Horace – Q. Horatius Flaccus (65BC – 8BC): Doom Song

Translated by Timothy Adès

Odes ii. 3

Aequam memento rebus in arduis
servare mentem, non secus in bonis
    ab insolenti temperatam
    laetitia, moriture Delli,

seu maestus omni tempore vixeris              
seu te in remoto gramine per dies
    festos reclinatum bearis
    interiore nota Falerni.

Quo pinus ingens albaque populus
umbram hospitalem consociare amant               
    ramis? Quid obliquo laborat
    lympha fugax trepidare rivo?

Huc vina et unguenta et nimium brevis
flores amoenae ferre iube rosae,
    dum res et aetas et Sororum
    fila trium patiuntur atra.

Cedes coemptis saltibus et domo
villaque, flavus quam Tiberis lavit,
    cedes, et exstructis in altum
    divitiis potietur heres.
  
Divesne prisco natus ab Inacho
nil interest an pauper et infima
    de gente sub divo moreris,
    victima nil miserantis Orci;

omnes eodem cogimur, omnium               
versatur urna serius ocius
    sors exitura et nos in aeternum
    exilium impositura cumbae.

Remember, keep
a level mind when things get steep;
and in the good times equally
avoid excessive gaiety:
Dooley, you’re bound to die,

whether you’ve been a lifelong glum,
or, sprawled through merry days on grass
remote, you’ve blessed your guts with glass
of Mouton from the adytum.

Do a pale poplar and a pine
give welcome shade, in love combine
their branches? Does the fleeting water
(nymph, lymph, serpentine)*
shudder and strain, where slant walls thwart her?

Send out for wines, for oils, perfumes,
and roses’ neverlasting blooms!
Defy decay! Forestall mischance!
No Norns with yarns! Act fast! Advance!
 
Write off your hoarded hills, your mansion,
your glebe with Tiber’s rolled gold sands on.
Your stack of wonga’s true possessor
is your successor.

A plutocrat with pedigree:
Blood-Sacrifice! or you could be
a destitute, obscure rough sleeper…
Slaughtered! Served up to Lord Grim Reaper.

One way! We’re forced, coerced, for sooner or l-
ater, our fate’s a well-urned funeral
that’s sure to dump us down the river.
Ferried out! Banned for ever.

* A scholiast’s interpolation has enhanced the text.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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