Horace, Ode I.11

James Michie, 1963

Don’t ask (we may not know), Leuconoe,
What ends the gods propose for me
Or you. Let Chaldees try
To read the ciphered sky;

Better to bear the outcome, good or bad,
Whether Jove purposes to add
Fresh winters to the past
Or to make this the last

Which now tires out the Tuscan sea and mocks
Its strength with barricades of rocks.
Be wise, strain clear of the wine
And prune the rambling vine

Of expectation. Life’s short. Even while
We talk Time, grudging, runs a mile.
Don’t trust tomorrow’s bough
For Fruit. Pluck this, here, now.

Burton Raffel, 1983

Leucon, no one’s allowed to know his fate,
Not you, not me: don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers
In tea leaves or palms. Be patient with whatever comes.
This could be our last winter, it could be many
More, pounding the Tuscan Sea on these rocks:
Do what you must, be wise, cut your vines
And forget about hope. Time goes running, even
As we talk. Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.

Sir Thomas Hawkins, 1625

Strive not, Leuconoe! to know what end
The gods above to me, or thee, will send;
Nor with astrologers consult at all,
That thou may’st better know what can befall;
Whether thou liv’st more winters, or thy last
Be this, which Tyrrhen waves ‘gainst rocks do cast;
Be wise! drink free, and, in so short a space,
Do not protracted hopes of life embrace.
Whilst we are talking, envious time doth slide;
This day’s thine own, the next may be deny’d.

John Conington, 1882

Ask not (’tis forbidden knowledge), what our destined term of years,
Mine and yours; nor scan the tables of your Babylonish seers.
Better far to bear the future, my Leuconoe, like the past,
Whether Jove has many winters yet to give, or this our last;
This, that makes the Tyrrhene billows spend their strength against the shore.
Strain your wine and prove your wisdom; life is short; should hope be more?
In the moment of our talking, envious time has ebb’d away.
Seize the present; trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may.

Ezra Pound, 1963

Ask not ungainly askings of the end
Gods send us, me and thee, Leucothoe;
Nor juggle with the risks of Babylon,
Better to take whatever,
Several, or last, Jove sends us. Winter is winter,
Gnawing the Tyrrhene cliffs with the sea’s tooth.
Take note of flavors, and clarity’s in the wine’s manifest.
Cut loose long hope for a time.
We talk. Time runs in envy of us,
Holding our day more firm in unbelief.

David Slavitt, 2014

Don’t try to figure out the plans the gods
may have for you. Don’t pry into their secrets
with Babylonian astrology charts. No,
Leuconoe, I tell you, just endure.
This winter weakening now on the seashore rocks
could be your last. Or not. But either way,
seize the day; live its fleeting moments;
and think of the future no more than it thinks of you.

Jeffrey H. Kaimowitz, 2008

Don’t ask, you cannot know, what end for me or you
the gods have set, Leucónoë. Don’t look into
the stars. Much better to submit to what will be,
whether Jove bestows more winters or makes this
the last which pummels now the Tuscan sea against
a rocky shore. Be wise, decant your wine, prune back
long growth of hope. As we speak, begrudging time
has fled. Seize the day—and trust tomorrow least.

W. G. Shepherd, 1983

Do not inquire, we may not know, what end
the Gods will give, Leuconoe, do not attempt
Babylonian calculations. The better course
is to bear whatever will be, whether Jove allot
more winters or this is the last which exhausts
the Tuscan sea with pumice rocks opposed.
Be wise, decant the wine, prune back
your long-term hopes. Life ebbs as I speak –
so seize each day, and grant the next no credit.

Sidney Alexander, 1990

Ask not, O Leuconoe — to know is forbidden — what end
the gods have allotted either to me or to you.
Nor consult the Babylonian tables. How much better
to patiently endure whatever comes
whether Jupiter grants us more winters, or whether this one,
now crashing Tyrrhenean waves against the rocks,
shall be the last. Be wise. Water your wine.
Life is so brief: cut short far-reaching hopes.
Even as we speak, envious Time is fleeing.
Seize the day: entrusting as little as possible to tomorrow.

