I abominate the uninitiated vulgar, and keep them at a distance. Preserve a religious silence: I, the priest of the Muses, sing to virgins and boys verses not heard before. The dominion of dread sovereigns is over their own subjects; that of Jupiter, glorious for his conquest over the giants, who shakes all nature with his nod, is over sovereigns themselves. It happens that one man, arranges trees, in regular rows, to a greater extent than another; this man comes down into the Campus [Martius] as a candidate of a better family; another vies with him for morals and a better reputation; a third has a superior number of dependants; but Fate, by the impartial law of nature, is allotted both to the conspicuous and the obscure; the capacious urn keeps every name in motion. Sicilian dainties will not force a delicious relish to that man, over whose impious neck the naked sword hangs: the songs of birds and the lyre will not restore his sleep. Sleep disdains not the humble cottages and shady bank of peasants; he disdains not Tempe, fanned by zephyrs. Him, who desires but a competency, neither the tempestuous sea renders anxious, nor the malign violence of Arcturus setting, or of the rising Kid; not his vineyards beaten down with hail, and a deceitful farm; his plantations at one season blaming the rains, at another, the influence of the constellations parching the grounds, at another, the severe winters. The fishes perceive the seas contracted, by the vast foundations that have been laid in the deep: hither numerous undertakers with their men, and lords, disdainful of the land, send down mortar: but anxiety and the threats of conscience ascend by the same way as the possessor; nor does gloomy care depart from the brazen-beaked galley, and she mounts behind the horseman. Since then nor Phrygian marble, nor the use of purple more dazzling than the sun, nor the Falernian vine, nor the Persian nard, composes a troubled mind, why should I set about a lofty edifice with columns that excite envy, and in the modern taste? Why should I exchange my Sabine vale for wealth, which is attended with more trouble?
Let the robust youth learn patiently to endure pinching want in the active exercise of arms; and as an expert horseman, dreadful for his spear, let him harass the fierce Parthians; and let him lead a life exposed to the open air, and familiar with dangers. Him, the consort and marriageable virgin-daughter of some warring tyrant, viewing from the hostile walls, may sigh —— Alas! let not the affianced prince, inexperienced as he is in arms, provoke by a touch this terrible lion, whom bloody rage hurries through the midst of slaughter. It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country; death even pursues the man that flies from him; nor does he spare the trembling knees of effeminate youth, nor the coward back. Virtue, unknowing of base repulse, shines with immaculate honors; nor does she assume nor lay aside the ensigns of her dignity, at the veering of the popular air. Virtue, throwing open heaven to those who deserve not to die, directs her progress through paths of difficulty, and spurns with a rapid wing grovelling cowards and the slippery earth. There is likewise a sure reward for faithful silence. I will prohibit that man, who shall divulge the sacred rites of mysterious Ceres, from being under the same roof with me, or from setting sail with me in the same fragile bark: for Jupiter, when slighted, often joins a good man in the same fate with a bad one. Seldom hath punishment, though lame, of foot, failed to overtake the wicked.
Not the rage of the people pressing to hurtful measures, not the aspect of a threatening tyrant can shake from his settled purpose the man who is just and determined in his resolution; nor can the south wind, that tumultuous ruler of the restless Adriatic, nor the mighty hand of thundering Jove; if a crushed world should fall in upon him, the ruins would strike him undismayed. By this character Pollux, by this the wandering Hercules, arrived at the starry citadels; among whom Augustus has now taken his place, and quaffs nectar with empurpled lips. Thee, O Father Bacchus, meritorious for this virtue, thy tigers carried, drawing the yoke with intractable neck; by this Romulus escaped Acheron on the horses of Mars — Juno having spoken what the gods in full conclave approve: “Troy, Troy, a fatal and lewd judge, and a foreign woman, have reduced to ashes, condemned, with its inhabitants and fraudulent prince, to me and the chaste Minerva, ever since Laomedon disappointed the gods of the stipulated reward. Now neither the infamous guest of the Lacedaemonian adulteress shines; nor does Priam’s perjured family repel the warlike Grecians by the aid of Hector, and that war, spun out to such a length by our factions, has sunk to peace. Henceforth, therefore, I will give up to Mars both my bitter resentment, and the detested grandson, whom the Trojan princes bore. Him will I suffer to enter the bright regions, to drink the juice of nectar, and to be enrolled among the peaceful order of gods. As long as the extensive sea rages between Troy and Rome, let them, exiles, reign happy in any other part of the world: as long as cattle trample upon the tomb of Priam and Paris, and wild beasts conceal their young ones there with impunity, may the Capitol remain in splendor, and may brave Rome be able to give laws to the conquered Medes. Tremendous let her extend her name abroad to the extremest boundaries of the earth, where the middle ocean separates Europe from Africa, where the swollen Nile waters the plains; more brave in despising gold as yet undiscovered, and so best situated while hidden in the earth, than in forcing it out for the uses of mankind, with a hand ready to make depredations on everything that is sacred. Whatever end of the world has made resistance, that let her reach with her arms, joyfully alert to visit, even that part where fiery heats rage madding; that where clouds and rains storm with unmoderated fury. But I pronounce this fate to the warlike Romans, upon this condition; that neither through an excess of piety, nor of confidence in their power, they become inclined to rebuild the houses of their ancestors’ Troy. The fortune of Troy, reviving under unlucky auspices, shall be repeated with lamentable destruction, I, the wife and sister of Jupiter, leading on the victorious bands. Thrice, if a brazen wall should arise by means of its founder Phoebus, thrice should it fall, demolished by my Grecians; thrice should the captive wife bewail her husband and her children.” These themes ill suit the merry lyre. Whither, muse, are you going? — Cease, impertinent, to relate the language of the gods, and to debase great things by your trifling measures.
