Odes (Book 2)
Category: Verse
Genres: Epic poem
Level 10.93 0:28 h 19.0 mb
Odes (Book 2) is the second 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 love, religion, and morality. 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.

Horace: The Odes

Book II

Translated by A. S. Kline

Odes (Book 2)

I. To Pollio, Writing His History of the Civil Wars

You’re handling the Civil Wars, since Metellus
was Consul, the causes, errors, and stages,
Fortune’s game, and the heavy friendships
of princes, and the un-expiated

stain of blood over various weapons,
a task that’s filled with dangerous pitfalls,
so that you’re walking over embers
hidden under the treacherous ashes.

Don’t let the Muse of dark actions be long away
from the theatre: soon, when you’ve finished writing
public events, reveal your great gifts
again in Athenian tragedy,

you famous defendant of troubled clients,
Pollio, support of the Senate’s councils,
whom the laurel gave lasting glory
in the form of your Dalmatian triumph.

Already you’re striking our ears with the sounds,
the menace of blaring horns, and the trumpets,
already the glitter of weapons
terrifies horses, and riders’ faces.

Now I seem to hear magnificent leaders,
heads darkened, but not with inglorious dust,
and all the lands of earth are subdued,
but not implacable Cato’s spirit.

Juno, and those gods friendly to Africa,
who, powerless to avenge the land, withdrew,
make funeral offerings to Jugurtha,
of the grandchildren of his conquerors.

What fields are not enriched with the blood of Rome,
to bear witness with their graves to this impious
struggle of ours, and the sound, even heard
by the Persians, of Italy’s ruin?

What river or pool is ignorant of these
wretched wars? What sea has Roman slaughter failed
to discolour, and show me the shores
that are, as yet, still unstained by our blood.

But Muse, lest you dare to leave happy themes,
and take up Simonides’ dirges again,
search out a lighter plectrum’s measures,
with me, in some deep cavern of Venus.

II. Money

Crispus, silver concealed in the greedy earth
has no colour, and you are an enemy
to all such metal unless, indeed, it gleams
from sensible use.

Proculeius will be famous in distant
ages for his generous feelings towards
his brothers: enduring fame will carry him
on its tireless wings.

You may rule a wider kingdom by taming
a greedy spirit, than by joining Spain
to far-off Libya, while Carthaginians
on both sides, serve one.

A fatal dropsy grows worse with indulgence,
the patient can’t rid himself of thirst unless
his veins are free of illness, and his pale flesh
of watery languor.

Though Phraates is back on the Armenian
throne, Virtue, differing from the rabble, excludes
him from the blessed, and instructs the people
not to misuse words,

instead conferring power, and security
of rule, and lasting laurels, on him alone
who can pass by enormous piles of treasure
without looking back.

III. One Ending

When things are troublesome, always remember,
keep an even mind, and in prosperity
be careful of too much happiness:
since my Dellius, you’re destined to die,

whether you live a life that’s always sad,
or reclining, privately, on distant lawns,
in one long holiday, take delight
in drinking your vintage Falernian.

Why do tall pines, and white poplars, love to merge
their branches in the hospitable shadows?
Why do the rushing waters labour
to hurry along down the winding rivers?

Tell them to bring us the wine, and the perfume,
and all-too-brief petals of lovely roses,
while the world, and the years, and the dark
threads of the three fatal sisters allow.

You’ll leave behind all those meadows you purchased,
your house, your estate, yellow Tiber washes,
you’ll leave them behind, your heir will own
those towering riches you’ve piled so high.

Whether you’re rich, of old Inachus’s line,
or live beneath the sky, a pauper, blessed with
humble birth, it makes no difference:
you’ll be pitiless Orcus’s victim.

We’re all being driven to a single end,
all our lots are tossed in the urn, and, sooner
or later, they’ll emerge, and seat us
in Charon’s boat for eternal exile.

IV. Loving a Servant Girl

Phocian Xanthis, don’t be ashamed of love
for your serving-girl. Once before, Briseis
the Trojan slave with her snow-white skin stirred
angry Achilles:

and captive Tecmessa’s loveliness troubled
her master Ajax, the son of Telamon:
and Agamemnon, in his mid-triumph, burned
for a stolen girl,

while the barbarian armies, defeated
in Greek victory, and the loss of Hector,
handed Troy to the weary Thessalians,
an easier prey.

You don’t know your blond Phyllis hasn’t parents
who are wealthy, and might grace their son-in-law.
Surely she’s royally born, and grieves at her
cruel household gods.

Believe that the girl you love’s not one who comes
from the wicked masses, that one so faithful
so averse to gain, couldn’t be the child of
a shameful mother.

I’m unbiased in praising her arms and face,
and shapely ankles: reject all suspicion
of one whose swiftly vanishing life has known
its fortieth year.

V. Be Patient

She’s not ready to bear a yoke on her bowed
neck yet, she’s not yet equal to the duty
of coupling, or bearing the heavy
weight of a charging bull in the mating act.

The thoughts of your heifer are on green pastures,
on easing her burning heat in the river,
and sporting with the eager calves
in the depths of moist willow plantations.

Forget this passion of yours for the unripe
grape: autumn, the season of many-colours,
will soon be dyeing bluish clusters
a darker purple, on the vine, for you.

Soon she’ll pursue you, since fierce time rushes on
and will add to her the years it takes from you,
soon Lalage herself will be eager
to search you out as a husband, Lalage,

beloved as shy Pholoë was not, nor your
Chloris, with shoulders gleaming white, like a clear
moon shining over a midnight sea,
nor Cnidian Gyges, that lovely boy,

whom you could insert in a choir of girls,
and the wisest of strangers would fail to tell
the difference, with him hidden behind
his flowing hair, and ambiguous looks.

VI. Tibur and Tarentum

Septimus, you, who are prepared to visit
Cadiz with me, and its tribes (they’re not used
to bearing our yoke) and barbarous Syrtes,
by the Moors’ fierce Sea,

I’d rather Tibur, founded by men of Greece,
were my home when I’m old, let it be my goal,
when I’m tired of the seas, and the roads, and all
this endless fighting.

But if the cruel Fates deny me that place,
I’ll head for the river Galaesus, sweet
with its precious sheep, on Spartan fields, once ruled
by King Phalanthus.

That corner of earth is the brightest to me,
where the honey gives nothing away to that
of Hymettus, and its olives compete with
green Venafrum:

where Jupiter grants a lengthy spring, and mild
winters, and Aulon’s hill-slopes, dear to fertile
Bacchus, are filled with least envy for those rich
grapes of Falernum.

That place, and its lovely heights, call out to me,
to you: and there’ll you’ll scatter your debt of sad
tears, over the still-glowing ashes of this,
the poet, your friend.

VII. A Friend Home from the Wars

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