And swear, as Bestius might, your gourmand knaves
Should have their stomachs branded like a slave’s.
But give the brute a piece of daintier prey,
When all was done, he’d smack his lips and say,
“In faith I cannot wonder, when I hear
Of folks who waste a fortune on good cheer,
For there’s no treat in nature more divine
Than a fat thrush or a big paunch of swine.”
I’m just his double: when my purse is lean
I hug myself, and praise the golden mean,
Stout when not tempted; but suppose some day
A special titbit comes into my way,
I vow man’s happiness is ne’er complete
Till based on a substantial country seat.
About my farm, dear Quinctius; you would know
What sort of produce for its lord ’twill grow;
Plough-land is it, or meadow-land, or soil
For apples, vine-clad elms, or olive oil?
So (but you’ll think me garrulous) I’ll write
A full description of its form and site.
In long continuous line the mountains run,
Cleft by a valley which twice feels the sun,
Once on the right when first he lifts his beams,
Once on the left, when he descends in steams.
You’d praise the climate: well, and what d’ye say
To sloes and cornels hanging from the spray?
What to the oak and ilex, that afford
Fruit to the cattle, shelter to their lord?
What, but that rich Tarentum must have been
Transplanted nearer Rome with all its green?
Then there’s a fountain of sufficient size
To name the river that takes thence its rise,
Not Thracian Hebrus colder or more pure,
Of power the head’s and stomach’s ills to cure.
This sweet retirement—nay, ’tis more than sweet—
Ensures my health e’en in September’s heat.
And how fare you? if you deserve in truth
The name men give you, you’re a happy youth:
Rome’s thousand tongues, agreed at least in this,
Ascribe to you a plenitude of bliss.
Yet, when you judge of self, I fear you’re prone
To take another’s word before your own,
To think of happiness as ’twere a prize
That men may win though neither good nor wise:
Just so the glutton whom the world thinks well
Keeps dark his fever till the dinner-bell;
Then, as he’s eating, with his hands well greased,
Shivering comes on, and proves the fool diseased.
O, ’tis a false, false shame that would conceal
From doctors’ eyes the sores it cannot heal!
Suppose a man should trumpet your success
By land and sea, and make you this address:
“May Jove, who watches with the same good-will
O’er you and Rome, preserve the secret still,
Whether the heart within you beats more true
To Rome and to her sons, or theirs to you!”
Howe’er your ears might flatter you, you’d say
The praise was Caesar’s, and had gone astray.