An Affair of Cooperation

“Happily, only a small proportion of Horatian translators have had the hardihood to give their lucubrations to the press. The first to do this extremely hazardous thing was, it would seem, one Thomas Colwell, whose effusions were originally seen in print three hundred and fifteen years ago. What a number of followers that bold man has had! … And what a variety has been exhibited by these writers both in metre and in merit! To whom shall the palm be given among all the candidates — to Professor Conington, to the first Lord Lytton, or to Sir Theodore Martin? These take the lead, the rest being (in comparison) nowhere. Yet can any man lay his hand upon his heart, and say, honestly, that he is satisfied with any one of the three, learned and skilful and enthusiastic as they are? Is it, indeed, in the power of any one man — save he be another Horace, born in English guise, to supply us with ‘Englishings’, even of any one section of the Works, which should obtain the suffrages of all men? Rather is the successful translation of Horace an affair of co-operation among many — of a lucky hit here, of a happy thought there — of a gradual accumulation of worthy specimens produced by individual effort from time to time. A collection of such specimens has been made, and it is much better worth our notice than any wholesale rendering which anybody, greatly daring, has produced of his own mind and motion.” (William Davenport Adams, With Poet and Player, 1891)

Collections of Translations

Available HERE.

  • 190 English Translations of Horace’s Carpe Diem (1.11)
  • 215 English Translations of Horace’s Integer Vitae (1.22)
  • 151 English Translations of Horace’s Aequam Memento (2.3)
  • 202 English Translations of Horace’s Otium Divos (2.16)
  • 235 English Translations of Horace’s Donec Gratus Eram (3.9)
  • 181 English Translations of Horace’s Diffugere Nives (4.7)

To Translate Horace!

George Meason Whicher, To Gilbert Murray, 1926

To translate Horace! And to send the verse
For Murray’s eyes! What folly could be worse?
If one before such Presences may come,
Should Littleness not tremble and be dumb?

Yet I can face them. Though the tiniest spark
Be mine, to glow amid the encircling dark,
True to its ether-home it still aspires
And claims its kinship with those greater fires.

Like the poor votary of that buried faith,
Who shrank to meet the Lords of Life and Death,
Yet bore within his hand on graven gold
The charm to make his very weakness bold, —

I too, the very least of them that sing,
May give this answer to their challenging:
“O Mighty Ones! I know you who you are;
But lo! I also am a Wandering Star.”

Horace’s Carpe Diem

Imitated by Anthony C. Deane, 1892

O covet not, Leuconoe, to be told
What destinies on each of us await;
Neither by those astrologers of old,
Nor those of latter date.

Seek not by post an oracle to fetch,
For oft fulfilment expectation damps,
Although “Professors” will your future sketch
For eighteen penny stamps.

Heed not the spiteful weather-forecast man;
When he announces rain and tempest strong;
Make up your mind, as quickly as you can,
The chances are he’s wrong;

And treat those sages with becoming mirth
Who speedy doom to all the world proclaim;
They’re always at it, but our ancient earth
Still rolls on much the same.

To know our destiny the gods forbid;
Strive not in vain the unseen to descry;
In darkness is the fate of all men hid,
In darkness let it lie.

John Quincy Adams

Horace’s Integer Vitae, Translated by John Quincy Adams, 1841

The man in righteousness array’d,
A pure and blameless liver,
Needs not the keen Toledo blade,
Nor venom-freighted quiver.
What though he wind his toilsome way
O’er regions wild and weary —
Through Zara’s burning desert stray;
Or Asia’s jungles dreary:

What though he plough the billowy deep
By lunar light, or solar,
Meet the resistless Simoon’s sweep,
Or iceberg circumpolar.
In bog or quagmire deep and dank,
His foot shall never settle;
He mounts the summit of Mont Blanc,
Or Popocatapetl.

On Chimborazo’s breathless height,
He treads o’er burning lava;
Or snuff the Bohan Upas blight,
The deathful plant of Java.
Through every peril he shall pass,
By Virtue’s shield protected;
And still by Truth’s unerring glass
His path shall be directed.

