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The following sections, if they exist, are offprint from Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults: "About the Author", "Overview", "Setting", "Literary Qualities", "Social Sensitivity", "Topics for Discussion", "Ideas for Reports and Papers". (c)1994-2005, by Walton Beacham.
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|Table of Contents|
|Start of eBook||1|
|II. TO LOLLIUS.||51|
|III. TO JULIUS FLORUS.||53|
|IV. TO ALBIUS TIBULLUS||54|
|V. TO TORQUATUS.||54|
|VI. TO NUMICIUS.||55|
|VII. TO MAECENAS.||56|
|VIII. TO CELSUS ALBINOVANUS.||58|
|IX. TO TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS NERO.||59|
|X. TO ARISTIUS FUSCUS.||59|
|XI. TO BULLATIUS.||60|
|XII. TO Iccitus.||61|
|XIII. TO VINIUS ASELLA.||61|
|XIV. TO HIS BAILIFF.||62|
|XV. TO C. NUMONIUS VALA.||63|
|XVI. TO QUINCTIUS.||64|
|XVII. TO SCAEVA.||66|
|XVIII. TO LOLLIUS.||67|
|XIX. TO MAECENAS.||69|
|XX. TO HIS BOOK.||70|
|II. TO JULIUS FLORUS.||76|
|THE ART OF POETRY.||81|
In venturing to follow up my translation of the Odes of Horace by a version of the Satires and Epistles, I feel that I am in no way entitled to refer to the former as a justification of my boldness in undertaking the latter. Both classes of works are doubtless explicable as products of the same original genius: but they differ so widely in many of their characteristics, that success in rendering the one, though greater than any which I can hope to have attained, would afford no presumption that the translator would be found to have the least aptitude for the other. As a matter of fact, while the Odes still continue to invite translation after translation, the Satires and Epistles, popular as they were among translators and imitators a hundred years ago, have scarcely been attempted at all since that great revolution in literary taste which was effected during the last ten years of the last century and the first ten years of the present. Byron’s Hints from Horace, Mr. Howes’ forgotten but highly meritorious version of the Satires and Epistles, to which I hope to return before long, and a few experiments by Mr. Theodore Martin, published in the notes to his translation of the Odes and elsewhere, constitute perhaps the whole recent stock of which a new translator may be expected to take account. In one sense this is encouraging: in another dispiriting. The field is not pre-occupied: but the reason is, that general opinion has pronounced its cultivation unprofitable and hopeless.
No doubt, apart from fluctuations in the taste of the reading public, there are special reasons why a version of this portion of Horace’s works should be a difficult, perhaps an impracticable undertaking. It would not be easy to maintain that a Roman satirist was incapable of adequate representation in English in the face of such an instance to the contrary as Gifford’s Juvenal, probably, take it all in all, the very best version of a classic in the language. But though Juvenal has many passages which sufficiently remind us of Horace, some of them light and playful, others level and almost flat, these do not form the staple of his Satires: there are passages of dignified declamation and passionate invective which suffer less in translation, and which may be so rendered as to leave a lasting impression of pleasure upon the mind of the reader. Like Horace, he has an abundance of local and temporary allusions, in dealing with which the most successful translator is the one who fails least: unlike Horace, when he quits the local and the temporary, he generally quits also the language of persiflage, and abandons himself unrestrainedly to feeling. Persiflage, I suppose, even in ordinary life, is much less easy to practise with perfect success than a graver and less artificial mode of speaking, though, perhaps for that very reason, it is apt to be more sought after: the persiflage of a writer
Without however enlarging further on the peculiar difficulty of the task, I will proceed to say a few words on some of the special questions which a translator of the Satires and Epistles has to encounter, and the way in which, as it appears to me, he may best deal with them. These questions, I need hardly say, mainly resolve themselves into the metre and the style. With regard to the metre, I have myself but little doubt that the measure in which Horace may best be represented is the heroic as I suppose we must call it, of ten syllables. The one competing measure of course is the Hudibrastic octosyllabic. This latter metre is not without considerable authority in its favour. Two translators, Smart and Boscawen, have rendered the whole, or nearly the whole of these poems in that and no other way: Francis occasionally adopts it, though he generally uses the longer measure: Swift and Pope, as every one knows, employ it in three or four of their imitations: Cowper, in his original poems perhaps the greatest master we have of the Horatian style, translates the only two satires he has attempted in the shorter form: Mr. Martin uses it as often as he uses the heroic: perhaps Mr. Howes is the only translator since Creech who employs the heroic throughout. Some of my readers may possibly wonder why I in particular, having rendered the AEneid in a measure which, whatever its vivacity, may be thought deficient in dignity, should turn round and repudiate it in a case where vivacity, not dignity, happens to be the point desired. I can only say that it is precisely the colloquial nature of the metre which makes me stand in doubt of it for my present purpose. Using it in the case of Virgil, I was sure to be reminded of the need of guarding against its abuse: using it in the case of Horace, I should be constantly in danger of regarding the abuse as the law of the measure.
In what I have said I have implied that Cowper is the right model for the English heroic as applied to a translation of Horace: and this on the whole I believe to be the case. Horace’s characteristics, as I remarked just now, are ease and terseness, and both these Cowper possesses, ease in metre, and ease and terseness in style. Pope, on the other hand, who in some respects would seem the better representative of Horace, is less easy both in style and metre, while his terseness is what Horace’s terseness is not, trimness and antithetical smartness. Still, while making Cowper my pattern as a general rule, I have attempted from time to time to borrow a grace from Pope, even, when the original gave me no warrant for the appropriation. If Cowper’s verse could be written by Cowper, it would probably leave nothing to be desired in a translation of this kind: handled by an inferior workman, it is in danger of becoming flat, pointless, and insipid: and Horace has many passages which, if not flat, pointless, or insipid in themselves, are painfully liable to become
There is yet something more to be said on the question of style. The exact mode of representing Horace’s persiflage is, as I have intimated already, not an easy thing to determine. The translators of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for the most part made their author either vulgar or flat, sometimes both. Probably no better rule can be laid down for the translator of the present day, than that he should try to follow the ordinary language of good society, wavering and uncertain as that standard is. I do not mean so much the language of the better sort of light literature as the language of conversation and of familiar letter-writing. Even some of the idiomatic blemishes of conversation may perhaps, in such a work, be venial, if not laudable. I have not always sought to be a minute purist even on points of grammar. Cowper, rather singularly, appears from his practice to proscribe colloquial abbreviations in poetry, though they were, I suppose, at least as usual in his time as in ours, and are used by Pope in his lighter works with little scruple. I have adopted them freely through nearly the whole of my version, though of course there are some passages where they could not be properly employed. Gifford says in the Essay on the Roman Satirists prefixed to his Juvenal that the general character of his translation will be found to be plainness: and if I do not misunderstand what he means by the term, it exactly represents the quality which I have endeavoured to attain myself. As a general rule, where a rendering presented itself to me which in dealing with another author I should welcome as poetical, I hare deliberately rejected it, and cast about instead for something which, without being feeble or slipshod, should have an idiomatic prosaic ring. Where Horace evidently means to rise, I have attempted to rise too: but through the greater part of this work I have been anxious, to use his own expression, to creep along the ground. No doubt there is danger in all this, the danger of triviality, pertness, and occasional vulgarity. Gifford’s own work was attacked on its first appearance by a reviewer of the day precisely on those grounds: and though he seems to have made a vehement reply to his assailant, the changes which he made in his second edition showed that the censure was not without its effect. Still, where it is almost impossible to walk quite straight, the walker will reconcile himself to incidental deviations, and will even consider, where a slip is inevitable, on which side of the line it is better that the slip should take place.
A patent difficulty of course is to know what to do with local and temporary customs, allusions, proverbs, &c., which enter, I need not say, far more largely into satire or comedy than into any other form of writing. Here it is that the imitator has the advantage of the translator: a certain parallelism between his own time and the time of the author he imitates is postulated in the fact of his imitating
Taken altogether, this translation will be found less close to the original than those with which I have formerly troubled the public. The considerations pointed out in the last paragraph will to a great extent account for this: generally too I may say that where the main characteristic of the original is perfect ease, the translator, if he is to be easy also, will be obliged to take considerable latitude. I trust however that I shall be found in most cases not to have translated irrespectively of the Latin, but to have borne it in mind even while departing from it most widely. I have studied the various commentators with some care, and hope that my version may not be without its use in turn as a sort of free commentary. I have omitted two entire satires and several passages from others. Some of them no one would wish to see translated: some, though capable of being rendered without offence a hundred or even fifty years ago, could hardly be so rendered now. Where I have not translated I have not in general cared to paraphrase, but have been silent altogether. I have in short given so much of my author as a well-judging reader would wish to dwell on in reading the original, and no more.
I have made acquaintance with such of the previous translations as I did not already know, though it seemed best to avoid consulting them in any passage till I had translated it myself. The few places in which I have been consciously indebted to others have been mentioned in the notes. Besides these, there are many other coincidences in expression and rhyme which might be detected by any one sharing my taste for that kind of reading, probably one or two in each poem: but as I believe them to be mere coincidences, I have not been at pains either to avoid them or to call attention to them. The only one of my predecessors in translating all the poems contained in this volume whom I need mention particularly is Mr. Howes. His book was published posthumously in 1845; but though it is stated in the preface to want the author’s last corrections, a good deal of it must have been written long before, as the translation of the Satires is announced as nearly half finished in the introduction to a translation of Persius by the same author published in 1809, and some specimens given in the notes to that volume correspond almost exactly with the passages as they finally appear. The translation of Persius is a work of decided ability, but, in common I am inclined to think with all the other translations, fails to give an adequate notion of the characteristics of that very peculiar writer. The translation of the Horatian poems, on the other hand, seems to me on the whole undoubtedly successful, though, for whatever reason, its merits do not appear to have been recognized by the public. It is unequal, and it is too prolix: but when it is good, which is not seldom, it is very good, unforced, idiomatic, and felicitous. In one of its features, the habit of supplying connecting links to Horace’s
QUI fit, Maecenas.
How comes it, say, Maecenas, if you can,
That none will live like a contented man
Where choice or chance directs, but each must praise
The folk who pass through life by other ways?
“Those lucky merchants!” cries the soldier stout,
When years of toil have well-nigh worn him out:
What says the merchant, tossing o’er the brine?
“Yon soldier’s lot is happier, sure, than mine:
One short, sharp shock, and presto! all is done:
Death in an instant comes, or victory’s won.”
The lawyer lauds the farmer, when a knock
Disturbs his sleep at crowing of the cock:
The farmer, dragged to town on business, swears
That only citizens are free from cares.
I need not run through all: so long the list,
Fabius himself would weary and desist:
So take in brief my meaning: just suppose
Some God should come, and with their wishes close:
“See, here am I, come down of my mere grace
To right you: soldier, take the merchant’s place!
You, counsellor, the farmer’s! go your way,
One here, one there! None stirring? all say nay?
How now? you won’t be happy when you may.”
Now, after this, would Jove be aught to blame
If with both cheeks he burst into a flame,
And vowed, when next they pray, they shall not find
His temper easy, or his ear inclined?
Well, not to treat things lightly (though, for me,
Why truth may not be gay, I cannot see:
Just as, we know, judicious teachers coax
With sugar-plum or cake their little folks
To learn their alphabet):—still, we will try
A graver tone, and lay our joking by.
