XVII. TO SCAEVA.
Though instinct tells you, Scaeva, how to act,
And makes you live among the great with tact,
Yet hear a fellow-student; ’tis as though
The blind should point you out the way to go,
But still give heed, and see if I produce
Aught that hereafter you may find of use.
If rest is what you like, and sleep till eight,
If dust and rumbling wheels are what you hate,
If tavern-life disgusts you, then repair
To Ferentinum, and turn hermit there;
For wealth has no monopoly of bliss,
And life unnoticed is not lived amiss:
But if you’d help your friends, and like a treat,
Then drop dry bread, and take to juicy meat.
“If Aristippus could but dine off greens,
He’d cease to cultivate his kings and queens.”
“If that rude snarler knew but queens and kings,
He’d find his greens unpalatable things.”
Thus far the rival sages. Tell me true,
Whose words you think the wiser of the two,
Or hear (to listen is a junior’s place)
Why Aristippus has the better case;
For he, the story goes, with this remark
Once stopped the Cynic’s aggravating bark:
“Buffoon I may be, but I ply my trade
For solid value; you ply yours unpaid.
I pay my daily duty to the great,
That I may ride a horse and dine in state;
You, though you talk of independence, yet,
Each time you beg for scraps, contract a debt.”
All lives sat well on Aristippus; though
He liked the high, he yet could grace the low;
But the dogged sage whose blanket folds in two
Would be less apt in changing old for new.
Take from the one his robe of costly red,
He’ll not refuse to dress, or keep his bed;
Clothed as you please, he’ll walk the crowded street,
And, though not fine, will manage to look neat.
Put purple on the other, not the touch
Of toad or asp would startle him so much;
Give back his blanket, or he’ll die of chill:
Yes, give it back; he’s too absurd to kill.
To win great fights, to lead before men’s eyes
A captive foe, is half way to the skies:
Just so, to gain by honourable ways
A great man’s favour is no vulgar praise:
You know the proverb, “Corinth town is fair,
But ’tis not every man that can get there.”
One man sits still, not hoping to succeed;
One makes the journey; he’s a man indeed!
’Tis that we look for; not to shift a weight
Which little frames and little souls think great,
But stoop and bear it. Virtue’s a mere name,
Or ’tis high venture that achieves high aim.