Odes 2.13






Latin English





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Ille et nefasto te posuit die,
quicumque primum, et sacrilega manu
  produxit, arbos, in nepotum
    perniciem opprobriumque pagi.

illum et parentis crediderim sui
fregisse cervicem et penetralia
  sparsisse nocturno cruore
    hospitis; ille venena Colcha

et quicquid usquam concipitur nefas
tractavit, agro qui statuit meo
  te, triste lignum, te caducum
    in domini caput immerentis.

quid quisque vitet, numquam homini satis
cautum est in horas: navita Bosphorum
  Poenus perhorrescit neque ultra
    caeca timet aliunde fata;

miles sagittas et celerem fugam
Parthi, catenas Parthus et Italum
  robur; sed inprovisa leti
    vis rapuit rapietque gentis.

quam paene furvae regna Proserpinae
et iudicantem vidimus Aeacum
  sedesque discriptas piorum et
    Aeoliis fidibus querentem

Sappho puellis de popularibus
et te sonantem plenius aureo,
  Alcaee, plectro dura navis,
    dura fugae mala, dura belli.

utrumque sacro digna silentio
mirantur umbrae dicere; sed magis
  pugnas et exactos tyrannos
    densum umeris bibit aure volgus.

quid mirum, ubi illis carminibus stupens
demittit atras belua centiceps
  auris, et intorti capillis
    Eumenidum recreantur angues?

quin et Prometheus et Pelopis parens
dulci laborem decipitur sono,
  nec curat Orion leones
    aut timidos agitare lyncas.

The man who first planted thee did it upon an
evil day and reared thee with a sacrilegious
hand, O tree, for the destruction of posterity
and the countryside's disgrace.

I could believe that he actually strangled his
own father and spattered his hearthstone with
a guest's blood at dead of night; he too has
dabbled in Colchic poisons

and whatever crime is anywhere
conceived--the man that set thee out on my
estate, thou miserable stump, to fall upon the
head of thy unoffending master.

Man never heeds enough from hour to hour
what he should shun. The Punic sailor dreads
the Bosphorus, but fears not the unseen fates
beyond that threaten from other quarters.

The soldier dreads the arrows of the Parthians and their swift
retreat; the Parthian fears the chains and rugged strength of
Italy; but the fatal violence that has snatched away, and again
will snatch away, the tribes of men, is something unforeseen.

How narrowly did I escape beholding the realms
of dusky Proserpine and Aeacus on his
judgment-seat, and the abodes set apart
for the righteous,

and Sappho complaining on Aeolian lyre of her
countrywomen, and thee, Alcaeus, rehearsing in fuller
strain with golden plectrum the woes of seaman's
life, the cruel woes of exile, and the woes of war.

The shades marvel at both as they utter words worthy
of reverent silence; but the dense throng, shoulder
to shoulder packed, drinks in more eagerly with
listening ear stories of battles and of tyrants banished.

What wonder, when lulled by such strains,
the hundred-headed monster lowers his
black ears, and the serpents writhing in the
locks of the Furies stop for rest!

Yea, even Prometheus and Pelops' sire are
beguiled of their sufferings by the soothing
sound, nor does Orion care to chase the lions
or the wary lynxes.

In Odes II.13, Horace tells us of an incident on the grounds of his villa in which, he feels, his life was at stake: a tree unexpectedly crashed down nearly killing the poet. Horace returns to this frightening narrow escape in Odes II.17.27-30 and, briefly, at Odes III.4.27. In Odes II.13, Horace begins by cursing the man who planted the tree but then his tone rises to a gentler, more lyric mode when, in verses 13-14 he draws the lesson that we all fail to pay attention to the real dangers in life. He gives several examples of this, including his own brush with death (verses 21ff.), but then the poem goes off on an apparent tangent as Horace begins to imagine the Underworld. There he sees Sappho and Alcaeus making (competing in?) poetry, and the lyric poems they produce in death reflect those they composed while alive, running the gamut of lyric themes from Sappho's love complaints to Alcaeus' political poems. The power of lyric poetry charms the dead, and even gives momentary comfort to suffering sinners like Prometheus and Tantalus. Horace's own poem works the healing magic of lyric on the poet himself, who by the end has forgotten his fear of death and recovered his composure.


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Epistles: 1.7 | 1.10 | 1.14 | 1.16 | 1.18
Epode: 2
Odes: 1.17 | 1.20 | 1.22 | 2.13 | 2.17 | 2.18 | 3.1 | 3.4 | 3.8 | 3.13 | 3.18 | 3.22 | 3.23 | 3.29
Satires: 2.3 | 2.6 | 2.7
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