23 BC | Rome

Winter Moon

Horace’s ode to an aging woman.

They’re stingier now, the rowdy boys, in pitching stones 
that rattle your shuttered windows;
they don’t deprive you of your sleep; and hugging 
        the threshold, the door stays shut

that used to swing so easily 
on its hinges. Less and less do you hear now: 
“While I, who am yours, am dying all night long, 
        you, Lydia, are sleeping?”

You will age, in turn, and, spurned in the lonely alley, 
you’ll wail at the arrogance of paramours 
while the rising Thracian wind rages 
        in the dark of the moon.

Then you’ll feel how the blazing heat 
and lust that maddens mares 
will rage around your ulcered liver, 
        not without a sob

that excited boys take more delight
in green ivy than drab myrtle,
and dedicate sere leaves to the east wind,
        winter’s companion.



From his Odes. Horace in 46 bc began studying at the Academy in Athens, and between 44 and 42 bc he fought for Brutus in the civil wars in the eastern empire. He published his Satires in Rome in 35 bc; by 17 bc he was the leading poet of the emerging empire, living both in Rome and at his estate in the Sabine Hills. He continued to compose verse until his death in 8 bc