Saturday, October 03, 2009

II. 16 - Horace

When storm clouds closing in darken the sea
and cover the moon and hide the stars that might
have guided him across rough waters, the sailor
prays for peace;

the battle-weary Thracians pray for peace,
the Parthians with their fancy daggers
pray for peace, but peace cannot be bought
with purple, gold or gems;

and peace cannot be won with rank or money,
neither one can ease the soul's distress,
the worries and the nagging fears that flit
about in paneled rooms.

A man can please himself with little, a salt dish
handed down for generations can gleam upon
his table, and his sleep will not be ruined by
the sordidness of greed.

So why do we waste our time chasing down
possessions? Why do we leave home and head south
to a foreign land, a foreign sun? Who really
can escape himself?

Troubles leap aboard the rich man's brigantine,
outruns the fastest horse, the nimblest deer,
is swifter than Eurus, the bad-weather wind
responsible for storms.

We should be happy in the here and now
and unconcerned with what the future holds;
we should blunt the edge of sorrow with a smile.
There is no perfect joy.

Achilles met with death when he was young,
Tithonus lived on to be the shadow of
his former self; and fate might give to me
what it withholds from you.

Your fields are filled with lowing herds of prime
Sicilian cattle, and from your stable you
can hear the whinnies of your racing mare;
the clothes you have are made

of wool twice-dyed in African purple, whereas
it is my lot to have a smallish house,
a gift for turning Greek verse into Latin,
and scorn for the envious.

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