Introduction.  Horace established his reputation as one of Rome's greatest poets when he published the first three books of his "Odes" in 23 B.C., but he then decided to revert to the use of hexameters in which he had earlier published his "Satires" during the years 35-33 B.C. He wanted to return to the exploration of moral themes, and in 20 B.C. he published his first book of verse "Epistles". Under this medium he concentrates on a few central themes, particularly how men are addicted to the amassing of money and power, but that these things, if acquired, do not bring happiness. Rather this comes from leading a decent life and being content with one's lot. However, Horace does not seek to inculcate his morals with a heavy hand. His poems show sensitivity to the human predicament, an ability to enjoy to the full the good things of life, and a ready wit which both entertains and charms the reader simultaneously. His poetry is invariably elegant and neat; thus, the incidence of elision in his lines is notably scarce, and there is an almost total absence of irregularities, such as instances of hiatus, or spondees in the fifth foot.  While his verse may lack the sonorous rhythms of Virgil's epic strains, its more sedate measure is surely in line with the sober intent of his philosophical purpose.  

At the end of his translation Sabidius has listed some of the best known quotations from this book. (See Appendix A.) These quotations capture the essence of Horace's wit and wisdom, and his ability to compress significant insights into memorable and striking phrases. Sabidius has also analysed in some detail (See Appendix B) the metrical composition of Horace's poetry, and this shows how the varied rhythms of his lines avoids any risk of monotony, when they are read aloud.

The text used for this translation was principally the one available on the Perseus Project website, edited by H. Rushton Fairclough, and published by the Loeb Library in 1926 (It is surprising that Fairclough's translation has not also been issued by Perseus.) However, the text also available on the Latin Library website was also used. This was useful, as any errors existing in both of these versions were corrected by the other. Available translations of this work are relatively rare. Perhaps the most useful, from the point of view of a literal translation, is that of Christopher Smart, dated to 1883, and recently made available on the Project Gutenberg website. However, a more modern and freer translation by Niall Rudd, published by Penguin Books in 1973, and an Eighteenth Century translation, published by Joseph Davidson in 1753, and also available on-line, proved useful too. At the same time commentaries issued on-line by the Society of Ancient Languages of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and in "The Works of Horace with explanatory notes", by Charles Anthon, and edited by James Boyd, 1837, proved invaluable to Sabidius in his attempt to achieve the most accurate translation possible.

1.  To Maecenas.  Addressed to Maecenas in answer to a request of his to try again the lyric poetry which no doubt seemed to Horace's contemporaries to be his best form of composition. Horace explains his refusal by extolling the pursuit of philosophy. The poet renounces all verses of a ludicrous or playful nature, and resolves to apply himself wholly to the study of philosophy, which teaches men to check their desires and to subordinate everything to virtue. 

(O) Maecenas, spoken of by me in my first poetic work (lit. Muse), (and certain) to be spoken of (by me) in my last (one), do you seek to shut me up in the old school again, (me) who has been sufficiently tested and who has already been presented with his discharge foil. My age is not the same (as it was), nor (is) my mind. Veianius, his arms hung on the door-post of Hercules' (temple) (i.e. the one in Fundi in Latium), is lying hidden in the country, so that he should not so often have to implore the people's (favour) from the edge of the arena, and there is (someone) who frequently seems to fill my purified ear with sound: "(If you are in) your senses, release the ageing horse at the right time, lest, having become an object of ridicule, at last he stumbles and breaks his wind."

So now, I am laying aside both verse and other toys (lit. playful [things]); I attend to and enquire about what (is) true and fitting, and I am wholly (engaged) in this; I am putting away and storing up (things) which I can soon bring out (for use). And in case, by chance, you should ask under what mentor and in what house (of philosophy) I am watching over myself (as a pupil): bound (lit. addicted) to swear to the tenets (lit. words) of no particular master, whithersoever the storm drives me, (thither) I am carried (as) a guest. At one time, I become active, and am immersed amid the waves of civic (affairs), a custodian and a strict follower of true virtue; at another time, I furtively relapse into the maxims of Aristippus, and try to subordinate things to myself, not myself to things.

As the night seems long to those to whom their mistress has broken her promise, and the day (long) to those who owe their labour, as the year (seems) slow to minors, whom the strict watchfulness of their mothers constrains, so to me time flows tedious and unwelcome, which delays my hope and plan of energetically executing that which is equally of advantage to the poor and rich alike, (and which if) neglected, will harm the young and old equally. It remains that I shall govern and comfort myself with these principles (of philosophy): you cannot exert yourself with eyes such as Lynceus (had), but, for that reason, you would not refuse to be anointed (if you were) sore-eyed; nor, because you might despair of (having) the limbs of Glyco, would you be unwilling to protect your body from the knotty gout. It is (always in our power) to advance up to a certain (point), (even) if it is not permitted (to us to go) further.

Your heart is burning with avarice and a wretched desire: there are spells and incantations, by which this pain can be soothed, and you can rid yourself of a great part of this sickness. You swell with the love of praise: there are some sure (and certain) remedies (lit. purgations), which will be able to restore you (to moral health), if you read a book three times with a pure heart. (Whether he is) envious, choleric, indolent, a wine-soak (or) a paramour, no one is so uncivilised that he cannot be tamed, if only he can lend a patient ear to the lessons of wisdom.

To flee from vice is a virtue, and to have abstained from folly (is) the beginning of wisdom, (and) you see with what great toil of mind and body you avoid (those things) which you believe to be the greatest of evils: a small  fortune and an election rebuff; an active merchant, you run to the remotest Indies, fleeing poverty though sea, through rocks, through fire. Are you not willing to learn and hear and trust (yourself to the guidance of someone)  wiser (than you), so that you may not bother about those (things) which you foolishly admire and long for? What champion of the villages and of the cross-road (fairs) would scorn being crowned at the great Olympic (Games), who has (lit. to whom [there is]) the prospect and who has (lit. to whom there is) the offer of (gaining) the glorious palm (of victory) without the effort? Silver is of lesser value than gold, gold (is of lesser value) than virtue. "O citizens, citizens, money is the first (thing) that must be acquired!" These (precepts) the top of Janus' (arcade) to the bottom preaches, these maxims young men and old repeat, hanging their satchels and account books (lit. writing tablets) from their left arms. You have (lit. There is to you) spirit, you have (lit, there are [to you]) morals, you have (lit. there is [to you]) (fluency of) speech and (unshaken) fidelity, but six (or) seven thousand (sesterces) are wanting from your four hundred thousand (i.e. the property qualification for the equestrian order): (so) you will be a plebeian. But boys at play cry out, "You will be King if you do (this) correctly." Let this be (a man's) wall of brass, to have nothing on his conscience, to turn pale with no guilt. Tell me, please, is the Roscian Law (i.e. the law of 67 B.C. which reserved the first fourteen rows of the theatre for knights) better, or the boys' jingle, which offers the kingdom to (those) doing right, and (which was) chanted by the manly Curii and Camilli? Does he advise you better, who (says), "You should make a fortune, a fortune, if you can, honestly, (but) if not,(make) a fortune by whatever means (you can)," so that you can view from closer at hand the tearful dramas of Pupius, or who, standing by in person, exhorts and prepares you, (as) a free and upright (man), to defy proud Fortune?

But if, by chance, the Roman people should ask me why I do not enjoy the same opinions (as they do), just as (I enjoy the same) porticoes (as they do), nor pursue or shun whatever they themselves like or hate, I should reply as the wary fox once replied to the sick lion: "Because those footmarks terrify me, (as they are) all pointing towards you (and) none back (from you)." You are a monster with many heads, for what or whom should I follow? Some men are delighted to farm the public (revenues); there are (those) who would entice covetous widows with dainty morsels and fruits, and ensnare old men, whom they can throw into their fish-ponds; in many cases, their fortune grows by concealed usury. But grant (lit. be it) that different (men) are engaged in different activities and pastimes: can the same (men) endure an hour (together) approving the same (things)? If the rich (man) has said, "No bay in the world can outshine delightful Baiae (i.e. a fashionable resort on the Bay of Naples)," the lake and the sea experience the eagerness of their impatient master, to whom if a depraved fancy gives the omen, (he cries out,) "Tomorrow, workmen, convey your tools to Teanum (i.e. an inland town, thirty miles north of Baiae)." There is a marriage-bed in the hall: he  says nothing is preferable, nothing better than an unmarried life; if there is not (one there), he swears that only the married are happy. With what knot can I hold this Proteus, as he changes his appearance? What (of) the poor man? Laugh (at him too): he changes his garret lodgings, his beds, his baths, his barbers, (and) he is just as sick in a hired boat as the rich (man is), whom his private galley conveys.

If I come to  meet (you) with my hair having been cut (lit. having been attended to in respect of my hair) by a barber in an uneven manner (lit. by an uneven barber), you laugh (at me); if, by chance, there is a ragged shirt under my smart tunic, or, if my badly folded toga is askew, you laugh (at me). What (do you do) when my opinion is in conflict with myself, it despises what it has desired, it revisits what it recently neglected, it fluctuates, and is at variance with the whole routine of my life, it destroys, it builds up, it changes squares to circles? You think I am mad in a common way, and you do not laugh (at me), nor do you believe that I have need of a physician or a warden assigned to me by the praetor, although you are the guardian of my affairs and are disgusted because of the poorly trimmed finger-nails of a friend who depends on you (and) respects you.

In summary (then): the wise man is inferior to Jupiter alone, (he is) rich, free, honoured, handsome, finally the king of kings; above all (he is) of a sound (mind), except when he has a cold (lit. the phlegm is troublesome).

2.  To Lollius.  This epistle also involves an exhortation to the study of philosophy, but of philosophy as drawn  from the practical examples of the 'Iliad' and the 'Odyssey'. Horace prefers Homer to all the philosophers, and advises an early cultivation of virtue. It is unclear exactly which of the Lollii, of whom records exist, is being addressed, but he is evidently a young man, not yet devoted to philosophy. The eighteenth epistle in this book is also addressed to him.

While you, the Eldest Lollius, (i.e. probably the eldest son of Marcus Lollius, the consul in 21 B.C.) declaim at Rome, (here) at Praeneste I have re-read the writer of the Trojan war, who tells (us) more fully and better than Chrysippus and Crantor what is fine, what (is) shameful, what (is) profitable, (and) what (is) not. Unless something distracts your attention (lit. detains you), hear why I have thought thus.

The story is told of how Greece, having been embroiled in a protracted war with a foreign (country) on account of Paris' love affair, keeps in check the passions of foolish kings and peoples. Antenor proposes to put an end to the cause of the war: What (of) Paris? He says that he cannot be compelled to reign in safety and live in happiness. Nestor is anxious to settle the dispute between the son of Peleus (i.e. Achilles) and the son of Atreus (i.e. Agamemnon); love inflames one of them, rage (inflames) both of them in common. Whatever mad folly the kings commit (lit. In whatever way the kings are raving in their madness), the Achaeans are punished (for it). Within the walls of Ilium and without, wrong is committed, by sedition, treachery, crime, as well as lust and anger.

