Page:The works of Horace - Christopher Smart.djvu/89

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the steed, is conspicuous in the course, nor does any one with equal swiftness swim down the Etrurian stream, yet secure your house at the very approach of night, nor look down into the streets at the sound of the doleful pipe; and remain inflexible toward him, though he often upbraid thee with cruelty.


ODE VIII.
TO MÆCENAS.[1]

O Mæcenas, learned in both languages[2], you wonder what I, a single man, have to do on the calends of March; what these flowers mean, and the censer replete with frankincense, and the coals laid upon the live turf. I made a vow of a joyous banquet, and a white goat[3] to Bacchus, after having been at the point of death by a blow from a tree. This day, sacred in the revolving year, shall remove the cork fastened with pitch[4] from that jar, which was set to inhale the smoke

  1. A festival was observed, with much religious pomp, upon the first of March, by the Roman ladies, in memory of the day when the Sabine women, having reconciled their husbands with their fathers, dedicated a temple to Juno. They offered sacrifices and flowers to the goddess in that very temple, and waited at home the rest of the day, to receive the presents which their friends and husbands made them, as if to thank them for that happy mediation. From hence the calends of March were called Matronalia, or Matronales feriæ; and, while the wives performed their offerings to Juno, their husbands sacrificed to Janus. Torr. Dac.
  2. Sermones, in the language of Horace, signified books and literary compositions. It is here used in the same sense; for the surprise of Mæcenas, at seeing a bachelor preparing a sacrifice on the first of March, arises from his knowledge of the religious rites and customs of Greece, by his being master of the books and learning of both languages. San.
  3. The ancients usually sacrificed to the gods the beasts which they hated. Thus a goat is sacrificed to Bacchus, because it destroyed the vine. The victims of the celestial gods were white, those of the infernal deities were black. Cruq.
  4. When the wine vessels were filled, and the disturbance of the liquor had subsided, the covers or stoppers were secured with plaster, or a coating of pitch mixed with the ashes of the vine, so as to exclude all communication with the external air. After this, the wines were mellowed by the application of smoke, which was prevented, by the ample coating of pitch or plaster on the wine vessel, from penetrating so far as to vitiate the genuine taste of the liquor. Previously, however, to depositing the amphoræ in the wine-vault or apotheca, it was usual to put upon them a label or mark indicative of the vintages, and of the names of the consuls in authority at the time, in order that, when they were taken out, their age and growth might be easily recognized. If by the consulship of Tullus, mentioned in the text, be meant that of L. Volcatius Tullus, who had M. Æmilius Lepidus for his colleague, a.u.c. 688, and if the present ode, as would appear from verse 17 sepp., was composed a.u.c. 734, the wine offered by Horace to his friend must have been more than forty-six years old. Anthon.