Translated literally into English prose
By C. Smart, A.M.
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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Handy Literal Translations
The Works of Horace
Translated literally into English prose
By C. Smart, A.M.
Of Pembroke College, Cambridge
A new edition
Theodore Alois Buckley B.A. Of Christ Church
Maecenas, descended from royal ancestors, O both my protection and my darling honor! There are those whom it delights to have collected Olympic dust in the chariot race; and [whom] the goal nicely avoided by the glowing wheels, and the noble palm, exalts, lords of the earth, to the gods.
This man, if a crowd of the capricious Quirites strive to raise him to the highest dignities; another, if he has stored up in his own granary whatsoever is swept from the Libyan thrashing floors: him who delights to cut with the hoe his patrimonial fields, you could never tempt, for all the wealth of Attalus, [to become] a timorous sailor and cross the Myrtoan sea in a Cyprian bark. The merchant, dreading the south-west wind contending with the Icarian waves, commends tranquility and the rural retirement of his village; but soon after, incapable of being taught to bear poverty, he refits his shattered vessel. There is another, who despises not cups of old Massic, taking a part from the entire day, one while stretched under the green arbute, another at the placid head of some sacred stream.
The camp, and the sound of the trumpet mingled with that of the clarion, and wars detested by mothers, rejoice many.
The huntsman, unmindful of his tender spouse, remains in the cold air, whether a hart is held in view by his faithful hounds, or a Marsian boar has broken the fine-wrought toils.
Ivy, the reward of learned brows, equals me with the gods above: the cool grove, and the light dances of nymphs and satyrs, distinguish me from the crowd; if neither Euterpe withholds her pipe, nor Polyhymnia disdains to tune the Lesbian lyre. But, if you rank me among the lyric poets, I shall tower to the stars with my exalted head.
Enough of snow and dreadful hail has the Sire now sent upon the earth, and having hurled [his thunderbolts] with his red right hand against the sacred towers, he has terrified the city; he has terrified the nations, lest the grievous age of Pyrrha, complaining of prodigies till then unheard of, should return, when Proteus drove all his [marine] herd to visit the lofty mountains; and the fishy race were entangled in the elm top, which before was the frequented seat of doves; and the timorous deer swam in the overwhelming flood. We have seen the yellow Tiber, with his waves forced back with violence from the Tuscan shore, proceed to demolish the monuments of king [Numa], and the temples of Vesta; while he vaunts himself the avenger of the too disconsolate Ilia, and the uxorious river, leaving his channel, overflows his left bank, notwithstanding the disapprobation of Jupiter.
Our youth, less numerous by the vices of their fathers, shall hear of the citizens having whetted that sword [against themselves], with which it had been better that the formidable Persians had fallen; they shall hear of [actual] engagements. Whom of the gods shall the people invoke to the affairs of the sinking empire? With what prayer shall the sacred virgins importune Vesta, who is now inattentive to their hymns? To whom shall Jupiter assign the task of expiating our wickedness? Do thou at length, prophetic Apollo, (we pray thee!) come, vailing thy radiant shoulders with a cloud: or thou, if it be more agreeable to thee, smiling Venus, about whom hover the gods of mirth and love: or thou, if thou regard thy neglected race and descendants, our founder Mars, whom clamor and polished helmets, and the terrible aspect of the Moorish infantry against their bloody enemy, delight, satiated at length with thy sport, alas! of too long continuance: or if thou, the winged son of gentle Maia, by changing thy figure, personate a youth upon earth, submitting to be called the avenger of Caesar; late mayest thou return to the skies, and long mayest thou joyously be present to the Roman people; nor may an untimely blast transport thee from us, offended at our crimes. Here mayest thou rather delight in magnificent triumphs, and to be called father and prince: nor suffer the Parthians with impunity to make incursions, you, O Caesar, being our general.
So may the goddess who rules over Cyprus; so may the bright stars, the brothers of Helen; and so may the father of the winds, confining all except Iapyx, direct thee, O ship, who art intrusted with Virgil; my prayer is, that thou mayest land him safe on the Athenian shore, and preserve the half of my soul. Surely oak and three-fold brass surrounded his heart who first trusted a frail vessel to the merciless ocean, nor was afraid of the impetuous Africus contending with the northern storms, nor of the mournful Hyades, nor of the rage of Notus, than whom there is not a more absolute controller of the Adriatic, either to raise or assuage its waves at pleasure. What path of death did he fear, who beheld unmoved the rolling monsters of the deep; who beheld unmoved the tempestuous swelling of the sea, and the Acroceraunians — ill-famed rocks?
In vain has God in his wisdom divided the countries of the earth by the separating ocean, if nevertheless profane ships bound over waters not to be violated. The race of man presumptuous enough to endure everything, rushes on through forbidden wickedness.
The presumptuous son of Iapetus, by an impious fraud, brought down fire into the world. After fire was stolen from the celestial mansions, consumption and a new train of fevers settled upon the earth, and the slow approaching necessity of death, which, till now, was remote, accelerated its pace. Daedalus essayed the empty air with wings not permitted to man. The labor of Hercules broke through Acheron. There is nothing too arduous for mortals to attempt. We aim at heaven itself in our folly; neither do we suffer, by our wickedness, Jupiter to lay aside his revengeful thunderbolts.
Severe winter is melted away beneath the agreeable change of spring and the western breeze; and engines haul down the dry ships. And neither does the cattle any longer delight in the stalls, nor the ploughman in the fireside; nor are the meadows whitened by hoary frosts. Now Cytherean Venus leads off the dance by moonlight; and the comely Graces, in conjunction with the Nymphs, shake the ground with alternate feet; while glowing Vulcan kindles the laborious forges of the Cyclops. Now it is fitting to encircle the shining head either with verdant myrtle, or with such flowers as the relaxed earth produces. Now likewise it is fitting to sacrifice to Faunus in the shady groves, whether he demand a lamb, or be more pleased with a kid. Pale death knocks at the cottages of the poor, and the palaces of kings, with an impartial foot. O happy Sextius! The short sum total of life forbids us to form remote expectations. Presently shall darkness, and the unreal ghosts, and the shadowy mansion of Pluto oppress you; where, when you shall have once arrived, you shall neither decide the dominion of the bottle by dice, nor shall you admire the tender Lycidas, with whom now all the youth is inflamed, and for whom ere long the maidens will grow warm.
What dainty youth, bedewed with liquid perfumes, caresses you, Pyrrha, beneath the pleasant grot, amid a profusion of roses? For whom do you bind your golden hair, plain in your neatness? Alas! how often shall he deplore your perfidy, and the altered gods; and through inexperience be amazed at the seas, rough with blackening storms who now credulous enjoys you all precious, and, ignorant of the faithless gale, hopes you will be always disengaged, always amiable! Wretched are those, to whom thou untried seemest fair? The sacred wall [of Neptune’s temple] demonstrates, by a votive tablet, that I have consecrated my dropping garments to the powerful god of the sea.
You shall be described by Varius, a bird of Maeonian verse, as brave, and a subduer of your enemies, whatever achievements your fierce soldiery shall have accomplished, under your command; either on ship-board or on horseback. We humble writers, O Agrippa, neither undertake these high subjects, nor the destructive wrath of inexorable Achilles, nor the voyages of the crafty Ulysses, nor the cruel house of Pelops: while diffidence, and the Muse who presides over the peaceful lyre, forbid me to diminish the praise of illustrious Caesar, and yours, through defect of genius. Who with sufficient dignity will describe Mars covered with adamantine coat of mail, or Meriones swarthy with Trojan dust, or the son of Tydeus by the favor of Pallas a match for the gods? We, whether free, or ourselves enamored of aught, light as our wont, sing of banquets; we, of the battles of maids desperate against young fellows — with pared nails.
Other poets shall celebrate the famous Rhodes, or Mitylene, or Ephesus, or the walls of Corinth, situated between two seas, or Thebes, illustrious by Bacchus, or Delphi by Apollo, or the Thessalian Tempe. There are some, whose one task it is to chant in endless verse the city of spotless Pallas, and to prefer the olive culled from every side, to every other leaf. Many a one, in honor of Juno, celebrates Argos, productive of steeds, and rich Mycenae. Neither patient Lacedaemon so much struck me, nor so much did the plain of fertile Larissa, as the house of resounding Albunea, and the precipitately rapid Anio, and the Tiburnian groves, and the orchards watered by ductile rivulets. As the clear south wind often clears away the clouds from a lowering sky, now teems with perpetual showers; so do you, O Plancus, wisely remember to put an end to grief and the toils of life by mellow wine; whether the camp, refulgent with banners, possess you, or the dense shade of your own Tibur shall detain you. When Teucer fled from Salamis and his father, he is reported, notwithstanding, to have bound his temples, bathed in wine, with a poplar crown, thus accosting his anxious friends: “O associates and companions, we will go wherever fortune, more propitious than a father, shall carry us. Nothing is to be despaired of under Teucer’s conduct, and the auspices of Teucer: for the infallible Apollo has promised, that a Salamis in a new land shall render the name equivocal. O gallant heroes, and often my fellow-sufferers in greater hardships than these, now drive away your cares with wine: tomorrow we will re-visit the vast ocean.”
Lydia, I conjure thee by all the powers above, to tell me why you are so intent to ruin Sybaris by inspiring him with love? Why hates he the sunny plain, though inured to bear the dust and heat? Why does he neither, in military accouterments, appear mounted among his equals; nor manage the Gallic steed with bitted reins? Why fears he to touch the yellow Tiber? Why shuns he the oil of the ring more cautiously than viper’s blood? Why neither does he, who has often acquired reputation by the quoit, often by the javelin having cleared the mark, any longer appear with arms all black-and-blue by martial exercises? Why is he concealed, as they say the son of the sea-goddess Thetis was, just before the mournful funerals of Troy; lest a manly habit should hurry him to slaughter, and the Lycian troops?
You see how Soracte stands white with deep snow, nor can the laboring woods any longer support the weight, and the rivers stagnate with the sharpness of the frost. Dissolve the cold, liberally piling up billets on the hearth; and bring out, O Thaliarchus, the more generous wine, four years old, from the Sabine jar. Leave the rest to the gods, who having once laid the winds warring with the fervid ocean, neither the cypresses nor the aged ashes are moved. Avoid inquiring what may happen tomorrow; and whatever day fortune shall bestow on you, score it up for gain; nor disdain, being a young fellow, pleasant loves, nor dances, as long as ill-natured hoariness keeps off from your blooming age. Now let both the Campus Martius and the public walks, and soft whispers at the approach of evening be repeated at the appointed hour: now, too, the delightful laugh, the betrayer of the lurking damsel from some secret corner, and the token ravished from her arms or fingers, pretendingly tenacious of it.
Mercury, eloquent grandson of Atlas, thou who artful didst from the savage manners of the early race of men by oratory, and the institution of the graceful Palaestra: I will celebrate thee, messenger of Jupiter and the other gods, and parent of the curved lyre; ingenious to conceal whatever thou hast a mind to, in jocose theft. While Apollo, with angry voice, threatened you, then but a boy, unless you would restore the oxen, previously driven away by your fraud, he laughed, [when he found himself] deprived of his quiver [also]. Moreover, the wealthy Priam too, on his departure from Ilium, under your guidance deceived the proud sons of Atreus, and the Thessalian watch-lights, and the camp inveterate agaist Troy. You settle the souls of good men in blissful regions, and drive together the airy crowd with your golden rod, acceptable both to the supernal and infernal gods.
Inquire not, Leuconoe (it is not fitting you should know), how long a term of life the gods have granted to you or to me: neither consult the Chaldean calculations. How much better is it to bear with patience whatever shall happen! Whether Jupiter have granted us more winters, or [this as] the last, which now breaks the Etrurian waves against the opposing rocks. Be wise; rack off your wines, and abridge your hopes [in proportion] to the shortness of your life. While we are conversing, envious age has been flying; seize the present day, not giving the least credit to the succeeding one.
What man, what hero, O Clio, do you undertake to celebrate on the harp, or the shrill pipe? What god? Whose name shall the sportive echo resound, either in the shady borders of Helicon, or on the top of Pindus, or on cold Haemus? Whence the woods followed promiscuously the tuneful Orpheus, who by his maternal art retarded the rapid courses of rivers, and the fleet winds; and was so sweetly persuasive, that he drew along the listening oaks with his harmonious strings. But what can I sing prior to the usual praises of the Sire, who governs the affairs of men and gods; who [governs] the sea, the earth, and the whole world with the vicissitudes of seasons? Whence nothing is produced greater than him; nothing springs either like him, or even in a second degree to him: nevertheless, Pallas has acquired these honors, which are next after him.
Neither will I pass thee by in silence, O Bacchus, bold in combat; nor thee, O Virgin, who art an enemy to the savage beasts; nor thee, O Phoebus, formidable for thy unerring dart.
I will sing also of Hercules, and the sons of Leda, the one illustrious for his achievements on horseback, the other on foot; whose clear-shining constellation as soon as it has shone forth to the sailors, the troubled surge falls down from the rocks, the winds cease, the clouds vanish, and the threatening waves subside in the sea — because it was their will. After these, I am in doubt whom I shall first commemorate, whether Romulus, or the peaceful reign of Numa, or the splendid ensigns of Tarquinius, or the glorious death of Cato. I will celebrate, out of gratitude, with the choicest verses, Regulus, and the Scauri, and Paulus, prodigal of his mighty soul, when Carthage conquered, and Fabricius.
Severe poverty, and an hereditary farm, with a dwelling suited to it, formed this hero useful in war; as it did also Curius with his rough locks, and Camillus. The fame of Marcellus increases, as a tree does in the insensible progress of time. But the Julian constellation shines amid them all, as the moon among the smaller stars. O thou son of Saturn, author and preserver of the human race, the protection of Caesar is committed to thy charge by the Fates: thou shalt reign supreme, with Caesar for thy second. Whether he shall subdue with a just victory the Parthians making inroads upon Italy, or shall render subject the Seres and Indians on the Eastern coasts; he shall rule the wide world with equity, in subordination to thee. Thou shalt shake Olympus with thy tremendous car; thou shalt hurl thy hostile thunderbolts against the polluted groves.
O Lydia, when you commend Telephus’ rosy neck, and the waxen arms of Telephus, alas! my inflamed liver swells with bile difficult to be repressed. Then neither is my mind firm, nor does my color maintain a certain situation: and the involuntary tears glide down my cheek, proving with what lingering flames I am inwardly consumed. I am on fire, whether quarrels rendered immoderate by wine have stained your fair shoulders; or whether the youth, in his fury, has impressed with his teeth a memorial on your lips. If you will give due attention to my advice, never expect that he will be constant, who inhumanly wounds those sweet kisses, which Venus has imbued with the fifth part of all her nectar. O thrice and more than thrice happy those, whom an indissoluble connection binds together; and whose love, undivided by impious complainings, does not separate them sooner than the last day!
O ship, new waves will bear you back again to sea. O what are you doing? Bravely seize the port. Do you not perceive, that your sides are destitute of oars, and your mast wounded by the violent south wind, and your main-yards groan, and your keel can scarcely support the impetuosity of the waves without the help of cordage? You have not entire sails; nor gods, whom you may again invoke, pressed with distress: notwithstanding you are made of the pines of Pontus, and as the daughter of an illustrious wood, boast your race, and a fame now of no service to you. The timorous sailor has no dependence on a painted stern. Look to yourself, unless you are destined to be the sport of the winds. O thou, so lately my trouble and fatigue, but now an object of tenderness and solicitude, mayest thou escape those dangerous seas which flow among the shining Cyclades.
When the perfidious shepherd (Paris) carried off by sea in Trojan ships his hostess Helen, Nereus suppressed the swift winds in an unpleasant calm, that he might sing the dire fates. “With unlucky omen art thou conveying home her, whom Greece with a numerous army shall demand back again, having entered into a confederacy to dissolve your nuptials, and the ancient kingdom of Priam. Alas! what sweat to horses, what to men, is just at hand! What a destruction art thou preparing for the Trojan nation! Even now Pallas is fitting her helmet, and her shield, and her chariot, and her fury. In vain, looking fierce through the patronage of Venus, will you comb your hair, and run divisions upon the effeminate lyre with songs pleasing to women. In vain will you escape the spears that disturb the nuptial bed, and the point of the Cretan dart, and the din [of battle], and Ajax swift in the pursuit. Nevertheless, alas! the time will come, though late, when thou shalt defile thine adulterous hairs in the dust. Dost thou not see the son of Laertes, fatal to thy nation, and Pylian Nestor, Salaminian Teucer, and Sthenelus skilled in fight (or if there be occasion to manage horses, no tardy charioteer), pursue thee with intrepidity? Meriones also shalt thou experience. Behold! the gallant son of Tydeus, a better man than his father, glows to find you out: him, as a stag flies a wolf, which he has seen on the opposite side of the vale, unmindful of his pasture, shall you, effeminate, fly, grievously panting:— not such the promises you made your mistress. The fleet of the enraged Achilles shall defer for a time that day, which is to be fatal to Troy and the Trojan matrons: but, after a certain number of years, Grecian fire shall consume the Trojan palaces.”
O daughter, more charming than your charming mother, put what end you please to my insulting iambics; either in the flames, or, if you choose it, in the Adriatic. Nor Cybele, nor Apollo, the dweller in the shrines, so shakes the breast of his priests; Bacchus does not do it equally, nor do the Corybantes so redouble their strokes on the sharp-sounding cymbals, as direful anger; which neither the Noric sword can deter, nor the shipwrecking sea, nor dreadful fire, not Jupiter himself rushing down with awful crash. It is reported that Prometheus was obliged to add to that original clay [with which he formed mankind], some ingredient taken from every animal, and that he applied the vehemence of the raging lion to the human breast. It was rage that destroyed Thyestes with horrible perdition; and has been the final cause that lofty cities have been entirely demolished, and that an insolent army has driven the hostile plowshare over their walls. Compose your mind. An ardor of soul attacked me also in blooming youth, and drove me in a rage to the writing of swift-footed iambics. Now I am desirous of exchanging severity for good nature, provided that you will become my friend, after my having recanted my abuse, and restore me your affections.
The nimble Faunus often exchanges the Lycaean mountain for the pleasant Lucretilis, and always defends my she-goats from the scorching summer, and the rainy winds. The wandering wives of the unsavory husband seek the hidden strawberry-trees and thyme with security through the safe grove: nor do the kids dread the green lizards, or the wolves sacred to Mars; whenever, my Tyndaris, the vales and the smooth rocks of the sloping Ustica have resounded with his melodious pipe. The gods are my protectors. My piety and my muse are agreeable to the gods. Here plenty, rich with rural honors, shall flow to you, with her generous horn filled to the brim. Here, in a sequestered vale, you shall avoid the heat of the dog-star; and, on your Anacreontic harp, sing of Penelope and the frail Circe striving for one lover; here you shall quaff, under the shade, cups of unintoxicating Lesbian. Nor shall the raging son of Semele enter the combat with Mars; and unsuspected you shall not fear the insolent Cyrus, lest he should savagely lay his intemperate hands on you, who are by no means a match for him; and should rend the chaplet that is platted in your hair, and your inoffensive garment.
O Varus, you can plant no tree preferable to the sacred vine, about the mellow soil of Tibur, and the walls of Catilus. For God hath rendered every thing cross to the sober; nor do biting cares disperse any otherwise [than by the use of wine]. Who, after wine, complains of the hardships of war or of poverty? Who does not rather [celebrate] thee, Father Bacchus, and thee, comely Venus? Nevertheless, the battle of the Centaurs with the Lapithae, which was fought in their cups, admonishes us not to exceed a moderate use of the gifts of Bacchus. And Bacchus himself admonishes us in his severity to the Thracians; when greedy to satisfy their lusts, they make little distinction between right and wrong. O beauteous Bacchus, I will not rouse thee against thy will, nor will I hurry abroad thy [mysteries, which are] covered with various leaves. Cease your dire cymbals, together with your Phrygian horn, whose followers are blind Self-love and Arrogance, holding up too high her empty head, and the Faith communicative of secrets, and more transparent than glass.
The cruel mother of the Cupids, and the son of the Theban Gemele, and lascivious ease, command me to give back my mind to its deserted loves. The splendor of Glycera, shining brighter than the Parian marble, inflames me: her agreeable petulance, and her countenance, too unsteady to be beheld, inflame me. Venus, rushing on me with her whole force, has quitted Cyprus; and suffers me not to sing of the Scythians, and the Parthian, furious when his horse is turned for flight, or any subject which is not to the present purpose. Here, slaves, place me a live turf; here, place me vervains and frankincense, with a flagon of two-year-old wine. She will approach more propitious, after a victim has been sacrificed.
My dear knight Maecenas, you shall drink [at my house] ignoble Sabine wine in sober cups, which I myself sealed up in the Grecian cask, stored at the time, when so loud an applause was given to you in the amphitheatre, that the banks of your ancestral river, together with the cheerful echo of the Vatican mountain, returned your praises. You [when you are at home] will drink the Caecuban, and the grape which is squeezed in the Calenian press; but neither the Falernian vines, nor the Formian hills, season my cups.
Ye tender virgins, sing Diana; ye boys, sing Apollo with his unshorn hair, and Latona passionately beloved by the supreme Jupiter. Ye (virgins), praise her that rejoices in the rivers, and the thick groves, which project either from the cold Algidus, or the gloomy woods of Erymanthus, or the green Cragus. Ye boys, extol with equal praises Apollo’s Delos, and his shoulder adorned with a quiver, and with his brother Mercury’s lyre. He, moved by your intercession, shall drive away calamitous war, and miserable famine, and the plague from the Roman people and their sovereign Caesar, to the Persians and the Britons.
The man of upright life and pure from wickedness, O Fuscus, has no need of the Moorish javelins, or bow, or quiver loaded with poisoned darts. Whether he is about to make his journey through the sultry Syrtes, or the inhospitable Caucasus, or those places which Hydaspes, celebrated in story, washes. For lately, as I was singing my Lalage, and wandered beyond my usual bounds, devoid of care, a wolf in the Sabine wood fled from me, though I was unarmed: such a monster as neither the warlike Apulia nourishes in its extensive woods, nor the land of Juba, the dry-nurse of lions, produces. Place me in those barren plains, where no tree is refreshed by the genial air; at that part of the world, which clouds and an inclement atmosphere infest. Place me under the chariot of the too neighboring sun, in a land deprived of habitations; [there] will I love my sweetly-smiling, sweetly-speaking Lalage.
You shun me, Chloe, like a fawn that is seeking its timorous mother in the pathless mountains, not without a vain dread of the breezes and the thickets: for she trembles both in her heart and knees, whether the arrival of the spring has terrified by its rustling leaves, or the green lizards have stirred the bush. But I do not follow you, like a savage tigress, or a Gaetulian lion, to tear you to pieces. Therefore, quit your mother, now that you are mature for a husband.
What shame or bound can there be to our affectionate regret for so dear a person? O Melpomene, on whom your father has bestowed a clear voice and the harp, teach me the mournful strains. Does then perpetual sleep oppress Quinctilius? To whom when will modesty, and uncorrupt faith the sister of Justice, and undisguised truth, find any equal? He died lamented by many good men, but more lamented by none than by you, my Virgil. You, though pious, alas! in vain demand Quinctilius back from the gods, who did not lend him to us on such terms. What, though you could strike the lyre, listened to by the trees, with more sweetness than the Thracian Orpheus; yet the blood can never return to the empty shade, which Mercury, inexorable to reverse the fates, has with his dreadful Caduceus once driven to the gloomy throng. This is hard: but what it is out of our power to amend, becomes more supportable by patience.
The wanton youths less violently shake thy fastened windows with their redoubled knocks, nor do they rob you of your rest; and your door, which formerly moved its yielding hinges freely, now sticks lovingly to its threshold. Less and less often do you now hear: “My Lydia, dost thou sleep the live-long night, while I your lover am dying?” Now you are an old woman, it will be your turn to bewail the insolence of rakes, when you are neglected in a lonely alley, while the Thracian wind rages at the Interlunium: when that hot desire and lust, which is wont to render furious the dams of horses, shall rage about your ulcerous liver: not without complaint, that sprightly youth rejoice rather in the verdant ivy and growing myrtle, and dedicate sapless leaves to Eurus, the companion of winter.
A friend to the Muses, I will deliver up grief and fears to the wanton winds, to waft into the Cretan Sea; singularly careless, what king of a frozen region is dreaded under the pole, or what terrifies Tiridates. O sweet muse, who art delighted with pure fountains, weave together the sunny flowers, weave a chaplet for my Lamia. Without thee, my praises profit nothing. To render him immortal by new strains, to render him immortal by the Lesbian lyre, becomes both thee and thy sisters.
To quarrel over your cups, which were made for joy, is downright Thracian. Away with the barbarous custom, and protect modest Bacchus from bloody frays. How immensely disagreeable to wine and candles is the sabre of the Medes! O my companions, repress your wicked vociferations, and rest quietly on bended elbow. Would you have me also take my share of stout Falernian? Let the brother of Opuntian Megilla then declare, with what wound he is blessed, with what dart he is dying. — What, do you refuse? I will not drink upon any other condition. Whatever kind of passion rules you, it scorches you with the flames you need not be ashamed of, and you always indulge in an honorable, an ingenuous love. Come, whatever is your case, trust it to faithful ears. Ah, unhappy! in what a Charybdis art thou struggling, O youth, worthy of a better flame! What witch, what magician, with his Thessalian incantations, what deity can free you? Pegasus himself will scarcely deliver you, so entangled, from this three-fold chimera.
The [want of the] scanty present of a little sand near the Mantinian shore, confines thee, O Archytas, the surveyor of sea and earth, and of the innumerable sand: neither is it of any advantage to you, to have explored the celestial regions, and to have traversed the round world in your imagination, since thou wast to die. Thus also did the father of Pelops, the guest of the gods, die; and Tithonus likewise was translated to the skies, and Minos, though admitted to the secrets of Jupiter; and the Tartarean regions are possessed of the son of Panthous, once more sent down to the receptacle of the dead; notwithstanding, having retaken his shield from the temple, he gave evidence of the Trojan times, and that he had resigned to gloomy death nothing but his sinews and skin; in your opinion, no inconsiderable judge of truth and nature. But the game night awaits all, and the road of death must once be travelled. The Furies give up some to the sport of horrible Mars: the greedy ocean is destructive to sailors: the mingled funerals of young and old are crowded together: not a single person does the cruel Proserpine pass by. The south wind, the tempestuous attendant on the setting Orion, has sunk me also in the Illyrian waves. But do not thou, O sailor, malignantly grudge to give a portion of loose sand to my bones and unburied head. So, whatever the east wind shall threaten to the Italian sea, let the Venusinian woods suffer, while you are in safety; and manifold profit, from whatever port it may, come to you by favoring Jove, and Neptune, the defender of consecrated Tarentum. But if you, by chance, make light of committing a crime, which will be hurtful to your innocent posterity, may just laws and haughty retribution await you. I will not be deserted with fruitless prayers; and no expiations shall atone for you. Though you are in haste, you need not tarry long: after having thrice sprinkled the dust over me, you may proceed.
O Iccius, you now covet the opulent treasures of the Arabians, and are preparing vigorous for a war against the kings of Saba, hitherto unconquered, and are forming chains for the formidable Mede. What barbarian virgin shall be your slave, after you have killed her betrothed husband? What boy from the court shall be made your cup-bearer, with his perfumed locks, skilled to direct the Seric arrows with his father’s bow? Who will now deny that it is probable for precipitate rivers to flow back again to the high mountains, and for Tiber to change his course, since you are about to exchange the noble works of Panaetius, collected from all parts, together with the whole Socratic family, for Iberian armor, after you had promised better things?
O Venus, queen of Gnidus and Paphos, neglect your favorite Cyprus, and transport yourself into the beautiful temple of Glycera, who is invoking you with abundance of frankincense. Let your glowing son hasten along with you, and the Graces with their zones loosed, and the Nymphs, and Youth possessed of little charm without you and Mercury.
What does the poet beg from Phoebus on the dedication of his temple? What does he pray for, while he pours from the flagon the first libation? Not the rich crops of fertile Sardinia: not the goodly flocks of scorched Calabria: not gold, or Indian ivory: not those countries, which the still river Liris eats away with its silent streams. Let those to whom fortune has given the Calenian vineyards, prune them with a hooked knife; and let the wealthy merchant drink out of golden cups the wines procured by his Syrian merchandize, favored by the gods themselves, inasmuch as without loss he visits three or four times a year the Atlantic Sea. Me olives support, me succories and soft mallows. O thou son of Latona, grant me to enjoy my acquisitions, and to possess my health, together with an unimpaired understanding, I beseech thee; and that I may not lead a dishonorable old age, nor one bereft of the lyre.
We are called upon. If ever, O lyre, in idle amusement in the shade with thee, we have played anything that may live for this year and many, come on, be responsive to a Latin ode, my dear lyre — first tuned by a Lesbian citizen, who, fierce in war, yet amid arms, or if he had made fast to the watery shore his tossed vessel, sung Bacchus, and the Muses, and Venus, and the boy, her ever-close attendant, and Lycus, lovely for his black eyes and jetty locks. O thou ornament of Apollo, charming shell, agreeable even at the banquets of supreme Jove! O thou sweet alleviator of anxious toils, be propitious to me, whenever duly invoking thee!
Grieve not too much, my Albius, thoughtful of cruel Glycera; nor chant your mournful elegies, because, as her faith being broken, a younger man is more agreeable, than you in her eyes. A love for Cyrus inflames Lycoris, distinguished for her little forehead: Cyrus follows the rough Pholoe; but she-goats shall sooner be united to the Apulian wolves, than Pholoe shall commit a crime with a base adulterer. Such is the will of Venus, who delights in cruel sport, to subject to her brazen yokes persons and tempers ill suited to each other. As for myself, the slave-born Myrtale, more untractable than the Adriatic Sea that forms the Calabrian gulfs, entangled me in a pleasing chain, at the very time that a more eligible love courted my embraces.
A remiss and irregular worshiper of the gods, while I professed the errors of a senseless philosophy, I am now obliged to set sail back again, and to renew the course that I had deserted. For Jupiter, who usually cleaves the clouds with his gleaming lightning, lately drove his thundering horses and rapid chariot through the clear serene; which the sluggish earth, and wandering rivers; at which Styx, and the horrid seat of detested Taenarus, and the utmost boundary of Atlas were shaken. The Deity is able to make exchange between the highest and the lowest, and diminishes the exalted, bringing to light the obscure; rapacious fortune, with a shrill whizzing, has borne off the plume from one head, and delights in having placed it on another.
