Horace: Odes and Poetry

Book 4

Horace published a fourth book of Odes in 13 BC consisting of 15 poems that were commissioned by Augustus himself. Horace acknowledged the gap in time with the first words of the opening poem of the collection: Intermissa, Venus, diu / rursus bella moves (Venus, you return to battles long interrupted).

IV.1, Intermissa, Venus, diu... - Venus, Forbear! - Horace complains that in advancing age he is vexed with new desires by the cruel goddess of love. He bids her to turn to a more youthful and worthy subject, his friend Paulus Maximus.

IV.2, Pindarum quisquis studet aemulari... - Not for Me to Sing of Augustus! - Horace was asked by Iulus Antonius (the son of Marc Antony and stepson of Augustus' sister Octavia) to sing of Augustus' victories in a Pindaric ode. Horace declines, alleging lack of talent, and requests Iulus to compose the poem himself.

IV.3, Quem tu, Melpomene, semel... - To Melpomene, Muse of Lyric Poetry - To the Muse Melpomene Horace ascribes his poetic inspiration and the honors which he enjoys as the lyric poet of Rome.

IV.4, Qualem ministrum fulminis alitem... - In Praise of Drusus, the Younger Stepson of Augustus - (A companion to Ode IV.14, which praises Tiberius). This ode praises Drusus, the younger son of the Empress Livia, on his victory over the Raeti and Vindelici. Drusus is compared to a young eagle and lion. His stepfather Augustus is also praised as having trained him to greatness.

IV.5, Divis orte bonis, optume Romulae... - Augustus, Return! Horace begs Augustus to return to Rome, and describes the peace and good order of the kingdom under his reign.

IV.6, Dive, quem proles Niobea magnae... - Invocation to Apollo - In the year 17 BCE, Augustus commissioned Horace to write the Carmen Saeculare, a hymn to be sung at the Saecular festival. This ode is an invocation to Apollo, begging help and inspiration for this important task.

IV.7 Diffugere nives, redeunt iam... - The Lesson of Spring's Return - An ode on the same springtime theme as I.4 - Addressed to his friend Torquatus. Though the earth renews itself, and the waning moon waxes afresh, yet death is the ending of human life. Let us then make the best of our days while they last.

IV.8, Donarem pateras grataque commodus... - In Praise of Poetry - This ode was written to C. Marcius Censorinus and probably sent as a Saturnalian gift. Horace would give bronze vases, or tripods, or gems of Grecian art, but he does not have these. What he has to give instead is the immortality of a poem.

IV.9, Ne forte credas interitura quae... - In Praise of Lollius - As in IV.8, Horace promises immortality through his verses, this time to Lollius, a man of wisdom and integrity.

IV.10, O crudelis adhuc et Veneris... - Beauty Is Fleeting - An ode to a beautiful boy, Ligurinus, and the inevitability of old age.

IV.11, Est mihi nonum superantis annum... - A Joyous Birthday - An invitation to Phyllis to celebrate the birthday of Maecenas at Horace's Sabine farm.

IV.12, Iam veris comites... - The Delights of Spring - Addressed to Virgil (although not necessarily the poet). The breezes and birds have returned - An invitation to a feast of Spring - The poet agrees to supply the wine, if Virgil will bring a box of perfumes.

IV.13, Audivere, Lyce, di mea vota... - Retribution - Horace taunts Lyce, now growing old, on her desperate attempts to seem young and fascinating.

IV.14, Quae cura patrum quaeve Quiritium... - In Praise of Tiberius, the Elder Stepson of Augustus - (A companion to Ode IV.4, which praises Drusus.) Horace honors the courage and exploits of Tiberius, the elder son of the empress Livia, on his victories over the tribes of the Raetian Alps. He then praises Augustus, whom he extols as the glory of the war, the defense of Roman and Italy, and as the undisputed ruler of the world.

IV.15, Phoebus volentem proelia me loqui... - The Praises of Augustus - Horace records in song the victories of Augustus - Peace, good order, the establishment of public morals, the extended glory of the Roman name abroad, and security and happiness at home.

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