The Odes of Horace (Bilingual Edition)
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The Odes of Horace (Bilingual Edition)

by Horace

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The Latin poet Horace is, along with his friend Virgil, the most celebrated of the poets of the reign of the Emperor Augustus, and, with Virgil, the most influential. These marvelously constructed poems with their unswerving clarity of vision and their extraordinary range of tone and emotion have deeply affected the poetry of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Herbert,


The Latin poet Horace is, along with his friend Virgil, the most celebrated of the poets of the reign of the Emperor Augustus, and, with Virgil, the most influential. These marvelously constructed poems with their unswerving clarity of vision and their extraordinary range of tone and emotion have deeply affected the poetry of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Herbert, Dryden, Marvell, Pope, Samuel Johnson, Wordsworth, Frost, Larkin, Auden, and many others, in English and in other languages.

Now David Ferry, the acclaimed poet and translator of Gilgamesh, has made an inspired new translation of the complete Odes of Horace, one that conveys the wit, ardor and sublimity of the original with a music of all its own.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“We must be grateful for what Ferry has accomplished. This is a Horace for our times.” —Bernard Knox, The New York Review of Books

“We finally have an English Horce whose rhythmical subtlety and variety do justice to the Latin poet's own inventiveness, in which emotion rises from the motion of the verse...To sense the achievement, one has to read the collection as a whole...and they can take one's breath away even as they continue breathing.” —Rosanna Warren, The Threepenny Review

“Certainly David Ferry's Horace is a book to place next to Robert Fitzgerald's Aeneid...If you want all the odes--and you should--this is the volume to buy, read, and treasure.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

“[David Ferry] has done what nobody has been able to do since...the 1740's; he has found a voice, contemporary and yet Horatian, through which that poetical wonder, the Odes of Horace, can address us.” —D.S. Carne-Ross, The New Criterion

“There is no end here to power and delicacy and variety. Ferry's Odes is a book one will always have and always read.” —Rodney Gove Dennis, Harvard Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The foremost technician of Rome's Golden Age, Horace (65-8 B.C.) revolutionized Latin verse. He imported intricate Greek meters, invented the poet as a jeweller of words and left behind some of the most enduring models of what a short poem should address. A handful of his lyricsmost on love, country living or the shortness of lifehave been imitated by our greatest English-language poets, from Shakespeare and Johnson to Auden and Frost. It thus takes guts to translate Horace's complete odes, especially since many of them are on less timeless themes. Acclaimed poet and translator Ferry (Gilgamesh) has bravely given us all 103 (plus the "Carmen Saeculare," a choral anthem commissioned by the Emperor Augustus) in graceful, relaxed, formally structured versions, and has achieved throughout the chief goal of most translators: to make his subject sound like one of us. To do so, Ferry is expansive where Horace is notoriously tight (as shown in the originals, provided en face). Too often, though, what a reader may like here will have little to do with what Horace wrote: Ferry repeatedly interprets him elegantly but slightly out of context, changing emphases and endings to suit a modern ear. Even at its most sly, however, the book sets a new standard for contemporary poets and readers who want to confront one of their thorniest, most formidable ancestors. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This is a delightful translation of the Odes by poet, scholar, and translator Ferry, who with apparent effortlessness manages to render Horace's Latin poems into fine, unsmeared American idiom. Horace, along with his friend Virgil, is the most celebrated and influential poet of Augustus's reign and is renowned for his ability to make the ordinary (the commonplace events and situations of life) extraordinary. There are few surprises or dramatic aberrations in Horace's odes, but the absence of unusual subject matter only serves to draw attention to the simple beauty of its rendering. This will be a superb addition to any library's collection.Thomas F. Merrill, formerly with Univ. of Delaware

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The Odes of Horace

By David Ferry

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 1997 David Ferry
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-52572-9


        i.1 / To Maecenas

    Maecenas, you, descended from many kings,
    O you who are my stay and my delight,
    There is the man whose glory it is to be
    So famous even the gods have heard the story

    Of how his chariot raised Olympic dust,
    The dazzling wheel making the smoking turn;
    And there is he whose bliss it is to be carried
    Up to the honors of office on the shifting

    Shoulders of the crowd; and he whose pride
    Is that his barns hold everything that can
    Be gathered from the Libyan fields of grain.
    And there's the man who with his little hoe

    Breaks the hard soil of his poor father's farm,
    But all the money there is could never persuade him
    To venture out on the sea, a quaking sailor.
    And the fearful trader in his wallowing vessel

    As the storm comes on longs for his native village
    And longs for the quiet fields surrounding it —
    And then of course next year refits his ship,
    Unable to forgo the profit of it.