The man that with his plough subdues the land,
The soldier stout, the vintner sly and bland,
The venturous sons of ocean, all declare
That with one view the toils of life they bear,
When age has come, and labour has amassed
Enough to live on, to retire at last:
E’en so the ant (for no bad pattern she),
That tiny type of giant industry,
Drags grain by grain, and adds it to the sum
Of her full heap, foreseeing cold to come:
Yet she, when winter turns the year to chill,
Stirs not an inch beyond her mounded hill,
But lives upon her savings: you, more bold,
But there’s a class of persons, led astray
By false desires, and this is what they say:
“You cannot have enough: what you possess,
That makes your value, be it more or less.”
What answer would you make to such as these?
Why, let them hug their misery if they please,
Like the Athenian miser, who was wont
To meet men’s curses with a hero’s front:
“Folks hiss me,” said he, “but myself I clap
When I tell o’er my treasures on my lap.”
So Tantalus catches at the waves that fly
His thirsty palate—Laughing, are you? why?
Change but the name, of you the tale is told:
You sleep, mouth open, on your hoarded gold;
Gold that you treat as sacred, dare not use,
In fact, that charms you as a picture does.
Come, will you hear what wealth can fairly do?
’Twill buy you bread, and vegetables too,
And wine, a good pint measure: add to this
Such needful things as flesh and blood would miss.
But to go mad with watching, nights and days
To stand in dread of thieves, fires, runaways
Who filch and fly,—in these if wealth consist,
Let me rank lowest on the paupers’ list.
“But if you suffer from a chill attack,
Or other chance should lay you on your back,
You then have one who’ll sit by your bed-side,
Will see the needful remedies applied,
And call in a physician, to restore
Your health, and give you to your friends once more.”
Nor wife nor son desires your welfare: all
Detest you, neighbours, gossips, great and small.
What marvel if, when wealth’s your one concern,
None offers you the love you never earn?
Nay, would you win the kinsmen Nature sends
Made ready to your hand, and keep them friends,
’Twere but lost labour, as if one should train
A donkey for the course by bit and rein.
Make then an end of getting: know, the more
Your wealth, the less the risk of being poor;
And, having gained the object of your quest,
Begin to slack your efforts and take rest;
Nor act like one Ummidius (never fear,
The tale is short, and ’tis the last you’ll hear),
So rich, his gold he by the peck would tell,
So mean, the slave that served him dressed as well;
E’en to his dying day he went in dread
Of perishing for simple want of bread,
Till a brave damsel, of Tyndarid line
The true descendant, clove him down the chine.
“What? would you have me live like some we know,
Maenius or Nomentanus?” There you go!
Still in extremes! in bidding you forsake
A miser’s ways, I say not, Be a rake.
‘Twixt Tanais and Visellius’ sire-in-law
A step there is, and broader than a straw.
Yes, there’s a mean in morals: life has lines,
To north or south of which all virtue pines.
Now to resume our subject: why, I say,
Should each man act the miser in his way,
Still discontented with his natural lot,
Still praising those who have what he has not?
Why should he waste with very spite, to see
His neighbour has a milkier cow than he,
Ne’er think how much he’s richer than the mass,
But always strive this man or that to pass?
In such a contest, speed we as we may,
There’s some one wealthier ever in the way.
So from their base when vying chariots pour,
Each driver presses on the car before,
Wastes not a thought on rivals overpast,
But leaves them to lag on among the last.
Hence comes it that the man is rarely seen
Who owns that his a happy life has been,
And, thankful for past blessings, with good will
Retires, like one who has enjoyed his fill.
Enough: you’ll think I’ve rifled the scrutore
Of blind Crispinus, if I prose on more.
Omnibus hoc VITIUM.
All singers have a fault: if asked to use
Their talent among friends, they never choose;
Unask’d, they ne’er leave off. Just such a one
Tigellius was, Sardinia’s famous son.
Caesar, who could have forced him to obey,
By his sire’s friendship and his own might pray,
Yet not draw forth a note: then, if the whim
Took him, he’d troll a Bacchanalian hymn,
From top to bottom of the tetrachord,
Till the last course was set upon the board.
One mass of inconsistence, oft he’d fly
As if the foe were following in full cry,
While oft he’d stalk with a majestic gait,
Like Juno’s priest in ceremonial-state.
Now, he would keep two hundred serving-men,
And now, a bare establishment of ten.
Of kings and tetrarchs with an equal’s air
He’d talk: next day he’d breathe the hermit’s prayer:
“A table with three legs, a shell to hold
My salt, and clothes, though coarse, to keep out cold.”
Yet give this man, so frugal, so content,
A thousand, in a week ’twould all be spent.
All night he would sit up, all day would snore:
So strange a jumble ne’er was seen before.
“Hold!” some one cries, “have you
no failings?” Yes;
Failings enough, but different, maybe less.
One day when Maenius happened to attack
Novius the usurer behind his back,
“Do you not know yourself?” said one, “or think
That if you play the stranger, we shall wink?”
“Not know myself!” he answered, “you say true:
I do not: so I take a stranger’s due.”
Self-love like this is knavish and absurd,
And well deserves a damnatory word.
You glance at your own faults; your eyes are blear:
You eye your neighbour’s; straightway you see clear,
Like hawk or basilisk: your neighbours pry
Into your frailties with as keen an eye.
A man is passionate, perhaps misplaced
In social circles of fastidious taste;
His ill-trimmed beard, his dress of uncouth style,
His shoes ill-fitting, may provoke a smile:
But he’s the soul of virtue; but he’s kind;
But that coarse body hides a mighty mind.
Now, having scanned his breast, inspect your own,
And see if there no failings have been sown
By Nature or by habit, as the fern
Springs in neglected fields, for men to burn.
True love, we know, is blind: defects that blight
The loved one’s charms escape the lover’s sight,
Nay, pass for beauties, as Balbinus glows
With admiration of his Hagna’s nose.
Ah, if in friendship we e’en did the same,
And virtue cloaked the error with her name!
Come, let us learn how friends at friends should look
By a leaf taken from a father’s book.
Has the dear child a squint? at home he’s classed
With Venus’ self; “her eyes have just that cast:”
Is he a dwarf like Sisyphus? his sire
Calls him “sweet pet,” and would not have him higher,
Gives Varus’ name to knock-kneed boys, and dubs
His club-foot youngster Scaurus, king of clubs.
E’en so let us our neighbours’ frailties scan:
A friend is close; call him a careful man:
Another’s vain and fond of boasting; say,
He talks in an engaging, friendly way:
A third is a barbarian, rude and free;
Straightforward and courageous let him be:
A fourth is apt to break into a flame;
An ardent spirit—make we that his name.
This is the sovereign recipe, be sure,
To win men’s hearts, and having won, secure.
But we put virtue down to vice’s score,
And foul the vessel that was clean before:
See, here’s a modest man, who ranks too low
In his own judgment; him we nickname slow:
Another, ever on his guard, takes care
No enemy shall catch him unaware,
(Small wonder, truly, in a world like this,
Beset with dogs that growl and snakes that hiss);
We turn his merit to a fault, and style
His prudence mere disguise, his caution guile.
Or take some honest soul, who, full of glee,
Breaks on a patron’s solitude, like me,
Finds his Maecenas book in hand or dumb,
And pokes him with remarks, the first that come;
Now, since resentment, spite of all we do,
Will haunt us fools, and other vices too,
Why should not reason use her own just sense,
And square her punishments to each offence?
Suppose a slave, as he removes the dish,
Licks the warm gravy or remains of fish,
Should his vexed master gibbet the poor lad,
He’d be a second Labeo, staring mad.
Now take another instance, and remark
A case of madness, grosser and more stark.
A friend has crossed you:—’tis a slight affair;
Not to forgive it writes you down a bear:—
You hate the man and his acquaintance fly,
As Ruso’s debtors hide from Ruso’s eye;
Poor victims, doomed, when that black pay-day’s come,
Unless by hook or crook they raise the sum,
To stretch their necks, like captives to the knife,
And listen to dull histories for dear life.
Say, he has drunk too much, or smashed some ware,
Evander’s once, inestimably rare,
Or stretched before me, in his zeal to dine,
To snatch a chicken I had meant for mine;
What then? is that a reason he should seem
Less pleasant, less deserving my esteem?
How could I treat him worse, were he to thieve,
Betray a secret, or a trust deceive?
Your men of words, who rate all crimes alike,
Collapse and founder, when on fact they strike:
Sense, custom, all, cry out against the thing,
And high expedience, right’s perennial spring.
When men first crept from out earth’s womb, like worms,
Dumb speechless creatures, with scarce human forms,
With nails or doubled fists they used to fight
For acorns or for sleeping-holes at night;
Clubs followed next; at last to arms they came,
Which growing practice taught them how to frame,
Till words and names were found, wherewith to mould
The sounds they uttered, and their thoughts unfold;
Thenceforth they left off fighting, and began
To build them cities, guarding man from man,
And set up laws as barriers against strife
That threatened person, property, or wife.
’Twas fear of wrong gave birth to right, you’ll find,
If you but search the records of mankind.
Nature knows good and evil, joy and grief,
But just and unjust are beyond her brief:
Nor can philosophy, though finely spun,
By stress of logic prove the two things one,
But tell me, Stoic, if the wise, you teach,
Is king, Adonis, cobbler, all and each,
Why wish for what you’ve got? “Tou fail to see
What great Chrysippus means by that,” says he.
“What though the wise ne’er shoe nor slipper made,
The wise is still a brother of the trade.
Just as Hennogenes, when silent, still
Remains a singer of consummate skill,
As sly Alfenius, when he had let drop
His implements of art and shut up shop,
Was still a barber, so the wise is best
In every craft, a king’s among the rest.”
Hail to your majesty! yet, ne’ertheless,
Rude boys are pulling at your beard, I guess;
And now, unless your cudgel keeps them off,
The mob begins to hustle, push, and scoff;
You, all forlorn, attempt to stand at bay,
And roar till your imperial lungs give way.
Well, so we part: each takes his separate path:
You make your progress to your farthing bath,
A king, with ne’er a follower in your train,
Except Crispinus, that distempered brain;
While I find pleasant friends to screen me, when
I chance to err, like other foolish men;
Bearing and borne with, so the change we ring,
More blest as private folks than you as king.
EUPOLIS ATQUE Cratinus.
Cratinus, Aristophanes, and all
The elder comic poets, great and small,
If e’er a worthy in those ancient times
Deserved peculiar notice for his crimes,
Adulterer, cut-throat, ne’er-do-well, or thief,
Portrayed him without fear in strong relief.
From these, as lineal heir, Lucilius springs,
The same in all points save the tune he sings,
A shrewd keen satirist, yet somewhat hard
And rugged, if you view him as a bard.
For this was his mistake: he liked to stand,
One leg before him, leaning on one hand,
Pour forth two hundred verses in an hour,
And think such readiness a proof of power.
When like a torrent he bore down, you’d find
He left a load of refuse still behind:
Fluent, yet indolent, he would rebel
Against the toil of writing, writing well,
Not writing much; for that I grant you. See,
Here comes Crispinus, wants to bet with me,
And offers odds: “A meeting, if you please:
Take we our tablets each, you those, I these:
Name place, and time, and umpires: let us try
Who can compose the faster, you or I.”
Thank Heaven, that formed me of unfertile mind,
My speech not copious, and my thoughts confined!
But you, be like the bellows, if you choose,
Still puffing, puffing, till the metal fuse,
And vent your windy nothings with a sound
That makes the depth they come from seem profound.
Happy is Fannius, with immortals classed,
His bust and bookcase canonized at last,
While, as for me, none reads the things I write.
Loath as I am in public to recite,
Knowing that satire finds small favour, since
Most men want whipping, and who want it, wince.