Again, (to show) what virtue and what wisdom can (do), he has proposed Ulysses to us (as) a useful model, (a man), who as the tamer of Troy, carefully examined the cities and customs of many men, and, while he prepared a return across the wide sea for himself and his companions, he endured many hardships, (yet) never foundering in the adverse waves of these circumstances. You are acquainted with the voices of the Sirens and Circe's cups; which, if he had foolishly and greedily imbibed, together with his companions, he would have become debased and senseless (as a beast) under a whore (for) a mistress; he would have lived (as) a filthy dog or a pig wallowing in mud. We are mere ciphers (lit. just numbers) and born to consume the fruits (of the earth), like the idlers (who were) Penelope's suitors, and the young men of Alcinous' (court), taking excessive pains (lit. taking more cares than was proper) to pamper their bodies (lit. skin), to whom it was a fine (thing) to sleep into the middle of the day and (then) lull their cares to rest with the sound of a lyre.

Robbers arise at night to cut men's throats; will you not awaken in order to save yourself? And yet, if you are unwilling (to do so when you are) healthy, you will run (when you are) suffering from dropsy; and unless, before day, you call for a book with a light, if you do not direct your mind to study and honest employments, you will be (kept) awake (and) tormented by envy and passion. For why do you hasten to remove (the things) which hurt your eye, (but) if anything preys upon your mind (lit. eats at your soul), you defer the time for dealing with (it) from one year to the next? He has (done) half of the deed, who has made a beginning; dare to be wise, start (now)! He who postpones the hour of living properly (is like) the yokel (in the story, who) waits while (all the water in) the river flows away; but it glides and will glide along, rolling on for all time. Money is sought, and a wealthy wife to bear children, and scrubby woodlands are subdued by the ploughshare; (he) who achieves what is enough, let him long for nothing more. Not a house and farm, not a pile of bronze and gold, have expelled the fevers from the body of their sick master, nor the cares from his mind; the owner needs to be well if he expects really to enjoy the things which he has accumulated. (To him) who desires or fears, a house and estate please him just as much as colourful pictures (a man) with sore-eyes, (or) hot-water applications (lit. fomentations) the gout, (or the music of) the lyre ears aching with collected dirt. Unless the jar is clean, whatever you pour into (it), turns sour.

Despise pleasures, (as) pleasure bought with pain is harmful. The greedy (man) is always in want; set a fixed limit to your wishes. The envious (man) pines away at the thriving circumstances of another; Sicilian tyranny found no greater torment than envy. (He) who will not restrain his fury, will wish to be undone what his grief and his feelings will have prompted, while he forcibly accelerates punishments through unavenged rancour. Anger is a brief madness; control your temper, which commands (you), unless it obeys (you); do you restrain (it) with a bridle and chain. The trainer makes the docile horse, his neck (still) tender, go the  way in which the rider directs (him); the puppy serves (as) a hound in the woods from the time when he barked at the deer's skin in the courtyard. Now, (while you are) young (lit. a boy), absorb into your unsullied breast these instructions, (of mine), now offer yourself to your betters; a jar will preserve for a long time the smell with which it was once impregnated (when) new. But if you dawdle or press on ahead vigorously, I neither wait for the loiterer nor pursue those that precede (me).

3. To Julius Florus.  This epistle is of a somewhat less general character than the two preceding ones, and constitutes a familiar letter to a friend, who was on the staff of Tiberius Claudius Nero, later the Emperor Tiberius, who at the time it was written, in 20 B.C., was in Armenia with an army threatening Parthia. After enquiring about Tiberius and some of his friends, he exhorts Florus to the study of philosophy. 

I am anxious to know, Julius Florus, in what regions of the earth Claudius, the step-son of Augustus, is waging war. Do Thrace and Hebrus, bound by a chain of snow, or the straits, running between the neighbouring towers (i.e. Sestos and Abydos), or Asia's fertile plains and hills delay you?

What literary work is the studious retinue planning? I am also concerned about this.Who is taking it upon himself to write up Augustus' exploits? Who is transmitting to (lit. diffusing into) distant ages (the memory of) his wars and his peace (treaties)? What (of) Titius, (whose name) will shortly be on the lips of (every) Roman, (he) who was not afraid of drinking from the spring of Pindar, (while) daring to disdain the tanks and open channels open (to all)? How is he? How does he speak of me? Is he keen to adapt Theban measures to Latin lyres (i.e. to write lyric poetry) with a favouring Muse, or does he rave and bluster in the (style of) tragic art? What, I should like to know, is Celsus (i.e. Celsus Albinovanus, the addressee of Ep. 8) doing? He has been advised, and needs to be very frequently advised, to acquire treasures (lit. works) of his own, and to avoid touching whatever writings Apollo has received (in) his Palatine (temple), lest, if, by chance, the flock of birds should come at some time or other to demand their feathers, the poor little crow, stripped of its stolen colours, should occasion laughter. What do you yourself venture (to do)? What thymes are you busily buzzing around (i.e. what exciting ideas have you got)?  You do not have (lit. [There is] not to you) a little talent, nor is it uncultivated and shamefully rough; whether you sharpen your tongue for (pleading) causes, to advise on the civil law, or to compose charming poetry, you will win the first prize of the victor's ivy. But if you could abandon those cold showers of your worries, you would go to wherever heavenly wisdom leads (you). Let us, (both) small and great, progress this work, this pursuit, if we wish to live beloved by our country and by ourselves.

You should also write back (to me) with this (information), (whether) Munatius (i.e. possibly the son of Lucius Munatius Plancus, consul in 42 B.C., and consul himself in 13 A.D.) is of as much importance to you as he should be (lit. as it is fitting). Does the badly patched-up (gash) in your friendship close in vain and tear open again? But, whether the hot blood (of youth) or inexperience in things is exasperating you, wild with untamed necks (as you both are), in whatever places you live, too worthy to break the fraternal bond, a votive heifer is being fed (to celebrate) (lit. against) your return.

4.  To Albius Tibullus.  He acknowledges the accomplishments of Tibullus, the elegiac poet who was Horace's contemporary; and, then, after proposing the thought of death, he converts it into an occasion of pleasantry. 

Albius, (you) candid judge of my satires (lit. discourses), what shall I say you are doing now in the district of Pedum? That you are writing (something) which may surpass the little pieces of Cassius of Parma, or that you are strolling quietly among the health-giving woods, concerning yourself with whatever is worthy of a wise and good (man). You were not (born) to be a body without a mind: the gods (have given) you good looks, the gods have given you wealth, and the faculty of enjoying (them). What greater (blessing) could a fond nurse wish for her beloved foster-child, than that he could be wise and (able) to express what he feels, and that friendship, renown (and) good health might come to him in abundance, as well as an elegant lifestyle with a never failing purse?

In the midst of hopes and cares, and in the midst of fears and irritations, think that every day has dawned upon you for the last time; (thus) the the hour which you will never hope for, will arrive unexpectedly as (something) agreeable.

As for me, when you want to laugh, come and see me, fat and sleek from looking after myself (lit. my skin having been cared for) (so) well, a (true) hog from Epicurus' sty (lit. herd).

5.  To Torquatus.   Horace invites him to a frugal entertainment, but a clean and cheerful one. It is unclear which of the Manlius Torquatus family this is, but it may be the same man as the one to whom Ode IV. 7 is addressed.

If you can (bear) to recline (as) my guest on (one of) Archias' couches, and are not afraid to dine on all kinds of vegetables from a dish of moderate (size), I shall expect you, Torquatus, in my home at sunset. You will drink wine, bottled, when Taurus (was consul) for a second time (i.e. 26 B.C.), between marshy Minturnae and Sinuessa's (Mount) Petrinum. If you have anything better, send for (it) (or possibly invite [me instead]), or submit to my orders. The hearth is shining right now, and (there is) a clean table service in honour of you. Forget your chancy prospects and your struggles for wealth, and the Moschus' case: tomorrow, Caesar's birthday, (i.e. 12th July if it refers to Julius Caesar, as it probably does, or 23rd September if it refers to Augustus) (being) a festal day, allows of indulgence and sleep; we shall be able (lit. it will be permitted [to us]), with impunity, to while away (lit. extend) the summer night with pleasant conversation.

For what (purpose do I have) a fortune to myself, if I cannot (lit. it is not permitted [to me] to) enjoy it?  (He who is) sparing and too niggardly on account of a concern for his heir, resembles a madman; I shall begin to drink and to scatter flowers, and I shall even be prepared (lit. endure) to be considered inconsiderate (and foolish). What does the influence of drink not contrive? It reveals mysteries, it commands our hopes to be considered, it pushes the cowardly (man) into battle, it removes the burden (of anxiety) from troubled minds, it teaches new ways (of achieving what we desire). Whom has the soul-inspiring cups not made eloquent, whom in pinching poverty (does it) not (make) free (of cares)?

I, (who am) the proper (person) and not unwilling, make it my duty (lit. am charged) to take care of the following (matters), that no dirty covering (on the couch), no filthy napkin, should wrinkle your nose, so that no tankard or plate should not show you to yourself, so that there should be no (one) who will noise abroad what is said among faithful friends, (and) so that equals may meet and be joined as equals. I shall receive Butra and Septicius in addition to you, and also Sabinus, unless a prior dinner (engagement) and a prettier girl should detain (him). There is also a room for several 'shadows' (i.e. accompanying friends), but too much body-odour (lit. too many smelly goats) spoils overcrowded parties. Let me know (lit. Write back [to me]) what number you wish there to be, and, having set aside your business, give the client keeping guard in your forecourt the slip through the back-door.

6.  To Numicius.  This is a philosophical lecture which might have been addressed to anyone. Its theme is that a wise man is in love with nothing but virtue. The addressee, who according to line 31 below appears not yet to be persuaded of the merits of philosophy, is otherwise unknown. 

To be dazzled by (lit. to admire) nothing is just about the one and only thing, Numicius, which can make and keep (a man) happy. There are (some) who can view the sun up there (lit. this sun) and the stars and the seasons moving on (lit. retiring) at fixed times without being agitated by any fear: (so) what do you think of earth's gifts, what of the sea which enriches the remote Arabs and Indians, what of the public shows, the cheers and gifts (i.e. offices) of the friendly Roman citizen, in what manner, with what feelings and looks do you think they should be observed? (He) who dreads the opposites to these (things) (i.e. poverty and disgrace) is in awe of (them) almost in the same way as (he who is) eager (for them): awe is disturbing in both directions, an unexpected apparition terrifies both alike. Let (a man) rejoice or grieve, let him desire or fear, to what purpose (is it), if whatever he perceives better or worse than his expectations, he is dazed in mind and body, with his eyes fixed? Let the wise (man) bear the name of fool, the just of unjust, if he pursues virtue itself beyond what is sufficient.

