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To enter into the spirit of this lively effusion we may suppose Horace to have been invited to an entertainment given in honour of Murena's installation in the college of augurs, and the host to have kept the party waiting for supper while he treated them to long prosy stories out of Greek mythology, which Horace suddenly interrupted by bursting forth with the following strain. The cyathus referred to in lines 11-15 was a ladle with which the drink was passed from the bowl to the cups. I imagine that cups of various sizes were on the table, some large enough for nine, others for only three cyaths, and that Horace, when calling for bumpers, bade the servant give to each guest a goblet, of three or nine cyaths according to his taste.
By how much later lived than Inachus
The bard who the uneven Muses
Enamoured courts, three tripled chooses.
QUANTUM distet ab Inacho
Codruš, pro patria non timidus mori, Narras, et genus Aeaci,
Et pugnata sacro bella sub Ilio : Quo Chium pretio cadum
Mercemur; quis aquam temperet ignibus;
Quo praebente domum, et quota
Pelignis caream frigoribus, taces.
Da lunae propere novae,
Da noctis mediae, da, puer, auguris Murenae; tribus aut novem
Miscentur cyathis pocula commodis. Qui Musas amat impares,
Ternos ter cyathos attonitus petet
Vates. Tres prohibet supra
Rixarum metuens tangere Gratia
Each of the naked sister Graces,
Fearful of broils that leave their traces,
I hate your niggard handfuls. Round
And her, the old fellow's ill-matched dear.
Good judges pronounce the picture here represented to be very happily painted. The subject, however, is not a pleasant one to contemplate.
SEE you not, Pyrrhus, at what risk you ravish
Slink from the struggle,
When the opposing bands of youthful hunters
More of the booty.
Nudis juncta sororibus.
Insanire juvat. Cur Berecyntiae Cessant flamina tibiae?
Cur pendet tacita fistula cum lyra? Parcentes ego dexteras
Odi. Sparge rosas.
Dementem strepitum Lycus,
Et vicina seni non habilis Lyco.
Spissa te nitidum coma
Puro te similem, Telephe, Vespero, Tempestiva petit Rhode:
Me lentus Glycerae torret amor meae.
NON vides quanto moveas periclo
Cum per obstantes juvenum catervas
In the meantime, while you your nimble arrows
Holding the prize, and fanned by gentle breezes
Addressed to the jar containing the wine intended for Corvinus, at a supper to which he had invited himself at Horace's house.
O HONEST jar! whose birth takes date,
Or quiet sleep that dwell with thee;
From thee, he will not, shocked, be turning.
The elder Cato, oft' 'tis said,
His virtue's fire with liquor fed.