He supposes himself to consult with Trebatius, whether he should desist from writing satires, or not.
There are some persons to whom I seem too severe in [the writing of] satire, and to carry it beyond proper bounds: another set are of opinion, that all I have written is nerveless, and that a thousand verses like mine may be spun out in a day. Trebatius, give me your advice, what shall I do. Be quiet. I should not make, you say, verses at all. I do say so. May I be hanged, if that would not be best: but I can not sleep. Let those, who want sound sleep, anointed swim thrice across the Tiber: and have their clay well moistened with wine over-night. Or, if such a great love of scribbling hurries you on, venture to celebrate the achievements of the invincible Caesar, certain of bearing off ample rewards for your pains.
Desirous I am, my good father, [to do this,] but my strength fails me, nor can any one describe the troops bristled with spears, nor the Gauls dying on their shivered darts, nor the wounded Parthian falling from his horse. Nevertheless you may describe him just and brave, as the wise Lucilius did Scipio. I will not be wanting to myself, when an opportunity presents itself: no verses of Horace’s, unless well-timed, will gain the attention of Caesar; whom, [like a generous steed,] if you stroke awkwardly, he will kick upon you, being at all quarters on his guard. How much better would this be, than to wound with severe satire Pantolabus the buffoon, and the rake Nomentanus! when every body is afraid for himself, [lest he should be the next,] and hates you, though he is not meddled with. What shall I do? Milonius falls a dancing the moment he becomes light-headed and warm, and the candles appear multiplied. Castor delights in horsemanship: and he, who sprang from the same egg, in boxing. As many thousands of people [as there are in the world], so many different inclinations are there. It delights me to combine words in meter, after the manner of Lucilius, a better man than both of us. He long ago communicated his secrets to his books, as to faithful friends; never having recourse elsewhere, whether things went well or ill with him: whence it happens, that the whole life of this old [poet] is as open to the view, as if it had been painted en a votive tablet. His example I follow, though in doubt whether I am a Lucanian or an Apulian; for the Venusinian farmers plow upon the boundaries of both countries, who (as the ancient tradition has it) were sent, on the expulsion of the Samnites, for this purpose, that the enemy might not make incursions on the Romans, through a vacant [unguarded frontier]: or lest the Apulian nation, or the fierce Lucanian, should make an invasion. But this pen of mine shall not willfully attack any man breathing, and shall defend me like a sword that is sheathed in the scabbard which why should I attempt to draw, [while I am] safe from hostile villains? O Jupiter, father and sovereign, may my weapon laid aside wear away with rust, and may no one injure me, who am desirous of peace? But that man shall provoke me (I give notice, that it is better not to touch me) shall weep [his folly], and as a notorious character shall be sung through all the streets of Rome.
Cervius, when he is offended, threatens one with the laws and the [judiciary] urn; Canidia, Albutius’ poison to those with whom she is at enmity, Turius [threatens] great damages, if you contest any thing while he is judge. How every animal terrifies those whom he suspects, with that in which he is most powerful, and how strong natural instinct commands this, thus infer with me. — The wolf attacks with his teeth, the bull with his horns. From what principle is this, if not a suggestion from within? Intrust that debauchee Scaeva with the custody of his ancient mother; his pious hand will commit no outrage. A wonder indeed! just as the wolf does not attack any one with his hoof, nor the bull with his teeth; but the deadly hemlock in the poisoned honey will take off the old dame.
That I may not be tedious, whether a placid old age awaits me, or whether death now hovers about me with his sable wings; rich or poor, at Rome or (if fortune should so order it) an exile abroad; whatever be the complexion of my life, I will write. O my child, I fear you can not be long, lived; and that some creature of the great ones will strike you with the cold of death. What? when Lucilius had the courage to be the first in composing verses after this manner, and to pull off that mask, by means of which each man strutted in public view with a fair outside, though foul within; was Laelius, and he who derived a well deserved title from the destruction of Carthage, offended at his wit, or were they hurt at Metellus being lashed, or Lupus covered over with his lampoons? But he took to task the heads of the people, and the people themselves, class by class; in short, he spared none but virtue and her friends. Yet, when the valorous Scipio, and the mild philosophical Laelius, had withdrawn themselves from the crowd and the public scene, they used to divert themselves with him, and joke in a free manner, while a few vegetables were boiled [for supper]. Of whatever rank I am, though below the estate and wit of Lucilius, yet envy must be obliged to own that I have lived well with great men; and, wanting to fasten her tooth upon some weak part, will strike it against the solid: unless you, learned Trebatius, disapprove of any thing [I have said]. For my part, I can not make any objection to this. But however, that forewarned you may be upon your guard, lest in ignorance of our sacred laws should bring you into trouble, [be sure of this] if any person shall make scandalous verses against a particular man, an action lies, and a sentence. Granted, if they are scandalous: but if a man composes good ones, and is praised by such a judge as Caesar? If a man barks only at him who deserves his invectives, while he himself is unblamable? The process will be canceled with laughter: and you, being dismissed, may depart in peace.
What and how great is the virtue to live on a little (this is no doctrine of mine, but what Ofellus the peasant, a philosopher without rules and of a home-spun wit, taught me), learn, my good friends, not among dishes and splendid tables; when the eye is dazzled with the vain glare, and the mind, intent upon false appearances, refuses [to admit] better things; but here, before dinner, discuss this point with me. Why so? I will inform you, if I can. Every corrupted judge examines badly the truth. After hunting the hare, or being wearied by an unruly horse, or (if the Roman exercise fatigues you, accustomed to act the Greek) whether the swift ball, while eagerness softens and prevents your perceiving the severity of the game, or quoits (smite the yielding air with the quoit) when exercise has worked of squeamishness, dry and hungry, [then let me see you] despise mean viands; and don’t drink anything but Hymettian honey qualified with Falernian wine. Your butler is abroad, and the tempestuous sea preserves the fish by its wintery storms; bread and salt will sufficiently appease an importunate stomach. Whence do you think this happens? and how is it obtained? The consummate pleasure is not in the costly flavor, but in yourself. Do you seek for sauce by sweating. Neither oysters, nor scar, nor the far-fetched lagois, can give any pleasure to one bloated and pale through intemperance. Nevertheless, if a peacock were served up, I should hardly be able to prevent your gratifying the palate with that, rather than a pullet, since you are prejudiced by the vanities of things; because the scarce bird is bought with gold, and displays a fine sight with its painted tail, as if that were anything to the purpose. “What; do you eat that plumage, which you extol? or has the bird the same beauty when dressed?” Since however there is no difference in the meat, in one preferably to the other; it is manifest that you are imposed upon by the disparity of their appearances. Be it so.
By what gift are you able to distinguish, whether this lupus, that now opens its jaws before us, was taken in the Tiber, or in the sea? whether it was tossed between the bridges or at the mouth of the Tuscan river? Fool, you praise a mullet, that weighs three pounds; which you are obliged to cut into small pieces. Outward appearances lead you, I see. To what intent then do you contemn large lupuses? Because truly these are by nature bulky, and those very light. A hungry stomach seldom loathes common victuals. O that I could see a swingeing mullet extended on a swingeing dish! cries that gullet, which is fit for the voracious harpies themselves. But O [say I] ye southern blasts, be present to taint the delicacies of the [gluttons]: though the boar and turbot newly taken are rank, when surfeiting abundance provokes the sick stomach; and when the sated guttler prefers turnips and sharp elecampane. However, all [appearance of] poverty is not quite banished from the banquets of our nobles; for there is, even at this day, a place for paltry eggs and black olives. And it was not long ago, since the table of Gallonius, the auctioneer, was rendered infamous, by having a sturgeon, [served whole upon it]. What? was the sea at that time less nutritive of turbots? The turbot was secure and the stork unmolested in her nest; till the praetorian [Sempronius], the inventor, first taught you [to eat them]. Therefore, if any one were to give it out that roasted cormorants are delicious, the Roman youth, teachable in depravity, would acquiesce, in it.
