Maecenas, descended from royal ancestors, O both my protection and my darling honor! There are those whom it delights to have collected Olympic dust in the chariot race; and [whom] the goal nicely avoided by the glowing wheels, and the noble palm, exalts, lords of the earth, to the gods.
This man, if a crowd of the capricious Quirites strive to raise him to the highest dignities; another, if he has stored up in his own granary whatsoever is swept from the Libyan thrashing floors: him who delights to cut with the hoe his patrimonial fields, you could never tempt, for all the wealth of Attalus, [to become] a timorous sailor and cross the Myrtoan sea in a Cyprian bark. The merchant, dreading the south-west wind contending with the Icarian waves, commends tranquility and the rural retirement of his village; but soon after, incapable of being taught to bear poverty, he refits his shattered vessel. There is another, who despises not cups of old Massic, taking a part from the entire day, one while stretched under the green arbute, another at the placid head of some sacred stream.
The camp, and the sound of the trumpet mingled with that of the clarion, and wars detested by mothers, rejoice many.
The huntsman, unmindful of his tender spouse, remains in the cold air, whether a hart is held in view by his faithful hounds, or a Marsian boar has broken the fine-wrought toils.
Ivy, the reward of learned brows, equals me with the gods above: the cool grove, and the light dances of nymphs and satyrs, distinguish me from the crowd; if neither Euterpe withholds her pipe, nor Polyhymnia disdains to tune the Lesbian lyre. But, if you rank me among the lyric poets, I shall tower to the stars with my exalted head.
Enough of snow and dreadful hail has the Sire now sent upon the earth, and having hurled [his thunderbolts] with his red right hand against the sacred towers, he has terrified the city; he has terrified the nations, lest the grievous age of Pyrrha, complaining of prodigies till then unheard of, should return, when Proteus drove all his [marine] herd to visit the lofty mountains; and the fishy race were entangled in the elm top, which before was the frequented seat of doves; and the timorous deer swam in the overwhelming flood. We have seen the yellow Tiber, with his waves forced back with violence from the Tuscan shore, proceed to demolish the monuments of king [Numa], and the temples of Vesta; while he vaunts himself the avenger of the too disconsolate Ilia, and the uxorious river, leaving his channel, overflows his left bank, notwithstanding the disapprobation of Jupiter.
Our youth, less numerous by the vices of their fathers, shall hear of the citizens having whetted that sword [against themselves], with which it had been better that the formidable Persians had fallen; they shall hear of [actual] engagements. Whom of the gods shall the people invoke to the affairs of the sinking empire? With what prayer shall the sacred virgins importune Vesta, who is now inattentive to their hymns? To whom shall Jupiter assign the task of expiating our wickedness? Do thou at length, prophetic Apollo, (we pray thee!) come, vailing thy radiant shoulders with a cloud: or thou, if it be more agreeable to thee, smiling Venus, about whom hover the gods of mirth and love: or thou, if thou regard thy neglected race and descendants, our founder Mars, whom clamor and polished helmets, and the terrible aspect of the Moorish infantry against their bloody enemy, delight, satiated at length with thy sport, alas! of too long continuance: or if thou, the winged son of gentle Maia, by changing thy figure, personate a youth upon earth, submitting to be called the avenger of Caesar; late mayest thou return to the skies, and long mayest thou joyously be present to the Roman people; nor may an untimely blast transport thee from us, offended at our crimes. Here mayest thou rather delight in magnificent triumphs, and to be called father and prince: nor suffer the Parthians with impunity to make incursions, you, O Caesar, being our general.
So may the goddess who rules over Cyprus; so may the bright stars, the brothers of Helen; and so may the father of the winds, confining all except Iapyx, direct thee, O ship, who art intrusted with Virgil; my prayer is, that thou mayest land him safe on the Athenian shore, and preserve the half of my soul. Surely oak and three-fold brass surrounded his heart who first trusted a frail vessel to the merciless ocean, nor was afraid of the impetuous Africus contending with the northern storms, nor of the mournful Hyades, nor of the rage of Notus, than whom there is not a more absolute controller of the Adriatic, either to raise or assuage its waves at pleasure. What path of death did he fear, who beheld unmoved the rolling monsters of the deep; who beheld unmoved the tempestuous swelling of the sea, and the Acroceraunians — ill-famed rocks?
