Odes 3.20

The tug-of-war for Nearchus

by Horace

Horace warns Pyrrhus that the lady from whom he has stolen the gorgeous Nearchus will be coming after him. In the last stanza, Nireus was the man described in Homer’s Iliad as the most beautiful of the Greeks after Achilles, and the boy “snatched from well-watered Ida” (by Jupiter) was Ganymede.

Metre: Sapphic

See the illustrated blog post 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.

Non vides quanto moveas periclo,
Pyrrhe, Gaetulae catulos leaenae?
dura post paulo fugies inaudax
proelia raptor,

cum per obstantis iuvenum catervas
ibit insignem repetens Nearchum:
grande certamen tibi praeda cedat
maior, an illi.

interim, dum tu celeris sagittas
promis, haec dentes acuit timendos,
arbiter pugnae posuisse nudo
sub pede palmam

fertur, et leni recreare vento
sparsum odoratis umerum capillis,
qualis aut Nireus fuit aut aquosa
raptus ab Ida.

Don’t you see at what great risk, Pyrrhus, you interfere with the cubs of an African lioness? Before long you’ll be running like a crestfallen burglar from an all-in fight,

when she comes straight through the crowds of young hunters in her way, after her gorgeous Nearchus. The contest, and whether the booty goes to you or her, will be hard to call.

In the meantime, while you get out your arrows and she sharpens her terrifying teeth, the person who will decide the winner has got the prize under his bare foot,

they say, and is revelling in the gentle breeze on his shoulders, spread with his fragrant hair, as lovely as Nireus or the lad who was snatched from well-watered Ida.