Thanks to his benefactor Maecenas, Horace was owner of a small estate. In this function he had to officiate in ceremonies and this poem is a prayer to the rural god Faunus. This god belongs to the oldest strata of Roman religion and mythology, but as usual, the Romans equated this god with the Greek god Pan. This is evident from the first line as chasing fleeing nymphs was clearly a characteristic of Pan. Nowadays Pan would have been chased and charged for harassing nymphs.
As for the belief in such rural deities and spirits: some weeks ago I was walking with some friends on the hills accompanying the river Rhine. It was very hot and there were no other hikers. In the distance there was a ruin of a mediaeval castle. I wouldn’t have been surprised had there suddenly been a wood spirit or a nymph – or even Lorelei herself combing her golden hair.
Horatius, Carmina, 3.18 (meter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapphic_stanza)
Faune, Nympharum fugientum amator,
per meos finis et aprica rura
lenis incedas abeasque parvis
si tener pleno cadit haedus anno 5
larga nec desunt Veneris sodali
vina craterae, vetus ara multo
Ludit herboso pecus omne campo,
cum tibi Nonae redeunt Decembres, 10
festus in pratis vacat otioso
cum bove pagus;
inter audacis lupus errat agnos,
spargit agrestis tibi silva frondes,
gaudet invisam pepulisse fossor 15
ter pede terram.
aequus: with good will (lenis.,.aequus: note the chiastic construction.)
incedas abeasque: may you enter and leave
rus ruris (n.): lands, field, estate
alumnus: litt. `that is nourished’, here a young animal
haedus: young goat, kid
pleno anno: at the full year = at the end of the year (from line 10 it is clear that Faunus was honoured at December 5.)
larga vina: large quantities of wine (both for libations and consumption.)
desum: to lack
craterae Veneris sodali: (lack) for the mixing bowl, the companion of Venus. Veneris sodali is in apposition to craterae. Wine and love go of course closely together.
nonae nonarum: the 5th day of every month, except March
vaco: to be at leasure
otiosus: unemployed, idle (otiose bove, as in December no land is ploughed and no calves are borne.)
pagus: the country people
audacis agnos: the idea of a wolf wandering among lambs, who need to be audacious for this occasion, marks the transition from the description of a festive rural community to mythical entry of Faunus into the festivities. It also refers back to lines 3-4: thanks to the presence of Faunus the lambs will not be harmed
spargo sparsi sparsum: to strew
agrestis frondes: rural foliage (in autumn the leaves fall and thus form a carpet for Faunus
fossor fossoris (m.): ditch-digger (the humblest of agricultural workers.)
invisus: detested (invisam terram, because cultivating the earth requires so much labour.)
pello pepulli pulsum: to strike, beat (pepulisse ter pede: folk-dances and religious dances had a triple beat. Note that Horace with some irony has put the ditch-digger into the front of the festive folk: he enjoys specially trampling the earth which costs him so much labour.)
Translation by A.S. Klyne.
Faunus, the lover of Nymphs who are fleeing,
may you pass gently over my boundaries,
my sunny fields, and, as you go by, be kind
to all my new-born,
if at the end of the year a tender kid
is sacrificed to you: if the full bowls of wine,
aren’t lacking, friend of Venus: the old altar
smoking with incense.
All the flock gambols over the grassy plain,
when the fifth of December returns for you:
the festive village empties into the fields,
and the idle herd:
the wolf wanders among the audacious lambs:
for you the woods, wildly, scatter their leaves:
the ditcher delights in striking the soil he
hates, in triple time.