In the judgment of Ofellus, a sordid way of living will differ widely from frugal simplicity. For it is to no purpose for you to shun that vice [of luxury]; if you perversely fly to the contrary extreme. Avidienus, to whom the nickname of Dog is applied with propriety, eats olives of five years old, and wild cornels, and can not bear to rack off his wine unless it be turned sour, and the smell of his oil you can not endure: which (though clothed in white he celebrates the wedding festival, his birthday, or any other festal days) he pours out himself by little and little from a horn cruet, that holds two pounds, upon his cabbage, [but at the same time] is lavish enough of his old vinegar.
What manner of living therefore shall the wise man put in practice, and which of these examples shall he copy? On one side the wolf presses on, and the dog on the other, as the saying is. A person will be accounted decent, if he offends not by sordidness, and is not despicable through either extreme of conduct. Such a man will not, after the example, of old Albutius, be savage while he assigns to his servants their respective offices; nor, like simple Naevius, will he offer greasy water to his company: for this too is a great fault.
Now learn what and how great benefits a temperate diet will bring along with it. In the first place, you will enjoy good health; for you may believe how detrimental a diversity of things is to any man, when you recollect that sort of food, which by its simplicity sat so well upon your stomach some time ago. But, when you have once mixed boiled and roast together, thrushes and shell-fish; the sweet juices will turn into bile, and a thick phlegm will bring a jarring upon the stomach. Do not you see, how pale each guest rises from a perplexing variety of dishes at an entertainment. Beside this, the body, overloaded with the debauch of yesterday, depresses the mind along with it, and dashes to the earth that portion of the divine spirit. Another man, as soon as he has taken a quick repast, and rendered up his limbs to repose, rises vigorous to the duties of his calling. However, he may sometimes have recourse to better cheer; whether the returning year shall bring on a festival, or if he have a mind to refresh his impaired body; and when years shall approach, and feeble age require to be used more tenderly. But as for you, if a troublesome habit of body, or creeping old age, should come upon you, what addition can be made to that soft indulgence, which you, now in youth and in health anticipate?
Our ancestors praised a boar when it was stale not because they had no noses; but with this view, I suppose, that a visitor coming later than ordinary [might partake of it], though a little musty, rather than the voracious master should devour it all himself while sweet. I wish that the primitive earth had produced me among such heroes as these.
Have you any regard for reputation, which affects the human ear more agreeably than music? Great turbots and dishes bring great disgrace along with them, together with expense. Add to this, that your relations and neighbors will be exasperated at you, while you will be at enmity with yourself and desirous of death in vain, since you will not in your poverty have three farthings left to purchase a rope withal. Trausius, you say, may with justice be called to account in such language as this; but I possess an ample revenue, and wealth sufficient for three potentates, Why then have you no better method of expending your superfluities? Why is any man, undeserving [of distressed circumstances], in want, while you abound: How comes it to pass, that the ancient temples of the gods are falling to ruin? Why do not you, wretch that you are, bestow something on your dear country, out of so vast a hoard? What, will matters always go well with you alone? O thou, that hereafter shalt be the great derision of thine enemies! which of the two shall depend upon himself in exigences with most certainty? He who has used his mind and high-swollen body to redundancies; or he who, contented with a little and provident for the future, like a Wise man in time of peace, shall make the necessary preparations for war?
That you may the more readily give credit to these things: I myself, when a little boy, took notice that this Ofellua did not use his unencumbered estate more profusely, than he does now it is reduced. You may see the sturdy husbandman laboring for hire in the land [once his own, but now] assigned [to others], with his cattle and children, talking to this effect; I never ventured to eat any thing on a work-day except pot-herbs, with a hock of smoke-dried bacon. And when a friend came to visit me after a long absence, or a neighbor, an acceptable guest to me resting from work on account of the rain, we lived well; not on fishes fetched from the city, but on a pullet and a kid: then a dried grape, and a nut, with a large fig, set off our second course. After this, it was our diversion to have no other regulation in our cups, save that against drinking to excess; then Ceres worshiped [with a libation], that the corn might arise in lofty stems, smoothed with wine the melancholy of the contracted brow. Let fortune rage, and stir up new tumults what can she do more to impair my estate? How much more savingly have either I lived, or how much less neatly have you gone, my children, since this new possessor came? For nature has appointed to be lord of this earthly property, neither him, nor me, nor any one. He drove us out: either iniquity or ignorance in the quirks of the law shall [do the same] him: certainly in the end his long lived heir shall expel him. Now this field under the denomination of Umbrenus’, lately it was Ofellus’, the perpetual property of no man; for it turns to my use one while, and by and by to that of another. Wherefore, live undaunted; and oppose gallant breasts against the strokes of adversity.
Damasippus, in a conversation with Horace, proves this paradox of the Stoic philosophy, that most men are actually mad.
You write so seldom, as not to call for parchment four times in the year, busied in reforming your writings, yet are you angry with yourself, that indulging in wine and sleep you produce nothing worthy to be the subject of conversation. What will be the consequence? But you took refuge here, it seems, at the very celebration of the Saturnalia, out of sobriety. Dictate therefore something worthy of your promises; begin. There is nothing. The pens are found fault with to no purpose, and the harmless wall, which must have been built under the displeasure of gods and poets, suffers [to no end]. But you had the look of one that had threatened many and excellent things, when once your villa had received you, free from employment, under its warm roof. To what purpose was it to stow Plato upon Menander? Eupolis, Archilochus? For what end did you bring abroad such companions? What? are you setting about appeasing envy by deserting virtue? Wretch, you will be despised. That guilty Siren, Sloth, must be avoided; or whatever acquisitions you have made in the better part of your life, must with equanimity be given up. May the gods and godnesses, O Damasippus, present you with a barber for your sound advice! But by what means did you get so well acquainted with me? Since all my fortunes were dissipated at the middle of the exchange, detached from all business of my own, I mind that of other people. For formerly I used to take a delight in inquiring, in what vase the crafty Sisyphus might have washed his feet; what was carved in an unworkmanlike manner, and what more roughly cast than it ought to be; being a connoisseur, I offered a hundred thousand sesterces for such a statue; I was the only man who knew how to purchase gardens and fine seats to the best advantage: whence the crowded ways gave me the surname of Mercurial. I know it well; and am amazed at your being cured of that disorder. Why a new disorder expelled the old one in a marvelous manner; as it is accustomed to do, when the pain of the afflicted side, or the head, is turned upon the stomach; as it is with a man in a lethargy, when he turns boxer, and attacks his physician. As long as you do nothing like this, be it even as you please. O my good friend, do not deceive yourself; you likewise are mad, and it is almost “fools all,” if what Stertinius insists upon has any truth in it; from whom, being of a teachable disposition, I derived these admirable precepts, at the very time when, having given me consolation, he ordered me to cultivate a philosophical beard, and to return cheerfully from the Fabrician bridge. For when, my affairs being desperate, I had a mind to throw myself into the river, having covered my head [for that purpose], he fortunately was at my elbow; and [addressed me to this effect]: Take care, how do any thing unworthy of yourself; a false shame, says he, afflicts you, who dread to be esteemed a madman among madmen. For in the first place, I will inquire, what it is to be mad: and, if this distemper be in you exclusively, I will not add a single word, to prevent you from dying bravely.
