Three Translations of Ode II.10

Translated by Hugh Macnaghten (1926).

Licinius, if you think with me,
You’ll steer not always out to sea,
Nor hug the treacherous shore, for fear
A storm be near.

The man who loves the golden mean,
A house not weatherproof nor clean
Shuns, and is safe: shuns, wise withal,
The envied hall.

The giant pine feels most of all
The many winds, high towers that fall
Fall heaviest, the lightning seeks
The mountain peeks.

Well-schooled the mind, when troubles press,
Expects a change; in happiness,
Knows it may come. God summons here
The winter drear,

Then drives it hence. What’s ill to-day
May turn to good. ‘Tis Phoebus’ way
Sometimes to wake the Muse, not bend
His bows sans end.

In straits of fortune steel your heart
And smile. ‘Tis also wisdom’s part,
Lest that good wind become a gale,
To shorten sail.

Translated by Alexander William Mair (1929).

Ah! in the voyage of life, my friend,
Be wise nor tempt the open ocean
Too boldly nor, to shun the wind,
Hug thou the shore with dangerous caution.
The Golden Mean who still prefers
Doth neither in a cabin smother
Nor, in a palace dwelling, stirs
The envy of a humbler brother.
Upon the soaring pine-tree wreaks
The storm its fury, sorer tumbles
The high-built tower, the mountain peaks
Most suffer when the thunder rumbles.
When Fortune frowns, the prudent man
Still nurses hope; when Fortune flatters,
He fears lest blessing change to ban;
And when the bitter rainstorm patters,
He knows that that same God who sent
To-day the tempest for our sorrow,
Shall when it pleases him relent,
The sun may shine again to-morrow,
And not for evermore in ire
With bended bow Apollo scourges,
But takes anon his golden lyre
And the dumb strings to music urges.
When things are dark, the wise man shows
Neath Fortune’s blows a front unbending,
And when the wind too favouring blows
He shortens sail with timely tending.

Translated by J. S. Blake-Reed (1942).

Wisely your bark, Licinius, steer
Not where the deepest ocean rolls;
Nor, over-cautious, sail too near
The treacherous shoals.

Whoe’er the golden mean pursues,
To live secure from envy’s eye
Nor sordid hut for home will choose
Nor palace high.

The tallest pines the tempest’s might
Assails; high towers with heavier crash
Will fall; the loftiest hills invite
The lightning flash.

Caution in weal and hope in ill
The steadfast bosom still will learn;
Jove sends the gloomy winters, — still
The springs return.

Dark days a brighter dawn succeeds;
Ofttimes Apollo tunes his lyre,
Unbends his bow and jocund leads
The Muses’ choir.

Undaunted still by want or grief,
When Fortune with too prosperous gale
Your bark impels, be wise and reef
Your swelling sail.