Ode 1.24 - To vergil on the Death of Quintilius

This is my second favorite of Horace's Odes.  I did a whole project and paper on this ode.  Here Vergil writes to his friend Vergil (yes, THE Vergil, writer of the Aeneid), about the death of their friend Quintilus.  Here Horace addresses (as I said in my paper) "piety, poetry, death, and limitations." 

 

1

Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus

tam cari capitis? praecipe lugubris

cantus, Melpomene, cui liquidam pater

vocem cum cithara dedit.

2

5 ergo Quintilium perpetuus sopor

urget, cui Pudor et Iustitiae soror

incorrupta Fides nudaque Veritas

quando ullum inveniet parem?

3

multis ille bonis flebilis occidit,

10 nulli flebilior quam tibi, Vergili;

tu, frustra pius, heu non ita creditum

poscis Quintilium deos.

4

quid? si Threicio blandius Orpheo

auditam moderere arboribus fidem

15 num vanae redeat sanguis imagini,

quam virga semel horrida

5

non lenis precibus fata recludere

nigro conpulerit Mercurius gregi?

durum; sed levius fit patientia

20 quidquid corrigere est nefas.

 

1.24 To Vergil on the Death of Quintilius

 

What shame or limit should there be on feeling of loss

for such a dear life? Direct this mournful

song, Melpomene, to whom the father gave a clear

voice accompanied with the lyre.

Seeing as a never ending sleep hems in

Quintilius, whom will Modesty and the sister of Justice

unspoilt Faith and naked Truth

ever find comparable to him?

That man has died mourned by his many good friends

though mourned by none so much as you, Vergil;

you, dutiful in vain, Oh though not in this way was he loaned,

you beg the gods for Quintilius.

What if you were to play more sweetly than Thracian Orpheus

the lyre to which the trees listened

would blood return to the hollow shade

which Mercury, resistant to prayers to break up fate with the rod once and for all,

may have rounded up into his shadowy throng?

It is hard, but whatever it is a sin to change becomes easier

 

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5-Aug-1999