Ode II-XVI “Otium”

Quintus Horatius Flaccus

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In this lyrical ode echoing many traditional Epicurean themes, Horace tells us that “otium” or peace is to be valued above wealth or power:

Otium divos rogat in patenti
prensus Aegaeo, simul atra nubes
condidit lunam neque certa fulgent
sidera nautis;
Peace the sailor prays, caught in a storm on the open Aegean, when dark-clad clouds have hid the moon and the stars shine no longer certain;

otium bello furiosa Thrace,
otium Medi pharetra decori,
Grosphe, non gemmis neque purpura ve-
nale neque auro.
Peace prays Thrace furious in war; peace prays the Mede with quiver richly adorned; peace Grosphus, that cannot be bought with gems nor with purple nor with gold.

non enim gazae neque consularis
summovet lictor miseros tumultus
mentis et curas laqueata circum
tecta volantes.
It isn't treasure nor even the consul's lictor that can banish the soul's miserable tumults and the cares that fly unseen about the paneled ceilings.

vivitur parvo bene, cui paternum
splendet in mensa tenui salinum
nec leves somnos timor aut cupido
sordidus aufert.
He lives happily on a little, on whose frugal table shines the ancestral salt-dish, and whose soft slumbers are not carried away by fear or sordid greed.

quid brevi tortes iaculamur aevo
multa? quid terras alio calentes
sole mutamus? patriae quis exsul
se quoque fugit?
Why do we strive so hard in our brief lives for great possessions? Why do we change our country for climes warmed by a different sun? What exile from his fatherland ever escaped himself as well?

scandit aeratas vitiosa naves
cura nec turmas equitum relinquit,
ocior cervis et agente nimbos
ocior Euro.
Care mounts even the brass-bound galley nor fails to leave behind the troops of horse, swifter than stags, swifter than Eurus when he drives the storm before him.

laetus in praesens animus quod ultra est
oderit curare et amara lento
temperet risu. nihil est ab omni
parte beatum.
Joyful let the soul be in the present, let it disdain to trouble about what is beyond and temper bitterness with a laugh. Nothing is blessed forever.

abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus;
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
porriget hora.
Achilles for all his glory was quickly snatched away by death; Tithonus, though living longer into old age, shrank away; and to me perhaps the passing hour will grant what it denies to you.

te greges centum Siculaeque circum
mugiunt vaccae, tibi tollit hinnitum
apta quadrigis equa, te bis Afro
murice tinctae
Around you moo a hundred herds of Sicilian cows; in your stables whinnies the racing-mare; in wool twice-dipped in African purple

vestiunt lanae; mihi parva rura et
spiritum Graiae tenuem Camenae
Parca non mendax dedit et malignum
spernere vulgus.
you are dressed. To me Fate that does not belie her name has given a small domain, the fine breath of Muses' Grecian song, and the spiteful crowd to spurn.