Disdain for an Aging Woman: A Translation of Horace’s Ode 1.XXV

Horace is one of my favorite Latin lyric poets, and he is certainly eclectic. His oeuvre includes love poems, satires, eulogies of Augustus, mythological retellings, criticism of poetry, praise of wine, and Epicurean philosophy. His odes, epodes, satires and epistles are puzzle pieces of an alien Roman culture that blends and mirrors the influence of the Greeks.

Horace is a brilliant and charming poet, but has flaws from a modern feminist perspective.He is a misogynist, and  never more so than in hostile poems about aging women.    

I have written a prose translation of Ode I.XXV as a glimpse of Horace’s attitude toward an aging, once irresistible woman. The editor of my very old Latin edition of Horace gives Ode I.XXV an English title, “Lydia, Thy Charms Are Past.”

Here is my prose translation.

The bold young men rap less often on your shutters with repeated knocks, and they do not take away your sleep. The door that easily moved the hinges now loves the threshold, and now you hear less and less:  “While I spend long nights desperate for your love, Lydia, are you sleeping?”

In turn, you as an old woman will cry for your arrogant lovers, in your lonely alley, neglected while the north wind dances like a bacchante under the new moon. Your love and libido, of the kind that maddens the mothers of horses, rages around your impassioned heart, not without complaint:  the happy young men rejoice more in green ivy and dusky myrtle than dry leaves, which they dedicate to the east wind, the comrade of winter.

Horace’s Latin poem is gorgeous and looks like this.


Parcius iunctas quatiunt fenestras
iactibus crebris iuvenes proterui
nec tibi somnos adimunt amatque
     ianua limen,

quae prius multum facilis movebat               5
cardines. Audis minus et minus iam:
‘Me tuo longas perevnte noctes,
     Lydia, dormis?’

Invicem moechos anus arrogantis
flebis in solo levis angiportu               10
Thracio bacchante magis sub
     interlunia vento,

cum tibi flagrans amor et libido,
quae solet matres furiare equorum,
saeviet circa iecur ulcerosum               15
     non sine questu,

laeta quod pubes hedera virenti
gaudeat pulla magis atque myrto,
aridas frondes hiemis sodali
     dedicet Euro.               20

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