Descend from heaven, queen Calliope, and come sing with your pipe a lengthened strain; or, if you had now rather, with your clear voice, or on the harp or lute of Phoebus. Do ye hear? or does a pleasing frenzy delude me? I seem to hear [her], and to wander [with her] along the hallowed groves, through which pleasant rivulets and gales make their way. Me, when a child, and fatigued with play, in sleep the woodland doves, famous in story, covered with green leaves in the Apulian Vultur, just without the limits of my native Apulia; so that it was matter of wonder to all that inhabit the nest of lofty Acherontia, the Bantine Forests, and the rich soil of low Ferentum, how I could sleep with my body safe from deadly vipers and ravenous bears; how I could be covered with sacred laurel and myrtle heaped together, though a child, not animated without the [inspiration of the] gods. Yours, O ye muses, I am yours, whether I am elevated to the Sabine heights; or whether the cool Praeneste, or the sloping Tibur, or the watery Baiae have delighted me. Me, who am attached to your fountains and dances, not the army put to flight at Philippi, not the execrable tree, nor a Palinurus in the Sicilian Sea has destroyed. While you shall be with me with pleasure will I, a sailor, dare the raging Bosphorus; or, a traveler, the burning sands of the Assyrian shore: I will visit the Britons inhuman to strangers, and the Concanian delighted [with drinking] the blood of horses; I will visit the quivered Geloni, and the Scythian river without hurt. You entertained lofty Caesar, seeking to put an end to his toils, in the Pierian grotto, as soon as he had distributed in towns his troops, wearied by campaigning: you administer [to him] moderate counsel, and graciously rejoice at it when administered. We are aware how he, who rules the inactive earth and the stormy main, the cities also, and the dreary realms [of hell], and alone governs with a righteous sway both gods and the human multitude, how he took off the impious Titans and the gigantic troop by his falling thunderbolts. That horrid youth, trusting to the strength of their arms, and the brethren proceeding to place Pelion upon shady Olympus, had brought great dread [even] upon Jove. But what could Typhoeus, and the strong Mimas, or what Porphyrion with his menacing statue; what Rhoetus, and Enceladus, a fierce darter with trees uptorn, avail, though rushing violently against the sounding shield of Pallas? At one part stood the eager Vulcan, at another the matron Juno, and he, who is never desirous to lay aside his bow from his shoulders, Apollo, the god of Delos and Patara, who bathes his flowing hair in the pure dew of Castalia, and possesses the groves of Lycia and his native wood. Force, void of conduct, falls by its own weight; moreover, the gods promote discreet force to further advantage; but the same beings detest forces, that meditate every kind of impiety. The hundred-handed Gyges is an evidence of the sentiments I allege: and Orion, the tempter of the spotless Diana, destroyed by a virgin dart. The earth, heaped over her own monsters, grieves and laments her offspring, sent to murky Hades by a thunderbolt; nor does the active fire consume Aetna that is placed over it, nor does the vulture desert the liver of incontinent Tityus, being stationed there as an avenger of his baseness; and three hundred chains confine the amorous Pirithous.
