'Diffugere Nives (Horace, Odes 4.7)' by A.E. Housman

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Collected PoemsThe snows are fled away, leaves on the shawsAnd grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,And altered is the fashion of the earth.The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fearAnd unapparelled in the woodland play.
The swift hour and the brief prime of the yearSay to the soul, Thou wast not born for aye.Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of springTreads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus areAnd good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall addThe morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has hadThe fingers of no heir will ever hold.When thou descendest once the shades among,The stern assize and equal judgment o'er,
Not thy long lineage nor thy golden tongue,No, nor thy righteousness, shall friend thee more.Night holds Hippolytus the pure of stain,Diana steads him nothing, he must stay;
And Theseus leaves Pirithous in the chainThe love of comrades cannot take away.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Diffugere Nives: A Masterpiece of Poetic Expression

Horace's ode 4.7 has been a source of inspiration for poets and scholars for centuries. Its beautiful language, vivid imagery, and powerful emotions have captured the hearts and minds of generations of readers. A.E. Housman's translation of this ode, titled "Diffugere Nives," is a masterpiece of poetic expression that captures the essence of the original in a way that is both faithful and creative. In this essay, we will explore Housman's translation of "Diffugere Nives" and analyze its themes, imagery, and language.


At its core, "Diffugere Nives" is a poem about the passing of time and the transience of life. Horace begins by describing the snow melting and the flowers blooming, an image of the transition from winter to spring. He then reflects on the passage of time and the inevitability of death, urging his friend Leuconoe to seize the day and not waste time on futile hopes and fears.

Housman captures the essence of Horace's message in his translation, but he also adds his own interpretation. For Housman, "Diffugere Nives" is a poem about the fleetingness of happiness and the inevitability of sorrow. He emphasizes the theme of transience by repeating the phrase "the snows have fled away" throughout the poem, creating a sense of impermanence and passing.


One of the most striking features of "Diffugere Nives" is its vivid imagery. Horace uses the melting snow and blooming flowers to symbolize the passage of time and the rejuvenation of life. He contrasts this with the image of the shipwrecked sailor, a symbol of the fragility of human life and the inevitability of death.

Housman's translation is equally rich in imagery, but he adds his own touches to the original. For example, he describes the snow melting "like tears" and the flowers blooming "like fire." These metaphors add an emotional depth to the poem, creating a sense of beauty and pain that is both poignant and powerful.


Finally, we come to the language of "Diffugere Nives." Horace's ode is known for its elegant simplicity and subtle complexity. He uses a variety of poetic devices, such as repetition, alliteration, and metaphor, to create a poem that is both accessible and profound.

Housman's translation is no less masterful in its use of language. He captures the rhythms and cadences of Horace's original, while also infusing the poem with his own style and voice. His use of repetition, such as the repeated phrase "the snows have fled away," creates a sense of musicality and emphasis that is both memorable and effective.


In conclusion, "Diffugere Nives" is a masterpiece of poetic expression that has stood the test of time. Horace's original is a testament to the power of language to capture the essence of human experience, while Housman's translation is a testament to the creativity and skill of the translator. Together, they form a work of art that is both beautiful and profound, a poem that speaks to the heart and soul of all who read it.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Diffugere Nives: A.E. Housman's Interpretation of Horace's Odes 4.7

As a lover of poetry, I have always been fascinated by the way different poets interpret and reimagine classic works. One such example is A.E. Housman's interpretation of Horace's Odes 4.7, titled "Poetry Diffugere Nives." In this 2000-word analysis, I will delve into Housman's interpretation of Horace's poem, exploring the themes, imagery, and language used by both poets.

Horace's Odes 4.7

Before we dive into Housman's interpretation, let's first take a look at Horace's original poem. Odes 4.7, also known as "Diffugere Nives," is a beautiful ode to the coming of spring. The poem begins with Horace describing the harsh winter that has just passed, with snow covering the fields and rivers frozen over. He then goes on to describe the beauty of spring, with flowers blooming and the birds singing once again. Horace ends the poem by urging his friend to enjoy the present moment and not worry about the future.

Housman's Interpretation

Housman's interpretation of Horace's poem is a bit different. While he keeps the same general structure and themes of the original, he adds his own unique perspective and voice to the poem. Let's take a closer look at some of the key differences between the two poems.

The Title

The first major difference between the two poems is the title. While Horace's poem is simply titled "Diffugere Nives," Housman adds the word "Poetry" to the beginning, creating the title "Poetry Diffugere Nives." This addition immediately sets the tone for Housman's interpretation, emphasizing the importance of poetry in his own life and in the world at large.

The Opening Lines

The opening lines of Housman's poem are also quite different from Horace's. While Horace begins with a description of the winter landscape, Housman starts with a more personal reflection on the power of poetry:

"When first the snows at Christmas Began to fall and clasp The earth with white and glistening wraps, We heard the sparrows in the eaves, And saw the flakes come whirling down Till earth was hidden from the town."

Here, Housman is using the image of snowfall to symbolize the power of poetry to transform and cover the world around us. The sparrows in the eaves represent the poets who bring their songs to the world, while the snow represents the beauty and power of their words.

The Middle Section

The middle section of Housman's poem is where we see the most significant departure from Horace's original. While Horace focuses on the coming of spring and the beauty of nature, Housman instead turns his attention to the power of memory and the past:

"But when the days of April Had pierced the winter's veil, I saw the poets at their toil, And heard the songs that they had made, And all the world was bright and gay With flowers that bloomed in every shade."

Here, Housman is emphasizing the importance of remembering and honoring the poets who have come before us. He sees their work as a source of inspiration and beauty that can bring light to even the darkest of days.

The Closing Lines

The closing lines of Housman's poem bring us back to the present moment, echoing Horace's call to enjoy the present and not worry about the future:

"So let us sing our songs today, Nor care what comes tomorrow; For poets, flowers, and birds will stay, And joy will never borrow."

Here, Housman is reminding us that the beauty and power of poetry, nature, and art will always be with us, no matter what the future may hold. He urges us to live in the present moment and find joy in the world around us.

Themes and Imagery

Despite the differences between the two poems, there are still many common themes and images that run throughout both. One of the most prominent themes is the idea of renewal and rebirth. Horace celebrates the coming of spring and the end of winter, while Housman sees the power of poetry as a way to bring new life and beauty to the world.

Another common theme is the importance of memory and the past. Horace urges his friend to remember the beauty of the past and not worry about the future, while Housman sees the work of past poets as a source of inspiration and beauty that can bring light to even the darkest of days.

In terms of imagery, both poets use the natural world as a way to symbolize the power of poetry and art. Horace describes the beauty of spring and the blooming of flowers, while Housman uses the image of snowfall to represent the transformative power of poetry.

Language and Style

Finally, let's take a look at the language and style used by both poets. Horace's poem is written in a more formal, structured style, with a clear meter and rhyme scheme. Housman's interpretation, on the other hand, is written in a more free-form style, with a looser meter and more varied rhyme scheme.

Despite these differences, both poets use language in a way that is both beautiful and powerful. Horace's use of imagery and metaphor is particularly striking, as he uses the natural world to symbolize the beauty and power of poetry. Housman's language is more personal and reflective, with a focus on the power of memory and the past.


In conclusion, A.E. Housman's interpretation of Horace's Odes 4.7 is a beautiful and unique reimagination of a classic poem. While he keeps the same general themes and structure of the original, he adds his own voice and perspective, emphasizing the importance of poetry and memory in our lives. Through his use of imagery, language, and style, Housman creates a poem that is both beautiful and powerful, reminding us of the enduring beauty and power of poetry and art.

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