Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Little Gods

Horace, Odes 3.23 (tr. David West):
If when the moon is being born you lift your hands
upturned towards the sky, rustic Phidyle,
  if you placate the Lares with incense,
    this year's grain, and a greedy pig,

your vine will be fertile and not feel the wind        5
which brings disease from Africa, nor will your crop know
  the blight of mildew nor your lovely suckling beasts
    a time of danger when the year bears fruit.

The sacrificial victim feeding
on snowy Algidus among oak and ilex        10
  or fattening in the Alban grasslands,
    will stain the axes of priests

with blood from its neck. There is no call for you
to ply your little gods with great killings
  of yearlings. Just crown them        15
    with rosemary or brittle sprigs of myrtle.

If your empty hand touches the altar, it is
more persuasive for offering no costly victim,
  and appeases angry Penates
    with consecrated grain and crackling salt.        20

Caelo supinas si tuleris manus
nascente Luna, rustica Phidyle,
  si ture placaris et horna
    fruge Lares avidaque porca,

nec pestilentem sentiet Africum        5
fecunda vitis nec sterilem seges
  robiginem aut dulces alumni
    pomifero grave tempus anno.

nam quae nivali pascitur Algido
devota quercus inter et ilices        10
  aut crescit Albanis in herbis
    victima, pontificum securis

cervice tinguet: te nihil attinet
temptare multa caede bidentium
  parvos coronantem marino        15
    rore deos fragilique myrto.

immunis aram si tetigit manus,
non sumptuosa blandior hostia,
  mollivit aversos Penatis
    farre pio et saliente mica.        20

William Blake Richmond (1842-1921), Phidyle

Boy praying with upturned hands
(Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Antikensammlung)

Lararium (Pompeii, House of the Vettii)

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