Go now, gaze in awe upon silver (vases) and antique marble (statues) and bronze (vessels) and works of art, wonder at Tyrian colours together with gems, rejoice, because a thousand eyes are watching you while haranguing in public; active (as you are), make for the forum early in the morning and your house in the evening, so that Mutus does not harvest more grain (than you) from the fields which he has acquired from his wife's dowry, and - (something) shameful (indeed), since he is sprung from the lower classes - that he may (not) prove more an object of envy to you than you to him. Whatever is in the earth, time will bring it to light, (and) will bury and hide whatever is (now) shining brightly. When Agrippa's Porch and the Appian Way will have beheld you, well-known (as you are), it still remains (for you) to go whither Numa and Ancus have gone. If your lungs and your kidneys are afflicted by an acute disease, look for an escape from the disease. You wish to live properly: who wouldn't? If virtue alone can grant this, pursue it strenuously, while pleasures are set aside. You think virtue (is mere) words, and a sacred grove (is nothing but) firewood: take care that no one else should gain the harbour before you, lest you lose the trade with Cybra and Bithynia: let a thousand talents be rounded off, (and) as many a second time, and, further, let a third (thousand) follow after, and (then) the part which may square the pile (i.e. render it fourfold). For of course Sovereign Money confers a wife with a (large) dowry and credit and friends and family and good looks, and (the goddesses) Persuasion and Charm embellish the well-heeled (lit. well-moneyed) (man). The king of the Cappadocians, rich in slaves, is short of cash; don't you be like him. Lucullus, as they say, having been asked if he could supply a hundred cloaks for the stage, said, "How can I (have) so many? But, yet, I shall have a look and send as many as I have." After a short (time), he writes that he has (lit. that there are to him) five thousand cloaks in his house; (and that) he might take away some or all (of them). It is (but) a poorly furnished house where there are not many (things) in excess, and (these) are unknown to the master and are of benefit to thieving (slaves). Well then, if wealth alone can make and keep  (a man) happy, may you be the first to resume this work, (and)  may you be the last to leave (it).

(But) if distinction and (popular) favour are responsible for (a man being) fortunate, let us purchase a slave to remind us of (people's) names, nudge (us in) our left side, and make (us) stretch out our right (hand) across the counter: "This (man) has much power in the Fabian (tribe), that (man) in the Veline; this (man) will give the magistrates' rods (i.e. the consulship or praetorship) to anyone (lit. to whomever it pleases [him to do so]), and, tireless in his efforts on behalf of whomever he wishes, he will remove the curule ivory (chair)." Add (to the handshake the name of) "Brother" (or) "Father", according to the age of each man (lit. as is the age of each man), (and) thus adopt him with courtesy (into your family) .

If (he) who dines well, lives well, it is (now) daylight, (so) let us go whither our appetite (lit. gullet) leads (us), let us fish, let us hunt, as once (did) Gargilius, who, early in the morning, ordered his nets, his hunting-spears (and) his slaves to go through the crowded forum and the people, although (but) one mule out of many would, with the people watching, carry back a boar (which he had) purchased. Let us bathe, (with our food) undigested and with distended (stomachs), forgetting what is fitting, (and) what (is) not, deserving of being enrolled among the Caerites (lit. of  Caere's wax tablets) (i.e. to be disenfranchised), (like) Ithacan Ulysses' rotten (i.e. depraved) crew, to whom forbidden pleasure was preferable to their country. If, as Mimnermus thinks, nothing is pleasant without love and play (lit. jests), may you live among love and play (lit. jests).

Live well (and) keep fit! If you know anything better than all those (maxims), clearly communicate (this); if not, put these (views) into practice together with me.

7.  To Maecenas.  This epistle was evidently written by the poet to Maecenas to justify his decision to prioritise the preservation of his own health over the claims of his patron. Horace had apparently retired from the city to the country, perhaps to Tibur, for a few days, and had extended his absence to a month, and now he has it in mind to stay away for the whole of the winter. While excusing himself on the grounds of ill-health, he also asserts his liberty of action within the limits of his friendship with Maecenas. Indeed, he declares liberty preferable to all other blessings. 

Having promised you that I would be in the country for five days, false to my word, I allow myself to be missed for the whole of August. And yet, if you want me to live safe and sound and in perfect health, the indulgence which you grant me, Maecenas, (when I am) ill, you will grant (me also) when I am afraid of being ill, when the first fig (ripening) and the heat (of autumn) adorns the undertaker with his attendants (dressed in) black, and when every father and fond mother goes pale (with fear) for their children, and (when) assiduous zeal (in attending upon the great), and the petty concerns of the forum, induces fevers and opens (lit. unseals) wills. But, if the winter shall smear snow over the Alban fields, your poet will go down to the sea, and take care of himself, and read (while snugly) compressed (into some narrow corner); you, dear friend, he will revisit with the West Winds and the first swallow, if you will allow (him).

You have made me rich, not in the manner in which the Calabrian bids his guest eat pears. "Eat, pray!" "I have had enough already (lit. There is enough [to me])." "But you, take away as much as you like." "No, thank you (lit. ([Thank you] kindly)!" "(But) you will not be carrying any disagreeable presents to your little children." "I am as much obliged by your gift, as if I were sent away loaded." "As you please (lit. As it pleases [you]); you will leave these (things) to be devoured today by the pigs." (It is) the prodigal and the fool (who) gives what he despises and hates; such a crop has produced, and will always produce, ungrateful (recipients); a good and wise man says he is ready (to confer favours) upon those who deserve (them), and yet he is not unaware of how coins differ from counters (i.e. sham money used on the stage). I will also show that, in accordance with the praise of (my benefactor conferring his favours on) a deserving (object), (I am) worthy (of the gifts that I have received). But, if you are unwilling that I should go anywhere away from (you), you will have to restore my strong constitution (and) the black hair on my narrow forehead, you will have to restore (my ability) to converse with charm, you will have to restore (my power) to laugh in a becoming way, and to mourn, amidst (cups of) wine, the flight of my wanton Cinara.

A lean little fox (N.B. in an alternative version it is a field-mouse) had crept, by chance, through a narrow crack into a chest of grain, and, having eaten, tried in vain to go out again, with its body (now being stuffed) full; a weasel says to him from a distance, "If you want to escape from there, seek anew, (when you are) lean, that narrow hole which you entered into (when you were) lean." If I am to be addressed by such a likeness, I am handing everything back; Neither do I, sated with delicacies, applaud the slumbers of the common people, nor am I willing to exchange my leisure for the great riches of the pampered (lit. fattened) Arabs. You have often praised (me for) my modesty; in your presence you have heard (yourself called) both "King" and "Father", nor in your absence (am I) a word more sparing (lit. more sparing by a [single] word): see whether I can cheerfully hand back your gifts. Well (lit. not badly) (did) Telemachus, the offspring of patient Ulysses, (answer): "Ithaca is not a suitable place for horses, as it neither possesses any plains (lit. as it is nether extended in level spaces), nor does it abound (lit. [is it] abundant) with much grass. Son of Atreus (i.e. Menelaus), I shall leave behind your gifts, (which are) more suited to you." Small (things) are suitable for a small (man): no longer does regal Rome please me, but (rather) vacant Tibur or unwarlike Tarentum.

Philippus (i.e. Lucius Marcius Philippus, consul 91 B.C.), active and brave, and renowned for pleading causes, while he was returning from his professional duties at about the eighth hour (i.e. 2.00 p.m.), and, now (being) of great age, was complaining that the Carinae (i.e. a fashionable district on the edge of the Esquiline Hill) were too distant from the forum, caught sight of a certain (man), close-shaved in an empty barber's shop, gently paring his own finger-nails with a small knife. "Demetrius," (he said) - this slave received Philippus' orders with great aplomb (lit. without any awkwardness) - "go, and enquire and let me know (lit. bring back [to me]) where his home (is), who (he is), what fortune (he has), who his father is, or (if he is a freedman) who is his patron." (Off) he goes, returns, and relates that (he is) Volteius Menas by name, (that he is) an auctioneer, of small fortune, without a criminal (record), (and) known both to work hard at the proper time, and (then) to take it easy (lit. to rest), and to gain (a little) and (then) to spend (it), delighting in a few companions, and in his own house, and also in the (public) games and (walking) in the Campus (Martius) after the close of business.

"I'd like (lit. It pleases [me]) to enquire of (the man) himself all that you report; tell (him) to come to dinner." Menas cannot quite believe (it). What many (things does he want)? "No, thank you (lit. [Thank you] kindly)." "Does he really say no to me?" The rascal refuses (you), and he (either) doesn't care for you or he dreads (you)." In the morning, Philippus surprises Volteius, as he is selling cheap frippery to the common people in their shirt-sleeves (lit. tunics), and is the first to bid good day; he made an excuse to Philippus of the toil and the fetters of his trade, because he had not come to his house early that morning; in short, because he had not seen him first. "Consider that I have forgiven you on this condition, if you dine with me today." "As you wish (lit. As it pleases [you])." "So, you will come after the ninth hour (i.e. at 3 p.m.). Now, go, (and) coin it in (lit. strenuously increase your wealth)." When they went to dinner, after he had said whatever came into his head (lit. spoken of [things] to be mentioned [and things] about which silence should have been kept), he is  dismissed to go to sleep. When he had often been seen to repair (like) a fish to the concealed hook, having become a client in the morning and then a regular guest, on the proclamation of the Latin holidays (by the consul), he is bidden to go (as) his companion to his country (seat) near the city. Mounted on a coach-horse, he does not cease to praise the Sabine soil and air; Philippus sees (this) and smiles, and, while he seeks diversion and amusement for himself from every quarter, (and) while he makes (him) a gift of seven (thousand) sesterces, (and) promises seven (thousand more as) a loan, he persuades (him) to buy a small estate. He buys (one). Not to detain you with some long rambling story beyond what is sufficient, from (being) a smart (fellow) he becomes a (total) peasant, and prattles away about nothing but his furrows and his vineyards, he prepares his elm-trees (i.e. on which to train his vines), he works himself to death (lit. he wastes away with zeal), and wears himself out in his passion for gain (lit. possessing). But, when his sheep were lost through theft and his goats through disease, his harvest deceived his hopes, (and) his ox was worn out by ploughing, in despair at (lit. displeased by) these losses, he grabs hold of a horse, and rides to Philippus' house in a rage. As soon as Philippus beheld him rough and unshaven, he said, "Volteius, you seem to me to be over-worked and (over)-anxious." "In truth, patron, you would call me a wretch," he said, "if you wish to give me my true name. This I beseech and entreat you, by your Guardian Spirit, by your own right (hand) and your household gods, restore me to my former life."

(He) who has once perceived how much better the (things) which he has discarded are than (the things) which he has been seeking, let him return promptly and take back what he has relinquished. It is a truth that everyone should measure himself by his own foot-rule (lit. his own last and foot).

8.  To Celsus Albinovanus.  Addressed to a literary friend, who is secretary to the young prince Tiberius, and mentioned in the third epistle above, Horace, apparently unwell both in mind and body, complains of his own unsatisfied and restless spirit. He concludes by warning Celsus to bear good fortune with moderation, if he wishes to retain the poet's friendship.  

