Horace

(8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC / Italy)

Bkiii:Iv Temper Power With Wisdom - Poem by Horace

O royal Calliope, come from heaven,
and play a lengthy melody on the flute,
or, if you prefer, use your clear voice,
or pluck at the strings of Apollo’s lute.

Do you hear her, or does some lovely fancy
toy with me? I hear, and seem to wander, now,
through the sacred groves, where delightful
waters steal, where delightful breezes stray.

In my childhood, once, on pathless Vultur’s slopes,
beyond the bounds of nurturing Apulia,
exhausted with my play and weariness,
the fabled doves covered me with new leaves,

which was a wonder to everyone who holds
Acherontia’s high nest, and Bantia’s
woodland pastures, and the rich meadows
of low-lying Forentum, since I slept

safe from the bears and from the dark vipers,
the sacred laurel and the gathered myrtle
spread above me, a courageous child,
though it was thanks to the power of the gods.

Yours Muses, yours, I climb the high Sabine Hills,
or I’m carried off to my cool Praeneste,
to the slopes of Tibur, if I please,
or the cloudless loveliness of Baiae.

A friend of your sacred fountains and your
choirs, the rout of the army at Philippi
failed to kill me, and that accursed
tree, and Palinurus’ Sicilian Sea.


Whenever you are with me, as a sailor
I’ll attempt the raging Bosphorus, or be
a traveller in the burning sands
of the Syrian shore: as a stranger

I’ll see the fierce inhospitable Britons,
the Spaniards that love drinking horses’ blood,
I’ll see the quiver-bearing Thracians,
and, unharmed, visit the Scythian stream.

It’s you then who refresh our noble Caesar,
in your Pierian caves, when he’s settled
his weary troops in all the cities,
and he’s ready to complete his labours.

You give calm advice, and you delight in that
giving, kindly ones. We know how the evil
Titans, how their savage supporters
were struck down by the lightning from above,

by him who rules the silent earth, the stormy
sea, the cities, and the kingdoms of darkness,
alone, in imperial justice,
commanding the gods and the mortal crowd.

Great terror was visited on Jupiter
by all those bold warriors bristling with hands,
and by the brothers who tried to set
Pelion on shadowy Olympus.

But what power could Giant Typhoeus have,
or mighty Mimas, or that Porphyrion
with his menacing stance, Rhoetus,
or Enceladus, audacious hurler


of uprooted trees, against the bronze breastplate,
Minerva’s aegis? On one side stood eager
Vulcan, on the other maternal
Juno, and Apollo of Patera

and Delos, who is never without the bow
on his shoulder, who bathes his flowing hair
in Castalia’s pure dew, who holds
the forests, and thickets of Lycia.

Power without wisdom falls by its own weight:
The gods themselves advance temperate power:
and likewise hate force that, with its whole
consciousness, is intent on wickedness.

Let hundred-handed Gyas be the witness
to my statement: Orion too, well-known as
chaste Dian’s attacker, and tamed
by the arrows of the virgin goddess.

Earth, heaped above her monstrous children, laments
and grieves for her offspring, hurled down to murky
Orcus by the lightning bolt: The swift
fires have not yet eaten Aetna, set there,

nor the vultures ceased tearing at the liver
of intemperate Tityus, those guardians placed
over his sin: and three hundred chains
hold the amorous Pirithous fast.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012



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