Horace Odes II.10 translated by Maria Frances Cecilia Cowper

Horace. Book II. Ode 10

Sail not too rashly out to sea,
My friend, nor, fearful of the roar
Of winds and waters, hug too close
The rocky shore.

Who loves the golden middle way,
Escapes the poor man’s wants and cares,
Escapes the envious glance that waits
On millionaires.

High towers fall with mightier crash,
With the tall pine more fiercely fights
The tempest : ’tis the mountain tops
The lightning smites.

Fear in good luck, but hope in ill,
Prepared for all that chance may bring
The God that gives us winter now
Will send the Spring.

Misfortune comes not every day;
Apollo clears his brow, and lo !
The sounding lyre takes the place
Of bended bow.

Should difficulties come, be bold
And play the man: should favouring gale
Too kindly blow, be wise in time,
And reef your sails.



The first example is a poem in persona, by a poet supposed to work as a journalist.  It is obviously influenced by Horace.  As the days go by, I’ll add some translation of the master.

Hints From Horace 

The oaks, their last deposit paid of leaves,

still clatter their rheumatic threnodies

to comfort every stranded bankrupt bird.

Flowers in seed lie patient as a bride

waiting anxiously between cold sheets, dumb

to questions of her past.  I too am numb

from talking talking, writing short reviews,

blanked out on magazines and evening news.

It’s not much, as life goes, lived from the neck

up.   Free, at least, if free means at the beck

and call of any editorialist

who wants to prove I never would be missed

were I to get run over by a train.

I’m doing well and really can’t complain,

if a world, which runs on notoriety,

cannot take half a second to notice me.


Let us be patient now and plant our seeds

in the cold ground, waiting for them to bud;

Be kind to one another, make amends,

and celebrate the birthdays of our friends,

put on Ben Jonson for a one-night run,

read Horace in the evening just for fun.

We’ll eat the wheat we can despite the chaff,

and opening the wine we’ll talk and laugh

all night and toast poor old Boethius

biding his time among suspicious Goths.