Sarmentus cries: for Messius’ brow was marred
By a deep wound, which left it foully scarred.
Then, joking still at his grim countenance,
He begged him just to dance the Cyclop dance:
No buskin, mask, nor other aid of art
Would be required to make him look his part.
Messius had much to answer: “Was his chain
Suspended duly in the Lares’ fane?
Though now a notary, he might yet be seized
And given up to his mistress, if she pleased.
Nay, more,” he asked, “why had he run away,
When e’en a single pound of corn a day
Had filled a maw so slender?” So we spent
Our time at table, to our high content.
Then on to Beneventum, where our host,
As some lean thrushes he essayed to roast,
Was all but burnt: for up the chimney came
The blaze, and well nigh set the house on flame:
The guests and servants snatch the meat, and fall
Upon the fire with buckets, one and all.
Next rise to view Apulia’s well-known heights,
Which keen Atabulus so sorely bites:
And there perchance we might be wandering yet,
But shelter in Trivicum’s town we get,
Where green damp branches in the fireplace spread
Make our poor eyes to water in our head.
Then four and twenty miles, a good long way,
Our coaches take us, in a town to stay
Whose name no art can squeeze into a line,
Though otherwise ’tis easy to define:
For water there, the cheapest thing on earth,
Is sold for money: but the bread is worth
A fancy price, and travellers who know
Their business take it with them when they go:
For at Canusium, town of Diomed,
The drink’s as bad, and grits are in the bread.
Here to our sorrow Varius takes his leave,
And, grieved himself, compels his friends to grieve.
Fatigued, we come to Rubi: for the way
Was long, and rain had made it sodden clay.
Next day, with better weather, o’er worse ground
We get to Barium’s town, where fish abound.
Then Gnatia, built in water-nymphs’ despite,
Made us cut jokes and laugh, as well we might,
Listening to tales of incense, wondrous feat,
That melts in temples without fire to heat.
Tell the crazed Jews such miracles as these!
I hold the gods live lives of careless ease,
And, if a wonder happens, don’t assume
’Tis sent in anger from the upstairs room.
Last comes Brundusium: there the lines I penned,
The leagues I travelled, find alike their end.
Non QUIA, Maecenas.