Else wherefore was it, Thursday last,
While strolling down the valley
Defenceless, musing as I pass’d
A canzonet to Sally;
A wolf, with mouth protruding snout,
Forth from the thicket bounded —
I clapped my hands and raised a shout —
He heard — and fled — confounded.

Tangier nor Tunis never bred
An animal more crabbed;
Nor Fez, dry nurse of lions, fed
A monster half so rabid.
Nor Ararat so fierce a beast
Has seen, since days of Noah;
Nor strong, more eager for a feast,
The fell constrictor boa.

Oh! place me where the solar beam
Has scorch’d all verdure vernal;
Or on the polar verge extreme,
Block’d up with ice eternal —
Still shall my voice’s tender lays
Of love remain unbroken;
And still my charming Sally praise,
Sweet smiling and sweet spoken.

The Whole Background of Life

“I attach a certain amount of importance to the spirit of a few old Latin tags and quotations. Some of them, not more than three lines long, give one the very essence of what a man ought to try to do. Others, equally short, let you understand once and for all, the things that a man should not do — under any circumstances. There are others — bits of odes from Horace, they happen to be in my case — that make one realise in later life as no other words in any other tongue can, the brotherhood of mankind in time of sorrow or affliction. But men say that one can get the same stuff in an easier way and in a living tongue. They say there is no sense in dragging men up and down through grammar and construe for years and years, when at the last, all they can produce (‘produce’ is a good word) is a translation that would make Virgil, Horace or Cicero turn in their graves. Here is my defence of this alleged wicked waste of time. The reason why one has to parse and construe and grind at the dead tongues in which certain ideas are expressed, is not for, the sake of what is called intellectual training — that may be given in other ways — but because only in that tongue is that idea expressed with absolute perfection. If it were not so the Odes of Horace would not have survived. (People aren’t in a conspiracy to keep things alive.) I grant you that the kind of translations one serves up at school are as bad and as bald as they can be. They are bound to be so, because one cannot re-express an idea that has been perfectly set forth. (Men tried to do this, by the way, in the revised version of the Bible. They failed.) Yet, by a painful and laborious acquaintance with the mechanism of that particular tongue; by being made to take it to pieces and put it together again, and by that means only; we can arrive at a state of mind in which, though we cannot re-express the idea in any adequate words, we can realise and feel and absorb the idea… Our ancestors were not fools. They knew what we, I think, are in danger of forgetting — that the whole background of life, in law, civil administration, conduct of life, the terms of justice, the terms of science, the value of government, are the everlasting ramparts of Rome and Greece — the father and mother of civilisation. And for that reason, before they turned a man into life at large, they arranged that he should not merely pick up, but absorb into his system (through his hide if necessary) the fact that Greece and Rome were there. Later on, they knew, he would find out for himself how much and how important they were and they are, and that they still exist.” (Rudyard Kipling, The Uses of Reading)

Horace’s Integer Vitae

Translated by Thomas De Quincey, 1800, Aged 15

Fuscus! the man whose heart is pure,
Whose life unsullied by offence,
Needs not the jav’lines of the Moor
In his defence.

Should he o’er Lybia’s burning sands
Fainting pursue his breathless way,
No bow he’d seek to arm his hands
Against dismay.

Quivers of poisoned shafts he’d scorn,
Nor, though unarmed, would feel a dread
To pass where Caucasus forlorn
Rears his huge head.

In his own conscious worth secure,
Fearless he’d roam amidst his foes,
Where fabulous Hydaspes pure,
Romantic flows.

For late as in the Sabine wood
Singing my Lalage I strayed,
Unarmed I was, a wolf there stood;
He fled afraid.

Larger than which one ne’er was seen
In warlike Daunia’s beechen groves,
Nor yet in Juba’s land, where e’en
The lion roves.

Send me to dreary barren lands
Where never summer zephyrs play,
Where never sun dissolves the bands
Of ice away:

Send me again to scorching realms
Where not one cot affords a seat,
And where no shady pines or elms
Keep off the heat:

In every clime, in every isle,
Me Lalage shall still rejoice;
I’ll think of her enchanting smile
And of her voice.

