That all, but especially the covetous, think their own condition the hardest.
How comes it to pass, Maecenas, that no one lives content with his condition, whether reason gave it him, or chance threw it in his way [but] praises those who follow different pursuits? “O happy merchants!” says the soldier, oppressed with years, and now broken down in his limbs through excess of labor. On the other side, the merchant, when the south winds toss his ship [cries], “Warfare is preferable;” for why? the engagement is begun, and in an instant there comes a speedy death or a joyful victory. The lawyer praises the farmer’s state when the client knocks at his door by cock-crow. He who, having entered into a recognizance, is dragged from the country into the city, cries, “Those only are happy who live in the city.” The other instances of this kind (they are so numerous) would weary out the loquacious Fabius; not to keep you in suspense, hear to what an issue I will bring the matter. If any god should say, “Lo! I will effect what you desire: you, that were just now a soldier, shall be a merchant; you, lately a lawyer [shall be] a farmer. Do ye depart one way, and ye another, having exchanged the parts [you are to act] in life. How now! why do you stand?” They are unwilling; and yet it is in their power to be happy. What reason can be assigned, but that Jupiter should deservedly distend both his cheeks in indignation, and declare that for the future he will not be so indulgent as to lend an ear to their prayers? But further, that I may not run over this in a laughing manner, like those [who treat] on ludicrous subjects (though what hinders one being merry, while telling the truth? as good-natured teachers at first give cakes to their boys, that they may be willing to learn their first rudiments: railery, however, apart, let us investigate serious matters). He that turns the heavy glebe with the hard ploughshare, this fraudulent tavern-keeper, the soldier, and the sailors, who dauntless run through every sea, profess that they endure toil with this intention, that as old men they may retire into a secure resting place, when once they have gotten together a sufficient provision.
Thus the little ant (for she is an example), of great industry, carries in her mouth whatever she is able, and adds to the heap which she piles up, by no means ignorant and not careless for the future. Which [ant, nevertheless], as soon, as Aquarius saddens the changed year, never creeps abroad, but wisely makes use of those stores which were provided beforehand: while neither sultry summer, nor winter, fire, ocean, sword, can drive you from gain. You surmount every obstacle, that no other man may be richer than yourself. What pleasure is it for you, trembling to deposit an immense weight of silver and gold in the earth dug up by stealth? Because if you lessen it, it may be reduced to a paltry farthing.
But unless that be the case, what beauty has an accumulated hoard? Though your thrashing-floor should yield a hundred thousand bushels of corn, your belly will not on that account contain more than mine: just as if it were your lot to carry on your loaded shoulder the basket of bread among slaves, you would receive no more [for your own share] than he who bore no part of the burthen. Or tell me, what is it to the purpose of that man, who lives within the compass of nature, whether he plow a hundred or a thousand acres?
“But it is still delightful to take out of a great hoard.”
While you leave us to take as much out of a moderate store, why should you extol your granaries, more than our corn-baskets? As if you had occasion for no more than a pitcher or glass of water, and should say, “I had rather draw [so much] from a great river, than the very same quantity from this little fountain.” Hence it comes to pass, that the rapid Aufidus carries away, together with the bank, such men as an abundance more copious than what is just delights. But he who desires only so much as is sufficient, neither drinks water fouled with the mud, nor loses his life in the waves.
But a great majority of mankind, misled by a wrong desire cry, “No sum is enough; because you are esteemed in proportion to what you possess.” What can one do to such a tribe as this? Why, bid them be wretched, since their inclination prompts them to it. As a certain person is recorded [to have lived] at Athens, covetous and rich, who was wont to despise the talk of the people in this manner: “The crowd hiss me; but I applaud myself at home, as soon as I contemplate my money in my chest.” The thirsty Tantalus catches at the streams, which elude his lips. Why do you laugh? The name changed, the tale is told of you. You sleep upon your bags, heaped up on every side, gaping over them, and are obliged to abstain from them, as if they were consecrated things, or to amuse yourself with them as you would with pictures. Are you ignorant of what value money has, what use it can afford? Bread, herbs, a bottle of wine may be purchased; to which [necessaries], add [such others], as, being withheld, human nature would be uneasy with itself. What, to watch half dead with terror, night and day, to dread profligate thieves, fire, and your slaves, lest they should run away and plunder you; is this delightful? I should always wish to be very poor in possessions held upon these terms.
But if your body should be disordered by being seized with a cold, or any other casualty should confine you to your bed, have you one that will abide by you, prepare medicines, entreat the physician that he would set you upon your feet, and restore you to your children and dear relations?
Neither your wife, nor your son, desires your recovery; all your neighbors, acquaintances, [nay the very] boys and girls hate you. Do you wonder that no one tenders you the affection which you do not merit, since you prefer your money to everything else? If you think to retain, and preserve as friends, the relations which nature gives you, without taking any pains; wretch that you are, you lose your labor equally, as if any one should train an ass to be obedient to the rein, and run in the Campus [Martius]. Finally, let there be some end to your search; and, as your riches increase, be in less dread of poverty; and begin to cease from your toil, that being acquired which you coveted: nor do as did one Umidius (it is no tedious story), who was so rich that he measured his money, so sordid that he never clothed him self any better than a slave; and, even to his last moments, was in dread lest want of bread should oppress him: but his freed-woman, the bravest of all the daughters of Tyndarus, cut him in two with a hatchet.
“What therefore do you persuade me to? That I should lead the life of Naevius, or in such a manner as a Nomentanus?”
You are going [now] to make things tally, that are contradictory in their natures. When I bid you not be a miser, I do not order you to become a debauchee or a prodigal. There is some difference between the case of Tanais and his son-inlaw Visellius, there is a mean in things; finally, there are certain boundaries, on either side of which moral rectitude can not exist. I return now whence I digressed. Does no one, after the miser’s example, like his own station, but rather praise those who have different pursuits; and pines, because his neighbor’s she-goat bears a more distended udder: nor considers himself in relation to the greater multitude of poor; but labors to surpass, first one and then another? Thus the richer man is always an obstacle to one that is hastening [to be rich]: as when the courser whirls along the chariot dismissed from the place of starting; the charioteer presses upon those horses which outstrip his own, despising him that is left behind coming on among the last. Hence it is, that we rarely find a man who can say he has lived happy, and content with his past life, can retire from the world like a satisfied guest. Enough for the present: nor will I add one word more, lest you should suspect that I have plundered the escrutoire of the blear-eyed Crispinus.
Bad men, when they avoid certain vices, fall into their opposite extremes.
