Odes (Book 1)
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Odes (Book 1) is the first in a series of four books with classic Latin poetry by Horace. The style Horace wrote them in is so profound that poets have used it ever since. The powerful poems cover many essential topics in life and art, including friendship, the uncertainty of life, and religion. Read the words that inspired a wave of great poets and took society by storm. Discover how a great artist in 23 BC viewed the important topics we still ponder today.

The Odes

by
Horace

Translated by A. S. Kline


Odes (Book 1)

Book I

I. The Dedication: To Maecenas

Maecenas, descendant of royal ancestors,
O my protector, and my sweet glory,
some are delighted by showers of dust,
Olympic dust, over their chariots, they
are raised to the gods, as Earth’s masters, by posts
clipping the red-hot wheels, by noble palms:
this man, if the fickle crowd of Citizens
compete to lift him to triple honours:
that one, if he’s stored away in his granary
whatever he gleaned from the Libyan threshing.
The peasant who loves to break clods in his native
fields, won’t be tempted, by living like Attalus,
to sail the seas, in fear, in a Cyprian boat.
The merchant afraid of the African winds as
they fight the Icarian waves, loves the peace
and the soil near his town, but quickly rebuilds
his shattered ships, unsuited to poverty.
There’s one who won’t scorn cups of old Massic,
nor to lose the best part of a whole day lying
under the greenwood tree, or softly
close to the head of sacred waters.
Many love camp, and the sound of trumpets
mixed with the horns, and the warfare hated
by mothers. The hunter, sweet wife forgotten,
stays out under frozen skies, if his faithful
hounds catch sight of a deer, or a Marsian
wild boar rampages, through his close meshes.
But the ivy, the glory of learned brows,
joins me to the gods on high: cool groves,
and the gathering of light nymphs and satyrs,
draw me from the throng, if Euterpe the Muse
won’t deny me her flute, and Polyhymnia
won’t refuse to exert herself on her Lesbian lyre.
And if you enter me among all the lyric poets,
my head too will be raised to touch the stars.


II. To Augustus

The Father’s sent enough dread hail
and snow to earth already, striking
sacred hills with fiery hand,
to scare the city,

and scare the people, lest again
we know Pyrrha’s age of pain
when Proteus his sea-herds drove
across high mountains,

and fishes lodged in all the elms,
that used to be the haunt of doves,
and the trembling roe-deer swam
the whelming waters.

We saw the yellow Tiber’s waves
hurled backwards from the Tuscan shore,
toppling Numa’s Regia and
the shrine of Vesta,

far too fierce now, the fond river
in his revenge of wronged Ilia,
drowning the whole left bank, deep,
without permission.

Our children, fewer for their father’s
vices, will hear metal sharpened
that’s better destined for the Persians,
and of battles too.

Which gods shall the people call on
when the Empire falls in ruins?
With what prayer shall the virgins
tire heedless Vesta?

Whom will Jupiter assign to
expiate our sins? We pray you,
come, cloud veiling your bright shoulders,
far-sighted Apollo:

or laughing Venus Erycina,
if you will, whom Cupid circles,
or you, if you see your children
neglected, Leader,

you sated from the long campaign,
who love the war-shouts and the helmets,
and the Moor’s cruel face among his
blood-stained enemies.

Or you, winged son of kindly Maia,
changing shape on earth to human
form, and ready to be named as
Caesar’s avenger:

Don’t rush back to the sky, stay long
among the people of Quirinus,
no swifter breeze take you away,
unhappy with our

sins: here to delight in triumphs,
in being called our prince and father,
making sure the Medes are punished,
lead us, O Caesar.


III. Virgil: Off to Greece

May the goddess, queen of Cyprus,
and Helen’s brothers, the brightest of stars,
and father of the winds, Aeolus,
confining all except Iapyga, guide you,

ship, that owes us Virgil, given
to your care, guide you to Attica’s shores,
bring him safely there I beg you,
and there watch over half of my spirit.

Triple bronze and oak encircled
the breast of the man who first committed
his fragile bark to the cruel sea,
without fearing the fierce south-westerlies

fighting with the winds from the north,
the sad Hyades, or the raging south,
master of the Adriatic,
whether he stirs or he calms the ocean.