    And there's the man who likes his cup of wine,
    Taking his ease in the busiest time of the day,
    Under the shady boughs of the green arbutus
    Or near the secret source of some murmuring brook.

    There are those who love encampments, and love the confused
    Music of trumpet and clarion sounding together
    And are in love with the wars their mothers hate.
    And all night long, out in the bitter cold,

    If his faithful dogs have startled up a deer
    Or if a wild boar has broken through the snare,
    The hunter waits, forgetful of his bride;
    All night the bride at home waits for the hunter.

    What links me to the gods is that I study
    To wear the ivy wreath that poets wear.
    The cool sequestered grove in which I play
    For nymphs and satyrs dancing to my music

    Is where I am set apart from other men —
    Unless the muse Euterpe takes back the flute
    Or Polyhymnia untunes the lyre.
    But if you say I am truly among the poets,

    Then my exalted head will knock against the stars.

        i.2 / The Tiber Flood

    Jupiter the Father has brought down
    A storm of snow and hail upon the city.
    Striking the Capitol with his hand of fire,
    He has terrified the city and the people.

    Maybe the age of Pyrrha has come back,
    The dreadful time when Proteus drove his herd
    Up out of the sea and up the mountainsides
    And there were living creatures from the sea

    Entangled in the highest elm-tree branches
    Where doves had cooed and nested, and in the water
    Fear-maddened deer and other land-beasts struggled.
    We witnessed how the Tiber, wild, thrown back

    From against the Tuscan shore, ran loose and up
    (Too ardent avenger of his beloved Ilia)
    Over the other shore, washing against
    The Regia and the temple of Vesta themselves.

    The decimated people, our descendants,
    Diminished by the vices of their fathers,
    Will hear someday how citizens whetted their swords,
    Which might have been better used against the Parthians,

    Upon each other's bodies. What god can the people
    Pray to, to save the state? What prayer can the Vestal
    Virgins pray, if Vesta will not listen?
    What god will come to expiate our crimes?

    Augur Apollo, descend, your radiant shoulders
    Clad in radiant cloud; or smiling Venus,
    Laughter and love attending you, come down;
    Unless you have forgotten us your children,

    Come to our aid, O Mars, at last perhaps
    Fed up with the game of war played on too long,
    The battle cry, the glitter and gleam of arms,
    Bloodhungry face confronting bloodhungry face;

    Or wingèd Mercury, son of beneficent Maia,
    Descend to help us, disguising yourself perhaps
    In the form of that young man prepared to avenge
    The murder of his kinsman Julius Caesar.

    If this be so, may it be so for long;
    Let it not come about that you, too soon,
    Offended by Roman crimes, are carried back
    Up to the heavens from which you came to help us;

    May Caesar be content to dwell among
    The children who descend from Romulus,
    Enjoying the name of Father and of Prince;
    Because of him no Parthians raid unpunished.

        i.3 / Virgil's Journey to Greece

    May Venus goddess of Cyprus and may the brothers
    Castor and Pollux, the shining stars, the calmers,
    Guard you, O ship, and be the light of guidance;
    May the father of the winds restrain all winds
    Except the gentle one that favors this journey.
    Bring Virgil, your charge, the other half of my heart,
    Safely to the place where he is going.

    The breast of the man who was the first to dare
    To go out in a little boat upon the waters
    Must have been made of oak and triple bronze,
    Fearing neither the sudden African squall
    Contending with the North Wind, nor the storms
    The Hyades threaten, nor what the South Wind, Notus,
    Who rules the Adriatic, is capable of.

    What way of dying could that man have feared
    Who dared to be the first to look upon
    The swimming monsters, the turbulent waters and
    The dreadful cliffs of Acroceraunia?
    The purpose of the god who separated
    One land from another land was thwarted
    If impious men could nevertheless set out

    To cross the waters forbidden to them to cross.
    Audacious at trying out everything, men rush
    Headlong into the things that have been forbidden.
    Guileful Prometheus audaciously by fraud
    Brought fire down to the human race and thus
    Brought fever down upon us and disease,
    And death that once was slow to come came sooner.

