After a long cessation, O Venus, again are you stirring up tumults? Spare me, I beseech you, I beseech you. I am not the man I was under the dominion of good-natured Cynara. Forbear, O cruel mother of soft desires, to bend one bordering upon fifty, now too hardened for soft commands: go, whither the soothing prayers of youths, invoke you. More seasonably may you revel in the house of Paulus Maximus, flying thither with your splendid swans, if you seek to inflame a suitable breast. For he is both noble and comely, and by no means silent in the cause of distressed defendants, and a youth of a hundred accomplishments; he shall bear the ensigns of your warfare far and wide; and whenever, more prevailing than the ample presents of a rival, he shall laugh [at his expense], he shall erect thee in marble under a citron dome near the Alban lake. There you shall smell abundant frankincense, and shall be charmed with the mixed music of the lyre and Berecynthian pipe, not without the flageolet. There the youths, together with the tender maidens, twice a day celebrating your divinity, shall, Salian-like, with white foot thrice shake the ground. As for me, neither woman, nor youth, nor the fond hopes of mutual inclination, nor to contend in wine, nor to bind my temples with fresh flowers, delight me [any longer]. But why; ah! why, Ligurinus, does the tear every now and then trickle down my cheeks? Why does my fluent tongue falter between my words with an unseemly silence? Thee in my dreams by night I clasp, caught [in my arms]; thee flying across the turf of the Campus Martius; thee I pursue, O cruel one, through the rolling waters.
Whoever endeavors, O Iulus, to rival Pindar, makes an effort on wings fastened with wax by art Daedalean, about to communicate his name to the glassy sea. Like a river pouring down from a mountain, which sudden rains have increased beyond its accustomed banks, such the deep-mouthed Pindar rages and rushes on immeasurable, sure to merit Apollo’s laurel, whether he rolls down new-formed phrases through the daring dithyrambic, and is borne on in numbers exempt from rule: whether he sings the gods, and kings, the offspring of the gods, by whom the Centaurs perished with a just destruction, [by whom] was quenched the flame of the dreadful Chimaera; or celebrates those whom the palm, [in the Olympic games] at Elis, brings home exalted to the skies, wrestler or steed, and presents them with a gift preferable to a hundred statues: or deplores some youth, snatched [by death] from his mournful bride — he elevates both his strength, and courage, and golden morals to the stars, and rescues him from the murky grave. A copious gale elevates the Dircean swan, O Antonius, as often as he soars into the lofty regions of the clouds: but I, after the custom and manner of the Macinian bee, that laboriously gathers the grateful thyme, I, a diminutive creature, compose elaborate verses about the grove and the banks of the watery Tiber. You, a poet of sublimer style, shall sing of Caesar, whenever, graceful in his well-earned laurel, he shall drag the fierce Sygambri along the sacred hill; Caesar, than whom nothing greater or better the fates and indulgent gods ever bestowed on the earth, nor will bestow, though the times should return to their primitive gold. You shall sing both the festal days, and the public rejoicings on account of the prayed-for return of the brave Augustus, and the forum free from law-suits. Then (if I can offer any thing worth hearing) a considerable portion of my voice shall join [the general acclamation], and I will sing, happy at the reception of Caesar, “O glorious day, O worthy thou to be celebrated.” And while [the procession] moves along, shouts of triumph we will repeat, shouts of triumph the whole city [will raise], and we will offer frankincense to the indulgent gods. Thee ten bulls and as many heifers shall absolve; me, a tender steerling, that, having left his dam, thrives in spacious pastures for the discharge of my vows, resembling [by the horns on] his forehead the curved light of the moon, when she appears of three days old, in which part he has a mark of a snowy aspect, being of a dun color over the rest of his body.
Him, O Melpomene, upon whom at his birth thou hast once looked with favoring eye, the Isthmian contest shall not render eminent as a wrestler; the swift horse shall not draw him triumphant in a Grecian car; nor shall warlike achievement show him in the Capitol, a general adorned with the Delian laurel, on account of his having quashed the proud threats of kings: but such waters as flow through the fertile Tiber, and the dense leaves of the groves, shall make him distinguished by the Aeolian verse. The sons of Rome, the queen of cities, deign to rank me among the amiable band of poets; and now I am less carped at by the tooth of envy. O muse, regulating the harmony of the gilded shell! O thou, who canst immediately bestow, if thou please, the notes of the swan upon the mute fish! It is entirely by thy gift that I am marked out, as the stringer of the Roman lyre, by the fingers of passengers; that I breathe, and give pleasure (if I give pleasure), is yours.