Translated by Leigh Hunt, 1801, Aged 17

The man, my friend, that in his breast
With ev’ry purer virtue’s blest,
Safe in his own approving heart
Needs not the Moor’s protecting dart,
Or seeks to bend against the foe
With nervous arm the pliant bow,
Nor o’er his neck throws, proudly great,
The quiver big with pois’nous fate.

Whether on Afric’s desert coast,
Mid burning sands his steps are lost;
Or where Caucasian rocks on high
Lift their proud summits to the sky,
Heap’d with inhospitable snow
Pale gleaming o’er the plains below,
Or where the streams romantic glide
Of soft Hydaspe’s silver tide.

For, as along the Sabine grove
I sung the beauties of my love,
And, free from care, too distant stray’d
Within its dark embow’ring shade;
The prowling wolf, with blood-shot eye,
Unarm’d, beheld me wand’ring nigh;
And, while I shook in silent dread,
With howls the rav’ning monster fled!

Such, the grim terror of the wood,
Ne’er learnt to lap the trav’ller’s blood,
Or from the panting victim tore
The quiv’ring limbs with stifled roar,
Where Daunia’s spreading oaks arise
In rugged grandeur to the skies;
Or where the Moorish lion stalks
With monarch pride his arid walks.

O lay me where Sol’s gayest child,
Refulgent Summer, never smil’d;
Nor Zephyr’s mild refreshing breeze
Fann’d the rich foliage of the trees;
Where ev’ry black portentous cloud
And all the foggy vapours croud,
When angry Jove in noxious air
Extends his arm for vengeance bare;

O lay me where Sol, driving high,
Flames wide along the sultry sky,
No roof, beneath his parching ray,
To soothe the pilgrim’s weary way;
Yet, yet will I, nor ask for more,
My lovely Lalage adore;
Her, who each love-wing’d hour beguiles,
As soft she speaks, and sweet she smiles!

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.

Fortify Your Mind

“You are about to enter on the career which is closing upon me, and I feel much more solicitude for you than for myself. You have so reluctantly consented to engage in public life, that I fear you will feel too much annoyed by its troubles and perplexities. You must make up your account to meet and encounter opposition and defeats and slanders and treacheries, and above all fickleness of popular favor, of which an ever memorable example is passing before our eyes. Let me entreat you, whatever may happen to you of that kind, never to be discouraged nor soured. Your father and grandfather have fought their way through the world against hosts of adversaries, open and close, disguised and masked; with many lukewarm and more than one or two perfidious friends. The world is and will continue to be prolific of such characters. Live in peace with them; never upbraid, never trust them. But — ‘don’t give up the ship!’ Fortify your mind against disappointments — aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem, — keep up your courage, and go ahead!” (John Quincy Adams to Charles Francis Adams, 28 Nov. 1840)

Aequam Memento in 1682, 1767, 1891

Francis Atterbury, 1682

Be calm, my Dellius, and serene,
However Fortune change the scene!
In thy most dejected state,
Sink not underneath the weight:
Nor yet, when happy days begin,
And the full tide comes rolling in,
Let a fierce unruly joy
The settled quiet of thy mind destroy:
However Fortune change the scene,
Be calm, my Dellius, and serene!

Be thy lot good, or be it ill,
Life ebbs out at the same rate still:
Whether, with busy cares opprest,
You wear the sullen time away;
Or whether to sweet ease or rest
You sometimes give a day;
Carelessly laid
Underneath a friendly shade,
By pines and poplars mix’d embraces made;
Near a river’s sliding stream,
Fetter’d in sleep, bless’d with a golden dream.

Here, Here, in this much envy’d state,
Let every blessing on thee wait;
Bid the Syrian nard be brought,
Bid the hidden wine be sought,
And let the rose’s short-liv’d flower,
The smiling daughter of an hour,
Flourish on thy brow:
Enjoy the very, very now!
While the good hand of life is in,
While yet the fatal sisters spin.

