Horace’s Diffugere Nives

(Translated by E. E. Cummings, 1913)

Farewell, runaway snows! For the meadow is green, and the tree stands
Clad in her beautiful hair.
New life leavens the land! The river, once where the lea stands,
Hideth and huggeth his lair.
Beauty with shining limbs ‘mid the Graces comes forth, and in glee stands,
Ringed with the rythmical fair.

Hope not, mortal, to live forever, the year whispers lowly.
Hope not, time murmurs, and flies.
Soft is the frozen sod to the Zephyr’s sandal, as wholly
Summer drives Spring from the skies, —
Dying when earth receives the fruits of Autumn, till slowly
Forth Winter creeps, and she dies.

Yet what escapes from heaven, the fleet moons capture, retrieving;
When through Death’s dream we survey
Heroes and kings of old, in lands of infinite grieving,
What are we? Shadow and clay.
Say will rulers above us the fate tomorrow is weaving
Add to the sum of today?

Hear me: whatever thou giv’st to thine own dear soul, shall not pleasure
Hungering fingers of kin.
Once in the gloom, when the judge of Shades in pitiless measure
Dooms thee to journey within,
Birth, nor eloquent speech, nor gift of piety’s treasure
Opens the portal of sin.

Never, goddess of chasteness, from night infernal thou freest
One who for chastity fell.
Ever, hero of Athens, him who loved thee thou seest
Writhe in the chainings of Hell.

(Included in Horace’s Diffugere Nives: A Collection of Translations)