"What Shall a Singer Ask of Apollo?"

(Horace, Odes I.31)

translated by Peter Saint-Andre

What shall a singer ask
Of Apollo? What shall
He request, pouring wine
From the offering bowl?

Not the fertile cornfields
Of rich Sardinia;
Not the fine herds of hot
Calabria; not gold
Or ivory from far
India; not the land
That's washed away by the
Gentle waters of the
Quiet-flowing Liris.

Let those whom Fate assigns
Prune the vines with scythes from
Calenia, so that
Some rich merchant may drink
Deeply, from golden cups,
The wine for which he trades
Syrian merchandise
(He is dear to the gods,
For three or four times each
Year he ventures out on
The Atlantic, unscathed) —
My feast shall be olives,
Chicory, and mallows.

Grant me health, I pray, and
To enjoy what I have:
To pass my old age with
A sound mind, with honor,
And with my cithara.


Peter Saint-Andre > Writings > Ancient Fire