Page:The works of Horace - Christopher Smart.djvu/21

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ode ii



upon the earth,[1] and having hurled [his thunderbolts] with his red right hand[2] against the sacred towers, he has terrified the city; he has terrified the nations, lest the grievous age of Pyrrha,[3] 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,[4] 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,

  1. "Terris" is a Grecism for "in terras." See on Virg. Ecl. viii. 101.
  2. Horace alludes to a superstitious opinion of the ancients, who believed that thunders which portended any revolution in a state were more inflamed than any other; as they fancied that the lightnings of Jupiter were red and fiery; those of the other gods, pale and dark. Cruq.
  3. Wife of Deucalion, king of Thessaly; in his time came the deluge or universal flood, which drowned all the world; only he and his wife got into a little shallop, which was carried to Mount Parnassus, and there staid, the dry land first appearing there. When the flood was dried up, he consulted with the oracle of Themis, how mankind might be repaired; and was answered, If he cast his great mother's bones behind his back; whereupon he and Pyrrha his wife took stones, and cast them over their shoulders, and they became men and women. Watson.
  4. The Tiber discharges itself into the Tuscan Sea which being swollen by tempests, and a prodigious fall of snow and hail (the wind at the same time blowing up the channel). made the river flow backward (retorquere) against its natural course. The Littus Etruscum means the shores of the Tuscan Sea, into which the Tiber should naturally flow, and from whence it turned upward to its fountain-head. Cruq.