The tribes of female flute-players, quacks, vagrants, mimics, blackguards; all this set is sorrowful and dejected on account of the death of the singer Tigellius; for he was liberal [toward them]. On the other hand, this man, dreading to be called a spendthrift, will not give a poor friend wherewithal to keep off cold and pinching hunger. If you ask him why he wickedly consumes the noble estate of his grandfather and father in tasteless gluttony, buying with borrowed money all sorts of dainties; he answers, because he is unwilling to be reckoned sordid, or of a mean spirit: he is praised by some, condemned by others. Fufidius, wealthy in lands, wealthy in money put out at interest, is afraid of having the character of a rake and spendthrift. This fellow deducts 5 per cent. Interest from the principal [at the time of lending]; and, the more desperate in his circumstances any one is, the more severely be pinches him: he hunts out the names of young fellows that have just put on the toga virilis under rigid fathers. Who does not cry out, O sovereign Jupiter! when he has heard [of such knavery]? But [you will say, perhaps,] this man expends upon himself in proportion to his gain. You can hardly believe how little a friend he is to himself: insomuch that the father, whom Terence’s comedy introduces as living miserable after he had caused his son to run away from him, did not torment himself worse than he. Now if any one should ask, “To what does this matter tend?” To this: while fools shun [one sort of] vices, they fall upon their opposite extremes. Malthinus walks with his garments trailing upon the ground; there is another droll fellow who [goes] with them tucked up even to his middle; Rufillus smells like perfume itself, Gorgonius like a he-goat. There is no mean. There are some who would not keep company with a lady, unless her modest garment perfectly conceal her feet. Another, again, will only have such as take their station in a filthy brothel. When a certain noted spark came out of a stew, the divine Cato [greeted] him with this sentence: “Proceed (says he) in your virtuous course. For, when once foul lust has inflamed the veins, it is right for young fellows to come hither, in comparison of their meddling with other men’s wives.” I should not be willing to be commended on such terms, says Cupiennius, an admirer of the silken vail.
Ye, that do not wish well to the proceedings of adulterers, it is worth your while to hear how they are hampered on all sides; and that their pleasure, which happens to them but seldom, is interrupted with a great deal of pain, and often in the midst of very great dangers. One has thrown himself headlong from the top of a house; another has been whipped almost to death: a third, in his flight, has fallen into a merciless gang of thieves: another has paid a fine, [to avoid] corporal [punishment]: the lowest servants have treated another with the vilest indignities. Moreover, this misfortune happened to a certain person, he entirely lost his manhood. Every body said, it was with justice: Galba denied it.
But how much safer is the traffic among [women] of the second rate! I mean the freed-women: after which Sallustius is not less mad, than he who commits adultery. But if he had a mind to be good and generous, as far as his estate and reason would direct him, and as far as a man might be liberal with moderation; he would give a sufficiency, not what would bring upon himself ruin and infamy. However, he hugs himself in this one [consideration]; this he delights in, this he extols: “I meddle with no matron.” Just as Marsaeus, the lover of Origo, he who gives his paternal estate and seat to an actress, says, “I never meddle with other men’s wives.” But you have with actresses, you have with common strumpets: whence your reputation derives a greater perdition, than your estate. What, is it abundantly sufficient to avoid the person, and not the [vice] which is universally noxious? To lose one’s good name, to squander a father’s effects, is in all cases an evil. What is the difference [then, with regard to yourself,] whether you sin with the person of a matron, a maiden, or a prostitute?
Villius, the son-inlaw of Sylla (by this title alone he was misled), suffered [for his commerce] with Fausta, an adequate and more than adequate punishment, by being drubbed and stabbed, while he was shut out, that Longarenus might enjoy her within. Suppose this [young man’s] mind had addressed him in the words of his appetite, perceiving such evil consequences: “What would you have? Did I ever, when my ardor was at the highest, demand a woman descended from a great consul, and covered with robes of quality?” What could he answer? Why, “the girl was sprung from an illustrious father.” But how much better things, and how different from this, does nature, abounding in stores of her own, recommend; if you would only make a proper use of them, and not confound what is to be avoided with that which is desirable! Do you think it is of no consequence, whether your distresses arise from your own fault or from [a real deficiency] of things? Wherefore, that you may not repent [when it is too late], put a stop to your pursuit after matrons; whence more trouble is derived, than you can obtain of enjoyment from success. Nor has [this particular matron], amid her pearls and emeralds, a softer thigh, or-limbs mere delicate than yours, Cerinthus; nay, the prostitutes are frequently preferable. Add to this, that [the prostitute] bears about her merchandize without any varnish, and openly shows what she has to dispose of; nor, if she has aught more comely than ordinary, does she boast and make an ostentation of it, while she is industrious to conceal that which is offensive. This is the custom with men of fortune: when they buy horses, they inspect them covered: that, if a beautiful forehand (as often) be supported by a tender hoof, it may not take in the buyer, eager for the bargain, because the back is handsome, the head little, and the neck stately. This they do judiciously. Do not you, [therefore, in the same manner] contemplate the perfections of each [fair one’s] person with the eyes of Lynceus; but be blinder than Hypsaea, when you survey such parts as are deformed. [You may cry out,] “O what a leg! O, what delicate arms!” But [you suppress] that she is low-hipped, short-waisted, with a long nose, and a splay foot. A man can see nothing but the face of a matron, who carefully conceals her other charms, unless it be a Catia. But if you will seek after forbidden charms (for the [circumstance of their being forbidden] makes you mad after them), surrounded as they are with a fortification, many obstacles will then be in your way: such as guardians, the sedan, dressers, parasites, the long robe hanging down to the ankles, and covered with an upper garment; a multiplicity of circumstances, which will hinder you from having a fair view. The other throws no obstacle in your way; through the silken vest you may discern her, almost as well as if she was naked; that she has neither a bad leg, nor a disagreeable foot, you may survey her form perfectly with your eye. Or would you choose to have a trick put upon you, and your money extorted, before the goods are shown you? [But perhaps you will sing to me these verses out of Callimachus.] As the huntsman pursues the hare in the deep snow, but disdains to touch it when it is placed before him: thus sings the rake, and applies it to himself; my love is like to this, for it passes over an easy prey, and pursues what flies from it. Do you hope that grief, and uneasiness, and bitter anxieties, will be expelled from your breast by such verses as these? Would It not be more profitable to inquire what boundary nature has affixed to the appetites, what she can patiently do without, and what she would lament the deprivation of, and to separate what is solid from what is vain? What! when thirst parches your jaws, are you solicitous for golden cups to drink out of? What! when you are hungry, do you despise everything but peacock and turbot? When your passions are inflamed, and a common gratification is at hand, would you rather be consumed with desire than possess it? I would not: for I love such pleasures as are of easiest attainment. But she whose language is, “By and by,” “But for a small matter more,” “If my husband should be out of the way.” [is only] for petit-maitres: and for himself, Philodemus says, he chooses her, who neither stands for a great price, nor delays to come when she is ordered. Let her be fair, and straight, and so far decent as not to appear desirous of seeming fairer than nature has made her. When I am in the company of such an one, she is my Ilia and Aegeria; I give her any name. Nor am I apprehensive, while I am in her company, lest her husband should return from the country: the door should be broken open; the dog should bark; the house, shaken, should resound on all sides with a great noise; the woman, pale [with fear], should bound away from me; lest the maid, conscious [of guilt], should cry out, she is undone; lest she should be in apprehension for her limbs, the detected wife for her portion, I for myself: lest I must run away with my clothes all loose, and bare-footed, for fear my money, or my person, or, finally my character should be demolished. It is a dreadful thing to be caught; I could prove this, even if Fabius were the judge.
We might to connive at the faults of our friends, and all offences are not to be ranked in the catalogue of crimes.
