in that sickly season, heavy with fruit.

Since the destined victim, grazing, on snowy

Algidus, amongst the oak and ilex trees,

or fattening in the Alban meadows,

will stain the axes of the priest with blood:

there’s no need for you to try and influence

the gods, with repeated sacrifice of sheep

while you crown their tiny images

with rosemary, and the brittle myrtle.

If pure hands have touched the altar, even though

they’ve not gratified with lavish sacrifice,

they’ll mollify hostile Penates,

with the sacred corn, and the dancing grain.

BkIII:XXIV Destructive Wealth

Though you’re richer than the untouched

riches of Araby, than wealthy India,

and you fill the land, and inshore

waters, with your deposits of builders’ rubble:

if dread Necessity fixes

her adamantine nails in your highest rooftops,

you’ll not free your spirit from fear,

nor free your very being from the noose of death.

Better to live like Scythians

in the Steppes, whose wagons haul their movable homes,

that’s custom, or the fierce Getae,

whose unallocated acres produce their fruits,

their harvests of rye, in common,

where cultivation’s not decided for more than

a year, and when one turn is done,

it’s carried on by other hands, as a duty.

There, as their own, the unselfish

women raise those children who have lost their mothers:

and the richly dowered wife never

rules her husband, or believes in shining lovers.

Their greatest dowry’s their parents’

virtue, and their own chastity, which is careful

of another’s husband, in pure

loyalty, sin is wrong and death’s its penalty.

O whoever would end impious

killing, and civil disorder, and would desire

to have ‘City Father’ inscribed

on their statues, let them be braver, and rein in

unbridled licence, and win fame

among posterity: since we, alas, for shame,

filled with envy, hate chaste virtue,

and only seek it when it’s hidden from our eyes.

What use are sad lamentations,

if crime is never suppressed by its punishment?

What use are all these empty laws

without the behaviour that should accompany them?

if neither those parts of the Earth

enclosed by heat, nor those far confines of the North,

snow frozen solid on the ground,

deter the trader, if cunning sailors conquer

the stormy seas, if poverty,

is considered a great disgrace, and directs us

to do and to bear everything,

and abandon the arduous paths of virtue?

Let’s send our jewels, our precious

stones, our destructive gold, to the Capitol, while

the crowd applauds, and raises its strident clamour,

or ship them to the nearest sea,

as causes of our deepest ills,

if we truly repent of all our wickedness.

Let the source of our perverted

greed be lost, and then let our inadequate minds

be trained in more serious things.

The inexperienced noble youth is unskilled

at staying in the saddle, he

fears to hunt, and he’s much better at playing games,

whether you order him to fool

with a Greek hoop, or you prefer forbidden dice,

while his father’s perjured trust cheats

his partner and his friends, hurrying to amass

money for his unworthy heir.

While it’s true that in this way his ill-gotten gains

increase, yet there’s always something

lacking in a fortune forever incomplete.


BkIII:XXV Bacchanalian Song

Where are you taking me, Bacchus,

now I’m full of you? To what caves or groves, driven,

swiftly, by new inspiration?

In what caverns will I be heard planning to set

illustrious Caesar’s lasting

glory among the stars, in the councils of Jove?

I’ll sing a recent achievement,

not yet sung by other lips. So does the sleepless

Bacchante, stand in amazement

on a mountain-ridge, gazing at Hebrus, at Thrace,

shining with snow, at Rhodope,

trodden by barbarous feet, even as I like

to wander gazing, at river

banks, and echoing groves. O master of Naiads,

of Bacchae owning the power

to uproot the tallest ash-trees, with their bare hands,

I’ll sing nothing trivial, no

humble measure, nothing that dies. O, Lenaeus,

the danger of following a god

is sweet, wreathing my brow with green leaves of the vine.


I was suited to sweethearts till now, and performed

my service, not without glory: but now this wall

that protects the left flank of Venus,

the girl from the sea, shall have my weapons,

and hold up the lyre that has finished with warfare.

Here, O here, place the shining torches, and set up

the crowbars, and set up the axes,

so that they menace opposite doorways.

O goddess, you who possess rich Cyprus, O queen,

who holds Memphis, that’s free of Sithonian snows,

touch, just for once, arrogant Chloë,

touch her, just once, with your whip, lifted high.