    Audacious Daedalus, wearing forbidden wings,
    Tried out the empty air. And Hercules
    Went down to the Underworld, broke in and entered.
    No hill's too steep for men to try to climb;
    Men even try out getting up to Heaven.
    Is it any wonder, then, that Jupiter rages,
    Hurling down lightning, shaking the sky with thunder?

        i.4 / To Sestius

    Now the hard winter is breaking up with the welcome coming
        Of spring and the spring winds; some fishermen,
    Under a sky that looks changed, are hauling their caulked boats
        Down to the water; in the winter stables the cattle
    Are restless; so is the farmer sitting in front of his fire;
        They want to be out of doors in field or pasture;
    The frost is gone from the meadow grass in the early mornings.
        Maybe, somewhere, the Nymphs and Graces are dancing,
    Under the moon the goddess Venus and her dancers;
        Somewhere far in the depth of a cloudless sky
    Vulcan is getting ready the storms of the coming summer.
        Now is the time to garland your shining hair
    With myrtle or with the flowers the free-giving earth has given;
        Now is the right time to offer the kid or lamb
    In sacrifice to Faunus in the firelit shadowy grove.

    Revenant white-faced Death is walking not knowing whether
        He's going to knock at a rich man's door or a poor man's.
    O good-looking fortunate Sestius, don't put your hope in the future;
        The night is falling; the shades are gathering around;
    The walls of Pluto's shadowy house are closing you in.
        There who will be lord of the feast? What will it matter,
    What will it matter there, whether you fell in love with Lycidas,
        This or that girl with him, or he with her?

        i.5 / To Pyrrha

    What perfumed debonair youth is it, among
        The blossoming roses, urging himself upon you
    In the summer grotto? For whom have you arranged
        Your shining hair so elegantly and simply?

    How often will he weep because of betrayal,
        And weep because of the fickleness of the gods,
    Wondering at the way the darkening wind
        Suddenly disturbs the calm waters.

    Now he delights in thinking how lovely you are,
        Vacant of storm as the fragrant air in the garden —
    Not knowing at all how quickly the wind can change.
        Hapless are they enamored of that beauty

    Which is untested yet. And as for me?
        The votive tablet on the temple wall
    Is witness that in tribute to the god
        I have hung up my sea-soaked garment there.

        i.6 / To Agrippa

    It takes a poet such as Varius,
    Capable of Homeric flight and range,
    To praise your deeds of courage and the events
    Of victory whether by ship or cavalry.

    I don't pretend to sing about such things
    As the stubborn peevish anger of Achilles
    Or duplicitous Ulysses' wanderings or
    The ferocious House of Atreus. Not for me.

    Self-knowledge and the Muse of peaceful things
    Prohibit me from dimming with my verses
    Your glory and the glory of great Caesar.
    Who is it who is worthy to write the story

    Of Mars in his adamantine armor, or
    Of Meriones covered with Trojan dust
    Or Diomedes in battle against two gods?
    It falls to me to make up easygoing

    Songs about such battlefields as parties,
    Epic encounters between young men and women.
    Sometimes I write them because I've fallen in love.
    Sometimes I write them just for the fun of it.

        i.7 / To Plancus

    Others may give their praise to famous Rhodes,
    Or Mitylene, or Ephesus, or else
    To Corinth from whose walls two seas are seen,
    Or Bacchus' birthplace, Thebes, or to the Vale

    Of Tempe, or Apollo's sacred Delphi;
    Some wearing the laurel wreath whose leaves are plucked
    From the laurel wreaths that earlier praisers wore,
    Unwearied as their only song sing praise

    In honor of the city of Pallas Athena;
    And many in praise of Juno retell the story
    Of Argos and its horses, and rich Mycenae.
    As far as I'm concerned, not even hardy

    Sparta or the grainfields of Larisa
    Take hold of my imagination as
    The echoing Albunean grotto does,
    Or the waterfall of the Anio or the sacred

    Forest of Tibur and its quiet orchards,
    Watered by the river passing by.
    Just as Notus the South Wind isn't always
    What he often is, the bringer-on of storms,