In vain has God in his wisdom divided the countries of the earth by the separating ocean, if nevertheless profane ships bound over waters not to be violated. The race of man presumptuous enough to endure everything, rushes on through forbidden wickedness.
The presumptuous son of Iapetus, by an impious fraud, brought down fire into the world. After fire was stolen from the celestial mansions, consumption and a new train of fevers settled upon the earth, and the slow approaching necessity of death, which, till now, was remote, accelerated its pace. Daedalus essayed the empty air with wings not permitted to man. The labor of Hercules broke through Acheron. There is nothing too arduous for mortals to attempt. We aim at heaven itself in our folly; neither do we suffer, by our wickedness, Jupiter to lay aside his revengeful thunderbolts.
Severe winter is melted away beneath the agreeable change of spring and the western breeze; and engines haul down the dry ships. And neither does the cattle any longer delight in the stalls, nor the ploughman in the fireside; nor are the meadows whitened by hoary frosts. Now Cytherean Venus leads off the dance by moonlight; and the comely Graces, in conjunction with the Nymphs, shake the ground with alternate feet; while glowing Vulcan kindles the laborious forges of the Cyclops. Now it is fitting to encircle the shining head either with verdant myrtle, or with such flowers as the relaxed earth produces. Now likewise it is fitting to sacrifice to Faunus in the shady groves, whether he demand a lamb, or be more pleased with a kid. Pale death knocks at the cottages of the poor, and the palaces of kings, with an impartial foot. O happy Sextius! The short sum total of life forbids us to form remote expectations. Presently shall darkness, and the unreal ghosts, and the shadowy mansion of Pluto oppress you; where, when you shall have once arrived, you shall neither decide the dominion of the bottle by dice, nor shall you admire the tender Lycidas, with whom now all the youth is inflamed, and for whom ere long the maidens will grow warm.
What dainty youth, bedewed with liquid perfumes, caresses you, Pyrrha, beneath the pleasant grot, amid a profusion of roses? For whom do you bind your golden hair, plain in your neatness? Alas! how often shall he deplore your perfidy, and the altered gods; and through inexperience be amazed at the seas, rough with blackening storms who now credulous enjoys you all precious, and, ignorant of the faithless gale, hopes you will be always disengaged, always amiable! Wretched are those, to whom thou untried seemest fair? The sacred wall [of Neptune’s temple] demonstrates, by a votive tablet, that I have consecrated my dropping garments to the powerful god of the sea.
You shall be described by Varius, a bird of Maeonian verse, as brave, and a subduer of your enemies, whatever achievements your fierce soldiery shall have accomplished, under your command; either on ship-board or on horseback. We humble writers, O Agrippa, neither undertake these high subjects, nor the destructive wrath of inexorable Achilles, nor the voyages of the crafty Ulysses, nor the cruel house of Pelops: while diffidence, and the Muse who presides over the peaceful lyre, forbid me to diminish the praise of illustrious Caesar, and yours, through defect of genius. Who with sufficient dignity will describe Mars covered with adamantine coat of mail, or Meriones swarthy with Trojan dust, or the son of Tydeus by the favor of Pallas a match for the gods? We, whether free, or ourselves enamored of aught, light as our wont, sing of banquets; we, of the battles of maids desperate against young fellows — with pared nails.
Other poets shall celebrate the famous Rhodes, or Mitylene, or Ephesus, or the walls of Corinth, situated between two seas, or Thebes, illustrious by Bacchus, or Delphi by Apollo, or the Thessalian Tempe. There are some, whose one task it is to chant in endless verse the city of spotless Pallas, and to prefer the olive culled from every side, to every other leaf. Many a one, in honor of Juno, celebrates Argos, productive of steeds, and rich Mycenae. Neither patient Lacedaemon so much struck me, nor so much did the plain of fertile Larissa, as the house of resounding Albunea, and the precipitately rapid Anio, and the Tiburnian groves, and the orchards watered by ductile rivulets. As the clear south wind often clears away the clouds from a lowering sky, now teems with perpetual showers; so do you, O Plancus, wisely remember to put an end to grief and the toils of life by mellow wine; whether the camp, refulgent with banners, possess you, or the dense shade of your own Tibur shall detain you. When Teucer fled from Salamis and his father, he is reported, notwithstanding, to have bound his temples, bathed in wine, with a poplar crown, thus accosting his anxious friends: “O associates and companions, we will go wherever fortune, more propitious than a father, shall carry us. Nothing is to be despaired of under Teucer’s conduct, and the auspices of Teucer: for the infallible Apollo has promised, that a Salamis in a new land shall render the name equivocal. O gallant heroes, and often my fellow-sufferers in greater hardships than these, now drive away your cares with wine: tomorrow we will re-visit the vast ocean.”