A little hence, my friend, and thou
Must into other hands resign
Thy gardens and thy parks, and all that now
Bears the pleasing name of thine!
Thy meadows, by whose planted tides
Silver Tyber gently glides!
Thy pleasant houses, all must go;
The gold that’s hoarded in them too:
A jolly heir shall set it free,
And give th’ imprison’d monarchs liberty.

Nor matters it, what figure here
Thou dost among thy fellow-mortals bear;
How thou wert born, or how begot;
Impartial Death matters it not:
With what titles thou dost shine,
Or who was first of all thy line;
Life’s vain amusements! amidst which we dwell;
Nor weigh’d, nor understood, by the grim god of hell!

In the same road, alas! all travel on!
By all alike the same sad journey must be gone!
Our blended lots together lie,
Mingled in one common urn:
Sooner or later out they fly;
The fatal boat then wasts us to the shore,
Whence we never shall return,
Never! — never more!

Andrew Hervey Mills, 1767 (Imitated)

Let Fortune use you as she will,
Appear the man of temper still;
And keep, tho’ in the midst of woe,
Thyself in — Equilibrio

But yet the harder task we find,
Justly to poize the tow’ring mind,
When that good lady, at a slap,
Lets fall a ticket in our lap.

Well, let her frown, or let her smile,
I’ll be her dupe but for a while;
And soon, upon the grass, forget
The very name of such a cheat —
There, with my lass and bottle, play,
In a perpetual roundelay;
Or where, to heighten our delight,
Those interwoven shades invite;
Which (stranger to a noon-tide ray)
Can make a twilight of the day,
And give young folks an hint to join
Embrace, like them — like them, intwine —
While water, unperceiv’d, distils,
To feed the little subter-rills
Which, huddling in a thousand streams,
Sweetly excite poetic dreams —

— Come, pr’ythee set thy forehead free
From all those wrinkles which I see:
If talking will not do, I’ll try
The grand specific — Burgundy!
We’ll strew the place with ev’ry flow’r;
And crop those roses (of an hour)
Which else, perhaps, like you or I,
May droop to-morrow, fall, and die.

— Let’s laugh and sing — for, who’s afraid?
Death’s but my shadow ’till I’m dead!
And, then, believe for once the poet,
Happy for us! we never know it —

— That pretty box, and range of trees,
Where, now, you revel at your ease;
And, day by day, with hope beguile,
May fall to John-a-Noke, or Stile
Some rav’nous, scraping heir or other;
Some bastard, or forgotten brother —
Will make those golden heaps a level,
And with your lordship at the Devil;
Because some little, paltry sum,
Is wanting to compleat the plumb

— Sooner, or later, we must hence,
And pay th’ old ferryman his pence.
The last poor solitary coin
His worship suffers to be thine —

— The wretch, who breath’d in open air,
A life of misery and care—
Or he who, cloath’d in rich array,
Far’d sumptuously — but ev’ry day!
Kings, poets, and the Lord knows what,
Forgetting, die — and are forgot;
And, then, who has the most to say?
He who, like me, has liv’d to-day —
This, and this only, my good friend!
Will hold a maxim to the end;
And more immortalize your fame,
Than wealth without an honest name;
Which then, as in the moments past,
Will bring you curses to the last!

Eugene Field, 1891

Be tranquil, Dellius, I pray;
For though you pine your life away
With dull complaining breath,
Or speed with song and wine each day,
Still, still your doom is death.

Where the white poplar and the pine
In glorious arching shade combine,
And the brook singing goes,
Bid them bring store of nard and wine
And garlands of the rose.

Let ‘s live while chance and youth obtain;
Soon shall you quit this fair domain
Kissed by the Tiber’s gold,
And all your earthly pride and gain
Some heedless heir shall hold.

One ghostly boat shall some time bear
From scenes of mirthfulness or care
Each fated human soul, —
Shall waft and leave its burden where
The waves of Lethe roll.

So come, I prithee, Dellius mine;
Let ’s sing our songs and drink our wine
In that sequestered nook
Where the white poplar and the pine
Stand listening to the brook.