O Goddess, who presidest over beautiful Antium; thou, that art ready to exalt mortal man from the most abject state, or to convert superb triumphs into funerals! Thee the poor countryman solicits with his anxious vows; whosoever plows the Carpathian Sea with the Bithynian vessel, importunes thee as mistress of the ocean. Thee the rough Dacian, thee the wandering Scythians, and cities, and nations, and warlike Latium also, and the mothers of barbarian kings, and tyrants clad in purple, fear. Spurn not with destructive foot that column which now stands firm, nor let popular tummult rouse those, who now rest quiet, to arms — to arms — and break the empire. Necessity, thy minister, alway marches before thee, holding in her brazen hand huge spikes and wedges, nor is the unyielding clamp absent, nor the melted lead. Thee Hope reverences, and rare Fidelity robed in a white garment; nor does she refuse to bear thee company, howsoever in wrath thou change thy robe, and abandon the houses of the powerful. But the faithless crowd [of companions], and the perjured harlot draw back. Friends, too faithless to bear equally the yoke of adversity, when casks are exhausted, very dregs and all, fly off. Preserve thou Caesar, who is meditating an expedition against the Britons, the furthest people in the world, and also the new levy of youths to be dreaded by the Eastern regions, and the Red Sea. Alas! I am ashamed of our scars, and our wickedness, and of brethren. What have we, a hardened age, avoided? What have we in our impiety left unviolated! From what have our youth restrained their hands, out of reverence to the gods? What altars have they spared? O mayest thou forge anew our blunted swords on a different anvil against the Massagetae and Arabians.
This is a joyful occasion to sacrifice both with incense and music of the lyre, and the votive blood of a heifer to the gods, the guardians of Numida; who, now returning in safety from the extremest part of Spain, imparts many embraces to his beloved companions, but to none more than his dear Lamia, mindful of his childhood spent under one and the same governor, and of the gown, which they changed at the same time. Let not this joyful day be without a Cretan mark of distinction; let us not spare the jar brought forth [from the cellar]; nor, Salian-like, let there be any cessation of feet; nor let the toping Damalis conquer Bassus in the Thracian Amystis; nor let there be roses wanting to the banquet, nor the ever-green parsley, nor the short-lived lily. All the company will fix their dissolving eyes on Damalis; but she, more luxuriant than the wanton ivy, will not be separated from her new lover.
Now, my companions, is the time to carouse, now to beat the ground with a light foot: now is the time that was to deck the couch of the gods with Salian dainties. Before this, it was impious to produce the old Caecuban stored up by your ancestors; while the queen, with a contaminated gang of creatures, noisome through distemper, was preparing giddy destruction for the Capitol and the subversion of the empire, being weak enough to hope for any thing, and intoxicated with her prospering fortune. But scarcely a single ship preserved from the flames bated her fury; and Caesar brought down her mind, inflamed with Egyptian wine, to real fears, close pursuing her in her flight from Italy with his galleys (as the hawk pursues the tender doves, or the nimble hunter the hare in the plains of snowy Aemon), that he might throw into chains this destructive monster [of a woman]; who, seeking a more generous death, neither had an effeminate dread of the sword, nor repaired with her swift ship to hidden shores. She was able also to look upon her palace, lying in ruins, with a countenance unmoved, and courageous enough to handle exasperated asps, that she might imbibe in her body the deadly poison, being more resolved by having premeditated her death: for she was a woman of such greatness of soul, as to scorn to be carried off in haughty triumph, like a private person, by rough Liburnians.
Boy, I detest the pomp of the Persians; chaplets, which are woven with the rind of the linden, displease me; give up the search for the place where the latter rose abides. It is my particular desire that you make no laborious addition to the plain myrtle; for myrtle is neither unbecoming you a servant, nor me, while I quaff under this mantling vine.
You are treating of the civil commotion, which began from the consulship of Metelius, and the causes, and the errors, and the operations of the war, and the game that fortune played, and the pernicious confederacy of the chiefs, and arms stained with blood not yet expiated — a work full of danger and hazard: and you are treading upon fires, hidden under deceitful ashes: let therefore the muse that presides over severe tragedy, be for a while absent from the theaters; shortly, when thou hast completed the narrative of the public affairs, you shall resume your great work in the tragic style of Athens, O Pollio, thou excellent succor to sorrowing defendants and a consulting senate; [Pollio,] to whom the laurel produced immortal honors in the Dalmatian triumph. Even now you stun our ears with the threatening murmur of horns: now the clarions sound; now the glitter of arms affrights the flying steeds, and dazzles the sight of the riders. Now I seem to hear of great commanders besmeared with, glorious dust, and the whole earth subdued, except the stubborn soul of Cato. Juno, and every other god propitious to the Africans, impotently went off, leaving that land unrevenged; but soon offered the descendants of the conquerors, as sacrifices to the manes of Jugurtha. What plain, enriched by Latin blood, bears not record, by its numerous sepulchres, of our impious battles, and of the sound of the downfall of Italy, heard even by the Medes? What pool, what rivers, are unconscious of our deplorable war? What sea have not the Daunian slaughters discolored? What shore is unstained by our blood? Do not, however, rash muse, neglecting your jocose strains, resume the task of Caean plaintive song, but rather with me seek measures of a lighter style beneath some love-sequestered grotto.
O Crispus Sallustius, thou foe to bullion, unless it derives splendor from a moderate enjoyment, there is no luster in money concealed in the niggard earth. Proculeius shall live an extended age, conspicuous for fatherly affection to brothers; surviving fame shall bear him on an untiring wing. You may possess a more extensive dominion by controlling a craving disposition, than if you could unite Libya to the distant Gades, and the natives of both the Carthages were subject to you alone. The direful dropsy increases by self-indulgence, nor extinguishes its thirst, unless the cause of the disorder has departed from the veins, and the watery languor from the pallid body. Virtue, differing from the vulgar, excepts Phraates though restored to the throne of Cyrus, from the number of the happy; and teaches the populace to disuse false names for things, by conferring the kingdom and a safe diadem and the perpetual laurel upon him alone, who can view large heaps of treasure with undazzled eye.
O Dellius, since thou art born to die, be mindful to preserve a temper of mind even in times of difficulty, as well an restrained from insolent exultation in prosperity: whether thou shalt lead a life of continual sadness, or through happy days regale thyself with Falernian wine of the oldest date, at case reclined in some grassy retreat, where the lofty pine and hoary poplar delight to interweave their boughs into a hospitable shade, and the clear current with trembling surface purls along the meandering rivulet. Hither order [your slaves] to bring the wine, and the perfumes, and the too short-lived flowers of the grateful rose, while fortune, and age; and the sable threads of the three sisters permit thee. You must depart from your numerous purchased groves; from your house also, and that villa, which the yellow Tiber washes, you must depart: and an heir shall possess these high-piled riches. It is of no consequence whether you are the wealthy descendant of ancient Inachus, or whether, poor and of the most ignoble race, you live without a covering from the open air, since you are the victim of merciless Pluto. We are all driven toward the same quarter: the lot of all is shaken in the urn; destined sooner or later to come forth, and embark us in [Charon’s] boat for eternal exile.
Let not, O Xanthias Phoceus, your passion for your maid put you out of countenance; before your time, the slave Briseis moved the haughty Achilles by her snowy complexion. The beauty of the captive Tecmessa smote her master, the Telamonian Ajax; Agamemnon, in the midst of victory, burned for a ravished virgin: when the barbarian troops fell by the hands of their Thessalian conqueror, and Hector, vanquished, left Troy more easily to be destroyed by the Grecians. You do not know that perchance the beautiful Phyllis has parents of condition happy enough to do honor to you their son-inlaw. Certainly she must be of royal race, and laments the unpropitiousness of her family gods. Be confident, that your beloved is not of the worthless crowd; nor that one so true, so unmercenary, could possibly be born of a mother to be ashamed of. I can commend arms, and face, and well-made legs, quite chastely: avoid being jealous of one, whose age is hastening onward to bring its eighth mastrum to a close.
Not yet is she fit to be broken to the yoke; not yet is she equal to the duties of a partner, nor can she support the weight of the bull impetuously rushing to enjoyment. Your heifer’s sole inclination is about verdant fields, one while in running streams soothing the grievous heat; at another, highly delighted to frisk with the steerlings in the moist willow ground. Suppress your appetite for the immature grape; shortly variegated autumn will tinge for thee the lirid clusters with a purple hue. Shortly she shall follow you; for her impetuous time runs on, and shall place to her account those years of which it abridges you; shortly Lalage with a wanton assurance will seek a husband, beloved in a higher degree than the coy Pholoe, or even Chloris; shining as brightly with her fair shoulder, as the spotless moon upon the midnight sea, or even the Gnidian Gyges, whom if you should intermix in a company of girls, the undiscernible difference occasioned by his flowing locks and doubtful countenance would wonderfully impose even on sagacious strangers.
Septimus, who art ready to go with me, even to Gades, and to the Cantabrian, still untaught to bear our yoke, and the inhospitable Syrtes, where the Mauritanian wave perpetually boils. O may Tibur, founded by a Grecian colony, be the habitation of my old age! There let there be an end to my fatigues by sea, and land, and war; whence if the cruel fates debar me, I will seek the river of Galesus, delightful for sheep covered with skins, and the countries reigned over by Lacedaemonian Phalantus. That corner of the world smiles in my eye beyond all others; where the honey yields not to the Hymettian, and the olive rivals the verdant Venafrian: where the temperature of the air produces a long spring and mild winters, and Aulon friendly to the fruitful vine, envies not the Falernian grapes. That place, and those blest heights, solicit you and me; there you shall bedew the glowing ashes of your poet friend with a tear due [to his memory].
O thou, often reduced with me to the last extremity in the war which Brutus carried on, who has restored thee as a Roman citizen, to the gods of thy country and the Italian air, Pompey, thou first of my companions; with whom I have frequently broken the tedious day in drinking, having my hair, shining with the Syrian maiobathrum, crowned [with flowers]! Together with thee did I experience the [battle of] Phillippi and a precipitate flight, having shamefully enough left my shield; when valor was broken, and the most daring smote the squalid earth with their faces. But Mercury swift conveyed me away, terrified as I was, in a thick cloud through the midst of the enemy. Thee the reciprocating sea, with his tempestuous waves, bore back again to war. Wherefore render to Jupiter the offering that is due, and deposit your limbs, wearied with a tedious war, under my laurel, and spare not the casks reserved for you. Fill up the polished bowls with care-dispelling Massic: pour out the perfumed ointments from the capacious shells. Who takes care to quickly weave the chaplets of fresh parsely or myrtle? Whom shall the Venus pronounce to be master of the revel? In wild carouse I will become frantic as the Bacchanalians. ’Tis delightful to me to play the madman, on the reception of my friends.
If any punishment, Barine, for your violated oath had ever been of prejudice to you: if you had become less agreeable by the blackness of a single tooth or nail, I might believe you. But you no sooner have bound your perfidious head with vows, but you shine out more charming by far, and come forth the public care of our youth. It is of advantage to you to deceive the buried ashes of your mother, and the silent constellations of the night, together with all heaven, and the gods free from chill death. Venus herself, I profess, laughs at this; the good-natured nymphs laugh, and cruel Cupid, who is perpetually sharpening his burning darts on a bloody whetstone. Add to this, that all our boys are growing up for you; a new herd of slaves is growing up; nor do the former ones quit the house of their impious mistress, notwithstanding they often have threatened it. The matrons are in dread of you on account of their young ones; the thrifty old men are in dread of you; and the girls but just married are in distress, lest your beauty should slacken [the affections of] their husbands.
Showers do not perpetually pour down upon the rough fields, nor do varying hurricanes forever harass the Caspian Sea; nor, my friend Valgius, does the motionless ice remain fixed throughout all the months, in the regions of Armenia; nor do the Garganian oaks [always] labor under the northerly winds, nor are the ash-trees widowed of their leaves. But thou art continually pursuing Mystes, who is taken from thee, with mournful measures: nor do the effects of thy love for him cease at the rising of Vesper, or when he flies the rapid approach of the sun. But the aged man who lived three generations, did not lament the amiable Antilochus all the years of his life: nor did his parents or his Trojan sisters perpetually bewail the blooming Troilus. At length then desist from thy tender complaints; and rather let us sing the fresh trophies of Augustus Caesar, and the Frozen Niphates, and the river Medus, added to the vanquished nations, rolls more humble tides, and the Gelonians riding within a prescribed boundary in a narrow tract of land.
O Licinius, you will lead a more correct course of life, by neither always pursuing the main ocean, nor, while you cautiously are in dread of storms, by pressing too much upon the hazardous shore. Whosoever loves the golden mean, is secure from the sordidness of an antiquated cell, and is too prudent to have a palace that might expose him to envy, if the lofty pine is more frequently agitated with winds, and high towers fall down with a heavier ruin, and lightnings strike the summits of the mountains. A well-provided breast hopes in adversity, and fears in prosperity. ’Tis the same Jupiter, that brings the hideous winters back, and that takes them away. If it is ill with us now, it will not be so hereafter. Apollo sometimes rouses the silent lyric muse, neither does he always bend his bow. In narrow circumstances appear in high spirits, and undaunted. In the same manner you will prudently contract your sails, which are apt to be too much swollen in a prosperous gale.
O Quintius Hirpinus, forbear to be inquisitive what the Cantabrian, and the Scythian, divided from us by the interposed Adriatic, is meditating; neither be fearfully solicitous for the necessaries of a life, which requires but a few things. Youth and beauty fly swift away, while sapless old age expels the wanton loves and gentle sleep. The same glory does not always remain to the vernal flowers, nor does the ruddy moon shine with one continued aspect; why, therefore, do you fatigue you mind, unequal to eternal projects? Why do we not rather (while it is in our power) thus carelessly reclining under a lofty plane-tree, or this pine, with our hoary locks made fragrant by roses, and anointed with Syrian perfume, indulge ourselves with generous wine? Bacchus dissipates preying cares. What slave is here, instantly to cool some cups of ardent Falernian in the passing stream? Who will tempt the vagrant wanton Lyde from her house? See that you bid her hasten with her ivory lyre, collecting her hair into a graceful knot, after the fashion of a Spartan maid.
Do not insist that the long wars of fierce Numantia, or the formidable Annibal, or the Sicilian Sea impurpled with Carthaginian blood, should be adapted to the tender lays of the lyre: nor the cruel Lapithae, nor Hylaeus excessive in wine and the earth born youths, subdued by Herculean force, from whom the splendid habitation of old Saturn dreaded danger. And you yourself, Maecenas, with more propriety shall recount the battles of Caesar, and the necks of haughty kings led in triumph through the streets in historical prose. It was the muse’s will that I should celebrate the sweet strains of my mistress Lycimnia, that I should celebrate her bright darting eyes, and her breast laudably faithful to mutual love: who can with a grace introduce her foot into the dance, or, sporting, contend in raillery, or join arms with the bright virgins on the celebrated Diana’s festival. Would you, [Maecenas,] change one of Lycimnia’s tresses for all the rich Achaemenes possessed, or the Mygdonian wealth of fertile Phrygia, or all the dwellings of the Arabians replete with treasures? Especially when she turns her neck to meet your burning kisses, or with a gentle cruelty denies, what she would more delight to have ravished than the petitioner — or sometimes eagerly anticipates to snatch them her self.
O tree, he planted thee on an unlucky day whoever did it first, and with an impious hand raised thee for the destruction of posterity, and the scandal of the village. I could believe that he had broken his own father’s neck, and stained his most secret apartments with the midnight blood of his guest. He was wont to handle Colchian poisons, and whatever wickedness is anywhere conceived, who planted in my field thee, a sorry log; thee, ready to fall on the head of thy inoffensive master. What we ought to be aware of, no man is sufficiently cautious at all hours. The Carthaginian sailor thoroughly dreads the Bosphorus; nor, beyond that, does he fear a hidden fate from any other quarter. The soldier dreads the arrows and the fleet retreat of the Parthian; the Parthian, chains and an Italian prison; but the unexpected assault of death has carried off, and will carry off, the world in general. How near was I seeing the dominions of black Proserpine, and Aeacus sitting in judgment; the separate abodes also of the pious, and Sappho complaining in her Aeohan lyre of her own country damsels; and thee, O Alcaeus, sounding in fuller strains on thy golden harp the distresses of exile, and the distresses of war. The ghosts admire them both, while they utter strains worthy of a sacred silence; but the crowded multitude, pressing with their shoulders, imbibes, with a more greedy ear, battles and banished tyrants. What wonder? Since the many headed monster, astonished at those lays, hangs down his sable ears; and the snakes, entwined in the hair of the furies, are soothed. Moreover, Prometheus and the sire of Pelops are deluded into an insensibility of their torments, by the melodious sound: nor is Orion any longer solicitous to harass the lions, or the fearful lynxes.
Alas! my Postumus, my Postumus, the fleeting years gilde on; nor will piety cause any delay to wrinkles, and advancing old age, and insuperable death. You could not, if you were to sacrifice every passing day three hundred bulls, render propitious pitiless Pluto, who confines the thrice-monstrous Geryon and Tityus with the dismal Stygian stream, namely, that stream which is to be passed over by all who are fed by the bounty of the earth, whether we be kings or poor ninds. In vain shall we be free from sanguinary Mars, and the broken billows of the hoarse Adriatic; in vain shall we be apprehensive for ourselves of the noxious South, in the time of autumn. The black Cocytus wandering with languid current, and the infamous race of Danaus, and Sisyphus, the son of the Aeolus, doomed to eternal toil, must be visited; your land and house and pleasing wife must be left, nor shall any of those trees, which you are nursing, follow you, their master for a brief space, except the hated cypresses; a worthier heir shall consume your Caecuban wines now guarded with a hundred keys, and shall wet the pavement with the haughty wine, more exquisite than what graces pontifical entertainment.
The palace-like edifices will in a short time leave but a few acres for the plough; ponds of wider extent than the Lucrine lake will be every where to be seen; and the barren plane-tree will supplant the elms. Then banks of violets, and myrtle groves, and all the tribe of nosegays shall diffuse their odors in the olive plantations, which were fruitful to their preceding master. Then the laurel with dense boughs shall exclude the burning beams. It was not so prescribed by the institutes of Romulus, and the unshaven Cato, and ancient custom. Their private income was contracted, while that of the community was great. No private men were then possessed of galleries measured by ten-feet rules, which collected the shady northern breezes; nor did the laws permit them to reject the casual turf [for their own huts], though at the same time they obliged them to ornament in the most sumptuous manner, with new stone, the buildings of the public, and the temples of the gods, at a common expense.
O Grosphus, he that is caught in the wide Aegean Sea; when a black tempest has obscured the moon, and not a star appears with steady light for the mariners, supplicates the gods for repose: for repose, Thrace furious in war; the quiver-graced Medes, for repose neither purchasable by jewels, nor by purple, nor by gold. For neither regal treasures nor the consul’s officer can remove the wretched tumults of the mind, nor the cares that hover about splendid ceilings. That man lives happily on a little, who can view with pleasure the old-fashioned family salt-cellar on his frugal board; neither anxiety nor sordid avarice robs him of gentle sleep. Why do we, brave for a short season, aim at many things? Why do we change our own for climates heated by another sun? Whoever, by becoming an exile from his country, escaped likewise from himself? Consuming care boards even brazen-beaked ships: nor does it quit the troops of horsemen, for it is more fleet than the stags, more fleet than the storm-driving east wind. A mind that is cheerful in its present state, will disdain to be solicitous any further, and can correct the bitters of life with a placid smile. Nothing is on all hands completely blessed. A premature death carried off the celebrated Achilles; a protracted old age wore down Tithonus; and time perhaps may extend to me, what it shall deny to you. Around you a hundred flocks bleat, and Sicilian heifers low; for your use the mare, fit for the harness, neighs; wool doubly dipped in the African purple-dye, clothes you: on me undeceitful fate has bestowed a small country estate, and the slight inspiration of the Grecian muse, and a contempt for the malignity of the vulgar.
Why dost thoti kill me with thy complaints? ’Tis neither agreeable to the gods, nor to me, that thou shouldest depart first, O Maecenas, thou grand ornament and pillar of my affairs. Alas! if an untimely blow hurry away thee, a part of my soul, why do I the other moiety remain, my value lost, nor any longer whole? That [fatal] day shall bring destruction upon us both. I have by no means taken a false oath: we will go, we will go, whenever thou shalt lead the way, prepared to be fellow-travelers in the last journey. Me nor the breath of the fiery Chimaera, nor hundred-handed Gyges, were he to rise again, shall ever tear from thee: such is the will of powerful Justice, and of the Fates. Whether Libra or malignant Scorpio had the ascendant at my natal hour, or Capricon the ruler of the western wave, our horoscopes agree in a wonderful manner. Thee the benign protection of Jupiter, shining with friendly aspect, rescued from the baleful influence of impious Saturn, and retarded the wings of precipitate destiny, at the time the crowded people with resounding applauses thrice hailed you in the theatre: me the trunk of a tree, falling upon my skull, would have dispatched, had not Faunus, the protector of men of genius, with his right hand warded off the blow. Be thou mindful to pay the victims and the votive temple; I will sacrifice an humble lamb.
Nor ivory, nor a fretted ceiling adorned with gold, glitters in my house: no Hymettian beams rest upon pillars cut out of the extreme parts of Africa; nor, a pretended heir, have I possessed myself of the palace of Attalus, nor do ladies, my dependants, spin Laconian purple for my use. But integrity, and a liberal vein of genius, are mine: and the man of fortune makes his court to me, who am but poor. I importune the gods no further, nor do I require of my friend in power any larger enjoyments, sufficiently happy with my Sabine farm alone. Day is driven on by day, and the new moons hasten to their wane. You put out marble to be hewn, though with one foot in the grave; and, unmindful of a sepulcher, are building houses; and are busy to extend the shore of the sea, that beats with violence at Baiae, not rich enough with the shore of the mainland. Why is it, that through avarice you even pluck up the landmarks of your neighbor’s ground, and trespass beyond the bounds of your clients; and wife and husband are turned out, bearing in their bosom their household gods and their destitute children? Nevertheless, no court more certainly awaits its wealthy lord, than the destined limit of rapacious Pluto. Why do you go on? The impartial earth is opened equally to the poor and to the sons of kings; nor has the life-guard ferryman of hell, bribed with gold, re-conducted the artful Prometheus. He confines proud Tantalus; and the race of Tantalus, he condescends, whether invoked or not, to relieve the poor freed from their labors.
I saw Bacchus (believe it, posterity) dictating strains among the remote rocks, and the nymphs learning them, and the ears of the goat-footed satyrs all attentive. Evoe! my mind trembles with recent dread, and my soul, replete with Bacchus, has a tumultuous joy, Evoe! spare me, Bacchus; spare me, thou who art formidable for thy dreadful thyrsus. It is granted me to sing the wanton Bacchanalian priestess, and the fountain of wine, and rivulets flowing with milk, and to tell again of the honeys distilling from the hollow trunks. It is granted me likewise to celebrate the honor added to the constellations by your happy spouse, and the palace of Pentheus demolished with no light ruin, and the perdition of Thracian. Lycurgus. You command the rivers, you the barbarian sea. You, moist with wine, on lonely mountain-tops bind the hair of your Thracian priestesses with a knot of vipers without hurt. You, when the impious band of giants scaled the realms of father Jupiter through the sky, repelled Rhoetus, with the paws and horrible jaw of the lion-shape [you had assumed]. Thou, reported to be better fitted for dances, and jokes and play, you were accounted insufficient for fight; yet it then appeared, you, the same deity, was the mediator of peace and war. Upon you, ornamented with your golden horn, Orberus innocently gazed, gently wagging his tail; and with his triple tongue licked your feet and legs, as you returned.
I, a two-formed poet, will be conveyed through the liquid air with no vulgar or humble wing; nor will I loiter upon earth any longer; and superior to envy, I will quit cities. Not I, even I, the blood of low parents, my dear Maecenas, shall die; nor shall I be restrained by the Stygian wave. At this instant a rough skin settles upon my ankles, and all upwards I am transformed into a white bird, and the downy plumage arises over my fingers and shoulders. Now, a melodious bird, more expeditious than the Daepalean Icarus, I will visit the shores of the murmuring Bosphorus, and the Gzetulean Syrtes, and the Hyperborean plains. Me the Colchian and the Dacian, who hides his fear of the Marsian cohort, land the remotest Gelonians, shall know: me the learned Spaniard shall study, and he that drinks of the Rhone. Let there be no dirges, nor unmanly lamentations, nor bewailings at my imaginary funeral; suppress your crying, and forbear the superfluous honors of a sepulcher.
I abominate the uninitiated vulgar, and keep them at a distance. Preserve a religious silence: I, the priest of the Muses, sing to virgins and boys verses not heard before. The dominion of dread sovereigns is over their own subjects; that of Jupiter, glorious for his conquest over the giants, who shakes all nature with his nod, is over sovereigns themselves. It happens that one man, arranges trees, in regular rows, to a greater extent than another; this man comes down into the Campus [Martius] as a candidate of a better family; another vies with him for morals and a better reputation; a third has a superior number of dependants; but Fate, by the impartial law of nature, is allotted both to the conspicuous and the obscure; the capacious urn keeps every name in motion. Sicilian dainties will not force a delicious relish to that man, over whose impious neck the naked sword hangs: the songs of birds and the lyre will not restore his sleep. Sleep disdains not the humble cottages and shady bank of peasants; he disdains not Tempe, fanned by zephyrs. Him, who desires but a competency, neither the tempestuous sea renders anxious, nor the malign violence of Arcturus setting, or of the rising Kid; not his vineyards beaten down with hail, and a deceitful farm; his plantations at one season blaming the rains, at another, the influence of the constellations parching the grounds, at another, the severe winters. The fishes perceive the seas contracted, by the vast foundations that have been laid in the deep: hither numerous undertakers with their men, and lords, disdainful of the land, send down mortar: but anxiety and the threats of conscience ascend by the same way as the possessor; nor does gloomy care depart from the brazen-beaked galley, and she mounts behind the horseman. Since then nor Phrygian marble, nor the use of purple more dazzling than the sun, nor the Falernian vine, nor the Persian nard, composes a troubled mind, why should I set about a lofty edifice with columns that excite envy, and in the modern taste? Why should I exchange my Sabine vale for wealth, which is attended with more trouble?
Let the robust youth learn patiently to endure pinching want in the active exercise of arms; and as an expert horseman, dreadful for his spear, let him harass the fierce Parthians; and let him lead a life exposed to the open air, and familiar with dangers. Him, the consort and marriageable virgin-daughter of some warring tyrant, viewing from the hostile walls, may sigh —— Alas! let not the affianced prince, inexperienced as he is in arms, provoke by a touch this terrible lion, whom bloody rage hurries through the midst of slaughter. It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country; death even pursues the man that flies from him; nor does he spare the trembling knees of effeminate youth, nor the coward back. Virtue, unknowing of base repulse, shines with immaculate honors; nor does she assume nor lay aside the ensigns of her dignity, at the veering of the popular air. Virtue, throwing open heaven to those who deserve not to die, directs her progress through paths of difficulty, and spurns with a rapid wing grovelling cowards and the slippery earth. There is likewise a sure reward for faithful silence. I will prohibit that man, who shall divulge the sacred rites of mysterious Ceres, from being under the same roof with me, or from setting sail with me in the same fragile bark: for Jupiter, when slighted, often joins a good man in the same fate with a bad one. Seldom hath punishment, though lame, of foot, failed to overtake the wicked.
Not the rage of the people pressing to hurtful measures, not the aspect of a threatening tyrant can shake from his settled purpose the man who is just and determined in his resolution; nor can the south wind, that tumultuous ruler of the restless Adriatic, nor the mighty hand of thundering Jove; if a crushed world should fall in upon him, the ruins would strike him undismayed. By this character Pollux, by this the wandering Hercules, arrived at the starry citadels; among whom Augustus has now taken his place, and quaffs nectar with empurpled lips. Thee, O Father Bacchus, meritorious for this virtue, thy tigers carried, drawing the yoke with intractable neck; by this Romulus escaped Acheron on the horses of Mars — Juno having spoken what the gods in full conclave approve: “Troy, Troy, a fatal and lewd judge, and a foreign woman, have reduced to ashes, condemned, with its inhabitants and fraudulent prince, to me and the chaste Minerva, ever since Laomedon disappointed the gods of the stipulated reward. Now neither the infamous guest of the Lacedaemonian adulteress shines; nor does Priam’s perjured family repel the warlike Grecians by the aid of Hector, and that war, spun out to such a length by our factions, has sunk to peace. Henceforth, therefore, I will give up to Mars both my bitter resentment, and the detested grandson, whom the Trojan princes bore. Him will I suffer to enter the bright regions, to drink the juice of nectar, and to be enrolled among the peaceful order of gods. As long as the extensive sea rages between Troy and Rome, let them, exiles, reign happy in any other part of the world: as long as cattle trample upon the tomb of Priam and Paris, and wild beasts conceal their young ones there with impunity, may the Capitol remain in splendor, and may brave Rome be able to give laws to the conquered Medes. Tremendous let her extend her name abroad to the extremest boundaries of the earth, where the middle ocean separates Europe from Africa, where the swollen Nile waters the plains; more brave in despising gold as yet undiscovered, and so best situated while hidden in the earth, than in forcing it out for the uses of mankind, with a hand ready to make depredations on everything that is sacred. Whatever end of the world has made resistance, that let her reach with her arms, joyfully alert to visit, even that part where fiery heats rage madding; that where clouds and rains storm with unmoderated fury. But I pronounce this fate to the warlike Romans, upon this condition; that neither through an excess of piety, nor of confidence in their power, they become inclined to rebuild the houses of their ancestors’ Troy. The fortune of Troy, reviving under unlucky auspices, shall be repeated with lamentable destruction, I, the wife and sister of Jupiter, leading on the victorious bands. Thrice, if a brazen wall should arise by means of its founder Phoebus, thrice should it fall, demolished by my Grecians; thrice should the captive wife bewail her husband and her children.” These themes ill suit the merry lyre. Whither, muse, are you going? — Cease, impertinent, to relate the language of the gods, and to debase great things by your trifling measures.
