IX. TO TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS NERO.
Septimius, Nero, seems to comprehend,
As none else does, how you esteem your friend:
For when he begs, nay, forces me, good man,
To move you in his favour, if I can,
As not unfit the heart and home to share
Of Claudius, who selects his staff with care,
Bidding me act as though I filled the place
Of one you honour with your special grace,
He sees and knows what I may safely try
By way of influence better e’en than I.
Believe me, many were the pleas I used
In the vain hope to get myself excused:
But then there came a natural fear, you know,
Lest I should seem to rate my powers too low,
To make a snug peculium of my own,
And keep my influence for myself alone:
So, fearing to incur more serious blame,
I bronze my front, step down, and play my game.
If then you praise the sacrifice I make
In waiving modesty for friendship’s sake,
Admit him to your circle, when you’ve read
These lines, and trust me for his heart and head.
X. TO ARISTIUS FUSCUS.
To Fuscus, lover of the city, I
Who love the country, wish prosperity:
In this one thing unlike, in all beside
We might be twins, so nearly we’re allied;
Sharing each other’s hates, each other’s loves,
We bill and coo, like two familiar doves.
You keep the nest: I love the rural scene,
Fresh runnels, moss-grown rocks, and woodland green.
What would you more? once let me leave the things
You praise so much, my life is like a king’s:
Like the priest’s runaway, I cannot eat
Your cakes, but pine for bread of wholesome wheat.
Now say that it behoves us to adjust
Our lives to nature (wisdom says we must):
You want a site for building: can you find
A place that’s like the country to your mind?
Where have you milder winters? where are airs
That breathe more grateful when the Dogstar glares,
Or when the Lion feels in every vein
The sun’s sharp thrill, and maddens with the pain?
Is there a spot where care contrives to keep
At further distance from the couch of sleep?
Is springing grass less sweet to nose or eyes
Than Libyan marble’s tesselated dyes?
Does purer water strain your pipes of lead
Than that which ripples down the brooklet’s bed?
Why, ’mid your Parian columns trees you train,
And praise the house that fronts a wide domain.
Drive Nature forth by force, she’ll turn and rout
The false refinements that would keep her out.
The luckless wight who can’t tell side by side
A Tyrian fleece from one Aquinum-dyed,
Is not more surely, keenly, made to smart
Than he who knows not truth and lies apart.
Take too much pleasure in good things, you’ll feel
The shock of adverse fortune makes you reel.
Regard a thing with wonder, with a wrench
You’ll give it up when bidden to retrench.
Keep clear of courts: a homely life transcends
The vaunted bliss of monarchs and their friends.