Here is a (very) loose, free translation of one of my favourite poems, Ode 2.14 by Horace. The original Latin follows, beneath the translation. Horace is poking fun at his friend Postumus for his religious devotion and materialist tendencies. I like it because it reminds us of our transience, and that we should enjoy life, not allow ourselves to be scared into seclusion.
Alas, Postumus, the fleeing years slip away;
Going to church won’t stave off
Wrinkles, looming senility, inevitable death,
However many offerings you make, my friend,
To pitiless Hades, whose dark sea
Hems in even superhuman monsters,
The sea we all must sail one day,
All of us who enjoy Earth’s gifts,
Be we bankers or beggars.
In vain we avoid terrorist hotspots,
In vain we refuse helicopter travel,
In vain we wear jumpers in autumn.
Visit the sluggish River Styx we must,
Underworld celebrity spotting,
Watching their eternal damnation.
You’ll have to leave your house, your charming spouse,
And you won’t take that garden with you,
Except those awful flowers they’ll put on your grave.
Your heir, so much worthier than you,
Will binge on that claret collection you’ve kept under lock and key,
Spilling it on your carpet; much more fun than communion wine.
Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume,
labuntur anni, nec pietas moram
rugis et instanti senectae
adferet indomitaeque morti;
non, si trecenis, quotquot eunt dies,
amice, places illacrimabilem
Plutona tauris, qui ter amplum
Geryonen Tityonque tristi
compescit unda – scilicet omnibus,
quicumque terrae munere vescimur,
enaviganda, sive reges
sive inopes erimus coloni.
Frustra cruento Marte carebimus
fractisque rauci fluctibus Hadriae,
frustra per autumnos nocentem
corporibus metuemus Austrum.
Visendus ater flumine languido
Cocytos errans et Danai genus
infame damnatusque longi
Sisyphus Aeolides laboris.
LInquenda tellus et domus et placens
uxor, neque harum quas colis arborum
te praeter invisas cupressos
ulla brevem dominum sequetur.
Absumet heres Caecuba dignior
servata centum clavibus et mero
tinguet pavimentum superbo
pontificum potiore cenis.