The school and sect of Chrysippus deem every man mad, whom vicious folly or the ignorance of truth drives blindly forward. This definition takes in whole nations, this even great kings, the wise man [alone] excepted. Now learn, why all those, who have fixed the name of madman upon you, are as senseless as yourself. As in the woods, where a mistake makes people wander about from the proper path; one goes out of the way to the right, another to the left; there is the same blunder on both sides, only the illusion is in different directions: in this manner imagine yourself mad; so that he, who derides you, hangs his tail not one jot wiser than yourself. There is one species of folly, that dreads things not in the least formidable; insomuch that it will complain of fires, and rocks, and rivers opposing it in the open plain; there is another different from this, but not a whit more approaching to wisdom, that runs headlong through the midst of flames and floods. Let the loving mother, the virtuous sister, the father, the wife, together with all the relations [of a man possessed with this latter folly], cry out: “Here is a deep ditch; here is a prodigious rock; take care of yourself:” he would give no more attention, than did the drunken Fufius some time ago, when he overslept the character of Ilione, twelve hundred Catieni at the same time roaring out, O mother, I call you to my aid. I will demonstrate to you, that the generality of all mankind are mad in the commission of some folly similar to this.
Damasippus is mad for purchasing antique statues: but is Damasippus’ creditor in his senses? Well, suppose I should say to you: receive this, which you can never repay: will you be a madman, if you receive it; or would you be more absurd for rejecting a booty, which propitious Mercury offers? Take bond, like the banker Nerius, for ten thousand sesterces; it will not signify: add the forms of Cicuta, so versed in the knotty points of law: add a thousand obligations: yet this wicked Proteus will evade all these ties. When you shall drag him to justice, laughing as if his cheeks were none of his own; he will be transformed into a boar, sometimes into a bird, sometimes into a stone, and when he pleases Into a tree. If to conduct one’s affairs badly be the part of a madman; and the reverse, that of a man well in his senses; brain of Perillius (believe me), who orders you [that sum of money], which you can never repay, is much more unsound [than yours].
Whoever grows pale with evil ambition, or the love of money: whoever is heated with luxury, or gloomy superstition, or any other disease of the mind, I command him to adjust his garment and attend: hither, all of ye, come near me in order, while I convince you that you are mad.
By far the largest portion of hellebore is to be administered to the covetous: I know not, whether reason does not consign all Anticyra to their use. The heirs of Staberius engraved the sum [which he left them] upon his tomb: unless they had acted in this manner, they were under an obligation to exhibit a hundred pair of gladiators to the people, beside an entertainment according to the direction of Arrius; and as much corn as is cut in Africa. Whether I have willed this rightly or wrongly, it was my will; be not severe against me, [cries the testator]. I imagine the provident mind of Staberius foresaw this. What then did he moan, when he appointed by will that his heirs should engrave the sum of their patrimony upon his tomb-stone? As long as he lived, he deemed poverty a great vice, and nothing did he more industriously avoid: insomuch that, had he died less rich by one farthing, the more Iniquitous would he have appeared to himself. For every thing, virtue, fame, glory, divine and human affairs, are subservient to the attraction of riches; which whoever shall have accumulated, shall be illustrious, brave, just — What, wise too? Ay, and a king, and whatever else he pleases. This he was in hopes would greatly redound to his praise, as if it had been an acquisition of his virtue. In what respect did the Grecian Aristippus act like this; who ordered his slaves to throw away his gold in the midst of Libya; because, encumbered with the burden, they traveled too slowly? Which is the greater madman of these two? An example is nothing to the purpose, that decides one controversy by creating another. If any person were to buy lyres, and [when he had bought them] to stow them in one place; though neither addicted to the lyre nor to any one muse whatsoever: if a man were [to buy] paring-knives and lasts, and were no shoemaker; sails fit for navigation, and were averse to merchandizing; he every where deservedly be styled delirious, and out of his senses. How does he differ from these, who boards up cash and gold [and] knows not how to use them when accumulated, and is afraid to touch them as if they were consecrated? If any person before a great heap of corn should keep perpetual watch with a long club, and, though the owner of it, and hungry, should not dare to take a single grain from it; and should rather feed upon bitter leaves: if while a thousand hogsheads of Chian, or old Falernian, is stored up within (nay, that is nothing — three hundred thousand), he drink nothing, but what is mere sharp vinegars again — if, wanting but one year of eighty, he should lie upon straw, who has bed-clothes rotting in his chest, the food of worms and moths; he would seem mad, belike, but to few persons: because the greatest part of mankind labors, under the same malady.
Thou dotard, hateful to the gods, dost thou guard [these possessions], for fear of wanting thyself: to the end that thy son, or even the freedman thy heir, should guzzle it all up? For how little will each day deduct from your capital, if you begin to pour better oil upon your greens and your head, filthy with scurf not combed out? If any thing be a sufficiency, wherefore are you guilty of perjury [wherefore] do you rob, and plunder from all quarters? Are you in your senses? If you were to begin to pelt the populace with stones, and the slaves, which you purchased with your money; all the: very boys and girls will cry out that you are a madman. When you dispatch your wife with a rope, and your mother with poison, are you right in your head? Why not? You neither did this at Argos, nor slew your mother with the sword, as the mad Orestes did. What, do you imagine that he ran? mad after he had murdered his parent; and that he was not driven mad by the wicked Furies, before he warmed his sharp steel in his mother’s throat? Nay, from the time that Orestes is deemed to have been of a dangerous disposition, he did nothing in fact that you can blame; he did not dare to offer violence with his sword to Pylades, nor to his sister Electra; he only gave ill language to both of them, by calling her a Fury, and him some other [opprobrious name], which, his violent choler suggested.
Opimius, poor amid silver and gold hoarded up within, who used to drink out of Campanian ware Veientine wine on holidays, and mere dregs on common days, was some time ago taken with a prodigious lethargy; insomuch that his heir was already scouring about his coffers and keys, in joy and triumph. His physician, a man of much dispatch and fidelity, raises him in this manner: he orders a table to be brought, and the bags of money to be poured out, and several persons to approach in order to count it: by this method he sets the man upon his legs again. And at the same time he addresses him to this effect. Unless you guard your money your ravenous heir will even now carry off these [treasures] of yours. What, while I am alive? That you may live, therefore, awake; do this. What would you have me do? Why your blood will fail you that are so much reduced, unless food and some great restorative be administered to your decaying stomach. Do you hesitate? come on; take this ptisan made of rice. How much did it cost? A trifle. How much then? Eight asses. Alas! what does it matter, whether I die of a disease, or by theft and rapine?
Who then is sound? He, who is not a fool. What is the covetous man? Both a fool and a madman. What — if a man be not covetous, is he immediately [to be deemed] sound? By no means. Why so, Stoic? I will tell you. Such a patient (suppose Craterus [the physician] said this) is not sick at the heart. Is he therefore well, and shall he get up? No, he will forbid that; because his side or his reins are harassed with an acute disease. [In like manner], such a man is not perjured, nor sordid; let him then sacrifice a hog to his propitious household gods. But he is ambitious and assuming. Let him make a voyage [then] to Anticyra. For what is the difference, whether you fling whatever you have into a gulf, or make no use of your acquisitions?
