This is a totally brilliant poem. “One of Horace’s rare failures” is how a book which used to be in the Leicester University library described it – because of the convoluted word-order of the first few lines.
The poem itself is lovely, with storms as a metaphor for the troubles of love, and some people see the final stanza as Horace’s personal renunciation of love after his rejection by Pyrrha.
The first three lines are what really attract me and I have designed a pictorial interpretation to illustrate them.
Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa
perfusus liquidis urget odoribus
grato, Pyrrha, sub antro?
cui flavam religas comam
simplex munditiis? heu quotiens fidem 5
mutatosque deos flebit et aspera
nigris aequora ventis
qui nunc te fruitur credulus aurea,
qui semper vacuam, semper amabilem 10
sperat, nescius aurae
fallacis. miseri, quibus
intemptata nites. me tabula sacer
votiva paries indicat uvida
suspendisse potenti 15
vestimenta maris deo.
Which slender boy, drenched in liquid perfume,
Presses against you amongst the many roses
In your pleasant love nest, Pyrrha?
For whom do you tie up your blonde hair
Simplistic in your elegance? Alas, how often will he weep,
Inexperienced, at trustworthiness and the changed fates,
And be amazed at seas,
Rough with black winds.
He, in naivety, is now enjoying you, his golden one.
He hopes you will always be free for him, always loving,
Unaware of the treacherous breezes!
O wretches, for whom you
Yet untried, gleam. As for me,
The holy wall shows, with its votive tablet,
That I have hung up my soaking wet clothes
To the powerful God of the sea.
Chosen by Anne Dicks and translated by Helen, one of her students.
Anne’s accompanying powerpoint www.pyrrha.me.uk/utpicturaPyrrha.pptx
Anne’s website has more, including a Latin poetry medley: www.pyrrha.me.uk/utpicturaHoraceVirgilCatullus.pptx
The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.