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Horace, Epodes 2, 3, 8, 11, 12, 14, and 15

Translation copyright 1997-1998 by John T. Quinn. All rights reserved.

Note: You can also read these translations with facing Latin texts, in the manner of the Loeb series.

Epode 2

"The fellow's worth a fortune who, far
    from commerce, cultivates his fathers'
farm with his own oxen & is free
    of usury -- like the folk of yore.

"No soldier, summoned to battle by the bugle
    or fearful of a fuming sea,
no plaintiff or haunter of the haughty portals
    of especially-powerful citizens
is the man who marries mature growths
    of grape to poplars he's pampered
OR watches over his wandering herd
    bellowing in lonely bottomlands
while he saws away worthless scions
    & engrafts the gainful
                   OR hoards
honey from the comb into clean containers
    OR shears his compliant sheep.

"As Autumn hoists its head, adorned with
    fleshy fruits, through fields,
he gloats, gathering prize pears
    & grapes purpler than the pigment
to pay you, Priapus, & you sir,
    Silvanus, protector of property.
The bliss of napping beneath an old oak
    OR on a luxuriant lawn
while water wends between wide banks
    & birds whine in the woods
& fountains fret with splashing spray --
    a summons to soft slumbers!

"When wintry weather threatens with thunder,
    storms & snow, he speeds
into snares (from all sides) boars
    battling a horde of hounds
OR suspends from slender staves the webbing
    widened to fool feeding
figpeckers and ropes the frightened rabbit
    & drifting crane (a delicacy!).

"Living that life, who wouldn't ignore
    the ills latent in love?

"Should a faithful wife do her fair share
    helping with the home & cherished
children (a Sabine, say, or the sunburned
    bride of an assiduous Apulian)
AND stack seasoned timber on the hearth
    for her tired husband's return
AND pen yielding ewes within pleachwork
    to drain their distended udders
AND, ladling a lively vintage from the vat,
    prepare an unpurchased repast --

"I'd freely forego the finest oyster
    OR flounder OR scaurfish forced
to these waters when winter blasts
    bolts on Eastern breakers.
African fowl & Greek game-hens hardly
    would settle into my stomach
happier than the odd olive, harvested
    from the orchard's oiliest offshoot
OR meadow-dwelling sourdock & mallows
    (medicine for a body's burdens)
OR a lamb slain for a farmers' festival
    OR a friskling whisked from a wolf.

"How felicitous at such feasts to see fattened
    flocks hurrying homeward,
bone-weary bulls with nodding necks
    pulling an upended plough,
& the worker-bees of a wealthy abode: slaves
    stationed near smiling cult-statues!"

So spoke Alfius, a financier,
    bent on becoming a bumpkin.
Midway through the month, he cashed his capital --
    to float it again on the first.

II

'Beatus ille qui procul negotiis,
     ut prisca gens mortalium,
paterna rura bubus exercet suis
     solutus omni faenore
neque excitatur classico miles truci
     neque horret iratum mare
forumque vitat et superba civium
     potentiorum limina.
ergo aut adulta vitium propagine
     altas maritat populos
aut in reducta valle mugientium
     prospectat errantis greges
inutilisque falce ramos amputans
     feliciores inserit
aut pressa puris mella condit amphoris
     aut tondet infirmas ovis.
vel cum decorum mitibus pomis caput
     Autumnus agris extulit,
ut gaudet insitiva decerpens pira
     certantem et uvam purpurae,
qua muneretur te, Priape, et te, pater
     Silvane, tutor finium.
libet iacere modo sub antiqua ilice,
     modo in tenaci gramine:
labuntur altis interim ripis aquae,
     queruntur in Silvis aves
frondesque lymphis obstrepunt manantibus,
     somnos quod invitet levis.
at cum tonantis annus hibernus Iovis
     imbris nivisque conparat,
aut trudit acris hinc et hinc multa cane
     apros in obstantis plagas
aut amite levi rara tendit retia
     turdis edacibus dolos
pavidumque leporem et advenam laqueo gruem
     iucunda captat praemia.
quis non malarum quas amor curas habet
     haec inter obliviscitur?
quodsi pudica mulier in partem iuvet
     domum atque dulcis liberos,
Sabina qualis aut perusta Solibus
     pernicis uxor Apuli,
sacrum vetustis exstruat lignis focum
     lassi Sub adventum viri
claudensque textis cratibus laetum pecus
     distenta siccet ubera
et horna dulci vina promens dolio
     dapes inemptas adparet:
non me Lucrina iuverint conchylia
     magisve rhombus aut scari,
siquos Eois intonata fluctibus
     hiems ad hoc vertat mare,
non Afra avis descendat in ventrem meum,
     non attagen Ionicus
iucundior quam lecta de pinguissimis
     oliva ramis arborum
aut herba lapathi prata amantis et gravi
     malvae salubres corpori
vel agna festis caesa Terminalibus
     vel haedus ereptus lupo.
has inter epulas ut iuvat pastas ovis
     videre properantis domum,
videre fessos vomerem inversum boves
     collo trahentis languido
positosque vernas, ditis examen domus,
     circum renidentis Laris.'

