In this poem, Horace uses two examples from mythology (Diana's asexual love for Hippolytus and Theseus' love for Pirithous) to convince the addressee, Torquatus, to contemplate his own mortality.
Diffugere nives, redeunt iam gramina campis
mutat terra vices et decrescentia ripas
Gratia cum Nymphis geminisque sororibus audet 5
ducere nuda choros.
Inmortalia ne speres, monet annus et almum
quae rapit hora diem.
Frigora mitescunt Zephyris, ver proterit aestas,
interitura simul 10
pomifer autumnus fruges effuderit, et mox
bruma recurrit iners.
Damna tamen celeres reparant caelestia lunae:
nos ubi decidimus
quo pater Aeneas, quo dives Tullus et Ancus, 15
pulvis et umbra sumus.
Quis scit an adiciant hodiernae crastina summae
tempora di superi?
Cuncta manus avidas fugient heredis, amico
quae dederis animo. 20
Cum semel occideris et de te splendida Minos
non, Torquate, genus, non te facundia, non te
infernis neque enim tenebris Diana pudicum 25
nec Lethaea valet Theseus abrumpere caro
--Horace, Carm. IV.7
The snow has melted, the grass has returned to the fields
And leaves have returned to the trees
The earth has changed seasons again
And the ebbing rivers are bubbling along the riverbanks.
One of the Graces dares to lead the dance naked
And her twin sisters and fellow nymphs join her.
Stop hoping for never-ending things;
The [changing] year and the hour that snatches away each life-giving day shows you otherwise.
The cold softens the west-wind,
The summer wears down the spring,
Which in turn will soon pass away.
Bountiful autumn scatters its fruits
And then sterile winter comes back.
The swift [cycles of the] moons restore each season’s damage:
Yet when we drop down [to death]
To where father Aeneas dwells,
Where wealthy Tullus* and Ancus* dwell,
We are only dust and shadow.
Who knows whether the immortal gods will add a tomorrow
To the end of today?
Every hour that you spend with a cheerful outlook
Will not fall into the greedy hands of your heirs.
Torquatus, at some point you will die, and
Minos will make a glorious judgment about your soul**
Your lineage will not save you.
Your eloquence will not save you.
Your character will not save you.
Diana could not save the chaste Hippolytus
From the Underworld,
Nor could Theseus break free Pirithous from
His Stygian chains.
*Tullus Hostilius and Ancus Marcius were legendary kings of early Rome
** According to Greco-Roman mythology, Minos judges the souls of the dead.
Name: Quintus Horatius Flaccus
Date: 65 BCE – 8 BCE
The Latin poet Horace is known for his famous line, “Carpe Diem.” He was an Italian-born poet who lived during the rise and reign of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus. Although his life began with civil unrest and uncertainty (his father was enslaved and later freed during the civil wars of the 1st century BCE), Horace became friends with the influential entrepreneur Maecenas and earned the position in Augustus’ literary circle. His poetry provides valuable insight into the so-called “Golden Age” of Augustan literature.
GOLDEN AGE ROME