You are treating of the civil commotion, which began from the consulship of Metelius, and the causes, and the errors, and the operations of the war, and the game that fortune played, and the pernicious confederacy of the chiefs, and arms stained with blood not yet expiated — a work full of danger and hazard: and you are treading upon fires, hidden under deceitful ashes: let therefore the muse that presides over severe tragedy, be for a while absent from the theaters; shortly, when thou hast completed the narrative of the public affairs, you shall resume your great work in the tragic style of Athens, O Pollio, thou excellent succor to sorrowing defendants and a consulting senate; [Pollio,] to whom the laurel produced immortal honors in the Dalmatian triumph. Even now you stun our ears with the threatening murmur of horns: now the clarions sound; now the glitter of arms affrights the flying steeds, and dazzles the sight of the riders. Now I seem to hear of great commanders besmeared with, glorious dust, and the whole earth subdued, except the stubborn soul of Cato. Juno, and every other god propitious to the Africans, impotently went off, leaving that land unrevenged; but soon offered the descendants of the conquerors, as sacrifices to the manes of Jugurtha. What plain, enriched by Latin blood, bears not record, by its numerous sepulchres, of our impious battles, and of the sound of the downfall of Italy, heard even by the Medes? What pool, what rivers, are unconscious of our deplorable war? What sea have not the Daunian slaughters discolored? What shore is unstained by our blood? Do not, however, rash muse, neglecting your jocose strains, resume the task of Caean plaintive song, but rather with me seek measures of a lighter style beneath some love-sequestered grotto.
O Crispus Sallustius, thou foe to bullion, unless it derives splendor from a moderate enjoyment, there is no luster in money concealed in the niggard earth. Proculeius shall live an extended age, conspicuous for fatherly affection to brothers; surviving fame shall bear him on an untiring wing. You may possess a more extensive dominion by controlling a craving disposition, than if you could unite Libya to the distant Gades, and the natives of both the Carthages were subject to you alone. The direful dropsy increases by self-indulgence, nor extinguishes its thirst, unless the cause of the disorder has departed from the veins, and the watery languor from the pallid body. Virtue, differing from the vulgar, excepts Phraates though restored to the throne of Cyrus, from the number of the happy; and teaches the populace to disuse false names for things, by conferring the kingdom and a safe diadem and the perpetual laurel upon him alone, who can view large heaps of treasure with undazzled eye.
O Dellius, since thou art born to die, be mindful to preserve a temper of mind even in times of difficulty, as well an restrained from insolent exultation in prosperity: whether thou shalt lead a life of continual sadness, or through happy days regale thyself with Falernian wine of the oldest date, at case reclined in some grassy retreat, where the lofty pine and hoary poplar delight to interweave their boughs into a hospitable shade, and the clear current with trembling surface purls along the meandering rivulet. Hither order [your slaves] to bring the wine, and the perfumes, and the too short-lived flowers of the grateful rose, while fortune, and age; and the sable threads of the three sisters permit thee. You must depart from your numerous purchased groves; from your house also, and that villa, which the yellow Tiber washes, you must depart: and an heir shall possess these high-piled riches. It is of no consequence whether you are the wealthy descendant of ancient Inachus, or whether, poor and of the most ignoble race, you live without a covering from the open air, since you are the victim of merciless Pluto. We are all driven toward the same quarter: the lot of all is shaken in the urn; destined sooner or later to come forth, and embark us in [Charon’s] boat for eternal exile.
Let not, O Xanthias Phoceus, your passion for your maid put you out of countenance; before your time, the slave Briseis moved the haughty Achilles by her snowy complexion. The beauty of the captive Tecmessa smote her master, the Telamonian Ajax; Agamemnon, in the midst of victory, burned for a ravished virgin: when the barbarian troops fell by the hands of their Thessalian conqueror, and Hector, vanquished, left Troy more easily to be destroyed by the Grecians. You do not know that perchance the beautiful Phyllis has parents of condition happy enough to do honor to you their son-inlaw. Certainly she must be of royal race, and laments the unpropitiousness of her family gods. Be confident, that your beloved is not of the worthless crowd; nor that one so true, so unmercenary, could possibly be born of a mother to be ashamed of. I can commend arms, and face, and well-made legs, quite chastely: avoid being jealous of one, whose age is hastening onward to bring its eighth mastrum to a close.