We believe from his thundering that Jupiter has dominion in the heavens: Augustus shall be esteemed a present deity the Britons and terrible Parthians being added to the empire. What! has any soldier of Crassus lived, a degraded husband with a barbarian wife? And has (O [corrupted] senate, and degenerate morals!) the Marsian and Apulian, unmindful of the sacred bucklers, of the [Roman] name and gown, and of eternal Vesta, grown old in the lands of hostile fathers-inlaw, Jupiter and the city being in safety? The prudent mind of Regulus had provided against this, dissenting from ignominious terms, and inferring from such a precedent destruction to the succeeding age, if the captive youth were not to perish unpitied. I have beheld, said he, the Roman standards affixed to the Carthaginian temples, and their arms taken away from our soldiers without bloodshed. I have beheld the arms of our citizens bound behind their free-born backs, and the gates [of the enemy] unshut, and the fields, which were depopulated by our battles, cultivated anew. The soldier, to be sure, ransomed by gold, will return a braver fellow! — No — you add loss to infamy; [for] neither does the wool once stained by the dye of the sea-weed ever resume its lost color; nor does genuine valor, when once it has failed, care to resume its place in those who have degenerated through cowardice. If the hind, disentangled from the thickset toils, ever fights, then indeed shall he be valorous, who has intrusted himself to faithless foes; and he shall trample upon the Carthaginians in a second war, who dastardly has felt the thongs with his arms tied behind him, and has been afraid of death. He, knowing no other way to preserve his life, has confounded peace with war. O scandal! O mighty Carthage, elevated to a higher pitch by Italy’s disgraceful downfall! He (Regulus) is reported to have rejected the embrace of his virtuous wife and his little sons like one degraded; and to have sternly fixed his manly countenance on the ground, until, as an adviser, by his counsel he confirmed the wavering senators, and amid his weeping friends hastened away, a glorious exile. Notwithstanding he knew what the barbarian executioner was providing for him, yet he pushed from his opposing kindred and the populace retarding his return, in no other manner, than if (after he had quitted the tedious business of his clients, by determining their suit) he was only going to the Venafrian plains, or the Lacedaemonian Tarentum.
Thou shalt atone, O Roman, for the sins of your ancestors, though innocent, till you shall have repaired the temples and tottering shrines of the gods, and their statues, defiled with sooty smoke. Thou boldest sway, because thou bearest thyself subordinate to the gods; to this source refer every undertaking; to this, every event. The gods, because neglected, have inflicted many evils on calamitous Italy. Already has Monaeses, and the band of Pacorus, twice repelled our inauspicious attacks, and exults in having added the Roman spoils to their trivial collars. The Dacian and Ethiopian have almost demolished the city engaged in civil broils, the one formidable for his fleet, the other more expert for missile arrows. The times, fertile in wickedness, have in the first place polluted the marriage state, and [thence] the issue and families. From this fountain perdition being derived, has overwhelmed the nation and people. The marriageable virgin delights to be taught the Ionic dances, and even at this time is trained up in [seductive] arts, and cherishes unchaste desires from her very infancy. Soon after she courts younger debauchees when her husband is in his cups, nor has she any choice, to whom she shall privately grant her forbidden pleasures when the lights are removed, but at the word of command, openly, not without the knowledge of her husband, she will come forth, whether it be a factor that calls for her, or the captain of a Spanish ship, the extravagant purchaser of her disgrace. It was not a youth born from parents like these, that stained the sea with Carthaginian gore, and slew Pyrrhus, and mighty Antiochus, and terrific Annibal; but a manly progeny of rustic soldiers, instructed to turn the glebe with Sabine spades, and to carry clubs cut [out of the woods] at the pleasure of a rigid mother, what time the sun shifted the shadows of the mountains, and took the yokes from the wearied oxen, bringing on the pleasant hour with his retreating chariot. What does not wasting time destroy? The age of our fathers, worse than our grandsires, produced us still more flagitious, us, who are about to product am offspring more vicious [even than ourselves].
Why, O Asterie, do you weep for Gyges, a youth of inviolable constancy, whom the kindly zephyrs will restore to you in the beginning of the Spring, enriched with a Bithynian cargo? Driven as far as Oricum by the southern winds, after [the rising] of the Goat’s tempestuous constellation, he sleepless passes the cold nights in abundant weeping [for you]; but the agent of his anxious landlady slyly tempts him by a thousand methods, informing him that [his mistress], Chloe, is sighing for him, and burns with the same love that thou hast for him. He remonstrates with him how a perfidious woman urged the credulous Proetus, by false accusations, to hasten the death of the over-chaste Bellerophon. He tells how Peleus was like to have been given up to the infernal regions, while out of temperance he avoided the Magnesian Hippolyte: and the deceiver quotes histories to him, that are lessons for sinning. In vain; for, heart-whole as yet, he receives his words deafer than the Icarian rocks. But with regard to you, have a care lest your neighbor Enipeus prove too pleasing. Though no other person equally skillful to guide the steed, is conspicuous in the course, nor does any one with equal swiftness swim down the Etrurian stream, yet secure your house at the very approach of night, nor look down into the streets at the sound of the doleful pipe; and remain inflexible toward him, though he often upbraid thee with cruelty.
