The Secular Hymn
Horace, The Secular Hymn.
From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History:
Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2
Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp.
Phoebus! and Dian, you whose sway,
Mountains and woods obey!
Twin glories of the skies, forever worshiped, hear!
Accept our prayer this sacred year
When, as the Sibyl’s voice ordained
For ages yet to come,
Pure maids and youths unstained
Invoke the Gods who love the sevenfold hills of Rome.
All bounteous Sun!
Forever changing, and forever one!
Who in your lustrous car bear’st forth light,
And hid’st it, setting, in the arms of Night,
Look down on worlds outspread, yet nothing see
Greater than Rome, and Rome’s high sovereignty.
You Ilithyia, too, whatever name,
Goddess, you do approve,
Lucina, Genitalis, still the same
Aid destined mothers with a mother’s love;
Prosper the Senate’s wise decree,
Fertile of marriage faith and countless progeny!
As centuries progressive wing their flight
For you the grateful hymn shall ever sound;
Thrice by day, and thrice by night
For you the choral dance shall beat the ground.
Fates! whose unfailing word
Spoken from lips Sibylline shall abide,
Ordained, preserved and sanctified
By Destiny’s eternal law, accord
To Rome new blessings that shall last
In chain unbroken from the Past.
Mother of fruits and flocks, prolific Earth!
Bind wreaths of spiked corn round Ceres’s hair:
And may soft showers and Jove’s benignant air
Nurture each infant birth!
Lay down your arrows, God of day!
Smile on your youths elect who singing pray.
You, Crescent Queen, bow down your star-crowned head
And on your youthful choir a kindly influence shed.
If Rome be all your work—if Troy’s sad band
Safe sped by you attained the Etruscan strand,
A chosen remnant, vowed
To seek new Lares, and a changed abode—
Remnant for whom thro Ilion’s blazing gate
Aeneas, orphan of a ruined State,
Opened a pathway wide and free
To happier homes and liberty:—
Ye Gods! If Rome be yours, to placid Age
Give timely rest: to docile Youth
Grant the rich heritage
Of morals, modesty, and truth.
On Rome herself bestow a teaming race
Wealth, Empire, Faith, and all befitting Grace.
Vouchsafe to Venus’ and Anchises’ heir,
Who offers at your shrine
Due sacrifice of milk-white kine,
Justly to rule, to pity and to dare,
To crush insulting hosts, the prostrate foeman spare
The haughty Mede has learned to fear
The Alban axe, the Latian spear,
And Scythians, suppliant now, await
The conqueror’s doom, their coming fate.
Honor and Peace, and Pristine Shame,
And Virtue’s oft dishonored name,
Have dared, long exiled, to return,
And with them Plenty lifts her golden horn.
Augur Apollo! Bearer of the bow!
Warrior and prophet! Loved one of the Nine!
Healer in sickness! Comforter in woe!
If still the templed crags of Palatine
And Latium’s fruitful plains to you are dear,
Perpetuate for cycles yet to come,
Mightier in each advancing year,
The ever growing might and majesty of Rome.
You, too, Diana, from your Aventine,
And Algidus deep woods, look down and hear
The voice of those who guard the books Divine,
And to your youthful choir incline a loving ear.
Return we home! We know that Jove
And all the Gods our song approve
To Phoebus and Diana given;
The virgin hymn is heard in Heaven.