01 January 2008


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

ii.3 To Dellius

When things are bad, be steady in your mind;
     Dellius, don't be
Too unrestrainedly joyful in good fortune.
     You are going to die.

It doesn't matter at all whether you spend
     Your days and nights in sorrow,
Or, on the other hand, in holiday pleasure,
     Drinking Falernian wine

Of an excellent vintage year, on the river bank.
     Why is it, do you suppose,
That the dark branches of those tall pines and those
     Poplars' silvery leafy

Branches love to join, coming together,
     Creating a welcoming shade?
Haven't you noticed how in the quiet river
     The current shows signs of hurry,

Urging itself to go forward, going somewhere,
     Making its purposeful way?
By all means tell your servants to bring you wine,
     Perfumes, and the utterly lovely

Too briefly blossoming flowers of the villa garden;
     Yes, of course, while youth,
And circumstance, and the black threads of the Sisters
     Suffer this to be so.

You're going to have to yield those upland pastures,
     The ones you bought just lately;
You're going to yield the townhouse, and the villa,
     The country place whose margin

The Tiber washes as it moves along.
     Heirs will possess all that
Which you have gathered. It does not matter at all
     If you are rich, with kings

Forefathers of your pride; no matter; or poor,
     Fatherless under the sky.
You will be sacrificed to Orcus without pity.
     All of us together

Are being gathered; the lot of each of us
     Is in the shaking urn
With all the other lots, and like the others
     Sooner or later our lot

Will fall out from the urn; and so we are chosen to take
     Our place in that dark boat,
In that dark boat, that bears us all away
     From here to where no one comes back from ever.

The Odes of Horace: Bilingual Edition

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