Servius Oppidius, rich in the possession of an ancient estate, is reported when dying to have divided two farms at Canusium between his two sons, and to have addressed the boys, called to his bed-side, [in the following manner]: When I saw you, Aulus, carry your playthings and nuts carelessly in your bosom, [and] to give them and game them away; you, Tiberius, count them, and anxious hide them in holes; I was afraid lest a madness of a different nature should possess you: lest you [Aulus], should follow the example of Nomentanus, you, [Tiberius], that of Cicuta. Wherefore each of you, entreated by our household gods, do you (Aulus) take care lest you lessen; you (Tiberius) lest you make that greater, which your father thinks and the purposes of nature determine to be sufficient. Further, lest glory should entice you, I will bind each of you by an oath: whichever of you shall be an aedile or a praetor, let him be excommunicated and accursed. Would you destroy your effects in [largesses of] peas, beans, and lupines, that you may stalk in the circus at large, or stand in a statue of brass, O madman, stripped of your paternal estate, stripped of your money? To the end, forsooth, that you may gain those applauses, which Agrippa gains, like a cunning fox imitating a generous lion?
O Agamemnon, why do you prohibit any one from burying Ajax? I am a king. I, a plebeian, make no further inquiry. And I command a just thing: but, if I seem unjust to any one, I permit you to speak your sentiments with impunity. Greatest of kings, may the gods grant that, after the taking of Troy, you may conduct your fleet safe home: may I then have the liberty to ask questions, and reply in my turn? Ask. Why does Ajax, the second hero after Achilles, rot [above ground], so often renowned for having saved the Grecians; that Priam and Priam’s people may exult in his being unburied, by whose means so many youths have been deprived of their country’s rites of sepulture. In his madness he killed a thousand sheep, crying out that he was destroying the famous Ulysses and Menelaus, together with me. When you at Aulis substituted your sweet daughter in the place of a heifer before the altar, and, O impious one, sprinkled her head with the salt cake; did you preserve soundness of mind? Why do you ask? What then did the mad Ajax do, when he slew the flock with his sword? He abstained from any violence to his wife and child, though he had imprecated many curses on the sons of Atreus: he neither hurt Teucer, nor even Ulysses himself. But I, out of prudence, appeased the gods with blood, that I might loose the ships detained on an adverse shore. Yes, madman! with your own blood. With my own [indeed], but I was not mad. Whoever shall form images foreign from reality, and confused in the tumult of impiety, will always be reckoned disturbed in mind: and it will not matter, whether he go wrong through folly or through rage. Is Ajax delirious, while he kills the harmless lambs? Are you right in your head, when you willfully commit a crime for empty titles? And is your heart pure, while it is swollen with the vice? If any person should take a delight to carry about with him in his sedan a pretty lambkin; and should provide clothes, should provide maids and gold for it, as for a daughter, should call it Rufa and Rufilla, and should destine it a wife for some stout husband; the praetor would take power from him being interdicted, and the management of him would devolve to his relations, that were in their senses. What, if a man devote his daughter instead of a dumb lambkin, is he right of mind? Never say it. Therefore, wherever there is a foolish depravity, there will be the height of madness. He who is wicked, will be frantic too: Bellona, who delights in bloodshed, has thundered about him, whom precarious fame has captivated.
Now, come on, arraign with me luxury and Nomentanus; for reason will evince that foolish spendthrifts are mad. This fellow, as soon as he received a thousand talents of patrimony, issues an order that the fishmonger, the fruiterer, the poulterer, the perfumer, and the impious gang of the Tuscan alley, sausage-maker, and buffoons, the whole shambles, together with [all] Velabrum, should come to his house in the morning. What was the consequence? They came in crowds. The pander makes a speech: “Whatever I, or whatever each of these has at home, believe it to be yours: and give your order for it either directly, or tomorrow.” Hear what reply the considerate youth made: “You sleep booted in Lucanian snow, that I may feast on a boar: you sweep the wintry seas for fish: I am indolent, and unworthy to possess so much. Away with it: do you take for your share ten hundred thousand sesterces; you as much; you thrice the sum, from whose house your spouse runs, when called for, at midnight.” The son of Aesopus, [the actor] (that he might, forsooth, swallow a million of sesterces at a draught), dissolved in vinegar a precious pearl, which he had taken from the ear of Metella: how much wiser was he [in doing this,] than if he had thrown the same into a rapid river, or the common sewer? The progeny of Quintius Arrius, an illustrious pair of brothers, twins in wickedness and trifling and the love of depravity, used to dine upon nightingales bought at a vast expense: to whom do these belong? Are they in their senses? Are they to be marked With chalk, or with charcoal?
If an [aged person] with a long beard should take a delight to build baby-houses, to yoke mice to a go-cart, to play at odd and even, to ride upon a long cane, madness must be his motive. If reason shall evince, that to be in love is a more childish thing than these; and that there is no difference whether you play the same games in the dust as when three years old, or whine in anxiety for the love of a harlot: I beg to know, if you will act as the reformed Polemon did of old? Will you lay aside those ensigns of your disease, your rollers, your mantle, your mufflers; as he in his cups is said to have privately torn the chaplet from his neck, after he was corrected by the speech of his fasting master? When you offer apples to an angry boy, he refuses them: here, take them, you little dog; he denies you: if you don’t give them, he wants them. In what does an excluded lover differ [from such a boy]; when he argues with himself whether he should go or not to that very place whither he was returning without being sent for, and cleaves to the hated doors? “What shall I not go to her now, when she invites me of her own accord? or shall I rather think of putting an end to my pains? She has excluded me; she recalls me: shall I return? No, not if she would implore me.” Observe the servant, not a little wiser: “O master, that which has neither moderation nor conduct, can not be guided by reason or method. In love these evils are inherent; war [one while], then peace again. If any one should endeavor to ascertain these things, that are various as the weather, and fluctuating by blind chance; he will make no more of it, than if he should set about raving by right reason and rule.” What — when, picking the pippins from the Picenian apples, you rejoice if haply you have hit the vaulted roof; are you yourself? What — when you strike out faltering accents from your antiquated palate, how much wiser are you than [a child] that builds little houses? To the folly [of love] add bloodshed, and stir the fire with a sword. I ask you, when Marius lately, after he had stabbed Hellas, threw himself down a precipice, was he raving mad? Or will you absolve the man from the imputation of a disturbed mind, and condemn him for the crime, according to your custom, imposing, on things named that have an affinity in signification?
There was a certain freedman, who, an old man, ran about the streets in a morning fasting, with his hands washed, and prayed thus: “Snatch me alone from death” (adding some solemn vow), “me alone, for it is an easy matter for the gods:” this man was sound in both his ears and eyes; but his master, when he sold him, would except his understanding, unless he were fond of law-suits. This crowd too Chrysippus places in the fruitful family of Menenius.
O Jupiter, who givest and takest away great afflictions, (cries the mother of a boy, now lying sick abed for five months), if this cold quartan ague should leave the child, in the morning of that day on which you enjoy a fast, he shall stand naked in the Tiber. Should chance or the physician relieve the patient from his imminent danger, the infatuated mother will destroy [the boy] placed on the cold bank, and will bring back the fever. With what disorder of the mind is she stricken? Why, with a superstitious fear of the gods.
These arms Stertinius, the eighth of the wise men, gave to me, as to a friend, that for the future I might not be roughly accosted without avenging myself. Whosoever shall call me madman, shall hear as much from me [in return]; and shall learn to look back upon the bag that hangs behind him.
