Translation copyright 1997-1998 by John T. Quinn.  All rights reserved.

Epode 2

“The fellow’s worth a fortune who, far

    from commerce, cultivates his fathers’

farm with his own oxen & is free

    of usury — like the folk of yore.

“No soldier, summoned to battle by the bugle

    or fearful of a fuming sea,

no plaintiff or haunter of the haughty portals

    of especially-powerful citizens

is the man who marries mature growths

    of grape to poplars he’s pampered

OR watches over his wandering herd

    bellowing in lonely bottomlands

while he saws away worthless scions

    & engrafts the gainful

                   OR hoards

honey from the comb into clean containers

    OR shears his compliant sheep.

“As Autumn hoists its head, adorned with

    fleshy fruits, through fields,

he gloats, gathering prize pears

    & grapes purpler than the pigment

to pay you, Priapus, & you sir,

    Silvanus, protector of property.

The bliss of napping beneath an old oak

    OR on a luxuriant lawn

while water wends between wide banks

    & birds whine in the woods

& fountains fret with splashing spray —

    a summons to soft slumbers!

“When wintry weather threatens with thunder,

    storms & snow, he speeds

into snares (from all sides) boars

    battling a horde of hounds

OR suspends from slender staves the webbing

    widened to fool feeding

figpeckers and ropes the frightened rabbit

    & drifting crane (a delicacy!).

“Living that life, who wouldn’t ignore

    the ills latent in love?

“Should a faithful wife do her fair share

    helping with the home & cherished

children (a Sabine, say, or the sunburned

    bride of an assiduous Apulian)

AND stack seasoned timber on the hearth

    for her tired husband’s return

AND pen yielding ewes within pleachwork

    to drain their distended udders

AND, ladling a lively vintage from the vat,

    prepare an unpurchased repast —

“I’d freely forego the finest oyster

    OR flounder OR scaurfish forced

to these waters when winter blasts

    bolts on Eastern breakers.

African fowl & Greek game-hens hardly

    would settle into my stomach

happier than the odd olive, harvested

    from the orchard’s oiliest offshoot

OR meadow-dwelling sourdock & mallows

    (medicine for a body’s burdens)

OR a lamb slain for a farmers’ festival

    OR a friskling whisked from a wolf.

“How felicitous at such feasts to see fattened

    flocks hurrying homeward,

bone-weary bulls with nodding necks

    pulling an upended plough,

& the worker-bees of a wealthy abode: slaves

    stationed near smiling cult-statues!”

So spoke Alfius, a financier,

    bent on becoming a bumpkin.

Midway through the month, he cashed his capital —

    to float it again on the first.

Epode 3

Whoever puts hands to his elderly parent’s

   windpipe & (wicked!) snaps it,

make him munch garlic, more harmful than hemlock —

   how can hicks consume it?

This is the toxin tormenting my tummy.

   No viper’s venom was slipped

into the vegetable soup. The crone Canidia

   didn’t doctor our dinner.

When General Jason, alone of the Argonauts,

   attracted Medea, she massaged

his beauty with garlic to guard his bridling

   the fire-breathing bulls;

punishing his paramour with garlic-drenched gifts,

   she fled on a flying serpent.

Garlic: more muggy than the dog days

   of dry-assed Apulia,

hotter than the hexed shirt on the shoulders

   of our hero Hercules.

Try such a trick once more, too-merry

   Maecenas, and may the gods grant

that your sweetie slap away your smooches

   & bunk at the bed’s far edge.

Epode 8

You, stinking for a century or so,

   wonder what hamstrings my hard-on,

you & spotty teeth & seams of superannuated

   age furrowing the features

& an anus yawning between arid buttocks

   (compare: a constipated cow).

Certainly your bosom & sagging breasts

   (much like mare’s mammaries)

thrill me. Plus your paunch & thighs

   (thin) on inflated forelegs.

Of social standing: ancestral awards,

   acquired in the army, will festoon your

funeral, and no wife now walks around

   weighted with plumper pearls.

Educated, even: editions of philosophy,

   fond of lying on silken sofas.

But don’t dicks without degrees get taut?

   and professors peter out?

To challenge this reluctant learner, change

   your approach: accept oral assignments.

Epode 11

Pettius, it’s pointless. Again. Attempting

    Poesie while Passion pummels me implacably —

Passion, whose sport is to single me out

     to burn at the glimpse of a glamour-boy or girl.

