When they set foot within a stately hall,
Where couches of wrought ivory had been spread
With gorgeous coverlets of Tyrian red,
And viands piled up high in baskets lay,
The relics of a feast of yesterday.
The townsman does the honours, lays his guest
At ease upon a couch with crimson dressed,
Then nimbly moves in character of host,
And offers in succession boiled and roast;
Nay, like a well-trained slave, each wish prevents,
And tastes before the tit-bits he presents.
The guest, rejoicing in his altered fare,
Assumes in turn a genial diner’s air,
When hark! a sudden banging of the door:
Each from his couch is tumbled on the floor:
Half dead, they scurry round the room, poor things,
While the whole house with barking mastiffs rings.
Then says the rustic: “It may do for you,
This life, but I don’t like it; so adieu:
Give me my hole, secure from all alarms,
I’ll prove that tares and vetches still have charms.”
I’ve listened long, and fain a word would say,
But, as a slave, I dare not.
H. Davus, eh?
D. Yes, Davus, true and faithful, good enough,
But not too good to be of lasting stuff.
H. Well, take December’s licence: I’ll
Our fathers’ good intentions: have your talk.
D. Some men there are take pleasure in what’s
Persistently, and do it with a will:
The greater part keep wavering to and fro,
And now all right, and now all wrong they go.
Prisons, we all remember, oft would wear
Three rings at once, then show his finger bare;
First he’d be senator, then knight, and then
In an hour’s time a senator again;
Flit from a palace to a crib so mean,
A decent freedman scarce would there be seen;
Now with Athenian wits he’d make his home,
Now live with scamps and profligates at Rome;
Born in a luckless hour, when every face
Vertumnus wears was pulling a grimace.
Shark Volanerius tried to disappoint
The gout that left his fingers ne’er a joint
By hiring some one at so much per day
To shake the dicebox while he sat at play;
Consistent in his faults, so less a goose
Than your poor wretch who shifts from fast to loose.
H. For whom d’ye mean this twaddle, tell me
D. Why, for you.
H. Good varlet, how?