This is a fault common to all singers, that among their friends they never are inclined to sing when they are asked, [but] unasked, they never desist. Tigellius, that Sardinian, had this [fault]. Had Caesar, who could have forced him to compliance, besought him on account of his father’s friendship and his own, he would have had no success; if he himself was disposed, he would chant lo Bacche over and over, from the beginning of an entertainment to the very conclusion of it; one while at the deepest pitch of his voice, at another time with that which answers to the highest string of the tetrachord. There was nothing uniform in that fellow; frequently would he run along, as one flying from an enemy; more frequently [he walked] as if he bore [in procession] the sacrifice of Juno: he had often two hundred slaves, often but ten: one while talking of kings and potentates, every thing that was magnificent; at another —“Let me have a three-legged table, and a cellar of clean salt, and a gown which, though coarse, may be sufficient to keep out the cold.” Had you given ten hundred thousand sesterces to this moderate man who was content with such small matters, in five days’ time there would be nothing in his bags. He sat up at nights, [even] to day-light; he snored out all the day. Never was there anything so inconsistent with itself. Now some person may say to me, “What are you? Have you no faults?” Yes, others; but others, and perhaps of a less culpable nature.
When Maenius railed at Novius in his absence: “Hark ye,” says a certain person, “are you ignorant of yourself? or do you think to impose yourself upon us a person we do not know?” “As for me, I forgive myself,” quoth Maenius. This is a foolish and impious self-love, and worthy to be stigmatized. When you look over your own vices, winking at them, as it were, with sore eyes; why are you with regard to those of your friends as sharp-sighted as an eagle, or the Epidaurian serpent? But, on the other hand, it is your lot that your friends should inquire into your vices in turn. [A certain person] is a little too hasty in his temper; not well calculated for the sharp-witted sneers of these men: he may be made a jest of because his gown hangs awkwardly, he [at the same time] being trimmed in a very rustic manner, and his wide shoe hardly sticks to his foot. But he is so good, that no man can be better; but he is your friend; but an immense genius is concealed under this unpolished person of his. Finally, sift yourself thoroughly, whether nature has originally sown the seeds of any vice in you, or even an ill-habit [has done it]. For the fern, fit [only] to be burned, overruns the neglected fields.
Let us return from our digression. As his mistress’s disagreeable failings escape the blinded lover, or even give him pleasure (as Hagna’s wen does to Balbinus), I could wish that we erred in this manner with regard to friendship, and that virtue had affixed a reputable appellation to such an error. And as a father ought not to contemn his son, if he has any defect, in the same manner we ought not [to contemn] our friend. The father calls his squinting boy a pretty leering rogue; and if any man has a little despicable brat, such as the abortive Sisyphus formerly was, he calls it a sweet moppet; this [child] with distorted legs, [the father] in a fondling voice calls one of the Vari; and another, who is club-footed, he calls a Scaurus. [Thus, does] this friend of yours live more sparingly than ordinarily? Let him be styled a man of frugality. Is another impertinent, and apt to brag a little? He requires to be reckoned entertaining to his friends. But [another] is too rude, and takes greater liberties than are fitting. Let him be esteemed a man of sincerity and bravery. Is he too fiery, let him be numbered among persons of spirit. This method, in my opinion, both unites friends, and preserves them in a state of union. But we invert the very virtues themselves, and are desirous of throwing dirt upon the untainted vessel. Does a man of probity live among us? he is a person of singular diffidence; we give him the name of a dull and fat-headed fellow. Does this man avoid every snare, and lay himself open to no ill-designing villain; since we live amid such a race, where keen envy and accusations are flourishing? Instead of a sensible and wary man, we call him a disguised and subtle fellow. And is any one more open, [and less reserved] than usual in such a degree as I often have presented myself to you, Maecenas, so as perhaps impertinently to interrupt a person reading, or musing, with any kind of prate? We cry, “[this fellow] actually wants common sense.” Alas! how indiscreetly do we ordain a severe law against ourselves! For no one Is born without vices: he is the best man who is encumbered with the least. When my dear friend, as is just, weighs my good qualities against my bad ones, let him, if he is willing to be beloved, turn the scale to the majority of the former (if I have indeed a majority of good qualities), on this condition, he shall be placed in the same balance. He who requires that his friend should not take offence at his own protuberances, will excuse his friend’s little warts. It is fair that he who entreats a pardon for his own faults, should grant one in his turn.
Upon the whole, forasmuch as the vice anger, as well as others inherent in foolish [mortals], cannot be totally eradicated, why does not human reason make use of its own weights and measures; and so punish faults, as the nature of the thing demands? If any man should punish with the cross, a slave, who being ordered to take away the dish should gorge the half-eaten fish and warm sauce; he would, among people in their senses, be called a madder man than Labeo. How much more irrational and heinous a crime is this! Your friend has been guilty of a small error (which, unless you forgive, you ought to be reckoned a sour, ill-natured fellow), you hate and avoid him, as a debtor does Ruso; who, when the woful calends come upon the unfortunate man, unless he procures the interest or capital by hook or by crook, is compelled to hear his miserable stories with his neck stretched out like a slave. [Should my friend] in his liquor water my couch, or has he thrown down a jar carved by the hands of Evander: shall he for this [trifling] affair, or because in his hunger he has taken a chicken before me out of my part of the dish, be the less agreeable friend to me? [If so], what could I do if he was guilty of theft, or had betrayed things committed to him in confidence, or broken his word. They who are pleased [to rank all] faults nearly on an equality, are troubled when they come to the truth of the matter: sense and morality are against them, and utility itself, the mother almost of right and of equity.
When [rude] animals, they crawled forth upon the first-formed earth, the mute and dirty herd fought with their nails and fists for their acorn and caves, afterward with clubs, and finally with arms which experience had forged: till they found out words and names, by which they ascertained their language and sensations: thenceforward they began to abstain from war, to fortify towns, and establish laws: that no person should be a thief, a robber, or an adulterer. For before Helen’s time there existed [many] a woman who was the dismal cause of war: but those fell by unknown deaths, whom pursuing uncertain venery, as the bull in the herd, the strongest slew. It must of necessity be acknowledged, if you have a mind to turn over the aeras and anuals of the world, that laws were invented from an apprehension of the natural injustice [of mankind]. Nor can nature separate what is unjust from what is just, in the same manner as she distinguishes what is good from its reverse, and what is to be avoided from that which is to be sought, nor will reason persuade men to this, that he who breaks down the cabbage-stalk of his neighbor, sins in as great a measure, and in the same manner, as he who steals by night things consecrated to the gods. Let there be a settled standard, that may inflict adequate punishments upon crimes, lest you should persecute any one with the horrible thong, who is only deserving of a slight whipping. For I am not apprehensive, that you should correct with the rod one that deserves to suffer severer stripes: since you assert that pilfering is an equal crime with highway robbery, and threaten that you would prune off with an undistinguishing hook little and great vices, if mankind were to give you the sovereignty over them. If he be rich, who is wise, and a good shoemaker, and alone handsome, and a king, why do you wish for that which you are possessed of? You do not understand what Chrysippus, the father [of your sect], says: “The wise man never made himself shoes nor slippers: nevertheless, the wise man is a shoemaker.” How so? In the same manner, though Hermogenes be silent, he is a fine singer, notwithstanding, and an excellent musician: as the subtle [lawyer] Alfenus, after every instrument of his calling was thrown aside, and his shop shut up, was [still] a barber; thus is the wise man of all trades, thus is he a king. O greatest of great kings, the waggish boys pluck you by the beard; whom unless you restrain with your staff, you will be jostled by a mob all about you, and you may wretchedly bark and burst your lungs in vain. Not to be tedious: while you, my king, shall go to the farthing bath, and no guard shall attend you, except the absurd Crispinus; my dear friends will both pardon me in any matter in which I shall foolishly offend, and I in turn will cheerfully put up with their faults; and though a private man, I shall live more happily than you, a king.