O Stoic, so may you, after your damage, sell all your merchandise the better: what folly (for, [it seems,] there are more kinds than one) do you think I am infatuated with? For to myself I seem sound. What — when mad Agave carries the amputated head of her unhappy son, does she then seem mad to herself? I allow myself a fool (let me yield to the truth) and a madman likewise: only declare this, with what distemper of mind you think me afflicted. Hear, then: in the first place you build; that is, though from top to bottom you are but of the two-foot size you imitate the tall: and you, the same person, laugh at the spirit and strut of Turbo in armor, too great for his [little] body: how are you less ridiculous than him? What — is it fitting that, in every thing Maecenas does, you, who are so very much unlike him and so much his inferior, should vie with him? The young ones of a frog being in her absence crushed by the foot of a calf, when one of them had made his escape, he told his mother what a huge beast had dashed his brethren to pieces. She began to ask, how big? Whether it were so great? puffing herself up. Greater by half. What, so big? when she had swelled herself more and more. If you should burst yourself, says he, you will not be equal to it. This image bears no great dissimilitude to you. Now add poems (that is, add oil to the fire), which if ever any man in his senses made, why so do you. I do not mention your horrid rage. At length, have done — your way of living beyond your fortune — confine yourself to your own affairs, Damasippus — those thousand passions for the fair, the young. Thou greater madman, at last, spare thy inferior.
He ridicules the absurdity of one Catius, who placed the summit of human felicity in the culinary art.
Whence, and whither, Catius? I have not time [to converse with you], being desirous of impressing on my memory some new precepts; such as excel Pythagoras, and him that was accused by Anytus, and the learned Plato. I acknowledge my offense, since I have interrupted you at so unlucky a juncture: but grant me your pardon, good sir, I beseech you. If any thing should have slipped you now, you will presently recollect it: whether this talent of yours be of nature, or of art, you are amazing in both. Nay, but I was anxious, how I might retain all [these precepts]; as being things of a delicate nature, and in a delicate style. Tell me the name of this man; and at the same time whether he is a Roman, or a foreigner? As I have them by heart, I will recite the precepts: the author shall be concealed.
Remember to serve up those eggs that are of an oblong make, as being of sweeter flavor and more nutritive than the round ones: for, being tough-shelled, they contain a male yelk. Cabbage that grows in dry lands, is sweeter than that about town: nothing is more insipid than a garden much watered. If a visitor should come unexpectedly upon you in the evening, lest the tough old hen prove disagreeable to his palate, you must learn to drown it in Falernian wine mixed [with water]: this will make it tender. The mushrooms that grow in meadows, are of the best kind: all others are dangerously trusted. That man shall spend his summers healthy who shall finish his dinners with mulberries black [with ripeness], which he shall have gathered from the tree before the sun becomes violent. Aufidius used to mix honey with strong Falernian injudiciously; because it is right to commit nothing to the empty veins, but what is emollient: you will, with more propriety, wash your stomach with soft mead. If your belly should be hard bound, the limpet and coarse cockles will remove obstructions, and leaves of the small sorrel; but not without Coan white wine. The increasing moons swell the lubricating shell-fish. But every sea is not productive of the exquisite sorts. The Lucrine muscle is better than the Baian murex: [The best] oysters come from the Circaean promontory; cray-fish from Misenum: the soft Tarentum plumes herself on her broad escalops. Let no one presumptuously arrogate to himself the science of banqueting, unless the nice doctrine of tastes has been previously considered by him with exact system. Nor is it enough to sweep away a parcel of fishes from the expensive stalls, [while he remains] ignorant for what sort stewed sauce is more proper, and what being roasted, the sated guest will presently replace himself on his elbow. Let the boar from Umbria, and that which has been fed with the acorns of the scarlet oak, bend the round dishes of him who dislikes all flabby meat: for the Laurentian boar, fattened with flags and reeds, is bad. The vineyard does not always afford the most eatable kids. A man of sense will be fond of the shoulders of a pregnant hare. What is the proper age and nature of fish and fowl, though inquired after, was never discovered before my palate. There are some, whose genius invents nothing but new kinds of pastry. To waste one’s care upon one thing, is by no means sufficient; just as if any person should use all his endeavors for this only, that the wine be not bad; quite careless what oil he pours upon his fish. If you set out Massic wine in fair weather, should there be any thing thick in it, it will be attenuated by the nocturnal air, and the smell unfriendly to the nerves will go off: but, if filtrated through linen, it will lose its entire flavor. He, who skillfully mixes the Surrentine wine with Falernian lees, collects the sediment with a pigeon’s egg: because the yelk sinks to the bottom, rolling down with it all the heterogeneous parts. You may rouse the jaded toper with roasted shrimps and African cockles; for lettuce after wine floats upon the soured stomach: by ham preferably, and by sausages, it craves to be restored to its appetite: nay, it will prefer every thing which is brought smoking hot from the nasty eating-houses. It is worth while to be acquainted with the two kinds of sauce. The simple consists of sweet oil; which it will be proper to mix with rich wine and pickle, but with no other pickle than that by which the Byzantine jar has been tainted. When this, mingled with shredded herbs, has boiled, and sprinkled with Corycian saffron, has stood, you shall over and above add what the pressed berry of the Venafran olive yields. The Tiburtian yield to the Picenian apples in juice, though they excel in look. The Venusian grape is proper for [preserving in] pots. The Albanian you had better harden in the smoke. I am found to be the first that served up this grape with apples in neat little side-plates, to be the first [likewise that served up] wine-lees and herring-brine, and white pepper finely mixed with black salt. It is an enormous fault to bestow three thousand sesterces on the fish-market, and then to cramp the roving fishes in a narrow dish. It causes a great nausea in the stomach, if even the slave touches the cup with greasy hands, while he licks up snacks, or if offensive grime has adhered to the ancient goblet. In trays, in mats, in sawdust, [that are so] cheap, what great expense can there be? But, if they are neglected, it is a heinous shame. What, should you sweep Mosaic pavements with a dirty broom made of palm, and throw Tyrian carpets over the unwashed furniture of your couch! forgetting, that by how much less care and expense these things are attended, so much the more justly may [the want of them] be censured, than of those things which can not be obtained but at the tables of the rich?
Learned Catius, entreated by our friendship and the gods, remember to introduce me to an audience [with this great man], whenever you shall go to him. For, though by your memory you relate every thing to me, yet as a relater you can not delight me in so high a degree. Add to this the countenance and deportment of the man; whom you, happy in having seen, do not much regard, because it has been your lot: but I have no small solicitude, that I may approach the distant fountain-heads, and imbibe the precepts of [such] a blessed life.
In a humorous dialogue between Ulysses and Tiresias, he exposes those arts which the fortune hunters make use of, in order to be appointed the heirs of rich old men.
Beside what you have told me, O Tiresias, answer to this petition of mine: by what arts and expedients may I be able to repair my ruined fortunes — why do you laugh? Does it already seem little to you, who are practiced in deceit, to be brought back to Ithaca, and to behold [again] your family household gods? O you who never speak falsely to anyone, you see how naked and destitute I return home, according to your prophecy: nor is either my cellar, or my cattle there, unembezzled by the suitors [of Penelope]. But birth and virtue, unless [attended] with substance, is viler than sea weed.
Since (circumlocutions apart) you are in dread of poverty hear by what means you may grow wealthy. If a thrush, or any [nice] thing for your own private [eating], shall be given you; it must wing way to that place, where shines a great fortune, the possessor being an old man: delicious apples, and whatever dainties your well-cultivated ground brings forth for you, let the rich man, as more to be reverenced than your household god, taste before him: and, though he be perjured, of no family, stained with his brother’s blood, a runaway; if he desire it, do not refuse to go along with him, his companion on the outer side. What, shall I walk cheek by jole with a filthy Damas? I did not behave myself in that manner at Troy, contending always with the best. You must then be poor. I will command my sturdy soul to bear this evil; I have formerly endured even greater. Do thou, O prophet, tell me forthwith how I may amass riches and heaps of money. In troth I have told you, and tell you again. Use your craft to lie at catch for the last wills of old men: nor, if one or two cunning chaps escape by biting the bait off the hook, either lay aside hope, or quit the art, though disappointed in your aim. If an affair, either of little or great consequence, shall be contested at any time at the bar; whichever of the parties live wealthy without heirs, should he be a rogue, who daringly takes the law of a better man, be thou his advocate: despise the citizen, who is superior in reputation, and [the justness of] his cause, if at home he has a son or a fruitful wife. [Address him thus:] “Quintus, for instance, or Publius (delicate ears delight in the prefixed name), your virtue has made me your friend. I am acquainted with the precarious quirks of the law; I can plead causes. Any one shall sooner snatch my eyes from me, than he shall despise or defraud you of an empty nut. This is my care, that you lose nothing, that you be not made a jest of.” Bid him go home, and make much of himself. Be his solicitor yourself: persevere, and be steadfast: whether the glaring dog-star shall cleave the infant statues; or Furius, destined with his greasy paunch, shall spue white snow over the wintery Alps. Do not you see (shall someone say, jogging the person that stands next to him by the elbow) how indefatigable he is, how serviceable to his friends, how acute? [By this means] more tunnies shall swim in, and your fish-ponds will increase.