O Maecenas, learned in both languages, you wonder what I, a single man, have to do on the calends of March; what these flowers mean, and the censer replete with frankincense, and the coals laid upon the live turf. I made a vow of a joyous banquet, and a white goat to Bacchus, after having been at the point of death by a blow from a tree. This day, sacred in the revolving year, shall remove the cork fastened with pitch from that jar, which was set to inhale the smoke in the consulship of Tullus. Take, my Maecenas, a hundred cups on account of the safety of your friend, and continue the wakeful lamps even to day-light: all clamor and passion be far away. Postpone your political cares with regard to the state: the army of the Dacian Cotison is defeated; the troublesome Mede is quarreling with himself in a horrible [civil] war: the Cantabrian, our old enemy on the Spanish coast, is subject to us, though conquered by a long-disputed victory: now, too, the Scythians are preparing to quit the field with their imbent bows. Neglectful, as a private person, forbear to be too solicitous lest the community in any wise suffer, and joyfully seize the boons of the present hour, and quit serious affairs.
HORACE. As long as I was agreeable to thee, and no other youth more favored was wont to fold his arms around thy snowy neck, I lived happier than the Persian monarch.
LYDIA. As long as thou hadst not a greater flame for any other, nor was Lydia below Chloe [in thine affections], I Lydia, of distinguished fame, flourished more eminent than the Roman Ilia.
HOR. The Thracian Chloe now commands me, skillful in sweet modulations, and a mistress of the lyre; for whom I would not dread to die, if the fates would spare her, my surviving soul.
LYD. Calais, the son of the Thurian Ornitus, inflames me with a mutual fire; for whom I would twice endure to die, if the fates would spare my surviving youth.
HOR. What! if our former love returns, and unites by a brazen yoke us once parted? What if Chloe with her golden locks be shaken off, and the door again open to slighted Lydia.
LYD. Though he is fairer than a star, thou of more levity than a cork, and more passionate than the blustering Adriatic; with thee I should love to live, with thee I would cheerfully die.
O Lyce, had you drunk from the remote Tanais, in a state of marriage with tome barbarian, yet you might be sorry to expose me, prostrate before your obdurate doors, to the north winds that have made those places their abode. Do you hear with what a noise your gate, with what [a noise] the grove, planted about your elegant buildings, rebellows to the winds? And how Jupiter glazes the settled snow with his bright influence? Lay aside disdain, offensive to Venus, lest your rope should run backward, while the wheel is revolving. Your Tyrrhenian father did not beget you to be as inaccessible as Penelope to your wooers. O though neither presents, nor prayers, nor the violet-tinctured paleness of your lovers, nor your husband smitten with a musical courtezan, bend you to pity; yet [at length] spare your suppliants, you that are not softer than the sturdy oak, nor of a gentler disposition than the African serpents. This side [of mine] will not always be able to endure your threshold, and the rain.
O Mercury, for under thy instruction the ingenious Amphion moved rocks by his voice, you being his tutor; and though my harp, skilled in sounding, with seven strings, formerly neither vocal nor pleasing, but now agreeable both to the tables of the wealthy and the temples [of the gods]; dictate measures to which Lyde may incline her obstinate ears, who, like a filly of three years old, plays and frisks about in the spacious fields, inexperienced in nuptial loves, and hitherto unripe for a brisk husband. You are able to draw after your tigers and attendant woods, and to retard rapid rivers. To your blandishments the enormous porter of the [infernal] palace yielded, though a hundred serpents fortify his head, and a pestilential steam and an infectious poison issue from his triple-tongued mouth. Moreover, Ixion and Tityus smiled with a reluctant aspect: while you soothe the daughters of Danaus with your delightful harmony, their vessel for some time remained dry. Let Lyde hear of the crime, and the well-known punishment of the virgins, and the cask emptied by the water streaming through the bottom, and what lasting fates await their misdeeds even beyond the grave. Impious! (for what greater impiety could they have committed?) Impious! who could destroy their bridegrooms with the cruel sword! One out of the many, worthy of the nuptial torch, was nobly false to her perjured parent, and a maiden illustrious to all posterity; she, who said to her youthful husband, “Arise! arise! lest an eternal sleep be given to you from a hand you have no suspicion of; disappoint your father-inlaw and my wicked sisters, who, like lionesses having possessed themselves of calves (alas)! tear each of them to pieces; I, of softer mold than they, will neither strike thee, nor detain thee in my custody. Let my father load me with cruel chains, because out of mercy I spared my unhappy spouse; let him transport me even to the extreme Numidian plains. Depart, whither your feet and the winds carry you, while the night and Venus are favorable: depart with happy omen; yet, not forgetful of me, engrave my mournful story on my tomb.”
