Sadly, Diana, the years are slipping away, and nothing
you or I can do will slow or stop their relentless
forward march. If we don't die young, and we haven't,
wrinkles, arthritis, bathchairs await us all.
Death seized two generations of young men, and a lovely young woman
with the same name as you. Living a good life makes
absolutely no difference; the religious
and non-religious tread the same dark path at the end.
Well, we escaped the wars, and tuberculosis,
air crashes, violent husbands, the all-devouring
sea beside which we grew up, and the killer gene
that undid your brother. But one day it's all going to stop.
Say goodbye, then, to your carefully-tended garden,
Diana, your blue and white Wedgwood, the delicate glass
picked up for a song in some Venetian island,
your vintage wine, that somebody else will glug.
This is a translation of an ode by Horace. First published in the classical magazine 'Tellus'. © Merryn Williams