Like as the winged minister of thunder (to whom Jupiter, the sovereign of the gods, has assigned the dominion over the fleeting birds, having experienced his fidelity in the affair of the beauteous Ganymede), early youth and hereditary vigor save impelled from his nest unknowing of toil; and the vernal winds, the showers being now dispelled, taught him, still timorous, unwonted enterprises: in a little while a violent impulse dispatched him, as an enemy against the sheepfolds, now an appetite for food and fight has impelled him upon the reluctant serpents; — or as a she-goat, intent on rich pastures, has beheld a young lion but just weaned from the udder of his tawny dam, ready to be devoured by his newly-grown tooth: such did the Rhaeti and the Vindelici behold Drusus carrying on the war under the Alps; whence this people derived the custom, which has always prevailed among them, of arming their right hands with the Amazonian ax, I have purposely omitted to inquire: (neither is it possible to discover everything.) But those troops, which had been for a long while and extensively victorious, being subdued by the conduct of a youth, perceived what a disposition, what a genius rightly educated under an auspicious roof, what the fatherly affection of Augustus toward the young Neros, could effect. The brave are generated by the brave and good; there is in steers, there is in horses, the virtue of their sires; nor do the courageous eagles procreate the unwarlike dove. But learning improves the innate force, and good discipline confirms the mind: whenever morals are deficient, vices disgrace what is naturally good. What thou owest, O Rome, to the Neros, the river Metaurus is a witness, and the defeated Asdrubal, and that day illustrious by the dispelling of darkness from Italy, and which first smiled with benignant victory; when the terrible African rode through the Latian cities, like a fire through the pitchy pines, or the east wind through the Sicilian waves. After this the Roman youth increased continually in successful exploits, and temples, laid waste by the impious outrage of the Carthaginians, had the [statues of] their gods set up again. And at length the perfidious Hannibal said; “We, like stags, the prey of rapacious wolves, follow of our own accord those, whom to deceive and escape is a signal triumph. That nation, which, tossed in the Etrurian waves, bravely transported their gods, and sons, and aged fathers, from the burned Troy to the Italian cities, like an oak lopped by sturdy axes in Algidum abounding in dusky leaves, through losses and through wounds derives strength and spirit from the very steel. The Hydra did not with more vigor grow upon Hercules grieving to be overcome, nor did the Colchians, or the Echionian Thebes, produce a greater prodigy. Should you sink it in the depth, it will come out more beautiful: should you contend with it, with great glory will it overthrow the conqueror unhurt before, and will fight battles to be the talk of wives. No longer can I send boasting messengers to Carthage: all the hope and success of my name is fallen, is fallen by the death of Asdrubal. There is nothing, but what the Claudian hands will perform; which both Jupiter defends with his propitious divinity, and sagacious precaution conducts through the sharp trials of war.”
O best guardian of the Roman people, born under propitious gods, already art thou too long absent; after having promised a mature arrival to the sacred council of the senators, return. Restore, O excellent chieftain, the light to thy country; for, like the spring, wherever thy countenance has shone, the day passes more agreeably for the people, and the sun has a superior lustre. As a mother, with vows, omens, and prayers, calls for her son (whom the south wind with adverse gales detains from his sweet home, staying more than a year beyond the Carpathian Sea), nor turns aside her looks from the curved shore; in like manner, inspired with loyal wishes, his country seeks for Caesar. For, [under your auspices,] the ox in safety traverses the meadows: Ceres nourishes the ground; and abundant Prosperity: the sailors skim through the calm ocean: and Faith is in dread of being censured. The chaste family is polluted by no adulteries: morality and the law have got the better of that foul crime; the child-bearing women are commended for an offspring resembling [the father; and] punishment presses as a companion upon guilt. Who can fear the Parthian? Who, the frozen Scythian? Who, the progeny that rough Germany produces, while Caesar is in safety? Who cares for the war of fierce Spain? Every man puts a period to the day amid his own hills, and weds the vine to the widowed elm-trees; hence he returns joyful to his wine, and invites you, as a deity, to his second course; thee, with many a prayer, thee he pursues with wine poured out [in libation] from the cups; and joins your divinity to that of his household gods, in the same manner as Greece was mindful of Castor and the great Hercules. May you, excellent chieftain, bestow a lasting festivity upon Italy! This is our language, when we are sober at the early day; this is our language, when we have well drunk, at the time the sun is beneath the ocean.