(O) Muse, at my request, (please) convey my congratulations and best wishes (lit. bear joy and prosperity) to Celsus Albinovanus, the companion and secretary of Nero (i.e. Tiberius). If he should ask what am I doing, tell (him) that, (though) promising many things, I live neither well nor agreeably, not because hail has bruised my vines or the heat has blasted my olives, nor because my herds are sick in distant pastures, but because, (being) less sound in my mind than in all of my body, I am willing to hear nothing, (and) to learn nothing, which may relieve (me) in my sickness, (because) I am displeased with my faithful physicians, and I am angered by my friends for being eager (lit. hastening) to rouse me from this fatal lethargy, (because) I pursue (things) which have harmed (me) (and) avoid (things) which I believe would be of advantagedmonition in his ears.  (to me), (and because) I love Tibur (when I am) in Rome, (and being) fickle as the wind, Rome (when I am) in Tibur.

After this, enquire how he is, in what way he is handling his job and himself, (and) how he pleases the young (prince) and his retinue. If he says "Well," first say you are glad, then remember to whisper (lit. drop) this admonition in his ears: "As you (bear) your good fortune, so we shall bear you, Celsus."

9.  To Tiberius Claudius Nero.  Horace recommends his friend Septimius to Tiberius. Such letters of commendation were common among Romans of the time.  

(O) Claudius, Septimius (i.e. the same man as the addressee of Odes II.6) alone knows for sure how highly you regard me; for when he asks, and by his entreaties compels, that I should undertake namely to commend and introduce him to you, (as one) worthy of the esteem and of the society of Nero, who (always) selects deserving (objects), since he thinks that I fulfil the office of an intimate friend, he sees and knows what I can (do) better than I myself. Indeed, I have said a great deal (lit. many [things]) about why I should go away excused (from having to do this), but I was afraid, lest I might be thought to have represented my (influence with you as) less than (than it really is), (and to be) a dissembler of my own power, for the benefit of myself alone. So I, in order to avoid the reproach of a greater fault, have descended (into the arena) to (seek) the rewards of the city slicker's suave effrontery. But if you approve of modesty being set aside, on account of the biddings of a friend, enrol this (man) among your retinue, and believe (him to be) brave and good.

10.  To Aristius Fuscus.  In praising the country as a superior abode to the city, Horace explains to an old companion, who loves the city, the grounds for his preference, and, in doing so, he paints in masterly colours the innocence, the simplicity, and the calm repose of a country life. 

We, (who are) lovers of the country bid Fuscus, the lover of the city, hail, evidently (being) much unlike in this point alone, (but) in other (respects) almost twins with the minds of brothers: whatever one denies; the other too (denies), we assent together, (like) old and familiar doves. You keep the nest, I praise the streams, and the rocks overgrown with moss, and the groves of this delightful countryside. Why do you ask (more)? I live and reign, as soon as I have left those very places which you extol to the sky with shouts of applause (lit. with favouring acclaim), and, like the priest's runaway (slave), I reject sweet cakes (i.e. those used for sacrificial offerings); now I need bread rather than honeyed muffins.

If we should (lit. it behoves [us] to) live in conformity with nature, and an open space is first to be sought for placing a house upon, do you know any place preferable to the glorious countryside? Is there (anywhere) where the winters are more mild, where a more welcome breeze soothes both the frenzy of the Dog-Star and the movements of the Lion, when once he has suffered, in his fury, (the rays of) the scorching sun? Is there (a place) where nagging (lit. envious) care may disturb our slumbers less? Does grass smell or glisten less well than Libyan pebbles (i.e. the marble tesserae with which mosaic floors were constructed)? Why, a wood is reared amid columns of variegated (marble), and that dwelling-place is praised which commands a view of distant fields. You may expel nature with a pitchfork, yet she will still return, and will stealthily break through your improper disdain in triumph.

(He,) who is unable skilfully to compare the fleeces that drink up the red dye of Aquinum with Sidonian purple, will not incur a surer loss or (one) closer to the bone (lit. nearer to the marrow) than (he) who will not be able to distinguish true from false. (He,) whom favourable circumstances have delighted too much, changed (circumstances) will shatter. If you admire anything (greatly), you will lay (it) aside unwillingly. Avoid big (things); under a humble roof, one may (lit. it is permitted [to one] to) live more happily than (lit. outdo) kings, and the friends of kings (i.e. the rich and powerful and their friends) in one's (manner of) life. The stag, superior in the fight, drove the horse from the common pasture, until (the latter,) worsted in the age-old struggle, implored the aid of man, and accepted the bit; but, after he departed from his enemy, a proud victor, he could not remove the rider from his back nor the bit from his mouth. So, (he) who, in fear of poverty, forfeits his liberty, (which is) more precious than metals (i.e. riches), in his shame shall carry a master and will forever be a slave, because he could not be happy with (lit. enjoy) a little. (A man,) for whom his circumstances are not suitable, (is) like a shoe at any time, (which,) if it is too big for his foot, will trip (him) up, (but) if too small, will pinch (him).

(If you are) cheerful with your lot, Aristius, you will live wisely, nor will you let me go without rebuke, when I seem to be amassing more than I need (lit. than is sufficient) and not to stop. Accumulated money (either) rules or serves each (man); (but) it ought (lit, [it is] worthy) to follow rather than to lead the twisted rope (i.e. an animal's tow-rope). I composed these (words) to you behind the the crumbling temple of Vacuna, happy in all other respects, except (lit. [it] being excepted) that you were not together with (me).

11.  To Bullatius.  The addressee of this letter, otherwise unknown, is someone who spends his time as a tourist in the cities of Asia Minor, to which he had retreated through weariness with civil wars. In contrast to the love of foreign lands, Horace takes the opportunity to express his own impatience with the evils of travel and his preference for home. While endeavouring to persuade Bullatius to return to Rome, he advises him to ease his unsettled mind, not by the length of his journeys but through  his mental state.   

How does Chios appear to you, Bullatius, and celebrated Lesbos? What of neat Samos, what of Croesus' royal Sardis? What of Smyrna and Colophon? (Are they) greater or less than their fame (represents them to be), (and) are they all contemptible in comparison with the Campus (Martius) and the river Tiber? But (perhaps) one of the cities of Attalus (i.e. Pergamum or Apollonia) becomes the object of  (lit. enter into) your wish?  Or do you applaud Lebedus (i.e. a small coastal town near Colophon in Ionia, it had once been a large and flourishing city, but by Horace's time it was in ruins) due to a dislike of the sea and of travelling? You know what Lebedus is: (it is) an (even) more deserted town than Gabii and Fidenae (i.e. towns in the vicinity of Rome, belonging to the Latins and the Sabines respectively, which had fallen into decay after their capture by the Romans, and had become proverbial for their desolation); yet there I should be willing to live, both forgetful of my friends and forgotten by them, to view Neptune from the land, raging at a (safe) distance.

But neither would he who makes for Rome from Capua, bespattered with rain and mud, wish to live (permanently) in an inn; nor does he who has become stiff with cold commend furnaces and bath-houses as completely furnishing (the means of)  a happy life; nor, if the violent South Wind has tossed you into the deep, would you, on that account, sell your ship on the far side of the Aegean Sea.

To (a man) in good health, Rhodes and fair Mytilene are of as much use as a great-coat at the summer solstice, a loin-cloth in a blizzard (lit. in snowy winds), (bathing in) the Tiber during the winter, (or) a fire in the month of August. While you have the chance (lit. it is permitted), and Fortune preserves a benign aspect, let Samos and Chios and Rhodes be praised at a distance. Whatever hour a god has blessed you with, do you receive (it) with a grateful hand, and do not defer its comforts to (another) year, so that, in whatever place you have been, you can say that you have lived happily; for if reason and wisdom, not a place commanding the prospect of the wide-extended sea, remove our cares, they change their climate, not their outlook (lit. disposition), who run across the sea. A busy idleness exercises us; we seek to live well by boats and cars. What you are looking for is here (at home), it is (even) at Ulubrae (i.e. a small insignificant village in the Pomptine marshes to the south-east of Rome), if a balanced disposition (lit. equanimity of mind, or an even temper) does not desert you.

12.  To Iccius.  This epistle is evidently written in response to a letter which Iccius had sent to Horace, in which he had complained of the position he held in Sicily as the manager of the estates of Marcus Agrippa, and of his fortunes generally. Iccius had formerly been the recipient of Odes I. 29, when he was on campaign in Arabia with Aelius Gallus in 25 B.C., a campaign that met with disaster. While seeming to praise the young man's parsimony, in fact he archly ridicules it. After introducing Grosphus to him, he concludes with a few news items concerning Roman affairs. 

(O) Iccius, if you rightly enjoy the fruits (i.e. the produce or income) of Sicily, which you are collecting for Agrippa (i.e. Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, Augustus' general, admiral and principal coadjutor, who had married his daughter Julia in 21 B.C.), it is not (possible) that greater affluence can be given to you by Jupiter; (so) do away with your complaints; for he is not a poor (man) who has a sufficiency for all his wants (lit. whose enjoyment of things is sufficient). If it is well with your stomach, your chest and your feet, a king's wealth would be able to add nothing greater. If perhaps, in the midst of abundance (lit. in the midst of [the things] placed before [you]), you live abstemiously on herbs and shell-fish, you will continue to live like that, even if Fortune's flowing river were suddenly to enrich you, either because money cannot change one's natural (disposition), or because you think that everything (else) is inferior to virtue.

We wonder, how Democritus' herd ate his fields and crops, while his soul was speeding abroad, when, amid such impurity and the infection of gain you have no taste for anything trivial, but still mind (only) sublime (things): what causes set bounds to the sea, what regulates (the seasons of) the year, (whether) the stars roam and wander of their own accord or by direction, what spreads obscurity over the moon, what sets forth her orb, what is the intention and the power of the harmony of discordant things, (whether) Empedocles or the shrewdness of Stertinius is in the wrong?

However, whether you are murdering fishes or leaks and onions, welcome Pompeius Grosphus (i.e. the Sicilian aristocrat to whom Odes II, 16 was addressed), and, if he asks for anything, grant (it) readily; Grosphus will ask for nothing, unless (it is) right and just. The price of friendship (lit. friends) is cheap, when something is wanting to good (men).

But, so that you should not be ignorant of what situation the affairs of Rome are in, the Cantabrian has fallen to Agrippa, the Armenian (has fallen) through the valour of Claudius Nero; and Phraates (i.e. the king of the Parthians), on bended knee (lit. suppliant on his knees), has acknowledged the authority and the power of Caesar (i.e. Augustus); golden Plenty has poured out the fruits of Italy from a full horn.  