Descend from heaven, queen Calliope, and come sing with your pipe a lengthened strain; or, if you had now rather, with your clear voice, or on the harp or lute of Phoebus. Do ye hear? or does a pleasing frenzy delude me? I seem to hear [her], and to wander [with her] along the hallowed groves, through which pleasant rivulets and gales make their way. Me, when a child, and fatigued with play, in sleep the woodland doves, famous in story, covered with green leaves in the Apulian Vultur, just without the limits of my native Apulia; so that it was matter of wonder to all that inhabit the nest of lofty Acherontia, the Bantine Forests, and the rich soil of low Ferentum, how I could sleep with my body safe from deadly vipers and ravenous bears; how I could be covered with sacred laurel and myrtle heaped together, though a child, not animated without the [inspiration of the] gods. Yours, O ye muses, I am yours, whether I am elevated to the Sabine heights; or whether the cool Praeneste, or the sloping Tibur, or the watery Baiae have delighted me. Me, who am attached to your fountains and dances, not the army put to flight at Philippi, not the execrable tree, nor a Palinurus in the Sicilian Sea has destroyed. While you shall be with me with pleasure will I, a sailor, dare the raging Bosphorus; or, a traveler, the burning sands of the Assyrian shore: I will visit the Britons inhuman to strangers, and the Concanian delighted [with drinking] the blood of horses; I will visit the quivered Geloni, and the Scythian river without hurt. You entertained lofty Caesar, seeking to put an end to his toils, in the Pierian grotto, as soon as he had distributed in towns his troops, wearied by campaigning: you administer [to him] moderate counsel, and graciously rejoice at it when administered. We are aware how he, who rules the inactive earth and the stormy main, the cities also, and the dreary realms [of hell], and alone governs with a righteous sway both gods and the human multitude, how he took off the impious Titans and the gigantic troop by his falling thunderbolts. That horrid youth, trusting to the strength of their arms, and the brethren proceeding to place Pelion upon shady Olympus, had brought great dread [even] upon Jove. But what could Typhoeus, and the strong Mimas, or what Porphyrion with his menacing statue; what Rhoetus, and Enceladus, a fierce darter with trees uptorn, avail, though rushing violently against the sounding shield of Pallas? At one part stood the eager Vulcan, at another the matron Juno, and he, who is never desirous to lay aside his bow from his shoulders, Apollo, the god of Delos and Patara, who bathes his flowing hair in the pure dew of Castalia, and possesses the groves of Lycia and his native wood. Force, void of conduct, falls by its own weight; moreover, the gods promote discreet force to further advantage; but the same beings detest forces, that meditate every kind of impiety. The hundred-handed Gyges is an evidence of the sentiments I allege: and Orion, the tempter of the spotless Diana, destroyed by a virgin dart. The earth, heaped over her own monsters, grieves and laments her offspring, sent to murky Hades by a thunderbolt; nor does the active fire consume Aetna that is placed over it, nor does the vulture desert the liver of incontinent Tityus, being stationed there as an avenger of his baseness; and three hundred chains confine the amorous Pirithous.
We believe from his thundering that Jupiter has dominion in the heavens: Augustus shall be esteemed a present deity the Britons and terrible Parthians being added to the empire. What! has any soldier of Crassus lived, a degraded husband with a barbarian wife? And has (O [corrupted] senate, and degenerate morals!) the Marsian and Apulian, unmindful of the sacred bucklers, of the [Roman] name and gown, and of eternal Vesta, grown old in the lands of hostile fathers-inlaw, Jupiter and the city being in safety? The prudent mind of Regulus had provided against this, dissenting from ignominious terms, and inferring from such a precedent destruction to the succeeding age, if the captive youth were not to perish unpitied. I have beheld, said he, the Roman standards affixed to the Carthaginian temples, and their arms taken away from our soldiers without bloodshed. I have beheld the arms of our citizens bound behind their free-born backs, and the gates [of the enemy] unshut, and the fields, which were depopulated by our battles, cultivated anew. The soldier, to be sure, ransomed by gold, will return a braver fellow! — No — you add loss to infamy; [for] neither does the wool once stained by the dye of the sea-weed ever resume its lost color; nor does genuine valor, when once it has failed, care to resume its place in those who have degenerated through cowardice. If the hind, disentangled from the thickset toils, ever fights, then indeed shall he be valorous, who has intrusted himself to faithless foes; and he shall trample upon the Carthaginians in a second war, who dastardly has felt the thongs with his arms tied behind him, and has been afraid of death. He, knowing no other way to preserve his life, has confounded peace with war. O scandal! O mighty Carthage, elevated to a higher pitch by Italy’s disgraceful downfall! He (Regulus) is reported to have rejected the embrace of his virtuous wife and his little sons like one degraded; and to have sternly fixed his manly countenance on the ground, until, as an adviser, by his counsel he confirmed the wavering senators, and amid his weeping friends hastened away, a glorious exile. Notwithstanding he knew what the barbarian executioner was providing for him, yet he pushed from his opposing kindred and the populace retarding his return, in no other manner, than if (after he had quitted the tedious business of his clients, by determining their suit) he was only going to the Venafrian plains, or the Lacedaemonian Tarentum.
Thou shalt atone, O Roman, for the sins of your ancestors, though innocent, till you shall have repaired the temples and tottering shrines of the gods, and their statues, defiled with sooty smoke. Thou boldest sway, because thou bearest thyself subordinate to the gods; to this source refer every undertaking; to this, every event. The gods, because neglected, have inflicted many evils on calamitous Italy. Already has Monaeses, and the band of Pacorus, twice repelled our inauspicious attacks, and exults in having added the Roman spoils to their trivial collars. The Dacian and Ethiopian have almost demolished the city engaged in civil broils, the one formidable for his fleet, the other more expert for missile arrows. The times, fertile in wickedness, have in the first place polluted the marriage state, and [thence] the issue and families. From this fountain perdition being derived, has overwhelmed the nation and people. The marriageable virgin delights to be taught the Ionic dances, and even at this time is trained up in [seductive] arts, and cherishes unchaste desires from her very infancy. Soon after she courts younger debauchees when her husband is in his cups, nor has she any choice, to whom she shall privately grant her forbidden pleasures when the lights are removed, but at the word of command, openly, not without the knowledge of her husband, she will come forth, whether it be a factor that calls for her, or the captain of a Spanish ship, the extravagant purchaser of her disgrace. It was not a youth born from parents like these, that stained the sea with Carthaginian gore, and slew Pyrrhus, and mighty Antiochus, and terrific Annibal; but a manly progeny of rustic soldiers, instructed to turn the glebe with Sabine spades, and to carry clubs cut [out of the woods] at the pleasure of a rigid mother, what time the sun shifted the shadows of the mountains, and took the yokes from the wearied oxen, bringing on the pleasant hour with his retreating chariot. What does not wasting time destroy? The age of our fathers, worse than our grandsires, produced us still more flagitious, us, who are about to product am offspring more vicious [even than ourselves].
Why, O Asterie, do you weep for Gyges, a youth of inviolable constancy, whom the kindly zephyrs will restore to you in the beginning of the Spring, enriched with a Bithynian cargo? Driven as far as Oricum by the southern winds, after [the rising] of the Goat’s tempestuous constellation, he sleepless passes the cold nights in abundant weeping [for you]; but the agent of his anxious landlady slyly tempts him by a thousand methods, informing him that [his mistress], Chloe, is sighing for him, and burns with the same love that thou hast for him. He remonstrates with him how a perfidious woman urged the credulous Proetus, by false accusations, to hasten the death of the over-chaste Bellerophon. He tells how Peleus was like to have been given up to the infernal regions, while out of temperance he avoided the Magnesian Hippolyte: and the deceiver quotes histories to him, that are lessons for sinning. In vain; for, heart-whole as yet, he receives his words deafer than the Icarian rocks. But with regard to you, have a care lest your neighbor Enipeus prove too pleasing. Though no other person equally skillful to guide the steed, is conspicuous in the course, nor does any one with equal swiftness swim down the Etrurian stream, yet secure your house at the very approach of night, nor look down into the streets at the sound of the doleful pipe; and remain inflexible toward him, though he often upbraid thee with cruelty.
O Maecenas, learned in both languages, you wonder what I, a single man, have to do on the calends of March; what these flowers mean, and the censer replete with frankincense, and the coals laid upon the live turf. I made a vow of a joyous banquet, and a white goat to Bacchus, after having been at the point of death by a blow from a tree. This day, sacred in the revolving year, shall remove the cork fastened with pitch from that jar, which was set to inhale the smoke in the consulship of Tullus. Take, my Maecenas, a hundred cups on account of the safety of your friend, and continue the wakeful lamps even to day-light: all clamor and passion be far away. Postpone your political cares with regard to the state: the army of the Dacian Cotison is defeated; the troublesome Mede is quarreling with himself in a horrible [civil] war: the Cantabrian, our old enemy on the Spanish coast, is subject to us, though conquered by a long-disputed victory: now, too, the Scythians are preparing to quit the field with their imbent bows. Neglectful, as a private person, forbear to be too solicitous lest the community in any wise suffer, and joyfully seize the boons of the present hour, and quit serious affairs.
HORACE. As long as I was agreeable to thee, and no other youth more favored was wont to fold his arms around thy snowy neck, I lived happier than the Persian monarch.
LYDIA. As long as thou hadst not a greater flame for any other, nor was Lydia below Chloe [in thine affections], I Lydia, of distinguished fame, flourished more eminent than the Roman Ilia.
HOR. The Thracian Chloe now commands me, skillful in sweet modulations, and a mistress of the lyre; for whom I would not dread to die, if the fates would spare her, my surviving soul.
LYD. Calais, the son of the Thurian Ornitus, inflames me with a mutual fire; for whom I would twice endure to die, if the fates would spare my surviving youth.
HOR. What! if our former love returns, and unites by a brazen yoke us once parted? What if Chloe with her golden locks be shaken off, and the door again open to slighted Lydia.
LYD. Though he is fairer than a star, thou of more levity than a cork, and more passionate than the blustering Adriatic; with thee I should love to live, with thee I would cheerfully die.
O Lyce, had you drunk from the remote Tanais, in a state of marriage with tome barbarian, yet you might be sorry to expose me, prostrate before your obdurate doors, to the north winds that have made those places their abode. Do you hear with what a noise your gate, with what [a noise] the grove, planted about your elegant buildings, rebellows to the winds? And how Jupiter glazes the settled snow with his bright influence? Lay aside disdain, offensive to Venus, lest your rope should run backward, while the wheel is revolving. Your Tyrrhenian father did not beget you to be as inaccessible as Penelope to your wooers. O though neither presents, nor prayers, nor the violet-tinctured paleness of your lovers, nor your husband smitten with a musical courtezan, bend you to pity; yet [at length] spare your suppliants, you that are not softer than the sturdy oak, nor of a gentler disposition than the African serpents. This side [of mine] will not always be able to endure your threshold, and the rain.
O Mercury, for under thy instruction the ingenious Amphion moved rocks by his voice, you being his tutor; and though my harp, skilled in sounding, with seven strings, formerly neither vocal nor pleasing, but now agreeable both to the tables of the wealthy and the temples [of the gods]; dictate measures to which Lyde may incline her obstinate ears, who, like a filly of three years old, plays and frisks about in the spacious fields, inexperienced in nuptial loves, and hitherto unripe for a brisk husband. You are able to draw after your tigers and attendant woods, and to retard rapid rivers. To your blandishments the enormous porter of the [infernal] palace yielded, though a hundred serpents fortify his head, and a pestilential steam and an infectious poison issue from his triple-tongued mouth. Moreover, Ixion and Tityus smiled with a reluctant aspect: while you soothe the daughters of Danaus with your delightful harmony, their vessel for some time remained dry. Let Lyde hear of the crime, and the well-known punishment of the virgins, and the cask emptied by the water streaming through the bottom, and what lasting fates await their misdeeds even beyond the grave. Impious! (for what greater impiety could they have committed?) Impious! who could destroy their bridegrooms with the cruel sword! One out of the many, worthy of the nuptial torch, was nobly false to her perjured parent, and a maiden illustrious to all posterity; she, who said to her youthful husband, “Arise! arise! lest an eternal sleep be given to you from a hand you have no suspicion of; disappoint your father-inlaw and my wicked sisters, who, like lionesses having possessed themselves of calves (alas)! tear each of them to pieces; I, of softer mold than they, will neither strike thee, nor detain thee in my custody. Let my father load me with cruel chains, because out of mercy I spared my unhappy spouse; let him transport me even to the extreme Numidian plains. Depart, whither your feet and the winds carry you, while the night and Venus are favorable: depart with happy omen; yet, not forgetful of me, engrave my mournful story on my tomb.”
It is for unhappy maidens neither to give indulgence to love, nor to wash away cares with delicious wine; or to be dispirited out of dread of the lashes of an uncle’s tongue. The winged boy of Venus, O Neobule, has deprived you of your spindle and your webs, and the beauty of Hebrus from Lipara of inclination for the labors of industrious Minerva, after he has bathed his anointed shoulders in the waters of the Tiber; a better horseman than Bellerophon himself, neither conquered at boxing, nor by want of swiftness in the race: he is also skilled to strike with his javelin the stags, flying through the open plains in frightened herd, and active to surprise the wild boar lurking in the deep thicket.
O thou fountain of Bandusia, clearer than glass, worthy of delicious wine, not unadorned by flowers; tomorrow thou shalt be presented with a kid, whose forehead, pouting with new horns, determines upon both love and war in vain; for this offspring of the wanton flock shall tinge thy cooling streams with scarlet blood. The severe season of the burning dog-star cannot reach thee; thou affordest a refreshing coolness to the oxen fatigued with the plough-share, and to the ranging flock. Thou also shalt become one of the famous fountains, through my celebrating the oak that covers the hollow rock, whence thy prattling rills descend with a bound.
Augustus Caesar, O ye people, who was lately said, like another Hercules, to have sought for the laurel to be purchased only by death, revisits his domestic gods, victorious from the Spanish shore. Let the matron (Livia), to whom her husband alone is dear, come forth in public procession, having first performed her duty to the just gods; and (Octavia), the sister of our glorious general; the mothers also of the maidens and of the youths just preserved from danger, becomingly adorned with supplicatory fillets. Ye, O young men, and young women lately married, abstain from ill-omened words. This day, to me a real festival, shall expel gloomy cares: I will neither dread commotions, nor violent death, while Caesar is in possession of the earth. Go, slave, and seek for perfume and chaplets, and a cask that remembers the Marsian war, if any vessel could elude the vagabond Spartacus. And bid the tuneful Neaera make haste to collect into a knot her auburn hair; but if any delay should happen from the surly porter, come away. Hoary hair mollifies minds that are fond of strife and petulant wrangling. I would not have endured this treatment, warm with youth in the consulship of Plancus.
You wife of the indigent Ibycus, at length put an end to your wickedness, and your infamous practices. Cease to sport among the damsels, and to diffuse a cloud among bright constellations, now on the verge of a timely death. If any thing will become Pholoe, it does not you Chloris, likewise. Your daughter with more propriety attacks the young men’s apartments, like a Bacchanalian roused up by the rattling timbrel. The love of Nothus makes her frisk about like a wanton she-goat. The wool shorn near the famous Luceria becomes you now antiquated: not musical instruments, or the damask flower of the rose, or hogsheads drunk down to the lees.
A brazen tower, and doors of oak, and the melancholy watch of wakeful dogs, had sufficiently defended the imprisoned Danae from midnight gallants, had not Jupiter and Venus laughed at Acrisius, the anxious keeper of the immured maiden: [for they well knew] that the way would be safe and open, after the god had transformed himself into a bribe. Gold delights to penetrate through the midst of guards, and to break through stone-walls, more potent than the thunderbolt. The family of the Grecian augur perished, immersed in destruction on account of lucre. The man of Macedon cleft the gates of the cities and subverted rival monarchs by bribery. Bribes enthrall fierce captains of ships. Care, and a thirst for greater things, is the consequence of increasing wealth. Therefore, Maecenas, thou glory of the [Roman] knights, I have justly dreaded to raise the far-conspicuous head. As much more as any man shall deny himself, so much more shall he receive from the gods. Naked as I am, I seek the camps of those who covet nothing; and as a deserter, rejoice to quit the side of the wealthy: a more illustrious possessor of a contemptible fortune, than if I could be said to treasure up in my granaries all that the industrious Apulian cultivates, poor amid abundance of wealth. A rivulet of clear water, and a wood of a few acres, and a certain prospect of my good crop, are blessings unknown to him who glitters in the proconsulship of fertile Africa: I am more happily circumstanced. Though neither the Calabrian bees produce honey, nor wine ripens to age for me in a Formian cask, nor rich fleeces increase in Gallic pastures; yet distressful poverty is remote; nor, if I desired more, would you refuse to grant it me. I shall be better able to extend my small revenues, by contracting my desires, than if I could join the kingdom of Alyattes to the Phrygian plains. Much is wanting to those who covet much. ’Tis well with him to whom God has given what is necessary with a sparing hand.
O Aelius, who art nobly descended from the ancient Lamus (forasmuch as they report, that both the first of the Lamian family had their name hence, and all the race of the descendants through faithful records derives its origin from that founder, who is said to have possessed, as prince, the Formian walls, and Liris gliding on the shores of Marica — an extensive potentate). To-morrow a tempest sent from the east shall strew the grove with many leaves, and the shore with useless sea-weed, unless that old prophetess of rain, the raven, deceives me. Pile up the dry wood, while you may; tomorrow you shall indulge your genius with wine, and with a pig of two months old, with your slaves dismissed from their labors.
O Faunus, thou lover of the flying nymphs, benignly traverse my borders and sunny fields, and depart propitious to the young offspring of my flocks; if a tender kid fall [a victim] to thee at the completion of the year, and plenty of wines be not wanting to the goblet, the companion of Venus, and the ancient altar smoke with liberal perfume. All the cattle sport in the grassy plain, when the nones of December return to thee; the village keeping holiday enjoys leisure in the fields, together with the oxen free from toil. The wolf wanders among the fearless lambs; the wood scatters its rural leaves for thee, and the laborer rejoices to have beaten the hated ground in triple dance.
How far Codrus, who was not afraid to die for his country, is removed from Inachus, and the race of Aeacus, and the battles also that were fought at sacred Troy —[these subjects] you descant upon; but at what price we may purchase a hogshead of Chian; who shall warm the water [for bathing]; who finds a house: and at what hour I am to get rid of these Pelignian colds, you are silent. Give me, boy, [a bumper] for the new moon in an instant, give me one for midnight, and one for Murena the augur. Let our goblets be mixed up with three or nine cups, according to every one’s disposition. The enraptured bard, who delights in the odd-numbered muses, shall call for brimmers thrice three. Each of the Graces, in conjunction with the naked sisters, fearful of broils, prohibits upward of three. It is my pleasure to rave; why cease the breathings of the Phrygian flute? Why is the pipe hung up with the silent lyre? I hate your niggardly handfuls: strew roses freely. Let the envious Lycus hear the jovial noise; and let our fair neighbor, ill-suited to the old Lycus, [hear it.] The ripe Rhode aims at thee, Telephus, smart with thy bushy locks; at thee, bright as the clear evening star; the love of my Glycera slowly consumes me.
Do you not perceive, O Pyrrhus, at what hazard yon are taking away the whelps from a Gutulian lioness? In a little while you, a timorous ravisher, shall fly from the severe engagement, when she shall march through the opposing band of youths, re-demanding her beauteous Nearchus; a grand contest, whether a greater share of booty shall fall to thee or to her! In the mean time, while you produce your swift arrows, she whets her terrific teeth; while the umpire of the combat is reported to have placed the palm under his naked foot, and refreshed his shoulder, overspread with his perfumed locks, with the gentle breeze: just such another was Nireus, or he that was ravished from the watery Ida.
O thou goodly cask, that wast brought to light at the same time with me in the consulship of Manlius, whether thou containest the occasion of complaint, or jest, or broils and maddening amours, or gentle sleep; under whatever title thou preservest the choice Massic, worthy to be removed on an auspicious day; descend, Corvinus bids me draw the mellowest wine. He, though he is imbued in the Socratic lectures, will not morosely reject thee. The virtue even of old Cato is recorded to have been frequently warmed with wine. Thou appliest a gentle violence to that disposition, which is in general of the rougher cast: Thou revealest the cares and secret designs of the wise, by the assistance of merry Bacchus. You restore hope and spirit to anxious minds, and give horns to the poor man, who after [tasting] you neither dreads the diadems of enraged monarchs, nor the weapons of the soldiers. Thee Bacchus, and Venus, if she comes in good-humor, and the Graces loth to dissolve the knot [of their union], and living lights shall prolong, till returning Phoebus puts the stars to flight.
O virgin, protectress of the mountains and the groves, thou three-formed goddess, who thrice invoked, hearest young women in labor, and savest them from death; sacred to thee be this pine that overshadows my villa, which I, at the completion of every year, joyful will present with the blood of a boar-pig, just meditating his oblique attack.
My rustic Phidyle, if you raise your suppliant hands to heaven at the new moon, and appease the household gods with frankincense, and this year’s fruits, and a ravening swine; the fertile vine shall neither feel the pestilential south-west, nor the corn the barren blight, or your dear brood the sickly season in the fruit-bearing autumn. For the destined victim, which is pastured in the snowy Algidus among the oaks and holm trees, or thrives in the Albanian meadows, with its throat shall stain the axes of the priests. It is not required of you, who are crowning our little gods with rosemary and the brittle myrtle, to propitiate them with a great slaughter of sheep. If an innocent hand touches a clear, a magnificent victim does not pacify the offended Penates more acceptably, than a consecrated cake and crackling salt.
Though, more wealthy than the unrifled treasures of the Arabians and rich India, you should possess yourself by your edifices of the whole Tyrrhenian and Apulian seas; yet, if cruel fate fixes its adamantine grapples upon the topmost roofs, you shall not disengage your mind from dread, nor your life from the snares of death. The Scythians that dwell in the plains, whose carts, according to their custom, draw their vagrant habitations, live in a better manner; and [so do] the rough Getae, whose uncircumscribed acres produce fruits and corn free to all, nor is a longer than annual tillage agreeable, and a successor leaves him who has accomplished his labor by an equal right. There the guiltless wife spares her motherless step-children, nor does the portioned spouse govern her husband, nor put any confidence in a sleek adulterer. Their dower is the high virtue of their parents, and a chastity reserved from any other man by a steadfast security; and it, is forbidden to sin, or the reward is death. O if there be any one willing to remove our impious slaughters, and civil rage; if he be desirous to be written FATHER OF THE STATE, on statues [erected to him], let him dare to curb insuperable licentiousness, and be eminent to posterity; since we (O injustice!) detest virtue while living, but invidiously seek for her after she is taken out of our view. To what purpose are our woeful complaints, if sin is not cut off with punishment? Of what efficacy are empty laws, without morals; if neither that part of the world which is shut in by fervent heats, nor that side which borders upon Boreas, and snows hardened upon the ground, keep off the merchant; [and] the expert sailors get the better of the horrible seas? Poverty, a great reproach, impels us both to do and to suffer any thing, and deserts the path of difficult virtue. Let us, then, cast our gems and precious stones and useless gold, the cause of extreme evil, either into the Capitol, whither the acclamations and crowd of applauding [citizens] call us, or into the adjoining ocean. If we are truly penitent for our enormities, the very elements of depraved lust are to be erased, and the minds of too soft a mold should be formed by severer studies. The noble youth knows not how to keep his seat on horseback and is afraid to go a hunting, more skilled to play (if you choose it) with the Grecian trochus, or dice, prohibited by law; while the father’s perjured faith can deceive his partner and friend, and he hastens to get money for an unworthy heir. In a word, iniquitous wealth increases, yet something is ever wanting to the incomplete fortune.
Whither, O Bacchus, art thou hurrying me, replete with your influence? Into what groves, into what recesses am I driven, actuated with uncommon spirit? In what caverns, meditating the immortal honor of illustrious Caesar, shall I be heard enrolling him among the stars and the council of Jove? I will utter something extraordinary, new, hitherto unsung by any other voice. Thus the sleepless Bacchanal is struck with enthusiasm, casting her eyes upon Hebrus, and Thrace bleached with snow, and Rhodope traversed by the feet of barbarians. How am I delighted in my rambles, to admire the rocks and the desert grove! O lord of the Naiads and the Bacchanalian women, who are able with their hands to overthrow lofty ash-trees; nothing little, nothing low, nothing mortal will I sing. Charming is the hazard, O Bacchus, to accompany the god, who binds his temples with the verdant vine-leaf.
I lately lived a proper person for girls, and campaigned it not without honor; but now this wall, which guards the left side of [the statue] of sea-born Venus, shall have my arms and my lyre discharged from warfare. Here, here, deposit the shining flambeaux, and the wrenching irons, and the bows, that threatened the resisting doors. O thou goddess, who possessest the blissful Cyprus, and Memphis free from Sithonian snow, O queen, give the haughty Chloe one cut with your high-raised lash.
Let the omen of the noisy screech-owl and a pregnant bitch, or a tawny wolf running down from the Lanuvian fields, or a fox with whelp conduct the impious [on their way]; may the serpent also break their undertaken journey, if, like an arrow athwart the road, it has frightened the horses. What shall I, a provident augur, fear? I will invoke from the east, with my prayers, the raven forboding by his croaking, before the bird which presages impending showers, revisits the stagnant pools. Mayest thou be happy, O Galatea, wheresoever thou choosest to reside, and live mindful of me and neither the unlucky pye nor the vagrant crow forbids your going on. But you see, with what an uproar the prone Orion hastens on: I know what the dark bay of the Adriatic is, and in what manner Iapyx, [seemingly] serene, is guilty. Let the wives and children of our enemies feel the blind tumults of the rising south, and the roaring of the blackened sea, and the shores trembling with its lash. Thus too Europa trusted her fair side to the deceitful bull, and bold as she was, turned pale at the sea abounding with monsters, and the cheat now become manifest. She, who lately in the meadows was busied about flowers, and a composer of the chaplet meet for nymphs, saw nothing in the dusky night put stars and water. Who as soon as she arrived at Crete, powerful with its hundred cities, cried out, overcome with rage, “O father, name abandoned by thy daughter! O my duty! Whence, whither am I come? One death is too little for virgins’ crime. Am I awake, while I deplore my base offense; or does some vain phantom, which, escaping from the ivory gate, brings on a dream, impose upon me, still free from guilt. Was it better to travel over the tedious waves, or to gather the fresh flowers? If any one now would deliver up to me in my anger this infamous bull, I would do my utmost to tear him to pieces with steel, and break off the horns of the monster, lately so much beloved. Abandoned I have left my father’s house, abandoned I procrastinate my doom. O if any of the gods hear this, I wish I may wander naked among lions: before foul decay seizes my comely cheeks, and moisture leaves this tender prey, I desire, in all my beauty, to be the food of tigers.” “Base Europa,” thy absent father urges, “why do you hesitate to die? you may strangle your neck suspended from this ash, with your girdle that has commodiously attended you. Or if a precipice, and the rocks that are edged with death, please you, come on, commit yourself to the rapid storm; unless you, that are of blood-royal, had rather card your mistress’s wool, and be given up as a concubine to some barbarian dame.” As she complained, the treacherously-smiling Venus, and her son, with his bow relaxed, drew near. Presently, when she had sufficiently rallied her, “Refrain (she cried) from your rage and passionate chidings, since this detested bull shall surrender his horns to be torn in pieces by you. Are you ignorant, that you are the wife of the invincible Jove? Cease your sobbing; learn duly to support your distinguished good fortune. A division of the world shall bear your name.”
What can I do better on the festal day of Neptune? Quickly produce, Lyde, the hoarded Caecuban, and make an attack upon wisdom, ever on her guard. You perceive the noontide is on its decline; and yet, as if the fleeting day stood still, you delay to bring out of the store-house the loitering cask, [that bears its date] from the consul Bibulus. We will sing by turns, Neptune, and the green locks of the Nereids; you, shall chant, on your wreathed lyre, Latona and the darts of the nimble Cynthia; at the conclusion of your song, she also [shall be celebrated], who with her yoked swans visits Gnidos, and the shining Cyclades, and Paphos: the night also shall be celebrated in a suitable lay.
O Maecenas, thou progeny of Tuscan kings, there has been a long while for you in my house some mellow wine in an unbroached hogshead, with rose-flowers and expressed essence for your hair. Disengage yourself from anything that may retard you, nor contemplate the ever marshy Tibur, and the sloping fields of Aesula, and the hills of Telegonus the parricide. Leave abundance, which is the source of daintiness, and yon pile of buildings approaching near the lofty clouds: cease to admire the smoke, and opulence, and noise of flourishing Rome. A change is frequently agreeable to the rich, and a cleanly meal in the little cottage of the poor has smoothed an anxious brow without carpets or purple. Now the bright father of Andromeda displays his hidden fire; now Procyon rages, and the constellation of the ravening Lion, as the sun brings round the thirsty season. Now the weary shepherd with his languid flock seeks the shade, and the river, and the thickets of rough Sylvanus; and the silent bank is free from the wandering winds. You regard what constitution may suit the state, and are in an anxious dread for Rome, what preparations the Seres and the Bactrians subject to Cyrus, and the factious Tanais are making. A wise deity shrouds in obscure darkness the events of the time to come, and smiles if a mortal is solicitous beyond the law of nature. Be mindful to manage duly that which is present. What remains goes on in the manner of the river, at one time calmly gliding in the middle of its channel to the Tuscan Sea, at another, rolling along corroded stones, and stumps of trees, forced away, and cattle, and houses, not without the noise of mountains and neighboring woods, when the merciless deluge enrages the peaceful waters. That man is master of himself and shall live happy, who has it in his power to say, “I have lived today: tomorrow let the Sire invest the heaven, either with a black cloud, or with clear sunshine; nevertheless, he shall not render ineffectual what is past, nor undo or annihilate what the fleeting hour has once carried off. Fortune, happy in the execution of her cruel office, and persisting to play her insolent game, changes uncertain honors, indulgent now to me, by and by to another. I praise her, while she abides by me. If she moves her fleet wings, I resign what she has bestowed, and wrap myself up in my virtue, and court honest poverty without a portion. It is no business of mine, if the mast groan with the African storms, to have recourse to piteous prayers, and to make a bargain with my vows, that my Cyprian and Syrian merchandize may not add to the wealth of the insatiable sea. Then the gale and the twin Pollux will carry me safe in the protection of a skiff with two oars, through the tumultuous Aegean Sea.”
I have completed a monument more lasting than brass, and more sublime than the regal elevation of pyramids, which neither the wasting shower, the unavailing north wind, nor an innumerable succession of years, and the flight of seasons, shall be able to demolish. I shall not wholly die; but a great part of me shall escape Libitina. I shall continualy be renewed in the praises of posterity, as long as the priest shall ascend the Capitol with the silent [vestal] virgin. Where the rapid Aufidus shall murmur, and where Daunus, poorly supplied with water, ruled over a rustic people, I, exalted from a low degree, shall be acknowledged as having originally adapted the Aeolic verse to Italian measures. Melpomene, assume that pride which your merits have acquired, and willingly crown my hair with the Delphic laurel.