It is for unhappy maidens neither to give indulgence to love, nor to wash away cares with delicious wine; or to be dispirited out of dread of the lashes of an uncle’s tongue. The winged boy of Venus, O Neobule, has deprived you of your spindle and your webs, and the beauty of Hebrus from Lipara of inclination for the labors of industrious Minerva, after he has bathed his anointed shoulders in the waters of the Tiber; a better horseman than Bellerophon himself, neither conquered at boxing, nor by want of swiftness in the race: he is also skilled to strike with his javelin the stags, flying through the open plains in frightened herd, and active to surprise the wild boar lurking in the deep thicket.
O thou fountain of Bandusia, clearer than glass, worthy of delicious wine, not unadorned by flowers; tomorrow thou shalt be presented with a kid, whose forehead, pouting with new horns, determines upon both love and war in vain; for this offspring of the wanton flock shall tinge thy cooling streams with scarlet blood. The severe season of the burning dog-star cannot reach thee; thou affordest a refreshing coolness to the oxen fatigued with the plough-share, and to the ranging flock. Thou also shalt become one of the famous fountains, through my celebrating the oak that covers the hollow rock, whence thy prattling rills descend with a bound.
Augustus Caesar, O ye people, who was lately said, like another Hercules, to have sought for the laurel to be purchased only by death, revisits his domestic gods, victorious from the Spanish shore. Let the matron (Livia), to whom her husband alone is dear, come forth in public procession, having first performed her duty to the just gods; and (Octavia), the sister of our glorious general; the mothers also of the maidens and of the youths just preserved from danger, becomingly adorned with supplicatory fillets. Ye, O young men, and young women lately married, abstain from ill-omened words. This day, to me a real festival, shall expel gloomy cares: I will neither dread commotions, nor violent death, while Caesar is in possession of the earth. Go, slave, and seek for perfume and chaplets, and a cask that remembers the Marsian war, if any vessel could elude the vagabond Spartacus. And bid the tuneful Neaera make haste to collect into a knot her auburn hair; but if any delay should happen from the surly porter, come away. Hoary hair mollifies minds that are fond of strife and petulant wrangling. I would not have endured this treatment, warm with youth in the consulship of Plancus.
You wife of the indigent Ibycus, at length put an end to your wickedness, and your infamous practices. Cease to sport among the damsels, and to diffuse a cloud among bright constellations, now on the verge of a timely death. If any thing will become Pholoe, it does not you Chloris, likewise. Your daughter with more propriety attacks the young men’s apartments, like a Bacchanalian roused up by the rattling timbrel. The love of Nothus makes her frisk about like a wanton she-goat. The wool shorn near the famous Luceria becomes you now antiquated: not musical instruments, or the damask flower of the rose, or hogsheads drunk down to the lees.
A brazen tower, and doors of oak, and the melancholy watch of wakeful dogs, had sufficiently defended the imprisoned Danae from midnight gallants, had not Jupiter and Venus laughed at Acrisius, the anxious keeper of the immured maiden: [for they well knew] that the way would be safe and open, after the god had transformed himself into a bribe. Gold delights to penetrate through the midst of guards, and to break through stone-walls, more potent than the thunderbolt. The family of the Grecian augur perished, immersed in destruction on account of lucre. The man of Macedon cleft the gates of the cities and subverted rival monarchs by bribery. Bribes enthrall fierce captains of ships. Care, and a thirst for greater things, is the consequence of increasing wealth. Therefore, Maecenas, thou glory of the [Roman] knights, I have justly dreaded to raise the far-conspicuous head. As much more as any man shall deny himself, so much more shall he receive from the gods. Naked as I am, I seek the camps of those who covet nothing; and as a deserter, rejoice to quit the side of the wealthy: a more illustrious possessor of a contemptible fortune, than if I could be said to treasure up in my granaries all that the industrious Apulian cultivates, poor amid abundance of wealth. A rivulet of clear water, and a wood of a few acres, and a certain prospect of my good crop, are blessings unknown to him who glitters in the proconsulship of fertile Africa: I am more happily circumstanced. Though neither the Calabrian bees produce honey, nor wine ripens to age for me in a Formian cask, nor rich fleeces increase in Gallic pastures; yet distressful poverty is remote; nor, if I desired more, would you refuse to grant it me. I shall be better able to extend my small revenues, by contracting my desires, than if I could join the kingdom of Alyattes to the Phrygian plains. Much is wanting to those who covet much. ’Tis well with him to whom God has given what is necessary with a sparing hand.
O Aelius, who art nobly descended from the ancient Lamus (forasmuch as they report, that both the first of the Lamian family had their name hence, and all the race of the descendants through faithful records derives its origin from that founder, who is said to have possessed, as prince, the Formian walls, and Liris gliding on the shores of Marica — an extensive potentate). To-morrow a tempest sent from the east shall strew the grove with many leaves, and the shore with useless sea-weed, unless that old prophetess of rain, the raven, deceives me. Pile up the dry wood, while you may; tomorrow you shall indulge your genius with wine, and with a pig of two months old, with your slaves dismissed from their labors.
