Horace’s Otium Divos

(Translated by Sir Edward Marsh, 1941)

Repose! thou universal boon,
Craved of poor shipmen battling through the night
On open seas, when clouds have hid the moon
And stars their guiding ray withhold;
Craved of grim Thracian warriors mad for fight
And Medes exulting in their quivers bright,
But never yet for gems or gold
Or bales of glowing purple sold.
For neither treasuries of Eastern kings
Nor puissant consul’s bullying halberdiers
Can chase the anguish of the mind, the fears
That round the coffered ceiling brush their wings.

Ah, Grosphus! he lives well who lives content
With little; on whose frugal board
His father’s salt, sole ornament,
Shines fleckless; him the Gods afford
Calm sleep by no mean cares oppressed,
By greedy longings unpossessed.

Why waste in vaulting hopes our little span,
Why seek strange suns abroad, though well we know
Our same self cleaves to us where’er we go,
And still we end as we began?
Proud captains board their ships, brave horsemen tide,
But still, to unman them, Care is at their side —
Care that outstrips the stag, and faster flies
Than winds that drive the clouds across the skies.

Live happy in the moment, take no thought
For hidden things beyond, be firm to test
And turn the edge of troubles with a jest;
For bliss unmixed was never earthly lot.
Young, but illustrious, Achilles died:
Tithonus in immortal age decays;
And Time, who knows? may grant my lowlier days
Good gifts to yours denied.
For you, the neighing of your chariot mares
And countless lowing of Sicilian kine;
For you the precious dye the murex bears,
And jewels of the Indian mine:
With me kind Fate has kept her word;
My little farm she gives me, country peace,
A strain of music from the hills of Greece,
A mind made strong to flout the envious herd.