Friday, September 24, 2021


To a Wine-Jar

Horace, Odes 3.21 (tr. Robert J.M. Lindsay):
O wine-jar, born — like me — when Manlius
Was consul, whether plaints you bring or jest
Or quarreling or insane love-affairs
Or else (kind-hearted jar) just easy rest:

Under whatever name you guard choice Massic
Fit to be broached upon some day benign —
Out of the store! Corvinus gives the order
To bring forth draughts of longer-standing wine.

Although he's soaked in Socrates' discourses,
A cup from you he'll not rudely disdain:
It's said that many a time old Cato's valour
By unslaked cups was heated into flame.

You gently coax the unresponsive spirit;
Unseal the problems of philosophy
And all the wise men's arcane speculations
With drink that sets the human spirit free!

You bring back hope and strength to human hearts,
And on the poor bestow the horns of power;
No longer now before kings' angry crowns
Nor before soldiers' weapons does he cower.

Bacchus shall hold you here, jar; Venus, too,
If she her joyful presence will display;
The graces, slow to break their knot; bright torches;
Till dawn, when Phoebus drives the stars away.

O nata mecum consule Manlio,
seu tu querelas sive geris iocos
    seu rixam et insanos amores
        seu facilem, pia testa, somnum,

quocumque lectum nomine Massicum        5
servas, moveri digna bono die,
    descende, Corvino iubente
        promere languidiora vina.

non ille, quamquam Socraticis madet
sermonibus, te negleget horridus:        10
    narratur et prisci Catonis
        saepe mero caluisse virtus.

tu lene tormentum ingenio admoves
plerumque duro; tu sapientium
    curas et arcanum iocoso        15
        consilium retegis Lyaeo;

tu spem reducis mentibus anxiis,
virisque et addis cornua pauperi
    post te neque iratos trementi
        regum apices neque militum arma.        20

te Liber et, si laeta aderit, Venus
segnesque nodum solvere Gratiae
    vivaeque producent lucernae,
        dum rediens fugat astra Phoebus.
Another translation, by Anthony Hecht:
O mise-en-bouteille in the very year of my birth
And Manlius' consulship, celestial spirits,
Instinct with ardors, slugfests, the sighs of lovers,
Hilarity and effortless sleep, whatever,
Campanian harvest, well-sealed special reserve
For some fine and festive holiday, descend
From your high cellarage, since my friend, Corvinus,
A connoisseur, has called for a more mature wine.
Soaked though he be in vintage Socratic wisdom,
He's not going to snub you. For even Cato the Elder,
All Roman rectitude, would warm to a drink.

You limber the dullard's faculties with your proddings;
With Bacchus the Trickster you break through careful discretion,
Making even the politic say what they mean.
You resurrect hope in the most dejected of minds;
To the poor and weak you lend such measure of courage
As after a single gulp allays their palsy
When faced with the wrath of monarchs, or unsheathed weapons.
Bacchus and Venus (if she will condescend),
The arm-linked Graces in unclad sorority,
And vigil lamps will honor you all night long
Till Phoebus, with punctual bustle, banishes starlight.
Wine from Horace's birthplace, Venusia:
Greek Anthology 5.134 (by Posidippus; tr. W.R. Paton):
Shower on us, O Attic jug, the dewy rain of Bacchus; shower it and refresh our merry picnic. Let Zeno, the learned swan, be kept silent, and Cleanthes' Muse, and let our converse be of Love the bitter-sweet.

Κεκροπί, ῥαῖνε, λάγυνε, πολύδροσον ἰκμάδα Βάκχου,
    ῥαῖνε· δροσιζέσθω συμβολικὴ πρόποσις.
σιγάσθω Ζήνων, ὁ σοφὸς κύκνος, ἅ τε Κλεάνθους
    Μοῦσα· μέλοι δ᾽ ἡμῖν ὁ γλυκύπικρος Ἔρως.

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