The Fourth Book
Odes of Horace.
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 Iülus, to rival Pindar, makes an effort on wings fastened with wax by art Dædalean, 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 Chimæra; 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 Cæsar, whenever, graceful in his well-earned laurel, he shall drag the fierce Sygambri along the sacred hill; Cæsar, 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 Cæsar, “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 Æolian 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 Rhæti 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.”
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 Æneas walls founded under happier auspices. Thou lyrist Phœbus, tutor of the harmonious Thalia, who bathest thy locks in the river Xanthus, O delicate Agyieus, support the dignity of the Latian muse. Phœbus gave me genius, Phœbus 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 Æneas, 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 to-morrow? 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 Lethæan fetters from his dear Pirithous.
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 Mæonian Homer possesses the first rank, the Pindaric and Cean muses, and the menacing strains of Alcæus, 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 Æolian maid, committed to her lyre. The Lacedæmonian 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 Deïphobus 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.
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.
Phœbus 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 Cæsar, 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 Cæsar 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 Getæ, 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.
- Bonæ. Horace appears to intimate by this epithet, that the affection entertained for him by Cynara, was rather pure and disinterested than otherwise. The word is often used in the sense of "generous," "unrapacious." Comp. Tibull. ii. 4, 45, "At bona, quæ nec avara fuit." Anthon.
- Purpureis ales oloribus. The allusion is to the chariot of Venus, drawn by swans: and hence the term ales is, by a bold and beautiful figure, applied to the goddess herself, meaning literally "winged." As regards purpureis, it must be remarked that the ancients called any strong and vivid color by the name of purpureus, because that was their richest color. Thus we have purpureæ comæ, purpureus capillus, lumen juventæ purpureum, etc. Compare Virgil, Æn. i. 591. Albinovanus (El. ii. 62) even goes so far as to apply the term to snow. The usage of modern poetry is not dissimilar. Thus Spencer, "The Morrow next appeared with purple hair;" and Milton, "waves his purple wings." So also Gray, "The bloom of young desire and purple light of love." Wheeler.
- The word ostendet is borrowed from the ceremonies and solemnities which were made for pomp and ostentation. The conqueror was shown in his triumph in the capital of the empire, where he received the homage of the world. Ostentionalis miles, signifies a soldier dressed for a review; ostentionale vestimentum is the habit which he word. Torr.
- The Greeks and Romans appear to have been acquainted with the use of chimneys. The more common dwellings had merely an opening in the rood, which allowed the smoke to escape; the better class of edifices were warmed by means of pipes enclosed in the walls, and which communicated with a large stove, or several smaller ones, constructed in the earth under the building. Anthon interprets vortice, "from the house-top;" but the explanation of Orellius is preferable, "fumum celerrime torquentes ac glomerantes, ita ut ejus verticem efficiant." M'Caul.
- Mensem Veneris. April was called the month of Venus, because her grand festival began on the first day of that month. San.