Here Horace boasts of his lasting fame. Again he tells us that he shall be read far and wide. His tomb will be empty. There will be no body to burn. Instead, he will turn into a swan, as the Greeks believed, and soar far above us.
Some nineteenth-century editors didn't much care for this poem. It seemed too boastful. They could not accept Horace's lack of Christian humility. Bad form, they thought. Perhaps today we would think the same. Humility is so important, but two thousand years ago, this was not boasting at all. This was declaring one's immortality. "Let my name live a thousand years!" This was the cry of Hector, of Achilles, of Beowulf, of all of the ancient heros. This was the ultimate measure of one's worth.
And the poets, because of their ability with words could easily turn themselves into heros. This "boasting" was self-advertising, self-valuing, self-preserving. But today, poets, lonely Emily Dickinsons, have no need of auto-panegyric words. Bad form, bad taste, not New Yorker at all. Today, no poet would ever say what Horace said or like Hafiz write lines like these two:
کلک حافظ شکرین میوه نباتیست بچین
که درین باغ نـبـینی ثمری بهتر از این
Hafiz' pen is the sweet fruit of a tree; pick it,
For in this garden you won't see one better.
آب حـیـوانـش ز مــنـقــار بـلاغــت میـچـکــد
زاغ کلک من بنامیزد چه عالی مشرب است
The water of life from its eloquent beak falls in drops,
My raven pen, by God, what an excellent reservoir! 
Here then is what has fallen from my pen for ode II:20:
By no common feathers, no frail ones will I, poet
and bird, be carried through the liquid ether,
no longer to stay on earth but to leave the envy,
the cities far behind. Not I, of poor parents' blood,
not I, whom you, dear Maecenas, invite in,
shall die or be stopped by the surging River Styx
Now, now, rough skin settles on my legs,
I am changed into a white swan, on my hands,
my shoulders, soft feathers are being born.
Now I, more noted than Icarus of Daedalus,
a singing wing, shall visit the moaning Bosphorus
shores, the dunes of Africa, the northern lands.
Me the Colchus shall come to know, the Dacus, who
pretend to fear the Marsan troops, me, the skillful one,
the Spaniard, the Rhône-drinking Gaul, will learn.
Let there be no dirges, no obscene show of grief,
no weeping friends and family for my empty death.
Hold the cries, and forgo the needless honors of my tomb.
© 2009 by James Rumford
© 2009 by James Rumford
Here is my prose rendition in Latin:
[Ego] vates biformis, penna non usitata nec tenui per aethera liquidum ferar, neque in terris longius morabor, invidiaque maior, urbes relinquam.
Non ego, sanguis parentum pauperum, non ego quem vocas, [o] dilecte Maecenas, obibo, nec unda Stygia cohibebor. Iam iam cruribus pelles asperae residunt et in alitem album mutor, superneque per digitos umerosque plumae leves nascuntur.
Iam Daedaleo Icaro notior, [ego] ales canorus, litora Bosphori gementis, Syrtesque Gaetulas, campos Hyperboreosque visam.
Colchus et Dacus ‹qui metum cohortis Marsae dissimulat› et Geloni ultimi me noscent. Potor Hiber Rhodanique peritus me discet. Absint ‹neniae luctusque turpes et querimoniae› [in] funere inani. Clamorem compesce ac mitte honores sepulcri supervacuos.
[revised March 27, 2015]
Horace's original poem:
Nōn usitātā nec tenuī ferar
pennā biformis per liquidum aethera
vātēs neque in terrīs morābor
longius invidiāque māior
urbıs relinquam. nōn ego pauperum
sanguis parentum, nōn ego quem vocās,
dīlecte Maecēnās, obībō
nec Stygiā cohibēbor undā.
iam iam resīdunt crūribus asperae
pellēs et album mūtor in ālitem
superne nascunturque lēvēs
per digitōs umerōsque plūmae.
iam Daedalēō nōtior īcarō
vīsam gementis lītora Bosphorī
Syrtısque Gaetūlās canōrus
āles Hyperboreōsque campōs.
mē Colchus et quī dissimulat metum
Marsae cohortis Dācus et ultimī
noscent Gelōnī, mē perītus
discet Hiber Rhodanīque pōtor.
absint inānī fūnere nēniae
luctūsque turpēs et querimōniae;
compesce clāmōrem ac sepulcrī
mitte supervacuōs honōrēs.
:: Latin books by James Rumford ::
For all 102 odes purchase Carpe Diem, Horace De-Poetized, for $11.50 at
For a Latin translation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at $12, click here:
To find out more about Carpe Diem go to the blog of March 26, 2015;
for more about Pericla Thomae Sawyer, go to the blog of November 22, 2016.