Heather McHugh, 2002

Don’t ask, Clarice, we’re not supposed to know
what end the gods intend for us.
Take my advice: don’t gamble so
on horoscopes of Babylon. Far better just

to take what heaven might allot us, whether
it’s winters galore, and more, until we’re stiff,
or only this one wintertime to end all others,
grinding the Tuscany Sea with its pumice of cliff.

Get wise. Get wine, and one good filter for it.
Cut that high hope down to size, and pour it
into something fit for men. Think less
of more tomorrows, more of this

one second, endlessly unique: it’s
jealous, even as we speak, and it’s
about to split again…

Anna Seward, 1799 (Paraphrased)

Leuconoe, cease presumptuous to inquire
Of grave Diviner, if successive years
Onward shall roll, ere yet the funeral pyre,
For thee and me, the hand of Friendship rears!
Ah rather meet, with gay and vacant brow,
Whatever youth, and time, health, love, and fate allow;

If many winters on the naked trees
Drop in our sight the paly wreaths of frost,
Or this for us the last, that from the seas
Hurls the loud flood on the resounding coast. —
Short since thou know’st the longest vital line,
Nurse the near hope, and pour the rosy wine.

E’en while we speak our swiftly-passing Youth
Stretches its wing to cold Oblivion’s shore;
Then shall the Future terrify, or sooth,
Whose secrets no vain foresight can explore?
The Morrow’s faithless promise disavow,
And seize, thy only boast, the golden Now.

Philip Francis, 1835

Strive not, Leuconoe, to pry
Into the secret will of fate,
Nor impious magic vainly try
To know our lives’ uncertain date;

Whether th’ indulgent power divine
Hath many seasons yet in store,
Or this the latest winter thine,
Which breaks its waves against the shore.

Thy life with wiser arts be crown’d.
Thy filter’d wines abundant pour;
The lengthen’d hope with prudence bound
Proportioned to the flying hour;

Even while we talk in careless ease,
Our envious minutes wing their flight;
Then swift the fleeting pleasure seize,
Nor trust to-morrow’s doubtful light.

David Ferry, 1996

Don’t be too eager to ask
What the gods have in mind for us,
What will become of you,
What will become of me,
What you can read in the cards,
Or spell out on the ouija board,
It’s better not to know.
Either Jupiter says
This coming winter is not
After all going to be
The last winter you have,
Or else Jupiter says
This winter that’s coming soon,
Eating away the cliffs
Along the Tyrrhcnian Sea,
Is going to be the final
Winter of all. Be mindful.
Take good care of your vineyard.
The time we have is short.
Cut short your hopes for longer.
Now as I say these words,
Time has already fled
Backwards away –
Leuconoe —
Hold on to the day.

John Herrington, 1970

You must not ask the end (to know is wickedness)
that God has set for you and me,
Lynne, my white heart: Leuconoe: you must not

search in our horoscopes. Let’s take what comes; maybe
this stormwind is the last that God
will let us feel, us together, this same wind

which even now is breaking the rampant Tuscan seas
in foam against embattled rock.
Now have some sense, pour the wine! And cut away

long ages of our hope in the brief slash of love.
While you and l are talking, were
talking, Time envies, envied, comes and went; oh

pick today’s flower! As little as you can
trust in tomorrow, Leuconoe. White heart. Lynne.

C. S. Calverley, 1861

Seek not, for thou shalt not find it, what my end, what thine shall be;
Ask not of Chaldaea’s science what God wills, Leuconoe:
Better far, what comes, to bear it. Haply many a wintry blast
Waits thee still; and this, it may be, love ordains to be thy last,
Which flings now the flagging sea-wave on the obstinate sandstone-reef.
Be thou wise: fill up the wine-cup; shortening, since the time is brief,
Hopes that reach into the future. While I speak, hath stol’n away
Jealous Time. Mistrust To—morrow, catch the blossom of To—day.

Robert Ferguson, 1773

Ne’er fash your thumb what gods decree
To be the weird o’ you or me,
Nor deal in cantrup’s kittle cunning
To speir how fast your days are running,
But patient lippen for the best,
Nor be in dowy thought opprest,
Whether we see mare winters come
Than this that spits wi’ canker’d foam.

Now moisten weel your geyzen’d wa’as
Wi’ couthy friends and hearty blaws;
Ne’er lat your hope o’ergang your days,
For eild and thraldom never stays;
The day looks gash, toot aff your horn,
Nor care yae strae about the morn.