Further, if any one in affluent circumstances has reared an ailing son, lest a too open complaisance to a single man should detect you, creep gradually into the hope [of succeeding him], and that you may be set down as second heir; and, if any casualty ahould dispatch the boy to Hades, you may come into the vacancy. This die seldom fails. Whoever delivers his will to you to read, be mindful to decline it, and push the parchment from you: [do it] however in such a manner, that you may catch with an oblique glance, what the first page intimates to be in the second clause: run over with a quick eye, whether you are sole heir, or co-heir with many. Sometimes a well-seasoned lawyer, risen from a Quinquevir, shall delude the gaping raven; and the fortune-hunter Nasica shall be laughed at by Coranus.
What, art thou in a [prophetic] raving; or dost thou play upon me designedly, by uttering obscurities? O son of Laertes, whatever I shall say will come to pass, or it will not: for the great Apollo gives me the power to divine. Then, if it is proper, relate what that tale means.
At that time when the youth dreaded by the Parthians, an offspring derived from the noble Aeneas, shall be mighty by land and sea; the tall daughter of Nasica, averse to pay the sum total of his debt, shall wed the stout Coranus. Then the son-inlaw shall proceed thus: he shall deliver his will to his father-inlaw, and entreat him to read it; Nasica will at length receive it, after it has been several times refused, and silently peruse it; and will find no other legacy left to him and his, except leave to lament.
To these [directions I have already given], I subjoin the [following]: if haply a cunning woman or a freedman have the management of an old driveler, join with them as an associate: praise them, that you may be praised in your absence. This too is of service; but to storm [the capital] itself excels this method by far. Shall he, a dotard, scribble wretched verses? Applaud them. Shall he be given to pleasure? Take care [you do not suffer him] to ask you: of your own accord complaisantly deliver up your Penelope to him, as preferable [to yourself]. What — do you think so sober and so chaste a woman can be brought over, whom [so many] wooers could not divert from the right course. Because, forsooth, a parcel of young fellows came, who were too parsimonious to give a great price, nor so much desirous of an amorous intercourse, as of the kitchen. So far your Penelope is a good woman: who, had she once tasted of one old [doting gallant], and shared with you the profit, like a hound, will never be frighted away from the reeking skin [of the new killed game].
What I am going to tell you happened when I was an old man. A wicked hag at Thebes was, according to her will, carried forth in this manner: her heir bore her corpse, anointed with a large quantity of oil, upon his naked shoulders; with the intent that, if possible, she might escape from him even when dead: because, I imagine, he had pressed upon her too much when living. Be cautious in your addresses: neither be wanting in your pains, nor immoderately exuberant. By garrulity you will offend the splenetic and morose. You must not, however, be too silent. Be Davus in the play; and stand with your head on one side, much like one who is in great awe. Attack him with complaisance: if the air freshens, advise him carefully to cover up his precious head: disengage him from the crowd by opposing your shoulders to it: closely attach your ear to him if chatty. Is he immoderately fond of being praised? Pay him home, till he shall cry out, with his hands lifted up to heaven, “Enough:” and puff up the swelling bladder with tumid speeches. When he shall have [at last] released you from your long servitude and anxiety; and being certainly awake, you shall hear [this article in his will]? “Let Ulysses be heir to one fourth of my estate:” “is then my companion Damas now no more? where shall I find one so brave and so faithful?” Throw out [something of this kind] every now and then: and if you can a little, weep for him. It is fit to disguise your countenance, which [otherwise] would betray your joy. As for the monument, which is left to your own discretion, erect it without meanness. The neighborhood will commend the funeral handsomely performed. If haply any of your co-heirs, being advanced in years, should have a dangerous cough; whether he has a mind to be a purchaser of a farm or a house out of your share, tell him, you will [come to any terms he shall propose, and] make it over to him gladly for a trifling sum. But the Imperious Proserpine drags me hence. Live, and prosper.
He sets the conveniences of a country retirement in opposition to the troubles of a life in town.
This was [ever] among the number of my wishes: a portion of ground not over large, in which was a garden, and a fountain with a continual stream close to my house, and a little Woodland besides. The gods have done more abundantly, and better, for me [than this]. It is well: O son of Maia, I ask nothing more save that you would render these donations lasting to me. If I have neither made my estate larger by bad means, nor am in a way to make it less by vice or misconduct; if I do not foolishly make any petition of this sort —“Oh that that neighboring angle, which now spoils the; regularity of my field, could be added! Oh that some accident would discover to me an urn [full] of money! as it did to him, who having found a treasure, bought that very ground he before tilled in the capacity of an hired servant, enriched by Hercules’ being his friend;” if what I have at present satisfies me grateful, I supplicate you with this prayer: make my cattle fat for the use of their master, and every thing else, except my genius: and, as you are wont, be present as my chief guardian. Wherefore, when I have removed myself from the city to the mountains and my castle, (what can I polish, preferably to my satires and prosaic muse?) neither evil ambition destroys me, nor the heavy south wind, nor the sickly autumn, the gain of baleful Libitina.
Father of the morning, or Janus, if with more pleasure thou hearest thyself [called by that name], from whom men commence the toils of business, and of life (such is the will of the gods), be thou the beginning of my song. At Rome you hurry me away to be bail; “Away, dispatch, [you cry,] lest any one should be beforehand with you in doing that friendly office:” I must go, at all events, whether the north wind sweep the earth, or winter contracts the snowy day into a narrower circle. After this, having uttered in a clear and determinate manner [the legal form], which may be a detriment to me, I must bustle through the crowd; and must disoblige the tardy. “What is your will, madman, and what are you about, impudent fellow?” So one accosts me with his passionate curses. “You jostle every thing that is in your way, if with an appointment full in your mind you are away to Maecenas.” This pleases me, and is like honey: I will not tell a lie. But by the time I reached the gloomy Esquiliae, a hundred affairs of other people’s encompass me on every side: “Roscius begged that you would be with him at the court-house tomorrow before the second hour.” “The secretaries requested you would remember, Quintus, to return today about an affair of public concern, and of great consequence.” “Get Maecenas to put his signet to these tablets.” Should one say, “I will endeavor at it:” “If you will, you can,” adds he; and is more earnest. The seventh year approaching to the eighth is now elapsed, from the time that Maecenas began to reckon me in the number of his friends; only thus far, as one he would like to take along with him in his chariot, when he went a journey, and to whom he would trust such kind of trifles as these: “What is the hour?” “Is Gallina, the Thracian, a match for [the gladiator] Syrus?” “The cold morning air begins to pinch those that are ill provided against it;"— and such things-as are well enough intrusted to a leaky ear. For all this time, every day and hour, I have been more subjected to envy. “Our son of fortune here, says every body, witnessed the shows in company with [Maecenas], and played with him in the Campus Martius.” Does any disheartening report spread from the rostrum through the streets, whoever comes in my way consults me [concerning it]: “Good sir, have you (for you must know, since you approach nearer the gods) heard any thing relating to the Dacians?” “Nothing at all for my part,” [I reply]. “How you ever are a sneerer!” “But may all the gods torture me, if I know any thing of the matter.” “What? will Caesar give the lands he promised the soldiers, in Sicily, or in Italy?” As I am swearing I know nothing about it, they wonder at me, [thinking] me, to be sure, a creature of profound and extraordinary secrecy.
