A famous ode, beautiful, but definitely from the glummer end of the “carpe diem” spectrum. It is very allusive: Geryon was a giant with three bodies; Tityos another giant whose liver was eternally eaten in Hades by two eagles; Cocytos, one of the underworld’s rivers; the Danaids, fifty sisters of whom all but one murdered their husbands on the wedding night; Sisyphus, a king condemned in Hades forever to push a boulder up a mountain, only for it to roll back down every time he neared the top; cypress trees were sacred to Pluto and were thought gloomy.
Is there a subtext? Is there half a hint that Horace thinks Postumus a bit too smug in the enjoyment of his estate, his house, his charming wife and his tree collection? Might the reference to Geryon and his three bodies imply that Postumus had put on a bit of weight? Could the exaggeratedly locked cellar in the last stanza mean that Horace was unimpressed by the wine served to guests at Postumus’s? It would be nice to think so, but safer to regard the poem as an accomplished variation on an established literary theme.
See the blog post with a picture of the daughters of Danaus here.
To hear the Latin, press play: