Ode 2.10

By Horace

You’ll live a better life, Licinius,
not always braving the open ocean or,
too scared of storms, always hugging close
to the rough shore.

Whoever loves and respects the Golden Mean
lives safe — his roof will never let the rains in —
lives modest, unbegrudged for his obscene
and gaudy mansion.

Often the tallest pines writhe in the wind’s teeth;
the loftiest towers fall with the loudest crash;
the tops of mountains are blasted most beneath
the lightning’s flash.

The man with a heart prepared by philosophy
in bad times hopes for, and in good times fears,
a change of fortune. Jupiter blots the sky;
the same god clears

the clouds away. If life’s hard now, it’s not
forever: sometimes Apollo stirs the silent
Muse with music; his bow’s not always taut
or his mind violent.

In tight times, spread your canvas; be full of bluff
and bluster. But if you’re wise, in good luck’s gales
you’ll reef it in, so too much wind won’t puff
your swollen sails.


First published in Eidolon, and soon to appear in Penguin Classics' Greek and Latin Lyric Poetry.

Translated by Christopher Childers, a poet and translator living in Baltimore, MD. His anthology in translation, The Penguin Book of Greek and Latin Lyric Verse, is forthcoming from Penguin Classics in 2022.