Choose from the crowd a casual wight, ’tis seen
He’s place-hunter or miser, vain or mean:
One raves of others’ wives: one stands agaze
At silver dishes: bronze is Albius’ craze:
Another barters goods the whole world o’er,
From distant east to furthest western shore,
Driving along like dust-cloud through the air
To increase his capital or not impair:
These, one and all, the clink of metre fly,
And look on poets with a dragon’s eye.
“Beware! he’s vicious: so he gains his end,
A selfish laugh, he will not spare a friend:
Whate’er he scrawls, the mean malignant rogue
Is all alive to get it into vogue:
Give him a handle, and your tale is known
To every giggling boy and maundering crone.”
A weighty accusation! now, permit
Some few brief words, and I will answer it:
First, be it understood, I make no claim
To rank with those who bear a poet’s name:
’Tis not enough to turn out lines complete,
Each with its proper quantum of five feet;
Colloquial verse a man may write like me,
But (trust an author)’tis not poetry.
No; keep that name for genius, for a soul
Of Heaven’s own fire, for words that grandly roll.
Hence some have questioned if the Muse we call
The Comic Muse be really one at all:
Her subject ne’er aspires, her style ne’er glows,
And, save that she talks metre, she talks prose.
“Aye, but the angry father shakes the stage,
When on his graceless son he pours his rage,
Who, smitten with the mistress of the hour,
Rejects a well-born wife with ample dower,
Gets drunk, and (worst of all) in public sight
Keels with a blazing flambeau while ’tis light.”
Well, could Pomponius’ sire to life return,
Think you he’d rate his son in tones less stern?
So then ’tis not sufficient to combine
Well-chosen words in a well-ordered line,
When, take away the rhythm, the self-same words
Would suit an angry father off the boards.
Strip what I write, or what Lucilius wrote,
Of cadence and succession, time and note,
Reverse the order, put those words behind
That went before, no poetry you’ll find:
But break up this, “When Battle’s brazen door
Blood-boltered Discord from its fastenings tore,”
’Tis Orpheus mangled by the Maenads: still
The bard remains, unlimb him as you will.
Enough of this: some other time we’ll see
If Satire is or is not poetry:
Today I take the question, if ’tis just
That men like you should view it with distrust.
Sulcius and Caprius promenade in force,
Each with his papers, virulently hoarse,
Bugbears to robbers both: but he that’s true
And decent-living may defy the two.
Say, you’re first cousin to that goodly pair
Caelius and Birrius, and their foibles share:
No Sulcius nor yet Caprius here you see
In your unworthy servant: why fear me?
No books of mine on stall or counter stand,
To tempt Tigellius’ or some clammier hand,
Nor read I save to friends, and that when pressed,
Not to chance auditor or casual guest.
Others are less fastidious: some will air
Their last production in the public square:
Some choose the bathroom, for the walls all round
Make the voice sweeter and improve the sound:
Weak brains, to whom the question ne’er occurred
If what they do be vain, ill-timed, absurd.
“But you give pain: your habit is to bite,”
Rejoins the foe, “of sot deliberate spite.”
Who broached that slander? of the men I know,
With whom I live, have any told you so?
He who maligns an absent friend’s fair fame,
Who says no word for him when others blame,
Who courts a reckless laugh by random hits,
Just for the sake of ranking among wits,
Who feigns what he ne’er saw, a secret blabs,
Beware him, Roman! that man steals or stabs!
Oft you may see three couches, four on each,
Where all are wincing under one man’s speech,
All, save the host: his turn too comes at last,
When wine lets loose the humour shame held fast:
And you, who hate malignity, can see
Nought here but pleasant talk, well-bred and free.
I, if I chance in laughing vein to note
Rufillus’ civet and Gargonius’ goat,
Must I be toad or scorpion? Look at home:
Suppose Petillius’ theft, the talk of Rome,
Named in your presence, mark how yon defend
In your accustomed strain your absent friend:
“Petillius? yes, I know him well: in truth
We have been friends, companions, e’en from youth:
A thousand times he’s served me, and I joy
That he can walk the streets without annoy:
Yet ’tis a puzzle, I confess, to me
How from that same affair he got off free.”
Here is the poison-bag of malice, here
The gall of fell detraction, pure and sheer:
And these, I’swear, if man such pledge may give,
My pen and heart shall keep from, while I live.
But if I still seem personal and bold,
Perhaps you’ll pardon, when my story’s told.
When my good father taught me to be good,
Scarecrows he took of living flesh and blood.
Thus, if he warned me not to spend but spare
The moderate means I owe to his wise care,
’Twas, “See the life that son of Albius leads!
Observe that Barrus, vilest of ill weeds!
Thus I grew up, unstained by serious ill,
Though venial faults, I grant you, haunt me still:
Yet items I could name retrenched e’en there
By time, plain speaking, individual care;
For, when I chance to stroll or lounge alone,
I’m not without a Mentor of my own:
“This course were better: that might help to mend
My daily life, improve me as a friend:
There some one showed ill-breeding: can I say
I might not fall into the like one day?”
So with closed lips I ruminate, and then
In leisure moments play with ink and pen:
For that’s an instance, I must needs avow,
Of those small faults I hinted at just now:
Grant it your prompt indulgence, or a throng
Of poets shall come up, some hundred strong,
And by mere numbers, in your own despite,
Force you, like Jews, to be our proselyte.
Leaving great Rome, my journey I begin,
And reach Aricia, where a moderate inn
(With me was Heliodorus, who knows more
Of rhetoric than e’er did Greek before):
Next Appii Forum, filled, e’en, nigh to choke,
With knavish publicans and boatmen folk.
This portion of our route, which most get through
At one good stretch, we chose to split in two,
Taking it leisurely: for those who go
The Appian road are jolted less when slow.
I find the water villanous, decline
My stomach’s overtures, refuse to dine,
And sit and sit with temper less than sweet
Watching my fellow-travellers while they eat.
Now Night prepared o’er all the earth to spread
Her veil, and light the stars up overhead:
Boatmen and slaves a slanging-match begin:
“Ho! put in here! What! take three hundred
Then on to Beneventum, where our host,
As some lean thrushes he essayed to roast,
Was all but burnt: for up the chimney came
The blaze, and well nigh set the house on flame:
The guests and servants snatch the meat, and fall
Upon the fire with buckets, one and all.
Next rise to view Apulia’s well-known heights,
Which keen Atabulus so sorely bites:
And there perchance we might be wandering yet,
But shelter in Trivicum’s town we get,
Where green damp branches in the fireplace spread
Make our poor eyes to water in our head.
Then four and twenty miles, a good long way,
Our coaches take us, in a town to stay
Whose name no art can squeeze into a line,
Though otherwise ’tis easy to define:
For water there, the cheapest thing on earth,
Is sold for money: but the bread is worth
A fancy price, and travellers who know
Their business take it with them when they go:
For at Canusium, town of Diomed,
The drink’s as bad, and grits are in the bread.
Here to our sorrow Varius takes his leave,
And, grieved himself, compels his friends to grieve.
Fatigued, we come to Rubi: for the way
Was long, and rain had made it sodden clay.
Next day, with better weather, o’er worse ground
We get to Barium’s town, where fish abound.
Then Gnatia, built in water-nymphs’ despite,
Made us cut jokes and laugh, as well we might,
Listening to tales of incense, wondrous feat,
That melts in temples without fire to heat.
Tell the crazed Jews such miracles as these!
I hold the gods live lives of careless ease,
And, if a wonder happens, don’t assume
’Tis sent in anger from the upstairs room.
Last comes Brundusium: there the lines I penned,
The leagues I travelled, find alike their end.
Non QUIA, Maecenas.
What if, Maecenas, none, though ne’er so blue
His Tusco-Lydian blood, surpasses you?
What if your grandfathers, on either hand,
Father’s and mother’s, were in high command?
Not therefore do you curl the lip of scorn
At nobodies, like me, of freedman born:
Far other rule is yours, of rank or birth
To raise no question, so there be but worth,
Convinced, and truly too, that wights unknown,
Ere Servius’ rise set freedmen on the throne,
Despite their ancestors, not seldom came
To high employment, honours, and fair fame,
While great Laevinus, scion of the race
That pulled down Tarquin from his pride of place,
Has ne’er been valued at a poor half-crown
E’en in the eyes of that wise judge, the town,
That muddy source of dignity, which sees
No virtue but in busts and lineal trees.
Well, but for us; what thoughts should ours be, say,
Removed from vulgar judgments miles away?
Grant that Laevinus yet would be preferred
To low-born Decius by the common herd,
That censor Appius, just because I came
From freedman’s loins, would obelize my name—
And serve me right; for ’twas my restless pride
Kept me from sleeping in my own poor hide.
But Glory, like a conqueror, drags behind
Her glittering car the souls of all mankind;
Nor less the lowly than the noble feels
The onward roll of those victorious wheels.
Come, tell me, Tillius, have you cause to thank
The stars that gave you power, restored you rank?
Ill-will, scarce audible in low estate,
Gives tongue, and opens loudly, now you’re great.
Poor fools! they take the stripe, draw on the shoe,
And hear folks asking, “Who’s that fellow? who?”
Just as a man with Barrus’s disease,
His one sole care a lady’s eye to please,
Whene’er he walks abroad, sets on the fair
To con him over, leg, face, teeth, and hair;
So he that undertakes to hold in charge
Town, country, temples, all the realm at large,
Gives all the world a title to enquire
The antecedents of his dam or sire.
“What? you to twist men’s necks or scourge them, you,
The son of Syrus, Dama, none knows who?”
“Aye, but I sit before my colleague; he
Ranks with my worthy father, not with me.”
And think you, on the strength of this, to rise
A Paullus or Messala in our eyes?
Talk of your colleague! he’s a man of parts:
Suppose three funerals jostle with ten carts
All in the forum, still you’ll hear his voice
Through horn and clarion: that commends our
Now on myself, the freedman’s son, I touch,
The freedman’s son, by all contemned as such,
Once, when a legion followed my command,
Now, when Maecenas takes me by the hand.
But this and that are different: some stern judge
My military rank with cause might grudge,
But not your friendship, studious as you’ve been
To choose good men, not pushing, base, or mean.
Yet, if my nature, otherwise correct,
But with some few and trifling faults is flecked,
Just as a spot or mole might be to blame
Upon some body else of comely frame,
If none can call me miserly and mean
Or tax my life with practices unclean,
If I have lived unstained and unreproved
(Forgive self-praise), if loving and beloved,
I owe it to my father, who, though poor,
Passed by the village school at his own door,
The school where great tall urchins in a row,
Sons of great tall centurions, used to go,
With slate and satchel on their backs, to pay
Their monthly quota punctual to the day,
And took his boy to Rome, to learn the arts
Which knight or senator to his imparts.
Whoe’er had seen me, neat and more than neat,
With slaves behind me, in the crowded street,
Had surely thought a fortune fair and large,
Two generations old, sustained the charge.
Himself the true tried guardian of his son,
Whene’er I went to class, he still made one.
Why lengthen out the tale? he kept me chaste,
Which is the crown of virtue, undisgraced
In deed and name: he feared not lest one day
The world should talk of money thrown away,
If after all I plied some trade for hire,
Like him, a tax-collector, or a crier:
Nor had I murmured: as it is, the score
Of gratitude and praise is all the more.
No: while my head’s unturned, I ne’er shall need
To blush for that dear father, or to plead
As men oft plead, ’tis Nature’s fault, not mine,
I came not of a better, worthier line.
