Horace Translated by John Adams
From Garrison Keillor in today's edition of The Writer's Almanac I learned that today was the Roman poet's birthday and that he could count America's second president among his translators. "The translation from Horace will show, to advantage, Mr Adams’s manner in a lighter measure," said the editor os 1829's Specimens of American Poetry, in which the above was published — Translation of an Ode of Horace by John Adams (1705–1740):
- MÆCENAS, whose ennobled veins
The blood of ancient monarchs stains;
My safeguard, beauty and delight.
Some love the chariot’s rapid flight,
To whirl along the dusty ground,
Till with Olympic honors crown’d:
And if their fiery coursers tend
Beyond the goal, they shall ascend
In merit, equal to the gods,
Who people the sublime abodes;
Others, if mingled shouts proclaim
Of jarring citizens their name,
Exalted to some higher post,
Are in the clouds of rapture lost.
This, if his granary contain
In crowded heaps the ripen’d grain,
Rejoicing his paternal field
To plough, a future crop to yield;
In vain his timorous soul you’d move
Though endless sums his choice should prove,
To leave the safety of the land,
And trust him to the wind’s command.
The trembling sailor, when the blue
And boisterous deep his thoughts pursue,
Fearful of tempests, dreads his gain
To venture o’er the threatening main:
But loves the shades and peaceful town
Where joy and quiet dwell alone.
But when impatient to be poor,
His flying vessels leave the shore.
Others the present hour will seize,
And less for business are than ease;
But flowing cups of wine desire,
Which scatter grief, and joy inspire;
Joyful they quaff, and spread their limbs
Along the banks of murm’ring streams,
While trees which shoot their tow’ring heads,
Protect them with their cooling shades.
Some love the camp and furious war,
Where nations, met with nations, jar;
The noise of victors, and the cries
Of vanquish’d, which assault the skies,
While at the trumpet’s piercing ring
Their mounting spirits vigorous spring;
When fainting matrons in a swound,
Receive the martial music’s sound.
The morning hunter seeks his prey,
Though chill’d by heaven’s inclemency
Forgets his house: with dogs pursues
The flying stag in her purlieus.
Or his entangling net contains
The foaming boar in ropy chains.
But me the ivy wreaths which spread
Their blooming honors round the head
Of learned bards, in raptures raise,
And with the gods unite in praise.
The coolness of the rural scenes,
The smiling flowers and evergreens,
And sportful dances, all inspire
My soul with more than vulgar fire.
If sweet Euterpe give her flute,
And Polyhymnia lend her lute—
If you the deathless bays bestow,
And by applauses make them grow,
Toward the stars my winged fame
Shall fly, and strike the heavenly frame.