After a long cessation, O Venus, again are you stirring up tumults? Spare me, I beseech you, I beseech you. I am not the man I was under the dominion of good-natured Cynara. Forbear, O cruel mother of soft desires, to bend one bordering upon fifty, now too hardened for soft commands: go, whither the soothing prayers of youths, invoke you. More seasonably may you revel in the house of Paulus Maximus, flying thither with your splendid swans, if you seek to inflame a suitable breast. For he is both noble and comely, and by no means silent in the cause of distressed defendants, and a youth of a hundred accomplishments; he shall bear the ensigns of your warfare far and wide; and whenever, more prevailing than the ample presents of a rival, he shall laugh [at his expense], he shall erect thee in marble under a citron dome near the Alban lake. There you shall smell abundant frankincense, and shall be charmed with the mixed music of the lyre and Berecynthian pipe, not without the flageolet. There the youths, together with the tender maidens, twice a day celebrating your divinity, shall, Salian-like, with white foot thrice shake the ground. As for me, neither woman, nor youth, nor the fond hopes of mutual inclination, nor to contend in wine, nor to bind my temples with fresh flowers, delight me [any longer]. But why; ah! why, Ligurinus, does the tear every now and then trickle down my cheeks? Why does my fluent tongue falter between my words with an unseemly silence? Thee in my dreams by night I clasp, caught [in my arms]; thee flying across the turf of the Campus Martius; thee I pursue, O cruel one, through the rolling waters.
Whoever endeavors, O Iulus, to rival Pindar, makes an effort on wings fastened with wax by art Daedalean, about to communicate his name to the glassy sea. Like a river pouring down from a mountain, which sudden rains have increased beyond its accustomed banks, such the deep-mouthed Pindar rages and rushes on immeasurable, sure to merit Apollo’s laurel, whether he rolls down new-formed phrases through the daring dithyrambic, and is borne on in numbers exempt from rule: whether he sings the gods, and kings, the offspring of the gods, by whom the Centaurs perished with a just destruction, [by whom] was quenched the flame of the dreadful Chimaera; or celebrates those whom the palm, [in the Olympic games] at Elis, brings home exalted to the skies, wrestler or steed, and presents them with a gift preferable to a hundred statues: or deplores some youth, snatched [by death] from his mournful bride — he elevates both his strength, and courage, and golden morals to the stars, and rescues him from the murky grave. A copious gale elevates the Dircean swan, O Antonius, as often as he soars into the lofty regions of the clouds: but I, after the custom and manner of the Macinian bee, that laboriously gathers the grateful thyme, I, a diminutive creature, compose elaborate verses about the grove and the banks of the watery Tiber. You, a poet of sublimer style, shall sing of Caesar, whenever, graceful in his well-earned laurel, he shall drag the fierce Sygambri along the sacred hill; Caesar, than whom nothing greater or better the fates and indulgent gods ever bestowed on the earth, nor will bestow, though the times should return to their primitive gold. You shall sing both the festal days, and the public rejoicings on account of the prayed-for return of the brave Augustus, and the forum free from law-suits. Then (if I can offer any thing worth hearing) a considerable portion of my voice shall join [the general acclamation], and I will sing, happy at the reception of Caesar, “O glorious day, O worthy thou to be celebrated.” And while [the procession] moves along, shouts of triumph we will repeat, shouts of triumph the whole city [will raise], and we will offer frankincense to the indulgent gods. Thee ten bulls and as many heifers shall absolve; me, a tender steerling, that, having left his dam, thrives in spacious pastures for the discharge of my vows, resembling [by the horns on] his forehead the curved light of the moon, when she appears of three days old, in which part he has a mark of a snowy aspect, being of a dun color over the rest of his body.
Him, O Melpomene, upon whom at his birth thou hast once looked with favoring eye, the Isthmian contest shall not render eminent as a wrestler; the swift horse shall not draw him triumphant in a Grecian car; nor shall warlike achievement show him in the Capitol, a general adorned with the Delian laurel, on account of his having quashed the proud threats of kings: but such waters as flow through the fertile Tiber, and the dense leaves of the groves, shall make him distinguished by the Aeolian verse. The sons of Rome, the queen of cities, deign to rank me among the amiable band of poets; and now I am less carped at by the tooth of envy. O muse, regulating the harmony of the gilded shell! O thou, who canst immediately bestow, if thou please, the notes of the swan upon the mute fish! It is entirely by thy gift that I am marked out, as the stringer of the Roman lyre, by the fingers of passengers; that I breathe, and give pleasure (if I give pleasure), is yours.
Like as the winged minister of thunder (to whom Jupiter, the sovereign of the gods, has assigned the dominion over the fleeting birds, having experienced his fidelity in the affair of the beauteous Ganymede), early youth and hereditary vigor save impelled from his nest unknowing of toil; and the vernal winds, the showers being now dispelled, taught him, still timorous, unwonted enterprises: in a little while a violent impulse dispatched him, as an enemy against the sheepfolds, now an appetite for food and fight has impelled him upon the reluctant serpents; — or as a she-goat, intent on rich pastures, has beheld a young lion but just weaned from the udder of his tawny dam, ready to be devoured by his newly-grown tooth: such did the Rhaeti and the Vindelici behold Drusus carrying on the war under the Alps; whence this people derived the custom, which has always prevailed among them, of arming their right hands with the Amazonian ax, I have purposely omitted to inquire: (neither is it possible to discover everything.) But those troops, which had been for a long while and extensively victorious, being subdued by the conduct of a youth, perceived what a disposition, what a genius rightly educated under an auspicious roof, what the fatherly affection of Augustus toward the young Neros, could effect. The brave are generated by the brave and good; there is in steers, there is in horses, the virtue of their sires; nor do the courageous eagles procreate the unwarlike dove. But learning improves the innate force, and good discipline confirms the mind: whenever morals are deficient, vices disgrace what is naturally good. What thou owest, O Rome, to the Neros, the river Metaurus is a witness, and the defeated Asdrubal, and that day illustrious by the dispelling of darkness from Italy, and which first smiled with benignant victory; when the terrible African rode through the Latian cities, like a fire through the pitchy pines, or the east wind through the Sicilian waves. After this the Roman youth increased continually in successful exploits, and temples, laid waste by the impious outrage of the Carthaginians, had the [statues of] their gods set up again. And at length the perfidious Hannibal said; “We, like stags, the prey of rapacious wolves, follow of our own accord those, whom to deceive and escape is a signal triumph. That nation, which, tossed in the Etrurian waves, bravely transported their gods, and sons, and aged fathers, from the burned Troy to the Italian cities, like an oak lopped by sturdy axes in Algidum abounding in dusky leaves, through losses and through wounds derives strength and spirit from the very steel. The Hydra did not with more vigor grow upon Hercules grieving to be overcome, nor did the Colchians, or the Echionian Thebes, produce a greater prodigy. Should you sink it in the depth, it will come out more beautiful: should you contend with it, with great glory will it overthrow the conqueror unhurt before, and will fight battles to be the talk of wives. No longer can I send boasting messengers to Carthage: all the hope and success of my name is fallen, is fallen by the death of Asdrubal. There is nothing, but what the Claudian hands will perform; which both Jupiter defends with his propitious divinity, and sagacious precaution conducts through the sharp trials of war.”
O best guardian of the Roman people, born under propitious gods, already art thou too long absent; after having promised a mature arrival to the sacred council of the senators, return. Restore, O excellent chieftain, the light to thy country; for, like the spring, wherever thy countenance has shone, the day passes more agreeably for the people, and the sun has a superior lustre. As a mother, with vows, omens, and prayers, calls for her son (whom the south wind with adverse gales detains from his sweet home, staying more than a year beyond the Carpathian Sea), nor turns aside her looks from the curved shore; in like manner, inspired with loyal wishes, his country seeks for Caesar. For, [under your auspices,] the ox in safety traverses the meadows: Ceres nourishes the ground; and abundant Prosperity: the sailors skim through the calm ocean: and Faith is in dread of being censured. The chaste family is polluted by no adulteries: morality and the law have got the better of that foul crime; the child-bearing women are commended for an offspring resembling [the father; and] punishment presses as a companion upon guilt. Who can fear the Parthian? Who, the frozen Scythian? Who, the progeny that rough Germany produces, while Caesar is in safety? Who cares for the war of fierce Spain? Every man puts a period to the day amid his own hills, and weds the vine to the widowed elm-trees; hence he returns joyful to his wine, and invites you, as a deity, to his second course; thee, with many a prayer, thee he pursues with wine poured out [in libation] from the cups; and joins your divinity to that of his household gods, in the same manner as Greece was mindful of Castor and the great Hercules. May you, excellent chieftain, bestow a lasting festivity upon Italy! This is our language, when we are sober at the early day; this is our language, when we have well drunk, at the time the sun is beneath the ocean.
Thou god, whom the offspring of Niobe experienced as avenger of a presumptuous tongue, and the ravisher Tityus, and also the Thessalian Achilles, almost the conqueror of lofty Troy, a warrior superior to all others, but unequal to thee; though, son of the sea-goddess, Thetis, he shook the Dardanian towers, warring with his dreadful spear. He, as it were a pine smitten with the burning ax, or a cypress prostrated by the east wind, fell extended far, and reclined his neck in the Trojan dust. He would not, by being shut up in a [wooden] horse, that belied the sacred rights of Minerva, have surprised the Trojans reveling in an evil hour, and the court of Priam making merry in the dance; but openly inexorable to his captives, (oh impious! oh!) would have burned speechless babes with Grecian fires, even him concealed in his mother’s womb: had not the father of the gods, prevailed upon by thy entreaties and those of the beauteous Venus, granted to the affairs of Aeneas walls founded under happier auspices. Thou lyrist Phoebus, tutor of the harmonious Thalia, who bathest thy locks in the river Xanthus, O delicate Agyieus, support the dignity of the Latian muse. Phoebus gave me genius, Phoebus the art of composing verse, and the title of poet. Ye virgins of the first distinction, and ye youths born of illustrious parents, ye wards of the Delian goddess, who stops with her bow the flying lynxes, and the stags, observe the Lesbian measure, and the motion of my thumb; duly celebrating the son of Latona, duly [celebrating] the goddess that enlightens the night with her shining crescent, propitious to the fruits, and expeditious in rolling on the precipitate months. Shortly a bride you will say: “I, skilled in the measures of the poet Horace, recited an ode which was acceptable to the gods, when the secular period brought back the festal days.”
The snows are fled, the herbage now returns to the fields, and the leaves to the trees. The earth changes its appearance, and the decreasing rivers glide along their banks: the elder Grace, together with the Nymphs, and her two sisters, ventures naked to lead off the dance. That you are not to expect things permanent, the year, and the hour that hurries away the agreeable day, admonish us. The colds are mitigated by the zephyrs: the summer follows close upon the spring, shortly to die itself, as soon as fruitful autumn shall have shed its fruits: and anon sluggish winter returns again. Nevertheless the quick-revolving moons repair their wanings in the skies; but when we descend [to those regions] where pious Aeneas, where Tullus and the wealthy Ancus [have gone before us], we become dust and a mere shade. Who knows whether the gods above will add to this day’s reckoning the space of tomorrow? Every thing, which you shall indulge to your beloved soul, will escape the greedy hands of your heir. When once, Torquatus, you shall be dead, and Minos shall have made his awful decisions concerning you; not your family, not you eloquence, not your piety shall restore you. For neither can Diana free the chaste Hippolytus from infernal darkness; nor is Theseus able to break off the Lethaean fetters from his dear Piri thous.
O Censorinus, liberally would I present my acquaintance with goblets and beautiful vases of brass; I would present them with tripods, the rewards of the brave Grecians: nor would you bear off the meanest of my donations, if I were rich in those pieces of art, which either Parrhasius or Scopas produced; the latter in statuary, the former in liquid colors, eminent to portray at one time a man, at another a god. But I have no store of this sort, nor do your circumstances or inclination require any such curiosities as these. You delight in verses: verses I can give, and set a value on the donation. Not marbles engraved with public inscriptions, by means of which breath and life returns to illustrious generals after their decease; not the precipitate flight of Hannibal, and his menaces retorted upon his own head: not the flames of impious Carthage * * * * more eminently set forth his praises, who returned, having gained a name from conquered Africa, than the Calabrlan muses; neither, should writings be silent, would you have any reward for having done well. What would the son of Mars and Ilia be, if invidious silence had stifled the merits of Romulus? The force, and favor, and voice of powerful poets consecrate Aecus, snatched from the Stygian floods, to the Fortunate Islands. The muse forbids a praiseworthy man to die: the muse, confers the happiness of heaven. Thus laborious Hercules has a place at the longed-for banquets of Jove: [thus] the sons of Tyndarus, that bright constellation, rescue shattered vessels from the bosom of the deep: [and thus] Bacchus, his temples adorned with the verdant vine-branch, brings the prayers of his votaries to successful issues.
Lest you for a moment imagine that those words will be lost, which I, born on the far-resounding Aufidus, utter to be accompanied with the lyre, by arts hitherto undivulged — If Maeonian Homer possesses the first rank, the Pindaric and Cean muses, and the menacing strains of Alcaeus, and the majestic ones of Stesichorus, are by no means obscure: neither, if Anacreon long ago sportfully sung any thing, has time destroyed it: even now breathes the love and live the ardors of the Aeolian maid, committed to her lyre. The Lacedaemonian Helen is not the only fair, who has been inflamed by admiring the delicate ringlets of a gallant, and garments embroidered with gold, and courtly accomplishments, and retinue: nor was Teucer the first that leveled arrows from the Cydonian bow: Troy was more than once harassed: the great Idomeneus and Sthenelus were not the only heroes that fought battles worthy to be recorded by the muses: the fierce Hector, or the strenuous Deiphobus were not the first that received heavy blows in defense of virtuous wives and children. Many brave men lived before Agamemnon: but all of them, unlamented and unknown, are overwhelmed with endless obscurity, because they were destitute of a sacred bard. Valor, uncelebrated, differs but little from cowardice when in the grave. I will not [therefore], O Lollius, pass you over in silence, uncelebrated in my writings, or suffer envious forgetfulness with impunity to seize so many toils of thine. You have a mind ever prudent in the conduct of affairs, and steady alike amid success and trouble: you are an avenger of avaricious fraud, and proof against money, that attracts every thing; and a consul not of one year only, but as often as the good and upright magistrate has preferred the honorable to the profitable, and has rejected with a disdainful brow the bribes of wicked men, and triumphant through opposing bands has displayed his arms. You can not with propriety call him happy, that possesses much; he more justly claims the title of happy, who understands how to make a wise use of the gifts of the gods, and how to bear severe poverty; and dreads a reproachful deed worse than death; such a man as this is not afraid to perish in the defense of his dear friends, or of his country.
O cruel still, and potent in the endowments of beauty, when an unexpected plume shall come upon your vanity, and those locks, which now wanton on your shoulders, shall fall off, and that color, which is now preferable to the blossom of the damask rose, changed, O Ligurinus, shall turn into a wrinkled face; [then] will you say (as often as you see yourself, [quite] another person in the looking glass), Alas! why was not my present inclination the same, when I was young? Or why do not my cheeks return, unimpaired, to these my present sentiments?
Phyllis, I have a cask full of Abanian wine, upward of nine years old; I have parsley in my garden, for the weaving of chaplets, I have a store of ivy, with which, when you have bound your hair, you look so gay: the house shines cheerfully With plate: the altar, bound with chaste vervain, longs to be sprinkled [with the blood] of a sacrificed lamb: all hands are busy: girls mingled with boys fly about from place to place: the flames quiver, rolling on their summit the sooty smoke. But yet, that you may know to what joys you are invited, the Ides are to be celebrated by you, the day which divides April, the month of sea-born Venus; [a day,] with reason to be solemnized by me, and almost more sacred to me than that of my own birth; since from this day my dear Maecenas reckons his flowing years. A rich and buxom girl hath possessed herself of Telephus, a youth above your rank; and she holds him fast by an agreeable fetter. Consumed Phaeton strikes terror into ambitious hopes, and the winged Pegasus, not stomaching the earth-born rider Bellerophon, affords a terrible example, that you ought always to pursue things that are suitable to you, and that you should avoid a disproportioned match, by thinking it a crime to entertain a hope beyond what is allowable. Come then, thou last of my loves (for hereafter I shall burn for no other woman), learn with me such measures, as thou mayest recite with thy lovely voice: our gloomy cares shall be mitigated with an ode.
The Thracian breezes, attendants on the spring, which moderate the deep, now fill the sails; now neither are the meadows stiff [with frost], nor roar the rivers swollen with winter’s snow. The unhappy bird, that piteotisly bemoans Itys, and is the eternal disgrace of the house of Cecrops (because she wickedly revenged the brutal lusts of kings), now builds her nest. The keepers of the sheep play tunes upon the pipe amid the tendar herbage, and delight that god, whom flocks and the shady hills of Arcadia delight. The time of year, O Virgil, has brought on a drought: but if you desire to quaff wine from the Calenian press, you, that are a constant companion of young noblemen, must earn your liquor by [bringing some] spikenard: a small box of spikenard shall draw out a cask, which now lies in the Sulpician store-house, bounteous in the indulgence of fresh hopes and efficacious in washing away the bitterness of cares. To which joys if you hasten, come instantly with your merchandize: I do not intend to dip you in my cups scot-free, like a man of wealth, in a house abounding with plenty. But lay aside delay, and the desire of gain; and, mindful of the gloomy [funeral] flames, intermix, while you may, your grave studies with a little light gayety: it is delightful to give a loose on a proper occasion.
The gods have heard my prayers, O Lyce; Lyce, the gods have heard my prayers, you are become an old woman, and yet you would fain seem a beauty; and you wanton and drink in an audacious manner; and when drunk, solicit tardy Cupid, with a quivering voice. He basks in the charming cheeks of the blooming Chia, who is a proficient on the lyre. The teasing urchin flies over blasted oaks, and starts back at the sight of you, because foul teeth, because wrinkles and snowy hair render you odious. Now neither Coan purples nor sparkling jewels restore those years, which winged time has inserted in the public annals. Whither is your beauty gone? Alas! or whither your bloom? Whither your graceful deportment? What have you [remaining] of her, of her, who breathed loves, and ravished me from myself? Happy next to Cynara, and distinguished for an aspect of graceful ways: but the fates granted a few years only to Cynara, intending to preserve for a long time Lyce, to rival in years the aged raven: that the fervid young fellows might see, not without excessive laughter, that torch, [which once so brightly scorched,] reduced to ashes.
What zeal of the senators, or what of the Roman people, by decreeing the most ample honors, can eternize your virtues, O Augustus, by monumental inscriptions and lasting records? O thou, wherever the sun illuminates the habitable regions, greatest of princes, whom the Vindelici, that never experienced the Roman sway, have lately learned how powerful thou art in war! For Drusus, by means of your soldiery, has more than once bravely overthrown the Genauni, an implacable race, and the rapid Brenci, and the citadels situated on the tremendous Alps. The elder of the Neros soon after fought a terrible battle, and, under your propitious auspices, smote the ferocious Rhoeti: how worthy of admiration in the field of battle, [to see] with what destruction he oppressed the brave, hearts devoted to voluntary death: just as the south wind harasses the untameable waves, when the dance of the Pleiades cleaves the clouds; [so is he] strenuous to annoy the troops of the enemy, and to drive his eager steed through the midst of flames. Thus the bull-formed Aufidus, who washes the dominions of the Apulian Daunus, rolls along, when he rages and meditates an horrible deluge to the cultivated lands; when Claudius overthrew with impetuous might, the iron ranks of the barbarians, and by mowing down both front and rear strewed the ground, victorious without any loss; through you supplying them with troops, you with councils, and your own guardian powers. For on that day, when the suppliant Alexandria opened her ports, and deserted court, fortune, propitious to you in the third lustrum, has put a happy period to the war, and has ascribed praise and wished-for honor to the victories already obtained. O thou dread guardian of Italy and imperial Rome, thee the Spaniard, till now unconquered, and the Mede, and the Indian, thee the vagrant Scythian admires; thee both the Nile, who conceals his fountain heads, and the Danube; thee the rapid Tigris; thee the monster-bearing ocean, that roars against the remote Britons; thee the region of Gaul fearless of death, and that of hardy Iberia obeys; thee the Sicambrians, who delight in slaughter, laying aside their arms, revere.
Phoebus chid me, when I was meditating to sing of battles And conquered cities on the lyre: that I might not set my little sails along the Tyrrhenian Sea. Your age, O Caesar, has both restored plenteous crops to the fields, and has brought back to our Jupiter the standards torn from the proud pillars of the Parthians; and has shut up [the temple] of Janus [founded by] Romulus, now free from war; and has imposed a due discipline upon headstrong licentiousness, and has extirpated crimes, and recalled the ancient arts; by which the Latin name and strength of Italy have increased, and the fame and majesty of the empire is extended from the sun’s western bed to the east. While Caesar is guardian of affairs, neither civil rage nor violence shall disturb tranquillity; nor hatred which forges swords, and sets at variance unhappy states. Not those, who drink of the deep Danube, shall now break the Julian edicts: not the Getae, not the Seres, nor the perfidious Persians, nor those born upon the river Tanais. And let us, both on common and festal days, amid the gifts of joyous Bacchus, together with our wives and families, having first duly invoked the gods, celebrate, after the manner of our ancestors, with songs accompanied with Lydian pipes, our late valiant commanders: and Troy, and Anchises, and the offspring of benign Venus.
Thou wilt go, my friend Maecenas, with Liburian galleys among the towering forts of ships, ready at thine own [hazard] to undergo any of Caesar’s dangers. What shall I do? To whom life may be agreeable, if you survive; but, if otherwise, burdensome. Whether shall I, at your command, pursue my ease, which can not be pleasing unless in your company? Or shall I endure this toil with such a courage, as becomes effeminate men to bear? I will bear it? and with an intrepid soul follow you, either through the summits of the Alps, and the inhospitable Caucus, or to the furthest western bay. You may ask how I, unwarlike and infirm, can assist your labors by mine? While I am your companion, I shall be in less anxiety, which takes possession of the absent in a greater measure. As the bird, that has unfledged young, is in a greater dread of serpents’ approaches, when they are left; — not that, if she should be present when they came, she could render more help. Not only this, but every other war, shall be cheerfully embraced by me for the hope of your favor; [and this,] not that my plows should labor, yoked to a greater number of mine own oxen; or that my cattle before the scorching dog-star should change the Calabrian for the Lucanian pastures: neither that my white country-box should equal the Circaean walls of lofty Tusculum. Your generosity has enriched me enough, and more than enough: I shall never wish to amass, what either, like the miser Chremes, I may bury in the earth, or luxuriously squander, like a prodigal.
Happy the man, who, remote from business, after the manner of the ancient race of mortals, cultivates his paternal lands with his own oxen, disengaged from every kind of usury; he is neither alarmed by the horrible trump, as a soldier, nor dreads he the angry sea; he shuns both the bar and the proud portals of citizens in power. Wherefore he either weds the lofty poplars to the mature branches of the vine; and, lopping off the useless boughs with his pruning-knife, he ingrafts more fruitful ones: or he takes a prospect of the herds of his lowing cattle, wandering about in a lonely vale; or stores his honey, pressed [from the combs], in clean vessels; or shears his tender sheep. Or, when autumn has lifted up in the fields his head adorned with mellow fruits, how does he rejoice, while he gathers the grafted pears, and the grape that vies with the purple, with which he may recompense thee, O Priapus, and thee, father Sylvanus, guardian of his boundaries! Sometimes he delights to lie under an aged holm, sometimes on the matted grass: meanwhile the waters glide along in their deep channels; the birds warble in the woods; and the fountains murmur with their purling streams, which invites gentle slumbers. But when the wintery season of the tempestuous air prepares rains and snows, he either drives the fierce boars, with many a dog, into the intercepting toils; or spreads his thin nets with the smooth pole, as a snare for the voracious thrushes; or catches in his gin the timorous hare, or that stranger the crane, pleasing rewards [for his labor]. Among such joys as these, who does not forget those mischievous anxieties, which are the property of love. But if a chaste wife, assisting on her part [in the management] of the house, and beloved children (such as is the Sabine, or the sun-burned spouse of the industrious Apulian), piles up the sacred hearth with old wood, just at the approach of her weary husband; and, shutting up the fruitful cattle in the woven hurdles, milks dry their distended udders: and, drawing this year’s wine out of a well-seasoned cask, prepares the unbought collation: not the Lucrine oysters could delight me more, nor the turbot, nor the scar, should the tempestuous winter drive any from the eastern floods to this sea: not the turkey, nor the Asiatic wild-fowl, can come into my stomach more agreeably, than the olive gathered from the richest branches from the trees, or the sorrel that loves the meadows, or mallows salubrious for a sickly body, or a lamb slain at the feast of Terminus, or a kid rescued from the wolf. Amid these dainties, how it pleases one to see the well-fed sheep hastening home! to see the weary oxen, with drooping neck, dragging the inverted ploughshare! and slaves, the test of a rich family, ranged about the smiling household gods! When Alfius, the usurer, now on the point of turning countryman, had said this, he collected in all his money on the Ides; and endeavors to put it out again at the Calends.
If any person at any time with an impious hand has broken his aged father’s neck, let him eat garlic, more baneful than hemlock. Oh! the hardy bowels of the mowers! What poison is this that rages in my entrails? Has viper’s blood, infused in these herbs, deceived me? Or has Canidia dressed this baleful food? When Medea, beyond all the [other] argonauts, admired their handsome leader, she anointed Jason with this, as he was going to tie the untried yoke on the bulls: and having revenged herself on [Jason’s] mistress, by making her presents besmeared with this, she flew away on her winged dragon. Never did the steaming influence of any constellation so raging as this rest upon the thirsty Appulia: neither did the gift [of Dejanira] burn hotter upon the shoulders of laborious Hercules. But if ever, facetious Maecenas, you should have a desire for any such stuff again, I wish that your girl may oppose her hand to your kiss, and lie at the furthest part of the bed.
As great an enmity as is allotted by nature to wolves and lambs, [so great a one] have I to you, you that are galled at your back with Spanish cords, and on your legs with the hard fetter. Though, purse-proud with your riches, you strut along, yet fortune does not alter your birth. Do you not observe while you are stalking along the sacred way with a robe twice three ells long, how the most open indignation of those that pass and repass turns their looks on thee? This fellow, [say they,] cut with the triumvir’s whips, even till the beadle was sick of his office, plows a thousand acres of Falernian land, and wears out the Appian road with his nags; and, in despite of Otho, sits in the first rows [of the circus] as a knight of distinction. To what purpose is it, that so many brazen-beaked ships of immense bulk should be led out against pirates and a band of slaves, while this fellow, this is a military tribune?
But oh, by all the gods in heaven, who rule the earth and human race, what means this tumult? And what the hideous looks of all these [hags, fixed] upon me alone? I conjure thee by thy children (if invoked Lucina was ever present at any real birth of thine), I [conjure] thee by this empty honor of my purple, by Jupiter, who must disapprove these proceedings, why dost thou look at me as a step-mother, or as a wild beast stricken with a dart? While the boy made these complaints with a faltering voice, he stood with his bandages of distinction taken from him, a tender frame, such as might soften the impious breasts of the cruel Thracians; Canidia, having interwoven her hair and uncombed head with little vipers, orders wild fig-trees torn up from graves, orders funeral cypresses and eggs besmeared with the gore of a loathsome toad, and feathers of the nocturnal screech-owl, and those herbs, which lolchos, and Spain, fruitful in poisons, transmits, and bones snatched from the mouth of a hungry bitch, to be burned in Colchian flames. But Sagana, tucked up for expedition, sprinkling the waters of Avernus all over the house, bristles up with her rough hair like a sea-urchin, or a boar in the chase. Veia, deterred by no remorse of conscience, groaning with the toil, dug up the ground with the sharp spade; where the boy, fixed in, might long be tormented to death at the sight of food varied two or three times in a day: while he stood out with his face, just as much at bodies suspended by the chin [in swimming] project from the water, that his parched marrow and dried liver might be a charm for love; when once the pupils of his eyes had wasted away, fixed on the forbidden food. Both the idle Naples, and every neighboring town believed, that Folia of Ariminum, [a witch] of masculine lust, was not absent: she, who with her Thessalian incantations forces the charmed stars and the moon from heaven. Here the fell Canidia, gnawing her unpaired thumb with her livid teeth, what said she? or what did she not say? O ye faithful witnesses to my proceedings, Night and Diana, who presidest over silence, when the secret rites are celebrated: now, now be present, now turn your anger and power against the houses of our enemies, while the savage wild beasts lie hid in the woods, dissolved in sweet repose; let the dogs of Suburra (which may be matter of ridicule for every body) bark at the aged profligate, bedaubed with ointment, such as my hands never made any more exquisite. What is the matter? Why are these compositions less efficacious than those of the barbarian Medea? by means of which she made her escape, after having revenged herself on [Jason’s] haughty mistress, the daughter of the mighty Creon; when the garment, a gift that was injected with venom, took off his new bride by its inflammatory power. And yet no herb, nor root hidden in inaccessible places, ever escaped my notice. [Nevertheless,] he sleeps in the perfumed bed of every harlot, from his forgetfulness [of me]. Ah! ah! he walks free [from my power] by the charms of some more knowing witch. Varus, (oh you that will shortly have much to lament!) you shall come back to me by means of unusual spells; nor shall you return to yourself by all the power of Marsian enchantments, I will prepare a stronger philter: I will pour in a stronger philter for you, disdainful as you are; and the heaven shall subside below the sea, with the earth extended over it, sooner than you shall not burn with love for me, in the same manner as this pitch [burns] in the sooty flames. At these words, the boy no longer [attempted], as before, to move the impious hags by soothing expressions; but, doubtful in what manner he should break silence, uttered Thyestean imprecations. Potions [said he] have a great efficacy in confounding right and wrong, but are not able to invert the condition of human nature; I will persecute you with curses; and execrating detestation is not to be expiated by any victim. Moreover, when doomed to death I shall have expired, I will attend you as a nocturnal fury; and, a ghost, I will attack your faces with my hooked talons (for such is the power of those divinities, the Manes), and, brooding upon your restless breasts, I will deprive you of repose by terror. The mob, from village to village, assaulting you on every side with stones, shall demolish you filthy hags. Finally, the wolves and Esquiline vultures shall scatter abroad your unburied limbs. Nor shall this spectacle escape the observation of my parents, who, alas! must survive me.
