Horace succinctly captures ideal of the carefree life with carpe diem

Translated by A.S Kline

  • Ode I.9: Carpe Diem

  • Leuconoë , don’t ask, we never know, what fate the gods grant us,
  • whether your fate or mine, don’t waste your time on Babylonian,
  • futile, calculations. How much better to suffer what happens,
  • whether Jupiter gives us more winters or this is the last one,
  • one debilitating the Tyrrhenian Sea on opposing cliffs.
  • Be wise, and mix the wine, since time is short: limit that far-reaching hope.
  • The envious moment is flying now, now, while we’re speaking:
  • Seize the day, place in the hours that come as little faith as you can.
  • Ode I.17: The Delights of the Country

  • Swift Faunus, the god, will quite often exchange
  • Arcady for my sweet Mount Lucretilis,
  • and while he stays he protects my goats
  • from the midday heat and the driving rain.
  • The wandering wives of the rank he-goats search,
  • with impunity, through the safe woodland groves,
  • for the hidden arbutus, and thyme,
  • and their kids don’t fear green poisonous snakes,
  • or the wolf of Mars, my lovely Tyndaris,
  • once my Mount Ustica’s long sloping valleys,
  • and its smooth worn rocks, have re-echoed
  • to the music of sweet divine piping.
  • The gods protect me: my love and devotion,
  • and my Muse, are dear to the gods. Here the rich
  • wealth of the countryside’s beauties will
  • flow for you, now, from the horn of plenty.
  • Here you’ll escape from the heat of the dog-star,
  • in secluded valleys, sing of bright Circe,
  • laboring over the Teian lyre,
  • and of Penelope: both loved one man.
  • Here you’ll bring cups of innocent Lesbian
  • wine, under the shade, nor will Semele’s son,
  • that Bacchus, battle it out with Mars,
  • nor shall you fear the intemperate hands
  • of insolent Cyrus, jealously watching,
  • to possess you, girl, unequal to evil,
  • to tear off the garland that clings to
  • your hair, or tear off your innocent clothes.
  • Ode I.30: Ode to Venus

  • O Venus, the queen of Cnidos and Paphos,
  • spurn your beloved Cyprus, and summoned
  • by copious incense, come to the lovely shrine
  • of my Glycera.
  • And let that passionate boy of yours, Cupid,
  • and the Graces with loosened zones, and the Nymphs,
  • and Youth, less lovely without you, hasten here,
  • and Mercury too.



Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 BC), better known as Horace, was one of the greatest poets of all time – and a leading lyricist of Roman poetry. He wrote during the time of Augustus Caesar, who came to his attention after Horace became friends with one of Caesar’s close confidants, Maecenas. Some saw Horace as “a well-mannered court slave,” as English poet John Dryden stated, but others saw in Horace’s poetry an impressive political balancing act between court life and his own druthers for a retired life of independence in the country, as celebrated in Ode I.17 above. Many of his odes were at one time the common stuff of schoolbook Latin exercises, but even today, one phrase from his work has entered into popular use, capturing succinctly the ideal of the carefree life – carpe diem – “Seize the day!”

A.S. Kline is the author and/or translator of the majority of works hosted by Poetry in Translation (https://www.poetryintranslation.com). He was born in 1947 and lives in England. He graduated in Mathematics from the University of Manchester, and was Chief Information Officer (Systems Director) of a large UK Company, before dedicating himself to his literary work and interests. His work consists of translations of poetry; critical works, biographical history with poetry as a central theme; and his own original poetry. He has translated into English from Latin, Ancient Greek, Classical Chinese and the European languages.

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