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Vintage Stuff

After Horace, Odes, 3, 21

The year that Manlius was consul was a good year.
I was born; this handsome jar was made,
to store the harvest of that distant summer: Massic.

It’s a wine of unpredictable effect.
It makes some people maudlin.
Some find everything hilarious.
Some get quarrelsome.
You might fall madly, hopelessly in love
or sound asleep.

Whichever way it takes you,
Massic is reserved for special days. Today the jar is coming off the shelf.
Corvinus has commanded me to bring out something mellower.
Socratic dialogue may be his idea of a conversation;
he won’t turn his nose up at a drop of this.
Cato was one of the old school; even his stiff virtue,
so they say, was often warmed with wine.

Unbending characters will generally bend
when wine applies a little gentle pressure;
sensible souls, when Bacchus makes them merry,
have a habit of disclosing secret thoughts and cares;
hope returns to troubled minds;
the poor man’s strength and courage are restored
and, with a drink inside him, he can face
the rage of overbearing tyrants without trembling;
soldiers with their weapons drawn won’t make him even flinch.

So light the lamps. A wine as good as this attracts exalted company.
Liber, god of wine himself, is coming.
The delightful Venus, if we’re lucky, might look in,
plus all three Graces — those girls stick together.
Let’s get this party started; and we’ll keep it up
until returning Phoebus puts the stars to flight.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by Peter Hetherington

Horace, Odes, 3, 21

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

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

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

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

tu spem reducis mentibus anxiis,
viresque et addis cornua pauperi,
  post te neque iratos trementi
    regum apices neque militum arma.
te Liber et si laeta aderit Venus
segnesque nodum solvere Gratiae
  vivaeque producent lucernae,
    dum rediens fugat astra Phoebus.