See that the bread’s not burned, the sauce not spoiled,
The servants in their places, curled and oiled.
Then too the risks; the tapestry, as of late,
May fall; a stumbling groom may break a plate.
But gifts, concealed by sunshine, are displayed
In hosts, as in commanders, by the shade.”
Rufus returned, “Heaven speed things to your mind!
Sure ne’er was guest so friendly and so kind;”
Then takes his slippers. Head to head draws near,
And each man’s lips are at his neighbour’s ear.
H. ’Tis better than a play: but please
What further things occurred to make you sport.
F. Well, while Vibidius takes the slaves to task,
Enquiring if the tumble broke the flask,
And Balatro keeps starting some pretence
For mirth, that we may laugh without offence,
With altered brow returns our sumptuous friend,
Resolved, what chance has damaged, art shall mend.
More servants follow, staggering ’neath the load
Of a huge dish where limbs of crane were stowed,
Salted and floured; a goose’s liver, crammed
To twice its bulk, so close the figs were jammed;
And wings of hares dressed separate, better so
Than eaten with the back, as gourmands know.
Then blackbirds with their breasts all burnt to coal,
And pigeons without rumps, not served up whole,
Dainties, no doubt, but then there came a speech
About the laws and properties of each;
At last the feeder and the food we quit,
Taking revenge by tasting ne’er a bit,
As if Canidia’s mouth had breathed an air
Of viperous poison on the whole affair.
I. To Maecenas.
Prima DICTE MIHI.
Theme of my earliest Muse in days long past,
Theme that shall be hereafter of my last,
Why summon back, Maecenas, to the list
Your worn-out swordsman, pensioned and dismissed?
My age, my mind, no longer are the same
As when I first was ’prenticed to the game.
Veianius fastens to Alcides’ gate
His arms, then nestles in his snug estate:
Think you once more upon the arena’s marge
He’d care to stand and supplicate discharge?
No: I’ve a Mentor who, not once nor twice,
Breathes in my well-rinsed ear his sound advice,
“Give rest in time to that old horse, for fear
At last he founder ’mid the general jeer.”
So now I bid my idle songs adieu,
And turn my thoughts to what is right and true;
I search and search, and when I find, I lay
The wisdom up against a rainy day.
But what’s my sect? you ask me; I must be
A member sure of some fraternity:
Why no; I’ve taken no man’s shilling; none
Of all your fathers owns me for his son;
Just where the weather drives me, I invite
Myself to take up quarters for the night.
Now, all alert, I cope with life’s rough main,
A loyal follower in true virtue’s train:
Anon, to Aristippus’ camp I flit,
And say, the world’s for me, not I for it.