July 29, 2014

Plant No Tree Before the Sacred Vine

Just last night I was staring at the label of a Barolo we carry, and it had the motto "Nullam Sacra Vite Prius Severis Arborem" on the winemakers crest. Dying of curiosity, I searched for a translation. It is, of course, from Horace, one of wine's great chroniclers and Rome's great poets:

Nullam, Vare, sacra vite prius severis arborem
circa mite solum Tibruis et moenia Catili;
siccis omnia nam dura deus proposiuit neque
mordaces aliter diffugiunt sollicitundines.
Quis post vina gravem militiam aut pauperiem crepat?
Quis non te potius, Bacche pater, teque decens Venus?
Ac ne quis modici transiliat munera Liberi,
Centaurea monet cum Lapithis rixa super mero
debellata, menet Sithoniis non levis Euhius,
cum fas atque nefas exiguo fine libidinum
discernunt avidi. Non ego te, candide Bassareu,
invitum quatiam nec variis obsita frondibus
sub divum rapiam. Saeva tene cum Berecyntio
cornu tympana, quae subsequitur caecus Amor sui
et tollens vacuam plus nimio Gloria verticem
arcanique Fides prodiga, perlucidior vitro.

Plant no tree, Varus, before the sacred vine
around the soft ground of the Tibur and walls of Catilus;
a god has ordained everything difficult for dry people and
biting anxieties don't flee in any other way.
Who rattles on about serious military service or poverty after wine?
Who does not rattle on more about you, father Bacchus, and you, comely Venus?
And yet anyone abuses the gifts of moderate Bacchus,
the battle fought to the bitter end of the Centaurs over their wine with the
Lapiths warns, Bacchus not light with the Thracians warns,
when those greedy of desire discern lawful from sin
with a small limit. I do not shake you, white Bacchus,
unwilling, nor do I snatch by the light of day your
sacred things covered with various leaves. Hold savage
drums and the horn from Berecyntus, which blind self-love follows
and Glory raising an empty crown too high and
Faith wasteful of secrets, more transparent than glass.

- Horace, Ode 1.18

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