This ode is the appropriate epilogue to the Fourth Book,of which the poems that celebrate the Roman victories under Drusus and Tiberius constitute the noblest portion. If it be true that the book was published on account of these odes, and at the desire of Augustus, Horace would naturally conclude by a special reference to the beneficial issues of the wars undertaken by Augustus, and from the final completion of which in Gaul, Germany, and Spain, he had just returned to Rome. Horace here begins by saying, that when he wished to sing of those wars Phoebus checked him. But Phoebus does not forbid him to sing the triumphs of peace; and, with a lively lyrical abruptness, he therefore at once bursts forth: — “Tua, Caesar aetas Fruges et agris . . . ”
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 104, August 1868
The foregoing unauthored article from Blackwood’s says it all. Even so, I am now going to make a mountain out of a mole hill.
Nowhere have I seen a discussion about the last five lines. Everyone seems to understand them, but I don’t. Does duces in line 29
virtute functos more patrum duces
leaders by manliness exhibited
in the fashion of [our] fathers
refer to nos ‘us’ [line 25], making us the leaders who exhibit manliness like our fathers?
Or is duces an object of apprecati [line 28], meaning we worship not only the gods but also the leaders?
Or is duces an object of canemus [line 32], meaning that we sing of the leaders as well as of Troy, Anchises and Venus?
There are problems with each of these possibilities. It is doubtful that Horace thinks of himself as a leader. I haven’t seen him act so bold, although he comes across as one who knows best for his people, a kind of poet-prophet. The second possibility has merit, but editors put a comma after apprecati, thus making it unlikely that we worship the leaders as well as the gods. The third possibility works until we realize that it is far removed form the verb canemus. In my translation, I am going to leave the ambiguity.
The Tyrrhenian Sea is off the western coast of Italy.
The Tanais is the River Don in Russia.
Anchises was a Trojan and Venus’ mortal lover. It was he whom Aeneas carried on his shoulders out of the burning city of Troy.
The Getae are a Tracian tribe living on the Danube in what is modern Rumania.
The Julian Edicts were August Caesar’s laws and policies, which helped enforce pax Romana.
The Ianus Quirinus was a temple or arch that was closed when there were no on-going wars. The Ianus Quirinus was closed only five times in Roman history, three of which occured during Augustus Caesar’s reign.
Apollo, when I wanted to speak of
battles and cities won, sounded his lyre
that I not set my little sail to cross
the Tuscan Sea. Your era, O Caesar,
has brought back fruitful and abundant fields,
has restored to our god insignia
ripped from the arrogant doorways of the
Persians, has closed the Quirini Temple
now empty of war and has seized the reins
of correct order because of errant
lawlessness and driven away misdeeds
and invited back the veteran arts
by which the name of Latinum and the
strength and fame of Italy have grown with
the majesty of the empire stretching
to the rising sun from its western bed.
With Caesar custodian of the State,
civil anger and strife will not drive off
repose, and ire, which pounds out swords,
won’t make enemies of wretched cities.
Those who drink the deep Danube will not break
the Julian Edicts, not the Getae,
the Chinese or the faithless Persians, not
those arising around the River Don.
And we these days both profane and sacred,
amidst the gifts of joyous Bacchus, with
our children and our wives, first worshipping
the gods according to what is custom,
leaders showing manliness as did our
fathers, by the Lydian flutes mixed with
song, sing of Troy and Anchises and of
the progeny of bountiful Venus.
translation © 2010 by James Rumford
Phoebus, ‹me volentem proelia et urbes victas loqui,› lyra increpuit, ne per aequor Tyrrhenum vela parva darem.
[O] Caesar, aetas tua ‹et fruges uberes [ex] agris› rettulit ‹et signa postibus superbis Parthorum derepta Iovi nostro› restituit ‹et ianum Quirini duellis vacuum› clausit et ‹frena licentiae ordinem rectum evaganti› iniecit, ‹culpasque emovit et artes veteres› revocavit, ‹per quas nomen Latinum et vires famaque Italae crever[unt] et maiestas imperi ad ortus solis ab Hesperio cubili porrecta [sunt]›.Caesare rerum custode, furor civilis aut vis otium non exiget, et ira, quae enses procudit, urbes miseras non inimicat. [Is] qui Danuvium profundum bibunt edicta Iulia non rumpent, non Getae, non Seres Persaeque infidive, non prope flumen Tanain orti. Nosque et lucibus profestis et sacris inter munera Liberi iocosi cum prole matronisque nostris, prius deos rite apprecati, more patrum duces virtue functos, carmine tibiis Lydis remixto, Troiamque et Anchisen et progeniem Veneris almae canemus. [revised March 28, 2015]
Phoebus volentem proelia mē loquī
victās et urbıs increpuit lyrā,
nē parva Tyrrhēnum per aequor
vēla darem. tua Caesar, aetās
frūgēs et agrīs rettulit ūberēs
et signa nostrō restituit Iovī
dērepta Parthōrum superbīs
postibus et vacuum duellīs
Iānum Quirīnī clausit et ordinem
rectum ēvagantī frēna licentiae
iniēcit ēmōvitque culpās
et veterēs revocāvit artıs
per quās Latīnum nōmen et ītalae
crevēre vīrēs fāmaque et imperī
porrecta māiestās ad ortus
sōlis ab Hesperiō cubīlī.
custōde rērum Caesare nōn furor
cīvīlis aut vīs exiget ōtium,
nōn īra, quae prōcūdit ensıs
et mīserās inimīcat urbıs.
nōn quī profundum Dānuvium bibunt
ēdicta rumpent Iūlia, nōn Getae,
nōn Sēres infīdīve Persae,
nōn Tanaīn prope flūmen ortī.
nōsque et profestīs lūcibus et sǎcrīs
inter iocōsī mūnera Līberī
cum prōle mātrōnīsque nostrīs
rīte deōs prius apprecātī,
virtūte functōs mōre pǎtrum ducēs
Lȳdīs remixtō carmine tībiīs
Trōiamque et Anchīsen et almae
prōgeniem Veneris canēmus.
:: Latin books by James Rumford ::
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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.