O Faunus, thou lover of the flying nymphs, benignly traverse my borders and sunny fields, and depart propitious to the young offspring of my flocks; if a tender kid fall [a victim] to thee at the completion of the year, and plenty of wines be not wanting to the goblet, the companion of Venus, and the ancient altar smoke with liberal perfume. All the cattle sport in the grassy plain, when the nones of December return to thee; the village keeping holiday enjoys leisure in the fields, together with the oxen free from toil. The wolf wanders among the fearless lambs; the wood scatters its rural leaves for thee, and the laborer rejoices to have beaten the hated ground in triple dance.
How far Codrus, who was not afraid to die for his country, is removed from Inachus, and the race of Aeacus, and the battles also that were fought at sacred Troy —[these subjects] you descant upon; but at what price we may purchase a hogshead of Chian; who shall warm the water [for bathing]; who finds a house: and at what hour I am to get rid of these Pelignian colds, you are silent. Give me, boy, [a bumper] for the new moon in an instant, give me one for midnight, and one for Murena the augur. Let our goblets be mixed up with three or nine cups, according to every one’s disposition. The enraptured bard, who delights in the odd-numbered muses, shall call for brimmers thrice three. Each of the Graces, in conjunction with the naked sisters, fearful of broils, prohibits upward of three. It is my pleasure to rave; why cease the breathings of the Phrygian flute? Why is the pipe hung up with the silent lyre? I hate your niggardly handfuls: strew roses freely. Let the envious Lycus hear the jovial noise; and let our fair neighbor, ill-suited to the old Lycus, [hear it.] The ripe Rhode aims at thee, Telephus, smart with thy bushy locks; at thee, bright as the clear evening star; the love of my Glycera slowly consumes me.
Do you not perceive, O Pyrrhus, at what hazard yon are taking away the whelps from a Gutulian lioness? In a little while you, a timorous ravisher, shall fly from the severe engagement, when she shall march through the opposing band of youths, re-demanding her beauteous Nearchus; a grand contest, whether a greater share of booty shall fall to thee or to her! In the mean time, while you produce your swift arrows, she whets her terrific teeth; while the umpire of the combat is reported to have placed the palm under his naked foot, and refreshed his shoulder, overspread with his perfumed locks, with the gentle breeze: just such another was Nireus, or he that was ravished from the watery Ida.
O thou goodly cask, that wast brought to light at the same time with me in the consulship of Manlius, whether thou containest the occasion of complaint, or jest, or broils and maddening amours, or gentle sleep; under whatever title thou preservest the choice Massic, worthy to be removed on an auspicious day; descend, Corvinus bids me draw the mellowest wine. He, though he is imbued in the Socratic lectures, will not morosely reject thee. The virtue even of old Cato is recorded to have been frequently warmed with wine. Thou appliest a gentle violence to that disposition, which is in general of the rougher cast: Thou revealest the cares and secret designs of the wise, by the assistance of merry Bacchus. You restore hope and spirit to anxious minds, and give horns to the poor man, who after [tasting] you neither dreads the diadems of enraged monarchs, nor the weapons of the soldiers. Thee Bacchus, and Venus, if she comes in good-humor, and the Graces loth to dissolve the knot [of their union], and living lights shall prolong, till returning Phoebus puts the stars to flight.
O virgin, protectress of the mountains and the groves, thou three-formed goddess, who thrice invoked, hearest young women in labor, and savest them from death; sacred to thee be this pine that overshadows my villa, which I, at the completion of every year, joyful will present with the blood of a boar-pig, just meditating his oblique attack.
My rustic Phidyle, if you raise your suppliant hands to heaven at the new moon, and appease the household gods with frankincense, and this year’s fruits, and a ravening swine; the fertile vine shall neither feel the pestilential south-west, nor the corn the barren blight, or your dear brood the sickly season in the fruit-bearing autumn. For the destined victim, which is pastured in the snowy Algidus among the oaks and holm trees, or thrives in the Albanian meadows, with its throat shall stain the axes of the priests. It is not required of you, who are crowning our little gods with rosemary and the brittle myrtle, to propitiate them with a great slaughter of sheep. If an innocent hand touches a clear, a magnificent victim does not pacify the offended Penates more acceptably, than a consecrated cake and crackling salt.
