Horace

8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC / Italy

Bkiv:Iv Drusus And The Claudians

Like the winged agent of the bright lightning-bolt,
to whom Jove granted power over wandering
birds, once the divine king had found him
faithful in snatching blond Ganymede:

youth and his native vigour first launching him
fresh to his labours, out from the nest: spring winds,
despite his fears, when the storms were past,
teaching him, then, unaccustomed effort:

now with a fierce, hostile assault sweeping down
on the sheepfold, and love of spoils, and the fight,
hurling him at writhing snakes: or like
a lion-cub newly weaned from rich milk

and its tawny mother, seeing a roe deer
intent on its browsing, that’s fated to die
in his inexperienced jaws, such
was Drusus, as the Vindelici found

waging war beneath the Rhaetian Alps:
(where the custom’s derived from that, as long as
is known, has forced them to arm themselves,
clutch, in their right hands, Amazonian

battle-axes, I’ve not tried to ascertain,
it’s not right to know everything) but those hordes,
triumphant everywhere, for so long,
were conquered by the young man’s strategies:

they came to realise what mind, and character
nurtured, with care, in a fortunate household,
by Augustus’ fatherly feelings
towards his stepsons, the Neros, could do.
By the brave and good, are the brave created:
their sire’s virtues exist in horses and men,
while the ferocious golden eagles
don’t produce shy doves, but education

improves inborn qualities, and its proper
cultivation strengthens the mind: whenever
moral behaviour falls short, its faults
dishonour whatever was good at birth.

The Metaurus river’s a witness, O Rome
to what you owe to the Neros, so too is
defeated Hasdrubal, and that day
as sweet, when the shadows fled Latium,

the first day to smile in its kindly glory,
since dread Hannibal rode through Italy’s
cities, a fire among the pine-trees,
or an East wind on Sicilian seas.

And after that, through favourable efforts,
the Roman youth grew in stature, and the shrines
destroyed by Carthaginians’
impious uproar, had their gods restored.

At last that treacherous Hannibal proclaimed:
‘Of our own will, like deer who become the prey
of ravening wolves, we’re chasing those
whom it’s a triumph to flee and evade.

Their race, still strong despite the burning of Troy,
brought their children, sacred icons, and aged
fathers, tossed about on Tuscan seas,
to the towns of Italy, as some oak,

rich in its dark leaves, high on Mount Algidus,
trimmed back by the double-bladed axe, draws strength
and life, despite loss and destruction,
from the very steel itself. The Hydra,

as its body was lopped, grew no mightier,
in grief at being conquered by Hercules,
nor was any greater monster reared
by Colchis or Echionian Thebes.

Drowned in the deep, it emerges lovelier:
contend, it defeats the freshest opponent,
with great glory, and wages wars
that the housewives will tell of in story.

I’ll send no more proud messages to Carthage:
every hope of mine is ended, and ended
the fortunes of all my family,
since my brother Hasdrubal’s destruction.

There’s nothing that Claudian power can’t achieve,
protected by Jove, protected by the god’s
authority, power for which shrewd minds
clear the way through the harsh dangers of war.’
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