Horace’s Ne Forte Credas

(Translated by Edward Marsh, 1941)

Think not these words of mine shall die,
That born by Aufidus’ far-echo’d stream
In unaccustomed modes of art I frame
For chords with meet response to accompany.

Though first Maeonian Homer shine
In fame, not therefore dimmed is Pindar’s fire,
Nor unesteemed the Cean’s mighty line,
Alcaeus’ clarion or Stesichorus’ lyre.

Still as of old Anacreon sings
His playful melodies no years can stale,
Still breathes and burns to-day the amorous tale
That Sappho whispered to the Aeolian strings.

Long before Helen, many a queen
Had broke her vows for an adulterer
Because he dazed her with his curling hair,
His princely train, his mantle’s golden sheen.

Many another Teucer sped
Cydonian arrows, and an older Troy
Was leaguered, and in fiery battle joy
Many an Idomeneus and Diomed

Deserved the Muses’ benisons;
Not Hector only nor Deiphobus
Gave blow for blow in combat perilous
Adventuring for wife or little ones.

Unmatched is Agamemnon’s fame,
Not so his might; but in the dark of years
Unwept and unremembered lie his peers,
Because no heaven-graced poet sang their name,

Virtue that shines not before men
Is little better than ignoble ease.
Ah, Lollius! I would not have my pen
Leave you unpraised, nor blank Oblivion seize

On your high exploits. You possess
A mind that in a true and steady light
Views men and things, and in the varied stress
Of good or doubtful fortune judges right;

A mind which scourges knave and fool,
Which keeps no traffic with the wealth that moulds
All things to its greedy will, a mind whose rule
Is no brief twelve-month consulship, but holds

Whene’er an honest magistrate
Prefers the just to the expedient way,
Scorns the rich caitiff’s bribe, and soon or late,
Routing the hosts of evil, wins the day.

Who is the happy man? not he
Who owns the earth; to him that name be given
Who knows to use aright the gifts of Heaven,
And bravely bear the stings of poverty;

Who dreads dishonour worse than death,
Confronts disaster with unflinching eye,
And when stern Duty calls upon his faith,
For friend or country has no fear to die.