Maecenas, thou of royalty’s descent,
Both my protector and dear ornament,
Among humanity’s conditions are
Those who take pleasure in the flying car,
Whirling Olympian dust, as on they roll,
And shunning with the glowing wheel the goal;
While the ennobling palm, the prize of worth,
Exalts them to the gods, the lords of earth.
Here one is happy if the fickle crowd
His name the threefold honor has allowed;
And there another, if into his stores
Comes what is swept from Libyan threshing-floors.
He who delights to till his father’s lands,
And grasps the delving-hoe with willing hands,
Can never to Attalic offers hark,
Or cut the Myrtoan Sea with Cyprian bark.
The merchant, timorous of Afric’s breeze,
When fiercely struggling with Icarian seas
Praises the restful quiet of his home,
Nor wishes from the peaceful fields to roam;
Ah, speedily his shattered ships he mends,—
To poverty his lesson ne’er extends.
One there may be who never scorns to fill
His cups with mellow draughts from Massic’s hill,
Nor from the busy day an hour to wean,
Now stretched at length beneath the arbute green,
Now at the softly whispering spring, to dream
Of the fair nymphs who haunt the sacred stream.
For camp and trump and clarion some have zest,—
The cruel wars the mothers so detest.
’Neath the cold sky the hunter spends his life,
Unmindful of his home and tender wife,
Whether the doe is seen by faithful hounds
Or Marsian boar through the fine meshes bounds.
But as for me, the ivy-wreaths, the prize
Of learned brows, exalt me to the skies;
The shady grove, the nymphs and satyrs there,
Draw me away from people everywhere;
If it may be, Euterpe’s flute inspires,
Or Polyhymnia strikes the Lesbian lyres;
And if you place me where no bard debars,
With head exalted I shall strike the stars!
You vain, self-conscious little book,
Companion of my happy days,
How eagerly you seem to look
For wider fields to spread your lays;
My desk and locks cannot contain you,
Nor blush of modesty restrain you.
Well, then, begone, fool that thou art!
But do not come to me and cry,
When critics strike you to the heart:
“Oh, wretched little book am I!”
You know I tried to educate you
To shun the fate that must await you.
In youth you may encounter friends
(Pray this prediction be not wrong),
But wait until old age descends
And thumbs have smeared your gentlest song;
Then will the moths connive to eat you
And rural libraries secrete you.
However, should a friend some word
Of my obscure career request,
Tell him how deeply I was stirred
To spread my wings beyond the nest;
Take from my years, which are before you,
To boom my merits, I implore you.