Your tongue, and Venus settles on your lips.
The Cappadocian king has slaves enow,
But gold he lacks: so be it not with you.
Lucullus was requested once, they say,
A hundred scarves to furnish for the play:
“A hundred!” he replied, “’tis monstrous; still
I’ll look; and send you what I have, I will.”
Ere long he writes: “Five thousand scarves I find;
Take part of them, or all if you’re inclined.”
That’s a poor house where there’s not much to spare
Which masters never miss and servants wear.
So, if ’tis wealth that makes and keeps us blest,
Be first to start and last to drop the quest.
If power and mob-applause be man’s chief aims,
Let’s hire a slave to tell us people’s names,
To jog us on the side, and make us reach,
At risk of tumbling down, a hand to each:
“This rules the Fabian, that the Veline clan;
Just as he likes, he seats or ousts his man:”
Observe their ages, have your greeting pat,
And duly “brother” this, and “father” that.
Say that the art to live’s the art to sup,
Go fishing, hunting, soon as sunlight’s up,
As did Gargilius, who at break of day
Swept with his nets and spears the crowded way,
Then, while all Rome looked on in wonder, brought
Home on a single mule a boar he’d bought.
Thence pass on to the bath-room, gorged and crude,
Our stomachs stretched with undigested food,
Lost to all self-respect, all sense of shame,
Disfranchised freemen, Romans but in name,
Like to Ulysses’ crew, that worthless band,
Who cared for pleasure more than fatherland.
If, as Mimnermus tells you, life is flat
With nought to love, devote yourself to that.
Farewell: if you can mend these precepts, do:
If not, what serves for me may serve for you.
VII. TO MAECENAS.
Quinque Dies TIBI POLLICITUS.
Five days I told you at my farm I’d stay,
And lo! the whole of August I’m away.
Well, but, Maecenas, yon would have me live,
And, were I sick, my absence you’d forgive;
So let me crave indulgence for the fear
Of falling ill at this bad time of year,
When, thanks to early figs and sultry heat,
The undertaker figures with his suite,
When fathers all and fond mammas grow pale
At what may happen to their young heirs male,
And courts and levees, town-bred mortals’ ills,
Bring fevers on, and break the seals of wills.
When winter strews the Alban fields with snow,
Down to the sea your chilly bard will go,
There keep the house and study at his ease,
All huddled up together, nose and knees:
With the first swallow, if you’ll have him then,
He’ll come, dear friend, and visit you again.