Though, more wealthy than the unrifled treasures of the Arabians and rich India, you should possess yourself by your edifices of the whole Tyrrhenian and Apulian seas; yet, if cruel fate fixes its adamantine grapples upon the topmost roofs, you shall not disengage your mind from dread, nor your life from the snares of death. The Scythians that dwell in the plains, whose carts, according to their custom, draw their vagrant habitations, live in a better manner; and [so do] the rough Getae, whose uncircumscribed acres produce fruits and corn free to all, nor is a longer than annual tillage agreeable, and a successor leaves him who has accomplished his labor by an equal right. There the guiltless wife spares her motherless step-children, nor does the portioned spouse govern her husband, nor put any confidence in a sleek adulterer. Their dower is the high virtue of their parents, and a chastity reserved from any other man by a steadfast security; and it, is forbidden to sin, or the reward is death. O if there be any one willing to remove our impious slaughters, and civil rage; if he be desirous to be written FATHER OF THE STATE, on statues [erected to him], let him dare to curb insuperable licentiousness, and be eminent to posterity; since we (O injustice!) detest virtue while living, but invidiously seek for her after she is taken out of our view. To what purpose are our woeful complaints, if sin is not cut off with punishment? Of what efficacy are empty laws, without morals; if neither that part of the world which is shut in by fervent heats, nor that side which borders upon Boreas, and snows hardened upon the ground, keep off the merchant; [and] the expert sailors get the better of the horrible seas? Poverty, a great reproach, impels us both to do and to suffer any thing, and deserts the path of difficult virtue. Let us, then, cast our gems and precious stones and useless gold, the cause of extreme evil, either into the Capitol, whither the acclamations and crowd of applauding [citizens] call us, or into the adjoining ocean. If we are truly penitent for our enormities, the very elements of depraved lust are to be erased, and the minds of too soft a mold should be formed by severer studies. The noble youth knows not how to keep his seat on horseback and is afraid to go a hunting, more skilled to play (if you choose it) with the Grecian trochus, or dice, prohibited by law; while the father’s perjured faith can deceive his partner and friend, and he hastens to get money for an unworthy heir. In a word, iniquitous wealth increases, yet something is ever wanting to the incomplete fortune.
Whither, O Bacchus, art thou hurrying me, replete with your influence? Into what groves, into what recesses am I driven, actuated with uncommon spirit? In what caverns, meditating the immortal honor of illustrious Caesar, shall I be heard enrolling him among the stars and the council of Jove? I will utter something extraordinary, new, hitherto unsung by any other voice. Thus the sleepless Bacchanal is struck with enthusiasm, casting her eyes upon Hebrus, and Thrace bleached with snow, and Rhodope traversed by the feet of barbarians. How am I delighted in my rambles, to admire the rocks and the desert grove! O lord of the Naiads and the Bacchanalian women, who are able with their hands to overthrow lofty ash-trees; nothing little, nothing low, nothing mortal will I sing. Charming is the hazard, O Bacchus, to accompany the god, who binds his temples with the verdant vine-leaf.
I lately lived a proper person for girls, and campaigned it not without honor; but now this wall, which guards the left side of [the statue] of sea-born Venus, shall have my arms and my lyre discharged from warfare. Here, here, deposit the shining flambeaux, and the wrenching irons, and the bows, that threatened the resisting doors. O thou goddess, who possessest the blissful Cyprus, and Memphis free from Sithonian snow, O queen, give the haughty Chloe one cut with your high-raised lash.
Let the omen of the noisy screech-owl and a pregnant bitch, or a tawny wolf running down from the Lanuvian fields, or a fox with whelp conduct the impious [on their way]; may the serpent also break their undertaken journey, if, like an arrow athwart the road, it has frightened the horses. What shall I, a provident augur, fear? I will invoke from the east, with my prayers, the raven forboding by his croaking, before the bird which presages impending showers, revisits the stagnant pools. Mayest thou be happy, O Galatea, wheresoever thou choosest to reside, and live mindful of me and neither the unlucky pye nor the vagrant crow forbids your going on. But you see, with what an uproar the prone Orion hastens on: I know what the dark bay of the Adriatic is, and in what manner Iapyx, [seemingly] serene, is guilty. Let the wives and children of our enemies feel the blind tumults of the rising south, and the roaring of the blackened sea, and the shores trembling with its lash. Thus too Europa trusted her fair side to the deceitful bull, and bold as she was, turned pale at the sea abounding with monsters, and the cheat now become manifest. She, who lately in the meadows was busied about flowers, and a composer of the chaplet meet for nymphs, saw nothing in the dusky night put stars and water. Who as soon as she arrived at Crete, powerful with its hundred cities, cried out, overcome with rage, “O father, name abandoned by thy daughter! O my duty! Whence, whither am I come? One death is too little for virgins’ crime. Am I awake, while I deplore my base offense; or does some vain phantom, which, escaping from the ivory gate, brings on a dream, impose upon me, still free from guilt. Was it better to travel over the tedious waves, or to gather the fresh flowers? If any one now would deliver up to me in my anger this infamous bull, I would do my utmost to tear him to pieces with steel, and break off the horns of the monster, lately so much beloved. Abandoned I have left my father’s house, abandoned I procrastinate my doom. O if any of the gods hear this, I wish I may wander naked among lions: before foul decay seizes my comely cheeks, and moisture leaves this tender prey, I desire, in all my beauty, to be the food of tigers.” “Base Europa,” thy absent father urges, “why do you hesitate to die? you may strangle your neck suspended from this ash, with your girdle that has commodiously attended you. Or if a precipice, and the rocks that are edged with death, please you, come on, commit yourself to the rapid storm; unless you, that are of blood-royal, had rather card your mistress’s wool, and be given up as a concubine to some barbarian dame.” As she complained, the treacherously-smiling Venus, and her son, with his bow relaxed, drew near. Presently, when she had sufficiently rallied her, “Refrain (she cried) from your rage and passionate chidings, since this detested bull shall surrender his horns to be torn in pieces by you. Are you ignorant, that you are the wife of the invincible Jove? Cease your sobbing; learn duly to support your distinguished good fortune. A division of the world shall bear your name.”
