Poem

Snow Drifts

Horace

(from Odes 1.9)

Look how the snow drifts
       flare on the Soracte’s slopes
—there, straining branches
       barely sustain their white
load. Locked in ice, streams
       buckle, send cracks
stuttering over the winter’s sharp still.

Unclasp this cold, stir
       flame in the embers, pile
the hearth with fat logs.
       Bring out a bottle warm
with a summer four years
       gone, wine that grapes
pressed from the sunlight on Sabine hillsides.

Leave the rest to the gods:
       once they have overthrown
the winds and laid dead
       calm on the restless sea,
black cypress, old ash
       never stir, rest
still as the shade in Persephone’s groves.

Today, don’t ask
       what tomorrow may be:
whatever time chance
       gives you, put down for profit;
and don’t reject love
       now you’re young, don’t
break from the ring where you dance with linked hands

while grumbling old age
       keeps its snow from your hair.
Now while you still can,
       in the cafes, through parks
and plazas hunt out
       gentle whispers
under the cover of evening’s short hours

and welcome laughter
       from intimate corners,
the girls who hide there
       giving themselves away,
and rings or bracelets,
       charms snatched for love
tokens from fingers that hardly resist.

Translated from the Latin by Jim Powell.

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