Poems of the Week


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.


Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.

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