Not thus I speak, not thus I feel: the plea
Might serve another, but ’twere base in me.
Should Fate this moment bid me to go back
O’er all my length of years, my life retrack
To its first hour, and pick out such descent
As man might wish for e’en to pride’s content,
I should rest satisfied with mine, nor choose
New parents, decked with senatorial shoes,
Mad, most would think me, sane, as you’ll allow,
To waive a load ne’er thrust on me till now.
More gear ’twould make me get without delay,
More bows there’d be to make, more calls to pay,
A friend or two must still be at my side,
’Tis thus my life is happier, man of pride,
Than yours and that of half the world beside.
When the whim leads, I saunter forth alone,
Ask how are herbs, and what is flour a stone,
Lounge through the Circus with its crowd of liars,
Or in the Forum, when the sun retires,
Talk to a soothsayer, then go home to seek
My frugal meal of fritter, vetch, and leek:
Three youngsters serve the food: a slab of white
Contains two cups, one ladle, clean and bright:
Next, a cheap basin ranges on the shelf,
With jug and saucer of Campanian delf:
Then off to bed, where I can close my eyes
Not thinking how with morning I must rise
And face grim Marsyas, who is known to swear
Young Novius’ looks are what he cannot bear.
I lie a-bed till ten: then stroll a bit,
Or read or write, if in a silent fit,
And rub myself with oil, not taken whence
Natta takes his, at some poor lamp’s expense.
So to the field and ball; but when the sun
Bids me go bathe, the field and ball I shun:
Then eat a temperate luncheon, just to stay
A sinking stomach till the close of day,
Kill time in-doors, and so forth. Here you see
A careless life, from stir and striving free,
Happier (O be that flattering unction mine!)
Than if three quaestors figured in my line.
PROSCRIPTI Regis RUPILI.
How mongrel Persius managed to outsting
That pungent proscript, foul Rupilius King,
Is known, I take it, to each wight that drops
Oil on bleared eyes, or lolls in barbers’ shops.
Persius was rich, a man of great affairs,
Steeped to the lips in monetary cares
Down at Clazomenae: and some dispute
’Twixt him and King had festered to a suit.
Tough, pushing, loud was he, with power of hate
To beat e’en King’s; so pestilent his prate,
That Barrus and Sisenna you would find
Left in the running leagues and leagues behind.
Well, to return to King: they quickly see
They can’t agree except to disagree:
For ’tis a rule, that wrath is short or long
Just as the combatants are weak or strong:
’Twixt Hector and Aeacides the strife
Was truceless, mortal, could but end with life,
For this plain reason, that in either wight
The tide of valour glowed at its full height;
Whereas, if two poor cravens chance to jar,
Or if an ill-matched couple meet in war,
Like Diomede and Glaucus, straight the worse
Gives in, and presents are exchanged of course.
Well, in the days when Brutus held command,
With praetor’s rank, o’er Asia’s wealthy land,
Persius and King engage, a goodly pair,
Like Bithus matched with Bacchius to a hair.
Keen as sharp steel, before the court they go,
Bach in himself as good as a whole show.
Persius begins: amid the general laugh
He praises Brutus, praises Brutus’ staff,
Brutus, the healthful sun of Asia’s sphere,
His staff, the minor stars that bless the year,
All, save poor King; a dog-star he, the sign
To farmers inauspicious and malign:
So roaring on he went, like wintry flood,
Where axes seldom come to thin the wood.
Then, as he thundered, King, Praeneste-bred,
Hurled vineyard slang in handfuls at his head,
A tough grape-gatherer, whom the passer-by
Could ne’er put down, with all his cuckoo cry.
Sluiced with Italian vinegar, the Greek
At length vociferates, “Brutus, let me speak!
You are our great king-killer: why delay
To kill this King? I vow ’tis in your way.”
IBAM forte Via sacra.
Long the Sacred Road I strolled one day,
Deep in some bagatelle (you know my way),
When up comes one whose name I scarcely knew—
“The dearest of dear fellows! how d’ye do?”
He grasped my hand—“Well, thanks: the same to you.”
Then, as he still kept walking by my side,
To cut things short, “You’ve no commands?” I cried.
“Nay, you should know me: I’m a man of lore.”
“Sir, I’m your humble servant all the more.”
All in a fret to make him let me go,
I now walk fast, now loiter and walk slow,
Now whisper to my servant, while the sweat
Ran down so fast, my very feet were wet.
“O had I but a temper worth the name,
Like yours, Bolanus!” inly I exclaim,
While he keeps running on at a hand-trot,
About the town, the streets, I know not what.
Finding I made no answer, “Ah! I see,
Tou ’re at a strait to rid yourself of me;
But ’tis no use: I’m a tenacious friend,
And mean to hold you till your journey’s end,”
“No need to take you such a round: I go
To visit an acquaintance you don’t know:
Poor man! he’s ailing at his lodging, far
Beyond the bridge, where Caesar’s gardens are.”
“O, never mind: I’ve nothing else to do,
And want a walk, so I’ll step on with you.”
Down go my ears, in donkey-fashion, straight;
You’ve seen them do it, when their load’s too great.
“If I mistake not,” he begins, “you’ll find
Viscus not more, nor Varius, to yoar mind:
There’s not a man can turn a verse so soon,
Or dance so nimbly when he hears a tune:
While, as for singing—ah! my forte is there:
Tigellius’ self might envy me, I’ll swear.”
He paused for breath: I falteringly strike in:
“Have you a mother? have you kith or kin
To whom your life is precious?” “Not a soul:
My line’s extinct: I have interred the whole.”
O happy they! (so into thought I fell)
After life’s endless babble they sleep well:
My turn is next: dispatch me: for the weird
Has come to pass which I so long have feared,
The fatal weird a Sabine beldame sung,
All in my nursery days, when life was young:
“No sword nor poison e’er shall take him off,
Nor gout, nor pleurisy, nor racking cough:
A babbling tongue shall kill him: let him fly
All talkers, as he wishes not to die.”
We got to Vesta’s temple, and the sun
Told us a quarter of the day was done.
It chanced he had a suit, and was bound fast
Either to make appearance or be cast.
“Step here a moment, if you love me.” “Nay;
I know no law: ’twould hurt my health to stay:
And then, my call.” “I’m doubting what to do,
Whether to give my lawsuit up or you.
“Me, pray!” “I will not.” On he strides again:
I follow, unresisting, in his train.
“How stand you with Maecenas?” he began:
“He picks his friends with care; a shrewd wise man:
In fact, I take it, one could hardly name
A head so cool in life’s exciting game.
’Twould be a good deed done, if you could throw
Your servant in his way; I mean, you know,
Just to play second: in a month, I’ll swear,
You’d make an end of every rival there.”
“O, you mistake: we don’t live there in league:
I know no house more sacred from intrigue:
I’m never distanced in my friend’s good grace
By wealth or talent: each man finds his place.”
“A miracle! if ’twere not told by you,
I scarce should credit it.” “And yet ’tis true.”
“Ah, well, you double my desire to rise
To special favour with a man so wise.”
“You’ve but to wish it: ’twill be your own fault,
If, with your nerve, you win not by assault:
He can be won: that puts him on his guard,
And so the first approach is always hard.”
“No fear of me, sir: a judicious bribe
Will work a wonder with the menial tribe:
Say, I’m refused admittance for to-day;
I’ll watch my time; I’ll meet him in the way,
Escort him, dog him. In this world of ours
The path to what we want ne’er runs on flowers.”
’Mid all this prate there met us, as it fell,
Aristius, my good friend, who knew him well.
We stop: inquiries and replies go round:
“Where do you hail from?” “Whither are you bound?”
There as he stood, impassive as a clod,
I pull at his limp arms, frown, wink, and nod,
To urge him to release me. With a smile
He feigns stupidity: I burn with bile.
“Something there was you said you wished to tell
To me in private.” “Ay, I mind it well;
But not just now: ‘tis a Jews’ fast to-day:
Affront a sect so touchy! nay, friend, nay.”
Yes, I did say that, view him as a bard,
Lucilius is unrhythmic, rugged, hard.
Lives there a partisan so weak of brain
As to join issue on a fact so plain?
But that he had a gift of biting wit,
In the same page I hastened to admit.
Now understand me: that’s a point confessed;
But he who grants it grants not all the rest:
For, were a bard a bard because he’s smart,
Laberius’ mimes were products of high art.
’Tis not enough to make your reader’s face
Wear a broad grin, though that too has its place:
Terseness there wants, to make the thought ring clear,
Nor with a crowd of words confuse the ear:
There wants a plastic style, now grave, now light,
Now such as bard or orator would write,
And now the language of a well-bred man,
Who masks his strength, and says not all he can:
And pleasantry will often cut clean through
Hard knots that gravity would scarce undo.
On this the old comedians rested: hence
They’re still the models of all men of sense,
Despite Tigellius and his ape, whose song
Is Calvus and Catullus all day long.
“But surely that’s a merit quite unique,
His gift of mixing Latin up with Greek,”
Unique, you lags in learning? what? a knack
Caught by Pitholeon with his hybrid clack?
“Nay, but the mixture gives the style more grace,
As Chian, plus Falernian, has more race.”
Come, tell me truly: is this rule applied
To verse-making by you, and nought beside,
Or would you practise it, when called to plead
For poor Petillius, at his direst need?
Forsooth, you choose that moment, to disown
Your old forefathers, Latin to the bone,
And while great Pedius and Corvinus strain
Against you in pure Latin lungs and brain,
Like double-tongued Canusian, try to speak
A piebald speech, half native and half Greek!
Once when, though born on this side of the sea,
I tried my hand at Attic poetry,
Quirinus warned me, rising to my view
An hour past midnight, just when dreams are true:
“Seek you the throng of Grecian bards to swell?
Take sticks into a forest just as well.”
So, while Alpinus spills his Memnon’s blood,
Or gives his Rhine a headpiece of brown mud,
I toy with trifles such as this, unmeet
At Tarpa’s grave tribunal to compete,
Or, mouthed by well-graced actors, be the rage
Of mobs, and hold possession of the stage.
No hand can match Fundanius at a piece
Where slave and mistress clip an old man’s fleece:
Pollio in buskins chants the deeds of kings:
Varius outsoars us all on Homer’s wings:
The Muse that loves the woodland and the farm
To Virgil lends her gayest, tenderest charm.
For me, this walk of satire, vainly tried
By Atacinus and some few beside,
Best suits my gait: yet readily I yield
To him who first set footstep on that field,
Nor meanly seek to rob him of the bay
That shows so comely on his locks of grey.
Well, but I called him muddy, said you’d find
More sand than gold in what he leaves behind.
And you, sir Critic, does your finer sense
In Homer mark no matter for offence?
Or e’en Lucilius, our good-natured friend,
Sees he in Accius nought he fain would mend?
Does he not laugh at Ennius’ halting verse,
Yet own himself no better, if not worse?
And what should hinder me, as I peruse
Lucilius’ works, from asking, if I choose,
If fate or chance forbade him to attain
A smoother measure, a more finished strain,
Than he (you’ll let me fancy such a man)
Who, anxious only to make sense and scan,
Pours forth two hundred verses ere he sups,
Two hundred more, on rising from his cups?
Like to Etruscan Cassius’ stream of song,
Which flowed, men say, so copious and so strong
That, when he died, his kinsfolk simply laid
His works in order, and his pyre was made.