Not yet is she fit to be broken to the yoke; not yet is she equal to the duties of a partner, nor can she support the weight of the bull impetuously rushing to enjoyment. Your heifer’s sole inclination is about verdant fields, one while in running streams soothing the grievous heat; at another, highly delighted to frisk with the steerlings in the moist willow ground. Suppress your appetite for the immature grape; shortly variegated autumn will tinge for thee the lirid clusters with a purple hue. Shortly she shall follow you; for her impetuous time runs on, and shall place to her account those years of which it abridges you; shortly Lalage with a wanton assurance will seek a husband, beloved in a higher degree than the coy Pholoe, or even Chloris; shining as brightly with her fair shoulder, as the spotless moon upon the midnight sea, or even the Gnidian Gyges, whom if you should intermix in a company of girls, the undiscernible difference occasioned by his flowing locks and doubtful countenance would wonderfully impose even on sagacious strangers.
Septimus, who art ready to go with me, even to Gades, and to the Cantabrian, still untaught to bear our yoke, and the inhospitable Syrtes, where the Mauritanian wave perpetually boils. O may Tibur, founded by a Grecian colony, be the habitation of my old age! There let there be an end to my fatigues by sea, and land, and war; whence if the cruel fates debar me, I will seek the river of Galesus, delightful for sheep covered with skins, and the countries reigned over by Lacedaemonian Phalantus. That corner of the world smiles in my eye beyond all others; where the honey yields not to the Hymettian, and the olive rivals the verdant Venafrian: where the temperature of the air produces a long spring and mild winters, and Aulon friendly to the fruitful vine, envies not the Falernian grapes. That place, and those blest heights, solicit you and me; there you shall bedew the glowing ashes of your poet friend with a tear due [to his memory].
O thou, often reduced with me to the last extremity in the war which Brutus carried on, who has restored thee as a Roman citizen, to the gods of thy country and the Italian air, Pompey, thou first of my companions; with whom I have frequently broken the tedious day in drinking, having my hair, shining with the Syrian maiobathrum, crowned [with flowers]! Together with thee did I experience the [battle of] Phillippi and a precipitate flight, having shamefully enough left my shield; when valor was broken, and the most daring smote the squalid earth with their faces. But Mercury swift conveyed me away, terrified as I was, in a thick cloud through the midst of the enemy. Thee the reciprocating sea, with his tempestuous waves, bore back again to war. Wherefore render to Jupiter the offering that is due, and deposit your limbs, wearied with a tedious war, under my laurel, and spare not the casks reserved for you. Fill up the polished bowls with care-dispelling Massic: pour out the perfumed ointments from the capacious shells. Who takes care to quickly weave the chaplets of fresh parsely or myrtle? Whom shall the Venus pronounce to be master of the revel? In wild carouse I will become frantic as the Bacchanalians. ’Tis delightful to me to play the madman, on the reception of my friends.
If any punishment, Barine, for your violated oath had ever been of prejudice to you: if you had become less agreeable by the blackness of a single tooth or nail, I might believe you. But you no sooner have bound your perfidious head with vows, but you shine out more charming by far, and come forth the public care of our youth. It is of advantage to you to deceive the buried ashes of your mother, and the silent constellations of the night, together with all heaven, and the gods free from chill death. Venus herself, I profess, laughs at this; the good-natured nymphs laugh, and cruel Cupid, who is perpetually sharpening his burning darts on a bloody whetstone. Add to this, that all our boys are growing up for you; a new herd of slaves is growing up; nor do the former ones quit the house of their impious mistress, notwithstanding they often have threatened it. The matrons are in dread of you on account of their young ones; the thrifty old men are in dread of you; and the girls but just married are in distress, lest your beauty should slacken [the affections of] their husbands.
Showers do not perpetually pour down upon the rough fields, nor do varying hurricanes forever harass the Caspian Sea; nor, my friend Valgius, does the motionless ice remain fixed throughout all the months, in the regions of Armenia; nor do the Garganian oaks [always] labor under the northerly winds, nor are the ash-trees widowed of their leaves. But thou art continually pursuing Mystes, who is taken from thee, with mournful measures: nor do the effects of thy love for him cease at the rising of Vesper, or when he flies the rapid approach of the sun. But the aged man who lived three generations, did not lament the amiable Antilochus all the years of his life: nor did his parents or his Trojan sisters perpetually bewail the blooming Troilus. At length then desist from thy tender complaints; and rather let us sing the fresh trophies of Augustus Caesar, and the Frozen Niphates, and the river Medus, added to the vanquished nations, rolls more humble tides, and the Gelonians riding within a prescribed boundary in a narrow tract of land.
