I haven’t translated or given Horace’s Odes very much attention since I was an undergrad. But this week I’ve been drawn back to his poetry. I offer my translation of Ode 1.11, one of his famous Carpe Diem poems which embrace Epicurean philosophy.
May you not seek to know, for to know is not right,
what end the gods might give to you or to me,
Leuconoe*, and may you not probe the Babylonian
astrologers either. How much better to endure
whatever will be, regardless of whether or not Jupiter
has alloted for us many winters or one last winter, a season
which weakens the Tyrrhenian sea with its opposing rocks:
May you be wise, may you strain your wine*, and because
of a brief life, may you cut back a long hope. While
we speak, envious time flees: embrace the day,
believing in the future as little as possible.
*Leucone is from the Ancient Greek adjective λευκός (leukos) meaning light, bright, clear. In relation to days it means bright, special, happy.
*vina liques, “May you strain your wine.” Before drinking it, wine was strained through a cloth or strainer to remove the sediment.
For the extra curious, here is Horace’s Latin text:
Tu ne quesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. Ut melius, quidquid erit, pati,
seu pluris hiems eu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositis debilitate pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum: spias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.