What form of death could he have feared,
who gazed, dry-eyed, on swimming monsters,
saw the waves of the sea boiling,
and Acroceraunia’s infamous cliffs?

Useless for a wise god to part
the lands, with a far-severing Ocean,
if impious ships, in spite of him,
travel the depths he wished inviolable.

Daring enough for anything,
the human race deals in forbidden sin.
That daring son of Iapetus
brought fire, by impious cunning, to men.

When fire was stolen from heaven
its home, wasting disease and a strange crowd
of fevers covered the whole earth,
and death’s powers, that had been slow before

and far away, quickened their step.
Daedalus tried the empty air on wings
that were never granted to men:
Hercules’ labours shattered Acheron.

Nothing’s too high for mortal men:
like fools, we aim at the heavens themselves,
sinful, we won’t let Jupiter
set aside his lightning bolts of anger.


IV. Spring

Fierce winter slackens its grip: it’s spring and the west wind’s sweet change:
the ropes are hauling dry hulls towards the shore,
The flock no longer enjoys the fold, or the ploughman the fire,
no more are the meadows white with hoary frost.

Now Cytherean Venus leads out her dancers, under the pendant moon,
and the lovely Graces have joined with the Nymphs,
treading the earth on tripping feet, while Vulcan, all on fire, visits
the tremendous Cyclopean forges.

Now it’s right to garland our gleaming heads, with green myrtle or flowers,
whatever the unfrozen earth now bears:
now it’s right to sacrifice to Faunus, in groves that are filled with shadow,
whether he asks a lamb, or prefers a kid.

Pale death knocks with impartial foot, at the door of the poor man’s cottage,
and at the prince’s gate. O Sestus, my friend,
the span of brief life prevents us from ever depending on distant hope.
Soon the night will crush you, the fabled spirits,

and Pluto’s bodiless halls: where once you’ve passed inside you’ll no longer
be allotted the lordship of wine by dice,
or marvel at Lycidas, so tender, for whom, already, the boys
are burning, and soon the girls will grow hotter.


V. Treacherous Girl

What slender boy, Pyrrha, drowned in liquid perfume,
urges you on, there, among showers of roses,
deep down in some pleasant cave?
For whom did you tie up your hair,

with simple elegance? How often he’ll cry at
the changes of faith and of gods, ah, he’ll wonder,
surprised by roughening water,
surprised by the darkening storms,

who enjoys you now and believes you’re golden,
who thinks you’ll always be single and lovely,
ignoring the treacherous
breeze. Wretched are those you dazzle

while still untried. As for me the votive tablet
that hangs on the temple wall reveals, suspended,
my dripping clothes, for the god,
who holds power over the sea.


VI. A Tribute to Agrippa

You should be penned as brave, and a conqueror
by Varius, winged with his Homeric poetry,
whatever fierce soldiers, with vessels or horses,
have carried out, at your command.

Agrippa, I don’t try to speak of such things,
not Achilles’ anger, ever unyielding,
nor crafty Ulysses’ long sea-wanderings,
nor the cruel house of Pelops,

I’m too slight for grandeur, since shame and the Muse,
who’s the power of the peaceful lyre, forbids me
to lessen the praise of great Caesar and you,
by my defective artistry.

Who could write worthily of Mars in his armour,
Meriones the Cretan, dark with Troy’s dust,
or Tydides, who with the help of Athene,
was the equal of all the gods?

I sing of banquets, of girls fierce in battle
with closely-trimmed nails, attacking young men:
idly, as I’m accustomed to do, whether
fancy free or burning with love.


VII. Tibur (The Modern Tivoli)

Let others sing in praise of Rhodes, or Mytilene,
or Ephesus, or Corinth on the Isthmus,
or Thebes that’s known for Bacchus, or Apollo’s isle
of Delphi, or Thessalian Tempe.

There’s some whose only purpose is to celebrate
virgin Athene’s city forever,
and set indiscriminately gathered olive on their heads.
Many a poet in honour of Juno

will speak fittingly of horses, Argos, rich Mycenae.
As for me not even stubborn Sparta
or the fields of lush Larisa are quite as striking,
as Albunea’s echoing cavern,

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