haec ubi locutus faenerator Alfius,
     iam iam futurus rusticus,
omnem redegit idibus pecuniam,
     quaerit kalendis ponere.

Epode 3

Whoever puts hands to his elderly parent's
   windpipe & (wicked!) snaps it,
make him munch garlic, more harmful than hemlock --
   how can hicks consume it?
This is the toxin tormenting my tummy.
   No viper's venom was slipped
into the vegetable soup. The crone Canidia
   didn't doctor our dinner.

When General Jason, alone of the Argonauts,
   attracted Medea, she massaged
his beauty with garlic to guard his bridling
   the fire-breathing bulls;
punishing his paramour with garlic-drenched gifts,
   she fled on a flying serpent.

Garlic: more muggy than the dog days
   of dry-assed Apulia,
hotter than the hexed shirt on the shoulders
   of our hero Hercules.

Try such a trick once more, too-merry
   Maecenas, and may the gods grant
that your sweetie slap away your smooches
   & bunk at the bed's far edge.

III

Parentis olim siquis inpia manu
      senile guttur fregerit,
edit cicutis alium nocentius.
      o dura messorum ilia.
quid hoc veneni saevit in praecordiis?
      num viperinus his cruor
incoctus herbis me fefellit? an malas
      Canidia tractavit dapes?
ut Argonautas praeter omnis candidum
      Medea mirata est ducem,
ignota tauris inligaturum iuga
      perunxit hoc Iasonem,
hoc delibutis ulta donis paelicem
      serpente fugit alite.
nec tantus umquam siderum insedit vapor
      siticulosae Apuliae
nec munus umeris efficacis Herculis
      inarsit aestuosius.
at siquid umquam tale concupiveris,
      iocose Maecenas, precor,
manum puella savio opponat tuo
      extrema et in sponda cubet.

Epode 8

You, stinking for a century or so,
   wonder what hamstrings my hard-on,
you & spotty teeth & seams of superannuated
   age furrowing the features
& an anus yawning between arid buttocks
   (compare: a constipated cow).

Certainly your bosom & sagging breasts
   (much like mare's mammaries)
thrill me. Plus your paunch & thighs
   (thin) on inflated forelegs.

Of social standing: ancestral awards,
   acquired in the army, will festoon your
funeral, and no wife now walks around
   weighted with plumper pearls.
Educated, even: editions of philosophy,
   fond of lying on silken sofas.

But don't dicks without degrees get taut?
   and professors peter out?
To challenge this reluctant learner, change
   your approach: accept oral assignments.

VIII

Rogare longo putidam te saeculo,
      viris quid enervet meas,
cum sit tibi dens ater et rugis vetus
      frontem senectus exaret
hietque turpis inter aridas natis
      podex velut crudae bovis.
sed incitat me pectus et mammae putres,
      equina quales ubera,
venterque mollis et femur tumentibus
      exile suris additum.
esto beata, funus atque imagines
      ducant triumphales tuum
nec sit marita quae rotundioribus
      onusta bacis ambulet.
quid, quod libelli Stoici inter Sericos
      iacere pulvillos amant:
inlitterati num minus nervi rigent
      minusve languet fascinum?
quod ut superbo provoces ab inguine,
      ore adlaborandum est tibi.

