The words of Cronosolon, priest and prophet of Cronus, and holiday lawgiver.
The regulations to be observed by the poor I have sent expressly to them in another scroll, and am well assured that they will abide by the same, failing which, they will be obnoxious to the heavy penalties enacted against the disobedient. And you, ye rich, see to it that ye transgress not nor disregard the instructions following. Be it known to him that shall so do, that he scorneth not me the lawgiver, but Cronus’ self, who hath appeared, in no dream, but these two days gone to my waking senses, and appointed me to give holiday laws. No bondsman was he, nor foul to look upon, as painters have limned him after poets’ foolish tales. His sickle was indeed full sharp; but he was cheerful of countenance, strong of limb, and royally arrayed. Such was his semblance; and his words, wherein too was divinity, it is fitting you hear.
He beheld me pacing downcast, meditative, and straightway knew — as how should a God not know? — the cause of my sorrow, and how I was ill content with poverty and with the unseasonable thinness of my raiment. For there was frost and north wind and ice and snow, and I but ill fenced against them. The feast was moreover at hand, and I might see others making ready for sacrifice and good cheer, but for me things looked not that way. He came upon me from behind and touched and thrilled my ear, as is the manner of his approach, and spake: ‘O Cronosolon, wherefore this troubled mien?’ ‘Is there not a cause, lord,’ I said, ‘when I look on pestilent loathly fellows passing rich, engrossing all luxury, but I and many another skilled in liberal arts have want and trouble to our bed-fellows? And thou, even thou, lord, wilt not say it shall not he, nor order things anew and make us equal.’ ‘In common life,’ then said he, ‘’tis no light matter to change the lots that Clotho and her sister Fates have laid upon you; but as touching the feast, I will set right your poverty; and let the settling be after this manner. Go, O Cronosolon, indite me certain laws for observance in the feast days, that the rich feast not by themselves, but impart of their good things to you.’ Then said I, ‘I know not how.’
‘But I,’ quoth he, ‘will teach you.’ And therewith he began and taught me. And when I was perfect, ‘And certify them,’ he said, ‘that if they do not hereafter, this sharp sickle that I bear is no toy; ’twere odd if I could maim therewith Uranus my father, but not do as much for the rich that transgress my laws; they shall be fitted to serve the Mother of the Gods with alms-box and pipe and timbrel.’ Thus he threatened; wherefore ye will do well to observe his decrees.
All business, be it public or private, is forbidden during the feast days, save such as tends to sport and solace and delight. Let none follow their avocations saving cooks and bakers.
All men shall be equal, slave and free, rich and poor, one with another.
Anger, resentment, threats, are contrary to law.
During the feast days, no man shall be called to account of his stewardship.
No man shall in these days count his money nor inspect his wardrobe, nor make an inventory.
Athletic training shall cease.
No discourse shall be either composed or delivered, except it be witty and lusty, conducing to mirth and jollity.
In good time against the feast every rich man shall inscribe in a table-book the names of his several friends, and shall provide money to a tithe of his yearly incomings, together with the superfluity of his raiment, and such ware as is too coarse for his own service, and a goodly quantity of silver vessels. These shall be all in readiness.
On the eve of the feast the rich shall hold a purification, and drive forth from their houses parsimony and avarice and covetousness and all other such leanings that dwell with the most of them. And their houses being purged they shall make offering to Zeus the Enricher, and to Hermes the Giver, and to Apollo the Generous. And at afternoon the table-book of their friends shall be read to them.
Then shall they with their own hands allot to each friend his fitting share, and send it before set of sun.
And the carriers shall be not more than three or four, the trustiest of a man’s servants, and well on in years. And let him write in a letter what is the gift, and its amount, that the carriers be not suspect to giver or receiver. And the said servants shall drink one cup each man, and depart, and ask no more.
To such as have culture let all be sent in double measure; it is fitting that they have two portions.
The message that goeth with a gift shall be modest and brief; let no man humble his friend, nor commend his own gift.
Rich shall not send gifts to rich, nor entertain his peer at the feast.
Of the things made ready for sending, none shall be reserved; let no man give and un-give.
He that by absence missed his share of yester-year shall now receive that too.
Let the rich discharge debts for their friends that are poor, and their rent if they owe and cannot pay it.
Let it be their care above all to know in time the needs of every man.
The receiver for his part should be not over-curious, but account great whatsoever is sent him. Yet are a flask of wine, a hare, or a fat fowl, not to be held sufficient gifts; rather they bring the feast into mockery. For the poor man’s return gift, if he have learning, let it be an ancient book, but of good omen and festive humour, or a writing of his own after his ability; and the rich man shall receive the same with a glad countenance, and take and read it forthwith; if he reject or fling it aside, be it known to him that he hath incurred that penalty of the sickle, though he himself hath sent all he should. For the unlearned, let him send a garland or grains of frankincense.
If a poor man send, to one that is rich, raiment or silver or gold beyond his means, the gift shall be impounded and sold, and the price thereof cast into the treasury of Cronus; and on the morrow the poor man shall receive from the rich stripes upon his hands with a rod not less than twelve score and ten.
The bath hour shall be noon, and before it nuts and draughts.
Every man shall take place as chance may direct; dignities and birth and wealth shall give no precedence.
All shall he served with the same wine; the rich host shall not say, For my colic, or for my megrims, I must drink the better.
Every man’s portion of meat shall be alike. The attendants shall favour none, nor yet in their serving shall they be deaf to any, nor pass any by before his pleasure be known. They shall not set great portions before him, and small before him, nor give this one a dainty and that one refuse, but all shall be equal.
Let the butler have a quick eye and ear for all from his point of vantage, and heed his master least. And be the cups large or small at choice.
It shall be any man’s right to call a health; and let all drink to all if they will, when the host has set the wine a-going. But no man shall be bound to drink, if he be no strong toper.
It shall not be free to any who will to bring an unpractised dancer or musician to the dinner.
Let the limit to jesting be, that the feelings of none be wounded.
The stake at draughts shall be nuts alone; if any play for money, he shall fast on the morrow.
When the rich man shall feast his slaves, let his friends serve with him.
These laws every rich man shall engrave on a brazen pillar and set them in the centre of his hall and there read them. And be it known that, so long as that pillar stands, neither famine nor sickness nor fire nor any mischance shall come upon the house. But if it be removed — which God avert! — then evil shall be that house’s doom.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57