[from The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, Mark Haddon, Vintage, 2006]
Horace Odes I:4
Spring and warm winds unlock the fist of winter.
Winches haul dry hulls down the beach.
The ploughman and his animals
no longer love the stable and the fire.
The frost no longer paints the fields white.
The moon is overhead. Cytherean Venus
dances with her girls. The Graces
and the spirits of the trees and rivers
stamp the earth while flaming Vulcan
tours the massive thunder-forges of the Cyclops.
It's time to decorate your oiled hair
with green myrtle or with flowers growing
from the soft earth. It's time to find a shady spot
and sacrifice a young goat to the woodland god.
Or kill a lamb if that is what he wants.
Death's sickly face appears at the doors
of shacks and palaces. Rich Sestius,
this short life makes a joke of long hopes.
Pluto's shadow hall, those ghosts
you read about in stories, and that final night
will soon be snapping at your heels.
And then you won't be throwing knuckle-bones
to win the job of drinking-master,
or ogling pretty Lycidas, who'll drive men wild
until he's big enough for girls.
The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea: Poems