13.  To Vinnius Asina.  Having been selected as the messenger to take some of Horace's poetical works to Augustus, Vinnius, a praetorian guardsman, is cautioned to present these poems to the emperor at a proper opportunity and with due decorum. The tone of this epistle exhibits an extreme diffidence and fear of boring the world's foremost man, which is no doubt the reason why Horace for so long declined to address any of his works to Augustus, who is really the ultimate addressee of this epistle. 

As I instructed you, Vinnius, frequently and at length, when you were setting out, you should present these sealed rolls to Augustus, if (he is) in good health, if he is in good spirits, and, in short, if he asks (for them), lest through zeal on my behalf you should give offence, and (as) an over-active agent you bring odium upon my little books through excessive exertion. If the heavy load of my paper should happen to annoy you, cast (it) away, rather than roughly throwing down your saddle-bag where you are directed to convey (it), and turning your paternal surname into a joke, and becoming (the subject of) gossip.

You should make use of your energy (to get) over the hills and rivers and fens. As soon as you have arrived there, (after) having been declared the conqueror (of the difficulties on your way), you should keep your burden positioned in such a way, that you do not happen to carry my small bundle of books under your arm, as a peasant (carries) a lamb, as the drunken Pyrria (carries) the balls of stolen wool (in the play), (and) as a tribe-guest (carries) his small felt cap together with his sandles. Nor should you publicly tell (people) that you have sweated in carrying those verses which can entertain the eyes and ears of Caesar; having been begged with much entreaty, do your best to succeed (lit. strive onward [to what you are aiming to achieve]).

On your way! Farewell! Take care lest you stumble and damage (the things which have been) entrusted (to you).

14.  To his steward.  Horace upbraids the steward or overseer of his Sabine farm for despising the country life, which he had once sought, and for being eager to return to Rome. The theme of the piece is an exhortation to contentment and to a life suited to one's nature. 

(O) steward of my woods and of my little farm, which restores me (to myself), (but) which you despise, (though it is) occupied by five households and (is) accustomed to send five good fathers to Varia (i.e. to become members of the town council of Varia, a little town four to five miles south of Horace's farm), let us see (lit. try by a wager) whether I with more fortitude can pluck thorns from my mind or you from my ground, and (whether) Horace or his farm is (in) the better (condition). Although my affection and concern for Lamia (i.e. a member of the Aelii Lamiae family, and the man to whom Odes III.17 was addressed), who is mourning his brother, (indeed) grieving inconsolably for his lost brother, yet my heart and soul bear (me) to that place (where you are), and long to break through the barriers that obstruct my way. I pronounce (him) blessed who lives in the country, you (him) who lives in the city. (He) to whom another's lot is agreeable, his own is evidently hateful. Each one of us (is) foolish (who) unjustly find fault with the innocent spot; the mind is at fault, which never escapes from itself.

(When you were a mere) drudge, you sought the country with a silent prayer, (but) now, (as) my steward, you long for the city and its games and baths; you know that I am consistent with myself and depart sadly, whenever disagreeable business drags (me) to Rome. We do not admire the same (things); for that (reason) there is a disagreement between you and me; for what you regard as desert and inhospitable wilds, (he) who feels as I (do) calls delightful, and dislikes what you think (is) fine. The brothel and the greasy cook-shop, I perceive, inspire you with longing for the city, and because that little plot of mine will produce pepper and incense sooner than grapes, nor is there a nearby tavern close at hand, which can supply wine to you, nor a  flute-playing harlot, to whose tunes you can dance on the ground with heavy (foot); and yet you contend with fields untouched, for a long while, by the hoe, and  you look after the ox, (when) loosened (from the yoke), and fill his belly with leaves stripped (from the boughs); the  river gives further work to the reluctant (fellow), having been trained, if rain falls, by many an earth-work to spare the sunny meadow.

Come now, attend to what is breaking up our harmony. (Myself,) whom fine garments and locks shining (with unguents) befitted, whom you know to have pleased greedy Cinara (even) without a present, (and) whom (you have seen) drinking flowing Falernian (wine) from midday (onwards), a simple (lit. short) supper, and a nap on the grass beside the stream (i.e. the Digentia, a tributary to the Anio, which flowed past Horace's farm) (now) delight; nor is it a shame to have frolicked around, but (it is a shame) not to put a stop to such folly (lit. play). There no one damages my interests with an envious eye, nor seeks to poison (them) with concealed malice and the bite (of slander); my neighbours smile at (me) as I remove clods of earth and boulders. You would prefer to be gnawing your daily rations in town with the slaves; you are desperate (lit. you rush) in your longing (to be) among the number of these; my shrewd house-boy envies you the use of the firewood, the flock and the garden. The lazy ox desires the horse's saddle pack, the horse wants to plough; (but) let each, I should say, ply gladly the skill which he knows (best).

15.  To C. Neumonius Vala.  To a letter of enquiry addressed to a friend with regard to the climate and accommodations of Velia and Salerno as health resorts, the poet attaches a humorous sketch of himself as a self-indulgent Epicurean. 

What (sort of) winter is it at Velia (i.e. a seaside town in Lucania, about seventy miles south-east of Naples), Vala, what (is) the weather (like) at Salernum (i.e. a city of Campania to the north of the bay of Paestum, situated on the hills above the modern city of Salerno), with what (kind of) inhabitants (is) the country (peopled), and what sort of road (is there) [for Antonius Musa (i.e the physician whose cold baths' treatment saved Augustus in 23 B.C.) (declares) Baiae (to be) useless to me, and yet makes me odious to that (place), since I am to be bathed in cold water (even) in the middle of winter; at any rate the village grumbles that its myrtle-groves are deserted, and its sulphur-baths, said to drive away (lit. dash out) lingering disease from the muscles, despised, (and is) hostile towards those invalids who venture to expose their heads and stomachs to the springs of Clusium (i.e. an Etruscan town about eighty-five miles north-west of Rome), and (who) make for Gabii and its cold countryside (i.e. because it was mountainous). My resort must be altered, and my horse must be driven past our familiar inns. "Where are you going? My journey is not to Cumae (i.e. a coastal town just north of Baiae) or Baiae," the angry rider will say, (pulling) on his left-hand rein; but the horse's ear is in his mouth (i.e. the bit)]; which of the two towns (lit. peoples) a supply of corn feeds better, whether they drink from rainwater collected (in cisterns), or from perennial wells of never-ending water [for I do not care for the wines of that region; on my own country (estate) I can get along with and tolerate anything you please; (but) when I have come to the seaside, I look for (something) fine and mellow, such as may drive my cares away, such as may flow into my veins and my heart with a rich (supply of) hope, such as may supply (me with) words, (and) such as may make me appear young to my Lucanian mistress]; which tract (of land) produces more hares and which (more) boars, which sea-waters may conceal more fish and sea-urchins, so that I can return home from there fat and a (true) Phaeacian, it is proper for you to write to me (about these things), (and) for me to believe you.

Maenius, when he had bravely disposed of his maternal and paternal estates, began to be regarded (as) a sponger, a wandering loafer, who kept no fixed abode, who, (when he was) without breakfast, could not distinguish  a citizen from an enemy (of the state), (being) merciless in spreading malicious (lies) against anyone by whatever means he could. The ruin and tornado and abyss of the market-place, whatever he had been able to obtain, he gave to his greedy belly. When he had extracted nothing or (very) little from the promoters of his vileness and from (those) who dreaded (it), he dined on (whole) platters of tripe and lamb's entrails, such as would have been enough for three bears; indeed, (like) the reformed Bestius, he would declare that the bellies of gluttons (lit. spendthrifts) should be branded with red-hot (lit. shining) plates. (But) the same (man), whatever more booty he had got, when he had reduced everything to smoke and ashes, would say: "By Hercules, I am not surprised if some (people) eat up their estates, since nothing is better than a fat thrush, or finer than the womb of a splendid (sow)."

Of course, I am just such a (one); for I commend carefree (lit. safe) and humble (lit. meagre) (circumstances), when funds fail; (then) I am resolute enough amid coarse (fare); when, however, something better and more sumptuous comes along (lit. happens), I, the same (man), say that you are wise and alone live well, whose solid (lit. established) wealth is reflected in (lit. is conspicuous by) your elegant villas.

16.  To Quinctius.  The poet describes the form, situation and advantages of his country house, and then combines this with some moral precepts with regard to the true source of happiness within the context of  his philosophy. He declares that probity consists in the consciousness of good works, and liberty in probity. Quinctius is evidently a successful young politician from a famous family; his exact identity is unknown, but he may be the same man as the Quinctius Hirpinus to whom Odes II. 11. is addressed. Another possibility is Titus Quinctius Crispinus Sulpicianus, cos 9 B.C., and a future paramour of Augustus' daughter Julia. 

Lest you enquire, my very good Quinctius, (whether) my farm feeds its master by its harvests (lit. tillage), or enriches (him) with the berries of the olive, or with apples and meadows, or with the elm-tree clad in vines, the shape and situation of my land will be described to you in loquacious strain. (There is) a continuous (range of) mountains, except where they are parted by a shady valley, but (so situated) that the approaching sun views its right side (and) warms its left (when) departing in its flying chariot. You would commend the mildness (of the climate). What, if my briar-bushes produce ruddy cornels and plums in abundance, (and) if my oak-tree and holm-oak benefit my herd (of swine) with plenty of acorns and their master with copious shade?  You would say that Tarentum is flowering (here), having been brought nearer (to Rome). (There is) a fountain too (i.e. the Fons Bandusiae immortalised in Odes III. 13), fit to to give its name to to  a river (i.e. the Digentia), such that the Hebrus (that) traverses Thrace (is) neither cooler nor purer (than it), (which) flows (in a manner) beneficial to an invalid's head, and beneficial to his stomach (as well). These sweet, and now, if you believe (me), delightful retreats, keep (lit. preserve) me fit for you (even) in the season (lit. hours) of September.