Lydia, I conjure thee by all the powers above, to tell me why you are so intent to ruin Sybaris by inspiring him with love? Why hates he the sunny plain, though inured to bear the dust and heat? Why does he neither, in military accouterments, appear mounted among his equals; nor manage the Gallic steed with bitted reins? Why fears he to touch the yellow Tiber? Why shuns he the oil of the ring more cautiously than viper’s blood? Why neither does he, who has often acquired reputation by the quoit, often by the javelin having cleared the mark, any longer appear with arms all black-and-blue by martial exercises? Why is he concealed, as they say the son of the sea-goddess Thetis was, just before the mournful funerals of Troy; lest a manly habit should hurry him to slaughter, and the Lycian troops?
You see how Soracte stands white with deep snow, nor can the laboring woods any longer support the weight, and the rivers stagnate with the sharpness of the frost. Dissolve the cold, liberally piling up billets on the hearth; and bring out, O Thaliarchus, the more generous wine, four years old, from the Sabine jar. Leave the rest to the gods, who having once laid the winds warring with the fervid ocean, neither the cypresses nor the aged ashes are moved. Avoid inquiring what may happen tomorrow; and whatever day fortune shall bestow on you, score it up for gain; nor disdain, being a young fellow, pleasant loves, nor dances, as long as ill-natured hoariness keeps off from your blooming age. Now let both the Campus Martius and the public walks, and soft whispers at the approach of evening be repeated at the appointed hour: now, too, the delightful laugh, the betrayer of the lurking damsel from some secret corner, and the token ravished from her arms or fingers, pretendingly tenacious of it.
Mercury, eloquent grandson of Atlas, thou who artful didst from the savage manners of the early race of men by oratory, and the institution of the graceful Palaestra: I will celebrate thee, messenger of Jupiter and the other gods, and parent of the curved lyre; ingenious to conceal whatever thou hast a mind to, in jocose theft. While Apollo, with angry voice, threatened you, then but a boy, unless you would restore the oxen, previously driven away by your fraud, he laughed, [when he found himself] deprived of his quiver [also]. Moreover, the wealthy Priam too, on his departure from Ilium, under your guidance deceived the proud sons of Atreus, and the Thessalian watch-lights, and the camp inveterate agaist Troy. You settle the souls of good men in blissful regions, and drive together the airy crowd with your golden rod, acceptable both to the supernal and infernal gods.
Inquire not, Leuconoe (it is not fitting you should know), how long a term of life the gods have granted to you or to me: neither consult the Chaldean calculations. How much better is it to bear with patience whatever shall happen! Whether Jupiter have granted us more winters, or [this as] the last, which now breaks the Etrurian waves against the opposing rocks. Be wise; rack off your wines, and abridge your hopes [in proportion] to the shortness of your life. While we are conversing, envious age has been flying; seize the present day, not giving the least credit to the succeeding one.
What man, what hero, O Clio, do you undertake to celebrate on the harp, or the shrill pipe? What god? Whose name shall the sportive echo resound, either in the shady borders of Helicon, or on the top of Pindus, or on cold Haemus? Whence the woods followed promiscuously the tuneful Orpheus, who by his maternal art retarded the rapid courses of rivers, and the fleet winds; and was so sweetly persuasive, that he drew along the listening oaks with his harmonious strings. But what can I sing prior to the usual praises of the Sire, who governs the affairs of men and gods; who [governs] the sea, the earth, and the whole world with the vicissitudes of seasons? Whence nothing is produced greater than him; nothing springs either like him, or even in a second degree to him: nevertheless, Pallas has acquired these honors, which are next after him.
Neither will I pass thee by in silence, O Bacchus, bold in combat; nor thee, O Virgin, who art an enemy to the savage beasts; nor thee, O Phoebus, formidable for thy unerring dart.
I will sing also of Hercules, and the sons of Leda, the one illustrious for his achievements on horseback, the other on foot; whose clear-shining constellation as soon as it has shone forth to the sailors, the troubled surge falls down from the rocks, the winds cease, the clouds vanish, and the threatening waves subside in the sea — because it was their will. After these, I am in doubt whom I shall first commemorate, whether Romulus, or the peaceful reign of Numa, or the splendid ensigns of Tarquinius, or the glorious death of Cato. I will celebrate, out of gratitude, with the choicest verses, Regulus, and the Scauri, and Paulus, prodigal of his mighty soul, when Carthage conquered, and Fabricius.
