»  Horace's ode "Vixi Puellis"


The ode "Vixi Puellis"

by Horace, 65–8 b.c.


•  Background

Since I'm doing Horace's greatest hits, I can't very well leave out Vixi Puellis.

William Young Sellar in the entry on Horace he wrote for the 1911 Britannica:

There is indeed nothing more remarkable in Horace than the independence, or rather the self-dependence, of his character … His love poems, when compared with those of Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius, show that he never, in his mature years at least, allowed his peace of mind to be at the mercy of any one. They are the expressions of a fine and subtle and often a humorous observation rather than of ardent feeling. There is perhaps a touch of pathos in his reference in the Odes to the early death of Cinara, but the epithet he applies to her in the Epistles, Quem scis immunem Cinarae placuisse rapaci, shows that the pain of thinking of her could not have been very heartfelt. ["Whom, you know, though empty-handed, pleased greedy Cinara." Horace is contrasting the simplicity of his mature years with the more voluptuous tastes of his youth. This Cinara, incidentally, is the one in the title of Ernest Dowson's celebrated poem, that title itself lifted from the first stanza of Horace's Ode 1 in Book 4. — J.D.]  Even when the Odes addressed to real or imaginary beauties are most genuine in feeling, they are more the artistic rekindling of extinct fires than the utterance of recent passion.

This is Ode 26 from Book 3 of the Odes. Its meter, like that of Eheu fugaces, is Alcaic.

I've presented the Latin with C.E. Bennett's translation for the 1914 Loeb edition alongside.

•  Notes

"sea-born Venus" — Venus, according to legend, sprang from the sea and first made landfall at Paphos in Cyprus (which, as the commercial crossroads of the eastern Mediterranean, was famously wealthy). Her cult was prevalent all over the Mediterranean. One of her grandest temples was at Memphis in Egypt.

"Thracian snows" — the aforementioned places, and by extension the shrines of Venus (he is flattering her), are in warm, sunlit climes. Sithonia is one of the three sub-peninsulas of the Chalcidice peninsula in northeastern Greece.

"Chloë" — some generic faithless woman.


•  Play the reading


•  Text of the poem

Vixi Puellis nuper idoneus
et militavi non sine gloria;
    nunc arma defunctumque bello
        barbiton hic paries habebit,
Till recently I lived fit for Love's battles and served not without renown. Now this wall that guards the left side of sea-born Venus shall have my weapons and the lyre that has done with wars. Here, O here, offer up the shining tapers and the levers and the axes that threaten opposing doors!
laevum marinae qui Veneris latus
custodit. hic, hic ponite lucida
    funalia et vectes securesque
        oppositis foribus minaces.
o quae beatam diva tenes Cyprum et
Memphin carentem Sithonia nive,
    regina, sublimi flagello
        tange Chloen semel arrogantem.
O goddess queen that holdest wealthy Cyprus and Memphis, free from Thracian snows, touch with thine uplifted lash, if only once, the haughty Chloë!