Horace

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

Bkiii:V No Surrender - Poem by Horace

We believe thunderous Jupiter rules the sky:
Augustus is considered a god on earth,
for adding the Britons, and likewise
the weight of the Persians to our empire.

Didn’t Crassus’ soldiers live in vile marriage
with barbarian wives, and (because of our
Senate and its perverse ways!) grow old,
in the service of their hostile fathers.

Marsians, Apulians ruled by a Mede,
forgetting their shields, Roman names, and togas,
and eternal Vesta, though Jove’s shrines
and the city of Rome remained unharmed?

Regulus’s far-seeing mind warned of this,
when he objected to shameful surrender,
and considered from its example
harm would come to the following age,

unless captured men were killed without pity.
‘I’ve seen standards and weapons,’ he said,
‘taken bloodlessly from our soldiers,
hung there in the Carthaginian shrines,

I’ve seen the arms of our freemen twisted
behind their backs, enemy gates wide open,
and the fields that our warfare ravaged
being freely cultivated again.

Do you think that our soldiers ransomed for gold,
will fight more fiercely next time! You’ll add
harm to shame: the wool that’s dyed purple
never regains the colour that vanished,


and true courage, when once departed, never
cares to return to an inferior heart.
When a doe that’s set free, from the thick
hunting nets, turns to fight, then he’ll be brave

who trusts himself to treacherous enemies
and he’ll crush Carthage, in a second battle,
who’s felt the chains on his fettered wrists,
without a struggle, afraid of dying.

He’s one who, not knowing how life should be lived,
confuses war with peace. O, shame! O mighty
Carthage, made mightier now because
of Italy’s disgraceful decadence.’

It’s said he set aside his wife’s chaste kisses,
and his little ones, as of less importance,
and, grimly, he set his manly face
to the soil, until he might be able

to strengthen the Senate’s wavering purpose,
by making of himself an example no
other man had made, and hurrying,
among grieving friends, to noble exile.

Yet he knew what the barbarous torturer
was preparing for him. Still he pushed aside
the kinsmen who were blocking his way,
and the people who delayed his going,

as if, with some case decided, and leaving
all that tedious business of his clients,
he headed for Venafrum’s meadows,
or Lacedaemonian Tarentum.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012



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