    But sometimes clears the clouds away instead,
    So, Plancus, be wise enough, wherever you are,
    Whether you're camped on the battlefield, among
    The shining weapons and the battle standards,

    Or else at home in your shady groves at Tibur,
    To put aside for a while, with the help of wine,
    The cares and the anxieties of life.
    The story goes that Teucer, when he fled

    From Salamis and from his father's wrath,
    Florid with wine, garlanded his head
    And said these words to his troubled followers:
    "Dear friends, companions, let us go where Fortune,

    Kinder than my father, wants us to go.
    Have confidence in Teucer and the omens.
    Apollo never errs and he has promised
    Another Salamis somewhere in the world.

    O my brave fellows who have gone through worse
    Than this with me, now with the help of wine
    Let's put aside our troubles for a while.
    Tomorrow we set out on the vast ocean."

        i.8 / To Lydia

    For God's sake, Lydia, tell me,
      Why are you so determined
        To ruin Sybaris

    With love, the way you do?
      Why has he taken such
        A dislike to the sunny Campus,

    He who used to put up with
      The dust and heat of the games,
        Liking it fine. Why doesn't

    He who knew how to manage
      The bit and the bridle with such
        Elegance, why doesn't

    He ride anymore these days?
      Why does he act as if
        He's afraid to go into the Tiber?

    Why does he act as if
      The olive oil he used
        To oil his body with

    Before the wrestling match
      Is the blood of a poisonous snake?
        He used to be famous for throwing

    The discus and javelin too,
      Far out beyond the farthest
        Throw of his nearest rival.

    Why do his arms not show
      The bruises that are the signs
        Of practicing with these weapons?

    Why does he seem to hide out,
      The way that, they say, the son
        Of sea-born Thetis, Achilles,

    Hid out in the clothes of a woman,
      Thinking the clothes of a woman
        Would keep him out of the war,

    Just as the war was starting
      That brought the Trojans down
        To their doom and all the tears?

        i.9 / To Thaliarchus

    See Mount Soracte shining in the snow.
    See how the laboring overladen trees
    Can scarcely bear their burdens any longer.

    See how the streams are frozen in the cold.
    Bring in the wood and light the fire and open
    The fourth-year vintage wine in the Sabine jars.

    O Thaliarchus, as for everything else,
    Forget tomorrow. Leave it up to the gods.
    Once the gods have decided, the winds at sea

    Will quiet down, and the sea will quiet down,
    And these cypresses and old ash trees will shake
    In the storm no longer. Take everything as it comes.

    Put down in your books as profit every new day
    That Fortune allows you to have. While you're still young,
    And while morose old age is far away,

    There's love, there are parties, there's dancing and there's music,
    There are young people out in the city squares together
    As evening comes on, there are whispers of lovers, there's laughter.

        i.10 / To Mercury

    O fluent Mercury, grandchild of Atlas, you
    Who gave the means of order to the ways
    Of early men by giving speech to them
    And laying down the rules of the wrestling-floor,

    Where grace is learned in the intricacy of play,
    It is your praise I sing, O messenger
    Of Jupiter and of the other gods,
    Clever deviser of the curvèd lyre,

    Hider-away of anything you please
    It pleases you to hide. The day you were born
    You stole Apollo's cattle away from him;
    Apollo had to laugh when he found out

    That while he stormed and threatened you'd stolen away
    His quiver and arrows too. You stole away
    Priam of Troy from Troy
, bearing possessions,
    Guiding him past the light of Thessalian watchfires,

    Past the enemy camp of the arrogant Greeks.
    You guide the pious dead to their place of bliss;
    With your golden wand you shepherd the ghostly flock.
    You please both the gods above and those below.

        i.11 / To Leuconoë

    Don't be too eager to ask
        What the gods have in mind for us,
    What will become of you,
        What will become of me,
    What you can read in the cards,
        Or spell out on the Ouija board.
    It's better not to know.
        Either Jupiter says
    This coming winter is not
        After all going to be
    The last winter you have,
        Or else Jupiter says
    This winter that's coming soon,
        Eating away the cliffs
    Along the Tyrrhenian Sea,
        Is going to be the final
    Winter of all. Be mindful.
        Take good care of your household.
    The time we have is short.
        Cut short your hopes for longer.
    Now as I say these words,
        Time has already fled
    Backwards away —
    Hold on to the day.

        i.12 / To Clio

    Whom do you choose to celebrate, O Clio?
    Is it a man? or hero half-divine?

