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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.


The Sabine Farm

By Horace (65–8 B.C.)

(From Satire VI)
Translated by Philip Francis

I OFTEN wished I had a farm,

A decent dwelling snug and warm,

A garden, and a spring as pure

As crystal running by my door,

Besides a little ancient grove,

Where at my leisure I might rove.

The gracious gods, to crown my bliss,

Have granted this, and more than this;

I have enough in my possessing;

’T is well: I ask no greater blessing,

O Hermes! than remote from strife

To have and hold them for my life.

If I was never known to raise

My fortune by dishonest ways,

Nor, like the spendthrifts of the times,

Shall ever sink it by my crimes:

If thus I neither pray nor ponder,—

O, might I have that angle yonder,

Which disproportions now my field,

What satisfaction it would yield!

O that some lucky chance but threw

A pot of silver in my view,

As lately to the man, who bought

The very land in which he wrought!

If I am pleased with my condition,

O, hear, and grant this last petition:

Indulgent, let my cattle batten,

Let all things, but my fancy, fatten,

And thou continue still to guard,

As thou art wont, thy suppliant bard.

Whenever, therefore, I retreat

From Rome into my Sabine seat,

By mountains fenced on either side,

And in my castle fortified,

What can I write with greater pleasure,

Than satires in familiar measure?

Nor mad ambition there destroys,

Nor sickly wind my health annoys;

Nor noxious autumn gives me pain,

The ruthless undertaker’s gain.


Thus, in this giddy, busy maze

I lose the sunshine of my days,

And oft, with fervent wish repeat,

“When shall I see my sweet retreat?

O, when with books of sages deep,

Sequestered ease, and gentle sleep,

In sweet oblivion, blissful balm!

The busy cares of life becalm?

O, when shall I enrich my veins,

Spite of Pythagoras, with beans?

Or live luxurious in my cottage,

On bacon ham and savory pottage?

O joyous nights! delicious feasts!

At which the gods might be my guests.”

My friends and I regaled, my slaves

Enjoy what their rich master leaves.

There every guest may drink and fill

As much or little as he will,

Exempted from the bedlam-rules

Of roaring prodigals and fools:

Whether, in merry mood or whim,

He fills his bumper to the brim,

Or, better pleased to let it pass,

Grows mellow with a moderate glass.

Nor this man’s house, nor that’s estate,

Becomes the subject of debate;

Nor whether Lepos, the buffoon,

Can dance, or not, a rigadoon;

But what concerns us more, I trow,

And were a scandal not to know:

Whether our bliss consist in store

Of riches, or in virtue’s lore;

Whether esteem, or private ends,

Should guide us in the choice of friends;

Or what, if rightly understood,

Man’s real bliss, and sovereign good.