You will live well, if you take care to be what you are reputed (to be). Some time ago, all (of us in) Rome called you happy; but I am afraid lest, with regard to yourself, you may give more credit to some other (person) than to yourself, or lest you may imagine (a man) happy other than a wise and a good (one), or lest, if people continually state you (to be) sound and quite well, you may disguise your secret fever at meal times (lit. at the time of eating) until a tremor comes upon your greasy hands. The false shame of fools conceals neglected ulcers. If someone should speak of the wars fought by you on land and sea and should stroke your disengaged ears with words such as these: "May Jupiter, who considers the interest of both you and the city, keep (it) in doubt whether the people are more concerned for your safety or you for the people's (safety), you would be able to recognise that the praises belonged to Augustus; when you suffer (yourself) to be called wise and free from faults, please tell (me), do you answer (to these descriptions) in your own name?  To be sure, I love to be called a good and wise man, and (so do) you. (The people) who gave this (appellation) today, can take it away tomorrow, as the same (people), if they have conferred the consulship (lit. the rods) on an unworthy (man), can withdraw (it from him). "Resign (lit. lay [it] aside), it is ours," they cry; I resign, and walk away sadly. If the same (people) proclaim (me) a thief, say that I am a lecher (lit. deny that I am decent), (and) maintain that I have strangled my father (lit. I have compressed my father's neck with a noose), should I be hurt by such false accusations (lit. reproaches) and change colour? Whom does false honour delight and lying calumny frighten, except a vicious (man) and (a sick man) who is in need of a cure? (So,) who is the good man? "(He) who respects the decrees of the Senate (lit. Fathers) and the law and the authorities, (the man) by whose judgement (lit. by whom [as] a judge) many important cases are decided, by whose surety (lit. by whom [as] a sponsor) property (is retained) and by whose testimony (lit. by whom [as] a witness) cases are won." But (perhaps) all his household and the whole neighbourhood sees him, though handsome (enough) with a fair exterior (lit. skin), (as) rotten within. If my slave says to me, "I have not committed a robbery, nor have I run away," I would say (to him): "You have your reward, you are not being scourged (lit. burned) with the lash." "I have not killed a man." "(So) you will not feed the crows on the cross." "I am a good and honest (man)." The Sabine (farmer) denies, and persists in denying (this). For the wary wolf dreads the pitfall, the hawk the suspected snares, and the pike the hidden hook, (but) the good hate to sin through love of virtue; you will commit no (crime) through the fear of punishment within you; (but) should there be any hope of escaping notice, you would mingle sacred with profane (things) (i.e. you would even rob the gods). For, when from a thousand bushels of beans you steal (only) one, my loss is thereby (lit. by this means) less, (but) not your villainy. The good man, whom every forum and every court of justice views (with respect), whenever he appeases the gods with a hog or an ox, when he has clearly uttered, in a distinguishable voice, "(O) Father Janus, (O) Apollo," moves his lips (as one) fearing to be heard, (as he whispers): "(O) Fair Laverna (i.e. the goddess of thieves), grant me (the power) to deceive, grant (me the power) to appear just and upright, cast (the darkness of) night over my sins and a cloud over my deceptions."

I do not see how a greedy (man) is better or freer than a slave, when he stoops down for the sake of a coin stuck in the roadway; for (he) who is covetous is also subject to fear; moreover, (he) who lives in fear will never, in my view, be free. (He) who is always busy and engrossed in increasing his fortune has lost his arms (i.e. the precepts of virtue and wisdom) and has abandoned the ranks of virtue. Do not kill this captive, when you can sell (him). He will serve (you) in a useful manner; let (him) lead the hard life of a shepherd and a ploughman (lit. let him, tough [as he is] graze and plough), let him sail and winter, (as) a trader, in the midst of the waves, let him serve the market (i.e. by contributing to the cheapness of grain), (and) let him convey corn and (other) provisions.

The good and wise man will venture to say: "Pentheus, ruler of Thebes, what shame will you compel me to endure and to suffer?" "I shall deprive (you) of your possessions." "You mean, I suppose, my cattle, my land, my couches (and) my silver-plate; you may (lit. it is permitted [to you] to) take (them)." "I shall keep you in hand-cuffs and shackles, under (the eye of) a merciless jailer." "God, himself, will release me, whenever I wish." In my opinion (lit. I suppose) he means this: "I shall die." Death is the final goal of the race.

17.  To Scaeva.  Horace believes that a life of business is preferable to a private and inactive one, but, while the friendship of great men is much to be desired, their favours are to be sought with modesty and caution, in order that advancement should not be gained at the expense of one's self-respect.  

Although, Scaeva, you can look after your own interests sufficiently (well) by yourself, and you know just how (lit. you know well by what means) you should (lit. it is proper [for you] to) conduct yourself towards your superiors, (yet) listen to (lit. be taught by) what your humble friend thinks, (although) he still has much (lit. [he is] still needing) to be taught (himself), as if a blind (man) should wish to show (you) the way; see, however, if even I can suggest (lit. say) anything which you may care to make your own.

If a pleasant rest and sleep until (lit. into) the first hour (i.e. 7 a.m.)  delight you, if dust and the noise of wheels and (staying at) an inn annoy you, I would bid (you) go to Ferentinum (i.e. a town about forty-five miles south-east of Rome, but almost deserted at this time); for joys do not affect the rich alone, nor has he lived badly, who at his birth and at his death has escaped noticed. If you wish to be of service to your (friends) and to treat yourself with a little more kindness, you (being) a frugal (man) will go to a rich (man).

"If Aristippus (i.e. the hedonistic philosopher born in the Fifth Century B.C.) could happily dine on vegetables, he would be unwilling to consort with princes." "If he who criticises me knew how to consort with princes, he would scorn his vegetables." Tell (me) which of these precepts and examples you approve of, or, (as) my junior, listen to why Aristippus' view is preferable. For thus, as they say, he confounded (lit. warded off) the snarling Cynic (i.e. Diogenes): "I play the fool for my own advantage; you to (please) the people; this (conduct of mine) is much better and more noble. So that a horse may carry me, (and) a prince feed (me), I (but) do my duty; you beg for scraps, but (you are still) inferior to the giver, although you pretend that you are in need of nothing." Every complexion, situation and circumstance (of life) suited Aristippus; though he aspired to greater (things), (yet) he was usually happy with current (arrangements); on the other hand, I should be surprised if an opposite way of life would suit (the man), whom obstinacy clothes with a double piece of cloth (i.e. he wore a thicker piece of cloth to avoid wearing a tunic). The one will not wait (to be given) (lit. will not wait for) a purple robe; dressed in anything at all (lit. whatever you like) he will go through the most crowded (lit. frequented) places, and will support either role (lit. character) without any awkwardness; the other will shun a cloak woven at Miletus (i.e. Miletus was famous for its woollen industry) (as something) worse than a (rabid) dog or a snake, (and) will die of cold, if you do not restore his piece of cloth; give (it) back (to him) and let the silly (fellow) live!

To perform exploits and to show the citizens their enemies (as) captives, is to reach the throne of Jupiter and to aspire to celestial (honours); to please great men is not the final praiseworthy act. It is not the lot of any man to go to Corinth. (He) who is afraid that he might not succeed sits (inactive); let it be (so); what (then)? Has he who got there (not) acted in a manly fashion? And yet here or nowhere is what we are after (lit. are seeking). The one dreads the burden as too much for his feeble spirits and his weak constitution (lit. body), the other has a go (lit. plunges in) and brings (things) to completion. Either virtue is an empty name, or the man who makes the attempt deservedly claims the honour and the prize.

(Those) who keep quiet about their poverty in the presence of their lord will gain more than (he) who makes demands; it is a different thing, whether you modestly accept (something) or you grab (it); yet, this was the point, this (was) the purpose (lit. the source) of the whole business. He who says, "My sister is without a dowry, my mother is poor, and my farm is neither saleable nor strong (enough) to support (us), cries out: "Give (us) some food!" "Me too," chimes in another. The loaf will be cut up as divided bounty. But, if the crow could have been fed in silence, he would have had more of a feast and much less strife and resentment. A (travelling) companion, being taken to Brundisium or to delightful Surrentum, who complains of the jolting and of the bitter cold and rain, or laments that his trunk has been broken open and his travelling allowance stolen, resembles the well-known tricks of the harlot, weeping so often for her necklace, and for the garter (which has been) stolen from her, that soon there is no credit for her true losses and griefs. Nor does (a man) who has once been fooled at the cross-roads care to assist (lit. raise up) a trickster with a (truly) broken leg, although tears should flow from that (man) in abundance, (and), swearing by holy Osiris, he might say: "Believe (me), I am not in jest; raise up the lame, you cruel (people)." "Tell it to (lit. Look for) a stranger," the neighbourhood shouts back hoarsely.

18.  To Lollius.  This letter is addressed presumably to the same Lollius as Epistle I. 2. above. As in the case of the previous letter, this one is concerned with cultivating the favour of great men, although it goes beyond it in giving directions as to the manner in which one conducts oneself in intercourse with the great. The letter concludes with a few words concerning the acquisition of peace of mind. 

If I know you well, (O) Lollius, (you) frankest (of men), you will be afraid to display the character of a sordid flatterer, when you have declared (yourself) a friend. As a matron will be different, and of a different complexion, from a harlot, (so) will a friend be unlike a faithless flatterer. To this vice there is an opposite vice, (and) almost a greater (one), a boorish, awkward and abrasive abruptness, which shows (lit. recommends) itself in (hair) being closely cropped to the skin (and) in black teeth, while it desires to be called total frankness and true virtue. Virtue is in between these vices and (equally) removed from either of them. The one, too favourably inclined to obsequiousness and a buffoon of the lowest couch, is so fearfully attentive to the rich man's nod, so repeats his speeches and picks up his falling words, that you would take (him) for a boy reciting what he has learned to an exacting school-master, or a mime-player performing a secondary part; the other often squabbles about nothing at all (lit. goats' wool), and, (fully) armed, he fights in defence of trifles. "For example, that I should not have (lit. there should not be to me) instant credence, and that I should speak out boldly what I really think (lit. what really seems good [to me])! A second life is too poor a price (to buy me)." Well, what is in dispute? (Why, whether) Castor or Dolichos has more skill (in their profession,) (i.e. they are gladiators), or whether the Minucian or the Appian Way is the better route (lit. leads one better) to Brundisium?

(The man) whom ruinous licentiousness, (and) whom the tumbling dice strips leaves exposed (lit. strips), whom vanity dresses up and perfumes beyond his means, whom an insatiable hunger and thirst for money, (and) whom the shame and dread of poverty, grips, his rich friend, (though) versed in ten times more vices, hates and bristles at, or, if he does not hate (him), he rules (him) and, like a dutiful mother, wants (him) to be more wise and to be better in virtue than himself, and says (in a manner) not far from the truth: "My riches - do not (try to) emulate (me) - allow foolish extravagance (lit. folly); your income is quite small; a scanty toga becomes a sensible  client; cease competing with me." Whomsoever Eutrapelus (i.e. witty man: this refers to Publius Volumnius) wanted to harm, he presented with costly garments; "For now," (said he), "happy in his costly clothes, he will adopt new schemes and hopes, he will sleep until dawn, he will consider honest duties less important than a harlot, he will feed on other (men's) money, (and) in the end he will become a gladiator or drive a market-gardener's nag for a wage."

You should not, at any time, pry into his (i.e. your patron's) private (business), and you should keep confidential what has been entrusted (to you), though tried (lit. tortured) either by wine or anger. You should not commend your own interests, or find fault with (those) of others, nor, when he wants to go hunting, should you compose poems. Thus, the fellowship of the twin-bothers Amphion and Zethus broke up, until the lyre, (so) disliked by the austere (brother), fell silent. Amphion is thought to have yielded to his brother's humours. You should (lit. Do you) yield to the gentle dictates of your powerful friend, and, whenever (lit. as often as) he leads forth his pack-horses, loaded with Aetolian nets, and his hounds, arise and set aside the impatience (lit. peevishness) of your unsocial Muse, so that you may dine together on the delicious meat purchased by your labours. (It is) an exercise habitual to the manly Romans, (and) of service to their reputation, (and) to their life and limbs, especially when you are in good health and can outdo a dog in speed and a boar in strength. Add (to this) that there is no (one) who can handle a man's weapons more gracefully (than you); you know with what acclamations of the crowd you sustain the the combats of the Campus (Martius). Lastly, you endured (as) a boy bloody military service and the Cantabrian wars under a general (i.e. Augustus) who is now taking down the standards (recovered) from the Parthians' temples.

