by Horace


Let the wicked be led by omens of screeching
from owls, by pregnant dogs, or a grey-she wolf,
hurrying down from Lanuvian meadows,
or a fox with young:

May a snake disturb the journey they’ve started,
terrifying the ponies like an arrow
flashing across the road: but I far-seeing
augur, with prayer

for him whom I’m fearful for, out of the east
I’ll call up the ominous raven, before
the bird that divines the imminent showers
seeks standing water.

Galatea, wherever you choose to live
may you be happy, and live in thought of me:
no woodpecker on your left, or errant crow
to bar your going.

But see, with what storms flickering Orion
is setting. I know how the Adriatic’s
black gulf can be, and how the bright westerly
wind commits its sins.

Let the wives and children of our enemy
feel the blind force of the rising southerly,
and the thunder of the dark waters, the shores
trembling at the blow.

So, Europa entrusted her snow-white form
to the bull’s deceit, and the brave girl grew pale,
at the sea alive with monsters, the dangers
of the deep ocean.

Leaving the meadow, where, lost among flowers,
she was weaving a garland owed to the Nymphs,
now, in the luminous night, she saw nothing
but water and stars.

As soon as she reached the shores of Crete, mighty
with its hundred cities, she cried: ‘O father,
I’ve lost the name of daughter, my piety
conquered by fury.

Where have I come from, where am I going? One
death is too few for a virgin’s sin. Am I
awake, weeping a vile act, or free from guilt,
mocked by a phantom,

that fleeing, false, from the ivory gate brings
only a dream? Is it not better to pick
fresh flowers than to go travelling over
the breadths of the sea?

If anyone now could deliver that foul
beast to my anger, I’d attempt to wound it
with steel, and shatter the horns of that monster,
the one I once loved.

I’m shameless, I’ve abandoned my country’s gods,
I’m shameless, I keep Orcus waiting. O if
one of the gods can hear, I wish I might walk
naked with lions!

Before vile leanness hollows my lovely cheeks,
and the juices ebb in this tender victim,
while I am still beautiful, I’ll seek to be
food for the tigers.

My absent father urges me on: ‘Why wait
to die, worthless Europa? Happily you
can hang by the neck from this ash-tree: use
the sash that’s with you.

Or if cliffs and the sharpened rocks attract you,
as a means of death, put your trust in the speed
of the wind, unless you’d rather be carding
some mistress’s wool,

you, of royal blood, be handed over, as
concubine to a barbarous queen.’ She moaned:
Venus was laughing, treacherously, with her
son, his bow unstrung.

When she’d toyed enough with her, she said: ‘Refrain
from anger and burning passion, when the bull,
you hate, yields you his horns again, so that you
can start to wound them.

Don’t you know you’re invincible Jupiter’s
wife. Stop your sobbing, and learn to carry your
good fortune well: a continent of the Earth
will be named for you.

Last updated May 19, 2019