No; grant Lucilius arch, engaging, gay;
Grant him the smoothest writer of his day;
Lay stress upon the fact that he’d to seek
In his own mind what others find in Greek;
Grant all you please, in turn you must allow,
Had fate postponed his life from then to now,
He’d prune redundancies, apply the file
To each excrescence that deforms his style,
Oft in the pangs of labour scratch his head,
And bite his nails, and bite them, till they bled.
Oh yes! believe me, you must draw your pen
Not once nor twice but o’er and o’er again
Through what you’ve written, if you would entice
The man that reads you once to read you twice,
Not making popular applause your cue,
But looking to fit audience, although few.
Say, would you rather have the things you scrawl
Doled out by pedants for their boys to drawl?
Not I: like hissed Arbuscula, I slight
Your hooting mobs, if I can please a knight.
Shall bug Pantilius vex me? shall I choke
Because Demetrius needs must have his joke
Behind my back, and Fannius, when he dines
With dear Tigellius, vilifies my lines?
Maecenas, Virgil, Varius, if I please
In my poor writings these and such as these,
If Plotius, Valgius, Fuscus will commend,
And good Octavius, I’ve achieved my end.
You, noble Pollio (let your friend disclaim
All thought of flattery when he names your name),
Messala and his brother, Servius too,
And Bibulus, and Furnius kind and true,
With others whom, despite their sense and wit
And friendly hearts, I purposely omit;
Such I would have my critics; men to gain
Whose smiles were pleasure, to forego them pain,
Demetrius and Tigellius, off! go pule
To the bare benches of your ladies’ school!
Hallo there, youngster! take my book, you rogue,
And write this in, by way of epilogue.
SUNT QUIBUS in SATIRA.
Some think in satire I’m too keen, and press
The spirit of invective to excess:
Some call my verses nerveless: once begin,
A thousand such per day a man might spin.
Trebatius, pray advise me.
T. Wipe your pen.
H. What, never write a single line again?
T. That’s what I mean.
H. ’Twould suit me, I protest, Exactly: but at nights I get no rest.
T. First rub yourself three times with oil all o’er,
Then swim the Tiber through from shore to shore,
Taking good care, as night draws on, to steep
Your brain in liquor: then you’ll have your sleep.
Or, if you still have such an itch to write,
Sing of some moving incident of fight;
Sing of great Caasar’s victories: a bard
Who works at that is sure to win reward.
H. Would that I could, my worthy sire! but skill
And vigour lack, how great soe’er the will.
Not every one can paint in epic strain
The lances bristling on the embattled plain,
Tell how the Gauls by broken javelins bleed,
Or sing the Parthian tumbling from his steed.
T. But you can draw him just and brave, you know,
As sage Lucilius did for Scipio.
H. Trust me for that: my devoir I will pay,
Whene’er occasion comes to point the way.
Save at fit times, no words of mine can find
A way through Cassar’s ear to Cassar’s mind:
A mettled horse, if awkwardly you stroke,
Kicks out on all sides, and your leg is broke.
T. Better do this than gall with keen lampoon
Cassius the rake and Maenius the buffoon,
When each one, though with withers yet unwrung,
Fears for himself, and hates your bitter tongue.
H. What shall I do? Milonius, when the wine
Mounts to his head, and doubled lustres shine,
Falls dancing; horses are what Castor loves;
His twin yolk-fellow glories in the gloves:
Count all the folks in all the world, you’ll find
A separate fancy for each separate mind.
To drill reluctant words into a line,
This was Lucilius’ hobby, and ’tis mine.
Good man, he was our better: yet he took
Such pride in nought as in his darling book:
That was his friend, to whom he would confide
The secret thoughts he hid from all beside,
And, whether Fortune used him well or ill,
Thither for sympathy he turned him still:
So there, as in a votive tablet penned,
You see the veteran’s life from end to end.
His footsteps now I follow as I may,
Lucanian or Apulian, who shall say?
For we Venusians live upon the line
Just where Lucania and Apulia join,
Planted,’tis said, there in the Samnites’ place,
To guard for Rome the intermediate space,
Lest these or those some day should make a raid
In time of war, and Roman soil invade.
But this poor implement of mine, my pen,
Shall ne’er assault one soul of living men:
Like a sheathed sword, I’ll carry it about,
Just to protect my life when I go out,
A weapon I shall never care to draw,
While my good neighbours keep within the law.
O grant, dread Father, grant my steel may rust!
Grant that no foe may play at cut and thrust
With my peace-loving self! but should one seek
To quarrel with me, yon shall hear him shriek:
Don’t say I gave no warning: up and down
He shall be trolled and chorused through the town.
Cervius attacks his foes with writ and rule:
Albutius’ henbane is Canidia’s tool:
How threatens Turius? if he e’er should judge
A. cause of yours, he’ll bear you an ill grudge.
Each has his natural weapon, you’ll agree,
If you will work the problem out with me:
Wolves use their tooth against you, bulls their
Why, but that each is to the manner born?
Take worthy Scaeva now, the spendthrift heir,
And trust his long-lived mother to his care;
He’ll lift no hand against her. No, forsooth!
Wolves do not use their heel, nor bulls their tooth:
But deadly hemlock, mingled in the bowl
With honey, will take off the poor old soul.
Well, to be brief: whether old age await
My years, or Death e’en now be at the gate,
Wealthy or poor, at home or banished, still,
Whate’er my life’s complexion, write I will.
T. Poor child! your life is hanging on a thread:
Some noble friend one day will freeze you dead.
H. What? when Lucilius first with dauntless brow
Addressed him to his task, as I do now,
And from each hypocrite stripped off the skin
He flaunted to the world, though foul within,
Did Laelius, or the chief who took his name
Prom conquered Carthage, grudge him his fair game?
Felt they for Lupus or Metellus, when
Whole floods of satire drenched the wretched men?
He took no count of persons: man by man
He scourged the proudest chiefs of each proud clan,
Nor spared delinquents of a humbler birth,
Kind but to worth and to the friends of worth.
And yet, when Scipio brave and Laelius sage
Stepped down awhile like actors from the stage,
They would unbend with him, and laugh and joke
While his pot boiled, like other simple folk.
Well, rate me at my lowest, far below
Lucilius’ rank and talent, yet e’en so
Envy herself shall own that to the end
I lived with men of mark as friend with friend,
And, when she fain on living flesh and bone
Would try her teeth, shall close them on a stone;
That is, if grave Trebatius will concur—
T. I don’t quite see; I cannot well demur;
Yet you had best be cautioned, lest you draw
Some mischief down from ignorance of law;
If a man writes ill verses out of spite
’Gainst A or B, the sufferer may indict.
H. Ill verses? ay, I grant you: but suppose
Caesar should think them good (and Caesar knows);
Suppose the man you bark at has a name
For every vice, while yours is free from blame.
T. O, then a laugh will cut the matter short:
The case breaks down, defendant leaves the court.
QUAE Virtus et quanta.
The art of frugal living, and its worth,
To-day, my friends, Ofellus shall set forth
(’Twas he that taught me it, a shrewd clear wit,
Though country-spun, and for the schools unfit):
Lend me your ears:—but not where meats and wine
In costly service on the table shine,
When the vain eye is dazzled, and the mind
Recoils from truth, to idle shows resigned:
No: let us talk on empty stomachs. Why?
Well, if you’d have me tell you, I will try.
The judge who soils his fingers by a gift
Is scarce the man a doubtful case to sift.
Say that you’re fairly wearied with the course,
Following a hare, or breaking in a horse,
Or, if, for Roman exercise too weak,
You turn for your amusement to the Greek,
You play at ball, and find the healthy strain
Of emulation mitigates the pain,
Or hurl the quoit, till toil has purged all taint
Of squeamishness, and left you dry and faint;
Sniff, if you can, at common food, and spurn
All drink but honey mingled with Falern.
The butler has gone out: the stormy sea
Preserves its fishes safe from you and me:
No matter: salt ad libitum, with bread
Will soothe the Cerberus of our maws instead.
What gives you appetite? ’tis not the meat
Contains the relish: ’tis in you that eat.
Get condiments by work: for when the skin
Is pale and bloated from disease within,
Not golden plover, oyster, nor sardine,
Can make the edge of dulled enjoyment keen.
Yet there’s one prejudice I sorely doubt
If force of reason ever will root out:
Oft as a peacock’s set before you, still
Prefer it to a fowl you must and will,
Because (as if that mattered when we dine!)
The bird is costly, and its tail’s so fine.
What? do you eat the feathers? when’tis drest
And sent to table, does it still look best?
While, as to flesh, the two are on a par:
Yes, you’re the dupe of mere outside, you are.
You see that pike: what is it tells you straight
Where those wide jaws first opened for the bait,
In sea or river? ’twixt the bridges twain,
Or at the mouth where Tiber joins the main?
A three-pound mullet you must needs admire,
And yet you know ’tis never served entire.
The size attracts you: well then, why dislike
The selfsame quality when found in pike?
Why, but to fly in Nature’s face for spite.
Because she made these heavy those weigh light?
O, when the stomach’s pricked by hunger’s stings,
We seldom hear of scorn for common things!
“Great fishes on great dishes! how I gloat
Upon the sight!” exclaims some harpy-throat.
Blow strongly, blow, good Auster, and ferment
The glutton’s dainties, and increase their scent!
And yet, without such aid, they find the flesh
Of boar and turbot nauseous, e’en though fresh,
When, gorged to sick repletion, they request
Onions or radishes to give them zest.
Nay, e’en at royal banquets poor men’s fare
Yet lingers: eggs and olives still are there.
When, years ago, Gallonius entertained
His friends with sturgeon, an ill name he gained.
Were turbots then less common in the seas?
No: but good living waxes by degrees.
Safe was the turbot, safe the stork’s young brood,
Until a praetor taught us they were good.
So now, should some potential voice proclaim
That roasted cormorants are delicious game,
The youth of Rome (there’s nothing too absurd
For their weak heads) will take him at his word.
But here Ofellus draws a line, between
A life that’s frugal and a life that’s mean:
For ’tis in vain that luxury you shun,
If straight on avarice your bark you run.
Avidienus—you may know him—who
Was always call’d the Dog, and rightly too,
On olives five-year-old is wont to dine,
And, till ’tis sour, will never broach his wine:
Oft as, attired for feasting, blithe and gay,
He keeps some birthday, wedding, holiday,
From his big horn he sprinkles drop by drop
Oil on the cabbages himself:—you’d stop
Your nose to smell it:—vinegar, I own,
He gives you without stint, and that alone.
Well, betwixt these, what should a wise man do?
Which should he copy, think you, of the two?
’Tis Scylla and Charybdis, rock and gulf:
On this side howls the dog, on that the wolf.
A man that’s neat in table, as in dress,
Errs not by meanness, yet avoids excess;
Nor, like Albucius, when he plays the host,
Storms at his slaves, while giving each his post;
Nor, like poor Naevius, carelessly offends
By serving greasy water to his friends.
Now listen for a space, while I declare
The good results that spring from frugal fare.
Imprimis, health: for ’tis not hard to see
How various meats are like to disagree,
If you remember with how light a weight
Your last plain meal upon your stomach sate:
Now, when you’ve taken toll of every dish,
Have mingled roast with boiled and fowl with fish,
The mass of dainties, turbulent and crude,
Engenders bile, and stirs intestine feud.
Observe your guests, how ghastly pale their looks
When they’ve discussed some mystery of your cook’s:
Ay, and the body, clogged with the excess
Of yesterday, drags down the mind no less,
And fastens to the ground in living death
That fiery particle of heaven’s own breath.