Epode 11

Pettius, it's pointless. Again. Attempting
    Poesie while Passion pummels me implacably --
Passion, whose sport is to single me out
     to burn at the glimpse of a glamour-boy or girl.

A trio of Decembers has dashed from the trees
     their finery since my furor for Elsie ended.
The pain, the pangs of being the biggest
     story in the city! Soirees which saw (sorry!)
me mute & moping provided proof:
     guilty of love. And the groans low in my lungs.

"The unstained soul of a pauper is powerless
     compared with cash!" I'd complain, plead to you,
as brazen Bacchus' blazing booze
     summoned from me, already aflame, my secrets.
"If whines were to welter at will within me
     & heave these bromides (hackneyed banter, no help
for the bitter wound) onto the winds,
     my pride -- purged -- will bow out of mismatched bouts."
Such was my solemn flourish, & to your face.
     Warned to head home, I wandered, wobbling
to her doorframe (so unfriendly!) & doorsill
     (so staunch!). Banging on them busted my balls.

Lyciscus preens there's not a lady his peer
     in prissiness. Lust for the little wolf is worsting me,
& the ample advice of friends, or their frosty
     sarcasm, can't spring me -- only a fresh infatuation
for a girl agleam or a smooth-skinned
     boy braiding back his long locks.

XI

Petti, nihil me sicut antea iuvat
     scribere versiculos amore percussum gravi,
amore, qui me praeter omnis expetit
     mollibus in pueris aut in puellis urere.
hic tertius December, ex quo destiti
     Inachia furere, silvis honorem decutit.
heu me, per Vrbem (nam pudet tanti mali)
     fabula quanta fui, conviviorum et paenitet,
in quis amantem languor et silentium
     arguit et latere petitus imo spiritus.
'contrane lucrum nil valere candidum
     pauperis ingenium' querebar adplorans tibi,
simul calentis inverecundus deus
     fervidiore mero arcana promorat loco.
'quodsi meis inaestuet praecordiis
     libera bilis, ut haec ingrata ventis dividat
fomenta volnus nil malum levantia,
     desinet inparibus certare submotus pudor.'
ubi haec severus te palam laudaveram,
     iussus abire domum ferebar incerto pede
ad non amicos heu mihi postis et heu
     limina dura, quibus lumbos et infregi latus.
nunc gloriantis quamlibet mulierculam
     vincere mollitia amor Lycisci me tenet;
unde expedire non amicorum queant
     libera consilia nec contumeliae graves,
sed alius ardor aut puellae candidae
     aut teretis pueri longam renodantis comam.

Epode 12

What in the world! Why are you, a woman more meant
      for ebony elephants, mailing me largesse
& love letters? As if I'm a sturdy lad with a stuffed
      nose! No canny canine detects the den of a
boar better than I sniff out the stench of octopus
      or oppressive billy-goat bedded in bristly armpits.

The sweat & rancid smell arising all along
      her mummified members when a penis remains prone
and she races, regardless, to relieve her feral frenzy!
      The finale? a makeup meltdown (drenched foundation
& blush--colored in crocodile crap--blurring), capped
      by the bitch in heat bursting the bedsprings & headboard.

My disgust deepens under the volley of her vicious words:
      "You droop a lot less for Elsie, don't you?
For Elsie, a triple treat each evening; a solitary stunt
      forever flaccid for me. Curse the cocksucking
cow who sent me a steer instead of the bull I bargained for.
      And Amyntas once was mine, a salacious shepherd
whose crotch (never needing cultivation) flaunted a phallus
      that stood stiffer than a sapling clinging to a crag!

"Pelts of fleece double-dyed in Phoenician purple
      were sent express to no-one except--yes--
you, making you the best-dressed of your drinking buddies,
      the bachelor most doted upon by his darling.

"My good luck is gone! You shun me, like a sheep shying
      from wilful wolves, or antelope avoiding lions."

