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In the Mood for Horace

As another National Poetry Month comes to an end, here’s a sampling from A.M. Juster’s forthcoming translation of The Satires of Horace.

From I:VI

When I am in the mood, I go explore
entirely alone and ascertain 
the prices set for vegetables and grain.
As evening falls, I often wander through 
the sketchy Circus and the Forum too. 
I stand beside astrologers, then troop 
back home to have some leek and chickpea soup. 
Three slaveboys serve my meals, and polished stone 
supports the ladle and two cups I own. 
Beside these items is some bric-a-brac 
made in Campania: a cheap knick-knack, 
an oil-flask with its dish. When supper’s done, 
I sleep unworried that I’ll need to run 
out for an early meeting or appear 
in front of Marsyas (who is quite clear 
that looking at the face of Novius 
the Lesser should be viewed as odious).

I lie in bed till ten, then take a stroll, 
or read or write a piece I think is droll.
I rub myself with oil, but not the type 
from lamps that grubby Natta likes to swipe, 
though when I get worn down and fiercer sun 
reminds me I should go and bathe, I shun 
the ballgames and the Campus. Lunch is light, 
enough so I don’t starve before the night;
I stay at home and putter lazily.
This is the life of anybody free 
of burdensome, depressing aspirations. 
These things provide me with the consolations 
of a life more pleasantly employed 
than what my grandfather would have enjoyed—
my father and my uncle in addition—
had they gained a senator’s position.

The Satires of Horace, translated by A.M. Juster with an introduction by Susanna Braund, will be published in the Fall of 2008. Juster’s original poetry can be found at www.amjuster.com.