O cur, thou coward against wolves, why dost thou persecute innocent strangers? Why do you not, if you can, turn your empty yelpings hither, and attack me, who will bite again? For, like a Molossian, or tawny Laconian dog, that is a friendly assistant to shepherds, I will drive with erected ears through the deep snows every brute that shall go before me. You, when you have filled the grove with your fearful barking, you smell at the food that is thrown to you. Have a care, have a care; for, very bitter against bad men, I exert my ready horns uplift; like him that was rejected as a son-inlaw by the perfidious Lycambes, or the sharp enemy of Bupalus. What, if any cur attack me with malignant tooth, shall I, without revenge, blubber like a boy?
Whither, whither, impious men are you rushing? Or why are the swords drawn, that were [so lately] sheathed? Is there too little of Roman blood spilled upon land and sea? [And this,] not that the Romans might burn the proud towers of envious Carthage, or that the Britons, hitherto unassailed, might go down the sacred way bound in chains: but that, agreeably to the wishes of the Parthians, this city may fall by its own might. This custom [of warfare] never obtained even among either wolves or savage lions, unless against a different species. Does blind phrenzy, or your superior valor, or some crime, hurry you on at this rate? Give answer. They are silent: and wan paleness infects their countenances, and their stricken souls are stupefied. This is the case: a cruel fatality and the crime of fratricide have disquieted the Romans, from that time when the blood of the innocent Remus, to be expiated by his descendants, was spilled upon the earth.
Can you, grown rank with lengthened age, ask what unnerves my vigor? When your teeth are black, and old age withers your brow with wrinkles: and your back sinks between your staring hip-bones, like that of an unhealthy cow. But, forsooth! your breast and your fallen chest, full well resembling a broken-backed horse, provoke me; and a body flabby, and feeble knees supported by swollen legs. May you be happy: and may triumphal statues adorn your funeral procession; and may no matron appear in public abounding with richer pearls. What follows, because the Stoic treatises sometimes love to be on silken pillows? Are unlearned constitutions the less robust? Or are their limbs less stout? But for you to raise an appetite, in a stomach that is nice, it is necessary that you exert every art of language.
When, O happy Maecenas, shall I, overjoyed at Caesar’s being victorious, drink with you under the stately dome (for so it pleases Jove) the Caecuban reserved for festal entertainments, while the lyre plays a tune, accompanied with flutes, that in the Doric, these in the Phrygian measure? As lately, when the Neptunian admiral, driven from the sea, and his navy burned, fled, after having menaced those chains to Rome, which, like a friend, he had taken off from perfidious slaves. The Roman soldiers (alas! ye, our posterity, will deny the fact), enslaved to a woman, carry palisadoes and arms, and can be subservient to haggard eunuchs; and among the military standards, oh shame! the sun beholds an [Egyptian] canopy. Indignant at this the Gauls turned two thousand of their cavalry, proclaiming Caesar; and the ships of the hostile navy, going off to the left, lie by in port. Hail, god of triumph! Dost thou delay the golden chariots and untouched heifers? Hail, god of triumph! You neither brought back a general equal [to Caesar] from the Jugurthine war; nor from the African [war, him], whose valor raised him a monument over Carthage. Our enemy, overthrown both by land and sea, has changed his purple vestments for mourning. He either seeks Crete, famous for her hundred cities, ready to sail with unfavorable winds; or the Syrtes, harassed by the south; or else is driven by the uncertain sea. Bring hither, boy, larger bowls, and the Chian or Lesbian wine; or, what may correct this rising qualm of mine, fill me out the Caecuban. It is my pleasure to dissipate care and anxiety for Caesar’s danger with delicious wine.
The vessel that carries the loathsome Maevius, makes her departure under an unlucky omen. Be mindful, O south wind, that you buffet it about with horrible billows. May the gloomy east, turning up the sea, disperse its cables and broken oars. Let the north arise as mighty as when be rives the quivering oaks on the lofty mountains; nor let a friendly star appear through the murky night, in which the baleful Orion sets: nor let him be conveyed in a calmer sea, than was the Grecian band of conquerors, when Pallas turned her rage from burned Troy to the ship of impious Ajax. Oh what a sweat is coming upon your sailors, and what a sallow paleness upon you, and that effeminate wailing, and those prayers to unregarding Jupiter; when the Ionian bay, roaring with the tempestuous south-west, shall break your keel. But if, extended along the winding shore, you shall delight the cormorants as a dainty prey, a lascivious he-goat and an ewe-lamb shall be sacrificed to the Tempests.
It by no means, O Pectius, delights me as heretofore to write Lyric verses, being smitten with cruel love: with love, who takes pleasure to inflame me beyond others, either youths or maidens. This is the third December that has shaken the [leafy] honors from the woods, since I ceased to be mad for Inachia. Ah me! (for I am ashamed of so great a misfortune) what a subject of talk was I throughout the city! I repent too of the entertainments, at which both a languishing and silence and sighs, heaved from the bottom of my breast, discovered the lover. As soon as the indelicate god [Bacchus] by the glowing wine had removed, as I grew warm, the secrets of [my heart] from their repository, I made my complaints, lamenting to you, “Has the fairest genius of a poor man no weight against wealthy lucre? Wherefore, if a generous indignation boil in my breast, insomuch as to disperse to the winds these disagreeable applications, that give no ease to the desperate wound; the shame [of being overcome] ending, shall cease to contest with rivals of such a sort.” When I, with great gravity, had applauded these resolutions in your presence, being ordered to go home, I was carried with a wandering foot to posts, alas! to me not friendly, and alas! obdurate gates, against which I bruised my loins and side. Now my affections for the delicate Lyciscus engross all my time; from them neither the unreserved admonitions, nor the serious reprehensions of other friends can recall me [to my former taste for poetry]; but, perhaps, either a new flame for some fair damsel, or for some graceful youth who binds his long hair in a knot, [may do so].
What would you be at, you woman fitter for the swarthy monsters? Why do you send tokens, why billet-doux to me, and not to some vigorous youth, and of a taste not nice? For I am one who discerns a polypus, or fetid ramminess, however concealed, more quickly than the keenest dog the covert of the boar. What sweatiness, and how rank an odor every where rises from her withered limbs! when she strives to lay her furious rage with impossibilities; now she has no longer the advantage of moist cosmetics, and her color appears as if stained with crocodile’s ordure; and now, in wild impetuosity, she tears her bed, bedding, and all she has. She attacks even my loathings in the most angry terms:—“You are always less dull with Inachia than me: in her company you are threefold complaisance; but you are ever unprepared to oblige me in a single instance. Lesbia, who first recommended you — so unfit a help in time of need — may she come to an ill end! when Coan Amyntas paid me his addresses; who is ever as constant in his fair one’s service, as the young tree to the hill it grows on. For whom were labored the fleeces of the richest Tyrian dye? For you? Even so that there was not one in company, among gentlemen of your own rank, whom his own wife admired preferably to you: oh, unhappy me, whom you fly, as the lamb dreads the fierce wolves, or the she-goats the lions!”
A horrible tempest has condensed the sky, and showers and snows bring down the atmosphere: now the sea, now the woods bellow with the Thracian North wind. Let us, my friends, take occasion from the day; and while our knees are vigorous, and it becomes us, let old age with his contracted forehead become smooth. Do you produce the wine, that was pressed in the consulship of my Torquatus. Forbear to talk of any other matters. The deity, perhaps, will reduce these [present evils], to your former [happy] state by a propitious change. Now it is fitting both to be bedewed with Persian perfume, and to relieve our breasts of dire vexations by the lyre, sacred to Mercury. Like as the noble Centaur, [Chiron,] sung to his mighty pupil: “Invincible mortal, son of the goddess Thetis, the land of Assaracus awaits you, which the cold currents of little Scamander and swift-gliding Simois divide: whence the fatal sisters have broken off your return, by a thread that cannot be altered: nor shall your azure mother convey you back to your home. There [then] by wine and music, sweet consolations, drive away every symptom of hideous melancholy.”
You kill me, my courteous Maecenas, by frequently inquiring, why a soothing indolence has diffused as great a degree of forgetfulness on my inmost senses, as if I had imbibed with a thirsty throat the cups that bring on Lethean slumbers. For the god, the god prohibits me from bringing to a conclusion the verses I promised [you, namely those] iambics which I had begun. In the same manner they report that Anacreon of Teios burned for the Samian Bathyllus; who often lamented his love to an inaccurate measure on a hollow lyre. You are violently in love yourself; but if a fairer flame did not burn besieged Troy, rejoice in your lot. Phryne, a freed-woman, and not content with a single admirer, consumes me.
It was night, and the moon shone in a serene sky among the lesser stars; when you, about to violate the divinity of the great gods, swore [to be true] to my requests, embracing me with your pliant arms more closely than the lofty oak is clasped by the ivy; that while the wolf should remain an enemy to the flock, and Orion, unpropitious to the sailors, should trouble the wintery sea, and while the air should fan the unshorn locks of Apollo, [so long you vowed] that this love should be mutual. O Neaera, who shall one day greatly grieve on account of my merit: for, if there is any thing of manhood in Horace, he will not endure that you should dedicate your nights continually to another, whom you prefer; and exasperated, he will look out for one who will return his love; and though an unfeigned sorrow should take possession of you, yet my firmness shall not give way to that beauty which has once given me disgust. But as for you, whoever you be who are more successful [than me], and now strut proud of my misfortune; though you be rich in flocks and abundance of land, and Pactolus flow for you, nor the mysteries of Pythagoras, born again, escape you, and you excel Nireus in beauty; alas! you shall [hereafter] bewail her love transferred elsewhere; but I shall laugh in my turn.
Now is another age worn away by civil wars, and Rome herself falls by her own strength. Whom neither the bordering Marsi could destroy, nor the Etrurian band of the menacing Porsena, nor the rival valor of Capua, nor the bold Spartacus, and the Gauls perfideous with their innovations; nor did the fierce Germany subdue with its blue-eyed youth, nor Annibal, detested by parents; but we, an impious race, whose blood is devoted to perdition, shall destroy her: and this land shall again be possessed by wild beasts. The victorious barbarian, alas! shall trample upon the ashes of the city, and the horsemen shall smite it with the sounding hoofs; and (horrible to see!) he shall insultingly disperse the bones of Romulus, which [as yet] are free from the injuries of wind and sun. Perhaps you all in general, or the better part of you, are inquisitive to know, what may be expedient, in order to escape [such] dreadful evils. There can be no determination better than this; namely, to go wherever our feet will carry us, wherever the south or boisterous south-west shall summon us through the waves; in the same manner as the state of the Phocaeans fled, after having uttered execrations [against such as should return], and left their fields and proper dwellings and temples to be inhabited by boars and ravenous wolves. Is this agreeable? has any one a better scheme to advise? Why do we delay to go on ship-board under an auspicious omen? But first let us swear to these conditions — the stones shall swim upward, lifted from the bottom of the sea, as soon as it shall not be impious to return; nor let it grieve us to direct our sails homeward, when the Po shall wash the tops of the Matinian summits; or the lofty Apennine shall remove into the sea, or a miraculous appetite shall unite monsters by a strange kind of lust; Insomuch that tigers may delight to couple with hinds, and the dove be polluted with the kite; nor the simple herds may dread the brindled lions, and the he-goat, grown smooth, may love the briny main. After having sworn to these things, and whatever else may cut off the pleasing: hope of returning, let us go, the whole city of us, or at least that part which is superior to the illiterate mob: let the idle and despairing part remain upon these inauspicious habitations. Ye, that have bravery, away with effeminate grief, and fly beyond the Tuscan shore. The ocean encircling the land awaits us; let us seek the happy plains and prospering Islands, where the untilled land yearly produces corn, and the unpruned vineyard punctually flourishes; and where the branch of the never-failing olive blossoms forth, and the purple fig adorns its native tree: honey distills from the hollow oaks; the light water bounds down from the high mountains with a murmuring pace. There the she-goats come to the milk-pails of their own accord, and the friendly flock return with their udders distended; nor does the bear at evening growl about the sheepfold, nor does the rising ground swell with vipers; and many more things shall we, happy [Romans], view with admiration: how neither the rainy east lays waste the corn-fields with profuse showers, nor is the fertile seed burned by a dry glebe; the king of gods moderating both [extremes]. The pine rowed by the Argonauts never attempted to come hither; nor did the lascivious [Medea] of Colchis set her foot [in this place]: hither the Sidonian mariners never turned their sail-yards, nor the toiling crew of Ulysses. No contagious distempers hurt the flocks; nor does the fiery violence of any constellation scorch the herd. Jupiter set apart these shores for a pious people, when he debased the golden age with brass: with brass, then with iron he hardened the ages; from which there shall be a happy escape for the good, according to my predictions.
Now, now I yield to powerful science; and suppliant beseech thee by the dominions of Proserpine, and by the inflexible divinity of Diana, and by the books of incantations able to call down the stars displaced from the firmament; O Canidia, at length desist from thine imprecations, and quickly turn, turn back thy magical machine. Telephus moved [with compassion] the grandson of Nereus, against whom he arrogantly had put his troops of Mysians in battle-array, and against whom he had darted his sharp javelins. The Trojan matrons embalmed the body of the man-slaying Hector, which had been condemned to birds of prey, and dogs, after king [Priam], having left the walls of the city, prostrated himself, alas! at the feet of the obstinate Achilles. The mariners of the indefatigable Ulysses, put off their limbs, bristled with the hard skins [of swine], at the will of Circe: then their reason and voice were restored, and their former comeliness to their countenances. I have suffered punishment enough, and more than enough, on thy account, O thou so dearly beloved by the sailors and factors. My vigor is gone away, and my ruddy complexion has left me; my bones are covered with a ghastly skin; my hair with your preparations is grown hoary. No ease respites me from my sufferings: night presses upon day, and day upon night: nor is it in my power to relieve my lungs, which are strained with gasping. Wherefore, wretch that I am, I am compelled to credit (what was denied, by me) that the charms of the Samnites discompose the breast, and the head splits in sunder at the Marsian incantations. What wouldst thou have more? O sea! O earth! I burn in such a degree as neither Hercules did, besmeared with the black gore of Nessus, nor the fervid flame burning In the Sicilian Aetna. Yet you, a laboratory of Colchian poisons, remain on fire, till I [reduced to] a dry ember, shall be wafted away by the injurious winds. What event, or what penalty awaits me? Speak out: I will with honor pay the demanded mulct; ready to make an expiation, whether you should require a hundred steers, or chose to be celebrated on a lying lyre. You, a woman of modesty, you, a woman of probity, shall traverse the stars, as a golden constellation. Castor and the brother of the great Castor, offended at the infamy brought on [their sister] Helen, yet overcome by entreaty, restored to the poet his eyes that were taken away from him. And do you (for it is in your power) extricate me from this frenzy; O you, that are neither defiled by family meanness, nor skillful to disperse the ashes of poor people, after they have been nine days interred. You have an hospitable breast, and unpolluted hands; and Pactumeius is your son, and thee the midwife has tended; and, whenever you bring forth, you spring up with unabated vigor.
Why do you pour forth your entreaties to ears that are closely shut [against them]? The wintery ocean, with its briny tempests, does not lash rocks more deaf to the cries of the naked mariners. What, shall you, without being made an example of, deride the Cotyttian mysteries, sacred to unrestrained love, which were divulged [by you]? And shall you, [assuming the office] of Pontiff [with regard to my] Esquilian incantations, fill the city with my name unpunished? What did it avail me to have enriched the Palignian sorceress [with my charms], and to have prepared poison of greater expedition, if a slower fate awaits you than is agreeable to my wishes? An irksome life shall be protracted by you, wretch as you are, for this purpose, that you may perpetually be able to endure new tortures. Tantalus, the perfidious sire of Pelops, ever craving after the plenteous banquet [which is always before him], wishes for respite; Prometheus, chained to the vulture, wishes [for rest]; Sisyphus wishes to place the stone on the summit of the mountain: but the laws of Jupiter forbid. Thus you shall desire at one time to leap down from a high tower, at another to lay open your breast with the Noric sword; and, grieving with your tedious indisposition, shall tie nooses about your neck in vain. I at that time will ride on your odious shoulders; and the whole earth shall acknowledge my unexampled power. What shall I who can give motion to waxen images (as you yourself, inquisitive as you are, were convinced of) and snatch the moon from heaven by my incantations; I, who can raise the dead after they are burned, and duly prepare the potion of love, shall I bewail the event of my art having no efficacy upon you?
Phoebus, and thou Diana, sovereign of the woods, ye illustrious ornaments of the heavens, oh ever worthy of adoration, and ever adored, bestow what we pray for at this sacred season: at which the Sibylline verses have given directions, that select virgins and chaste youths should sing a hymn to the deities, to whom the seven hills [of Rome] are acceptable. O genial sun, who in your splendid car draw forth and obscure the day, and who arise another and the same, may it never be in your power to behold anything more glorious than the city of Rome! O Ilithyia, of lenient power to produce the timely birth, protect the matrons [in labor]; whether you choose the title of Lucina, or Genitalis. O goddess multiply our offspring; and prosper the decrees of the senate in relation to the joining of women in wedlock, and the matrimonial law about to teem with a new race; that the stated revolution of a hundred and ten years may bring back the hymns and the games, three times by bright daylight restored to in crowds, and as often in the welcome night. And you, ye fatal sisters, infallible in having predicted what is established, and what the settled order of things preserves, add propitious fates to those already past. Let the earth, fertile in fruits and flocks, present Ceres with a sheafy crown; may both salubrious rains and Jove’s air cherish the young blood! Apollo, mild and gentle with your sheathed arrows, hear the suppliant youths: O moon, thou horned queen of stars, hear the virgins. If Rome be your work, and the Trojan troops arrived on the Tuscan shore (the part, commanded [by your oracles] to change their homes and city) by a successful navigation: for whom pious Aeneas, surviving his country, secured a free passage through Troy, burning not by his treachery, about to give them more ample possessions than those that were left behind. O ye deities, grant to the tractable youth probity of manners; to old age, ye deities, grant a pleasing retirement; to the Roman people, wealth, and progeny, and every kind of glory. And may the illustrious issue of Anchises and Venus, who worships you with [offerings of] white bulls, reign superior to the warring enemy, merciful to the prostrate. Now the Parthian, by sea and land, dreads our powerful forces and the Roman axes: now the Scythians beg [to know] our commands, and the Indians but lately so arrogant. Now truth, and peace, and honor, and ancient modesty, and neglected virtue dare to return, and happy plenty appears, with her horn full to the brim. Phoebus, the god of augury, and conspicuous for his shining bow, and dear to the nine muses, who by his salutary art soothes the wearied limbs of the body; if he, propitious, surveys the Palatine altars — may he prolong the Roman affairs, and the happy state of Italy to another lustrum, and to an improving age. And may Diana, who possesses Mount Aventine and Algidus, regard the prayers of the Quindecemvirs, and lend a gracious ear to the supplications of the youths. We, the choir taught to sing the praises of Phoebus and Diana, bear home with us a good and certain hope, that Jupiter, and all the other gods, are sensible of these our supplications.
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.
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.
The poet renounces all verses of a ludicrous turn, and resolves to apply himself wholly to the study of philosophy, which teaches to bridle the desires, and to postpone every thing to virtue.
Maecenas, the subject of my earliest song, justly entitled to my latest, dost thou seek to engage me again in the old lists, having been tried sufficiently, and now presented with the foils? My age is not the same, nor is my genius. Veianius, his arms consecrated on a pillar of Hercules’ temple, lives snugly retired in the country, that he may not from the extremity of the sandy amphitheater so often supplicate the people’s favor. Some one seems frequently to ring in my purified ear: “Wisely in time dismiss the aged courser, lest, an object of derision, he miscarry at last, and break his wind.” Now therefore I lay aside both verses, and all other sportive matters; my study and inquiry is after what is true and fitting, and I am wholly engaged in this: I lay up, and collect rules which I may be able hereafter to bring into use. And lest you should perchance ask under what leader, in what house [of philosophy], I enter myself a pupil: addicted to swear implicitly to the ipse-dixits of no particular master, wherever the weather drives me, I am carried a guest. One while I become active, and am plunged in the waves of state affairs, a maintainer and a rigid partisan of strict virtue; then again I relapse insensibly into Aristippus’ maxims, and endeavor to adapt circumstances to myself, not myself to circumstances. As the night seems long to those with whom a mistress has broken her appointment, and the day slow to those who owe their labor; as the year moves lazy with minors, whom the harsh guardianship of their mothers confines; so all that time to me flows tedious and distasteful, which delays my hope and design of strenuously executing that which is of equal benefit to the poor and to the rich, which neglected will be of equal detriment to young and to old. It remains, that I conduct and comfort myself by these principles; your sight is not so piercing as that of Lynceus; you will not however therefore despise being anointed, if you are sore-eyed: nor because you despair of the muscles of the invincible Glycon, will you be careless of preserving your body from the knotty gout. There is some point to which we may reach, if we can go no further. Does your heart burn with avarice, and a wretched desire of more? Spells there are, and incantations, with which you may mitigate this pain, and rid yourself of a great part of the distemper. Do you swell with the love of praise? There are certain purgations which can restore you, a certain treatise, being perused thrice with purity of mind. The envious, the choleric, the indolent, the slave to wine, to women — none is so savage that he can not be tamed, if he will only lend a patient ear to discipline.
It is virtue, to fly vice; and the highest wisdom, to have lived free from folly. You see with what toil of mind and body you avoid those things which you believe to be the greatest evils, a small fortune and a shameful repulse. An active merchant, you run to the remotest Indies, fleeing poverty through sea, through rocks, through flames. And will you not learn, and hear, and be advised by one who is wiser, that you may no longer regard those things which you foolishly admire and wish for? What little champion of the villages and of the streets would scorn being crowned at the great Olympic games, who had the hopes and happy opportunity of victory without toil? Silver is less valuable than gold, gold than virtue. “O citizens, citizens, money is to be sought first; virtue after riches:” this the highest Janus from the lowest inculcates; young men and old repeat these maxims, having their bags and account-books hung on the left arm. You have soul, have breeding, have eloquence and honor: yet if six or seven thousand sesterces be wanting to complete your four hundred thousand, you shall be a plebeian. But boys at play cry, “You shall be king, if you will do right.” Let this be a [man’s] brazen wall, to be conscious of no ill, to turn pale with no guilt. Tell me, pray is the Roscian law best, or the boy’s song which offers the kingdom to them that do right, sung by the manly Curii and Camilli? Does he advise you best, who says, “Make a fortune; a fortune, if you can, honestly; if not, a fortune by any means”— that you may view from a nearer bench the tear-moving poems of Puppius; or he, who still animates and enables you to stand free and upright, a match for haughty fortune?
If now perchance the Roman people should ask me, why I do not enjoy the same sentiments with them, as [I do the same] porticoes, nor pursue or fly from whatever they admire or dislike; I will reply, as the cautious fox once answered the sick lion: “Because the foot-marks all looking toward you, and none from you, affright me.” Thou art a monster with many heads. For what shall I follow, or whom? One set of men delight to farm the public revenues: there are some, who would inveigle covetous widows with sweet-meats and fruits, and insnare old men, whom they would send [like fish] into their ponds: the fortunes of many grow by concealed usury. But be it, that different men are engaged in different employments and pursuits: can the same persons continue an hour together approving the same things? If the man of wealth has said, “No bay in the world outshines delightful Baiae,” the lake and the sea presently feel the eagerness of their impetuous master: to whom, if a vicious humor gives the omen, [he will cry,]—“tomorrow, workmen, ye shall convey hence your tools to Teanum.” Has he in his hall the genial bed? He says nothing is preferable to, nothing better than a single life. If he has not, he swears the married only are happy. With what noose can I hold this Proteus, varying thus his forms? What does the poor man? Laugh [at him too]: is he not forever changing his garrets, beds, baths, barbers? He is as much surfeited in a hired boat, as the rich man is, whom his own galley conveys.
If I meet you with my hair cut by an uneven barber, you laugh [at me]: if I chance to have a ragged shirt under a handsome coat, or if my disproportioned gown fits me ill, you laugh. What [do you do], when my judgment contradicts itself? it despises what it before desired; seeks for that which lately it neglected; is all in a ferment, and is inconsistent in the whole tenor of life; pulls down, builds up, changes square to round. In this case, you think I am mad in the common way, and you do not laugh, nor believe that I stand in need of a physician, or of a guardian assigned by the praetor; though you are the patron of my affairs, and are disgusted at the ill-pared nail of a friend that depends upon you, that reveres you.
In a word, the wise man is inferior to Jupiter alone, is rich, free, honorable, handsome, lastly, king of kings; above all, he is sound, unless when phlegm is troublesome.
He prefers Homer to all the philosophers, as a moral writer, and advises an early cultivation of virtue.
While you, great Lollius, declaim at Rome, I at Praeneste have perused over again the writer of the Trojan war; who teaches more clearly, and better than Chrysippus and Crantor, what is honorable, what shameful, what profitable, what not so. If nothing hinders you, hear why I have thus concluded. The story is which, on account of Paris’s intrigue, Greece is stated to be wasted in a tedious war with the barbarians, contains the tumults of foolish princes and people. Antenor gives his opinion for cutting off the cause of the war. What does Paris? He can not be brought to comply, [though it be in order] that he may reign safe, and live happy. Nestor labors to compose the differences between Achilles and Agamemnon: love inflames one; rage both in common. The Greeks suffer for what their princes act foolishly. Within the walls of Ilium, and without, enormities are committed by sedition, treachery, injustice, and lust, and rage.
Again, to show what virtue and what wisdom can do, he has propounded Ulysses an instructive pattern: who, having subdued Troy, wisely got an insight into the constitutions and customs of many nations; and, while for himself and his associates he is contriving a return, endured many hardships on the spacious sea, not to be sunk by all the waves of adversity. You are well acquainted with the songs of the Sirens, and Circe’s cups: of which, if he had foolishly and greedily drunk along with his attendants, he had been an ignominious and senseless slave under the command of a prostitute: he had lived a filthy dog, or a hog delighting in mire.
We are a mere number and born to consume the fruits of the earth; like Penelope’s suitors, useless drones; like Alcinous’ youth, employed above measure in pampering their bodies; whose glory was to sleep till mid-day, and to lull their cares to rest by the sound of the harp. Robbers rise by night, that they may cut men’s throats; and will not you awake to save yourself? But, if you will not when you are in health, you will be forced to take exercise when you are in a dropsy; and unless before day you call for a book with a light, unless you brace your mind with study and honest employments, you will be kept awake and tormented with envy or with love. For why do you hasten to remove things that hurt your eyes, but if any thing gnaws your mind, defer the time of curing it from year to year? He has half the deed done, who has made a beginning. Boldly undertake the study of true wisdom: begin it forthwith. He who postpones the hour of living well, like the hind [in the fable], waits till [all the water in] the river be run off: whereas it flows, and will flow, ever rolling on.
Money is sought, and a wife fruitful in bearing children, and wild woodlands are reclaimed by the plow. [To what end all this?] He, that has got a competency, let him wish for no more. Not a house and farm, nor a heap of brass and gold, can remove fevers from the body of their sick master, or cares from his mind. The possessor must be well, if he thinks of enjoying the things which he has accumulated. To him that is a slave to desire or to fear, house and estate do just as much good as paintings to a sore-eyed person, fomentations to the gout, music to ears afflicted with collected matter. Unless the vessel be sweet, whatever you pour into it turns sour. Despise pleasures, pleasure bought with pain is hurtful. The covetous man is ever in want; set a certain limit to your wishes. The envious person wastes at the thriving condition of another: Sicilian tyrants never invented a greater torment than envy. He who will not curb his passion, will wish that undone which his grief and resentment suggested, while he violently plies his revenge with unsated rancor. Rage is a short madness. Rule your passion, which commands, if it do not obey; do you restrain it with a bridle, and with fetters. The groom forms the docile horse, while his neck is yet tender, to go the way which his rider directs him: the young hound, from the time that he barked at the deer’s skin in the hall, campaigns it in the woods. Now, while you are young, with an untainted mind Imbibe instruction: now apply yourself to the best [masters of morality]. A cask will long preserve the flavor, with which when new it was once impregnated. But if you lag behind, or vigorously push on before, I neither wait for the loiterer, nor strive to overtake those that precede me.
After inquiring about Claudius Tiberius Nero, and some of his friends, he exhorts Florus to the study of philosophy.
I long to know, Julius Florus, in what regions of the earth Claudius, the step-son of Augustus, is waging war. Do Thrace and Hebrus, bound with icy chains, or the narrow sea running between the neighboring towers, or Asia’s fertile plains and hills detain you? What works is the studious train planning? In this too I am anxious — who takes upon himself to write the military achievements of Augustus? Who diffuses into distant ages his deeds in war and peace? What is Titius about, who shortly will be celebrated by every Roman tongue; who dreaded not to drink of the Pindaric spring, daring to disdain common waters and open streams: how does he do? How mindful is he of me? Does he employ himself to adapt Theban measures to the Latin lyre, under the direction of his muse? Or does he storm and swell in the pompous style of traffic art? What is my Celsus doing? He has been advised, and the advice is still often to be repeated, to acquire stock of his own, and forbear to touch whatever writings the Palatine Apollo has received: lest, if it chance that the flock of birds should some time or other come to demand their feathers, he, like the daw stripped of his stolen colors, be exposed to ridicule. What do you yourself undertake? What thyme are you busy hovering about? Your genius is not small, is not uncultivated nor inelegantly rough. Whether you edge your tongue for [pleading] causes, or whether you prepare to give counsel in the civil law, or whether you compose some lovely poem; you will bear off the first prize of the victorious ivy. If now you could quit the cold fomentations of care; whithersoever heavenly wisdom would lead you, you would go. Let us, both small and great, push forward in this work, in this pursuit: if to our country, if to ourselves we would live dear.
You must also write me word of this, whether Munatiua is of as much concern to you as he ought to be? Or whether the ill-patched reconciliation in vain closes, and is rent asunder again? But, whether hot blood, or inexperience in things, exasperates you, wild as coursers with unsubdued neck, in whatever place you live, too worthy to break the fraternal bond, a devoted heifer is feeding against your return.
He declares his accomplishments; and, after proposing the thought of death, converts it into an occasion of pleasantry.
Albius, thou candid critic of my discourses, what shall I say you are now doing in the country about Pedum? Writing what may excel the works of Cassius Parmensis; or sauntering silently among the healthful groves, concerning yourself about every thing worthy a wise and good man? You were not a body without a mind. The gods have given you a beautiful form, the gods [have given] you wealth, and the faculty of enjoying it.