Another takes brief supper, seeks repair
From kindly sleep, then rises light as air:
Not that sometimes he will not cross the line,
And, just for once, luxuriously dine,
When feasts come round with the revolving year,
Or his shrunk frame suggests more generous cheer:
Then too, when age draws on and life is slack,
He has reserves on which he can fall back:
But what have you in store when strength shall fail,
You, who forestall your goods when young and hale?
A rancid boar our fathers used to praise:
What? had they then no noses in those days?
No: but they wished their friends to have the treat
When tainted rather than themselves when sweet.
O had I lived in that brave time of old,
When men were heroes, and the age was gold!
Come now, you set some store by good repute:
In truth, its voice is softer than a lute:
Then know, great fishes on great dishes still
Produce great scandal, let alone the bill.
Think too of angry uncles, friends grown rude,
Nay, your own self with your own self at feud
And longing for a rope to end your pain:
But ropes cost twopence; so you long in vain.
“O, talk,” you say, “to Trausius: though severe,
Such truths as these are just what he should hear:
But I have untold property, that brings
A yearly sum, sufficient for three kings.”
Untold indeed! then can you not expend
Your superflux on some diviner end?
Why does one good man want while you abound?
Why are Jove’s temples tumbling to the ground?
O selfish! what? devote no modicum
To your dear country from so vast a sum?
Ay, you’re the man: the world will go your way....
O how your foes will laugh at you one day!
Take measure of the future: which will feel
More confidence in self, come woe, come weal,
He that, like you, by long indulgence plants
In body and in mind a thousand wants,
Or he who, wise and frugal, lays in stores
In view of war ere war is at the doors?
But, should you doubt what good Ofellus says,
When young I knew him, in his wealthier days:
Then, when his means were fair, he spent and spared
Nor more nor less than now, when they’re impaired.
Still, in the field once his, but now assigned
To an intruding veteran, you may find,
His sons and beasts about him, the good sire,
A sturdy farmer, working on for hire.
“I ne’er exceeded”—so you’ll hear him say—
“Herbs and smoked gammon on a working day;
But if at last a friend I entertained,
Or there dropped in some neighbour while it rained,
I got no fish from town to grace my board,
But dined off kid and chicken like a lord:
Raisins and nuts the second course supplied,
With a split fig, first doubled and then dried:
Then each against the other, with a fine
To do the chairman’s work, we drank our wine,
And draughts to Ceres, so she’d top the ground
With good tall ears, our frets and worries drowned
Let Fortune brew fresh tempests, if she please,
How much can she knock off from joys like these!
Have you or I, young fellows, looked more lean
Since this new holder came upon the scene?
Holder, I say, for tenancy’s the most
That he, or I, or any man can boast:
Now he has driven us out: but him no less
His own extravagance may dispossess
Or slippery lawsuit: in the last resort
A livelier heir will cut his tenure short.
Ofellus’ name it bore, the field we plough,
A few years back: it bears Umbrenus’ now:
None has it as a fixture, fast and firm,
But he or I may hold it for a term.
Then live like men of courage, and oppose
Stout hearts to this and each ill wind that blows.”
Sic RARO SCRIBIS.
So seldom do you write, we scarcely hear
Your tablets called for four times in the year:
And even then, as fast as you compose,
You quarrel with the thing, and out it goes,
Vexed that, in spite of bottle and of bed,
You turn out nothing worthy to be read.
How is it all to end? Here you’ve come down,
Avoiding a December spent in town:
Your brains are clear: begin, and charm our ears
With something worth your boasting.—Nought appears.
You blame your pens, and the poor wall, accurst
From birth by gods and poets, comes off worst.
Yet you looked bold, and talked of what you’d do,
Could you lie snug for one free day or two.
What boot Menander, Plato, and the rest
You carried down from town to stock your nest?
Think you by turning lazy to exempt
Your life from envy? No, you’ll earn contempt.
Then stop your ears to sloth’s enchanting voice,
Or give up your best hopes: there lies your choice.
H. Good Damasippus, may the immortals grant,
For your sage counsel, the one thing you want,
A barber! but pray tell me how yon came
To know so well what scarce is known to fame?
D. Why, ever since my hapless all went down
’Neath the mid arch, I go about the town,
And make my neighbours’ matters my sole care,
Seeing my own are damaged past repair.
Once I was anxious on a bronze to light
Where Sisyphus had washed his feet at night;
Each work of art I criticized and classed,
Called this ill chiselled, that too roughly cast;
Prized that at fifty thousand: then I knew
To buy at profit grounds and houses too,
With a sure instinct: till the whole town o’er
“The pet of Mercury” was the name I bore.
H. I know your case, and am surprised to see
So clear a cure of such a malady.
D, Ay, but my old complaint (though strange, ’tis
Was banished from my system by a new:
Just as diseases of the side or head
My to the stomach or the chest instead,
Like your lethargic patient, when he tears
Himself from bed, and at the doctor squares.
H. Spare me but that, I’ll trust you.
D. Don’t be blind;
You’re mad yourself, and so are all mankind,
If truth is in Stertinius, from whose speech
I learned the precious lessons that I teach,
What time he bade me grow a wise man’s beard,
And sent me from the bridge, consoled and cheered.
For once, when, bankrupt and forlorn, I stood
With muffled head, just plunging in the flood,
“Don’t do yourself a mischief,” so he cried
In friendly tones, appearing at my side:
“’Tis all false shame: you fear to be thought mad,
“Now listen while I show you, how the rest
Who call you madman, are themselves possessed.
Just as in woods, when travellers step aside
From the true path for want of some good guide,
This to the right, that to the left hand strays,
And all are wrong, but wrong in different ways,
So, though you’re mad, yet he who banters you
Is not more wise, but wears his pigtail too.
One class of fools sees reason for alarm
In trivial matters, innocent of harm:
Stroll in the open plain, you’ll hear them talk
Of fires, rocks, torrents, that obstruct their walk:
Another, unlike these, but not more sane,
Takes fires and torrents for the open plain:
Let mother, sister, father, wife combined
Cry ‘There’s a pitfall! there’s a rock! pray mind!’
They’ll hear no more than drunken Fufius, he
Who slept the part of queen Ilione,
While Catienus, shouting in his ear,
Roared like a Stentor, ‘Hearken, mother dear!’
“Well, now, I’ll prove the mass of humankind
Have judgments just as jaundiced, just as blind.
That Damasippus shows himself insane
By buying ancient statues, all think plain:
But he that lends him money, is he free
From the same charge? ‘O, surely.’ Let us see.
I bid you take a sum you won’t return:
You take it: is this madness, I would learn?
Were it not greater madness to renounce
The prey that Mercury puts within your pounce?
Secure him with ten bonds; a hundred; nay,
Clap on a thousand; still he’ll slip away,
This Protean scoundrel: drag him into court,
You’ll only find yourself the more his sport:
He’ll laugh till scarce you’d think his jaws his own,
And turn to boar or bird, to tree or stone.
If prudence in affairs denotes men sane
And bungling argues a disordered brain,
The man who lends the cash is far more fond
Than you, who at his bidding sign the bond.
“Now give attention and your gowns refold,
Who thirst for fame, grow yellow after gold,
Victims to luxury, superstition blind,
Or other ailment natural to the mind:
Come close to me and listen, while I teach
That you’re a pack of madmen, all and each.
“Of all the hellebore that nature breeds,
The largest share by far the miser needs:
In fact, I know not but Anticyra’s juice
Was all intended for his single use.
When old Staberius died, his heirs engraved
Upon his monument the sum he’d saved:
For, had they failed to do it, they were tied
A hundred pair of fencers to provide,
A feast at Arrius’ pleasure, not too cheap,
And corn, as much as Afric’s farmers reap.
‘I may be right, I may be wrong,’ said he,
’Who cares? ‘tis not for you to lecture me.’
Well, one who knew Staberius would suppose
He was a man that looked beyond his nose:
Why did he wish, then, that his funeral stone
Should make the sum he left behind him known?
Why, while he lived, he dreaded nothing more
Than that great sin, the sin of being poor,
And, had he left one farthing less in purse,
The man, as man, had thought himself the worse:
For all things human and divine, renown,
Honour, and worth at money’s shrine bow down:
And he who has made money, fool or knave,
Becomes that moment noble, just, and brave.
A sage, you ask me? yes, a sage, a king,
Whate’er he chooses; briefly, everything.
So good Staberius hoped each extra pound
His virtue saved would to his praise redound.
Now look at Aristippus, who, in haste
To make his journey through the Libyan waste,
Bade the stout slaves who bore his treasure throw
Their load away, because it made them slow.
Which was more mad? Excuse me: ’twill not do
To shut one question up by opening two.
“If one buys fiddles, hoards them up when bought,
Though music’s study ne’er engaged his thought,
One lasts and awls, unversed in cobbler’s craft,
One sails for ships, not knowing fore from aft,
You’d call them mad: but tell me, if you please,
How that man’s case is different from these,
Who, as he gets it, stows away his gain,
And thinks to touch a farthing were profane?
Yet if a man beside a huge corn-heap
Lies watching with a cudgel, ne’er asleep,
And dares not touch one grain, but makes his meat
Of bitter leaves, as though he found them sweet:
If, with a thousand wine-casks—call the hoard
A million rather—in his cellars stored,
He drinks sharp vinegar: nay, if, when nigh
A century old, on straw he yet will lie,
While in his chest rich coverlets, the prey
Of moth and canker, moulder and decay,
Few men can see much madness in his whim,
Because the mass of mortals ail like him.
“O heaven-abandoned wretch! is all this care
To save your stores for some degenerate heir,
A son, or e’en a freedman, who will pour
All down his throttle, ere a year is o’er?
You fear to come to want yourself, you say?
Come, calculate how small the loss per day,
If henceforth to your cabbage you allow
And your own head the oil you grudge them now.
“Opimius, who, with gold and silver store
Lodged in his coffers, ne’ertheless was poor
(The man would drink from earthen nipperkin
Flat wine on working-days, on feast-days thin),
Once fell into a lethargy so deep
That his next heir supposed it more than sleep,
And entering on possession at his ease,
Went round the coffers and applied the keys.
The doctor had a conscience and a head:
He had a table moved beside the bed,
Poured out a money-bag, and bade men come
And ring the coin and reckon o’er the sum:
Then, lifting up his patient, he began:
’That heir of yours is plundering you, good man.
‘What? while I live?’ ’You wish to live? then take
The necessary steps: be wide awake.’
‘What steps d’ye mean?’ ’Your strength will soon run short,
Unless your stomach have some strong support.
Come, rouse yourself: take this ptisane of rice.’
‘The price?’ ‘A trifle.’ ‘I will know the price.’
‘Eight-pence.’ ’O dear! what matters it if I
Die by disease or robbery? still I die.’
“‘Who then is sane?’ He that’s no fool, in troth.
‘Then what’s a miser?’ Fool and madman both.
’Well, if a man’s no miser, is he sane
That moment?’ No. ‘Why, Stoic?’ I’ll explain.
The stomach here is sound as any bell,
Craterus may say: then is the patient well?
May he get up? Why no; there still are pains
That need attention in the side or reins.
You’re not forsworn nor miserly: go kill
A porker to the gods who ward off ill.
You’re headlong and ambitious: take a trip
To Madman’s Island by the next swift ship.
For where’s the difference, down the rabble’s throat
To pour your gold, or never spend a groat?
Servius Oppidius, so the story runs,
Rich for his time, bequeathed to his two sons
Two good-sized farms, and calling to his bed
The hopeful youths, in faltering accents said:
’E’er since I saw you, Aulus, give away
Your nuts and taws, or squander them at play,
While you, Tiberius, careful and morose,
Would count them over, hide them, keep them close,
I’ve feared lest both should err in different ways,
And one have Cassius’, one Cicuta’s craze.