What can I do better on the festal day of Neptune? Quickly produce, Lyde, the hoarded Caecuban, and make an attack upon wisdom, ever on her guard. You perceive the noontide is on its decline; and yet, as if the fleeting day stood still, you delay to bring out of the store-house the loitering cask, [that bears its date] from the consul Bibulus. We will sing by turns, Neptune, and the green locks of the Nereids; you, shall chant, on your wreathed lyre, Latona and the darts of the nimble Cynthia; at the conclusion of your song, she also [shall be celebrated], who with her yoked swans visits Gnidos, and the shining Cyclades, and Paphos: the night also shall be celebrated in a suitable lay.
O Maecenas, thou progeny of Tuscan kings, there has been a long while for you in my house some mellow wine in an unbroached hogshead, with rose-flowers and expressed essence for your hair. Disengage yourself from anything that may retard you, nor contemplate the ever marshy Tibur, and the sloping fields of Aesula, and the hills of Telegonus the parricide. Leave abundance, which is the source of daintiness, and yon pile of buildings approaching near the lofty clouds: cease to admire the smoke, and opulence, and noise of flourishing Rome. A change is frequently agreeable to the rich, and a cleanly meal in the little cottage of the poor has smoothed an anxious brow without carpets or purple. Now the bright father of Andromeda displays his hidden fire; now Procyon rages, and the constellation of the ravening Lion, as the sun brings round the thirsty season. Now the weary shepherd with his languid flock seeks the shade, and the river, and the thickets of rough Sylvanus; and the silent bank is free from the wandering winds. You regard what constitution may suit the state, and are in an anxious dread for Rome, what preparations the Seres and the Bactrians subject to Cyrus, and the factious Tanais are making. A wise deity shrouds in obscure darkness the events of the time to come, and smiles if a mortal is solicitous beyond the law of nature. Be mindful to manage duly that which is present. What remains goes on in the manner of the river, at one time calmly gliding in the middle of its channel to the Tuscan Sea, at another, rolling along corroded stones, and stumps of trees, forced away, and cattle, and houses, not without the noise of mountains and neighboring woods, when the merciless deluge enrages the peaceful waters. That man is master of himself and shall live happy, who has it in his power to say, “I have lived today: tomorrow let the Sire invest the heaven, either with a black cloud, or with clear sunshine; nevertheless, he shall not render ineffectual what is past, nor undo or annihilate what the fleeting hour has once carried off. Fortune, happy in the execution of her cruel office, and persisting to play her insolent game, changes uncertain honors, indulgent now to me, by and by to another. I praise her, while she abides by me. If she moves her fleet wings, I resign what she has bestowed, and wrap myself up in my virtue, and court honest poverty without a portion. It is no business of mine, if the mast groan with the African storms, to have recourse to piteous prayers, and to make a bargain with my vows, that my Cyprian and Syrian merchandize may not add to the wealth of the insatiable sea. Then the gale and the twin Pollux will carry me safe in the protection of a skiff with two oars, through the tumultuous Aegean Sea.”
I have completed a monument more lasting than brass, and more sublime than the regal elevation of pyramids, which neither the wasting shower, the unavailing north wind, nor an innumerable succession of years, and the flight of seasons, shall be able to demolish. I shall not wholly die; but a great part of me shall escape Libitina. I shall continualy be renewed in the praises of posterity, as long as the priest shall ascend the Capitol with the silent [vestal] virgin. Where the rapid Aufidus shall murmur, and where Daunus, poorly supplied with water, ruled over a rustic people, I, exalted from a low degree, shall be acknowledged as having originally adapted the Aeolic verse to Italian measures. Melpomene, assume that pride which your merits have acquired, and willingly crown my hair with the Delphic laurel.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55