Let the wicked be led by omens of screeching

from owls, by pregnant dogs, or a grey-she wolf,

hurrying down from Lanuvian meadows,

or a fox with young:

May a snake disturb the journey they’ve started,

terrifying the ponies like an arrow

flashing across the road: but I far-seeing

augur, with prayer

for him whom I’m fearful for, out of the east

I’ll call up the ominous raven, before

the bird that divines the imminent showers

seeks standing water.

Galatea, wherever you choose to live

may you be happy, and live in thought of me:

no woodpecker on your left, or errant crow

to bar your going.

But see, with what storms flickering Orion

is setting. I know how the Adriatic’s

black gulf can be, and how the bright westerly

wind commits its sins.

Let the wives and children of our enemy

feel the blind force of the rising southerly,

and the thunder of the dark waters, the shores

trembling at the blow.

So, Europa entrusted her snow-white form

to the bull’s deceit, and the brave girl grew pale,

at the sea alive with monsters, the dangers

of the deep ocean.

Leaving the meadow, where, lost among flowers,

she was weaving a garland owed to the Nymphs,

now, in the luminous night, she saw nothing

but water and stars.

As soon as she reached the shores of Crete, mighty

with its hundred cities, she cried: ‘O father,

I’ve lost the name of daughter, my piety

conquered by fury.

Where have I come from, where am I going? One

death is too few for a virgin’s sin. Am I

awake, weeping a vile act, or free from guilt,

mocked by a phantom,

that fleeing, false, from the ivory gate brings

only a dream? Is it not better to pick

fresh flowers than to go travelling over

the breadths of the sea?

If anyone now could deliver that foul

beast to my anger, I’d attempt to wound it

with steel, and shatter the horns of that monster,

the one I once loved.

I’m shameless, I’ve abandoned my country’s gods,

I’m shameless, I keep Orcus waiting. O if

one of the gods can hear, I wish I might walk

naked with lions!

Before vile leanness hollows my lovely cheeks,

and the juices ebb in this tender victim,

while I am still beautiful, I’ll seek to be

food for the tigers.

My absent father urges me on: ‘Why wait

to die, worthless Europa? Happily you

can hang by the neck from this ash-tree: use

the sash that’s with you.

Or if cliffs and the sharpened rocks attract you,

as a means of death, put your trust in the speed

of the wind, unless you’d rather be carding

some mistress’s wool,

you, of royal blood, be handed over, as

concubine to a barbarous queen.’ She moaned:

Venus was laughing, treacherously, with her

son, his bow unstrung.

When she’d toyed enough with her, she said: ‘Refrain

from anger and burning passion, when the bull,

you hate, yields you his horns again, so that you

can start to wound them.

Don’t you know you’re invincible Jupiter’s

wife. Stop your sobbing, and learn to carry your

good fortune well: a continent of the Earth

will be named for you.

BkIII:XXVIII For Neptune

What better thing is there to do,

on Neptune’s festive day? Lyde, brisk now, bring up

Caecuban wine, from my reserve,

and apply some pressure to wisdom’s defences.

You can see the day is dying,

and yet, as if the flying hours were standing still,

you’re slow to fetch from the cellar

that wine-jar put down in Bibulus’ Consulship.

We’ll sing, one after the other,

I, of Neptune, I, the Nereids’ sea-green hair:

you reply on the curving lyre

with Latona, and Cynthia’s speeding arrows:

we’ll end the song with she who holds

Cnidos, the shining Cyclades, she who visits

Paphos: Venus, drawn by her swans:

and we’ll celebrate night too, with a fitting song.

BkIII:XXIX Fortune

Maecenas, son of Etruscan kings, a jar

of mellow wine, that nobody’s touched, awaits

you, at my house, and with rose-petals,

and balsam, for your hair, squeezed from the press.

Escape from what delays you: don’t always be

thinking of moist Tibur, and of Aefula’s

sloping fields, and of the towering heights

of Telegonus, who killed his father.

Forget the fastidiousness of riches,

and those efforts to climb to the lofty clouds,

stop being so amazed by the smoke,

and the wealth, and the noise, of thriving Rome.

