This is based on an ode by the Roman poet Horace (65-8 BC). In the original poem, the speaker addresses another man ? probably one of Horace?s slaves. In my poem, the setting has been moved from the Roman Campagna to the English Lake District and the person addressed is a woman. I hope the listener will get the impression ? though it is only implicit ? that the speaker and the woman are lovers, and that both of them have had broken marriages.One of the things I like in Horace?s poem is that it begins in winter with middle-aged speakers and ends with young people on a warm summer night ? as if the processes of nature could be put into reverse.

Vacations

For M.L.

Look: snow on Helvellyn’s peak
at Christmas time. How the cold shines!
    How, stooped by their white burden,
        bare trees sway over hard lakes!

Nothing for it but to heap the blaze
with more logs and, in genial mood,
    bring out your darkest wine,
        its summer heat four winters old.

What brought us here, frost in our hair?
What wrecked your ship? Broke down my roof?
    Let be: before too long,
        seas will be tranquil, trees tall.

As for tomorrow – what it will bring –
put that and regret aside. For now,
    think each new day pure gain –
        just as it is for those whose bloom

is freshly upon them, who can’t envision
their own sweetness. Watch them at dusk
    spill out into warm streets
        where jasmine twines with honeysuckle,

and hear, as from a gurgling spring,
the laughing murmurs of a girl
    beyond the streetlamp’s arc:
        how she croons No, no, without resisting.

                                                      after Horace

from New and Collected Poems (Carcanet, 2012), ? Clive Wimer 2012, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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