Laetus in praesens animus quod ultra est
oderit curare et amara lento
temperet risu; nihil est ab omni
abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus,
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
te greges centum Siculaeque circum
mugiunt vaccae, tibi tollit hinnitum
apta quadrigis equa, te bis Afro
vestiunt lanae: mihi parva rura et
spiritum Graiae tenuem Camenae
Parca non mendax dedit et malignum
(Horace, Carm. 2.16.25-40)
The mind that is happy for the present should refuse to worry about what is further ahead; it should dilute bitter things with a mild smile. Nothing is happy in every respect. An early death overtook the famous Achilles; a protracted old age wasted Tithonus away; it may be that time will offer me what it has denied to you. All around you a hundred herds of Sicilian cattle low; you have a whinnying mare just right for the four-horse chariot; you wear woollen clothes dyed twice over in African crimson. To me the Thrifty One* that does not belie her name has given a small estate, a slight puff of inspiration from the Graeco-Roman Muse, and a scorn for the resentful mob.
Filius Aesopi detractam ex aure Metellae,
scilicet ut deciens solidum absorberet, aceto
diluit insignem bacam: qui sanior ac si
illud idem in rapidum flumen iaceretve cloacam?
Quinti progenies Arri, par nobile fratrum
nequitia et nugis pravorum et amore gemellum
luscinias soliti inpenso prandere coëmptas,
quorsum abeant? sani ut creta, an carbone notati?
(Horace, Serm. 2.3.239-246)
Aesopus’ son took a splendid pearl from Metella’s
Ear-lobe, and dissolved it in vinegar, clearly
Intending to swallow a million straight: was that
Saner than hurling it into the flood, or the sewer?
Quintus Arrius’ sons, equally famous brothers,
Twins in waste and wickedness, loving depravity,
Used to eat highly-priced nightingales for lunch:
How should we list them? With chalk, sane, or with charcoal? (tr. Tony Kline)
Si quis eum servum, patinam qui tollere iussus
semesos pisces tepidumque ligurrierit ius,
in cruce suffigat, Labeone insanior inter
sanos dicatur. quanto hoc furiosius atque
maius peccatum est: paulum deliquit amicus,
quod nisi concedas, habeare insuavis: acerbus
odisti et fugis ut Rusonem debitor aeris,
qui nisi, cum tristes misero venere Kalendae,
mercedem aut nummos unde unde extricat, amaras
porrecto iugulo historias captivus ut audit.
(Horace, Serm. 1.3.80-89)
If a man were to nail his slave to a cross for eating
Left-over fish and cold sauce from the dish he’d been told
To remove, sane men would call him madder than Labeo.
Well how much greater and more insane a fault is this:
When your friend has committed some slight offence,
That you’d be thought ungracious not to have pardoned,
You hate him savagely, and shun him as Ruso is shunned
By his debtor. When the unhappy Kalends come, if he can’t,
Poor wretch, rustle up principal or interest from somewhere,
He has to expose his throat, and listen to those sad Histories! (tr. Tony Kline)
Octavius Ruso acerbus faenerator fuisse traditur, idem scriptor historiarum, ad quas audiendas significat solitum fuisse cogere debitores suos, quibus scilicet talia audire poena gravissima erat. hoc enim significat ‘porrecto iugulo’.
(Porphyrius, Comm. in Hor. Serm. 1.3.86)
Octavius Ruso is said to have been a rigid moneylender and also a writer of histories. Horace means that he used to force his debtors to listen to these histories – and for them this was no doubt a very cruel punishment. That is what he means by ‘to expose his throat’. (tr. David Bauwens)
Cur me querelis exanimas tuis?
nec dis amicum est nec mihi te prius
obire, Maecenas, mearum
grande decus columenque rerum.
a! te meae si partem animae rapit
maturior vis, quid moror altera,
nec carus aeque nec superstes
integer? ille dies utramque
ducet ruinam. non ego perfidum
dixi sacramentum: ibimus, ibimus,
utcumque praecedes, supremum
carpere iter comites parati.