Thou god, whom the offspring of Niobe experienced as avenger of a presumptuous tongue, and the ravisher Tityus, and also the Thessalian Achilles, almost the conqueror of lofty Troy, a warrior superior to all others, but unequal to thee; though, son of the sea-goddess, Thetis, he shook the Dardanian towers, warring with his dreadful spear. He, as it were a pine smitten with the burning ax, or a cypress prostrated by the east wind, fell extended far, and reclined his neck in the Trojan dust. He would not, by being shut up in a [wooden] horse, that belied the sacred rights of Minerva, have surprised the Trojans reveling in an evil hour, and the court of Priam making merry in the dance; but openly inexorable to his captives, (oh impious! oh!) would have burned speechless babes with Grecian fires, even him concealed in his mother’s womb: had not the father of the gods, prevailed upon by thy entreaties and those of the beauteous Venus, granted to the affairs of Aeneas walls founded under happier auspices. Thou lyrist Phoebus, tutor of the harmonious Thalia, who bathest thy locks in the river Xanthus, O delicate Agyieus, support the dignity of the Latian muse. Phoebus gave me genius, Phoebus the art of composing verse, and the title of poet. Ye virgins of the first distinction, and ye youths born of illustrious parents, ye wards of the Delian goddess, who stops with her bow the flying lynxes, and the stags, observe the Lesbian measure, and the motion of my thumb; duly celebrating the son of Latona, duly [celebrating] the goddess that enlightens the night with her shining crescent, propitious to the fruits, and expeditious in rolling on the precipitate months. Shortly a bride you will say: “I, skilled in the measures of the poet Horace, recited an ode which was acceptable to the gods, when the secular period brought back the festal days.”
The snows are fled, the herbage now returns to the fields, and the leaves to the trees. The earth changes its appearance, and the decreasing rivers glide along their banks: the elder Grace, together with the Nymphs, and her two sisters, ventures naked to lead off the dance. That you are not to expect things permanent, the year, and the hour that hurries away the agreeable day, admonish us. The colds are mitigated by the zephyrs: the summer follows close upon the spring, shortly to die itself, as soon as fruitful autumn shall have shed its fruits: and anon sluggish winter returns again. Nevertheless the quick-revolving moons repair their wanings in the skies; but when we descend [to those regions] where pious Aeneas, where Tullus and the wealthy Ancus [have gone before us], we become dust and a mere shade. Who knows whether the gods above will add to this day’s reckoning the space of tomorrow? Every thing, which you shall indulge to your beloved soul, will escape the greedy hands of your heir. When once, Torquatus, you shall be dead, and Minos shall have made his awful decisions concerning you; not your family, not you eloquence, not your piety shall restore you. For neither can Diana free the chaste Hippolytus from infernal darkness; nor is Theseus able to break off the Lethaean fetters from his dear Piri thous.
O Censorinus, liberally would I present my acquaintance with goblets and beautiful vases of brass; I would present them with tripods, the rewards of the brave Grecians: nor would you bear off the meanest of my donations, if I were rich in those pieces of art, which either Parrhasius or Scopas produced; the latter in statuary, the former in liquid colors, eminent to portray at one time a man, at another a god. But I have no store of this sort, nor do your circumstances or inclination require any such curiosities as these. You delight in verses: verses I can give, and set a value on the donation. Not marbles engraved with public inscriptions, by means of which breath and life returns to illustrious generals after their decease; not the precipitate flight of Hannibal, and his menaces retorted upon his own head: not the flames of impious Carthage * * * * more eminently set forth his praises, who returned, having gained a name from conquered Africa, than the Calabrlan muses; neither, should writings be silent, would you have any reward for having done well. What would the son of Mars and Ilia be, if invidious silence had stifled the merits of Romulus? The force, and favor, and voice of powerful poets consecrate Aecus, snatched from the Stygian floods, to the Fortunate Islands. The muse forbids a praiseworthy man to die: the muse, confers the happiness of heaven. Thus laborious Hercules has a place at the longed-for banquets of Jove: [thus] the sons of Tyndarus, that bright constellation, rescue shattered vessels from the bosom of the deep: [and thus] Bacchus, his temples adorned with the verdant vine-branch, brings the prayers of his votaries to successful issues.