O Licinius, you will lead a more correct course of life, by neither always pursuing the main ocean, nor, while you cautiously are in dread of storms, by pressing too much upon the hazardous shore. Whosoever loves the golden mean, is secure from the sordidness of an antiquated cell, and is too prudent to have a palace that might expose him to envy, if the lofty pine is more frequently agitated with winds, and high towers fall down with a heavier ruin, and lightnings strike the summits of the mountains. A well-provided breast hopes in adversity, and fears in prosperity. ’Tis the same Jupiter, that brings the hideous winters back, and that takes them away. If it is ill with us now, it will not be so hereafter. Apollo sometimes rouses the silent lyric muse, neither does he always bend his bow. In narrow circumstances appear in high spirits, and undaunted. In the same manner you will prudently contract your sails, which are apt to be too much swollen in a prosperous gale.
O Quintius Hirpinus, forbear to be inquisitive what the Cantabrian, and the Scythian, divided from us by the interposed Adriatic, is meditating; neither be fearfully solicitous for the necessaries of a life, which requires but a few things. Youth and beauty fly swift away, while sapless old age expels the wanton loves and gentle sleep. The same glory does not always remain to the vernal flowers, nor does the ruddy moon shine with one continued aspect; why, therefore, do you fatigue you mind, unequal to eternal projects? Why do we not rather (while it is in our power) thus carelessly reclining under a lofty plane-tree, or this pine, with our hoary locks made fragrant by roses, and anointed with Syrian perfume, indulge ourselves with generous wine? Bacchus dissipates preying cares. What slave is here, instantly to cool some cups of ardent Falernian in the passing stream? Who will tempt the vagrant wanton Lyde from her house? See that you bid her hasten with her ivory lyre, collecting her hair into a graceful knot, after the fashion of a Spartan maid.
Do not insist that the long wars of fierce Numantia, or the formidable Annibal, or the Sicilian Sea impurpled with Carthaginian blood, should be adapted to the tender lays of the lyre: nor the cruel Lapithae, nor Hylaeus excessive in wine and the earth born youths, subdued by Herculean force, from whom the splendid habitation of old Saturn dreaded danger. And you yourself, Maecenas, with more propriety shall recount the battles of Caesar, and the necks of haughty kings led in triumph through the streets in historical prose. It was the muse’s will that I should celebrate the sweet strains of my mistress Lycimnia, that I should celebrate her bright darting eyes, and her breast laudably faithful to mutual love: who can with a grace introduce her foot into the dance, or, sporting, contend in raillery, or join arms with the bright virgins on the celebrated Diana’s festival. Would you, [Maecenas,] change one of Lycimnia’s tresses for all the rich Achaemenes possessed, or the Mygdonian wealth of fertile Phrygia, or all the dwellings of the Arabians replete with treasures? Especially when she turns her neck to meet your burning kisses, or with a gentle cruelty denies, what she would more delight to have ravished than the petitioner — or sometimes eagerly anticipates to snatch them her self.
O tree, he planted thee on an unlucky day whoever did it first, and with an impious hand raised thee for the destruction of posterity, and the scandal of the village. I could believe that he had broken his own father’s neck, and stained his most secret apartments with the midnight blood of his guest. He was wont to handle Colchian poisons, and whatever wickedness is anywhere conceived, who planted in my field thee, a sorry log; thee, ready to fall on the head of thy inoffensive master. What we ought to be aware of, no man is sufficiently cautious at all hours. The Carthaginian sailor thoroughly dreads the Bosphorus; nor, beyond that, does he fear a hidden fate from any other quarter. The soldier dreads the arrows and the fleet retreat of the Parthian; the Parthian, chains and an Italian prison; but the unexpected assault of death has carried off, and will carry off, the world in general. How near was I seeing the dominions of black Proserpine, and Aeacus sitting in judgment; the separate abodes also of the pious, and Sappho complaining in her Aeohan lyre of her own country damsels; and thee, O Alcaeus, sounding in fuller strains on thy golden harp the distresses of exile, and the distresses of war. The ghosts admire them both, while they utter strains worthy of a sacred silence; but the crowded multitude, pressing with their shoulders, imbibes, with a more greedy ear, battles and banished tyrants. What wonder? Since the many headed monster, astonished at those lays, hangs down his sable ears; and the snakes, entwined in the hair of the furies, are soothed. Moreover, Prometheus and the sire of Pelops are deluded into an insensibility of their torments, by the melodious sound: nor is Orion any longer solicitous to harass the lions, or the fearful lynxes.