    Is it a god? Whose name will Echo echo
    Playfully? Upon what mountainside?

    From Helicon's shadows or from the height of Pindus?
    Or is it cold Mount Haemus whence the trees

    In rapt confusion followed after the voice
    Of Orpheus singing as his mother taught him

    That voice to hear whose song the rushing streams
    Fell silent and the winds' commotion stilled?

    Whom shall I praise before the ordained praise
    Of the father god, of Jupiter himself,

    Who sets in order the things of men and gods,
    Of seas, and lands, and all the changing hours?

    Of those he has begotten there is none
    Greater than he nor is there any god

    Whose glory comes near his glory — yet there's one
    Whose glory comes nearest his of all the gods,

    Pallas Athena, mighty in battle — and then
    There's Bacchus, and the virgin goddess who

    Chastises all the beasts
, and there's Apollo,
    Whose never-missing arrow terrifies;

    Then Hercules, and the twin sons of Leda,
    The horseman and the boxer — because of them,

    When in the nighttime sky their constellation
    Makes itself known, the turbulent waters crashing

    Against the rocky shore subside, and the wind
    Blows gently, if at all. Next come the Romans:

    I don't know which of them to celebrate first.
    Romulus, perhaps, who was the founder,

    Pompilius of the tranquil reign, or else
    Tarquin the splendid, or Cato who by death

    Set such an example, as Regulus also did,
    Or men like Scaurus, or like Paulus who was

    So generous with his very life in the time
    When Hannibal was winning. Which of these

    Takes precedence in my praise? And also there's
    Fabricius, and long-haired Curius,

    Camillus whom the austerity of the farm
    His fathers also tilled made ready for war.

    As in the secret way of time a great
    Tree grows, so grows Marcellus' fame; and as

    The moon at night outshines the other lights,
    The light of the Julian constellation shines

    Far brighter than the light of other lights.
    O son of Saturn, Father Jupiter,

    Guardian as you are of all things human,
    May Caesar reign, your second, guarded by you,

    And guardian in his turn may Caesar guard
    His Romans from all their foes, whether they be

    The Parthians menacing Latium, the Indians, or
    The Seres beyond the borders to the East.

    May Caesar with justice rule, second to you,
    Across the regions of the whole wide world,

    While Jupiter's heavy chariot shakes the sky
    And Jupiter's lightning strikes the polluted woods.

        i.13 / To Lydia

    Lydia, when you praise your Telephus,
    "His beautiful rosy neck," "his beautiful arms,"
    Your praise of Telephus throws me into confusion,
    My mind is all unsettled, my heart swells up,

    The tears in my eyes are the visible evidence
    Of the fire that burns inside me and torments me.
    I suffer this way whether I think the bruise
    That mars your snow-white shoulder is the sign

    Of a lovers' quarrel brought on by too much wine
    Or the mark on your lip the mark of his savage kiss.
    If you listened to me you wouldn't give your trust
    To one who would so barbarously treat

    The lips that Venus imbued with essence of nectar.
    Those lovers are happy and more than happy who
    Are peacefully bound together in amity.
    Love will not part such lovers until death parts them.

        i.14 / To the Republic

    O ship, O battered ship, the backward running waves
    Are taking you out to sea again! Oh what to do?
    Oh don't you see? Oh make for port! The wind's gone wild!
    Your sails are torn! Your mast is shaking! Your oars are gone!
    Your onboard gods gone overboard! How long, how long
    Can the eggshell hull so frail hold out? O ship so proud,
    Your famous name, your gilded stern, your polished decks,
    Your polished brass, so useless now, O storm's play thing,
    O ship my care, beware, beware the Cyclades!


Excerpted from The Odes of Horace by David Ferry. Copyright © 1997 David Ferry. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

David Ferry, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for his translation of Gilgamesh, is a poet and translator who has also won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, given by the Academy of American Poets, and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, given by the Library of Congress. In 2001, he received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2002 he won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. Ferry is the Sophie Chantal Hart Professor of English Emeritus at Wellesley College.

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