Severe poverty, and an hereditary farm, with a dwelling suited to it, formed this hero useful in war; as it did also Curius with his rough locks, and Camillus. The fame of Marcellus increases, as a tree does in the insensible progress of time. But the Julian constellation shines amid them all, as the moon among the smaller stars. O thou son of Saturn, author and preserver of the human race, the protection of Caesar is committed to thy charge by the Fates: thou shalt reign supreme, with Caesar for thy second. Whether he shall subdue with a just victory the Parthians making inroads upon Italy, or shall render subject the Seres and Indians on the Eastern coasts; he shall rule the wide world with equity, in subordination to thee. Thou shalt shake Olympus with thy tremendous car; thou shalt hurl thy hostile thunderbolts against the polluted groves.
O Lydia, when you commend Telephus’ rosy neck, and the waxen arms of Telephus, alas! my inflamed liver swells with bile difficult to be repressed. Then neither is my mind firm, nor does my color maintain a certain situation: and the involuntary tears glide down my cheek, proving with what lingering flames I am inwardly consumed. I am on fire, whether quarrels rendered immoderate by wine have stained your fair shoulders; or whether the youth, in his fury, has impressed with his teeth a memorial on your lips. If you will give due attention to my advice, never expect that he will be constant, who inhumanly wounds those sweet kisses, which Venus has imbued with the fifth part of all her nectar. O thrice and more than thrice happy those, whom an indissoluble connection binds together; and whose love, undivided by impious complainings, does not separate them sooner than the last day!
O ship, new waves will bear you back again to sea. O what are you doing? Bravely seize the port. Do you not perceive, that your sides are destitute of oars, and your mast wounded by the violent south wind, and your main-yards groan, and your keel can scarcely support the impetuosity of the waves without the help of cordage? You have not entire sails; nor gods, whom you may again invoke, pressed with distress: notwithstanding you are made of the pines of Pontus, and as the daughter of an illustrious wood, boast your race, and a fame now of no service to you. The timorous sailor has no dependence on a painted stern. Look to yourself, unless you are destined to be the sport of the winds. O thou, so lately my trouble and fatigue, but now an object of tenderness and solicitude, mayest thou escape those dangerous seas which flow among the shining Cyclades.
When the perfidious shepherd (Paris) carried off by sea in Trojan ships his hostess Helen, Nereus suppressed the swift winds in an unpleasant calm, that he might sing the dire fates. “With unlucky omen art thou conveying home her, whom Greece with a numerous army shall demand back again, having entered into a confederacy to dissolve your nuptials, and the ancient kingdom of Priam. Alas! what sweat to horses, what to men, is just at hand! What a destruction art thou preparing for the Trojan nation! Even now Pallas is fitting her helmet, and her shield, and her chariot, and her fury. In vain, looking fierce through the patronage of Venus, will you comb your hair, and run divisions upon the effeminate lyre with songs pleasing to women. In vain will you escape the spears that disturb the nuptial bed, and the point of the Cretan dart, and the din [of battle], and Ajax swift in the pursuit. Nevertheless, alas! the time will come, though late, when thou shalt defile thine adulterous hairs in the dust. Dost thou not see the son of Laertes, fatal to thy nation, and Pylian Nestor, Salaminian Teucer, and Sthenelus skilled in fight (or if there be occasion to manage horses, no tardy charioteer), pursue thee with intrepidity? Meriones also shalt thou experience. Behold! the gallant son of Tydeus, a better man than his father, glows to find you out: him, as a stag flies a wolf, which he has seen on the opposite side of the vale, unmindful of his pasture, shall you, effeminate, fly, grievously panting:— not such the promises you made your mistress. The fleet of the enraged Achilles shall defer for a time that day, which is to be fatal to Troy and the Trojan matrons: but, after a certain number of years, Grecian fire shall consume the Trojan palaces.”
