Cave

molossian_hound_british_museum
The Jennings Dog

Quid immerentis hospites vexas canis
ignavus adversum lupos?
quin huc inanis, si potes, vertis minas,
et me remorsurum petis?
nam qualis aut Molossus aut fulvus Lacon,
amica vis pastoribus,
agam per altas aure sublata nives,
quaecumque praecedet fera:
tu cum timenda voce complesti nemus,
proiectum odoraris cibum.
cave, cave: namque in malos asperrimus
parata tollo cornua,
qualis Lycambae spretus infido gener
aut acer hostis Bupalo.
an si quis atro dente me petiverit,
inultus ut flebo puer?

(Horace, Epodes 6)

How dare you go for unoffending guests, you who are a cowardly cur when confronted with wolves? Why not turn your empty threats in this direction, if you have the guts, and attack someone who will bite back? Like a Molossian or tawny Spartan, the shepherd’s sturdy friend, I shall prick up my ears and hunt down through the deep snow any animal that runs away from me, whereas you fill the woods with ferocious barking and then sniff at food thrown at your feet. Take care now, take care! For I am utterly ruthless against villains, and now toss my horns in readiness, like the son-in-law rejected by the treacherous Lycambes*, or the fierce enemy of Bupalus**. Well, if someone attacks me with the tooth of malice, am I expected to weep like a child, without retaliating?

* Archilochus. Lycambes promised his daughter, Neobule, to Archilochus and then reneged, whereupon he was hounded to death by the poet’s invective.
** Bupalus was a Greek sculptor who antagonised the iambic writer Hipponax (late 6th cent. B.C.).

(tr. Niall Rudd, with his notes)

 

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