Odes 1.9


by Horace

An older man advises a young one to live for the moment and enjoy youth while it lasts. Over the first two stanzas, there are many contrasts and transitions: outside to in; cold to warmth; frozen to flowing; vast and uncontrollable nature to human scale, comfort and intimacy. The second half is a tribute to youth and love. Young Thaliarchus (real or imagined, his name is Greek) must enjoy them while he can. Mount Soracte is twenty-odd miles north of Rome. The poem is on the conventional theme of “carpe diem” (not only “seize” the day, but also “pluck” it like a flower).

Metre: Alcaic

See the blog post with a snow scene by Hiroshige here.

To listen, press play:

To scroll the original and English translation of the poem at the same time - tap inside one box to select it and then scroll.

Vides, ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte, nec iam sustineant onus
silvae laborantes geluque
flumina constiterint acuto.

dissolve frigus ligna super foco
large reponens, atque benignius
deprome quadrimum Sabina,
o Thaliarche, merum diota.

permitte divis cetera, qui simul
stravere ventos aequore fervido
deproeliantes, nec cupressi
nec veteres agitantur orni.

quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere et,
quem Fors dierum cunque dabit, lucro
appone, nec dulces amores
sperne puer neque tu choreas,

donec virenti canities abest
morosa. Nunc et campus et areae
lenesque sub noctem susurri
composita repetentur hora,

nunc et latentis proditor intimo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo
pignusque dereptum lacertis
aut digito male pertinaci.

You see, how Soracte stands white with the deep snow,
and how the labouring woods can no longer bear their burden,
and the rivers have seized up with the sharp frost.

Melt away the cold, piling more logs right across the hearth, pour the four-year wine more generously, Thaliarchus, from the two-eared Sabine jar.

Leave the rest to the gods, who all at once have calmed
the winds battling on the boiling sea, and the cypresses
and the ancient elms are tossed no longer.

What may be tomorrow, take care not to ask – whatever
kind of day Fortune brings, put it down as profit, and don’t
turn down sweet loves and dances while you are young,

while there are no grim grey hairs on you in your green
prime. Now the training ground and the town squares,
and gentle murmurs in the night at assignation time are
what you should be after,

and the welcome laughter of the hiding girl betraying her presence from her snug corner, and the token snatched from her shoulders or her ineffectually resisting finger.