O daughter, more charming than your charming mother, put what end you please to my insulting iambics; either in the flames, or, if you choose it, in the Adriatic. Nor Cybele, nor Apollo, the dweller in the shrines, so shakes the breast of his priests; Bacchus does not do it equally, nor do the Corybantes so redouble their strokes on the sharp-sounding cymbals, as direful anger; which neither the Noric sword can deter, nor the shipwrecking sea, nor dreadful fire, not Jupiter himself rushing down with awful crash. It is reported that Prometheus was obliged to add to that original clay [with which he formed mankind], some ingredient taken from every animal, and that he applied the vehemence of the raging lion to the human breast. It was rage that destroyed Thyestes with horrible perdition; and has been the final cause that lofty cities have been entirely demolished, and that an insolent army has driven the hostile plowshare over their walls. Compose your mind. An ardor of soul attacked me also in blooming youth, and drove me in a rage to the writing of swift-footed iambics. Now I am desirous of exchanging severity for good nature, provided that you will become my friend, after my having recanted my abuse, and restore me your affections.
The nimble Faunus often exchanges the Lycaean mountain for the pleasant Lucretilis, and always defends my she-goats from the scorching summer, and the rainy winds. The wandering wives of the unsavory husband seek the hidden strawberry-trees and thyme with security through the safe grove: nor do the kids dread the green lizards, or the wolves sacred to Mars; whenever, my Tyndaris, the vales and the smooth rocks of the sloping Ustica have resounded with his melodious pipe. The gods are my protectors. My piety and my muse are agreeable to the gods. Here plenty, rich with rural honors, shall flow to you, with her generous horn filled to the brim. Here, in a sequestered vale, you shall avoid the heat of the dog-star; and, on your Anacreontic harp, sing of Penelope and the frail Circe striving for one lover; here you shall quaff, under the shade, cups of unintoxicating Lesbian. Nor shall the raging son of Semele enter the combat with Mars; and unsuspected you shall not fear the insolent Cyrus, lest he should savagely lay his intemperate hands on you, who are by no means a match for him; and should rend the chaplet that is platted in your hair, and your inoffensive garment.
O Varus, you can plant no tree preferable to the sacred vine, about the mellow soil of Tibur, and the walls of Catilus. For God hath rendered every thing cross to the sober; nor do biting cares disperse any otherwise [than by the use of wine]. Who, after wine, complains of the hardships of war or of poverty? Who does not rather [celebrate] thee, Father Bacchus, and thee, comely Venus? Nevertheless, the battle of the Centaurs with the Lapithae, which was fought in their cups, admonishes us not to exceed a moderate use of the gifts of Bacchus. And Bacchus himself admonishes us in his severity to the Thracians; when greedy to satisfy their lusts, they make little distinction between right and wrong. O beauteous Bacchus, I will not rouse thee against thy will, nor will I hurry abroad thy [mysteries, which are] covered with various leaves. Cease your dire cymbals, together with your Phrygian horn, whose followers are blind Self-love and Arrogance, holding up too high her empty head, and the Faith communicative of secrets, and more transparent than glass.
The cruel mother of the Cupids, and the son of the Theban Gemele, and lascivious ease, command me to give back my mind to its deserted loves. The splendor of Glycera, shining brighter than the Parian marble, inflames me: her agreeable petulance, and her countenance, too unsteady to be beheld, inflame me. Venus, rushing on me with her whole force, has quitted Cyprus; and suffers me not to sing of the Scythians, and the Parthian, furious when his horse is turned for flight, or any subject which is not to the present purpose. Here, slaves, place me a live turf; here, place me vervains and frankincense, with a flagon of two-year-old wine. She will approach more propitious, after a victim has been sacrificed.
My dear knight Maecenas, you shall drink [at my house] ignoble Sabine wine in sober cups, which I myself sealed up in the Grecian cask, stored at the time, when so loud an applause was given to you in the amphitheatre, that the banks of your ancestral river, together with the cheerful echo of the Vatican mountain, returned your praises. You [when you are at home] will drink the Caecuban, and the grape which is squeezed in the Calenian press; but neither the Falernian vines, nor the Formian hills, season my cups.
Ye tender virgins, sing Diana; ye boys, sing Apollo with his unshorn hair, and Latona passionately beloved by the supreme Jupiter. Ye (virgins), praise her that rejoices in the rivers, and the thick groves, which project either from the cold Algidus, or the gloomy woods of Erymanthus, or the green Cragus. Ye boys, extol with equal praises Apollo’s Delos, and his shoulder adorned with a quiver, and with his brother Mercury’s lyre. He, moved by your intercession, shall drive away calamitous war, and miserable famine, and the plague from the Roman people and their sovereign Caesar, to the Persians and the Britons.
The man of upright life and pure from wickedness, O Fuscus, has no need of the Moorish javelins, or bow, or quiver loaded with poisoned darts. Whether he is about to make his journey through the sultry Syrtes, or the inhospitable Caucasus, or those places which Hydaspes, celebrated in story, washes. For lately, as I was singing my Lalage, and wandered beyond my usual bounds, devoid of care, a wolf in the Sabine wood fled from me, though I was unarmed: such a monster as neither the warlike Apulia nourishes in its extensive woods, nor the land of Juba, the dry-nurse of lions, produces. Place me in those barren plains, where no tree is refreshed by the genial air; at that part of the world, which clouds and an inclement atmosphere infest. Place me under the chariot of the too neighboring sun, in a land deprived of habitations; [there] will I love my sweetly-smiling, sweetly-speaking Lalage.
You shun me, Chloe, like a fawn that is seeking its timorous mother in the pathless mountains, not without a vain dread of the breezes and the thickets: for she trembles both in her heart and knees, whether the arrival of the spring has terrified by its rustling leaves, or the green lizards have stirred the bush. But I do not follow you, like a savage tigress, or a Gaetulian lion, to tear you to pieces. Therefore, quit your mother, now that you are mature for a husband.
What shame or bound can there be to our affectionate regret for so dear a person? O Melpomene, on whom your father has bestowed a clear voice and the harp, teach me the mournful strains. Does then perpetual sleep oppress Quinctilius? To whom when will modesty, and uncorrupt faith the sister of Justice, and undisguised truth, find any equal? He died lamented by many good men, but more lamented by none than by you, my Virgil. You, though pious, alas! in vain demand Quinctilius back from the gods, who did not lend him to us on such terms. What, though you could strike the lyre, listened to by the trees, with more sweetness than the Thracian Orpheus; yet the blood can never return to the empty shade, which Mercury, inexorable to reverse the fates, has with his dreadful Caduceus once driven to the gloomy throng. This is hard: but what it is out of our power to amend, becomes more supportable by patience.
The wanton youths less violently shake thy fastened windows with their redoubled knocks, nor do they rob you of your rest; and your door, which formerly moved its yielding hinges freely, now sticks lovingly to its threshold. Less and less often do you now hear: “My Lydia, dost thou sleep the live-long night, while I your lover am dying?” Now you are an old woman, it will be your turn to bewail the insolence of rakes, when you are neglected in a lonely alley, while the Thracian wind rages at the Interlunium: when that hot desire and lust, which is wont to render furious the dams of horses, shall rage about your ulcerous liver: not without complaint, that sprightly youth rejoice rather in the verdant ivy and growing myrtle, and dedicate sapless leaves to Eurus, the companion of winter.
A friend to the Muses, I will deliver up grief and fears to the wanton winds, to waft into the Cretan Sea; singularly careless, what king of a frozen region is dreaded under the pole, or what terrifies Tiridates. O sweet muse, who art delighted with pure fountains, weave together the sunny flowers, weave a chaplet for my Lamia. Without thee, my praises profit nothing. To render him immortal by new strains, to render him immortal by the Lesbian lyre, becomes both thee and thy sisters.
To quarrel over your cups, which were made for joy, is downright Thracian. Away with the barbarous custom, and protect modest Bacchus from bloody frays. How immensely disagreeable to wine and candles is the sabre of the Medes! O my companions, repress your wicked vociferations, and rest quietly on bended elbow. Would you have me also take my share of stout Falernian? Let the brother of Opuntian Megilla then declare, with what wound he is blessed, with what dart he is dying. — What, do you refuse? I will not drink upon any other condition. Whatever kind of passion rules you, it scorches you with the flames you need not be ashamed of, and you always indulge in an honorable, an ingenuous love. Come, whatever is your case, trust it to faithful ears. Ah, unhappy! in what a Charybdis art thou struggling, O youth, worthy of a better flame! What witch, what magician, with his Thessalian incantations, what deity can free you? Pegasus himself will scarcely deliver you, so entangled, from this three-fold chimera.