He apologizes for the liberties taken by satiric poets in general, and particularly by himself.
The poets Eupolis, and Cratinus, and Aristophanes, and others, who are authors of the ancient comedy, if there was any person deserving to be distinguished for being a rascal or a thief, an adulterer or a cut-throat, or in any shape an infamous fellow, branded him with great freedom. Upon these [models] Lucilius entirely depends, having imitated them, changing only their feet and numbers: a man of wit, of great keenness, inelegant in the composition of verse: for in this respect he was faulty; he would often, as a great feat, dictate two hundred verses in an hour, standing in the same position. As he flowed muddily, there was [always] something that one would wish to remove; he was verbose, and too lazy to endure the fatigue of writing — of writing accurately: for, with regard to the quantity [of his works], I make no account of it. See! Crispinus challenges me even for ever so little a wager. Take, if you dare, take your tablets, and I will take mine; let there be a place, a time, and persons appointed to see fair play: let us see who can write the most. The gods have done a good part by me, since they have framed me of an humble and meek disposition, speaking but seldom, briefly: but do you, [Crispinus,] as much as you will, imitate air which is shut up in leathern bellows, perpetually putting till the fire softens the iron. Fannius is a happy man, who, of his own accord, has presented his manuscripts and picture [to the Palatine Apollo]; when not a soul will peruse my writings, who am afraid to rehearse in public, on this account, because there are certain persons who can by no means relish this kind [of satiric writing], as there are very many who deserve censure. Single any man out of the crowd; he either labors under a covetous disposition, or under wretched ambition. One is mad in love with married women, another with youths; a third the splendor of silver captivates: Albius is in raptures with brass; another exchanges his merchandize from the rising sun, even to that with which the western regions are warmed: but he is burried headlong through dangers, as dust wrapped up in a whirlwind; in dread lest he should lose anything out of the capital, or [in hope] that he may increase his store. All these are afraid of verses, they hate poets. “He has hay on his horn, [they cry;] avoid him at a great distance: if he can but raise a laugh for his own diversion, he will not spare any friend: and whatever he has once blotted upon his paper, he will take a pleasure in letting all the boys and old women know, as they return from the bakehouse or the lake.” But, come on, attend to a few words on the other side of the question.
In the first place, I will except myself out of the number of those I would allow to be poets: for one must not call it sufficient to tag a verse: nor if any person, like me, writes in a style bordering on conversation, must you esteem him to be a poet. To him who has genius, who has a soul of a diviner cast, and a greatness of expression, give the honor of this appellation. On this account some have raised the question, whether comedy be a poem or not; because an animated spirit and force is neither in the style, nor the subject-matter: bating that it differs from prose by a certain measure, it is mere prose. But [one may object to this, that even in comedy] an inflamed father rages, because his dissolute son, mad after a prostitute mistress, refuses a wife with a large portion; and (what is an egregious scandal) rambles about drunk with flambeaux by day-light. Yet could Pomponius, were his father alive, hear less severe reproofs! Wherefore it is not sufficient to write verses merely in proper language; which if you take to pieces, any person may storm in the same manner as the father in the play. If from these verses which I write at this present, or those that Lucilius did formerly, you take away certain pauses and measures, and make that word which was first in order hindermost, by placing the latter [words] before those that preceded [in the verse]; you will not discern the limbs of a poet, when pulled in pieces, in the same manner as you would were you to transpose ever so [these lines of Ennius]:
When discord dreadful bursts the brazen bars,
And shatters iron locks to thunder forth her wars.
So far of this matter; at another opportunity [I may investigate] whether [a comedy] be a true poem or not: now I shall only consider this point, whether this [satiric] kind of writing be deservedly an object of your suspicion. Sulcius the virulent, and Caprius hoarse with their malignancy, walk [openly], and with their libels too [in their hands]; each of them a singular terror to robbers: but if a man lives honestly and with clean hands, he may despise them both. Though you be like highwaymen, Coelus and Byrrhus, I am not [a common accuser], like Caprius and Sulcius; why should you be afraid of me? No shop nor stall holds my books, which the sweaty hands of the vulgar and of Hermogenes Tigellius may soil. I repeat to nobody, except my intimates, and that when I am pressed; nor any where, and before any body. There are many who recite their writings in the middle of the forum; and who [do it] while bathing: the closeness of the place, [it seems,] gives melody to the voice. This pleases coxcombs, who never consider whether they do this to no purpose, or at an unseasonable time. But you, says he, delight to hurt people, and this you do out of a mischievous disposition. From what source do you throw this calumny upon me? Is any one then your voucher, with whom I have lived? He who backbites his absent friend; [nay more,] who does not defend, at another’s accusing him; who affects to raise loud laughs in company, and the reputation of a funny fellow, who can feign things he never saw; who cannot keep secrets; he is a dangerous man: be you, Roman, aware of him. You may often see it [even in crowded companies], where twelve sup together on three couches; one of which shall delight at any rate to asperse the rest, except him who furnishes the bath; and him too afterward in his liquor, when truth-telling Bacchus opens the secrets of his heart. Yet this man seems entertaining, and well-bred, and frank to you, who are an enemy to the malignant: but do I, if I have laughed because the fop Rufillus smells all perfumes, and Gorgonius, like a he-goat, appear insidious and a snarler to you? If by any means mention happen to be made of the thefts of Petillius Capitolinus in your company, you defend him after your manner: [as thus,] Capitolinus has had me for a companion and a friend from childhood, and being applied to, has done many things on my account: and I am glad that he lives secure in the city; but I wonder, notwithstanding, how he evaded that sentence. This is the very essence of black malignity, this is mere malice itself: which crime, that it shall be far remote from my writings, and prior to them from my mind, I promise, if I can take upon me to promise any thing sincerely of myself. If I shall say any thing too freely, if perhaps too ludicrously, you must favor me by your indulgence with this allowance. For my excellent father inured me to this custom, that by noting each particular vice I might avoid it by the example [of others]. When he exhorted me that I should live thriftily, frugally, and content with what he had provided for me; don’t you see, [would he say,] how wretchedly the son of Albius lives? and how miserably Barrus? A strong lesson to hinder any one from squandering away his patrimony. When he would deter me from filthy fondness for a light woman: [take care, said he,] that you do not resemble Sectanus. That I might not follow adulteresses, when I could enjoy a lawful amour: the character cried he, of Trobonius, who was caught in the fact, is by no means creditable. The philosopher may tell you the reasons for what is better to be avoided, and what to be pursued. It is sufficient for me, if I can preserve the morality traditional from my forefathers, and keep your life and reputation inviolate, so long as you stand in need of a guardian: so soon as age shall have strengthened your limbs and mind, you will swim without cork. In this manner he formed me, as yet a boy: and whether he ordered me to do any particular thing: You have an authority for doing this: [then] he instanced some one of the select magistrates: or did he forbid me [any thing]; can you doubt, [says he,] whether this thing be dishonorable, and against your interest to be done, when this person and the other is become such a burning shame for his bad character [on these accounts]? As a neighboring funeral dispirits sick gluttons, and through fear of death forces them to have mercy upon themselves; so other men’s disgraces often deter tender minds from vices. From this [method of education] I am clear from all such vices, as bring destruction along with them: by lighter foibles, and such as you may excuse, I am possessed. And even from these, perhaps, a maturer age, the sincerity of a friend, or my own judgment, may make great reductions. For neither when I am in bed, or in the piazzas, am I wanting to myself: this way of proceeding is better; by doing such a thing I shall live more comfortably; by this means I shall render myself agreeable to my friends; such a transaction was not clever; what, shall I, at any time, imprudently commit any thing like it? These things I resolve in silence by myself. When I have any leisure, I amuse myself with my papers. This is one of those lighter foibles [I was speaking of]: to which if you do not grant your indulgence, a numerous band of poets shall come, which will take my part (for we are many more in number), and, like the Jews, we will force you to come over to our numerous party.