A change usually pleases the rich: a meal

that’s simple beneath a poor man’s humble roof,

without the tapestries and purple,

smooths the furrows on a wrinkled forehead.

Already Cepheus, Andromeda’s bright

father, shows his hidden fires, and now Procyon

rages, and Leo’s furious stars,

as the sun returns with his parching days:

Now the shepherd, with his listless flock, searches

for the shade, and the stream and the thickets

of shaggy Silvanus, the silent banks

lack even the breath of a wandering breeze.

You’re worrying about state politics,

and, anxious about the City, you’re fretting

what the Seres, and Bactra, Cyrus

once ruled, and troublesome Don, are plotting.

The wise god buries the future’s outcome deep

in shadowy night, and smiles at those mortals

who are agitated far beyond

what’s sensible. Remember, with calmness,

reconcile yourself to what is: the rest is

carried along like a river, gliding now,

peacefully, in mid-stream, and down

to the Tuscan Sea, now rolling around

polished stones, uprooted trees, the flocks, and homes

together, with the echoes from the mountains,

and the neighbouring woods, while the wild

deluge stirs the peaceful tributaries.

He’s happy, he’s his own master, who can say

each day: ‘I’ve lived: tomorrow, the Father may

fill the heavens with darkening cloud,

or fill the sky with radiant sunshine:

yet he can’t render whatever is past as

null and void, he can never seek to alter,

or return and undo, whatever

the fleeting moment tosses behind it.

Fortune takes delight in her cruel business,

determined to play her extravagant games,

and she alters her fickle esteem,

now kind to me, and, now, to some other.

I praise her while she’s here: but if she flutters

her swift wings, I resign the gifts she gave, wrap

myself in virtue, and woo honest

Poverty, even though she’s no dowry.

When the masts are groaning in African gales,

it’s not for me to ask in wretched prayer,

that my Cyprian and Tyrian

wares should be saved entire not add new wealth

to the greedy sea: and then the light breezes,

Pollux, and Castor his brother, carry me

safely through the stormy Aegean,

all with the aid of my double-oared skiff.

BkIII:XXX Aere Perennius

I’ve raised a monument, more durable than bronze,

one higher than the Pyramids’ royal towers,

that no devouring rain, or fierce northerly gale,

has power to destroy: nor the immeasurable

succession of years, and the swift passage of time.

I’ll not utterly die, but a rich part of me,

will escape Persephone: and fresh with the praise

of posterity, I’ll rise, beyond. While the High

Priest, and the silent Virgin, climb the Capitol,

I’ll be famous, I, born of humble origin,

(from where wild Aufidus roars, and where Daunus once,

lacking in streams, ruled over a rural people)

as the first to re-create Aeolian song

in Italian verse. Melpomene, take pride,

in what has been earned by your merit, and, Muse,

willingly, crown my hair, with the Delphic laurel.

Index of First Lines

Metres Used in Book III.

The number of syllables most commonly employed in each standard line of the verse is given. This may vary slightly for effect (two beats substituted for three etc.) in a given line.

Alcaic Strophe : 11 (5+6) twice, 9, 10    

used in Odes: 1-6,17,21,23,26,29

Sapphic and Adonic : 11(5+6) three times, 5

Odes: 8,11,14,18,20,22,27

First Asclepiadean : 12 (6+6) all lines

Ode: 30

Second Asclepiadean: 8, 12 (6+6), alternating

Odes: 9,15,19,24,25,28

Third Asclepiadean : 12 (6+6) three times, 8

Odes 10,16

Fourth Asclepiadean : 12 (6+6) twice, 7, 8

Odes: 7,13

Fifth Asclepiadean : 16 (6+4+6) all lines

Odes: None in Book III

Alcmanic Strophe : 17 (7+10) or less, 11 or less, alternating

Odes: None in Book III

First Archilochian : 17 (7+10) or less, 7 alternating

Odes: None in Book III

Fourth Archilochian Strophe : 18 (7+11) or less, 11 (5+6) alternating

Odes: None in Book III

Second Sapphic Strophe : 7, 15 (5+10) alternating

Odes: None in Book III

Trochaic Strophe : 7,11 alternating

Odes: None in Book III

Ionic a Minore : 16 twice, 8

Ode: 12