Horace alone makes the study of Latin important. Seeing and understanding my blazing youth, one of my Latin teachers gave me a volume of the Epodes and Odes that Horace wrote later in life. Ode 1.4 about the coming of spring confronts a common theme in Horace: the brevity of life. Glow; be you; not tomorrow; here and now.
Horace, Ode 1.4
Harsh winter melts by the welcome turn of spring and of a zephyr,
and the winches launch the dry hulls into the sea;
no longer do the cattle delight in pens, nor the ploughman by his fire,
nor do the meadows glisten with chalky frost.
Venus of Cythera leads the choruses while the moon dangles in the sky,
and the seemly Graces, hand in hand with nymphs,
beat the earth with alternating feet, while fiery Vulcan
minds the Cyclopes’ mighty workshops.
Now is the time to entwine shining heads with youthful myrtle
or a bloom, which the softened earth bears forth;
Now, too, is the time to sacrifice to Faunus in shaded groves,
whether he requests a ewe or is in the mood for a kid.
Death, pale, pounds an undiscerning foot on the cabins of the poor
and on the towers of kings. O Sestius, you flourish.
But the brief sum of life forbids that we perfect a far-off dream;
Night will soon embrace you, the phantom shades of fable,
Pluto’s meager abode; once you are there,
neither will you attain the lordship of the wine by dice,
nor you gaze at tender Lycidas, for whom every boy glows
now, and soon the virgins will be burning for him.
Solvitur acris hiems grata vice veris et Favoni
trahuntque siccas machinae carinas
ac neque iam stabulis gaudet pecus aut arator igni
nec prata canis albicant pruinis.
iam Cytherea choros ducit Venus imminente luna
iunctaeque Nymphis Gratiae decentes
alterno terram quatiunt pede, dum gravis Cyclopum
Volcanus ardens visit officinas.
nunc decet aut viridi nitidum caput impedire myrto
aut flore, terrae quem ferunt solutae,
nunc et in umbrosis Fauno decet immolare lucis,
seu poscat agna sive malit haedo.
pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
regumque turris. o beate Sesti,
vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam;
iam te premet nox fabulaeque Manes
et domus exilis Plutonia; quo simul mearis,
nec regna vini sortiere talis
nec tenerum Lycidan mirabere, quo calet iuventus
nunc omnis et mox virgines tepebunt.