Horace’s Otium Divos

Translated by Enola Brandt, 1935

When storm clouds veil the moon’s pale glow, and stars
No longer shine with light serene to guide
The pilot in his course, what sailor bold…
The victim of an open, grasping sea…
Invokes not all his gods for quiet then?
For peace, Grosphus, the Thracian cries, now crazed
By war’s mad strife; ’tis peace the Mede, too, craves,
Adorned with quiver, bow, and deadly dart…
The peace not bought with gems, nor gold, nor dyes.

To quell the tumult of the soul and drive
Away the cares from panelled doors of state
Both wealth and pow’r are far too small and weak.
He lives well in his poverty for whom
His father’s silver gleams with lovely glow
On frugal table; fear and base desire
Can never rouse him from his restful sleep.

Why, then, in life which soon must end, do we
Undaunted, strive for all things known to men…
Or restlessly our fatherland exchange
For lands warmed by another sun? What man,
An exile from his native soil, can flee
Himself, his cares, his fears, his driving woes?
Still morbid Care will mount the ships of bronze,
Will keep her pace with throngs of horsemen fleet,
Outrun the deer, outspeed the Eastern wind.

The mind rejoicing in today’s glad store
Will scorn to fret about tomorrow’s cares,
And temper all its sorrows with a smile;
In all this world no perfect good exists.
Yet Nature’s law of compensation works:
Achilles felt death’s unexpected blow,
Tithonus lived in life a lingering death;
And what Time gives to me, perhaps it will
Deny to you, who proudly may possess
Your herds of lowing cattle, mares, and fields,
Your woolen garments dipped in purple dye.
To me, just Fate has granted one small farm,
The tender spirit of the Grecian muse,
And pow’r to shun the malice of the mob.