Among things of this nature the day is wasted by me, mortified as I am, not without such wishes as these: O rural retirement, when shall I behold thee? and when shall it be in my power to pass through the pleasing oblivion of a life full of solicitude, one while with the books of the ancients, another while in sleep and leisure? O when shall the bean related to Pythagoras, and at the same time herbs well larded with fat bacon, be set before me? O evenings, and suppers fit for gods! with which I and my friends regale ourselves in the presence of my household gods; and feed my saucy slaves with viands, of which libations have been made. The guest, according to every one’s inclination, takes off the glasses of different sizes, free from mad laws: whether one of a strong constitution chooses hearty bumpers; or another more joyously gets mellow with moderate ones. Then conversation arises, not concerning other people’s villas and houses, nor whether Lepos dances well or not; but we debate on what is more to our purpose, and what it is pernicious not to know — whether men are made happier by riches or by virtue; or what leads us into intimacies, interest or moral rectitude; and what is the nature of good, and what its perfection. Meanwhile, my neighbor Cervius prates away old stories relative to the subject. For, if any one ignorantly commends the troublesome riches of Aurelius, he thus begins: “On a time a country-mouse is reported to have received a city-mouse into his poor cave, an old host, his old acquaintance; a blunt fellow and attentive to his acquisitions, yet so as he could [on occasion] enlarge his narrow soul in acts of hospitality. What need of many words? He neither grudged him the hoarded vetches, nor the long oats; and bringing in his mouth a dry plum, and nibbled scraps of bacon, presented them to him, being desirous by the variety of the supper to get the better of the daintiness of his guest, who hardly touched with his delicate tooth the several things: while the father of the family himself, extended on fresh straw, ate a spelt and darnel leaving that which was better [for his guest]. At length the citizen addressing him, ‘Friend,’ says he, ‘what delight have you to live laboriously on the ridge of a rugged thicket? Will you not prefer men and the city to the savage woods? Take my advice, and go along with me: since mortal lives are allotted to all terrestrial animals, nor is there any escape from death, either for the great or the small. Wherefore, my good friend, while it is in your power, live happy in joyous circumstances: live mindful of how brief an existence you are.’ Soon as these speeches had wrought upon the peasant, he leaps nimbly from his cave: thence they both pursue their intended journey, being desirous to steal under the city walls by night. And now the night possessed the middle region of the heavens, when each of them set foot in a gorgeous palace, where carpets dyed with crimson grain glittered upon ivory couches, and many baskets of a magnificent entertainment remained, which had yesterday been set by in baskets piled upon one another. After he had placed the peasant then, stretched at ease upon a splendid carpet; he bustles about like an adroit host, and keeps bringing up one dish close upon another, and with an affected civility performs all the ceremonies, first tasting of every thing he serves up. He, reclined, rejoices in the change of his situation, and acts the part of a boon companion in the good cheer: when on a sudden a prodigious rattling of the folding doors shook them both from their couches. Terrified they began to scamper all about the room, and more and more heartless to be in confusion, while the lofty house resounded with [the barking of] mastiff dogs; upon which, says the country-mouse, ‘I have no desire for a life like this; and so farewell: my wood and cave, secure from surprises, shall with homely tares comfort me.’”
One of Horace’s slaves, making use of that freedom which was allowed them at the Saturnalia, rates his master in a droll and severe manner.
I have a long while been attending [to you], and would fain speak a few words [in return; but, being] a slave, I am afraid. What, Davus? Yes, Davus, a faithful servant to his master and an honest one, at least sufficiently so: that is, for you to think his life in no danger. Well (since our ancestors would have it so), use the freedom of December speak on.
One part of mankind are fond of their vices with some constancy and adhere to their purpose: a considerable part fluctuates; one while embracing the right, another while liable to depravity. Priscus, frequently observed with three rings, sometimes with his left hand bare, lived so irregularly that he would change his robe every hour; from a magnificent edifice, he would on a sudden hide himself in a place, whence a decent freedman could scarcely come out in a decent manner; one while he would choose to lead the life of a rake at Rome, another while that of a teacher at Athens; born under the evil influence of every Vertumnus. That buffoon, Volanerius, when the deserved gout had crippled his fingers, maintained [a fellow] that he had hired at a daily price, who took up the dice and put them into a box for him: yet by how much more constant was he in his vice, by so much less wretched was he than the former person, who is now in difficulties by too loose, now by too tight a rein.
“Will you not tell today, you varlet, whither such wretched stuff as this tends?” “Why, to you, I say.” “In what respect to me, scoundrel?” “You praise the happiness and manners of the ancient [Roman] people; and yet, if any god were on a sudden to reduce you to to them, you, the same man, would earnestly beg to be excused; either because you are not really of opinion that what you bawl about is right; or because you are irresolute in defending the right, and hesitate, in vain desirous to extract your foot from the mire. At Rome, you long for the country; when you are in the country, fickle, you extol the absent city to the skies. If haply you are invited out nowhere to supper, you praise your quiet dish of vegetables; and as if you ever go abroad upon compulsion, you think yourself so happy, and do so hug yourself, that you are obliged to drink out nowhere. Should Maecenas lay his commands on you to come late, at the first lighting up of the lamps, as his guest; ‘Will nobody bring the oil with more expedition? Does any body hear?’ You stutter with a mighty bellowing, and storm with rage. Milvius, and the buffoons [who expected to sup with you], depart, after having uttered curses not proper to be repeated. Any one may say, for I own [the truth], that I am easy to be seduced by my appetite; I snuff up my nose at a savory smell: I am weak, lazy; and, if you have a mind to add any thing else, I am a sot. But seeing you are as I am, and perhaps something worse, why do you willfully call me to an account as if you were the better man; and, with specious phrases, disguise your own vice? What, if you are found out to be a greater fool than me, who was purchased for five hundred drachmas? Forbear to terrify me with your looks; restrain your hand and your anger, while I relate to you what Crispinus’ porter taught me.
“Another man’s wife captivates you; a harlot, Davus: which of us sins more deservingly of the cross? When keen nature inflames me, any common wench that picks me up, dismisses me neither dishonored, nor caring whether a richer or a handsomer man enjoys her next. You, when you have cast off your ensigns of dignity, your equestrian ring and your Roman habit, turn out from a magistrate a wretched Dama, hiding with a cape your perfumed head: are you not really what you personate? You are introduced, apprehensive [of consequences]; and, as you are altercating With your passions, your bones shake with fear. What is the difference whether you go condemned [like a gladiator], to be galled with scourges, or slain with the sword; or be closed up in a filthy chest, where [the maid], concious of her mistress’ crime, has stowed you? Has not the husband of the offending dame a just power over both; against the seducer even a juster? But she neither changes her dress, nor place, nor sins to that excess [which you do]; since the woman is in dread of you, nor gives any credit to you, though you profess to love her. You must go under the yoke knowingly, and put all your fortune, your life, and reputation, together with your limbs, into the power of an enraged husband. Have you escaped? I suppose, then, you will be afraid [for the future]; and, being warned, will be cautious. No, you will seek occasion when you may be again in terror, and again may be likely to perish. O so often a slave! What beast, when it has once escaped by breaking its toils, absurdly trusts itself to them again? You say, “I am no adulterer.” Nor, by Hercules, am I a thief, when I wisely pass by the silver vases. Take away the danger, and vagrant nature will spring forth, when restraints are removed. Are you my superior, subjected as you are, to the dominion of so many things and persons, whom the praetor’s rod, though placed on your head three or four times over, can never free from this wretched solicitude? Add, to what has been said above, a thing of no less weight; whether he be an underling, who obeys the master-slave (as it is your custom to affirm), or only a fellow-slave, what am I in respect of you? You, for example, who have the command of me, are in subjection to other things, and are led about, like a puppet movable by means of wires not its own.