He describes a certain journey of his from Rome to Brundusium with great pleasantry.
Having left mighty Rome, Aricia received me in but a middling inn: Heliodorus the rhetorician, most learned in the Greek language, was my fellow-traveller: thence we proceeded to Forum–Appi, stuffed with sailors and surly landlords. This stage, but one for better travellers than we, being laggard we divided into two; the Appian way is less tiresome to bad travelers. Here I, on account of the water, which was most vile, proclaim war against my belly, waiting not without impatience for my companions while at supper. Now the night was preparing to spread her shadows upon the earth, and to display the constellations in the heavens. Then our slaves began to be liberal of their abuse to the watermen, and the watermen to our slaves. “Here bring to.” “You are stowing in hundreds; hold, now sure there is enough.” Thus while the fare is paid, and the mule fastened a whole hour is passed away. The cursed gnats, and frogs of the fens, drive off repose. While the waterman and a passenger, well-soaked with plenty of thick wine, vie with one another in singing the praises of their absent mistresses: at length the passenger being fatigued, begins to sleep; and the lazy waterman ties the halter of the mule, turned out a-grazing, to a stone, and snores, lying flat on his back. And now the day approached, when we saw the boat made no way; until a choleric fellow, one of the passengers, leaps out of the boat, and drubs the head and sides of both mule and waterman with a willow cudgel. At last we were scarcely set ashore at the fourth hour. We wash our faces and hands in thy water, O Feronia. Then, having dined we crawled on three miles; and arrive under Anxur, which is built up on rocks that look white to a great distance. Maecenas was to come here, as was the excellent Cocceius. Both sent ambassadors on matters of great importance, having been accustomed to reconcile friends at variance. Here, having got sore eyes, I was obliged to use the black ointment. In the meantime came Maecenas, and Cocceius, and Fonteius Capito along with them, a man of perfect polish, and intimate with Mark Antony, no man more so.
Without regret we passed Fundi, where Aufidius Luscus was praetor, laughing at the honors of that crazy scribe, his praetexta, laticlave, and pan of incense. At our next stage, being weary, we tarry in the city of the Mamurrae, Murena complimenting us with his house, and Capito with his kitchen.
The next day arises, by much the most agreeable to all: for Plotius, and Varius, and Virgil met us at Sinuessa; souls more candid ones than which the world never produced, nor is there a person in the world more bound to them than myself. Oh what embraces, and what transports were there! While I am in my senses, nothing can I prefer to a pleasant friend. The village, which is next adjoining to the bridge of Campania, accommodated us with lodging [at night]; and the public officers with such a quantity of fuel and salt as they are obliged to [by law]. From this place the mules deposited their pack-saddles at Capua betimes [in the morning]. Maecenas goes to play [at tennis]; but I and Virgil to our repose: for to play at tennis is hurtful to weak eyes and feeble constitutions.
From this place the villa of Cocceius, situated above the Caudian inns, which abounds with plenty, receives us. Now, my muse, I beg of you briefly to relate the engagement between the buffoon Sarmentus and Messius Cicirrus; and from what ancestry descended each began the contest. The illustrious race of Messius–Oscan: Sarmentus’s mistress is still alive. Sprung from such families as these, they came to the combat. First, Sarmentus: “I pronounce thee to have the look of a mad horse.” We laugh; and Messius himself [says], “I accept your challenge:” and wags his head. “O!” cries he, “if the horn were not cut off your forehead, what would you not do; since, maimed as you are, you bully at such a rate?” For a foul scar has disgraced the left part of Messius’s bristly forehead. Cutting many jokes upon his Campanian disease, and upon his face, he desired him to exhibit Polyphemus’s dance: that he had no occasion for a mask, or the tragic buskins. Cicirrus [retorted] largely to these: he asked, whether he had consecrated his chain to the household gods according to his vow; though he was a scribe, [he told him] his mistress’s property in him was not the less. Lastly, he asked, how he ever came to run away; such a lank meager fellow, for whom a pound of corn [a-day] would be ample. We were so diverted, that we continued that supper to an unusual length.
Hence we proceed straight on for Beneventum; where the bustling landlord almost burned himself, in roasting some lean thrushes: for, the fire falling through the old kitchen [floor], the spreading flame made a great progress toward the highest part of the roof. Then you might have seen the hungry guests and frightened slaves snatching their supper out [of the flames], and everybody endeavoring to extinguish the fire.
After this Apulia began to discover to me her well-known mountains, which the Atabulus scorches [with his blasts]: and through which we should never have crept, unless the neighboring village of Trivicus had received us, not without a smoke that brought tears into our eyes; occasioned by a hearth’s burning some green boughs with the leaves upon them. Here, like a great fool as I was, I wait till midnight for a deceitful mistress; sleep, however, overcomes me while meditating love; and disagreeable dreams make me ashamed of myself and every thing about me.
Hence we were bowled away in chaises twenty-four miles, intending to stop at a little town, which one cannot name in a verse, but it is easily enough known by description. For water is sold here, though the worst in the world; but their bread is exceeding fine, inasmuch that the weary traveler is used to carry it willingly on his shoulders; for [the bread] at Canusium is gritty; a pitcher of water is worth no more [than it is here]: which place was formerly built by the valiant Diomedes. Here Varius departs dejected from his weeping friends.
Hence we came to Rubi, fatigued: because we made a long journey, and it was rendered still more troublesome by the rains. Next day the weather was better, the road worse, even to the very walls of Barium that abounds in fish. In the next place Egnatia, which [seems to have] been built on troubled waters, gave us occasion for jests and laughter; for they wanted to persuade us, that at this sacred portal the incense melted without fire. The Jew Apella may believe this, not I. For I have learned [from Epicurus], that the gods dwell in a state of tranquillity; nor, if nature effect any wonder, that the anxious gods send it from the high canopy of the heavens.
Brundusium ends both my long journey, and my paper.
Of true nobility.