What greater blessing could a nurse solicit for her beloved child, than that he might be wise, and able to express his sentiments; and that respect, reputation, health might happen to him in abundance, and decent living, with a never-failing purse?
In the midst of hope and care, in the midst of fears and disquietudes, think every day that shines upon you is the last. [Thus] the hour, which shall not be expected, will come upon you an agreeable addition.
When you have a mind to laugh, you shall see me fat and sleek with good keeping, a hog of Epicurus’ herd.
He invites him to a frugal entertainment, but a cleanly and cheerful one.
If you can repose yourself as my guest upon Archias’ couches, and are not afraid to make a whole meal on all sorts of herbs from a moderate dish; I will expect you, Torquatus, at my house about sun set. You shall drink wine poured into the vessel in the second consulship of Taurus, produced between the fenny Minturnae and Petrinum of Sinuessa. If you have any thing better, send for it; or bring your commands. Bright shines my hearth, and my furniture is clean for you already. Dismiss airy hopes, and contests about riches, and Moschus’ cause. To-morrow, a festal day on account of Caesar’s birth, admits of indulgence and repose. We shall have free liberty to prolong the summer evening with friendly conversation. To what purpose have I fortune, if I may not use it? He that is sparing out of regard to his heir, and too niggardly, is next neighbor to a madman. I will begin to drink and scatter flowers, and I will endure even to be accounted foolish. What does not wine freely drunken enterprise? It discloses secrets; commands our hopes to be ratified; pushes the dastard on to the fight; removes the pressure from troubled minds; teaches the arts. Whom have not plentiful cups made eloquent? Whom have they not [made] free and easy under pinching poverty?
I, who am both the proper person and not unwilling, am charged to take care of these matters; that no dirty covering on the couch, no foul napkin contract your nose into wrinkles; and that the cup and the dish may show you to yourself; that there be no one to carry abroad what is said among faithful friends; that equals may meet and be joined with equals I will add to you Butra, and Septicius, and Sabinus, unless a better entertainment and a mistress more agreeable detain him. There is room also for many introductions: but goaty ramminess is offensive in over-crowded companies.
Do you write word, what number you would be; and setting aside business, through the back-door give the slip to your client who keeps guard in your court.
That a wise man is in love with nothing but virtue.
To admire nothing is almost the one and only thing, Numicius, which can make and keep a man happy. There are who view this sun, and the stars, and the seasons retiring at certain periods, untainted with any fear. What do you think of the gifts of the earth? What of the sea, that enriches the remote Arabians and Indians? What of scenical shows, the applause and favors of the kind Roman? In what manner do you think they are to be looked upon, with what apprehensions and countenance? He that dreads the reverse of these, admires them almost in the same way as he that desires them; fear alike disturbs both ways: an unforeseen turn of things equally terrifies each of them: let a man rejoice or grieve, desire or fear; what matters it — if, whatever he perceives better or worse than his expectations, with downcast look he be stupefied in mind and body? Let the wise man bear the name of fool, the just of unjust; if he pursue virtue itself beyond proper bounds.
Go now, look with transport upon silver, and antique marble, and brazen statues, and the arts: admire gems, and Tyrian dyes: rejoice, that a thousand eyes are fixed upon you while you speak: industrious repair early to the forum, late to your house, that Mutus may not reap more grain [than you] from his lands gained in dowry, and (unbecoming, since he sprung from meaner parents) that he may not be an object of admiration to you rather than you to him. Whatever is in the earth, time will bring forth into open day light; will bury and hide things, that now shine brightest. When Agrippa’s portico, and the Appian way, shall have beheld you well known; still it remains for you to go where Numa and Ancus are arrived. If your side or your reins are afflicted with an acute disease, seek a remedy from the disease. Would you live happily? Who would not? If virtue alone can confer this, discarding pleasures, strenuously pursue it. Do you think virtue mere words, as a grove is trees? Be it your care that no other enter the port before you; that you lose not your traffic with Cibyra, with Bithynia. Let the round sum of a thousand talents be completed; as many more; further, let a third thousand succeed, and the part which may square the heap. For why, sovereign money gives a wife with a [large] portion, and credit, and friends, and family, and beauty; and [the goddesses], Persuasion and Venus, graced the well-moneyed man. The king of the Cappadocians, rich in slaves, is in want of coin; be not you like him. Lucullus, as they say, being asked if he could lend a hundred cloaks for the stage, “How can I so many?” said he: “yet I will see, and send as many as I have;” a little after he writes that he had five thousand cloaks in his house; they might take part of them, or all. It is a scanty house, where there are not many things superfluous, and which escape the owner’s notice, and are the gain of pilfering slaves. If then wealth alone can make and keep a man happy, be first in beginning this work, be last in leaving it off. If appearances and popularity make a man fortunate, let as purchase a slave to dictate [to us] the names [of the citizens], to jog us on the left-side, and to make us stretch our hand over obstacles: “This man has much interest in the Fabian, that in the Veline tribe; this will give the fasces to any one, and, indefatigably active, snatch the curule ivory from whom he pleases; add [the names of] father, brother: according as the age of each is, so courteously adopt him. If he who feasts well, lives well; it is day, let us go whither our appetite leads us: let us fish, let us hunt, as did some time Gargilius: who ordered his toils, hunting-spears, slaves, early in the morning to pass through the crowded forum and the people: that one mule among many, in the sight of the people, might return loaded with a boar purchased with money. Let us bathe with an indigested and full-swollen stomach, forgetting what is becoming, what not; deserving to be enrolled among the citizens of Caere; like the depraved crew of Ulysses of Ithaca, to whom forbidden pleasure was dearer than their country. If, as Mimnermus thinks, nothing is pleasant without love and mirth, live in love and mirth.
Live: be happy. If you know of any thing preferable to these maxims, candidly communicate it: if not, with me make use of these.
He apologizes to Maecenas for his long absence from Rome; and acknowledges his favors to him in such a manner as to declare liberty preferable to all other blessings.
Having promised you that I would be in the country but five days, false to my word, I am absent the whole of August. But, if you would have me live sound and in perfect health, the indulgence which you grant me, Maecenas, when I am ill, you will grant me [also] when I am afraid of being ill: while [the time of] the first figs, and the [autumnal] heat graces the undertaker with his black attendants; while every father and mother turn pale with fear for their children; and while over-acted diligence, and attendance at the forum, bring on fevers and unseal wills. But, if the winter shall scatter snow upon the Alban fields, your poet will go down to the seaside, and be careful of himself, and read bundled up; you, dear friend, he will revisit with the zephyrs, if you will give him leave, and with the first swallow.
You have made me rich, not in the manner in which the Calabrian host bids [his guest] eat of his pears. “Eat, pray, sir.” “I have had enough.” “But take away with you what quantity you will.” “You are very kind.” “You will carry them no disagreeable presents to your little children.” “I am as much obliged by your offer, as if I were sent away loaded.” “As you please: you leave them to be devoured today by the hogs.” The prodigal and fool gives away what he despises and hates; the reaping of favors like these has produced, and ever will produce, ungrateful men. A good and wise man professes himself ready to do kindness to the deserving; and yet is not ignorant, how true coins differ from lupines. I will also show myself deserving of the honor of being grateful. But if you would not have me depart any whither, you must restore my vigorous constitution, the black locks [that grew] on my narrow forehead: you must restore to me the power of talking pleasantly: you must restore to me the art of laughing with becoming ease, and whining over my liquor at the jilting of the wanton Cynara.
A thin field-mouse had by chance crept through a narrow cranny into a chest of grain; and, having feasted itself, in vain attempted to come out again, with its body now stuffed full. To which a weasel at a distance cries, “If you would escape thence, repair lean to the narrow hole which you entered lean.” If I be addressed with this similitude, I resign all; neither do I, sated with delicacies, cry up the calm repose of the vulgar, nor would I change my liberty and ease for the riches of the Arabians. You have often commended me for being modest; when present you heard [from me the appellations of] king and father, nor am I a word more sparing in your absence. Try whether I can cheerfully restore what you have given me. Not amiss [answered] Telemachus, son of the patient Ulysses: “The country of Ithaca is not proper for horses, as being neither extended into champaign fields, nor abounding with much grass: Atrides, I will leave behind me your gifts, [which are] more proper for yourself.” Small things best suit the small. No longer does imperial Rome please me, but unfrequented Tibur, and unwarlike Tarentum.
Philip, active and strong, and famed for pleading causes, while returning from his employment about the eighth hour, and now of a great age, complaining that the Carinae were too far distant from the forum; spied, as they say, a person clean shaven in a barber’s empty shed, composedly paring his own nails with a knife. “Demetrius,” [says he,] (this slave dexterously received his master’s orders,) “go inquire, and bring me word from what house, who he is, of what fortune, who is his father, or who is his patron.” He goes, returns, and relates, that “he is by name, Vulteius Maena, an auctioneer, of small fortune, of a character perfectly unexceptionable, that he could upon occasion ply busily, and take his ease, and get, and spend; delighting in humble companions and a settled dwelling, and (after business ended) in the shows, and the Campus Martius.”
“I would inquire of him himself all this, which you report; bid him come to sup with me.” Maena can not believe it; he wonders silently within himself. Why many words? He answers, “It is kind.” “Can he deny me?” “The rascal denies, and disregards or dreads you.” In the morning Philip comes unawares upon Vulteius, as he is selling brokery-goods to the tunic’d populace, and salutes him first. He pleads to Philip his employment, and the confinement of his business, in excuse for not having waited upon him in the morning; and afterward, for not seeing him first. “Expect that I will excuse you on this condition, that you sup with me today.” “As you please.” “Then you will come after the ninth hour: now go: strenuously increase your stock.” When they were come to supper, having discoursed of things of a public and private nature, at length he is dismissed to go to sleep. When he had often been seen, to repair like a fish to the concealed hook, in the morning a client, and now as a constant guest; he is desired to accompany [Philip] to his country-seat near the city, at the proclaiming of the Latin festivals. Mounted on horseback, he ceases not to cry up the Sabine fields and air. Philip sees it, and smiles: and, while he is seeking amusement and diversion for himself out of every thing, while he makes him a present of seven thousand sesterces, and promises to lend him seven thousand more: he persuades him to purchase a farm: he purchases one. That I may not detain you with a long story beyond what is necessary, from a smart cit he becomes a downright rustic, and prates of nothing but furrows and vineyards; prepares his elms; is ready to die with eager diligence, and grows old through a passionate desire of possessing. But when his sheep were lost by theft, his goats by distemper, his harvest deceived his hopes, his ox was killed with plowing; fretted with these losses, at midnight he snatches his nag, and in a passion makes his way to Philip’s house. Whom as soon as Philip beheld, rough and unshaven, “Vulteius,” said he, “you seem to me to be too laborious and earnest.” “In truth, patron,” replied he, “you would call me a wretch, if you would apply to me my true name. I beseech and conjure you then, by your genius and your right hand and your household gods, restore me to my former life.” As soon as a man perceives, how much the things he has discarded excel those which he pursues, let him return in time, and resume those which he relinquished.
It is a truth, that every one ought to measure himself by his own proper foot and standard.
That he was neither well in body, nor in mind; that Celtics should bear his prosperity with moderation.
My muse at my request, give joy and wish success to Celsus Albinovanus, the attendant and the secretary of Nero. If he shall inquire, what I am doing, say that I, though promising many and fine things, yet live neither well [according to the rules of strict philosophy], nor agreeably; not because the hail has crushed my vines, and the heat has nipped my olives; nor because my herds are distempered in distant pastures; but because, less sound in my mind than in my whole body, I will hear nothing, learn nothing which may relieve me, diseased as I am; that I am displeased with my faithful physicians, am angry with my friends for being industrious to rouse me from a fatal lethargy; that I pursue things which have done me hurt, avoid things which I am persuaded would be of service, inconstant as the wind, at Rome am in love with Tibur, at Tibur with Rome. After this, inquire how he does; how he manages his business and himself; how he pleases the young prince and his attendants. If he shall say, well; first congratulate him, then remember to whisper this admonition in his ears: As you, Celsus, bear your fortunes, so will we bear you.
He recommends Septimius to him.
Of all the men in the world Septimius surely, O Claudius, knows how much regard you have for me. For when he requests, and by his entreaties in a manner compels me, to undertake to recommend and introduce him to you, as one worthy of the confidence and the household of Nero, who is wont to choose deserving objects, thinking I discharge the office of an intimate friend; he sees and knows better than myself what I can do. I said a great deal, indeed, in order that I might come off excused: but I was afraid, lest I should be suspected to pretend my interest was less than it is, to be a dissembler of my own power, and ready to serve myself alone. So, avoiding the reproach of a greater fault, I have put in for the prize of town-bred confidence. If then you approve of modesty being superseded at the pressing entreaties of a friend, enrol this person among your retinue, and believe him to be brave and good.
He praises a country before a city life, as more agreeable to nature, and more friendly to liberty.
We, who love the country, salute Fuscus that loves the town; in this point alone [being] much unlike, but in other things almost twins, of brotherly sentiments: whatever one denies the other too [denies]; we assent together: like old and constant doves, you keep the nest; I praise the rivulets, the rocks overgrown with moss, and the groves of the delightful country. Do you ask why? I live and reign, as soon as I have quitted those things which you extol to the skies with joyful applause. And, like a priest’s, fugitive slave I reject luscious wafers, I desire plain bread, which is more agreeable now than honied cakes.
If we must live suitably to nature, and a plot of ground is to be first sought to raise a house upon, do you know any place preferable to the blissful country? Is there any spot where the winters are more temperate? where a more agreeable breeze moderates the rage of the Dog-star, and the season of the Lion, when once that furious sign has received the scorching sun? Is there a place where envious care less disturbs our slumbers? Is the grass inferior in smell or beauty to the Libyan pebbles? Is the water, which strives to burst the lead in the streets, purer than that which trembles in murmurs down its sloping channel? Why, trees are nursed along the variegated columns [of the city]; and that house is commended, which has a prospect of distant fields. You may drive out nature with a fork, yet still she will return, and, insensibly victorious, will break through [men’s] improper disgusts.
Not he who is unable to compare the fleeces that drink up the dye of Aquinum with the Sidonian purple, will receive a more certain damage and nearer to his marrow, than he who shall not be able to distinguish false from true. He who has been overjoyed by prosperity, will be shocked by a change of circumstances. If you admire any thing [greatly], you will be unwilling to resign it. Avoid great things; under a mean roof one may outstrip kings, and the favorites of kings, in one’s life.
The stag, superior in fight, drove the horse from the common pasture, till the latter, worsted in the long contest, implored the aid of man and received the bridle; but after he had parted an exulting conqueror from his enemy, he could not shake the rider from his back, nor the bit from his mouth. So he who, afraid of poverty, forfeits his liberty, more valuable than mines, avaricious wretch, shall carry a master, and shall eternally be a slave, for not knowing how to use a little. When a man’s condition does not suit him, it will be as a shoe at any time; which, if too big for his foot, will throw him down; if too little, will pinch him. [If you are] cheerful under your lot, Aristius, you will live wisely; nor shall you let me go uncorrected, if I appear to scrape together more than enough and not have done. Accumulated money is the master or slave of each owner, and ought rather to follow than to lead the twisted rope.
These I dictated to thee behind the moldering temple of Vacuna; in all other things happy, except that thou wast not with me.
Endeavoring to recall him back to Rome from Asia, whither he had retreated through his weariness of the civil wars, he advises him to ease the disquietude of his mind not by the length of his journey, but by forming his mind into a right disposition.
What, Bullatius, do you think of Chios, and of celebrated Lesbos? What of neat Samos? What of Sardis, the royal residence of Croesus? What of Smyrna, and Colophon? Are they greater or less than their fame? Are they all contemptible in comparison of the Campus Martius and the river Tiber? Does one of Attalus’ cities enter into your wish? Or do you admire Lebedus, through a surfeit of the sea and of traveling? You know what Lebedus is; it is a more unfrequented town than Gabii and Fidenae; yet there would I be willing to live; and, forgetful of my friends and forgotten by them, view from land Neptune raging at a distance. But neither he who comes to Rome from Capua, bespattered with rain and mire, would wish to live in an inn; nor does he, who has contracted a cold, cry up stoves and bagnios as completely furnishing a happy life: nor, if the violent south wind has tossed you in the deep, will you therefore sell your ship on the other side of the Aegean Sea. On a man sound in mind Rhodes and beautiful Mitylene have such an effect, as a thick cloak at the summer solstice, thin drawers in snowy weather, [bathing in] the Tiber in winter, a fire in the month of August. While it is permitted, and fortune preserves a benign aspect, let absent Samos, and Chios, and Rhodes, be commended by you here at Rome. Whatever prosperous; hour Providence bestows upon you, receive it with a thankful hand: and defer not [the enjoyment of] the comforts of life, till a year be at an end; that in whatever place you are, you may say you have lived with satisfaction. For if reason and discretion, not a place that commands a prospect of the wide-extended sea, remove our cares; they change their climate, not their disposition, who run beyond the sea: a busy idleness harrasses us: by ships and by chariots we seek to live happily. What you seek is here [at home], is at Ulubrae, if a just temper of mind is not wanting to you.
Leader the appearance of praising the man’s parsimony, he archly ridicules it; introduces Grosphus to him, and concludes with a few articles of news concerning the Roman affairs.
O Iccius, if you rightly enjoy the Sicilian products, which you collect for Agrippa, it is not possible that greater affluence can be given you by Jove. Away with complaints! for that man is by no means poor, who has the use or everything, he wants. If it is well with your belly, your back, and your feet, regal wealth can add nothing greater. If perchance abstemious amid profusion you live upon salad and shell-fish, you will continue to live in such a manner, even if presently fortune shall flow upon you in a river of gold; either because money can not change the natural disposition, or because it is your opinion that all things are inferior to virtue alone. Can we wonder that cattle feed upon the meadows and corn-fields of Democritus, while his active soul is abroad [traveling] without his body? When you, amid such great impurity and infection of profit, have no taste for any thing trivial, but still mind [only] sublime things: what causes restrain the sea, what rules the year, whether the stars spontaneously or by direction wander about and are erratic, what throws obscurity on the moon, and what brings out her orb, what is the intention and power of the jarring harmony of things, whether Empedocles or the clever Stertinius be in the wrong.
However, whether you murder fishes, or onions and garlic, receive Pompeius Grosphus; and, if he asks any favor, grant it him frankly: Grosphus will desire nothing but what is right and just. The proceeds of friendship are cheap, when good men want any thing.
But that you may not be ignorant in what situation the Roman affairs are; the Cantabrians have fallen by the valor of Agrippa, the Armenians by that of Claudius Nero: Phraates has, suppliant on his knees, admitted the laws and power of Caesar. Golden plenty has poured out the fruits of Italy from a full horn.
Horace cautions him to present his poems to Augustus at a proper opportunity, and with due decorum.
As on your setting out I frequently and fully gave you instructions, Vinnius, that you would present these volumes to Augustus sealed up if he shall be in health, if in spirits, finally, if he shall ask for them: do not offend out of zeal to me, and industriously bring an odium upon my books [by being] an agent of violent officiousness. If haply the heavy load of my paper should gall you, cast it from you, rather than throw down your pack in a rough manner where you are directed to carry it, and turn your paternal name of Asina into a jest, and make yourself a common story. Make use of your vigor over the hills, the rivers, and the fens. As soon as you have achieved your enterprise, and arrived there, you must keep your burden in this position; lest you happen to carry my bundle of books under your arm, as a clown does a lamb, or as drunken Pyrrhia [in the play does] the balls of pilfered wool, or as a tribe-guest his slippers with his fuddling-cap. You must not tell publicly, how you sweated with carrying those verses, which may detain the eyes and ears of Caesar. Solicited with much entreaty, do your best. Finally, get you gone, farewell: take care you do not stumble, and break my orders.
He upbraids his levity for contemning a country life, which had been his choice, and being eager to return to Rome.
Steward of my woodlands and little farm that restores me to myself, which you despise, [though formerly] inhabited by five families, and wont to send five good senators to Varia: let us try, whether I with more fortitude pluck the thorns out of my mind, or you out of my ground: and whether Horace or his estate be in a better condition.
Though my affection and solicitude for Lamia, mourning for his brother, lamenting inconsolably for his brother’s loss, detain me; nevertheless my heart and soul carry me thither and long to break through those barriers that obstruct my way. I pronounce him the happy man who dwells in the country, you him [who lives] in the city. He to whom his neighbor’s lot is agreeable, must of consequence dislike his own. Each of us is a fool for unjustly blaming the innocent place. The mind is in fault, which never escapes from itself. When you were a drudge at every one’s beck, you tacitly prayed for the country: and now, [being appointed] my steward, you wish for the city, the shows, and the baths. You know I am consistent with myself, and loth to go, whenever disagreeable business drags me to Rome. We are not admirers of the same things: henoe you and I disagree. For what you reckon desert and inhospitable wilds, he who is of my way of thinking calls delightful places; and dislikes what you esteem pleasant. The bagnio, I perceive, and the greasy tavern raise your inclination for the city: and this, because my little spot will sooner yield frankincense and pepper than grapes; nor is there a tavern near, which can supply you with wine; nor a minstrel harlot, to whose thrumming you may dance, cumbersome to the ground: and yet you exercise with plowshares the fallows that have been a long while untouched, you take due care of the ox when unyoked, and give him his fill with leaves stripped [from the boughs]. The sluice gives an additional trouble to an idle fellow, which, if a shower fall, must be taught by many a mound to spare the sunny meadow.
Come now, attend to what hinders our agreeing. [Me,] whom fine garments and dressed locks adorned, whom you know to have pleased venal Cynara without a present, whom [you have seen] quaff flowing Falernian from noon — a short supper [now] delights, and a nap upon the green turf by the stream side; nor is it a shame to have been gay, but not to break off that gayety. There there is no one who reduces my possessions with envious eye, nor poisons them with obscure malice and biting slander; the neighbors smile at me removing clods and stones. You had rather be munching your daily allowance with the slaves in town; you earnestly pray to be of the number of these: [while my] cunning foot-boy envies you the use of the firing, the flocks and the garden. The lazy ox wishes for the horse’s trappings: the horse wishes to go to plow. But I shall be of opinion, that each of them ought contentedly to exercise that art which he understands.
Preparing to go to the baths either at Velia or Salernum, he inquires after the healthfulness and agreeableness of the places.
It is your part, Vala, to write to me (and mine to give credit to your information) what sort of a winter is it at Velia, what the air at Salernum, what kind of inhabitants the country consists of, and how the road is (for Antonius Musa [pronounces] Baiae to be of no service to me; yet makes me obnoxious to the place, when I am bathed in cold water even in the midst of the frost [by his prescription]. In truth the village murmers at their myrtle-groves being deserted and the sulphurous waters, said to expel lingering disorders from the nerves, despised; envying those invalids, who have the courage to expose their head and breast to the Clusian springs, and retire to Gabii and [such] cold countries. My course must be altered, and my horse driven beyond his accustomed stages. Whither are you going? will the angry rider say, pulling in the left-hand rein, I am not bound for Cumae or Baiae:— but the horse’s ear is in the bit.) [You must inform me likewise] which of the two people is supported by the greatest abundance of corn; whether they drink rainwater collected [in reservoirs], or from perennial wells of never-failing water (for as to the wine of that part I give myself no trouble; at my country-seat I can dispense and bear with any thing: but when I have arrived at a sea-port, I insist upon that which is generous and mellow, such as may drive away my cares, such as may flow into my veins and animal spirits with a rich supply of hope, such as may supply me with words, such as may make me appear young to my Lucanian mistress). Which tract of land produces most hares, which boars: which seas harbor the most fishes and sea-urchins, that I may be able to return home thence in good case, and like a Phaeacian.
When Maenius, having bravely made away with his paternal and maternal estates, began to be accounted a merry fellow — a vagabond droll, who had no certain place of living; who, when dinnerless, could not distinguish a fellow-citizen from an enemy; unmerciful in forging any scandal against any person; the pest, and hurricane, and gulf of the market; whatever he could get, he gave to his greedy gut. This fellow, when he had extorted little or nothing from the favorers of his iniquity, or those that dreaded it, would eat up whole dishes of coarse tripe and lamb’s entrails; as much as would have sufficed three bears; then truly, [like] reformer Bestius, would he say, that the bellies of extravagant fellows ought to be branded with a red-hot iron. The same man [however], when he had reduced to smoke and ashes whatever more considerable booty he had gotten; ‘Faith, said he, I do not wonder if some persons eat up their estates; since nothing is better than a fat thrush, nothing finer than a lage sow’s paunch. In fact, I am just such another myself; for, when matters are a little deficient, I commend, the snug and homely fare, of sufficient resolution amid mean provisions; but, if any thing be offered better and more delicate, I, the same individual, cry out, that ye are wise and alone live well, whose wealth and estate are conspicuous from the elegance of your villas.
He describes to Quinctius the form, situation, and advantages of his country house: then declares that probity consists in the consciousness of good works; liberty, in probity.
Ask me not, my best Quinctius, whether my farm maintains its master with corn-fields, or enriches him with olives, or with fruits, or meadow land, or the elm tree clothed with vines: the shape and situation of my ground shall be described to you at large.
There is a continued range of mountains, except where they are separated by a shadowy vale; but in such a manner, that the approaching sun views it on the right side, and departing in his flying car warms the left. You would commend its temperature. What? If my [very] briers produce in abundance the ruddy cornels and damsens? If my oak and holm tree accommodate my cattle with plenty of acorns, and their master with a copious shade? You would say that Tarentum, brought nearer [to Rome], shone in its verdant beauty. A fountain too, deserving to give name to a river, insomuch that Hebrus does not surround Thrace more cool or more limpid, flows salubrious to the infirm head, salubrious to the bowels. These sweet, yea now (if you will credit me) these delightful retreats preserve me to you in a state of health [even] in the September season.
You live well, if you take care to support the character which you bear. Long ago, all Rome has proclaimed you happy: but I am apprehensive, lest you should give more credit concerning yourself to any one than yourself; and lest you should imagine a man happy, who differs from the wise and good; or, because the people pronounce you sound and perfectly well, lest you dissemble the lurking fever at meal-times, until a trembling seize your greased hands. The false modesty of fools conceals ulcers [rather than have them cured]. If any one should mention battles which you had fought by land and sea, and in such expressions as these should soothe your listening ears: “May Jupiter, who consults the safety both of you and of the city, keep it in doubt, whether the people be more solicitous for your welfare, or you for the people’s;” you might perceive these encomiums to belong [only] to Augustus when you suffer yourself to be termed a philosopher, and one of a refined life; say, pr’ythee, would you answer [to these appellations] in your own name? To be sure — I like to be called a wise and good man, as well as you. He who gave this character today, if he will, can take it away tomorrow: as the same people, if they have conferred the consulship on an unworthy person, may take it away from him: “Resign; it is ours,” they cry: I do resign it accordingly, and chagrined withdraw. Thus if they should call me rogue, deny me to be temperate, assert that I had strangled my own father with a halter; shall I be stung, and change color at these false reproaches? Whom does false honor delight, or lying calumny terrify, except the vicious and sickly-minded? Who then is a good man? He who observes the decrees of the senate, the laws and rules of justice; by whose arbitration many and important disputes are decided; by whose surety private property, and by whose testimony causes are safe. Yet [perhaps] his own family and all the neighborhood observe this man, specious in a fair outside, [to be] polluted within. If a slave should say to me, “I have not committed a robbery, nor run away:” “You have your reward; you are not galled with the lash,” I reply. “I have not killed any man:” “You shall not [therefore] feed the carrion crows on the cross.” I am a good man, and thrifty: your Sabine friend denies, and contradicts the fact. For the wary wolf dreads the pitfall, and the hawk the suspected snares, and the kite the concealed hook. The good, [on the contrary,] hate to sin from the love of virtue; you will commit no crime merely for the fear of punishment. Let there be a prospect of escaping, you will confound sacred and profane things together. For, when from a thousand bushels of beans you filch one, the loss in that case to me is less, but not your villainy. The honest man, whom every forum and every court of justice looks upon with reverence, whenever he makes an atonement to the gods with a wine or an ox; after he has pronounced in a clear distinguishable voice, “O father Janus, O Apollo;” moves his lips as one afraid of being heard; “O fair Laverna put it in my power to deceive; grant me the appearance of a just and upright man: throw a cloud of night over my frauds.” I do not see how a covetous man can be better, how more free than a slave, when he stoops down for the sake of a penny, stuck in the road [for sport]. For he who will be covetous, will also be anxious: but he that lives in a state of anxiety, will never in my estimation be free. He who is always in a hurry, and immersed in the study of augmenting his fortune, has lost the arms, and deserted the post of virtue. Do not kill your captive, if you can sell him: he will serve you advantageously: let him, being inured to drudgery, feed [your cattle], and plow; let him go to sea, and winter in the midst of the waves; let him be of use to the market, and import corn and provisions. A good and wise man will have courage to say, “Pentheus, king of Thebes, what indignities will you compel me to suffer and endure. ‘I will take away your goods:’ my cattle, I suppose, my land, my movables and money: you may take them. ‘I will confine you with handcuffs and fetters under a merciless jailer.’ The deity himself will discharge me, whenever I please.” In my opinion, this is his meaning; I will die. Death is the ultimate boundary of human matters.
That a life of business is preferable to a private and inactive one; the friendship of great men is a laudable acquisition, yet their favors are ever to be solicited with modesty and caution.
Though, Scaeva, you have sufficient prudence of your own, and well know how to demean yourself toward your superiors; [yet] hear what are the sentiments of your old crony, who himself still requires teaching, just as if a blind man should undertake to show the way: however see, if even I can advance any thing, which you may think worth your while to adopt as your own.
If pleasant rest, and sleep till seven o’clock, delight you; if dust and the rumbling of wheels, if the tavern offend you, I shall order you off for Ferentinum. For joys are not the property of the rich alone: nor has he lived ill, who at his birth and at his death has passed unnoticed. If you are disposed to be of service to your friends, and to treat yourself with somewhat more indulgence, you, being poor, must pay your respects to the great. Aristippus, if he could dine to his satisfaction on herbs, would never frequent [the tables] of the great. If he who blames me, [replies Aristippus,] knew how to live with the great, he would scorn his vegetables. Tell me, which maxim and conduct of the two you approve; or, since you are my junior, hear the reason why Aristippus’ opinion is preferable; for thus, as they report, he baffled the snarling cynic: “I play the buffoon for my own advantage, you [to please] the populace. This [conduct of mine] is better and far more honorable; that a horse may carry and a great man feed me, pay court to the great: you beg for refuse, an inferior to the [poor] giver; though you pretend you are in want of nothing.” As for Aristippus, every complexion of life, every station and circumstance sat gracefully upon him, aspiring in general to greater things, yet equal to the present: on the other hand, I shall be much surprised, if a contrary way of life should become [this cynic], whom obstinacy clothes with a double rag. The one will not wait for his purple robe; but dressed in any thing, will go through the most frequented places, and without awkwardness support either character: the other will shun the cloak wrought at Miletus with greater aversion than [the bite of] dog or viper; he will die with cold, unless you restore him his ragged garment; restore it, and let him live like a fool as he is. To perform exploits, and show the citizens their foes in chains, reaches the throne of Jupiter, and aims at celestial honors. To have been acceptable to the great, is not the last of praises. It is not every man’s lot to gain Corinth. He [prudently] sat still who was afraid lest he should not succeed: be it so; what then? Was it not bravely done by him, who carried his point? Either here therefore, or nowhere, is what we are investigating. The one dreads the burden, as too much for a pusillanimous soul and a weak constitution; the other under takes, and carries it through. Either virtue is an empty name, or the man who makes the experiment deservedly claims the honor and the reward.
