Horace: Ode i.2

Enough! We’ve had enough of the snow and raking
hail hurled by the Father, and of his ruddy
right hand striking the sacred hilltops, striking
…………………fear in the city,

fear in the world, in dread at the old disaster,
when Pyrrha wept at the heavens’ shocking signs,
and Proteus drove his flocks to a new pasture,
…………………the Apennines,

and, schooling through the elmtops, fish were snared
in limbs where doves had lately kept their nests,…………………… 10
while, out at sea, the deer went splashing scared
…………………through rising crests.

We’ve seen the Tiber, swollen with violence, shine
as he folds thunder through the Etruscan valleys,
flooding to lay low Vesta’s holy shrine
…………………and the king’s Palace,

incensed at his western bank and boiling over,
swollen with vengefulness to appease the shrill
wails of his wife—a too, too zealous lover
…………………against Jove’s will.…………………………………………………. 20

Our sons will hear how citizens killed their brothers
with swords that Eastern blood should have stained instead;
thinned by the steel, they’ll hear of their guilty fathers’
…………………uncivil dead.

What god shall we supplicate? What prayer or vow
for our stunned state will the Vestals use to sway
their mistress’ ear, who hears so little now
…………………of what they pray?

Whom will Jupiter summon to make right
the general wrong? Come to our prayers at last, …………………….30
lord of foreknowing, mantled in cloud and light,
…………………Apollo, priest;

or you come, Venus, whose eyes with laughter shine,
attended by fluttering Mirth and wingèd Love;
you Mars, remember the long-abandoned line
…………………you’re father of,

o glutted for too long now on the sport of war,
too fond of the fray, the bedlam and bright helms,
the scowling Marsian facing the bloodied corps
…………………he overwhelms; …………………………………………………….40

or you—are you here already as that youth
hailed for his vengeance, hailed for putting right
the murder of Caesar, Mercury, now on earth
…………………but winged for flight?

Hold off a while your return to heaven; stay
longer with us, propitious, the people’s friend;
do not, in wrath at our viciousness, we pray,
…………………ride some whirlwind

up and away. No, stay for the triumphs here;
Father! First citizen! still be the cries you favor; ………………….50
don’t let the unpunished Parthians gallop clear—
…………………Caesar, our savior!

Iam satis terris nivis atque dirae
grandinis misit Pater et rubente
dextera sacras iaculatus arces
…………………terruit Urbem,

terruit gentis, grave ne rediret        ……………………………………       5
saeculum Pyrrhae nova monstra questae,
omne cum Proteus pecus egit altos
…………………visere montis,

piscium et summa genus haesit ulmo,
nota quae sedes fuerat columbis,        ………………………………       10
et superiecto pavidae natarunt
…………………aequore dammae.

Vidimus flavom Tiberim retortis
litore Etrusco violenter undis
ire deiectum monumenta regis         ………………………………….      15
………………...templaque Vestae,

Iliae dum se nimium querenti
iactat ultorem, vagus et sinistra
labitur ripa Iove non probante
…………………uxorius amnis.                              ………………………         20

Audiet civis acuisse ferrum,
quo graves Persae melius perirent,
audiet pugnas vitio parentum
…………………rara iuventus.

Quem vocet divum populus ruentis         …………………………..      25
imperi rebus? Prece qua fatigent
virgines sanctae minus audientem
…………………carmina Vestam?

Cui dabit partis scelus expiandi
Iuppiter? Tandem venias precamur,        …………………………       30
nube candentis umeros amictus,
……………….augur Apollo,

sive tu mavis, Erycina ridens,
quam Iocus circumvolat et Cupido,
sive neglectum genus et nepotes      ………………………………         35
…………………respicis, auctor,

heu nimis longo satiate ludo,
quem iuvat clamor galeaeque leves,
acer et Mauri peditis cruentum
…………………voltus in hostem,                       …………………                40

sive mutata iuvenem figura
ales in terris imitaris, almae
filius Maiae, patiens vocari
…………………Caesaris ultor.

Serus in caelum redeas diuque         ………………………………….      45
laetus intersis populo Quirini,
neve te nostris vitiis iniquum
…………………ocior aura

tollat; hic magnos potius triumphos,
hic ames dici pater atque princeps,       …………………………..        50
neu sinas Medos equitare inultos
te duce, Caesar.

 

Translator’s Note: Odes Book I poems 1-9 are known as the ‘Parade Odes,’ because they ‘parade,’ each in turn, a different metrical form and subject; in these poems Horace introduces his lyric project with an ostentatious display of virtuosity. Ode 1.2 announces Horace’s political stance and poignantly evokes the miseries of the civil wars so lately at an end. To get an idea, check out the poem’s model, the tremendous and rending conclusion to Book I of Virgil’s Georgics (ll.498 ff.), or just recall Shakespeare’s Mark Antony:

Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
and dreadful deeds grown so familiar,
that mothers shall but smile when they behold
their infants quartered with the hand of war,
all pity choked with custom of fell deeds…

The panegyric Ode 1.2 was probably composed shortly after Octavian’s victorious return from Actium (ca. 29-27 BC). It falls into three main parts. The first describes meteorological omens of uncertain historicity (ll.1-12—compare Archilochus 122), the second a flood of the river Tiber (ll.13-24), represented as seeking vengeance on behalf of his “wife,” Rhea Silvia, who was drowned for breaking her Vestal vow of chastity after giving birth to Romulus and Remus. At l.25, Horace turns to a serial invocation of the gods in the manner of Pindar (once supposedly told by the poet Corinna to “sow with the hand, not from the full sack”), concluding with a paean to Octavian/Augustus, whom the poem hails as Mercury incarnate. “First citizen” refers to Octavian’s preferred title of princeps inter pares, “first among equals.”

Chris Childers

Chris Childers

Christopher Childers has poems, essays, and translations published or forthcoming at Kenyon Review, Yale Review, Parnassus, and elsewhere. He is at work on a translation of Latin and Greek Lyric Poetry from Archilochus to Martial for Penguin Classics.
Chris Childers

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Author: Chris Childers

Christopher Childers has poems, essays, and translations published or forthcoming at Kenyon Review, Yale Review, Parnassus, and elsewhere. He is at work on a translation of Latin and Greek Lyric Poetry from Archilochus to Martial for Penguin Classics.