Two Translations

By Alexander William Mair (1875-1928), Professor of Greek at the University of Edinburgh.

Horace’s Aequam Memento (II.3)

A level head neath Fortune’s slings,
A humble heart when Fortune’s pleasant,
Seek still, for in the end of things
One doom awaits us, peer and peasant,
Alike if you should never smile,
Or if, on holiday unbending,
You picnic on the grass awhile
And take the best of Heaven’s sending.
Wherefore do pine and poplar pale
Unite to frame a shade inviting?
Why hastes the rivulet down the dale
Impatient, eye and ear delighting?
Bring wine and unguent, nor forget
To bring the, ah! too fleeting, roses,
So long as means and youth permit
Nor yet the Book of Fate forecloses.
One day you’ll leave both house and lands,
Your villa by the Tiber yellow,
The wealth you’ve piled with eager hands —
Your heir will be the lucky fellow!
Whether you’re rich, of ancient race,
Or poor, the humblest in the city,
It matters not: we fly apace,
Victims of Death who knows no pity.
One way we all are driven, of all
The lots are shaken for the Ferry,
And soon or late ‘twill be our call
To step aboard old Charon’s wherry.

Horace’s Vides Ut Alta (I.9)

Deep lies the snow on Benachie,
Beneath their load the trees are bent,
The sea-ward streams forget the sea,
In winter’s icy clutches pent.

Heap high the logs to thaw the air:
Let fireside warmth mend outer cold:
Bring ben the bottle — see it bear
No lying legend, “Very Old.”

Lippen the lave to One above
Who lulls the wild winds’ angry clash
To zephyr airs that hardly move
The cypress or the aged ash.

Seek not to probe To-morrow’s fate,
But count To-day for happy chance,
And timely, ere it be too late,
Enjoy the daffing and the dance.

Soon on your brow, that now is brent,
Will prints of crusty age be seen;
Golf, shoot, or fish — then, well content,
Hie to the trysting-tree at e’en.

The tell-tale laugh will guide you where
She hides who, willing, still says “won’t” —
So angry if a kiss you dare,
But aiblins angrier if you don’t.