Maecenas, son of Etruscan kings, a jar
of mellow wine, that nobody’s touched, awaits
you, at my house, and with rose-petals,
and balsam, for your hair, squeezed from the press.
Escape from what delays you: don’t always be
thinking of moist Tibur, and of Aefula’s
sloping fields, and of the towering heights
of Telegonus, who killed his father.
Forget the fastidiousness of riches,
and those efforts to climb to the lofty clouds,
stop being so amazed by the smoke,
and the wealth, and the noise, of thriving Rome.
A change usually pleases the rich: a meal
that’s simple beneath a poor man’s humble roof,
without the tapestries and purple,
smooths the furrows on a wrinkled forehead.
Already Cepheus, Andromeda’s bright
father, shows his hidden fires, and now Procyon
rages, and Leo’s furious stars,
as the sun returns with his parching days:
Now the shepherd, with his listless flock, searches
for the shade, and the stream and the thickets
of shaggy Silvanus, the silent banks
lack even the breath of a wandering breeze.
You’re worrying about state politics,
and, anxious about the City, you’re fretting
what the Seres, and Bactra, Cyrus
once ruled, and troublesome Don, are plotting.
The wise god buries the future’s outcome deep
in shadowy night, and smiles at those mortals
who are agitated far beyond
what’s sensible. Remember, with calmness,
reconcile yourself to what is: the rest is
carried along like a river, gliding now,
peacefully, in mid-stream, and down
to the Tuscan Sea, now rolling around
polished stones, uprooted trees, the flocks, and homes
together, with the echoes from the mountains,
and the neighbouring woods, while the wild
deluge stirs the peaceful tributaries.
He’s happy, he’s his own master, who can say
each day: ‘I’ve lived: tomorrow, the Father may
fill the heavens with darkening cloud,
or fill the sky with radiant sunshine:
yet he can’t render whatever is past as
null and void, he can never seek to alter,
or return and undo, whatever
the fleeting moment tosses behind it.
Fortune takes delight in her cruel business,
determined to play her extravagant games,
and she alters her fickle esteem,
now kind to me, and, now, to some other.
I praise her while she’s here: but if she flutters
her swift wings, I resign the gifts she gave, wrap
myself in virtue, and woo honest
Poverty, even though she’s no dowry.
When the masts are groaning in African gales,
it’s not for me to ask in wretched prayer,
that my Cyprian and Tyrian
wares should be saved entire not add new wealth
to the greedy sea: and then the light breezes,
Pollux, and Castor his brother, carry me
safely through the stormy Aegean,
all with the aid of my double-oared skiff.