me iuvat in prima coluisse Helicona iuventa 20Musarumque choris implicuisse manus; me iuvat et multo mentem vincire Lyaeo, et caput in verna semper habere rosa.
atque ubi iam Venerem gravis interceperit aetas, sparserit et nigras alba senecta comas, 25tum mihi naturae libeat perdiscere mores, quis deus hanc mundi temperet arte domum, qua venit exoriens, qua deficit, unde coactis cornibus in plenum menstrua luna redit, unde salo superant venti, quid flamine captet 30Eurus, et in nubes unde perennis aqua;
sit ventura dies mundi quae subruat arces, purpureus pluvias cur bibit arcus aquas, aut cur Perrhaebi tremuere cacumina Pindi, solis et atratis luxerit orbis equis, 35cur serus versare boves et plaustra Bootes, Pleiadum spisso cur coit igne chorus, curve suos fines altum non exeat aequor, plenus et in partes quattuor annus eat;
sub terris sint iura deûm et tormenta reorum, 42 num rota, num scopuli, num sitis inter aquas, aut Alcmaeoniae furiae aut ieiunia Phinei, 40 Tisiphones atro si furit angue caput,
- 39reorum Housman: gigantum A*: om. N
- 40 cum 42 comm. Housman
’Tis my delight to have worshipped Helicon in my early youth and joined hands in the Muses’ dance; ‘tis my delight also to tie up my mind with deep draughts of wine and ever to have my head garlanded with the roses of spring.
And when the weight of advancing years has cut off love, and white old age has speckled my black locks, then let my fancy turn to exploring the ways of nature, what god so skilfully controls this household that is the world, how comes the moon at her rising, how she wanes, how each month she draws her horns together and returns to fullness, how winds have mastery over the sea, what the East Wind chases with his blast, whence there is unfailing water to supply the clouds;
whether a day will come to demolish the ramparts of the universe, why the coloured bow drinks up the rain-water, 13 or why the peaks of Thessalian Pindus have quaked and the sun’s orb has mourned, his horses draped in black; why the Herdsman is so slow to turn his team and waggon, 14 why the band of Pleiads closes together with thick-set fires, or why the deep sea exceeds not its bounds, and the whole year falls into four parts;
whether in the world below exist assizes of gods and punishments of sinners, the wheel, the rolling rock, the thirst in the water’s midst, 15 whether Alcmaeon is tormented with furies and Phineus with hunger, if Tisiphone’s hair is a frenzy of black snakes, whether Cerberus guards
- 13The rainbow was thought to drink up water to form clouds (cf. Virgil, Georg. 1.380).
- 14The Herdsman (Bootes) is an elongated constellation: it rises rapidly, then being in a horizontal position; but when it sets, it does so vertically and takes hours to do so (cf. 2.33.24 and Catullus 66.67 tardum . . . Booten, translating Callimachus).
- 15Alluding to Ixion, Sisyphus, and Tantalus.