Horace: Ode 4.7. (From Latin)

Ode 4.7. Permanence and Change
By Horace
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click here to hear me recite the poem in Latin, with a reconstruction of the Roman urban pronunciation of about 50 BC

Snows scatter. Grass reclaims the field, and trees
Regrow the greenery they'd shed.
The world is shifting shape. The shrinking river
Rolls in the riverbed.
The Nymphs and Graces1, taking off their shame,
Dance naked on the wakened grass,
The hours devour the livening day to warn you:
You like all this shall pass.
The Zephyrs curb the cold to bring the Spring
The sudden Summer overthrows
Which falls to fruitful Fall that spills its yield
To fields the Winter slows.
Though moon on moon redeem the waste of seasons,
When we go deathward and are laid
Under with good Aeneas and rich Tullus2,
We go as ash and shade.
Who knows, Torquatus3, if the gods shall add
More morrows to this borrowed day?
Indulge your heart, for what your heart receives
No heir shall hoard away.
No, friend, when you go dead to take your place
By writ of Minos4 the august,
Your noble birth and virtues have no power
To shape you back from dust.
Even Diana had to let her chaste
Hippolytus fall dark and under
Where Theseus5 had to leave his friend in chains
Not even he could sunder.


1- The Graces and Nymphs are minor female divinities.

2- Aenēās is the mythical first king of Rome, Tullus was the third, said to be especially wealthy.

3- Torquātus- the person to whom Horace is addressing the poem.

4- Minos- one of the three judges of the underworld.

5- Theseus, the great Athenian champion, and his friend Pirithous, while still alive, tried to abduct Persephone, the queen of the Underworld; their attempt failed and, though Theseus was able to return to the upper mortal world, his friend was forced to remain below.

Many thanks to: Adam Elgar and Andrew Frisardi for comment on the English text

The Original:

Horatii Liber IV, Carmen VII

Diffūgēre nivēs, redeunt iam grāmina campīs
Arboribusque comae.
Mūtat terra vicēs et dēcrēscentia rīpās
Flūmina praetereunt.
Grātia cum Nymphis geminīsque sorōribus audet
Dūcere nūda chorōs.
Immortālia nē spērēs monet annus et almum
Quae rapit hōra diem.
Frīgora mītēscunt Zephyrīs, vēr prōterit aestās
Interitūra simul
Pōmifer autumnus frūgēs effūderit; et mox
Brūma recurrit iners.
Damna tamen celerēs reparant caelestia lūnae:
Nōs ubi dēcidimus
Quō pius Aenēās, quō dīvēs Tullus et Ancus
Pulvis et umbra sumus.
Quis scit an adiciant hodiernae crāstina summae
Tempora dī superī?
Cūncta manūs avidās fugient hērēdis, amīcō
Quae dederīs animō.
Cum semel occiderīs et dē tē splendida Mīnōs
Fēcerit arbitria
Nōn, Torquāte, genus, nōn tē fācundia, nōn tē
Restituet pietās.
Īnfernīs neque enim tenebrīs Dīāna pudīcum
Līberat Hippolytum
Nec Lēthaea valet Thēseus abrumpere cārō
Vincula Pīrithoō.

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