The [want of the] scanty present of a little sand near the Mantinian shore, confines thee, O Archytas, the surveyor of sea and earth, and of the innumerable sand: neither is it of any advantage to you, to have explored the celestial regions, and to have traversed the round world in your imagination, since thou wast to die. Thus also did the father of Pelops, the guest of the gods, die; and Tithonus likewise was translated to the skies, and Minos, though admitted to the secrets of Jupiter; and the Tartarean regions are possessed of the son of Panthous, once more sent down to the receptacle of the dead; notwithstanding, having retaken his shield from the temple, he gave evidence of the Trojan times, and that he had resigned to gloomy death nothing but his sinews and skin; in your opinion, no inconsiderable judge of truth and nature. But the game night awaits all, and the road of death must once be travelled. The Furies give up some to the sport of horrible Mars: the greedy ocean is destructive to sailors: the mingled funerals of young and old are crowded together: not a single person does the cruel Proserpine pass by. The south wind, the tempestuous attendant on the setting Orion, has sunk me also in the Illyrian waves. But do not thou, O sailor, malignantly grudge to give a portion of loose sand to my bones and unburied head. So, whatever the east wind shall threaten to the Italian sea, let the Venusinian woods suffer, while you are in safety; and manifold profit, from whatever port it may, come to you by favoring Jove, and Neptune, the defender of consecrated Tarentum. But if you, by chance, make light of committing a crime, which will be hurtful to your innocent posterity, may just laws and haughty retribution await you. I will not be deserted with fruitless prayers; and no expiations shall atone for you. Though you are in haste, you need not tarry long: after having thrice sprinkled the dust over me, you may proceed.
O Iccius, you now covet the opulent treasures of the Arabians, and are preparing vigorous for a war against the kings of Saba, hitherto unconquered, and are forming chains for the formidable Mede. What barbarian virgin shall be your slave, after you have killed her betrothed husband? What boy from the court shall be made your cup-bearer, with his perfumed locks, skilled to direct the Seric arrows with his father’s bow? Who will now deny that it is probable for precipitate rivers to flow back again to the high mountains, and for Tiber to change his course, since you are about to exchange the noble works of Panaetius, collected from all parts, together with the whole Socratic family, for Iberian armor, after you had promised better things?
O Venus, queen of Gnidus and Paphos, neglect your favorite Cyprus, and transport yourself into the beautiful temple of Glycera, who is invoking you with abundance of frankincense. Let your glowing son hasten along with you, and the Graces with their zones loosed, and the Nymphs, and Youth possessed of little charm without you and Mercury.
What does the poet beg from Phoebus on the dedication of his temple? What does he pray for, while he pours from the flagon the first libation? Not the rich crops of fertile Sardinia: not the goodly flocks of scorched Calabria: not gold, or Indian ivory: not those countries, which the still river Liris eats away with its silent streams. Let those to whom fortune has given the Calenian vineyards, prune them with a hooked knife; and let the wealthy merchant drink out of golden cups the wines procured by his Syrian merchandize, favored by the gods themselves, inasmuch as without loss he visits three or four times a year the Atlantic Sea. Me olives support, me succories and soft mallows. O thou son of Latona, grant me to enjoy my acquisitions, and to possess my health, together with an unimpaired understanding, I beseech thee; and that I may not lead a dishonorable old age, nor one bereft of the lyre.
We are called upon. If ever, O lyre, in idle amusement in the shade with thee, we have played anything that may live for this year and many, come on, be responsive to a Latin ode, my dear lyre — first tuned by a Lesbian citizen, who, fierce in war, yet amid arms, or if he had made fast to the watery shore his tossed vessel, sung Bacchus, and the Muses, and Venus, and the boy, her ever-close attendant, and Lycus, lovely for his black eyes and jetty locks. O thou ornament of Apollo, charming shell, agreeable even at the banquets of supreme Jove! O thou sweet alleviator of anxious toils, be propitious to me, whenever duly invoking thee!
Grieve not too much, my Albius, thoughtful of cruel Glycera; nor chant your mournful elegies, because, as her faith being broken, a younger man is more agreeable, than you in her eyes. A love for Cyrus inflames Lycoris, distinguished for her little forehead: Cyrus follows the rough Pholoe; but she-goats shall sooner be united to the Apulian wolves, than Pholoe shall commit a crime with a base adulterer. Such is the will of Venus, who delights in cruel sport, to subject to her brazen yokes persons and tempers ill suited to each other. As for myself, the slave-born Myrtale, more untractable than the Adriatic Sea that forms the Calabrian gulfs, entangled me in a pleasing chain, at the very time that a more eligible love courted my embraces.