A trio of Decembers has dashed from the trees

     their finery since my furor for Elsie ended.

The pain, the pangs of being the biggest

     story in the city! Soirees which saw (sorry!)

me mute & moping provided proof:

     guilty of love. And the groans low in my lungs.

“The unstained soul of a pauper is powerless

     compared with cash!” I’d complain, plead to you,

as brazen Bacchus’ blazing booze

     summoned from me, already aflame, my secrets.

“If whines were to welter at will within me

     & heave these bromides (hackneyed banter, no help

for the bitter wound) onto the winds,

     my pride — purged — will bow out of mismatched bouts.”

Such was my solemn flourish, & to your face.

     Warned to head home, I wandered, wobbling

to her doorframe (so unfriendly!) & doorsill

     (so staunch!). Banging on them busted my balls.

Lyciscus preens there’s not a lady his peer

     in prissiness. Lust for the little wolf is worsting me,

& the ample advice of friends, or their frosty

     sarcasm, can’t spring me — only a fresh infatuation

for a girl agleam or a smooth-skinned

     boy braiding back his long locks.

Epode 12

What in the world! Why are you, a woman more meant

      for ebony elephants, mailing me largesse

& love letters? As if I’m a sturdy lad with a stuffed

      nose! No canny canine detects the den of a

boar better than I sniff out the stench of octopus

      or oppressive billy-goat bedded in bristly armpits.

The sweat & rancid smell arising all along

      her mummified members when a penis remains prone

and she races, regardless, to relieve her feral frenzy!

      The finale? a makeup meltdown (drenched foundation

& blush–colored in crocodile crap–blurring), capped

      by the bitch in heat bursting the bedsprings & headboard.

My disgust deepens under the volley of her vicious words:

      “You droop a lot less for Elsie, don’t you?

For Elsie, a triple treat each evening; a solitary stunt

      forever flaccid for me. Curse the cocksucking

cow who sent me a steer instead of the bull I bargained for.

      And Amyntas once was mine, a salacious shepherd

whose crotch (never needing cultivation) flaunted a phallus

      that stood stiffer than a sapling clinging to a crag!

“Pelts of fleece double-dyed in Phoenician purple

      were sent express to no-one except–yes–

you, making you the best-dressed of your drinking buddies,

      the bachelor most doted upon by his darling.

“My good luck is gone! You shun me, like a sheep shying

      from wilful wolves, or antelope avoiding lions.”

Epode 14

“How did it happen? Limp languor imbuing your inmost

       senses with the sort of amnesia

attained by thirsty throats that pound back potions

       delivering death-dreams!”

You murder me, candid Maecenas, with your constant question.

       A god, a god begrudges me

bringing to birth the book of poetry I promised to publish,

       the Epodes started long since.

Suchwise, they say, Anacreon was ablaze for Bathyllus, a boy

       from Samos (offshore his city),

& sang, repeatedly, of love’s sorrows on his resounding lyre,

       reckless of regular rhythm.

You feel the flame. Unfortunate. But if a spark less splendid

       torched trapped Troy,

delight in your doom. I’m scalloped by Phryne, a freed slavegirl

       warm for more than one man.

Epode 15

The setting: midnight; serene sky; moon scintillating,

       surrounded by (smaller) stars.

Soon to gall the grandeur of the glorious gods, you swore —

       more tenaciously than a tall holm-oak

is hemmed inside of ivy, clinging to compliant limbs —

       the formula I’d furnished: “Whilst

the wolf is the flock’s foe & Orion, warlike to old salts,

       worries the wintry waters

& the breeze billows Apollo’s tresses (untouched by a barber),

       so long I lend you my love.”

You’ll know, Neaera, plenty of pain. My pecker’s up.

       A hint of a hero in Horace

won’t allow your awarding nonstop nights to some swell.

       I’ll spite you & seek a soulmate.

Wronged once, I’m rigid & won’t waver before your beauty,

       despite signs of distress.

And you, whoever the hell you are, lucky & lordly

       today as you trample on my travail —

though flush in flocks & a lot of land, though rivers rush

       to give you globules of gold

& the puzzles of reincarnated Pythagoras can’t rattle you

       & pretty-boys, in comparison, are plain —

disaster! Her desire will settle on someone else, & your sobbing

       move me to mirth.

Permission is hereby granted to distribute for classroom use, provided that both the translator and Diotíma are identified in any such use. Other uses not authorized in writing by the translator or in accord with fair use policy are expressly prohibited.