31 December 2007


[from David Ferry's The Odes of Horace, 1997]

i.3 Virgil's Journey to Greece

May Venus goddess of Cyprus and may the brothers
Castor and Pollux, the shining stars, the calmers,
Guard you, O ship, and be the light of guidance;
May the father of the winds restrain all winds
Except the gentle one that favors this journey.
Bring Virgil, your charge, the other half of my heart,
Safely to the place where he is going.

The breast of the man who was the first to dare
To go out in a little boat upon the waters
Must have been made of oak and triple bronze,
Fearing neither the sudden African squall
Contending with the North Wind, nor the storms
The Hyades threaten, nor what the South Wind, Notus,
Who rules the Adriatic, is capable of.

What way of dying could that man have feared
Who dared to be the first to look upon
The swimming monsters, the turbulent waters and
The dreadful cliffs of Acroceraunia?
The purpose of the god who separated
One land from another land was thwarted
If impious men could nevertheless set out

To cross the waters forbidden to them to cross.
Audacious at trying out everything, men rush
Headlong into the things that have been forbidden.
Guileful Prometheus audaciously by fraud
Brought fire down to the human race and thus
Brought fever down upon us and disease,
And death that once was slow to come came sooner.

Audacious Daedalus, wearing forbidden wings,
Tried out the empty air. And Hercules
Went down to the Underworld, broke in and entered.
No hill's too steep for men to try to climb;
Men even try out getting up to Heaven.
Is it any wonder, then, that Jupiter rages,
Hurling down lightning, shaking the sky with thunder?

The Odes of Horace: Bilingual Edition

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