A remiss and irregular worshiper of the gods, while I professed the errors of a senseless philosophy, I am now obliged to set sail back again, and to renew the course that I had deserted. For Jupiter, who usually cleaves the clouds with his gleaming lightning, lately drove his thundering horses and rapid chariot through the clear serene; which the sluggish earth, and wandering rivers; at which Styx, and the horrid seat of detested Taenarus, and the utmost boundary of Atlas were shaken. The Deity is able to make exchange between the highest and the lowest, and diminishes the exalted, bringing to light the obscure; rapacious fortune, with a shrill whizzing, has borne off the plume from one head, and delights in having placed it on another.
O Goddess, who presidest over beautiful Antium; thou, that art ready to exalt mortal man from the most abject state, or to convert superb triumphs into funerals! Thee the poor countryman solicits with his anxious vows; whosoever plows the Carpathian Sea with the Bithynian vessel, importunes thee as mistress of the ocean. Thee the rough Dacian, thee the wandering Scythians, and cities, and nations, and warlike Latium also, and the mothers of barbarian kings, and tyrants clad in purple, fear. Spurn not with destructive foot that column which now stands firm, nor let popular tummult rouse those, who now rest quiet, to arms — to arms — and break the empire. Necessity, thy minister, alway marches before thee, holding in her brazen hand huge spikes and wedges, nor is the unyielding clamp absent, nor the melted lead. Thee Hope reverences, and rare Fidelity robed in a white garment; nor does she refuse to bear thee company, howsoever in wrath thou change thy robe, and abandon the houses of the powerful. But the faithless crowd [of companions], and the perjured harlot draw back. Friends, too faithless to bear equally the yoke of adversity, when casks are exhausted, very dregs and all, fly off. Preserve thou Caesar, who is meditating an expedition against the Britons, the furthest people in the world, and also the new levy of youths to be dreaded by the Eastern regions, and the Red Sea. Alas! I am ashamed of our scars, and our wickedness, and of brethren. What have we, a hardened age, avoided? What have we in our impiety left unviolated! From what have our youth restrained their hands, out of reverence to the gods? What altars have they spared? O mayest thou forge anew our blunted swords on a different anvil against the Massagetae and Arabians.
This is a joyful occasion to sacrifice both with incense and music of the lyre, and the votive blood of a heifer to the gods, the guardians of Numida; who, now returning in safety from the extremest part of Spain, imparts many embraces to his beloved companions, but to none more than his dear Lamia, mindful of his childhood spent under one and the same governor, and of the gown, which they changed at the same time. Let not this joyful day be without a Cretan mark of distinction; let us not spare the jar brought forth [from the cellar]; nor, Salian-like, let there be any cessation of feet; nor let the toping Damalis conquer Bassus in the Thracian Amystis; nor let there be roses wanting to the banquet, nor the ever-green parsley, nor the short-lived lily. All the company will fix their dissolving eyes on Damalis; but she, more luxuriant than the wanton ivy, will not be separated from her new lover.
Now, my companions, is the time to carouse, now to beat the ground with a light foot: now is the time that was to deck the couch of the gods with Salian dainties. Before this, it was impious to produce the old Caecuban stored up by your ancestors; while the queen, with a contaminated gang of creatures, noisome through distemper, was preparing giddy destruction for the Capitol and the subversion of the empire, being weak enough to hope for any thing, and intoxicated with her prospering fortune. But scarcely a single ship preserved from the flames bated her fury; and Caesar brought down her mind, inflamed with Egyptian wine, to real fears, close pursuing her in her flight from Italy with his galleys (as the hawk pursues the tender doves, or the nimble hunter the hare in the plains of snowy Aemon), that he might throw into chains this destructive monster [of a woman]; who, seeking a more generous death, neither had an effeminate dread of the sword, nor repaired with her swift ship to hidden shores. She was able also to look upon her palace, lying in ruins, with a countenance unmoved, and courageous enough to handle exasperated asps, that she might imbibe in her body the deadly poison, being more resolved by having premeditated her death: for she was a woman of such greatness of soul, as to scorn to be carried off in haughty triumph, like a private person, by rough Liburnians.
Boy, I detest the pomp of the Persians; chaplets, which are woven with the rind of the linden, displease me; give up the search for the place where the latter rose abides. It is my particular desire that you make no laborious addition to the plain myrtle; for myrtle is neither unbecoming you a servant, nor me, while I quaff under this mantling vine.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55