Odes 3.28

Celebrating Neptune’s feast day

by Horace

A poem written in the dancing Asclepiadic metre shows Horace, if he is the speaker, in party spirits. The feast of Neptune was in high summer on 23 July, so perhaps the Romans hoped to catch him in relaxed mood. Bibulus was the other Consul when Julius Caesar held the position in 59 BCE. The way that the subject of the singing moves from Diana, the Goddess of virginity in the third stanza to Venus and night-time in the fourth implies that Horace has other plans for later on.

Metre: second Asclepiad

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Festo quid potius die
Neptuni faciam? prome reconditum,
Lyde, strenua Caecubum
munitaeque adhibe vim sapientiae.

inclinare meridiem
sentis ac, veluti stet volucris dies,
parcis deripere horreo
cessantem Bibuli consulis amphoram?

nos cantabimus invicem
Neptunum et viridis Nereidum comas
tu curva recines lyra
Latonam et celeris spicula Cynthiae;

summo carmine, quae Cnidon
fulgentisque tenet Cycladas et Paphon
iunctis visit oloribus;
dicetur merita Nox quoque nenia.

What better should I do
on Neptune’s feast day? Look lively, Lyde,
bring out the Caecuban from store,
give entrenched wisdom a knock.

You can tell it’s past noon already,
yet, as if the swift day was standing still,
you hesitate to bring from the store-room
the amphora lurking there from Bibulus’ consulship?

We will sing in turn, I of Neptune
and the green hair of the sea-nymphs;
in return you will sing to the curved lyre
of Leto and the arrows of swift Diana,

and in the last song, of Venus, mistress of Cnidos
and the shining Cyclades, who came to Paphos
drawn by her team of swans; Night, too,
will be hymned in a well-deserved coda.