Not Maecenas, though of all the Lydians that ever inhabited the Tuscan territories, no one is of a nobler family than yourself; and though you have ancestors both on father’s and mother’s side, that in times past have had the command of mighty legions; do you, as the generality are wont, toss up your nose at obscure people, such as me, who has [only] a freed-man for my father: since you affirm that it is of no consequence of what parents any man is born, so that he be a man of merit. You persuade yourself, with truth, that before the dominions of Tullius, and the reign of one born a slave, frequently numbers of men descended from ancestors of no rank, have both lived as men of merit, and have been distinguished by the greatest honors: [while] on the other hand Laevinus, the descendant of that famous Valerius, by whose means Tarquinius Superbus was expelled from his kingdom, was not a farthing more esteemed [on account of his family, even] in the judgment of the people, with whose disposition you are well acquainted; who often foolishly bestow honors on the unworthy, and are from their stupidity slaves to a name: who are struck with admiration by inscriptions and statues. What is it fitting for us to do, who are far, very far removed from the vulgar [in our sentiments]? For grant it, that the people had rather confer a dignity on Laevinus than on Decius, who is a new man; and the censor Appius would expel me [the senate-house], because I was not sprung from a sire of distinction: and that too deservedly, inasmuch as I rested not content in my own condition. But glory drags in her dazzling car the obscure as closely fettered as those of nobler birth. What did it profit you, O Tullius, to resume the robe that you [were forced] to lay aside, and become a tribune [again]? Envy increased upon you, which had been less, it you had remained in a private station. For when any crazy fellow has laced the middle of his leg with the sable buskins, and has let flow the purple robe from his breast, he immediately hears: “Who is this man? Whose son is he?” Just as if there be any one, who labors under the same distemper as Barrus does, so that he is ambitious of being reckoned handsome; let him go where he will, he excites curiosity among the girls of inquiring into particulars; as what sort of face, leg, foot, teeth, hair, he has. Thus he who engages to his citizens to take care of the city, the empire, and Italy, and the sanctuaries of the gods, forces every mortal to be solicitous, and to ask from what sire he is descended, or whether he is base by the obscurity of his mother. What? do you, the son of a Syrus, a Dana, or a Dionysius, dare to cast down the citizens of Rome from the [Tarpeian] rock, or deliver them up to Cadmus [the executioner]? But, [you may say,] my colleague Novius sits below me by one degree: for he is only what my father was. And therefore do you esteem yourself a Paulus or a Messala? But he (Novius), if two hundred carriages and three funerals were to meet in the forum, could make noise enough to drown all their horns and trumpets: this [kind of merit] at least has its weight with us.
Now I return to myself, who am descended from a freed-man; whom every body nibbles at, as being descended from a freed-man. Now, because, Maecenas, I am a constant guest of yours; but formerly, because a Roman legion was under my command, as being a military tribune. This latter case is different from the former: for, though any person perhaps might justly envy me that post of honor, yet could he not do so with regard to your being my friend! especially as you are cautious to admit such as are worthy; and are far from having any sinister ambitious views. I can not reckon myself a lucky fellow on this account, as if it were by accident that I got you for my friend; for no kind of accident threw you in my way. That best of men, Virgil, long ago, and after him, Varius, told you what I was. When first I came into your presence, I spoke a few words in a broken manner (for childish bashfulness hindered me from speaking more); I did not tell you that I was the issue of an illustrious father: I did not [pretend] that I rode about the country on a Satureian horse, but plainly what I really was; you answer (as your custom is) a few words: I depart: and you re-invite me after the ninth month, and command me to be in the number of your friends. I esteem it a great thing that I pleased you, who distinguish probity from baseness, not by the illustriousness of a father, but by the purity of heart and feelings.
And yet if my disposition be culpable for a few faults, and those small ones, otherwise perfect (as if you should condemn moles scattered over a beautiful skin), if no one can justly lay to my charge avarice, nor sordidness, nor impure haunts; if, in fine (to speak in my own praise), I live undefiled, and innocent, and dear to my friends; my father was the cause of all this: who though a poor man on a lean farm, was unwilling to send me to a school under [the pedant] Flavius, where great boys, sprung from great centurions, having their satchels and tablets swung over their left arm, used to go with money in their hands the very day it was due; but had the spirit to bring me a child to Rome, to be taught those arts which any Roman knight and senator can teach his own children. So that, if any person had considered my dress, and the slaves who attended me in so populous a city, he would have concluded that those expenses were supplied to me out of some hereditary estate. He himself, of all others the most faithful guardian, was constantly about every one of my preceptors. Why should I multiply words? He preserved me chaste (which is the first honor or virtue) not only from every actual guilt, but likewise from [every] foul imputation, nor was he afraid lest any should turn it to his reproach, if I should come to follow a business attended with small profits, in capacity of an auctioneer, or (what he was himself) a tax-gatherer. Nor [had that been the case] should I have complained. On this account the more praise is due to him, and from me a greater degree of gratitude. As long as I am in my senses, I can never be ashamed of such a father as this, and therefore shall not apologize [for my birth], in the manner that numbers do, by affirming it to be no fault of theirs. My language and way of thinking is far different from such persons. For if nature were to make us from a certain term of years to go over our past time again, and [suffer us] to choose other parents, such as every man for ostentation’s sake would wish for himself; I, content with my own, would not assume those that are honored with the ensigns and seats of state; [for which I should seem] a madman in the opinion of the mob, but in yours, I hope a man of sense; because I should be unwilling to sustain a troublesome burden, being by no means used to it. For I must [then] immediately set about acquiring a larger fortune, and more people must be complimented; and this and that companion must be taken along, so that I could neither take a jaunt into the country, or a journey by myself; more attendants and more horses must be fed; coaches must be drawn. Now, if I please, I can go as far as Tarentum on my bob-tail mule, whose loins the portmanteau galls with his weight, as does the horseman his shoulders. No one will lay to my charge such sordidness as he may, Tullius, to you, when five slaves follow you, a praetor, along the Tiburtian way, carrying a traveling kitchen, and a vessel of wine. Thus I live more comfortably, O illustrious senator, than you, and than thousands of others. Wherever I have a fancy, I walk by myself: I inquire the price of herbs and bread; I traverse the tricking circus, and the forum often in the evening: I stand listening among the fortune-tellers: thence I take myself home to a plate of onions, pulse, and pancakes. My supper is served up by three slaves; and a white stone slab supports two cups and a brimmer: near the salt-cellar stands a homely cruet with a little bowl, earthen-ware from Campania. Then I go to rest; by no means concerned that I must rise in the morning, and pay a visit to the statue of Marsyas, who denies that he is able to bear the look of the younger Novius. I lie a-bed to the fourth hour; after that I take a ramble, or having read or written what may amuse me in my privacy, I am anointed with oil, but not with such as the nasty Nacca, when he robs the lamps. But when the sun, become more violent, has reminded me to go to bathe, I avoid the Campus Martius and the game of hand-ball. Having dined in a temperate manner, just enough to hinder me from having an empty stomach, during the rest of the day I trifle in my own house. This is the life of those who are free from wretched and burthensome ambition: with such things as these I comfort myself, in a way to live more delightfully than if my grandfather had been a quaestor, and father and uncle too.
He humorously describes a squabble betwixt Rupilius and Persius.
