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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

To Virgil

By Horace (65–8 B.C.)

Translation of Sir Theodore Martin

WHY should we stem the tears that needs must flow?

Why blush that they should freely flow and long

To think of that dear head in death laid low?

Do thou inspire my melancholy song,

Melpomene, in whom the Muses’ sire

Joined with a liquid voice the mastery of the lyre!

And hath the sleep that knows no waking morn

Closed o’er Quinctilius,—our Quinctilius dear?

Where shall be found the man of woman born

That in desert might be esteemed his peer—

So simply meek, and yet so sternly just,

Of faith so pure, and all so absolute of trust?

He sank into his rest, bewept of many,

And but the good and noble wept for him;

But dearer cause thou, Virgil, hadst than any,

With friendship’s tears thy friendless eyes to dim.

Alas, alas! not to such woeful end

Didst thou unto the gods thy prayers unceasing send!

What though thou modulate the tuneful shell

With defter skill than Orpheus of old Thrace,

When deftliest he played, and with its spell

Moved all the listening forest from its place,

Yet never, never can thy art avail

To bring life’s glowing tide back to the phantom pale

Whom, with his black, inexorable wand,

Hermes, austere and pitiless as fate,

Hath forced to join the dark and spectral band,

In their sad journey to the Stygian gate.

’Tis hard—great Heavens, how hard! But to endure

Alleviates the pang we cannot crush or cure.