"It's Better to Live"

(Horace, Odes II.10)

translated by Peter Saint-Andre

It's better to live, Licinius, neither
Always pressing out on the deep nor, trembling
And cautious, hugging overly close to the
   Dangerous shoreline.

The power who cherishes the golden mean
Safely avoids the squalor of a hovel
And discreetly keeps away from a palace
   That excites envy.

Most often it's the huge pine that is shaken
By the wind, and the highest towers that fall
The greatest fall, and the tops of mountains that
   Attract the lightning.

Hopeful in adversity, apprehensive
In prosperity is the heart that prepares
Well for either fate. Zeus brings the winter, but
   Also takes it back.

For even if right now times are bad, they won't
Ever be that way: for Apollo doesn't
Always tense his bow, but sometimes he inspires
   The silent Muses.

When the straits you sail have narrowed, show yourself
To be undaunted and bold — yet also be
Wise and tuck your sails when they're swelled by too strong
   A following wind.


Peter Saint-Andre > Writings > Ancient Fire