In what manner the mongrel Persius revenged the filth and venom of Rupilius, surnamed King, is I think known to all the blind men and barbers. This Persius, being a man of fortune, had very great business at Clazomenae, and, into the bargain, certain troublesome litigations with King; a hardened fellow, and one who was able to exceed even King in virulence; confident, blustering, of such a bitterness of speech, that he would outstrip the Sisennae and Barri, if ever so well equipped.
I return to King. After nothing could be settled betwixt them (for people among whom adverse war breaks out, are proportionably vexatious on the same account as they are brave. Thus between Hector, the son of Priam, and the high-spirited Achilles, the rage was of so capital a nature, that only the final destruction [one of them] could determine it; on no other account, than that valor in each of them was consummate. If discord sets two cowards to work; or if an engagement happens between two that are not of a match, as that of Diomed and the Lycian Glaucus; the worst man will walk off, [buying his peace] by voluntarily sending presents), when Brutus held as praetor the fertile Asia, this pair, Rupilius and Persius, encountered; in such a manner, that [the gladiators] Bacchius and Bithus were not better matched. Impetuous they hurry to the cause, each of them a fine sight.
Persius opens his case; and is laughed at by all the assembly; he extols Brutus, and extols the guard; he styles Brutus the sun of Asia, and his attendants he styles salutary stars, all except King; that he [he says,] came like that dog, the constellation hateful to husbandman: he poured along like a wintery flood, where the ax seldom comes.
Then, upon his running on in so smart and fluent a manner, the Praenestine [king] directs some witticisms squeezed from the vineyard, himself a hardy vine-dresser, never defeated, to whom the passenger had often been obliged to yield, bawling cuckoo with roaring voice.
But the Grecian Persius, as soon as he had been well sprinkled with Italian vinegar, bellows out: O Brutus, by the great gods I conjure you, who are accustomed to take off kings, why do you not dispatch this King? Believe me, this is a piece of work which of right belongs to you.
Priapus complains that the Esquilian mount is infested with the incantations of sorceresses.
Formerly I was the trunk of a wild fig-tree, an useless log: when the artificer, in doubt whether he should make a stool or a Priapus of me, determined that I should be a god. Henceforward I became a god, the greatest terror of thieves and birds: for my right hand restrains thieves, and a bloody-looking pole stretched out from my frightful middle: but a reed fixed upon the crown of my head terrifies the mischievous birds, and hinders them from settling in these new gardens. Before this the fellow-slave bore dead corpses thrown out of their narrow cells to this place, in order to be deposited in paltry coffins. This place stood a common sepulcher for the miserable mob, for the buffoon Pantelabus, and Nomentanus the rake. Here a column assigned a thousand feet [of ground] in front, and three hundred toward the fields: that the burial-place should not descend to the heirs of the estate. Now one may live in the Esquiliae, [since it is made] a healthy place; and walk upon an open terrace, where lately the melancholy passengers beheld the ground frightful with white bones; though both the thieves and wild beasts accustomed to infest this place, do not occasion me so much care and trouble, as do [these hags], that turn people’s minds by their incantations and drugs. These I can not by any means destroy nor hinder, but that they will gather bones and noxious herbs, as soon as the fleeting moon has shown her beauteous face.
I myself saw Canidia, with her sable garment tucked up, walk with bare feet and disheveled hair, yelling together with the elder Sagana. Paleness had rendered both of them horrible to behold. They began to claw up the earth with their nails, and to tear a black ewe-lamb to pieces with their teeth. The blood was poured into a ditch, that thence they might charm out the shades of the dead, ghosts that were to give them answers. There was a woolen effigy too, another of wax: the woolen one larger, which was to inflict punishment on the little one. The waxen stood in a suppliant posture, as ready to perish in a servile manner. One of the hags invokes Hecate, and the other fell Tisiphone. Then might you see serpents and infernal bitches wander about, and the moon with blushes hiding behind the lofty monuments, that she might not be a witness to these doings. But if I lie, even a tittle, may my head be contaminated with the white filth of ravens; and may Julius, and the effeminate Miss Pediatous, and the knave Voranus, come to water upon me, and befoul me. Why should I mention every particular? viz. in what manner, speaking alternately with Sagana, the ghosts uttered dismal and piercing shrieks; and how by stealth they laid in the earth a wolf’s beard, with the teeth of a spotted snake; and how a great blaze flamed forth from the waxen image? And how I was shocked at the voices and actions of these two furies, a spectator however by no means incapable of revenge? For from my cleft body of fig-tree wood I uttered a loud noise with as great an explosion as a burst bladder. But they ran into the city: and with exceeding laughter and diversion might you have seen Canidia’s artificial teeth, and Sagana’s towering tete of false hair falling off, and the herbs, and the enchanted bracelets from her arm.
He describes his sufferings from the loquacity of an impertinent fellow.
I was accidentally going along the Via Sacra, meditating on some trifle or other, as is my custom, and totally intent upon it. A certain person, known to me by name only, runs up; and, having seized my hand, “How do you do, my dearest fellow?” “Tolerably well,” say I, “as times go; and I wish you every thing you can desire.” When he still followed me; “Would you any thing?” said I to him. But, “You know me,” says he: “I am a man of learning.” “Upon that account,” says I: “you will have more of my esteem.” Wanting sadly to get away from him, sometimes I walked on apace, now and then I stopped, and I whispered something to my boy. When the sweat ran down to the bottom of my ankles. O, said I to myself, Bolanus, how happy were you in a head-piece! Meanwhile he kept prating on any thing that came uppermost, praised the streets, the city; and, when I made him no answer; “You want terribly,” said he, “to get away; I perceived it long ago; but you effect nothing. I shall still stick close to you; I shall follow you hence: Where are you at present bound for?” “There is no need for your being carried so much about: I want to see a person, who is unknown to you: he lives a great way off across the Tiber, just by Caesar’s gardens.” “I have nothing to do, and I am not lazy; I will attend you thither.” I hang down my ears like an ass of surly disposition, when a heavier load than ordinary is put upon his back. He begins again: “If I am tolerably acquainted with myself, you will not esteem Viscus or Varius as a friend, more than me; for who can write more verses, or in a shorter time than I? Who can move his limbs with softer grace [in the dance]? And then I sing, so that even Hermogenes may envy.”
Here there was an opportunity of interrupting him. “Have you a mother, [or any] relations that are interested in your welfare?” “Not one have I; I have buried them all.” “Happy they! now I remain. Dispatch me: for the fatal moment is at hand, which an old Sabine sorceress, having shaken her divining urn, foretold when I was a boy; ‘This child, neither shall cruel poison, nor the hostile sword, nor pleurisy, nor cough, nor the crippling gout destroy: a babbler shall one day demolish him; if he be wise, let him avoid talkative people, as soon as he comes to man’s estate.’”