XII

Quid tibi vis, mulier nigris dignissima barris?
      munera quid mihi quidve tabellas
mittis nec firmo iuveni neque naris obesae?
      namque sagacius unus odoror,
polypus an gravis hirsutis cubet hircus in alis,
      quam canis acer ubi lateat sus.
qui sudor vietis et quam malus undique membris
      crescit odor, cum pene soluto
indomitam properat rabiem sedare neque illi
      iam manet umida creta colorque
stercore fucatus crocodili iamque subando
      tenta cubilia tectaque rumpit,
vel mea cum saevis agitat fastidia verbis:
      'Inachia langues minus ac me;
Inachiam ter nocte potes, mihi semper ad unum
      mollis opus. pereat male quae te
Lesbia quaerenti taurum monstravit inertem,
      cum mihi Cous adesset Amyntas,
cuius in indomito constantior inguine nervus
      quam nova collibus arbor inhaeret.
muricibus Tyriis iteratae vellera lanae
      cui properabantur? tibi nempe,
ne foret aequalis inter conviva, magis quem
      diligeret mulier sua quam te.
o ego non felix, quam tu fugis, ut pavet acris
      agna lupos capreaeque leones.'

Epode 14

"How did it happen? Limp languor imbuing your inmost
       senses with the sort of amnesia
attained by thirsty throats that pound back potions
       delivering death-dreams!"

You murder me, candid Maecenas, with your constant question.
       A god, a god begrudges me
bringing to birth the book of poetry I promised to publish,
       the Epodes started long since.

Suchwise, they say, Anacreon was ablaze for Bathyllus, a boy
       from Samos (offshore his city),
& sang, repeatedly, of love's sorrows on his resounding lyre,
       reckless of regular rhythm.

You feel the flame. Unfortunate. But if a spark less splendid
       torched trapped Troy,
delight in your doom. I'm scalloped by Phryne, a freed slavegirl
       warm for more than one man.

XIV

Mollis inertia cur tantam diffuderit imis
     oblivionem sensibus,
pocula Lethaeos ut si ducentia somnos
     arente fauce traxerim,
candide Maecenas, occidis Saepe rogando:
     deus, deus nam me vetat
inceptos, olim promissum carmen, iambos
     ad umbilicum adducere.
non aliter Samio dicunt arsisse Bathyllo
     Anacreonta Teium,
qui persaepe cava testudine flevit amorem
     non elaboratum ad pedem.
ureris ipse miser: quodsi non pulcrior ignis
     accendit obsessam Ilion,
gaude sorte tua; me libertina, nec uno
     contenta, Phryne macerat.

Epode 15

The setting: midnight; serene sky; moon scintillating,
       surrounded by (smaller) stars.
Soon to gall the grandeur of the glorious gods, you swore --
       more tenaciously than a tall holm-oak
is hemmed inside of ivy, clinging to compliant limbs --
       the formula I'd furnished: "Whilst
the wolf is the flock's foe & Orion, warlike to old salts,
       worries the wintry waters
& the breeze billows Apollo's tresses (untouched by a barber),
       so long I lend you my love."

You'll know, Neaera, plenty of pain. My pecker's up.
       A hint of a hero in Horace
won't allow your awarding nonstop nights to some swell.
       I'll spite you & seek a soulmate.
Wronged once, I'm rigid & won't waver before your beauty,
       despite signs of distress.

And you, whoever the hell you are, lucky & lordly
       today as you trample on my travail --
though flush in flocks & a lot of land, though rivers rush
       to give you globules of gold
& the puzzles of reincarnated Pythagoras can't rattle you
       & pretty-boys, in comparison, are plain --
disaster! Her desire will settle on someone else, & your sobbing
       move me to mirth.

XV

Nox erat et caelo fulgebat Luna sereno
     inter minora sidera,
cum tu, magnorum numen laesura deorum,
     in verba iurabas mea,
artius atque hedera procera adstringitur ilex
     lentis adhaerens bracchiis;
dum pecori lupus et nautis infestus Orion
     turbaret hibernum mare
intonsosque agitaret Apollinis aura capillos,
     fore hunc amorem mutuom,
o dolitura mea multum virtute Neaera:
     nam siquid in Flacco viri est,
non feret adsiduas potiori te dare noctes
     et quaeret iratus parem
nec semel offensi cedet constantia formae,
     si certus intrarit dolor.
et tu, quicumque es felicior atque meo nunc
     superbus incedis malo,
sis pecore et multa dives tellure licebit
     tibique Pactolus fluat
nec te Pythagorae fallant arcana renati
     formaque vincas Nirea,
heu heu, translatos alio maerebis amores,
     ast ego vicissim risero.

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