Lest you for a moment imagine that those words will be lost, which I, born on the far-resounding Aufidus, utter to be accompanied with the lyre, by arts hitherto undivulged — If Maeonian Homer possesses the first rank, the Pindaric and Cean muses, and the menacing strains of Alcaeus, and the majestic ones of Stesichorus, are by no means obscure: neither, if Anacreon long ago sportfully sung any thing, has time destroyed it: even now breathes the love and live the ardors of the Aeolian maid, committed to her lyre. The Lacedaemonian Helen is not the only fair, who has been inflamed by admiring the delicate ringlets of a gallant, and garments embroidered with gold, and courtly accomplishments, and retinue: nor was Teucer the first that leveled arrows from the Cydonian bow: Troy was more than once harassed: the great Idomeneus and Sthenelus were not the only heroes that fought battles worthy to be recorded by the muses: the fierce Hector, or the strenuous Deiphobus were not the first that received heavy blows in defense of virtuous wives and children. Many brave men lived before Agamemnon: but all of them, unlamented and unknown, are overwhelmed with endless obscurity, because they were destitute of a sacred bard. Valor, uncelebrated, differs but little from cowardice when in the grave. I will not [therefore], O Lollius, pass you over in silence, uncelebrated in my writings, or suffer envious forgetfulness with impunity to seize so many toils of thine. You have a mind ever prudent in the conduct of affairs, and steady alike amid success and trouble: you are an avenger of avaricious fraud, and proof against money, that attracts every thing; and a consul not of one year only, but as often as the good and upright magistrate has preferred the honorable to the profitable, and has rejected with a disdainful brow the bribes of wicked men, and triumphant through opposing bands has displayed his arms. You can not with propriety call him happy, that possesses much; he more justly claims the title of happy, who understands how to make a wise use of the gifts of the gods, and how to bear severe poverty; and dreads a reproachful deed worse than death; such a man as this is not afraid to perish in the defense of his dear friends, or of his country.
O cruel still, and potent in the endowments of beauty, when an unexpected plume shall come upon your vanity, and those locks, which now wanton on your shoulders, shall fall off, and that color, which is now preferable to the blossom of the damask rose, changed, O Ligurinus, shall turn into a wrinkled face; [then] will you say (as often as you see yourself, [quite] another person in the looking glass), Alas! why was not my present inclination the same, when I was young? Or why do not my cheeks return, unimpaired, to these my present sentiments?
Phyllis, I have a cask full of Abanian wine, upward of nine years old; I have parsley in my garden, for the weaving of chaplets, I have a store of ivy, with which, when you have bound your hair, you look so gay: the house shines cheerfully With plate: the altar, bound with chaste vervain, longs to be sprinkled [with the blood] of a sacrificed lamb: all hands are busy: girls mingled with boys fly about from place to place: the flames quiver, rolling on their summit the sooty smoke. But yet, that you may know to what joys you are invited, the Ides are to be celebrated by you, the day which divides April, the month of sea-born Venus; [a day,] with reason to be solemnized by me, and almost more sacred to me than that of my own birth; since from this day my dear Maecenas reckons his flowing years. A rich and buxom girl hath possessed herself of Telephus, a youth above your rank; and she holds him fast by an agreeable fetter. Consumed Phaeton strikes terror into ambitious hopes, and the winged Pegasus, not stomaching the earth-born rider Bellerophon, affords a terrible example, that you ought always to pursue things that are suitable to you, and that you should avoid a disproportioned match, by thinking it a crime to entertain a hope beyond what is allowable. Come then, thou last of my loves (for hereafter I shall burn for no other woman), learn with me such measures, as thou mayest recite with thy lovely voice: our gloomy cares shall be mitigated with an ode.
The Thracian breezes, attendants on the spring, which moderate the deep, now fill the sails; now neither are the meadows stiff [with frost], nor roar the rivers swollen with winter’s snow. The unhappy bird, that piteotisly bemoans Itys, and is the eternal disgrace of the house of Cecrops (because she wickedly revenged the brutal lusts of kings), now builds her nest. The keepers of the sheep play tunes upon the pipe amid the tendar herbage, and delight that god, whom flocks and the shady hills of Arcadia delight. The time of year, O Virgil, has brought on a drought: but if you desire to quaff wine from the Calenian press, you, that are a constant companion of young noblemen, must earn your liquor by [bringing some] spikenard: a small box of spikenard shall draw out a cask, which now lies in the Sulpician store-house, bounteous in the indulgence of fresh hopes and efficacious in washing away the bitterness of cares. To which joys if you hasten, come instantly with your merchandize: I do not intend to dip you in my cups scot-free, like a man of wealth, in a house abounding with plenty. But lay aside delay, and the desire of gain; and, mindful of the gloomy [funeral] flames, intermix, while you may, your grave studies with a little light gayety: it is delightful to give a loose on a proper occasion.