One fourth of the day being now passed, we came to Vesta’s temple; and, as good luck would have it, he was obliged to appear to his recognizance; which unless he did, he must have lost his cause. “If you love me,” said he, “step in here a little.” “May I die! if I be either able to stand it out, or have any knowledge of the civil laws: and besides, I am in a hurry, you know whither.” “I am in doubt what I shall do,” said he; “whether desert you or my cause.” “Me, I beg of you.” “I will not do it,” said he; and began to take the lead of me. I (as it is difficult to contend with one’s master) follow him. “How stands it with Maecenas and you?” Thus he begins his prate again. “He is one of few intimates, and of a very wise way of thinking. No man ever made use of opportunity with more cleverness. You should have a powerful assistant, who could play an underpart, if you were disposed to recommend this man; may I perish, if you should not supplant all the rest!” “We do not live there in the manner you imagine; there is not a house that is freer or more remote from evils of this nature. It is never of any disservice to me, that any particular person is wealthier or a better scholar than I am: every individual has his proper place.” “You tell me a marvelous thing, scarcely credible.” “But it is even so.” “You the more inflame my desires to be near his person.” “You need only be inclined to it: such is your merit, you will accomplish it: and he is capable of being won; and on that account the first access to him he makes difficult.” “I will not be wanting to myself: I will corrupt his servants with presents; if I am excluded today, I will not desist; I will seek opportunities; I will meet him in the public streets; I will wait upon him home. Life allows nothing to mortals without great labor.” While he was running on at this rate, lo! Fuscus Aristius comes up, a dear friend of mine, and one who knows the fellow well. We make a stop. “Whence come you? whither are you going?” he asks and answers. I began to twitch him [by the elbow], and to take hold of his arms [that were affectedly] passive, nodding and distorting my eyes, that he might rescue me. Cruelly arch he laughs, and pretends not to take the hint: anger galled my liver. “Certainly,” [said I, “Fuscus,] you said that you wanted to communicate something to me in private.” “I remember it very well; but will tell it you at a better opportunity: today is the thirtieth sabbath. Would you affront the circumcised Jews?” I reply, “I have no scruple [on that account].” “But I have: I am something weaker, one of the multitude. You must forgive me: I will speak with you on another occasion.” And has this sun arisen so disastrous upon me! The wicked rogue runs away, and leaves me under the knife. But by luck his adversary met him: and, “Whither are you going, you infamous fellow?” roars he with a loud voice: and, “Do you witness the arrest?” I assent. He hurries him into court: there is a great clamor on both sides, a mob from all parts. Thus Apollo preserved me.
He supports the judgment which he had before given of Lucilius, and intersperses some excellent precepts for the writing of Satire.
To be sure I did say, that the verses of Lucilius did not run smoothly. Who is so foolish an admirer of Lucilius, that he would not own this? But the same writer is applauded in the same Satire, on account of his having lashed the town with great humor. Nevertheless granting him this, I will not therefore give up the other [considerations]; for at that rate I might even admire the farces of Laberius, as fine poems. Hence it is by no means sufficient to make an auditor grim with laughter: and yet there is some degree of merit even in this. There is need of conciseness that the sentence may run, and not embarrass itself with verbiage, that overloads the sated ear; and sometimes a grave, frequently jocose style is necessary, supporting the character one while of the orator and [at another] of the poet, now and then that of a graceful rallier that curbs the force of his pleasantry and weakens it on purpose. For ridicule often decides matters of importance more effectually and in a better manner, than severity. Those poets by whom the ancient comedy was written, stood upon this [foundation], and in this are they worthy of imitation: whom neither the smooth-faced Hermogenes ever read, nor that baboon who is skilled in nothing but singing [the wanton compositions of] Calvus and Catullus.
But [Lucilius, say they,] did a great thing, when he intermixed Greek words with Latin. O late-learned dunces! What! do you think that arduous and admirable, which was done by Pitholeo the Rhodian? But [still they cry] the style elegantly composed of both tongues is the more pleasant, as if Falernian wine is mixed with Chian. When you make verses, I ask you this question; were you to undertake the difficult cause of the accused Petillius, would you (for instance), forgetful of your country and your father, while Pedius, Poplicola, and Corvinus sweat through their causes in Latin, choose to intermix words borrowed from abroad, like the double-tongued Canusinian. And as for myself, who was born on this side the water, when I was about making Greek verses; Romulus appearing to me after midnight, when dreams are true, forbade me in words to this effect; “You could not be guilty of more madness by carrying timber into a wood, than by desiring to throng in among the great crowds of Grecian writers.”
While bombastical Alpinus murders Memnon, and while he deforms the muddy source of the Rhine, I amuse myself with these satires; which can neither be recited in the temple [of Apollo], as contesting for the prize when Tarpa presides as judge, nor can have a run over and over again represented in the theatres. You, O Fundanius, of all men breathing are the most capable of prattling tales in a comic vein, how an artful courtesan and a Davus impose upon an old Chremes. Pollio sings the actions of kings in iambic measure; the sublime Varias composes the manly epic, in a manner that no one can equal: to Virgil the Muses, delighting in rural scenes, have granted the delicate and the elegant. It was this kind [of satiric writing], the Aticinian Varro and some others having attempted it without success, in which I may have some slight merit, inferior to the inventor: nor would I presume to pull off the [laurel] crown placed upon his brow with great applause.
But I said that he flowed muddily, frequently indeed bearing along more things which ought to be taken away than left. Be it so; do you, who are a scholar, find no fault with any thing in mighty Homer, I pray? Does the facetious Lucilius make no alterations in the tragedies of Accius? Does not he ridicule many of Ennius’ verses, which are too light for the gravity [of the subject]? When he speaks of himself by no means as superior to what he blames. What should hinder me likewise, when I am reading the works of Lucilius, from inquiring whether it be his [genius], or the difficult nature of his subject, that will not suffer his verses to be more finished, and to run more smoothly than if some one, thinking it sufficient to conclude a something of six feet, be fond of writing two hundred verses before he eats, and as many after supper? Such was the genius of the Tuscan Cassius, more impetuous than a rapid river; who, as it is reported, was burned [at the funeral pile] with his own books and papers. Let it be allowed, I say, that Lucilius was a humorous and polite writer; that he was also more correct than [Ennius], the author of a kind of poetry [not yet] well cultivated, nor attempted by the Greeks, and [more correct likewise] than the tribe of our old poets: but yet he, if he had been brought down by the Fates to this age of ours, would have retrenched a great deal from his writings: he would have pruned off every thing that transgressed the limits of perfection; and, in the composition of verses, would often have scratched his head, and bit his nails to the quick.
You that intend to write what is worthy to be read more than once, blot frequently: and take no-pains to make the multitude admire you, content with a few [judicious] readers. What, would you be such a fool as to be ambitious that your verses should be taught in petty schools? That is not my case. It is enough for me, that the knight [Maecenas] applauds: as the courageous actress, Arbuscula, expressed herself, in contempt of the rest of the audience, when she was hissed [by the populace]. What, shall that grubworm Pantilius have any effect upon me? Or can it vex me, that Demetrius carps at me behind my back? or because the trifler Fannius, that hanger-on to Hermogenes Tigellius, attempts to hurt me? May Plotius and Varius, Maecenas and Virgil, Valgius and Octavius approve these Satires, and the excellent Fuscus likewise; and I could wish that both the Visci would join in their commendations: ambition apart, I may mention you, O Pollio: you also, Messala, together with your brother; and at the same time, you, Bibulus and Servius; and along with these you, candid Furnius; many others whom, though men of learning and my friends, I purposely omit — to whom I would wish these Satires, such as they are, may give satisfaction; and I should be chagrined, if they pleased in a degree below my expectation. You, Demetrius, and you, Tigellius, I bid lament among the forms of your female pupils.
Go, boy, and instantly annex this Satire to the end of my book.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55