“Who then is free? The wise man, who has dominion over himself; whom neither poverty, nor death, nor chains affright; brave in the checking of his appetites, and in contemning honors; and, perfect in himself, polished and round as a globe, so that nothing from without can retard, in consequence of its smoothness; against whom misfortune ever advances ineffectually. Can you, out of these, recognize any thing applicable to yourself? A woman demands five talents of you, plagues you, and after you are turned out of doors, bedews you with cold water: she calls you again. Rescue your neck from this vile yoke; come, say, I am free, I am free. You are not able: for an implacable master oppresses your mind, and claps the sharp spurs to your jaded appetite, and forces you on though reluctant. When you, mad one, quite languish at a picture by Pausias; how are you less to blame than I, when I admire the combats of Fulvius and Rutuba and Placideianus, with their bended knees, painted in crayons or charcoal, as if the men were actually engaged, and push and parry, moving their weapons? Davus is a scoundrel and a loiterer; but you have the character of an exquisite and expert connoisseur in antiquities. If I am allured by a smoking pasty, I am a good-for-nothing fellow: does your great virtue and soul resist delicate entertainments? Why is a tenderness for my belly too destructive for me? For my back pays for it. How do you come off with more impunity, since you hanker after such dainties as can not be had for a little expense? Then those delicacies, perpetually taken, pall upon the stomach; and your mistaken feet refuse to support your sickly body. Is that boy guilty, who by night pawns a stolen scraper for some grapes? Has he nothing servile about him, who in indulgence to his guts sells his estates? Add to this, that you yourself can not be an hour by yourself, nor dispose of your leisure in a right manner; and shun yourself as a fugitive and vagabond, one while endeavoring with wine, another while with sleep, to cheat care — in vain: for the gloomy companion presses upon you, and pursues you in your flight.
“Where can I get a stone?” “What occasion is there for it?” “Where some darts?” “The man is either mad, or making verses.” “If you do not take yourself away in an instant, you shall go [and make] a ninth laborer at my Sabine estate.”
A smart description of a miser ridiculously acting the extravagant.
How did the entertainment of that happy fellow Nasidienus please you? for yesterday, as I was seeking to make you my guest, you were said to be drinking there from mid-day. [It pleased me so], that I never was happier in my life. Say (if it be not troublesome) what food first calmed your raging appetite.
In the first place, there was a Lucanian boar, taken when the gentle south wind blew, as the father of the entertainment affirmed; around it sharp rapes, lettuces, radishes; such things as provoke a languid appetite; skirrets, anchovies, dregs of Coan wine. These once removed, one slave, tucked high with a purple cloth, wiped the maple table, and a second gathered up whatever lay useless, and whatever could offend the guests; swarthy Hydaspes advances like an Attic maid with Ceres’ sacred rites, bearing wines of Caecubum; Alcon brings those of Chios, undamaged by the sea. Here the master [cries], “Maecenas, if Alban or Falernian wine delight you more than those already brought, we have both.”
Ill-fated riches! But, Fundanius, I am impatient to know, who were sharers in this feast where you fared so well.
I was highest, and next me was Viscus Thurinus, and below, if I remember, was Varius; with Servilius Balatro, Vibidius, whom Maecenas had brought along with him, unbidden guests. Above [Nasidienus] himself was Nomentanus, below him Porcius, ridiculous for swallowing whole cakes at once. Nomentanus [was present] for this purpose, that if any thing should chance to be unobserved, he might show it with his pointing finger. For the other company, we, I mean, eat [promiscuously] of fowls, oysters, fish, which had concealed in them a juice far different from the known: as presently appeared, when he reached to me the entrails of a plaice and of a turbot, such as had never been tasted before. After this he informed me that honey-apples were most ruddy when gathered under the waning moon. What difference this makes you will hear best from himself. Then [says] Vibidius to Balatro; “If we do not drink to his cost, we shall die in his debt;” and he calls for larger tumblers. A paleness changed the countenance of our host, who fears nothing so much as hard drinkers: either because they are more freely censorious; or because heating wines deafen the subtle [judgment of the] palate. Vibidius and Balatro, all following their example, pour whole casks into Alliphanians; the guests of the lowest couch did no hurt to the flagons. A lamprey is brought in, extended in a dish, in the midst of floating shrimps. Whereupon, “This,” says the master, “was caught when pregnant; which, after having young, would have been less delicate in its flesh.” For these a sauce is mixed up; with oil which the best cellar of Venafrum pressed, with pickle from the juices of the Iberian fish, with wine of five years old, but produced on this side the sea, while it is boiling (after it is boiled, the Chian wine suits it so well, that no other does better than it) with white pepper, and vinegar which, by being vitiated, turned sour the Methymnean grape. I first showed the way to stew in it the green rockets and bitter elecampane: Curtillus, [to stew in it] the sea-urchins unwashed, as being better than the pickle which the sea shell-fish yields.
In the mean time the suspended tapestry made a heavy downfall upon the dish, bringing along with it more black dust than the north wind ever raises on the plains of Campania. Having been fearful of something worse, as soon as we perceive there was no danger, we rise up. Rufus, hanging his head, began to weep, as if his son had come to an untimely death: what would have been the end, had not the discreet Nomentanus thus raised his friend! “Alas! O fortune, what god is more cruel to us than thou? How dost thou always take pleasure in sporting with human affairs!” Varius could scarcely smother a laugh with his napkin. Balatro, sneering at every thing, observed: “This is the condition of human life, and therefore a suitable glory will never answer your labor. Must you be rent and tortured with all manner of anxiety, that I may be entertained sumptuously; lest burned bread, lest ill-seasoned soup should be set before us; that all your slaves should wait, properly attired and neat? Add, besides, these accidents; if the hangings should tumble down, as just now, if the groom slipping with his foot should break a dish. But adversity is wont to disclose, prosperity to conceal, the abilities of a host as well as of a general.” To this Nasidienus: “May the gods give you all the blessings, whatever you can pray for, you are so good a man and so civil a guest;” and calls for his sandals. Then on every couch you might see divided whispers buzzing in each secret ear.
I would not choose to have seen any theatrical entertainments sooner than these things. But come, recount what you laughed at next. While Vibidius is inquiring of the slaves, whether the flagon was also broken, because cups were not brought when he called for them; and while a laugh is continued on feigned pretences, Balatro seconding it; you Nasidienus, return with an altered countenance, as if to repair your ill-fortune by art. Then followed the slaves, bearing on a large charger the several limbs of a crane besprinkled with much salt, not without flour, and the liver of a white goose fed with fattening figs, and the wings of hares torn off, as a much daintier dish than if one eats them with the loins. Then we saw blackbirds also set before us with scorched breasts, and ring-doves without the rumps: delicious morsels! did not the master give us the history of their causes and natures: whom we in revenge fled from, so as to taste nothing at all; as if Canidia, more venomous than African serpents, had poisoned them with her breath.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51