Alas! my Postumus, my Postumus, the fleeting years gilde on; nor will piety cause any delay to wrinkles, and advancing old age, and insuperable death. You could not, if you were to sacrifice every passing day three hundred bulls, render propitious pitiless Pluto, who confines the thrice-monstrous Geryon and Tityus with the dismal Stygian stream, namely, that stream which is to be passed over by all who are fed by the bounty of the earth, whether we be kings or poor ninds. In vain shall we be free from sanguinary Mars, and the broken billows of the hoarse Adriatic; in vain shall we be apprehensive for ourselves of the noxious South, in the time of autumn. The black Cocytus wandering with languid current, and the infamous race of Danaus, and Sisyphus, the son of the Aeolus, doomed to eternal toil, must be visited; your land and house and pleasing wife must be left, nor shall any of those trees, which you are nursing, follow you, their master for a brief space, except the hated cypresses; a worthier heir shall consume your Caecuban wines now guarded with a hundred keys, and shall wet the pavement with the haughty wine, more exquisite than what graces pontifical entertainment.
The palace-like edifices will in a short time leave but a few acres for the plough; ponds of wider extent than the Lucrine lake will be every where to be seen; and the barren plane-tree will supplant the elms. Then banks of violets, and myrtle groves, and all the tribe of nosegays shall diffuse their odors in the olive plantations, which were fruitful to their preceding master. Then the laurel with dense boughs shall exclude the burning beams. It was not so prescribed by the institutes of Romulus, and the unshaven Cato, and ancient custom. Their private income was contracted, while that of the community was great. No private men were then possessed of galleries measured by ten-feet rules, which collected the shady northern breezes; nor did the laws permit them to reject the casual turf [for their own huts], though at the same time they obliged them to ornament in the most sumptuous manner, with new stone, the buildings of the public, and the temples of the gods, at a common expense.
O Grosphus, he that is caught in the wide Aegean Sea; when a black tempest has obscured the moon, and not a star appears with steady light for the mariners, supplicates the gods for repose: for repose, Thrace furious in war; the quiver-graced Medes, for repose neither purchasable by jewels, nor by purple, nor by gold. For neither regal treasures nor the consul’s officer can remove the wretched tumults of the mind, nor the cares that hover about splendid ceilings. That man lives happily on a little, who can view with pleasure the old-fashioned family salt-cellar on his frugal board; neither anxiety nor sordid avarice robs him of gentle sleep. Why do we, brave for a short season, aim at many things? Why do we change our own for climates heated by another sun? Whoever, by becoming an exile from his country, escaped likewise from himself? Consuming care boards even brazen-beaked ships: nor does it quit the troops of horsemen, for it is more fleet than the stags, more fleet than the storm-driving east wind. A mind that is cheerful in its present state, will disdain to be solicitous any further, and can correct the bitters of life with a placid smile. Nothing is on all hands completely blessed. A premature death carried off the celebrated Achilles; a protracted old age wore down Tithonus; and time perhaps may extend to me, what it shall deny to you. Around you a hundred flocks bleat, and Sicilian heifers low; for your use the mare, fit for the harness, neighs; wool doubly dipped in the African purple-dye, clothes you: on me undeceitful fate has bestowed a small country estate, and the slight inspiration of the Grecian muse, and a contempt for the malignity of the vulgar.