(Horace, Carm. 2.17.1-12)
Why do you worry me to death with your grumbling? It is not the gods’ will or mine that you should die first, Maecenas, you who are the greatest glory and keystone of my existence. If some force snatches away you, who are part of my soul, before me, ah, what do I care for the other part, no longer equally loved, and, though surviving, no longer a whole person? That day will drag both of us down to death. I have sworn a solemn oath and will not break it: we will go, yes, we will go, whenever you take the lead; we are ready to set out on the final journey as comrades together. (tr. Niall Rudd)
O noctes cenaeque deum, quibus ipse meique
ante Larem proprium vescor vernasque procaces
pasco libatis dapibus. prout cuique libido est,
siccat inaequales calices conviva solutus
legibus insanis, seu quis capit acria fortis
pocula, seu modicis uvescit laetius. ergo
sermo oritur, non de villis domibusve alienis,
nec male necne Lepos saltet, sed, quod magis ad nos
pertinet et nescire malum est, agitamus: utrumne
divitiis homines an sint virtute beati,
quidve ad amicitias, usus rectumne, trahat nos
et quae sit natura boni summumque quid eius.
(Horace, Serm. 2.6.65-76)
O heavenly night-time dinners, when I and my friends
Eat beside my own Lar, and feed jostling servants
On left-over offerings. Each guest drinks as he wishes
Large glasses or small, free from foolish rules, whether
He downs the strong stuff, nobly, or wets his whistle
In more carefree style. And so the conversation starts.
Not about other men’s houses in town, their country
Villas, or whether Lepos dances well or not: no,
We talk about things one should know, that matter more:
Whether its wealth or character makes men happier:
Whether self-interest or virtue make men friends:
And the nature of the good, and its highest form. (tr. Tony Kline)
Albi, nostrorum sermonum candide iudex,
quid nunc te dicam facere in regione Pedana?
scribere quod Cassi Parmensis opuscula vincat,
an tacitum silvas inter reptare salubres,
curantem quicquid dignum sapiente bonoque est?
non tu corpus eras sine pectore: di tibi formam,
di tibi divitias dederunt artemque fruendi.
Quid voveat dulci nutricula maius alumno,
qui sapere et fari possit quae sentiat et cui
gratia, fama, ualetudo contingat abunde,
et mundus victus non deficiente crumina?
Inter spem curamque, timores inter et iras
omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum:
grata superveniet quae non sperabitur hora.
me pinguem et nitidum bene curata cute vises,
cum ridere voles Epicuri de grege porcum.
(Horace, Ep. 1.4)
Albius, good-natured critic of my ‘Conversations’,
out there in the Pedana what shall I say you’re doing?
Outdoing Cassius of Parma and his little books?
or strolling silently around those healthy woods,
concerned with what befits a man who’s wise and good?
No, you were never body without mind. The gods
gave you looks, wealth and skill to make the best of them.
What better could a little nursemaid pray for,
whose charge had sense, could speak his mind, who had
good name, good friends, good health in plenty too,
and lived with style and with a purse that’s deep enough?
Amid anxiety and hope, anger and fear,
think of each day that dawns as if it were your last.
Each unexpected hour will be a gift of joy.
I shall be plump, kempt, glossy when you visit
to laugh at one from Epicurus’ herd: a pig. (tr. Keith Maclennan)
Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
regumque turres. o beate Sesti,
vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam.
iam te premet nox fabulaeque Manes
et domus exilis Plutonia; quo simul mearis,
nec regna vini sortiere talis,
nec tenerum Lycidan mirabere, quo calet iuventus
nunc omnis et mox virgines tepebunt.
(Horace, Carm. 1.4.13-20)
Pale Death knocks with impartial foot on the poor man’s cottage and the rich man’s castle. Sestius, well-off as you are, the brief span of life forbids us to embark on far-reaching hopes. Soon night will close round you, and the storied Ghosts and the meagre house of Pluto. Once you reach there, you will not throw dice to decide who directs the party, nor will you gaze in admiration at the boyish Lycidas, who now makes all the young men burn with passion and before long will kindle the desires of the girls. (tr. Niall Rudd)