And, so that you may not withdraw yourself and inexcusably stand aloof (lit. be inexcusably absent), though you are careful to have done nothing tasteless or foolish (lit. out of time and [out of] tune), you do occasionally have some fun on your father's country (estate): a (mock) force divides little boats (into two squadrons), and the battle of Actium is represented in a hostile manner by boys, with you as their commander; your brother serves for the enemy, your lake (serves for) the Adriatic, until winged Victory crowns one or the other with her laurel. A patron, who believes that you share his interests in common, will applaud your pursuits (lit. sport) enthusiastically (lit. with both thumbs).

So that I may advise you further, if (indeed) you are in need of an adviser, always watch what you say, and about which man and to whom (you say it). Avoid an inquisitive person, for the same (man) is garrulous, nor do open ears faithfully retain what has been entrusted (to them). and a word, once it has been discharged, flies irrevocably. Do not let any maid-servant or boy inflame your liver (i.e. the seat of the passions) within the marbled threshold of your honoured friend, lest the master of the fair lad or the beloved girl may gratify you by such a trifling present, or distress (you) by not complying (with your wish). Examine again and again anyone whom you are recommending, lest afterwards another's faults may strike you with shame; we are deceived and sometimes we introduce an unworthy (person): so, once you have been deceived, forbear to defend (a man) whom his own misconduct punishes, but you should protect and defend (a man who is) thoroughly known (to you), if false accusations assail (him), when he puts (all) his trust in your protection: when he is bitten by the tooth of  Theon (i.e. of slander), do you perchance feel that this danger is about to come shortly afterwards to you? For your interests are at stake, when the adjoining wall is on fire, and neglected flames are wont to gain strength.

The courting (lit. cultivation) of a powerful friend (seems) delightful to the inexperienced: the experienced (man) dreads (it). Stay alert (lit. Do you look to this), while your ship is on the deep, lest the breeze may change and bear you back again. The melancholy hate the merry, and the jovial the melancholy, the lively (hate) the sedate, and the slack the keen and assiduous; fond drinkers of Falernian (wine) at midnight hate (the man) who declines to hold out his cup, although you swear that you are afraid of nocturnal sweats (lit. heats). Remove the frown from your forehead (lit. the cloud from your brow): the shy (man) usually wears the look of being sullen, the silent (man) of being critical.

Amidst all (this), you should read and investigate (the writings of) the learned (i.e. philosophers), (to see) by what means you can pass your time in tranquillity, whether insatiable (lit. ever needful) desire, or anxiety and hope about things of little value, may trouble and torment you, (whether) instruction procures virtue or nature bestows (it), what lessens cares, what makes you at peace with (lit. fond of) yourself, what may bestow pure tranquillity, (whether) it is honour, or a sweet little nest-egg, or a secret passage and the path of life that goes unnoticed.

As often as the cooling stream Digentia refreshes me, (the stream) which Mandela (i.e. a village on a hillside about two miles from Horace's farm) drinks from, a village wrinkled with cold, what do you think I am feeling, what do you imagine I am praying for? "May I have (lit. May there be to me) what I have now (lit. there is [to me] now), (or) even less, and may I live for myself what is left of my life, if the gods wish there to be anything left (of it); may I have (lit. may there be [to me]) a good supply of books, and of corn provided on an annual basis, and let me not hover in doubt with regard to the hope of each uncertain hour." But it is sufficient to ask Jupiter (for those things) which he gives and takes away (at his pleasure); let him grant (me) life, let him grant (me) wealth; I, myself, will provide my own calm disposition.

19.  To Maecenas.  In this epistle, addressed to his patron Maecenas, Horace gives vent to his scorn, on the one hand, of those seeking to imitate his work, and, on the other, of envious critics. Beneath his expressions of scorn lies a vigorous defence of his own writings.  

(O) learned Maecenas, if you believe old Cratinus (i.e. a Fifth Century comic poet with a reputation for drunkenness), no poems can please or enjoy acclaim (lit. live) for any length of time, which are written by water-drinkers; but, ever since Liber (i.e. Bacchus) enlisted frenzied poets among his Satyrs and Fauns, the sweet Muses have almost always smelled of wine early in the morning; from his praises of wine, Homer proved (himself) fond of the fruit of the grape; Father Ennius, himself, never sallied forth to to sing of arms, unless (he was) drunk. The Forum and the Puteal of Libo (i.e. the Bar and the Stock Exchange) I shall consign to the sober, and I shall debar the abstemious from composing"; Ever since I issued this (edict), the poets have not ceased to vie (with one another) in drink by night, (and) to stink (of it) by day.

(But) what? If some savage (man), by means of a grim countenance and bare feet, and a weaver of a scanty toga, should imitate Cato, would he reproduce Cato's virtue and character? The emulous tongue of Timagenes (i.e. an orator from Alexandria who had come to Rome in 55 B.C.) (caused) Iarbitas (i.e. the Moor) (to) burst, while he was eager (to be a man) of wit and he was straining to be regarded (as) eloquent. A model, easily imitated in its faults, deceives; but if, by chance, I grow pale, they drink the pale-making cumin. O (you) imitators, you servile herd, how often your antics have caused me anger, how often laughter!

(As) a pioneer, I have boldly traced my course (lit. I have placed my unrestricted footsteps) through an unoccupied (field), and I have not trodden in another's (footsteps) (lit. I have not pressed upon another's [footsteps] with my feet). (He) who trusts himself (as) the leader will rule the swarm. I was the first (man) to show the iambics of Paros (i.e. the island where Antilochus was born), having followed the rhythms and fire (lit. numbers and spirits) of Antilochus, (but) not the subjects and expressions which pursued Lycambes; and, lest you crown me with scantier laurels for the reason that I was afraid to alter the metre (lit. measures) and the structure of his verse, manly Sappho models (lit. regulates) her Muse on the metre of Archilochus, Alcaeus models (his verse likewise), although (it is) different in themes and arrangement (of ideas), but he does not look for a father-in-law whom he can smear with invective (lit. blackening lines), nor does he tie a noose for his bride by defamatory strains. This (poet), not celebrated by any other previous tongue, I, the Latin lyricist, made familar (to my countrymen); it delights (me), as I bring out (things) never uttered before, to be read by the eyes, and to be held by the hands, of the liberally-minded.

Should you wish to know why the ungrateful reader should both praise and enjoy my little works at home, (but) unjustly disparage (them) in public (lit. outside his threshold), I do not chase after the votes of the fickle rabble through the outlay of dinners and by the gift of a worn-out coat; I do not deign, (as) the auditor and champion of distinguished writers, to canvas literary tribes and platforms. Hence all this spite and malice (lit. all these tears). If I say, "I am ashamed to recite my worthless writings to crowded theatres, and to add importance to such trifles;" "You jeer," cries one (of them), "you reserve those (pieces) for the ears of Jupiter; for you are confident that you alone can distil the poetic honey, (which is so) fine in your own eyes (lit. to you)." At these (words) I am afraid to turn up my nose (lit. make use of my nostrils), and, lest I should be scratched by the sharp nail of my antagonist, I cry out, "This position is an unfair (one) (lit. is displeasing [to me])," and I demand an intermission. For such sport begets hot rivalry and rage, (and) rage savage feuds and warfare to the death.

20.  To His Book.  This supposed letter forms the epilogue to the first book of Horace's 'Epistles,' and is addressed to the book itself, personified as a young slave brought up in his house, but now tired of restraint, and wishing to seek his fortune in the world outside. In a vain endeavour to keep his book back, he warns it of the troubles it will face, and suggests some of the things it will impart about its author to posterity. The indirect addressees of this letter are the Sosii brothers (see l.2 below), who owned a publishing company and a book-shop in the Argiletum, adjacent to the Forum. 

You appear, (O) my book, to be gazing at Vortumnus and Janus (i.e. temples in an area of the Forum where there were bookstalls), no doubt so that, beautified by the pumice of the Sosii, you may be put up for sale. You hate the keys and the seals, which are welcome to the modest, you lament that you are shown to a few and you extol (exposure in) public (places), (though you were) not reared in such a manner. Be off (then), to where you are so eager to go down; (but) there will be no return for you (once) you have been parted (from me). "Wretch (that I am), what have I done? What was I thinking of (lit. What was I wanting [to do])?" you will say, when your sated enthusiast (lit. lover) grows tired (of you). But if the prophet (who now addresses you) does not act foolishly in indignation at your misbehaviour, you will be well loved in Rome, until your (young) age deserts you; when, after you have been thumbed (lit. handled) by the hands of the vulgar, you begin to grow dirty, you will either feed in silence the idle bookworms or you will flee to Utica or, bound up, you will be sent to Ilerda. Your disregarded adviser will laugh (at you), like that (man in the story) who angrily pushed his mule over the cliff (lit. on to the rocks); for who would trouble to save an unwilling (beast)? This (fate) also awaits you, so that faltering old age overtakes (you), as you teach boys their letters in remote villages. When the lukewarm sun shall lend you more ears, you will tell (them) that I, the son of a father (who was) a freedman and in slender means, extended my wings (which were) too large for the nest, so what you subtract from my ancestry you may add to my merits; that I won the favour of the first (men) in the state (lit. city) (both) in war and at home, that (I was a man) small in stature, prematurely gray, fond of (lit. attached to) the sun, quick to loose my temper, but that I was easily appeased. If anyone should happen to enquire of you my age, let him know that I had completed four times eleven Decembers in the year in which Lollius received Lepidus as his colleague (i.e. 21 B.C., when Horace, who was born on 8th December 65 B.C., was forty-four years of age).


