In Other Words/Horace on Contentment

Horace on Contentment


Book II, Ode 18.

Non ebur neque aureum
Mea renidet in domo lacunar—”


Within my modest home nor ivory gleams, Nor in my room a golden ceiling glitters; No pillars mine from Africa’s extremes, No purple spun by lovely lady-knitters. I’m poor but honest, and—you’ll give me credit— Some poet, too. Some poet’s right; you said it.

For further favors I do not implore The gods above nor any human being; My Sabine farm’s enough. I ask no more. I never argue with the fates’ decreeing. Day follows day. I never dared to doubt it. Suppose I did? What could I do about it?

And yet the very marble newly hewn, The very stone you gaze at, eager, merry, That stone may lie above you very soon In Forest Hills, the well-known ceme-tery. And still, instead of charity and penance, You raise the rent and disposses your tenants.

But stay! Despite your wondrous wealth and fame, None is so sure as Plato, so rapacious— You cannot beat, you cannot tie his game; The grave that yawns for rich and poor is spacious. (Translator’s Note: Q. H. was euphemistic. They used to say. I call him socialistic.)