Those who mention nothing of their poverty before their lord, will gain more than the importunate. There is a great difference between modestly accepting, or seizing by violence But this was the principle and source of every thing [which I alleged]. He who says, “My sister is without a portion, my mother poor, and my estate neither salable nor sufficient for my support,” cries out [in effect], “Give me a morsel of bread:” another whines, “And let the platter be carved out for me with half a share of the bounty.” But if the crow could have fed in silence, he would have had better fare, and much less of quarreling and of envy.
A companion taken [by his lord] to Brundusium, or the pleasant Surrentum, who complains of the ruggedness of the roads and the bitter cold and rains, or laments that his chest is broken open and his provisions stolen; resembles the well-known tricks of a harlot, weeping frequently for her necklace, frequently for a garter forcibly taken from her; so that at length no credit is given to her real griefs and losses. Nor does he, who has been once ridiculed in the streets, care to lift up a vagrant with a [pretended] broken leg; though abundant tears should flow from him; though, swearing by holy Osiris, he says, “Believe me, I do not impose upon you; O cruel, take up the lame.” “Seek out for a stranger,” cries the hoarse neighborhood.
He treats at large upon the cultivation of the favor of great men; and concludes with a few words concerning the acquirement of peace of mind.
If I rightly know your temper, most ingenuous Lollius, you will beware of imitating a flatterer, while you profess yourself a friend. As a matron is unlike and of a different aspect from a strumpet, so will a true friend differ from the toad-eater. There is an opposite vice to this, rather the greater [of the two]; a clownish, inelegant, and disagreeable bluntness, which would recommend itself by an unshaven face and black teeth; while it desires to be termed pure freedom and true sincerity. Virtue is the medium of the two vices; and equally remote from either. The one is over-prone to complaisance, and a jester of the lowest, couch, he so reverences the rich man’s nod, so repeats his speeches, and catches up his falling words; that you would take him for a school-boy saying his lesson to a rigid master, or a player acting an underpart; another often wrangles about a goat’s hair, and armed engages for any trifle: “That I, truly, should not have the first credit; and that I should not boldly speak aloud, what is my real sentiment —[upon such terms], another life would be of no value.” But what is the subject of this controversy? Why, whether [the gladiator] Castor or Dolichos be the cleverer fellow; whether the Minucian, or the Appian, be the better road to Brundusium.
Him whom pernicious lust, whom quick-dispatching dice strips, whom vanity dresses out and perfumes beyond his abilities, whom insatiable hunger and thirst after money, Whom a shame and aversion to poverty possess, his rich friend (though furnished with a half-score more vices) hates and abhors; or if he does not hate, governs him; and, like a pious mother, would have him more wise and virtuous than himself; and says what is nearly true: “My riches (think not to emulate me) admit of extravagance; your income is but small: a scanty gown becomes a prudent dependant: cease to vie with me.” Whomsoever Eutrapelus had a mind to punish, he presented with costly garments. For now [said he] happy in his fine clothes, he will assume new schemes and hopes; he will sleep till daylight; prefer a harlot to his honest-calling; run into debt; and at last become a gladiator, or drive a gardener’s hack for hire.
Do not you at any time pry into his secrets; and keep close what is intrusted to you, though put to the torture, by wine or passion. Neither commend your own inclinations, nor find fault with those of others; nor, when he is disposed to hunt, do you make verses. For by such means the amity of the twins Zethus and Amphion, broke off; till the lyre, disliked by the austere brother, was silent. Amphion is thought to have given way to his brother’s humors; so do you yield to the gentle dictates of your friend in power: as often as he leads forth his dogs into the fields and his cattle laden with Aetolian nets, arise and lay aside the peevishness of your unmannerly muse, that you may sup together on the delicious fare purchased by your labor; an exercise habitual to the manly Romans, of service to their fame and life and limbs: especially when you are in health, and are able either to excel the dog in swiftness, or the boar in strength. Add [to this], that there is no one who handles martial weapons more gracefully. You well know, with what acclamations of the spectators you sustain the combats in the Campus Marcius: in fine, as yet a boy, you endured a bloody campaign and the Cantabrian wars, beneath a commander, who is now replacing the standards [recovered] from the Parthian temples: and, if any thing is wanting, assigns it to the Roman arms. And that you may not withdraw yourself, and inexcusably be absent; though you are careful to do nothing out of measure, and moderation, yet you sometimes amuse yourself at your country-seat. The [mock] fleet divides the little boats [into two squadrons]: the Actian sea-fight is represented by boys under your direction in a hostile form: your brother is the foe, your lake the Adriatic; till rapid victory crowns the one or the other with her bays. Your patron, who will perceive that you come into his taste, will applaud your sports with both his hands.
Moreover, that I may advise you (if in aught you stand in need of an adviser), take great circumspection what you say to any man, and to whom. Avoid an inquisitive impertinent, for such a one is also a tattler, nor do open ears faithfully retain what is intrusted to them; and a word, once sent abroad, flies irrevocably.
Let no slave within the marble threshold of your honored friend inflame your heart; lest the owner of the beloved damsel gratify you with so trifling a present, or, mortifying [to your wishes], torment you [with a refusal].
Look over and over again [into the merits of] such a one, as you recommend; lest afterward the faults of others strike you with shame. We are sometimes imposed upon, and now and then introduce an unworthy person. Wherefore, once deceived, forbear to defend one who suffers by his own bad conduct; but protect one whom you entirely know, and with confidence guard him with your patronage, if false accusations attack him: who being bitten with the tooth of calumny, do you not perceive that the same danger is threatening you? For it is your own concern, when the adjoining wall is on fire: and flames neglected are wont to gain strength.
The attending of the levee of a friend in power seems delightful to the unexperienced; the experienced dreads it. Do you, while your vessel is in the main, ply your business, lest a changing gale bear you back again.
The melancholy hate the merry, and the jocose the melancholy; the volatile [dislike] the sedate, the indolent the stirring and vivacious: the quaffers of pure Falernian from midnight hate one who shirks his turn; notwithstanding you swear you are afraid of the fumes of wine by night. Dispel gloominess from your forehead: the modest man generally carries the look of a sullen one; the reserved, of a churl.
In every thing you must read and consult the learned, by what means you may be enabled to pass your life in an agreeable manner: that insatiable desire may not agitate and torment you, nor the fear and hope of things that are but of little account: whether learning acquires virtue, or nature bestows it? What lessens cares, what may endear you to yourself? What perfectly renders the temper calm; honor or enticing lucre, or a secret passage and the path of an unnoticed life?
For my part, as often as the cooling rivulet Digentia refreshes me (Digentia, of which Mandela drinks, a village wrinkled with cold); what, my friend, do you think are my sentiments, what do you imagine I pray for? Why, that my fortune may remain as it is now; or even [if it be something] less: and that I may live to myself, what remains of my time, if the gods will that aught do remain: that I may have a good store of books, and corn provided for the year; lest I fluctuate in suspense of each uncertain hour. But it is sufficient to sue Jove [for these externals], which he gives and takes away [at pleasure]; let him grant life, let him grant wealth: I myself will provide equanimity of temper.
He shows the folly of some persons who would imitate; and the envy of others who would censure him.
O learned Maecenas, if you believe old Gratinus, no verses which are written by water-drinkers can please, or be long-lived. Ever since Bacchus enlisted the brain-sick poets among the Satyrs and the Fauns, the sweet muses have usually smelt of wine in the morning. Homer, by his excessive praises of wine, is convicted as a booser: father Ennius himself never sallied forth to sing of arms, unless in drink. “I will condemn the sober to the bar and the prater’s bench, and deprive the abstemious of the power of singing.”
As soon as he gave out this edict, the poets did not cease to contend in midnight cups, and to smell of them by day. What! if any savage, by a stern countenance and bare feet, and the texture of a scanty gown, should imitate Cato; will he represent the virtue and morals of Cato? The tongue that imitated Timagenes was the destruction of the Moor, while he affected to be humorous, and attempted to seem eloquent. The example that is imitable in its faults, deceives [the ignorant]. Soh! if I was to grow up pale by accident, [these poetasters] would drink the blood-thinning cumin. O ye imitators, ye servile herd, how often your bustlings have stirred my bile, how often my mirth!
I was the original, who set my free footsteps upon the vacant sod; I trod not in the steps of others. He who depends upon himself, as leader, commands the swarm. I first showed to Italy the Parian iambics: following the numbers and spirit of Archilochus, but not his subject and style, which afflicted Lycambes. You must not, however, crown me with a more sparing wreath, because I was afraid to alter the measure and structure of his verse: for the manly Sappho governs her muse by the measures of Archilochus, so does Alcaeus; but differing from him in the materials and disposition [of his lines], neither does he seek for a father-inlaw whom he may defame with his fatal lampoons, nor does he tie a rope for his betrothed spouse in scandalous verse. Him too, never celebrated by any other tongue, I the Roman lyrist first made known. It delights me, as I bring out new productions, to be perused by the eyes, and held in the hands of the ingenuous.
Would you know why the ungrateful reader extols and is fond of many works at home, unjustly decries them without doors? I hunt not after the applause of the inconstant vulgar, at the expense of entertainments, and for the bribe of a worn-out colt: I am not an auditor of noble writers, nor a vindictive reciter, nor condescend to court the tribes and desks of the grammarians. Hence are these tears. If I say that “I am ashamed to repeat my worthless writings to crowded theatres, and give an air of consequence to trifles:” “You ridicule us,” says [one of them], “and you reserve those pieces for the ears of Jove: you are confident that it is you alone that can distill the poetic honey, beautiful in your own eyes.” At these words I am afraid to turn up my nose; and lest I should be torn by the acute nails of my adversary, “This place is disagreeable,” I cry out, “and I demand a prorogation of the contest.” For contest is wont to beget trembling emulation and strife, and strife cruel enmities and funereal war.
In vain he endeavors to retain his book, desirous of getting abroad; tells it what trouble it is to undergo, and imparts some things to be said of him to posterity.
You seem, my book, to look wistfully at Janus and Vertumnus; to the end that you may be set out for sale, neatly polished by the pumice-stone of the Sosii. You hate keys and seals, which are agreeable to a modest [volume]; you grieve that you are shown but to a few, and extol public places; though educated in another manner. Away with you, whither you are so solicitous of going down: there will be no returning for you, when you are once sent out. “Wretch that I am, what have I done? What did I want?”— you will say: when any one gives you ill treatment, and you know that you will be squeezed into small compass, as soon as the eager reader is satiated. But, if the augur be not prejudiced by resentment of your error, you shall be caressed at Rome [only] till your youth be passed. When, thumbed by the hands of the vulgar, you begin to grow dirty; either you shall in silence feed the grovelling book-worms, or you shall make your escape to Utica, or shall be sent bound to Ilerda. Your disregarded adviser shall then laugh [at you]: as he, who in a passion pushed his refractory ass over the precipice. For who would save [an ass] against his will? This too awaits you, that faltering dotage shall seize on you, to teach boys their rudiments in the skirts of the city. But when the abating warmth of the sun shall attract more ears, you shall tell them, that I was the son of a freedman, and extended my wings beyond my nest; so that, as much as you take away from my family, you may add to my merit: that I was in favor with the first men in the state, both in war and peace; of a short stature, gray before my time, calculated for sustaining heat, prone to passion, yet so as to be soon appeased. If any one should chance to inquire my age; let him know that I had completed four times eleven Decembers, in the year in which Lollius admitted Lepidus as his colleague.
He honors him with the highest compliments; then treats copiously of poetry, its origin, character, and excellence.
Since you alone support so many and such weighty concerns, defend Italy with your arms, adorn it by your virtue, reform it by your laws; I should offend, O Caesar, against the public interests, if I were to trespass upon your time with a long discourse.
Romulus, and father Bacchus, and Castor and Pollux, after great achievements, received into the temples of the gods, while they were improving the world and human nature, composing fierce dissensions, settling property, building cities, lamented that the esteem which they expected was not paid in proportion to their merits. He who crushed the dire Hydra, and subdued the renowned monsters by his forefated labor, found envy was to be tamed by death [alone]. For he burns by his very splendor, whose superiority is oppressive to the arts beneath him: after his decease, he shall be had in honor. On you, while present among us, we confer mature honors, and rear altars where your name is to be sworn by; confessing that nothing equal to you has hitherto risen, or will hereafter rise. But this your people, wise and just in one point (for preferring you to our own, you to the Grecian heroes), by no means estimate other things with like proportion and measure: and disdain and detest every thing, but what they see removed from earth and already gone by; such favorers are they of antiquity, as to assert that the Muses [themselves] upon Mount Alba, dictated the twelve tables, forbidding to trangress, which the decemviri ratified; the leagues of our kings concluded with the Gabii, or the rigid Sabines; the records of the pontifices, and the ancient volumes of the augurs.
If, because the most ancient writings of the Greeks are also the best, Roman authors are to be weighed in the same scale, there is no need we should say much: there is nothing hard in the inside of an olive, nothing [hard] in the outside of a nut. We are arrived at the highest pitch of success [in arts]: we paint, and sing, and wrestle more skillfully than the annointed Greeks. If length of time makes poems better, as it does wine, I would fain know how many years will stamp a value upon writings. A writer who died a hundred years ago, is he to be reckoned among the perfect and ancient, or among the mean and modern authors? Let some fixed period exclude all dispute. He is an old and good writer who completes a hundred years. What! one that died a month or a year later, among whom is he to be ranked? Among the old poets, or among those whom both the present age and posterity will disdainfully reject? He may fairly be placed among the ancients, who is younger either by a short month only, or even by a whole year. I take the advantage of this concession, and pull away by little and little, as [if they were] the hairs of a horse’s tail: and I take away a single one and then again another single one; till, like a tumbling heap, [my adversary], who has recourse to annals and estimates excellence by the year, and admires nothing but what Libitina has made sacred, falls to the ground.
Ennius the wise, the nervous, and (as our critics say) a second Homer, seems lightly to regard what becomes of his promises and Pythagorean dreams. Is not Naevius in people’s hands, and sticking almost fresh in their memory? So sacred is every ancient poem. As often as a debate arises, whether this poet or the other be preferable; Pacuvius bears away the character of a learned, Accius, of a lofty writer; Afranius’ gown is said to have fitted Menander; Plautus, to hurry after the pattern of the Sicilian Epicharmus; Caecilius, to excel in gravity, Terence in contrivance. These mighty Rome learns by heart, and these she views crowded in her narrow theater; these she esteems and accounts her poets from Livy the writer’s age down to our time. Sometimes the populace see right; sometimes they are wrong. If they admire and extol the ancient poets so as to prefer nothing before, to compare nothing with them, they err; if they think and allow that they express some things in an obsolete, most in a stiff, many in a careless manner; they both think sensibly, and agree with me, and determine with the assent of Jove himself. Not that I bear an ill-will against Livy’s epics, and would doom them to destruction, which I remember the severe Orbilius taught me when a boy; but they should seem correct, beautiful, and very little short of perfect, this I wonder at: among which if by chance a bright expression shines forth, and if one line or two [happen to be] somewhat terse and musical, this unreasonably carries off and sells the whole poem. I am disgusted that any thing should be found fault with, not because it is a lumpish composition or inelegant, but because it is modern; and that not a favorable allowance, but honor and rewards are demanded for the old writers. Should I scruple, whether or not Atta’s drama trod the saffron and flowers in a proper manner, almost all the fathers would cry out that modesty was lost; since I attempted to find fault with those pieces which the pathetic Aesopus, which the skillful Roscius acted: either because they esteem nothing right, but what has pleased themselves; or because they think it disgraceful to submit to their juniors, and to confess, now they are old, that what they learned when young is deserving only to be destroyed. Now he who extols Numa’s Salian hymn, and would alone seem to understand that which, as well as me, he is ignorant of, does not favor and applaud the buried geniuses, but attacks ours, enviously hating us moderns and every thing of ours. Whereas if novelty had been detested by the Greeks as much as by us, what at this time would there have been ancient? Or what what would there have been for common use to read and thumb, common to every body.
When first Greece, her wars being over, began to trifle, and through prosperity to glide into folly; she glowed with the love, one while of wrestlers, another while of horses; was fond of artificers in marble, or in ivory, or in brass; hung her looks and attention upon a picture; was delighted now with musicians, now with tragedians; as if an infant girl she sported under the nurse; soon cloyed, she abandoned what [before] she earnestly desired. What is there that pleases or is odious, which you may not think mutable? This effect had happy times of peace, and favorable gales [of fortune].
At Rome it was long pleasing and customary to be up early with open doors, to expound the laws to clients; to lay out money cautiously upon good securities: to hear the elder, and to tell the younger by what means their fortunes might increase and pernicious luxury be diminished. The inconstant people have changed their mind, and glow with a universal ardor for learning: young men and grave fathers sup crowned with leaves, and dictate poetry. I myself, who affirm that I write no verses, am found more false than the Parthians: and, awake before the sun is risen, I call for my pen and papers and desk. He that is ignorant of a ship is afraid to work a ship; none but he who has learned, dares administer [even] southern wood to the sick; physicians undertake what belongs to physicians; mechanics handle tools; but we, unlearned and learned, promiscuously write poems.
Yet how great advantages this error and this slight madness has, thus compute: the poet’s mind is not easily covetous; fond of verses, he studies this alone; he laughs at losses, flights of slaves, fires; he contrives no fraud against his partner, or his young ward; he lives on husks, and brown bread; though dastardly and unfit for war, he is useful at home, if you allow this, that great things may derive assistance from small ones. The poet fashions the child’s tender and lisping mouth, and turns his ear even at this time from obscene language; afterward also he forms his heart with friendly precepts, the corrector of his rudeness, and envy, and passion; he records virtuous actions, he instructs the rising age with approved examples, he comforts the indigent and the sick. Whence should the virgin, stranger to a husband, with the chaste boys, learn the solemn prayer, had not the muse given a poet? The chorus entreats the divine aid, and finds the gods propitious; sweet in learned prayer, they implore the waters of the heavens; avert diseases, drive off impending dangers, obtain both peace and years enriched with fruits. With song the gods above are appeased, with song the gods below.
Our ancient swains, stout and happy with a little, after the grain was laid up, regaling in a festival season their bodies and even their minds, patient of hardships through the hope of their ending, with their slaves and faithful wife, the partners of their labors, atoned with a hog [the goddess] Earth, with milk Silvanus, with flowers and wine the genius that reminds us of our short life. Invented by this custom, the Femminine licentiousness poured forth its rustic taunts in alternate stanzas; and this liberty, received down through revolving years, sported pleasingly; till at length the bitter raillery began to be turned into open rage, and threatening with impunity to stalk through reputable families. They, who suffered from its bloody tooth smarted with the pain; the unhurt likewise were concerned for the common condition: further also, a law and a penalty were enacted, which forbade that any one should be stigmatized in lampoon. Through fear of the bastinado, they were reduced to the necessity of changing their manner, and of praising and delighting.
Captive Greece took captive her fierce conqueror, and introduced her arts into rude Latium. Thus flowed off the rough Saturnian numbers, and delicacy expelled the rank venom: but for a long time there remained, and at this day remain traces of rusticity. For late [the Roman writer] applied his genius to the Grecian pages; and enjoying rest after the Punic wars, began to search what useful matter Sophocles, and Thespis, and Aeschylus afforded: he tried, too, if he could with dignity translate their works; and succeeded in pleasing himself, being by nature [of a genius] sublime and strong; for he breathes a spirit tragic enough, and dares successfully; but fears a blot, and thinks it disgraceful in his writings.
Comedy is believed to require the least pains, because it fetches its subjects from common life; but the less indulgence It meets with, the more labor it requires. See how Plautus supports the character of a lover under age, how that of a covetous father, how those of a cheating pimp: how Dossennus exceeds all measure in his voracious parasites; with how loose a sock he runs over the stage: for he is glad to put the money in his pocket, after this regardless whether his play stand or fall.
Him, whom glory in her airy car has brought upon the stage, the careless spectator dispirits, the attentive renders more diligent: so slight, so small a matter it is, which overturns or raises a mind covetous of praise! Adieu the ludicrous business [of dramatic writing], if applause denied brings me back meagre, bestowed [makes me] full of flesh and spirits.
This too frequently drives away and deters even an adventurous poet? that they who are in number more, in worth and rank inferior, unlearned and foolish, and (if the equestrian order dissents) ready to fall to blows, in the midst of the play, call for either a bear or boxers; for in these the mob delight. Nay, even all the pleasures of our knights is now transferred from the ear to the uncertain eye, and their vain amusements. The curtains are kept down for four hours or more, while troops of horse and companies of foot flee over the stage: next is dragged forward the fortune of kings, with their hands bound behind them; chariots, litters, carriages, ships hurry on; captive ivory, captive Corinth, is borne along. Democritus, if he were on earth, would laugh; whether a panther a different genus confused with the camel, or a white elephant attracted the eye of the crowd. He would view the people more attentively than the sports themselves, as affording him more strange sights than the actor: and for the writers, he would think they told their story to a deaf ass. For what voices are able to overbear the din with which our theatres resound? You would think the groves of Garganus, or the Tuscan Sea, was roaring; with so great noise are viewed the shows and contrivances, and foreign riches: with which the actor being daubed over, as soon as he appears upon the stage, each right hand encounters with the left. Has he said any thing yet? Nothing at all. What then pleases? The cloth imitating [the color of] violets, with the dye of Tarentum.
And, that you may not think I enviously praise those kinds of writing which I decline undertaking, when others handle them well: that poet to me seems able to walk upon an extended rope, who with his fictions grieves my soul, enrages, soothes, fills it with false terrors, as an enchanter; and sets me now in Thebes, now in Athens.
But of those too, who had rather trust themselves with a reader, than bear the disdain of an haughty spectator, use a little care; if you would fill with books [the library you have erected], an offering worthy of Apollo, and add an incentive to the poets, that with greater eagerness they may apply to verdant Helicon.
We poets, it is true (that I may hew down my own vineyards), often do ourselves many mischiefs, when we present a work to you while thoughtful or fatigued; when we are pained, if my friend has dared to find fault with one line; when, unasked, we read over again passages already repeated: when we lament that our labors do not appear, and war poems, spun out in a fine thread: when we hope the thing will come to this, that as soon as you are apprised we are penning verses, you will kindly of yourself send for us and secure us from want, and oblige us to write. But yet it is worth while to know, who shall be the priests of your virtue signalized in war and at home, which is not to be trusted to an unworthy poet. A favorite of king Alexander the Great was that Choerilus, who to his uncouth and ill-formed verses owed the many pieces he received of Philip’s royal coin. But, as ink when touched leaves behind it a mark and a blot, so writers as it were stain shining actions with foul poetry. That same king, who prodigally bought so dear so ridiculous a poem, by an edict forbade that any one beside Apelles should paint him, or that any other than Lysippus should mold brass for the likeness of the valiant Alexander. But should you call that faculty of his, so delicate in discerning other arts, to [judge of] books and of these gifts of the muses, you would swear he had been born in the gross air of the Boeotians. Yet neither do Virgil and Varius, your beloved poets, disgrace your judgment of them, and the presents which they have received with great honor to the donor; nor do the features of illustrious men appear more lively when expressed by statues of brass, than their manners and minds expressed by the works of a poet. Nor would I rather compose such tracts as these creeping on the ground, than record deeds of arms, and the situations of countries, and rivers, and forts reared upon mountains, and barbarous kingdoms, and wars brought to a conclusion through the whole world under your auspices, and the barriers that confine Janus the guardian of peace, and Rome treaded by the Parthians under your government, if I were but able to do as much as I could wish. But neither does your majesty admit of humble poetry, nor dares my modesty attempt a subject which my strength is unable to support. Yet officiousness foolishly disgusts the person whom it loves; especially when it recommends itself by numbers, and the art [of writing]. For one learns sooner, and more willingly remembers, that which a man derides, than that which he approves and venerates. I value not the zeal that gives me uneasiness; nor do I wish to be set out any where in wax with a face formed for the worse, nor to be celebrated in ill-composed verses; lest I blush, when presented with the gross gift; and, exposed in an open box along with my author, be conveyed into the street that sells frankincense, and spices, and pepper, and whatever is wrapped up in impertinent writings.
In apologizing for not having written to him, he shows that the well-ordering of life is of more importance than the composition of verses.
O Florus, faithful friend to the good and illustrious Nero, if by chance any one should offer to sell you a boy born at Tibur and Gabii, and should treat with you in this manner; “This [boy who is] both good-natured and well-favored from head to foot, shall become and be yours for eight thousand sesterces; a domestic slave, ready in his attendance at his master’s nod; initiated in the Greek language, of a capacity for any art; you may shape out any thing with [such] moist clay; besides, he will sing in an artless manner, but yet entertaining to one drinking. Lavish promises lessen credit, when any one cries up extravagantly the wares he has for sale, which he wants to put off. No emergency obliges me [to dispose of him]: though poor, I am in nobody’s debt. None of the chapmen would do this for you; nor should every body readily receive the same favor from me. Once, [in deed,] he [loitered on an errand]; and (as it happens) absconded, being afraid of the lash that hangs in the staircase. Give me your money, if this runaway trick, which I have expected, does not offend you.” In my opinion, the man may take his price, and be secure from any punishment: you wittingly purchased a good-for-nothing boy: the condition of the contract was told you. Nevertheless you prosecute this man, and detain him in an unjust suit.
I told you, at your setting out, that I was indolent: I told you I was almost incapable of such offices: that you might not chide me in angry mood, because no letter [from me] came to hand. What then have I profited, if you nevertheless arraign the conditions that make for me? On the same score too you complain, that, being worse than my word, I do not send you the verses you expected.
A soldier of Lucullus, [having run through] a great many hardships, was robbed of his collected stock to a penny, as he lay snoring in the night quite fatigued: after this, like a ravenous wolf, equally exasperated at himself and the enemy, eager, with his hungry fangs, he beat off a royal guard from a post (as they report) very strongly fortified, and well supplied with stores. Famous on account of this exploit, he is adorned with honorable rewards, and receives twenty thousand sesterces into the bargain. It happened about this time that his officer being inclined to batter down a certain fort, began to encourage the same man, with words that might even have given courage to a coward: “Go, my brave fellow, whither your valor calls you: go with prosperous step, certain to receive ample rewards for your merit. Why do you hesitate?” Upon this, he arch, though a rustic: “He who has lost his purse, will go whither you wish,” says he.
It was my lot to have Rome for my nurse, and to be instructed [from the Iliad] how much the exasperated Achilles prejudiced the Greeks. Good Athens give me some additional learning: that is to say, to be able to distinguish a right line from a curve, and seek after truth in the groves of Academus. But the troublesome times removed me from that pleasant spot; and the tide of a civil war carried me away, unexperienced as I was, into arms, [into arms] not likely to be a match for the sinews of Augustus Caesar. Whence, as soon as [the battle of] Philippi dismissed me in an abject condition, with my wings clipped, and destitute both of house and land, daring poverty urged me on to the composition of verses: but now, having more than is wanted, what medicines would be efficacious enough to cure my madness, if I did not think it better to rest than to write verses.
The advancing years rob us of every thing: they have taken away my mirth, my gallantry, my revelings, and play: they are now proceeding to force poetry from me. What would you have me do?
In short, all persons do not love and admire the same things. Ye delight in the ode: one man is pleased with iambics; another with satires written in the manner of Bion, and virulent wit. Three guests scarcely can be found to agree, craving very different dishes with various palate. What shall I give? What shall I not give? You forbid, what another demands: what you desire, that truly is sour and disgustful to the [other] two.
Beside other [difficulties], do you think it practicable for me to write poems at Rome, amid so many solicitudes and so many fatigues? One calls me as his security, another to hear his works, all business else apart; one lives on the mount of Quirinus, the other in the extremity of the Aventine; both must be waited on. The distances between them, you see, are charmingly commodious. “But the streets are clear, so that there can be no obstacle to the thoughtful.”— A builder in heat hurries along with his mules and porters: the crane whirls aloft at one time a stone, at another a great piece of timber: the dismal funerals dispute the way with the unwieldy carriages: here runs a mad dog, there rushes a sow begrimed with mire. Go now, and meditate with yourself your harmonious verses. All the whole choir of poets love the grove, and avoid cities, due votaries to Bacchus delighting in repose and shade. Would you have me, amid so great noise both by night and day, [attempt] to sing, and trace the difficult footsteps of the poets? A genius who has chosen quiet Athens for his residence, and has devoted seven years to study, and has grown old in books and study, frequently walks forth more dumb than a statue, and shakes the people’s sides with laughter: here, in the midst of the billows and tempests of the city, can I be thought capable of connecting words likely to wake the sound of the lyre?
At Rome there was a rhetorician, brother to a lawyer: [so fond of each other were they,] that they would hear nothing but the mere praises of each other: insomuch, that the latter appeared a Gracchus to the former, the former a Mucius to the latter. Why should this frenzy affect the obstreperous poets in a less degree? I write odes, another elegies: a work wonderful to behold, and burnished by the nine muses! Observe first, with what a fastidious air, with what importance we survey the temple [of Apollo] vacant for the Roman poets. In the next place you may follow (if you are at leisure) and hear what each produces, and wherefore each weaves for himself the crown. Like Samnite gladiators in slow duel, till candle-light, we are beaten and waste out the enemy with equal blows: I came off Alcaeus, in his suffrage; he is mine, who? Why who but Callimachus? Or, if he seems to make a greater demand, he becomes Mimnermus, and grows in fame by the chosen appellation. Much do I endure in order to pacify this passionate race of poets, when I am writing; and submissive court the applause of the people; [but,] having finished my studies and recovered my senses, I the same man can now boldly stop my open ears against reciters.