So now I beg you by the household powers
Who guard, and still shall guard, this roof of ours,
That you diminish not, nor you augment
What I and nature fix for your content.
To bar ambition too, I lay an oath
Of heaviest weight upon the souls of both;
Should either be an aedile, or, still worse,
A praetor, let him feel a father’s curse.
What? would you wish to lavish my bequest
In vetches, beech-nuts, lupines and the rest,
You, that in public you may strut, or stand
All bronze, when stripped of money, stripped of land;
You, that Agrippa’s plaudits you may win,
A sneaking fox in a brave lion’s skin?’
“What moves you, Agamemnon, thus to fling
Great Ajax to the dogs? ‘I am a king.’
And I a subject: therefore I forbear
More questions. ’Right; for what I will is fair:
Yet, if there be who fancy me unjust,
I give my conduct up to be discussed.’
Mightiest of mighty kings, may proud success
And safe return your conquering army bless!
May I ask questions then, and shortly speak
When you have answered? ‘Take the leave you seek.’
Then why should Ajax, though so oft renowned
For patriot service, rot above the ground,
Your bravest next Achilles, just that Troy
And envious Priam may the scene enjoy,
Beholding him, through whom their children came
To feed the dogs, himself cast out to shame?
’A flock the madman slew, and cried that he
Had killed my brother, Ithacus, and me.’
Well, when you offered in a heifer’s stead
Your child, and strewed salt meal upon her head,
Then were you sane, I ask you? ‘Why not sane?’
Why, what did Ajax when the flock was slain?
He did no violence to his wife or child:
He cursed the Atridae, true; his words were wild;
But against Teucer ne’er a hand he raised,
Nor e’en Ulysses: yet you call him crazed.
’But I, of purpose, soothed the gods with blood,
To gain our fleet free passage o’er the flood.’
Blood! ay, your own, you madman. ’Nay, not so:
My own, I grant it: but a madman’s, no.’
“He that sees things amiss, his mind distraught
By guilty deeds, a madman will be thought;
And, so the path of reason once be missed,
Who cares if rage or folly gave the twist?
When Ajax falls with fury on the fold,
He shows himself a madman, let us hold:
When you, of purpose, do a crime to gain
A meed of empty glory, are you sane?
“Cassius and luxury! hunt that game with me;
For spendthrifts are insane, the world shall see.
Soon as the youngster had received at last
The thousand talents that his sire amassed,
He sent round word to all the sharking clan,
Perfumer, fowler, fruiterer, fisherman,
Velabrum’s refuse, Tuscan Alley’s scum,
To come to him. next morning. Well, they come.
First speaks the pimp: ’Whatever I or these
Possess, is yours: command it when you please.’
Now hear his answer, and admire the mind
That thus could speak, so generous and so kind.
’You sleep in Umbrian snow-fields, booted o’er
The hips, that I may banquet on a boar;
You scour the sea for fish in winter’s cold,
And I do nought; I don’t deserve this gold:
Here, take it; you a hundred, you as much,
But you, the spokesman, thrice that sum shall
“AEsopus’ son took from his lady dear
A splendid pearl that glittered in her ear,
Then melted it in vinegar, and quaffed
(Such was his boast) a thousand at a draught:
How say you? had the act been more insane
To fling it in a river or a drain?
“Arrius’ two sons, twin brothers, of a
In vice, perverseness, folly, and caprice,
Would lunch off nightingales: well, what’s their mark?
Shall it be chalk or charcoal, white or dark?
“To ride a stick, to build a paper house,
Play odd and even, harness mouse and mouse,
If a grown man professed to find delight
In things like these, you’d call him mad outright.
“Well now, should reason force you to admit
That love is just as childish, every whit;
To own that whimpering at your mistress’ door
Is e’en as weak as building on the floor;
Say, will you put conviction into act,
And, like young Polemo, at once retract;
Take off the signs and trappings of disease,
Your leg-bands, tippets, furs, and muffatees,
As he slipped off his chaplets, when the word
Of sober wisdom all his being stirred?
“Give a cross child an apple: ‘Take
He sulks and will not: hold it back, he’ll fret.
Just so the shut-out lover, who debates
And parleys near the door he vows he hates,
In doubt, when sent for, to go back or no,
Though, if not sent for, he’d be sure to go.
“When you pick apple-pips, and try to hit
The ceiling with them, are you sound of wit?
“When with your withered lips you bill and coo,
Is he that builds card-houses worse than you?
Then, too, the blood that’s spilt by fond desires,
The swords that men will use to poke their fires!
When Marius killed his mistress t’other day
And broke his neck, was he demented, say?
Or would you call him criminal instead,
And stigmatize his heart to save his head,
Following the common fallacy, which founds
A different meaning upon different sounds?
“There was an aged freedman, who would run
From shrine to shrine at rising of the sun,
Sober and purified for prayer, and cry
’Save me, me only! sure I need not die;
Heaven can do all things:’ ay, the man was sane
In ears and eyes: but how about his brain?
Why, that his master, if not bent to plead
Before a court, could scarce have guaranteed.
Him and all such Chrysippus would assign
To mad Menenius’ most prolific line.
“’Almighty Jove, who giv’st and
The pains we mortals suffer, hear me pray!’
(So cries the mother of a child whose cold,
Or ague rather, now is five months old)
’Cure my poor boy, and he shall stand all bare
In Tiber, on thy fast, in morning air.’
So if, by chance or treatment, the attack
Should pass away, the wretch will bring it back,
And give the child his death: ’tis madness clear;
But what produced it? superstitious fear.”
Such were the arms Stertinius, next in sense
To the seven sages, gave me for defence.
Now he that calls me mad gets paid in kind,
And told to feel the pigtail stuck behind.
H. Good Stoic, may you mend your loss, and sell
All your enormous bargains twice as well.
But pray, since folly’s various, just explain
What type is mine? for I believe I’m sane.
D. What? is Agave conscious that she’s mad
When she holds up the head of her poor lad?
H. I own I’m foolish—truth must have
Nay, mad: but tell me, what’s my form of ill?
D. I’ll tell you. First, you build, which
means you try
To ape great men, yourself some two feet high,
And yet you laugh to see poor Turbo fight,
When he looks big and strains beyond his height.
What? if Maecenas does a thing, must you,
His weaker every way, attempt it too?
A calf set foot on some young frogs, they say,
Once when the mother chanced to be away:
One ’scapes, and tells his dam with bated breath
How a huge beast had crushed the rest to death:
“How big?” quoth she: “is this as big?” and here
She swelled her body out. “No, nothing near.”
Then, seeing her still fain to puff and puff,
“You’ll burst,” gays he, “before you’re large enough.”
Methinks the story fits you. Now then, throw
Your verses in, like oil to feed the glow.
If ever poet yet was sane, no doubt,
You may put in your plea, but not without.
Your dreadful temper—
D. The sums you spend
Beyond your income—
H. Mind yourself, my friend.
D. And then, those thousand flames no power can cool.
H. O mighty senior, spare a junior fool!
UNDE et quo Catius?
Ho, Catius! whence and whither?
C. Not to-day:
I cannot stop to talk: I must away
To set down words of wisdom, which surpass
The Athenian sage and deep Pythagoras.
H. Faith, I did ill at such an awkward time
To cross your path; but you’ll forgive the crime:
If you’ve lost aught, you’ll get it back ere long
By nature or by art; in both you’re strong.
C. Ah, ’twas a task to keep the whole in mind,
For style and matter were alike refined.
H. But who was lecturer? tell me whence he came.
C. I give the precepts, but suppress the name.
The oblong eggs by connoisseurs are placed
Above the round for whiteness and for taste:
Procure them for your table without fail,
For they’re more fleshy, and their yolk is male.
The cabbage of dry fields is sweeter found
Than the weak growth of washed-out garden ground.
Should some chance guest surprise you late at night,
For fear the new-killed fowl prove tough to bite,
Plunge it while living in Falernian lees,
And then ’twill be as tender as you please.
Mushrooms that grow in meadows are far best;
You can’t be too suspicious of the rest.
He that would pass through summer without hurt
Should eat a plate of mulberries for dessert,
But mind to pluck them in the morning hour,
Before the mid-day sun exerts its power.
Aufidius used Falernian, rich and strong,
To mingle with his honey: he did wrong:
For when the veins are empty, ’tis not well
To pour in fiery drinks to make them swell:
Mild gentle draughts will better do their part
In nourishing the cockles of the heart.
In costive cases, limpets from the shell
Are a cheap way the evil to dispel,
With groundling sorrel: but white Coan neat
You’ll want to make the recipe complete.
For catching shell-fish the new moon’s the time,
But there’s a difference between clime and clime;
Baiae is good, but to the Lucrine yields;
Circeii ranks as best for oyster-fields;
Misenum’s cape with urchins is supplied;
Flat bivalve mussels are Tarentum’s pride.
Let no man fancy he knows how to dine
Till he has learnt how taste and taste combine.
’Tis not enough to sweep your fish away
From the dear stall, and chuckle as you pay,
Not knowing which want sauce, and which when broiled
Will tempt a guest whose appetite is spoiled.
The man who hates wild boars that eat like tame
Gets his from Umbria, genuine mast-fed game:
For the Laurentian beast, that makes its fat
Off sedge and reeds, is flavourless and flat.
The flesh of roes that feed upon the vine
Is not to be relied on when you dine.
With those who know what parts of hare are best
You’ll find the wings are mostly in request.
Fishes and fowls, their nature and their age,
Have oft employed the attention of the sage;
But how to solve the problem ne’er was known
By mortal palate previous to my own.
There are whose whole invention is confined
To novel sweets: that shows a narrow mind;
As if you wished your wines to be first-rate,
But cared not with what oil your fish you ate.
Put Massic wine to stand ’neath a clear sky
All night, away the heady fumes will fly,
Purged by cool air: if ’tis through linen strained,
You spoil the flavour, and there’s nothing gained.
Who mix Surrentine with Falernian dregs
Clear off the sediment with pigeons’ eggs:
The yolk goes down; all foreign matters sink
Therewith, and leave the beverage fit to drink.
’Tis best with roasted shrimps and Afric snails
To rouse your drinker when his vigour fails:
Not lettuce; lettuce after wine ne’er lies
Still in the stomach, but is sure to rise:
The appetite, disordered and distressed,
Wants ham and sausage to restore its zest;
Nay, craves for peppered viands and what not,
Fetched from some greasy cookshop steaming hot.
There are two kinds of sauce; and I may say
That each is worth attention in its way.
Sweet oil’s the staple of the first; but wine
Should be thrown in, and strong Byzantine brine.
Now take this compound, pickle, wine, and oil,
Mix it with herbs chopped small, then make it boil,
Put saffron in, and add, when cool, the juice
Venafrum’s choicest olive-yards produce.
In taste Tiburtian apples count as worse
Than Picene; in appearance, the reverse.
For pots, Venucule grapes the best may suit:
For drying, Albans are your safer fruit.
’Twas I who first, authorities declare,
Served grapes with apples, lees with caviare,
White pepper with black salt, and had them set
Before each diner as his private whet.
’Tis gross to squander hundreds upon fish,
Yet pen them cooked within too small a dish.
So too it turns the stomach, if there sticks
Dirt to the bowl wherein your wine you mix;
Or if the servant, who behind you stands,
Has fouled the beaker with his greasy hands.
