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Maecenas’ Birthday

After Horace Odes, 4, 11

Phyllis, this jar of Alban wine is nine years old (at least!);
there’s parsley in the garden, good for weaving garlands,
and lots of ivy: you can tie your hair back; you’ll look beautiful.

The silver’s polished, and the altar’s dressed with holy leaves;
it only needs the lamb we’ll sacrifice to splatter it with blood.

The household’s busy busy, with my boys and girls all rushing in and out;
black smoke rolls up the chimney from the leaping flames.

In case you’re wondering what the party is you’ve been invited to:
April, the month of Venus, born from the waves, is halfway through.
Today’s a special day: more special, almost, than my own birthday. Why?
From dawn today my friend Maecenas adds another year to his abundant store.

Now listen. You fancy Telephus, I know. But he’s beyond you.
He’s been tied down by another girl, who’s rich and sexy; and he likes it.
You know how Phaëton burnt his fingers
when he drove his father’s chariot; be warned.
Or what about Bellerophon,
who came a cropper riding wingèd Pegasus?
He learnt a painful lesson, but it brought him down to earth.
Be realistic. He’s not right for you.
Don’t eat your heart out over someone you can’t have.

Come here. You’re not my latest lover; you’re my last.
No other woman, after you, could light my fire.
So how about a song? You’ve got a gorgeous voice.
What do you say? You know how singing drives the blues away.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by Peter Hetherington

Horace, Odes, 4, 11

Est mihi nonum superantis annum
plenus Albani cadus; est in horto,
Phylli, nectendis apium coronis;
  est hederae vis

multa, qua crinis religata fulges;
ridet argento domus; ara castis
vincta verbenis avet immolato
  spargier agno;

cuncta festinat manus, huc et illuc
cursitant mixtae pueris puellae;
sordidum flammae trepidant rotantes
  vertice fumum.

ut tamen noris quibus advoceris
gaudiis, Idus tibi sunt agendae,
qui dies mensem Veneris marinae
  findit Aprilem,

iure sollemnis mihi sanctiorque
paene natali proprio, quod ex hac
luce Maecenas meus adfluentes
  ordinat annos.

Telephum, quem tu petis, occupavit
non tuae sortis iuvenem puella
dives et lasciva tenetque grata
  compede vinctum.

terret ambustus Phaëthon avaras
spes, et exemplum grave praebet ales
Pegasus terrenum equitem gravatus

semper ut te digna sequare et ultra
quam licet sperare nefas putando
disparem vites. age iam, meorum
  finis amorum,

(non enim posthac alia calebo
femina) condisce modos, amanda
voce quos reddas: minuentur atrae
  carmine curae.