Those who make bad verses are laughed at: but they are pleased in writing, and reverence themselves; and if you are silent, they, happy, fall to praising of their own accord whatever they have written. But he who desires to execute a genuine poem, will with his papers assume the spirit of an honest critic: whatever words shall have but little clearness and elegance, or shall be without weight and held unworthy of estimation, he will dare to displace: though they may recede with reluctance, and still remain in the sanctuary of Vesta: those that have been long hidden from the people he kindly will drag forth, and bring to light those expressive denominations of things that were used by the Catos and Cethegi of ancient times, though now deformed dust and neglected age presses upon them: he will adopt new words, which use, the parent [of language], shall produce: forcible and perspicuous, and bearing the utmost similitude to a limpid stream, he will pour out his treasures, and enrich Latium with a comprehensive language. The luxuriant he will lop, the too harsh he will soften with a sensible cultivation: those void of expression he will discard: he will exhibit the appearance of one at play; and will be [in his invention] on the rack, like [a dancer on the stage], who one while affects the motions of a satyr, at another of a clumsy cyclops.
I had rather be esteemed a foolish and dull writer, while my faults please myself, or at least escape my notice, than be wise and smart for it. There lived at Argos a man of no mean rank, who imagined that he was hearing some admirable tragedians, a joyful sitter and applauder in an empty theater: who [nevertheless] could support the other duties of life in a just manner; a truly honest neighbor, an amiable host, kind toward his wife, one who could pardon his slaves, nor would rave at the breaking of a bottle-seal: one who [had sense enough] to avoid a precipice, or an open well. This man, being cured at the expense and by the care of his relations, when he had expelled by the means of pure hellebore the disorder and melancholy humor, and returned to himself; “By Pollux, my friends (said he), you have destroyed, not saved me; from whom my pleasure is thus taken away, and a most agreeable delusion of mind removed by force.”
In a word, it is of the first consequence to be wise in the rejection of trifles, and leave childish play to boys for whom it is in season, and not to scan words to be set to music for the Roman harps, but [rather] to be perfectly an adept in the numbers and proportions of real life. Thus therefore I commune with myself, and ponder these things in silence: “If no quantity of water would put an end to your thirst, you would tell it to your physicians. And is there none to whom you dare confess, that the more you get the more you crave? If you had a wound which was not relieved by a plant or root prescribed to you, you would refuse being doctored with a root or plant that did no good. You have heard that vicious folly left the man, on whom the gods conferred wealth; and though you are nothing wiser, since you become richer, will you nevertheless use the same monitors as before? But could riches make you wise, could they make you less covetous and mean-spirited, you well might blush, if there lived on earth one more avaricious than yourself.”
If that be any man’s property, which he has bought by the pound and penny, [and] there be some things to which (if you give credit to the lawyers) possession gives a claim, [then] the field that feeds you is your own; and Orbius’ steward, when he harrows the corn which is soon to give you flour, finds you are [in effect] the proper master. You give your money; you receive grapes, pullets, eggs, a hogshead of strong wine: certainly in this manner you by little and little purchase that farm, for which perhaps the owner paid three hundred thousand sesterces, or more. What does it signify, whether you live on what was paid for the other day, or a long while ago? He who purchased the Aricinian and Veientine fields some time since, sups on bought vegetables, however he may think otherwise; boils his pot with bought wood at the approach of the chill evening. But he calls all that his own, as far as where the planted poplar prevents quarrels among neighbors by a determinate limitation: as if anything were a man’s property, which in a moment of the fleeting hour, now by solicitations, now by sale, now by violence, and now by the supreme lot [of all men], may change masters and come into another’s jurisdiction. Thus since the perpetual possession is given to none, and one man’s heir urges on another’s, as wave impels wave, of what importance are houses, or granaries; or what the Lucanian pastures joined to the Calabrian; if Hades, inexorable to gold, mows down the great together with the small?
Gems, marble, ivory, Tuscan statues, pictures, silver-plate, robes dyed with Getulian purple, there are who can not acquire; and there are others, who are not solicitous of acquiring. Of two brothers, why one prefers lounging, play, and perfume, to Herod’s rich palm-tree groves; why the other, rich and uneasy, from the rising of the light to the evening shade, subdues his woodland with fire and steel: our attendant genius knows, who governs the planet of our nativity, the divinity [that presides] over human nature, who dies with each individual, of various complexion, white and black.
I will use, and take out from my moderate stock, as much as my exigence demands: nor will I be under any apprehensions what opinion my heir shall hold concerning me, when he shall, find [I have left him] no more than I had given me. And yet I, the same man, shall be inclined to know how far an open and cheerful person differs from a debauchee, and how greatly the economist differs from the miser. For there is some distinction whether you throw away your money in a prodigal manner, or make an entertainment without grudging, nor toil to accumulate more; or rather, as formerly in Minerva’s holidays, when a school-boy, enjoys by starts the short and pleasant vacation.
Let sordid poverty be far away. I, whether borne in a large or small vessel, let me be borne uniform and the same. I am not wafted with swelling sail before the north wind blowing fair: yet I do not bear my course of life against the adverse south. In force, genius, figure, virtue, station, estate, the last of the first-rate, [yet] still before those of the last.
You are not covetous, [you say]:— go to. — What then? Have the rest of your vices fled from you, together with this? Is your breast free from vain ambition? Is it free from the fear of death and from anger? Can you laugh at dreams, magic terrors, wonders, witches, nocturnal goblins, and Thessalian prodigies? Do you number your birth-days with a grateful mind? Are you forgiving to your friends? Do you grow milder and better as old age approaches? What profits you only one thorn eradicated out of many? If you do not know how to live in a right manner, make way for those that do. You have played enough, eaten and drunk enough, it is time for you to walk off: lest having tippled too plentifully, that age which plays the wanton with more propriety, and drive you [off the stage].
If a painter should wish to unite a horse’s neck to a human head, and spread a variety of plumage over limbs [of different animals] taken from every part [of nature], so that what is a beautiful woman in the upper part terminates unsightly in an ugly fish below; could you, my friends, refrain from laughter, were you admitted to such a sight? Believe, ye Pisos, the book will be perfectly like such a picture, the ideas of which, like a sick man’s dreams, are all vain and fictitious: so that neither head nor foot can correspond to any one form. “Poets and painters [you will say] have ever had equal authority for attempting any thing.” We are conscious of this, and this privilege we demand and allow in turn: but not to such a degree, that the tame should associate with the savage; nor that serpents should be coupled with birds, lambs with tigers.
In pompous introductions, and such as promise a great deal, it generally happens that one or two verses of purple patch-work, that may make a great show, are tagged on; as when the grove and the altar of Diana and the meandering of a current hastening through pleasant fields, or the river Rhine, or the rainbow is described. But here there was no room for these [fine things]: perhaps, too, you know how to draw a cypress: but what is that to the purpose, if he, whe is painted for the given price, is [to be represented as] swimming hopeless out of a shipwreck? A large vase at first was designed: why, as the wheel revolves, turns out a little pitcher? In a word, be your subject what it will, let it be merely simple and uniform.
The great majority of us poets, father, and youths worthy such a father, are misled by the appearance of right. I labor to be concise, I become obscure: nerves and spirit fail him, that aims at the easy: one, that pretends to be sublime, proves bombastical: he who is too cautious and fearful of the storm, crawls along the ground: he who wants to vary his subject in a marvelous manner, paints the dolphin in the woods, the boar in the sea. The avoiding of an error leads to a fault, if it lack skill.
A statuary about the Aemilian school shall of himself, with singular skill, both express the nails, and imitate in brass the flexible hair; unhappy yet in the main, because he knows not how to finish a complete piece. I would no more choose to be such a one as this, had I a mind to compose any thing, than to live with a distorted nose, [though] remarkable for black eyes and jetty hair.
Ye who write, make choice of a subject suitable to your abilities; and revolve in your thoughts a considerable time what your strength declines, and what it is able to support. Neither elegance of style, nor a perspicuous disposition, shall desert the man, by whom the subject matter is chosen judiciously.
This, or I am mistaken, will constitute the merit and beauty of arrangement, that the poet just now say what ought just now to be said, put off most of his thoughts, and waive them for the present.
In the choice of his words, too, the author of the projected poem must be delicate and cautious, he must embrace one and reject another: you will express yourself eminently well, if a dexterous combination should give an air of novelty to a well-known word. If it happen to be necessary to explain some abstruse subjects by new invented terms; it will follow that you must frame words never heard of by the old-fashioned Cethegi: and the license will be granted, if modestly used: and the new and lately-formed words will have authority, if they descend from a Greek source, with a slight deviation. But why should the Romans grant to Plutus and Caecilius a privilege denied to Virgil and Varius? Why should I be envied, if I have it in my power to acquire a few words, when the language of Cato and Ennius has enriched our native tongue, and produced new names of things? It has been, and ever will be, allowable to coin a word marked with the stamp in present request. As leaves in the woods are changed with the fleeting years; the earliest fall off first: in this manner words perish with old age, and those lately invented nourish and thrive, like men in the time of youth. We, and our works, are doomed to death: Whether Neptune, admitted into the continent, defends our fleet from the north winds, a kingly work; or the lake, for a long time unfertile and fit for oars, now maintains its neighboring cities and feels the heavy plow; or the river, taught to run in a more convenient channel, has changed its course which was so destructive to the fruits. Mortal works must perish: much less can the honor and elegance of language be long-lived. Many words shall revive, which now have fallen off; and many which are now in esteem shall fall off, if it be the will of custom, in whose power is the decision and right and standard of language.
Homer has instructed us in what measure the achievements of kings, and chiefs, and direful war might be written.
Plaintive strains originally were appropriated to the unequal numbers [of the elegiac]: afterward [love and] successful desires were included. Yet what author first published humble elegies, the critics dispute, and the controversy still waits the determination of a judge.
Rage armed Archilochus with the iambic of his own invention. The sock and the majestic buskin assumed this measure as adapted for dialogue, and to silence the noise of the populace, and calculated for action.
To celebrate gods, and the sons of gods, and the victorious wrestler, and the steed foremost in the race, and the inclination of youths, and the free joys of wine, the muse has alotted to the lyre.
If I am incapable and unskilful to observe the distinction described, and the complexions of works [of genius], why am I accosted by the name of “Poet?” Why, out of false modesty, do I prefer being ignorant to being learned?
A comic subject will not be handled in tragic verse: in like manner the banquet of Thyestes will not bear to be held in familiar verses, and such as almost suit the sock. Let each peculiar species [of writing] fill with decorum its proper place. Nevertheless sometimes even comedy exalts her voice, and passionate Chremes rails in a tumid strain: and a tragic writer generally expresses grief in a prosaic style. Telephus and Peleus, when they are both in poverty and exile, throw aside their rants and gigantic expressions if they have a mind to move the heart of the spectator with their complaint.
It is not enough that poems be beautiful; let them be tender and affecting, and bear away the soul of the auditor whithersoever they please. As the human countenance smiles on those that smile, so does it sympathize with those that weep. If you would have me weep you must first express the passion of grief yourself; then, Telephus or Peleus, your misfortunes hurt me: if you pronounce the parts assigned you ill, I shall either fall asleep or laugh.
Pathetic accents suit a melancholy countenance; words full of menace, an angry one; wanton expressions, a sportive look; and serious matter, an austere one. For nature forms us first within to every modification of circumstances; she delights or impels us to anger, or depresses us to the earth and afflicts us with heavy sorrow: then expresses those emotions of the mind by the tongue, its interpreter. If the words be discordant to the station of the speaker, the Roman knights and plebians will raise an immoderate laugh. It will make a wide difference, whether it be Davus that speaks, or a hero; a man well-stricken in years, or a hot young fellow in his bloom; and a matron of distinction, or an officious nurse; a roaming merchant, or the cultivator of a verdant little farm; a Colchian, or an Assyrian; one educated at Thebes, or one at Argos.
You, that write, either follow tradition, or invent such fables as are congruous to themselves. If as poet you have to represent the renowned Achilles; let him be indefatigable, wrathful, inexorable, courageous, let him deny that laws were made for him, let him arrogate every thing to force of arms. Let Medea be fierce and untractable, Ino an object of pity, Ixion perfidious, Io wandering, Orestes in distress.
If you offer to the stage any thing unattempted, and venture to form a new character; let it be preserved to the last such as it set out at the beginning, and be consistent with itself. It is difficult to write with propriety on subjects to which all writers have a common claim; and you with more prudence will reduce the Iliad into acts, than if you first introduce arguments unknown and never treated of before. A public story will become your own property, if you do not dwell upon the whole circle of events, which is paltry and open to every one; nor must you be so faithful a translator, as to take the pains of rendering [the original] word for word; nor by imitating throw yourself into straits, whence either shame or the rules of your work may forbid you to retreat.
Nor must you make such an exordium, as the Cyclic writer of old: “I will sing the fate of Priam, and the noble war.” What will this boaster produce worthy of all this gaping? The mountains are in labor, a ridiculous mouse will be brought forth. How much more to the purpose he, who attempts nothing improperly? “Sing for me, my muse, the man who, after the time of the destruction of Troy, surveyed the manners and cities of many men.” He meditates not [to produce] smoke from a flash, but out of smoke to elicit fire, that he may thence bring forth his instances of the marvelous with beauty, [such as] Antiphates, Scylla, the Cyclops, and Charybdis. Nor does he date Diomede’s return from Meleager’s death, nor trace the rise of the Trojan war from [Leda’s] eggs: he always hastens on to the event; and hurries away his reader in the midst of interesting circumstances, no otherwise than as if they were [already] known; and what he despairs of, as to receiving a polish from his touch, he omits; and in such a manner forms his fictions, so intermingles the false with the true, that the middle is not inconsistent with the beginning, nor the end with the middle.
Do you attend to what I, and the public in my opinion, expect from you [as a dramatic writer]. If you are desirous of an applauding spectator, who will wait for [the falling of] the curtain, and till the chorus calls out “your plaudits;” the manners of every age must be marked by you, and a proper decorum assigned to men’s varying dispositions and years. The boy, who is just able to pronounce his words, and prints the ground with a firm tread, delights to play with his fellows, and contracts and lays aside anger without reason, and is subject to change every hour. The beardless youth, his guardian being at length discharged, joys in horses, and dogs, and the verdure of the sunny Campus Martius; pliable as wax to the bent of vice, rough to advisers, a slow provider of useful things, prodigal of his money, high-spirited, and amorous, and hasty in deserting the objects of his passion. [After this,] our inclinations being changed, the age and spirit of manhood seeks after wealth, and [high] connections, is subservient to points of honor; and is cautious of committing any action, which he would subsequently be industrious to correct. Many inconviences encompass a man in years; either because he seeks [eagerly] for gain, and abstains from what he has gotten, and is afraid to make use of it; or because he transacts every thing in a timorous and dispassionate manner, dilatory, slow in hope, remiss, and greedy of futurity. Peevish, querulous, a panegyrist of former times when he was a boy, a chastiser and censurer of his juniors. Our advancing years bring many advantages along with them. Many our declining ones take away. That the parts [therefore] belonging to age may not be given to youth, and those of a man to a boy, we must dwell upon those qualities which are joined and adapted to each person’s age.
An action is either represented on the stage, or being done elsewhere is there related. The things which enter by the ear affect the mind more languidly, than such as are submitted to the faithful eyes, and what a spectator presents to himself. You must not, however, bring upon the stage things fit only to be acted behind the scenes: and you must take away from view many actions, which elegant description may soon after deliver in presence [of the spectators]. Let not Medea murder her sons before the people; nor the execrable Atreus openly dress human entrails: nor let Progue be metamorphosed into a bird, Cadmus into a serpent. Whatever you show to me in this manner, not able to give credit to, I detest.
Let a play which would be inquired after, and though seen, represented anew, be neither shorter nor longer than the fifth act. Neither let a god interfere, unless a difficulty worthy a god’s unraveling should happen; nor let a fourth person be officious to speak.
Let the chorus sustain the part and manly character of an actor: nor let them sing any thing between the acts which is not conducive to, and fitly coherent with, the main design. Let them both patronize the good, and give them friendly advice, and regulate the passionate, and love to appease those who swell [with rage]: let them praise the repast of a short meal, and salutary effects of justice, laws, and peace with her open gates; let them conceal what is told to them in confidence, and supplicate and implore the gods that prosperity may return to the wretched, and abandon the haughty. The flute, (not as now, begirt with brass and emulous of the trumpet, but) slender and of simple form, with few stops, was of service to accompany and assist the chorus, and with its tone was sufficient to fill the rows that were not as yet too crowded, where an audience, easily numbered, as being small and sober, chaste and modest, met together. But when the victorious Romans began to extend their territories, and an ampler wall encompassed the city, and their genius was indulged on festivals by drinking wine in the day-time without censure; a greater freedom arose both, to the numbers [of poetry], and the measure [of music]. For what taste could an unlettered clown and one just dismissed from labors have, when in company with the polite; the base, with the man of honor? Thus the musician added now movements and a luxuriance to the ancient art, and strutting backward and forward, drew a length of train over the stage; thus likewise new notes were added to the severity of the lyre, and precipitate eloquence produced an unusual language [in the theater]: and the sentiments [of the chorus, then] expert in teaching useful things and prescient of futurity, differ hardly from the oracular Delphi.
The poet, who first tried his skill in tragic verse for the paltry [prize of a] goat, soon after exposed to view wild satyrs naked, and attempted raillery with severity, still preserving the gravity [of tragedy]: because the spectator on festivals, when heated with wine and disorderly, was to be amused with captivating shows and agreeable novelty. But it will be expedient so to recommend the bantering, so the rallying satyrs, so to turn earnest into jest; that none who shall be exhibited as a god, none who is introduced as a hero lately conspicuous in regal purple and gold, may deviate into the low style of obscure, mechanical shops; or, [on the contrary,] while he avoids the ground, effect cloudy mist and empty jargon. Tragedy disdaining to prate forth trivial verses, like a matron commanded to dance on the festival days, will assume an air of modesty, even in the midst of wanton satyrs. As a writer of satire, ye Pisos, I shall never be fond of unornamented and reigning terms: nor shall I labor to differ so widely from the complexion of tragedy, as to make no distinction, whether Davus be the speaker. And the bold Pythias, who gained a talent by gulling Simo; or Silenus, the guardian and attendant of his pupil-god [Bacchus]. I would so execute a fiction taken from a well-known story, that any body might entertain hopes of doing the same thing; but, on trial, should sweat and labor in vain. Such power has a just arrangement and connection of the parts: such grace may be added to subjects merely common. In my judgment the Fauns, that are brought out of the woods, should not be too gamesome with their tender strains, as if they were educated in the city, and almost at the bar; nor, on the other hand; should blunder out their obscene and scandalous speeches. For [at such stuff] all are offended, who have a horse, a father, or an estate: nor will they receive with approbation, nor give the laurel crown, as the purchasers of parched peas and nuts are delighted with.
A long syllable put after a short one is termed an iambus, a lively measure, whence also it commanded the name of trimeters to be added to iambics, though it yielded six beats of time, being similar to itself from first to last. Not long ago, that it might come somewhat slower and with more majesty to the ear, it obligingly and contentedly admitted into its paternal heritage the steadfast spondees; agreeing however, by social league, that it was not to depart from the second and fourth place. But this [kind of measure] rarely makes its appearance in the notable trimeters of Accius, and brands the verse of Ennius brought upon the stage with a clumsy weight of spondees, with the imputation of being too precipitate and careless, or disgracefully accuses him of ignorance in his art.
It is not every judge that discerns inharmonious verses, and an undeserved indulgence is [in this case] granted to the Roman poets. But shall I on this account run riot and write licentiously? Or should not I rather suppose, that all the world are to see my faults; secure, and cautious [never to err] but with hope of being pardoned? Though, perhaps, I have merited no praise, I have escaped censure.
Ye [who are desirous to excel,] turn over the Grecian models by night, turn them by day. But our ancestors commended both the numbers of Plautus, and his strokes of pleasantry; too tamely, I will not say foolishly, admiring each of them; if you and I but know how to distinguish a coarse joke from a smart repartee, and understand the proper cadence, by [using] our fingers and ears.
Thespis is said to have invented a new kind of tragedy, and to have carried his pieces about in carts, which [certain strollers], who had their faces besmeared with lees of wine, sang and acted. After him Aeschylus, the inventor of the vizard mask and decent robe, laid the stage over with boards of a tolerable size, and taught to speak in lofty tone, and strut in the buskin. To these succeeded the old comedy, not without considerable praise: but its personal freedom degenerated into excess and violence, worthy to be regulated by law; a law was made accordingly, and the chorus, the right of abusing being taken away, disgracefully became silent.
Our poets have left no species [of the art] unattempted; nor have those of them merited the least honor, who dared to forsake the footsteps of the Greeks, and celebrate domestic facts; whether they have instructed us in tragedy, of comedy. Nor would Italy be raised higher by valor and feats of arms, than by its language, did not the fatigue and tediousness of using the file disgust every one of our poets. Do you, the decendants of Pompilius, reject that poem, which many days and many a blot have not ten times subdued to the most perfect accuracy. Because Democritus believes that genius is more successful than wretched art, and excludes from Helicon all poets who are in their senses, a great number do not care to part with their nails or beard, frequent places of solitude, shun the baths. For he will acquire, [he thinks,] the esteem and title of a poet, if he neither submits his head, which is not to be cured by even three Anticyras, to Licinius the barber. What an unlucky fellow am I, who am purged for the bile in spring-time! Else nobody would compose better poems; but the purchase is not worth the expense. Therefore I will serve instead of a whetstone, which though not able of itself to cut, can make steel sharp: so I, who can write no poetry myself, will teach the duty and business [of an author]; whence he may be stocked with rich materials; what nourishes and forms the poet; what gives grace, what not; what is the tendency of excellence, what that of error.
To have good sense, is the first principle and fountain of writing well. The Socratic papers will direct you in the choice of your subjects; and words will spontaneously accompany the subject, when it is well conceived. He who has learned what he owes to his country, and what to his friends; with what affection a parent, a brother, and a stranger, are to be loved; what is the duty of a senator, what of a judge; what the duties of a general sent out to war; he, [I say,] certainly knows how to give suitable attributes to every character. I should direct the learned imitator to have a regard to the mode of nature and manners, and thence draw his expressions to the life. Sometimes a play, that is showy with common-places, and where the manners are well marked, though of no elegance, without force or art, gives the people much higher delight and more effectually commands their attention, than verse void of matter, and tuneful trifles.
To the Greeks, covetous of nothing but praise, the muse gave genius; to the Greeks the power of expressing themselves in round periods. The Roman youth learn by long computation to subdivide a pound into an hundred parts. Let the son of Albinus tell me, if from five ounces one be subtracted, what remains? He would have said the third of a pound. — Bravely done! you will be able to take care of your own affairs. An ounce is added: what will that be? Half a pound. When this sordid rust and hankering after wealth has once tainted their minds, can we expect that such verses should be made as are worthy of being anointed with the oil of cedar, and kept in the well-polished cypress?
Poets wish either to profit or to delight; or to deliver at once both the pleasures and the necessaries of life. Whatever precepts you give, be concise; that docile minds may soon comprehend what is said, and faithfully retain it. All superfluous instructions flow from the too full memory. Let what ever is imagined for the sake of entertainment, have as much likeness to truth as possible; let not your play demand belief for whatever [absurdities] it is inclinable [to exhibit]: nor take out of a witch’s belly a living child that she had dined upon. The tribes of the seniors rail against every thing that is void of edification: the exalted knights disregard poems which are austere. He who joins the instructive with the agreeable, carries off every vote, by delighting and at the same time admonishing the reader. This book gains money for the Sosii; this crosses the sea, and continues to its renowned author a lasting duration.
Yet there are faults, which we should be ready to pardon: for neither does the string [always] form the sound which the hand and conception [of the performer] intends, but very often returns a sharp note when he demands a flat; nor will the bow always hit whatever mark it threatens. But when there is a great majority of beauties in a poem, I will not be offended with a few blemishes, which either inattention has dropped, or human nature has not sufficiently provided against. What therefore [is to be determined in this matter]? As a transcriber, if he still commits the same fault though he has been reproved, is without excuse; and the harper who always blunders on the same string, is sure to be laughed at; so he who is excessively deficient becomes another Choerilus; whom, when I find him tolerable in two or three places, I wonder at with laughter; and at the same time am I grieved whenever honest Homer grows drowsy? But it is allowable, that sleep should steal upon [the progress of] a king work.
As is painting, so is poetry: some pieces will strike you more if you stand near, and some, if you are at a greater distance: one loves the dark; another, which is not afraid of the critic’s subtle judgment, chooses to be seen in the light; the one has pleased once, the other will give pleasure if ten times repeated.
O ye elder of the youths, though you are framed to a right judgment by your father’s instructions, and are wise in yourself, yet take this truth along with you, [and] remember it; that in certain things a medium and tolerable degree of eminence may be admitted: a counselor and pleader at the bar of the middle rate is far removed from the merit of eloquent Messala, nor has so much knowledge of the law as Casselius Aulus, but yet he is in request; [but] a mediocrity in poets neither gods, nor men, nor [even] the booksellers’ shops have endured. As at an agreeable entertainment discordant music, and muddy perfume, and poppies mixed with Sardinian honey give offense, because the supper might have passed without them; so poetry, created and invented for the delight of our souls, if it comes short ever so little of the summit, sinks to the bottom.
He who does not understand the game, abstains from the weapons of the Campus Martius: and the unskillful in the tennis-ball, the quoit, and the troques keeps himself quiet; lest the crowded ring should raise a laugh at his expense: notwithstanding this, he who knows nothing of verses presumes to compose. Why not! He is free-born, and of a good family; above all, he is registered at an equestrian sum of moneys, and clear from every vice. You, [I am persuaded,] will neither say nor do any thing in opposition to Minerva: such is your judgment, such your disposition. But if ever you shall write anything, let it be submitted to the ears of Metius [Tarpa], who is a judge, and your father’s, and mine; and let it be suppressed till the ninth year, your papers being held up within your own custody. You will have it in your power to blot out what you have not made public: a word ice sent abroad can never return.
Orpheus, the priest and Interpreter of the gods, deterred the savage race of men from slaughters and inhuman diet; once said to tame tigers and furious lions: Amphion too, the builder of the Theban wall, was said to give the stones moon with the sound of his lyre, and to lead them whithersover he would, by engaging persuasion. This was deemed wisdom of yore, to distinguish the public from private weal; things sacred from things profane; to prohibit a promiscuous commerce between the sexes; to give laws to married people; to plan out cities; to engrave laws on [tables of] wood. Thus honor accrued to divine poets, and their songs. After these, excellent Homer and Tyrtaeus animated the manly mind to martial achievements with their verses. Oracles were delivered in poetry, and the economy of life pointed out, and the favor of sovereign princes was solicited by Pierian drains, games were instituted, and a [cheerful] period put to the tedious labors of the day; [this I remind you of,] lest haply you should be ashamed of the lyric muse, and Apollo the god of song.
It has been made a question, whether good poetry be derived from nature or from art. For my part, I can neither conceive what study can do without a rich [natural] vein, nor what rude genius can avail of itself: so much does the one require the assistance of the other, and so amicably do they conspire [to produce the same effect]. He who is industrious to reach the wished-for goal, has done and suffered much when a boy; he has sweated and shivered with cold; he has abstained from love and wine; he who sings the Pythian strains, was a learner first, and in awe of a master. But [in poetry] it is now enough for a man to say of himself: “I make admirable verses: a murrain seize the hindmost: it is scandalous for me to be outstripped, and fairly to Acknowledge that I am ignorant of that which I never learned.”
As a crier who collects the crowd together to buy his goods, so a poet rich in land, rich in money put out at interest, invites flatterers to come [and praise his works] for a reward. But if he be one who is well able to set out an elegant table, and give security for a poor man, and relieve when entangled in glaomy law-suits; I shall wonder if with his wealth he can distinguish a true friend from false one. You, whether you have made, or intend to make, a present to any one, do not bring him full of joy directly to your finished verses: for then he will cry out, “Charming, excellent, judicious,” he will turn pale; at some parts he will even distill the dew from his friendly eyes; he will jump about; he will beat the ground [with ecstasy]. As those who mourn at funerals for pay, do and say more than those that are afflicted from their hearts; so the sham admirer is more moved than he that praises with sincerity. Certain kings are said to ply with frequent bumpers, and by wine make trial of a man whom they are sedulous to know whether he be worthy of their friendship or not. Thus, if you compose verses, let not the fox’s concealed intentions impose upon you.
If you had recited any thing to Quintilius, he would say, “Alter, I pray, this and this:” if you replied, you could do it no better, having made the experiment twice or thrice in vain; he would order you to blot out, and once more apply to the anvil your ill-formed verses: if you choose rather to defend than correct a fault, he spent not a word more nor fruitless labor, but you alone might be fond of yourself and your own works, without a rival. A good and sensible man will censure spiritless verses, he will condemn the rugged, on the incorrect he will draw across a black stroke with his pen; he will lop off ambitious [and redundant] ornaments; he will make him throw light on the parts that are not perspicuous; he will arraign what is expressed ambiguously; he will mark what should be altered; [in short,] he will be an Aristarchus: he will not say, “Why should I give my friend offense about mere trifles?” These trifles will lead into mischiefs of serious consequence, when once made an object of ridicule, and used in a sinister manner.
Like one whom an odious plague or jaundice, fanatic phrensy or lunacy, distresses; those who are wise avoid a mad poet, and are afraid to touch him; the boys jostle him, and the incautious pursue him. If, like a fowler intent upon his game, he should fall into a well or a ditch while he belches out his fustian verses and roams about, though he should cry out for a long time, “Come to my assistance, O my countrymen;” not one would give himself the trouble of taking him up. Were any one to take pains to give him aid, and let down a rope; “How do you know, but he threw himself in hither on purpose?” I shall say: and will relate the death of the Sicilian poet. Empedocles, while he was ambitious of being esteemed an immortal god, in cold blood leaped into burning Aetna. Let poets have the privilege and license to die [as they please]. He who saves a man against his will, does the same with him who kills him [against his will]. Neither is it the first time that he has behaved in this manner; nor, were he to be forced from his purposes, would he now become a man, and lay aside his desire of such a famous death. Neither does it appear sufficiently, why he makes verses: whether he has defiled his father’s ashes, or sacrilegiously removed the sad enclosure of the vindictive thunder: it is evident that he is mad, and like a bear that has burst through the gates closing his den, this unmerciful rehearser chases the learned and unlearned. And whomsoever he seizes, he fastens on and assassinates with recitation: a leech that will not quit the skin, till satiated with blood.
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