Why dost thoti kill me with thy complaints? ’Tis neither agreeable to the gods, nor to me, that thou shouldest depart first, O Maecenas, thou grand ornament and pillar of my affairs. Alas! if an untimely blow hurry away thee, a part of my soul, why do I the other moiety remain, my value lost, nor any longer whole? That [fatal] day shall bring destruction upon us both. I have by no means taken a false oath: we will go, we will go, whenever thou shalt lead the way, prepared to be fellow-travelers in the last journey. Me nor the breath of the fiery Chimaera, nor hundred-handed Gyges, were he to rise again, shall ever tear from thee: such is the will of powerful Justice, and of the Fates. Whether Libra or malignant Scorpio had the ascendant at my natal hour, or Capricon the ruler of the western wave, our horoscopes agree in a wonderful manner. Thee the benign protection of Jupiter, shining with friendly aspect, rescued from the baleful influence of impious Saturn, and retarded the wings of precipitate destiny, at the time the crowded people with resounding applauses thrice hailed you in the theatre: me the trunk of a tree, falling upon my skull, would have dispatched, had not Faunus, the protector of men of genius, with his right hand warded off the blow. Be thou mindful to pay the victims and the votive temple; I will sacrifice an humble lamb.
Nor ivory, nor a fretted ceiling adorned with gold, glitters in my house: no Hymettian beams rest upon pillars cut out of the extreme parts of Africa; nor, a pretended heir, have I possessed myself of the palace of Attalus, nor do ladies, my dependants, spin Laconian purple for my use. But integrity, and a liberal vein of genius, are mine: and the man of fortune makes his court to me, who am but poor. I importune the gods no further, nor do I require of my friend in power any larger enjoyments, sufficiently happy with my Sabine farm alone. Day is driven on by day, and the new moons hasten to their wane. You put out marble to be hewn, though with one foot in the grave; and, unmindful of a sepulcher, are building houses; and are busy to extend the shore of the sea, that beats with violence at Baiae, not rich enough with the shore of the mainland. Why is it, that through avarice you even pluck up the landmarks of your neighbor’s ground, and trespass beyond the bounds of your clients; and wife and husband are turned out, bearing in their bosom their household gods and their destitute children? Nevertheless, no court more certainly awaits its wealthy lord, than the destined limit of rapacious Pluto. Why do you go on? The impartial earth is opened equally to the poor and to the sons of kings; nor has the life-guard ferryman of hell, bribed with gold, re-conducted the artful Prometheus. He confines proud Tantalus; and the race of Tantalus, he condescends, whether invoked or not, to relieve the poor freed from their labors.
I saw Bacchus (believe it, posterity) dictating strains among the remote rocks, and the nymphs learning them, and the ears of the goat-footed satyrs all attentive. Evoe! my mind trembles with recent dread, and my soul, replete with Bacchus, has a tumultuous joy, Evoe! spare me, Bacchus; spare me, thou who art formidable for thy dreadful thyrsus. It is granted me to sing the wanton Bacchanalian priestess, and the fountain of wine, and rivulets flowing with milk, and to tell again of the honeys distilling from the hollow trunks. It is granted me likewise to celebrate the honor added to the constellations by your happy spouse, and the palace of Pentheus demolished with no light ruin, and the perdition of Thracian. Lycurgus. You command the rivers, you the barbarian sea. You, moist with wine, on lonely mountain-tops bind the hair of your Thracian priestesses with a knot of vipers without hurt. You, when the impious band of giants scaled the realms of father Jupiter through the sky, repelled Rhoetus, with the paws and horrible jaw of the lion-shape [you had assumed]. Thou, reported to be better fitted for dances, and jokes and play, you were accounted insufficient for fight; yet it then appeared, you, the same deity, was the mediator of peace and war. Upon you, ornamented with your golden horn, Orberus innocently gazed, gently wagging his tail; and with his triple tongue licked your feet and legs, as you returned.
I, a two-formed poet, will be conveyed through the liquid air with no vulgar or humble wing; nor will I loiter upon earth any longer; and superior to envy, I will quit cities. Not I, even I, the blood of low parents, my dear Maecenas, shall die; nor shall I be restrained by the Stygian wave. At this instant a rough skin settles upon my ankles, and all upwards I am transformed into a white bird, and the downy plumage arises over my fingers and shoulders. Now, a melodious bird, more expeditious than the Daepalean Icarus, I will visit the shores of the murmuring Bosphorus, and the Gzetulean Syrtes, and the Hyperborean plains. Me the Colchian and the Dacian, who hides his fear of the Marsian cohort, land the remotest Gelonians, shall know: me the learned Spaniard shall study, and he that drinks of the Rhone. Let there be no dirges, nor unmanly lamentations, nor bewailings at my imaginary funeral; suppress your crying, and forbear the superfluous honors of a sepulcher.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51