1.  "Rem facias, rem / si possis, recte, si non, quocumque modo rem."  You should make a fortune, a fortune, honestly, if you can, but if not, make a fortune by whatever means you can. (1. 65-66)
 2.  "Virtus est vitium fugere, et sapientis prima / stultitia caruisse."  To flee from vice is a virtue, and to have abstained from folly is the beginning of wisdom. (1. 41-42)

 3.  "Olim quod vulpes aegroto cauta leoni / respondit, referam: 'Qua me  vestigia terrent, / omnia te adversum spectantia, nulla retrorsum."  The wary fox in the fable once replied to the sick lion: 'Because those footmarks terrify me, as they are all pointing towards you and none back from you.' (1. 73-75)

4.  "Quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi."  Whatever mad folly the kings commit, the Achaeans are punished for it. (2. 14)

5.  "Dimidium facti, qui coepit habet."  He who has made a beginning has done half of the deed. (2. 40)

6.  "Rusticus expectat, dum defluat amnis."  The yokel waits, while all the water in the river flows away. (2. 42)

7.  "Et incultae pacantur vomere silvae."  And scrubby woodlands are subdued by the ploughshare. (2. 45)

8.  "Quod satis est qui contingit, nil amplius optet."  Let he who achieves what is enough long for nothing more.  (2.46)

9.  "Semper avarus eget."  The greedy man is always in want. (2. 56) 

10.  "Ira fruor brevis est."  Anger is a brief madness. (2. 62)

11. "Quo semel est imbuta recens servabit odorem / testa diu."  A jar will preserve for a long time the smell with which it was once impregnated when new. (2. 69)

12.  "Omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum; / grata superveniet, quae non sperabitur hora. / Me pinguem et nitidum bene curata cute vises, / cum videre voles, Epicuri de grege porcum."  Think to yourself that every day has dawned upon you for the last time; thus the hour to which you never hope for will come as a welcome surprise. As for me, when you want to laugh, come and see me, fat and sleek from looking after myself so well, a true hog from Epicurus' sty. (4. 13-16)

13.  "Naturam expelles furca, tamen usque recurret."  You may expel nature with a pitchfork, yet she will still return. (10. 24)

14.  "Caelum, non animum, mutant qui trans mare currunt. / Strenua nos exercet inertia; navibus atque / quadrigis petimus bene vivere. Quod petis, hic est, / est Ulubris, animus si te non deficit aequus."  They change their scenery, not their purpose, who run across the sea. A busy idleness exercises us; we seek to live well by boats and cars. What you are looking for is here at home; it is even at Ulubrae, if a balanced disposition (i.e. a sensible approach) does not desert you. (11. 27-30) (N.B. This quotation emphasises in the most delightfully graphic manner, the wise admonition, "Do not mistake activity for action.")

15.  "Concordia discors."  Discordant harmony. (12.19)

16.  "Et semel emissum volat irrevocabile verbum."  And a word, once it has been discharged, flies irrevocably. (18.71)

17.  "Nulla placere diu nec vivere carmina possunt / quae scribuntur aquae potioribus."  No poems can please or enjoy acclaim for any length of time that are written by water-drinkers. (19. 2)


Horace wrote his "Sermones", i.e. his 'Satires' and his 'Epistles', in hexameters, i.e. lines of six feet. When reading such lines it is helpful to identify where the natural pause-point or 'caesura' falls. This is usually after the first syllable of the third foot. When trying to recognise the possible variations of rhythm in the lines, in order to facilitate accurate reading, careful attention should be given to scanning the first two and a half feet of each line. In the case of each one, there are four possible rhythmic patterns:

a.  Dactyl - dactyl - long syllable: i.e. tum-tee-tee, tum-tee-tee, tum-    7 syllables in total

b.  Dactyl - spondee - long syllable: i.e. tum-tee-tee, tum-tum, tum-     6 syllables in total

c.  Spondee - dactyl - long syllable: i.e. tum-tum, tum-tee-tee, tum-      6 syllables in total

d.  Spondee - spondee - long syllable: i.e. tum-tum, tum-tum, tum-       5 syllables in total

Hexameters cannot easily be utilised in English verse, as they tend towards a rhythmic monotony. The best known hexameter poem of any length in the English language is Henry Longfellow's "Evangeline", and lines from this work can be used to illustrate the differences in rhythm which arise from the four variations set out above. In each of the four cases below, the syllables, on which the emphasis should be placed (i.e. the 'tum' syllables) are underlined:

a. "White as the snow were his locks"

b.  "Heart-y and hale was he"

c.  "Fair was she to be-hold"

d.  "Fairer was she when, on "

(N.B. in the case of Horace and other Latin poets writing in hexameters, the syllables underlined above would be 'long' or 'heavy' syllables, that is they would contain a long syllable or diphthong, or end with two consonants or a double consonant. While, when reading Latin verse it is difficult to avoid the accentual approach with which we are familiar in relation to English verse, it should be noted that Romans used quantity of syllables, i.e. long/heavy or short/light, rather than the 'ictus' or 'beat' as the principal means of emphasis or differentiation.)

An analysis of the lines in the twenty poems in Book I of Horace's "Epistles" shows the following use of these four rhythmic types at the beginning of the line:

1.  a.24; b.35; c.22; d.27. Total 108.
2.  a.19; b.24; c.14, d.14. Total 71.
3.  a.5; b.17; c.9; d.5. Total  36.
4.  a.3; b.3; c.4; d.6. Total 16.
5.  a.9. b.9; c.5; d.8. Total 31.
6.  a.9. b.29; c.15; d.15. Total 68.
7.  a.14. b.35; c.24; d.25. Total 98.
8.  a.4; b.3; c.6; d.4. Total 17.
9.  a.4; b.6; c.3; d.0. Total 13.
10. a.7; b.16; c.17; d.10. Total 50.
11. a.4; b.9; c.11; d.6. Total 30.
12. a.4; b.14; c.7; d.4. Total 29.
13. a.2; b.9; c.5; d.3. Total 19.
14. a.9; b.10; c.13; d.12. Total 44.
15. a.9; b.25; c.9; d.3. Total 46.
16. a.17; b.29; c.14; d.19. Total 79.
17. a.11; b.19; c.20; d.12. Total 62.
18. a.21. b.36; c.34; d.21. Total 112.
19. a.16; b.13; c.10; d.10. Total 49.
20. a.3; b.12; c.7; d.6. Total 28.

All. a.193; b.353; c.249; d.211. Total 1,006.

What this analysis demonstrates is that, while Horace appears to have favoured type b., i.e. the line beginning with dactyl-spondee-long syllable, he made substantial use of all four types of line opening, and that this had the effect of maximising variety and flexibility in the rhythm of his verse. Indeed, without such variety the verse would have been exceptionally monotonous.

It should be noted that this variety in the first half of the line was important, as there was very little, if any, variety in the line-endings. The last two feet of every one of the 1,008 lines in the book consisted of a dactyl (tum-tee-tee) in the fifth foot and either a spondee (tum-tum) or a trochee (tum-tee) in the sixth. But the variation in the two-syllable only final foot was more apparent than real, since the natural pause at the end of the line, had the effect of lengthening the final syllable, if it were short, by the process known as 'Brevis in longo'. So, in rhythmic terms every line ends with a combination of words that sound like "Shave and a hair cut", or "Black-berry pud-ding."

After this, there only remain the one and a half feet in the middle of the line to be navigated, i.e. the second part of the third foot and the fourth foot. In practice there are four alternatives here: 1) two short syllables, followed by a dactyl, i.e. tee-tee, tum-tee-tee (5 syllables); 2) two short syllables followed by a spondee, i.e. tee-tee, tum-tum (4 syllables); 3) one long syllable followed by a dactyl, i.e. tum, tum-tee-tee (also four syllables); or 4) one long syllable followed by a spondee, i.e. tum, tum-tum (3 syllables).

Turning once more to the above four lines of Longfellow's "Evangeline", these can now be concluded as follows:

a & 2.  "White as the snow were his locks, and his cheeks as brown as the oak-leaves"

b & 3.  "Heart-y and hale was he, an oak that is cov-ered with snow flakes"

c & 3.  "Fair was she to be-hold, that maid-en of sev-enteen sum-mers"

d & 4.  "Fairer was she when, on Sunday morn, while the bell from its tur-ret"

An analysis of these one and a half feet over the 20 poems shows this pattern:

1.  1.8; 2.20; 3.31; 4.49. Total 108.
2.  1.4; 2.18; 3.10; 4.39.  Total 71.
3.  1.6; 2.10; 3.8; 4.12. Total 36.
4.  1.1; 2.6; 3.4; 4.5. Total 16.
5.  1.4; 2.10; 3.7; 4.10. Total 31.
6.  1.9; 2.24; 3.11; 4.24. Total 68.
7.  1.13; 2.24; 3.22; 4.39. Total 98.
8.  1.2; 2.5; 3.2; 4.8. Total 17.
9.  1.2; 2.3; 3.2; 4.6. Total 13.
10.  1.3; 2.17; 3.14; 4.16. Total 50.
11.  1.4; 2.8; 3.5; 4.13. Total 30.
12.  1.5; 2.5; 3.5; 4.15. Total 29.
13.  1.1; 2.8; 3..4; 4.6. Total 19.
14.  1.9; 2.14; 3.8; 4.13. Total 44.
15.  1.3; 2.111; 3.12; 4.20. Total 46.
16.  1.11; 2.15; 3.17; 4.36. Total 79.
17.  1.5; 2.17; 3.19; 4.21. Total 62.
18.  1.18; 2.30; 3.29; 4.35. Total 112.
19.  1.10; 2.14; 3.14; 4.11. Total 49.
20.  1.3; 2.12; 3.7; 4.6. Total 28.

All. 1.120; 2.271; 3.231; 4.384. Total 1,006.

Although, Horace does display a degree of preference for type 4, i.e. the long syllable followed by a spondee, the above analysis is further testimony to the way in which he achieves rhythmic flexibility. In practice, once the rhythm of the first half of the line has been identified, and, with the rhythm of the last two feet remaining standard, the reading of the third and fourth feet is usually straightforward enough.

In order to see how the above analysis of the Horatian hexameter works out, lines 39-42 of Epistle 6 are set out below, and these lines exemplify the different rhythms which are available:

Type a & 1.   Mancupi|is locup|les X eget| aeris| Cappado|cum rex;

Type b & 2.   ne fuer|is hic| tu. X Chlamy|des Lu|cullus, ut| ai-unt,

Type d & 4.   si pos|set cen|tum X scae|nae prae|bere rogatus,

Type c & 2.  'Qui pos|sum tot?' a|it; X 'tamen| et quae|r(am) et quot hab|e-bo

(N.B. The long or heavy syllables are underlined, divisions between feet are marked by '|' and the 'caesura' is shown by an 'X'. Where two long syllables, contiguous within the same word, form a spondee, they are separated by a hyphen)            

Thus, in practice, hexameter lines can vary between lines which are as long as seventeen syllables, i.e. type a & 1, to those of only thirteen syllables, i.e. type d & 4.

N.B.  Some philologists or linguistic specialists prefer to employ the concept of 'cola' (i.e. limbs) rather than feet when analysing lines of verse. In this context the principal colon of dactylic verse is the 'hemiepes,' or half-epic colon, i.e. --uu --uu-- (sometimes abbreviated as D). The two short syllables (called a 'biceps' element) may be 'contracted' into one long syllable in almost all contexts, but the long syllables (the 'princeps' element) can never be 'resolved' (i.e. loosened) into two short syllables. A dactylic hexameter consists of a hemiepes, a biceps, a second hemiepes and a final long element: thus DuuD--.  In the above analyses of Horace's "Epistles", types a-d comprise the first hemiepes, while types 1-4 comprise the biceps element followed by the first half of the second hemiepes colon, i.e. uu--uu. (Please note: in this paragraph, -- signifies one long syllable.)
Last modified onSunday, 15 October 2017 11:44
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