Horace (Q. Horatius Flaccus) trans. John Frederick Nims
Vlla si iuris tibi peierati
poena, Barine, nocuisset umquam,
dente si nigro fieres vel uno
turpior ungui,
crederem. sed tu, simul obligasti
perfidum votis caput, enitescis
pulchrior multo iuvenumque prodis
publica cura.
expedit matris cineres opertos
fallere et toto taciturna noctis
signa cum caelo gelidaque divos
morte carentis.
ridet hoc, inquam, Venus ipsa, rident
simplices Nymphae, ferus et Cupido,
semper ardentis acuens sagittas
cote cruenta.
adde quod pubes tibi crescit omnis,
servitus crescit nova, nec priores
impiae tectum dominae relinquunt,
saepe minati.
te suis matres metuunt iuvencis,
te senes parci, miseraeque nuper
virgines nuptae, tua ne retardet
aura maritos.
If for all the promises you regard so lightly
one, one penalty ever held, Varina,
should one tooth darken, even a torn toenail
leave you less smooth, dear,
yes, I'd trust you. But when you can swear with
"God strike me dead!" and falsify it, Lord you're
lovelier yet, as you parade. The whole male
populace wants you.
You swear by your poor mother's corpse and
right away two-time; swear by every sign, by
heaven itself, and by the very gods, those
durable persons.
This, I assume, amuses even Venus,
amuses nymphs (good simple souls) and callous
Cupid, forever honing up hot steel on
his bloody whetstone.
What's more, all the adolescents love you;
droves of new callers come; their predecessors
never stamp from the house of the proud lady
much as they vow to.
Mothers worry for their husky youngsters;
dad for bank accounts; nice girls at the altar
(poor things) brood, for fear they'll soon be groaning
"Where is that husband?"

Click here 2 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. Copyright © Mrs. Bonnie Nims 1971 - publ. Rutgers University Press

translator's next