Unless the vessel whence we drink is pure,
Whate’er is poured therein turns foul, be sure.
Make light of pleasure: pleasure bought with pain
Yields little profit, but much more of bane.
The miser’s always needy: draw a line
Within whose bound your wishes to confine.
His neighbour’s fatness makes the envious lean:
No tyrant e’er devised a pang so keen.
Who governs not his wrath will wish undone
The deeds he did “when the rash mood was on.”
Wrath is a short-lived madness: curb and bit
Your mind: ’twill rule you, if you rule not it
While the colt’s mouth is soft, the trainer’s
Moulds it to follow at the rider’s will.
Soon as the whelp can bay the deer’s stuffed skin,
He takes the woods, and swells the hunters’ din.
Now, while your system’s plastic, ope each pore;
Now seek wise friends, and drink in all their lore:
The smell that’s first imparted will adhere
To seasoned jars through many an after year.
But if you lag behind or head me far,
Don’t think I mean to mend my pace, or mar;
In my own jog-trot fashion on I go,
Not vying with the swift, not waiting for the slow.
Florus, I wish to learn, but don’t know how,
Where Claudius and his troops are quartered now.
Say, is it Thrace and Haemus’ winter snows,
Or the famed strait ’twixt tower and tower that flows,
Or Asia’s rich exuberance of plain
And upland slope, that holds you in its chain?
Inform me too (for that, you will not doubt,
Concerns me), what the ingenious staff’s about:
Who writes of Caesar’s triumphs, and portrays
The tale of peace and war for future days?
How thrives friend Titius, who will soon become
A household word in the saloons of Rome;
Who dares to drink of Pindar’s well, and looks
With scorn on our cheap tanks and vulgar brooks?
Wastes he a thought on Horace? does he suit
The strains of Thebes or Latium’s virgin lute,
By favour of the Muse, or grandly rage
And roll big thunder on the tragic stage?
What is my Celsus doing? oft, in truth,
I’ve warned him, and he needs it yet, good youth,
To trust himself, nor touch the classic stores
That Palatine Apollo keeps indoors,
Lest when some day the feathered tribe resumes
(You know the tale) the appropriated plumes,
Folks laugh to see him act the jackdaw’s part,
Denuded of the dress that looked so smart.
And you, what aims are yours? what thymy ground
Allures the bee to hover round and round?
Not small your wit, nor rugged and unkempt;
’Twill answer bravely to a bold attempt:
Whether you train for pleading, or essay
To practise law, or frame some graceful lay,
The ivy-wreath awaits you. Could you bear
To leave quack nostrums, that but palliate care,
Then might you lean on heavenly wisdom’s hand
And use her guidance to a loftier land.
Be this our task, whate’er our station, who
To country and to self would fain be true.