The gods have heard my prayers, O Lyce; Lyce, the gods have heard my prayers, you are become an old woman, and yet you would fain seem a beauty; and you wanton and drink in an audacious manner; and when drunk, solicit tardy Cupid, with a quivering voice. He basks in the charming cheeks of the blooming Chia, who is a proficient on the lyre. The teasing urchin flies over blasted oaks, and starts back at the sight of you, because foul teeth, because wrinkles and snowy hair render you odious. Now neither Coan purples nor sparkling jewels restore those years, which winged time has inserted in the public annals. Whither is your beauty gone? Alas! or whither your bloom? Whither your graceful deportment? What have you [remaining] of her, of her, who breathed loves, and ravished me from myself? Happy next to Cynara, and distinguished for an aspect of graceful ways: but the fates granted a few years only to Cynara, intending to preserve for a long time Lyce, to rival in years the aged raven: that the fervid young fellows might see, not without excessive laughter, that torch, [which once so brightly scorched,] reduced to ashes.
What zeal of the senators, or what of the Roman people, by decreeing the most ample honors, can eternize your virtues, O Augustus, by monumental inscriptions and lasting records? O thou, wherever the sun illuminates the habitable regions, greatest of princes, whom the Vindelici, that never experienced the Roman sway, have lately learned how powerful thou art in war! For Drusus, by means of your soldiery, has more than once bravely overthrown the Genauni, an implacable race, and the rapid Brenci, and the citadels situated on the tremendous Alps. The elder of the Neros soon after fought a terrible battle, and, under your propitious auspices, smote the ferocious Rhoeti: how worthy of admiration in the field of battle, [to see] with what destruction he oppressed the brave, hearts devoted to voluntary death: just as the south wind harasses the untameable waves, when the dance of the Pleiades cleaves the clouds; [so is he] strenuous to annoy the troops of the enemy, and to drive his eager steed through the midst of flames. Thus the bull-formed Aufidus, who washes the dominions of the Apulian Daunus, rolls along, when he rages and meditates an horrible deluge to the cultivated lands; when Claudius overthrew with impetuous might, the iron ranks of the barbarians, and by mowing down both front and rear strewed the ground, victorious without any loss; through you supplying them with troops, you with councils, and your own guardian powers. For on that day, when the suppliant Alexandria opened her ports, and deserted court, fortune, propitious to you in the third lustrum, has put a happy period to the war, and has ascribed praise and wished-for honor to the victories already obtained. O thou dread guardian of Italy and imperial Rome, thee the Spaniard, till now unconquered, and the Mede, and the Indian, thee the vagrant Scythian admires; thee both the Nile, who conceals his fountain heads, and the Danube; thee the rapid Tigris; thee the monster-bearing ocean, that roars against the remote Britons; thee the region of Gaul fearless of death, and that of hardy Iberia obeys; thee the Sicambrians, who delight in slaughter, laying aside their arms, revere.
Phoebus chid me, when I was meditating to sing of battles And conquered cities on the lyre: that I might not set my little sails along the Tyrrhenian Sea. Your age, O Caesar, has both restored plenteous crops to the fields, and has brought back to our Jupiter the standards torn from the proud pillars of the Parthians; and has shut up [the temple] of Janus [founded by] Romulus, now free from war; and has imposed a due discipline upon headstrong licentiousness, and has extirpated crimes, and recalled the ancient arts; by which the Latin name and strength of Italy have increased, and the fame and majesty of the empire is extended from the sun’s western bed to the east. While Caesar is guardian of affairs, neither civil rage nor violence shall disturb tranquillity; nor hatred which forges swords, and sets at variance unhappy states. Not those, who drink of the deep Danube, shall now break the Julian edicts: not the Getae, not the Seres, nor the perfidious Persians, nor those born upon the river Tanais. And let us, both on common and festal days, amid the gifts of joyous Bacchus, together with our wives and families, having first duly invoked the gods, celebrate, after the manner of our ancestors, with songs accompanied with Lydian pipes, our late valiant commanders: and Troy, and Anchises, and the offspring of benign Venus.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51