In this poem, Horace pitches the conventional theme of “carpe diem” very much in terms of Epicurean philosophy – living the good life means maintaining a calm and balanced mind. Beyond that, not much comfort is on offer, but despite the sadness, the poem is very beautiful, and its power largely comes from the way in which sound and meaning flow together through each stanza. Dellius seems to be a rich landowner, and Horace labours the point that there are things that money can’t buy.
The three sisters are the fates, the threads they spin are the destinies of men, Inachus was a legendary king, shaking pebbles in an urn until one popped out was an ancient method of drawing lots and the mariner who sails the boat to everlasting exile is Charon, who ferries dead souls across the River Styx to Hades.
See the illustrated blog post here.
If you would like to compare this poem to others on the theme of “carpe diem”, there is a link to a selection here.
To listen, press play: