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Theme 6: Drink and Other Vices >

 Horace

Ode to a Wine Jar >

Odes : Book III Ode XXI

O, born like me under the Consul Manlius,
Bring violent quarrels or joyful banter,
Heavy disputes or passionate affairs,
Or easy sleep, affectionate pot.

Torquatus : L Manlius Torquatus was consul in 65BC, the year of Horace’s birth.

However you preserved this excellent wine,
Descend, and dignify this special occasion,
Descend, for Corvinus invites you forth,
For trusty Corvinus has asked for more wine.

Corvinus : Marcus Valerius Massalla Corvinus was the patron of the poet Tibullus. He had been a student with Horace in Athens in 42BC. He later commanded part of Augustus’ fleet at Actium.

He’s not a man to pass up a drink
Though he’s steeped in Socratic ideas not him.
And it’s even recorded that Cato himself
Used to glow from your influence from time to time.

Socratic ideas : Socrates was a Greek philosopher. He demonstrated a method of careful questioning to pursue the truth, and was condemned to death by the democracy in Athens, who accused him of corrupting the youth.
      Cato the Censor (234-149BC) was a soldier, author and orator, whose life epitomised the ancient Roman republican virtues. He was criticised for drunkenness, but, according to Seneca, whoever accused him would find it easier to prove that the crime was respectable than that Cato was thereby disgraced.


Your gentle persuasion draws out the dull,
Loosens the rigid, gets secrets from those
Who consider themselves to be wise: they let slip
Their doubts and fears with a laugh and a joke.

You bring hope to the troubled and uneasy mind 
And increase the horns of the poor, so they stand 
Before nobles and kings, and soldiers at arms, 
They stand without trembling or shaking of limbs.

Immortal Liber and, haply, Venus 
Will loosen the ties of desire and we, 
The living, will bring out the lamps until Phoebus
Returns to chase away the stars.

Liber : literally the ‘free one’, usually identified with Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry. Venus : the goddess of love. In combination : drunkenness and lust.
Phoebus : Apollo, the sun.


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