Author Archives: Jane Mason

nunc est bibendum: Odes 1:37

I really like this ode because my sister recommended it to me and I love how Cleopatra is represented in several different ways throughout the poem. I also like how Horace’s mood towards her seems to change – she progresses from a mad queen, to a fated monster, to a woman who, although defeated, is […]

Endure O heart!: Odyssey 20, lines 10 – 21

I have chosen this passage from the Odyssey, as it is one that I have found can be comforting, especially during times of uncertainty. More often than not we have the capacity to adapt, and it is often helpful to refer back to this idea, particularly when the outcome of a situation may seem unclear […]

carpe diem: Odes 1.11

Horace’s Carpe diem consists of an invitation for the reader to appreciate the day in all its facets, in every moment, without thinking about tomorrow. It is the most famous of Horace’s odes. It has the tone of a conversation happening in front of a stormy sea, the dialogue is between a mature man, made […]

Epigrams 9.61 and 12.50: A Living Estate and a Sterile Mansion

In my seventeenth-century literature class, I teach Ben Jonson’s poem “To Penshurst.”  He borrows from both of these (and other) epigrams in that poem. I wanted my students to read them, but I could not find translations of these two pieces that were well adapted to my needs in the course, so I made these […]

Aeneid 1.198-207: Keep yourselves safe for better times

Over the centuries since Virgil wrote these words, they must have been read by countless people who were experiencing a time of crisis. In the Spring of 2020, with people round the world confined to their homes, the words ‘sedes.. quietas’ ‘quiet homes’ take on a new meaning. For most of us it is a […]

Histories 1.30-1.32: Solon at the Court of Croesus Part 2 – Cleobis and Biton

The Cleobis and Biton passage, like the Tellos passage, encapsulates the archaic Greek values of familial piety and of death over life. This passage, however, is somewhat more revolutionary than the Tellos passage, since Tellos was by Herodotus’ admission “prosperous to us” in addition to having healthy children and grandchildren, which was at the time […]

Histories 1.30-1.32: Solon at the Court of Croesus Part 1 – the story of Tellos

This passage is incredibly iconic and embodies as much as it reinforces many conceits in the Greek and consequently the Western imagination: this is the archetypal dialogue between simplicity and wealth, wisdom and desire, the virtuous Greek and the haughty Lydian.  This passage, with its generic hagiographies of two Greeks, also very effectively codifies archaic […]

The power of fortuna: Odes 1.34, lines 1-15

I appreciate this poem because Horace here points to the influence chance, personified in Fortuna, has on the lives of everyone. He examines anxieties common to everyone, especially those living in a period of political unrest as Horace was. Also, as an English major and a writer, I appreciate Horace’s imagery in this passage; he […]

Justice and the City: Solon fr. 4

Solon, statesman-poet and archon of ancient Athens, here plays off the image of Dike found in Hesiod’s Works and Days, but in such a way as to not only reflect but also bring about more progressive political norms.  Where the penalty for unjust rulers in Hesiod’s passage was material desolation, and the reward only material […]

The Golden Age in Pastoral: Eclogues 4.15-45

Virgil’s vision of the Golden Age of peace and prosperity is notable, to me, for its deep emotional resonances as expressed in the earthy imagery of the pastoral genre.  The visuals of abundant, surfeiting βιος [life] forms a hard contrast with the oft-repeated Civil War image of blood and gore soaking Italian fields.  So this […]