Brooms, dish-cloths, saw-dust, what a mite they cost!
Neglect them though, your reputation’s lost.
What? sweep with dirty broom a floor inlaid,
Spread unwashed cloths o’er tapestry and brocade,
Forgetting, sure, the less such things entail
Of care and cost, the more the shame to fail,
Worse than fall short in luxuries, which one sees
At no man’s table but your rich grandees’?
H. Catius, I beg, by all that binds a friend,
Let me go with you, when you next attend;
For though you’ve every detail at command,
There’s something must be lost at second hand.
Then the man’s look, his manner—these may seem
Mere things of course, perhaps, in your esteem,
So privileged as you are: for me, I feel
An inborn thirst, a more than common zeal,
Up to the distant river-head to mount,
And quaff these precious waters at their fount.
Hoc QUOQUE, TIRESIA.
Now, good Tiresias, add one favour more
To those your kindness has vouchsafed before,
And tell me by what ways I may redeem
My broken fortunes—You’re amused, ’twould seem.
T. You get safe home, you see your native isle,
And yet it craves for more, that heart of guile!
U. O source of truth unerring, you’re aware,
I reach my home impoverished and stripped bare
(So you predict), and find nor bit nor sup,
My flocks all slaughtered and my wines drunk up:
Yet family and worth, without the staff
Of wealth to lean on, are the veriest draff.
T. Since, in plain terms, ’tis poverty you fear,
And riches are your aim, attend and hear.
Suppose a thrush or other dainty placed
At your disposal, for your private taste,
Speed it to some great house, all gems and gold,
Where means are ample, and their master old:
Your choicest apples, ripe and full of juice,
And whatsoe’er your garden may produce,
Before they’re offered at the Lares’ shrine,
Give them to your rich friend, as more divine:
Be he a branded slave, forsworn, distained
With brother’s blood, in short, a rogue ingrained,
Yet walk, if asked, beside him when you meet,
And (pray mind this) between him and the street.
U. What, give a slave the wall? in happier days,
At Troy, for instance, these were not my ways:
Then with the best I matched myself.
T. Indeed? I’m sorry: then you’ll always be in need.
U. Well, well, my heart shall bear it; ’tis
To dire adventure, and has worse endured.
Go on, most worthy augur, and unfold
The arts whereby to pile up heaps of gold.
T. Well, I have told you, and I tell you still:
Lay steady siege to a rich dotard’s will;
Nor, should a fish or two gnaw round the bait,
And ’scape the hook, lose heart and give up straight.
A suit at law comes on: suppose you find
One party’s old and childless, never mind
Though law with him’s a weapon to oppress
An upright neighbour, take his part no less:
But spurn the juster cause and purer life,
If burdened with a child or teeming wife.
“Good Quintus,” say, or “Publius” (nought endears
A speaker more than this to slavish ears),
“Your worth has raised you up a friend at court;
I know the law, and can a cause support;
I’d sooner lose an eye than aught should hurt,
In purse or name, a man of your desert:
Just leave the whole to me: I’ll do my best
To make you no man’s victim, no man’s jest.”
Bid him go home and nurse himself, while you
Act as his counsel and his agent too;
Hold on unflinching, never bate a jot,
Be it for wet or dry, for cold or hot,
Though “Sirius split dumb statues up,” or though
Fat Furius “spatter the bleak Alps with snow.”
“What steady nerve!” some bystander will cry,
Nudging a friend; “what zeal! what energy!
What rare devotion!” ay, the game goes well;
In flow the tunnies, and your fish-ponds swell.
Another plan: suppose a man of wealth
Has but one son, and that in weakly health;
Creep round the father, lest the court you pay
To childless widowers your game betray,
That he may put you second, and, in case
The poor youth die, insert you in his place,
And so you get the whole: a throw like this,
Discreetly hazarded, will seldom miss.
If offered by your friend his will to read,
Decline it with a “Thank you! no, indeed!”
Yet steal a side-long glance as you decline
At the first parchment and the second line,
Just to discover if he leaves you heir
All by yourself, or others have a share.
A constable turned notary oft will cheat
Your raven of the cheese he thought to eat;
And sly Nasica will become, you’ll see,
Coranus’ joke, but not his legatee.
U. What? are you mad, or do you mean to balk
My thirst for knowledge by this riddling talk?
T. O Laertiades! what I foreshow
To mortals, either will take place or no;
For ’tis the voice of Phoebus from his shrine
That speaks in me and makes my words divine.
U. Forgive my vehemence, and kindly state
The meaning of the fable you narrate.
T. When he, the Parthian’s dread, whose blood
E’en from Aeneas’ veins, shall win renown
By land and sea, a marriage shall betide
Between Coranus, wight of courage tried,
And old Nasica’s daughter, tall and large,
Whose sire owes sums he never will discharge.
The duteous son-in-law his will presents,
And begs the sire to study its contents:
At length Nasica, having long demurred,
Takes it and reads it through without a word;
And when the whole is done, perceives in fine
That he and his are simply left—to whine.
Suppose some freedman, or some crafty dame
Rules an old driveller, you may join their game:
Say all that’s good of them to him, that they,
When your back’s turned, the like of you may say
This plan has merits; but ’tis better far
To take the fort itself, and end the war.
A shrewd old crone at Thebes (the fact occurred
When I was old) was thus by will interred:
Her corpse was oiled all over, and her heir
Bore it to burial on his shoulders bare:
He’d stuck to her while living; so she said
She’d give him, if she could, the slip when dead.
Be cautious in attack; observe the mean,
And neither be too lukewarm, nor too keen.
Much talk annoys the testy and morose,
But ’tis not well to be reserved and close.
Act Davus in the drama: droop your head,
And use the gestures of a man in dread.
Be all attention: if the wind is brisk,
Say, “Wrap that precious head up! run no risk!”
Push shouldering through a crowd, the way to clear
Before him; when he maunders, prick your ear.
He craves for praise; administer the puff
Till, lifting up both hands, he cries “Enough.”
But when, rewarded and released, at last
You gain the end of all your service past,
And, not in dreams but soberly awake,
Hear “One full quarter let Ulysses take,”
Say, once or twice, “And is good Dama dead?
Where shall I find his like for heart and head?”
If possible, shed tears: at least conceal
The tell-tale smiles that speak the joy you feel.
Then, for the funeral: with your hands untied,
Beware of erring upon meanness’ side:
No; let your friend be handsomely interred,
And let the neighbourhood give you its good word.
Should one of your co-heirs be old, and vexed
With an inveterate cough, approach him next:
A house or lands he’d purchase that belong
To your estate: they’re his for an old song.
But Proserpine commands me; I must fly;
Her will is law; I wish you health; good-bye.
Hoc ERAT in VOTIS.
This used to be my wish: a bit of land,
A house and garden with a spring at hand,
And just a little wood. The gods have crowned
My humble vows; I prosper and abound:
Nor ask I more, kind Mercury, save that thou
Wouldst give me still the goods thou giv’st me now:
If crime has ne’er increased them, nor excess
And want of thrift are like to make them less;
If I ne’er pray like this, “O might that nook
Which spoils my field be mine by hook or crook!
O for a stroke of luck like his, who found
A crock of silver, turning up the ground,
And, thanks to good Alcides, farmed as buyer
The very land where he had slaved for hire!”
If what I have contents me, hear my prayer:
Still let me feel thy tutelary care,
And let my sheep, my pastures, this and that,
My all, in fact, (except my brains,) be fat.
Now, lodged in my hill-castle, can I choose
Companion fitter than my homely Muse?
Here no town duties vex, no plague-winds blow,
Nor Autumn, friend to graveyards, works me woe.
Sire of the morning (do I call thee right,
Or hear’st thou Janus’ name with more delight?)
Who introducest, so the gods ordain,
Life’s various tasks, inaugurate my strain.
At Rome to bail I’m summoned. “Do your part,”
Thou bidd’st me; “quick, lest others get the start.”
So, whether Boreas roars, or winter’s snow
Clips short the day, to court I needs must go.
I give the fatal pledge, distinct and loud,
Then pushing, struggling, battle with the crowd.
“Now, madman!” clamours some one, not without
A threat or two, “just mind what you’re about:
What? you must knock down all that’s in your way,
Because you’re posting to Maecenas, eh?”
This pleases me, I own; but when I get
To black Esquiliae, trouble waits me yet:
For other people’s matters in a swarm
Buzz round my head and take my ears by storm.
“Sir, Roscius would be glad if you’d arrange
By eight a. m. to be with him on ’Change.”
“Quintus, the scribes entreat you to attend
A meeting of importance, as their friend.”
“Just get Maecenas’ seal attached to these.”
“I’ll try.” “O, you can do it, if you please.”
Seven years, or rather eight, have well-nigh passed
Since with Maecenas’ friends I first was classed,
To this extent, that, driving through the street,
He’d stop his car and offer me a seat,
Or make such chance remarks as “What’s o’clock?”
“Will Syria’s champion beat the Thracian cock?”
“These morning frosts are apt to be severe;”
Just chit-chat, suited to a leaky ear.
Since that auspicious date, each day and hour
Has placed me more and more in envy’s power:
“He joined his play, sat next him at the games:
A child of Fortune!” all the world exclaims.
From the high rostra a report comes down,
I’ve listened long, and fain a word would say,
But, as a slave, I dare not.
H. Davus, eh?
D. Yes, Davus, true and faithful, good enough,
But not too good to be of lasting stuff.
H. Well, take December’s licence: I’ll
Our fathers’ good intentions: have your talk.
D. Some men there are take pleasure in what’s
Persistently, and do it with a will:
The greater part keep wavering to and fro,
And now all right, and now all wrong they go.
Prisons, we all remember, oft would wear
Three rings at once, then show his finger bare;
First he’d be senator, then knight, and then
In an hour’s time a senator again;
Flit from a palace to a crib so mean,
A decent freedman scarce would there be seen;
Now with Athenian wits he’d make his home,
Now live with scamps and profligates at Rome;
Born in a luckless hour, when every face
Vertumnus wears was pulling a grimace.
Shark Volanerius tried to disappoint
The gout that left his fingers ne’er a joint
By hiring some one at so much per day
To shake the dicebox while he sat at play;
Consistent in his faults, so less a goose
Than your poor wretch who shifts from fast to loose.
H. For whom d’ye mean this twaddle, tell me
D. Why, for you.
H. Good varlet, how?
D. You praise the life that people lived of old,
When Rome was frugal and the age was gold,
And yet, if on a sudden forced to dwell
With men like those, you’d strenuously rebel,
Either because you don’t believe at heart
That what you bawl for is the happier part,
Or that you can’t act out what you avow,
But stand with one foot sticking in the slough.
At Rome you hanker for your country home;
Once in the country, there’s no place like Rome.
If not asked out to supper, then you bless
The stars that let you eat your quiet mess,
Vow that engagements are mere clogs, and think
You’re happy that you’ve no one’s wine to drink.
But should Maecenas, somewhat late, invite
His favourite bard to come by candle-light,
“Bring me the oil this instant! is there none
Hears me?” you scream, and in a trice are gone:
While Milvius and his brother beasts of prey,
With curses best not quoted, walk away.
Yet what says Milvius? “Honest truth to tell,
I turn my nose up at a kitchen’s smell;
I’m guided by my stomach; call me weak,
Coward, tavern-spunger, still by book you’ll speak.
But who are you to treat me to your raps?
You’re just as bad as I, nay worse perhaps,
Though you’ve a cloak of decent words, forsooth,
To throw at pleasure o’er the ugly truth.”
What if at last a greater fool you’re found
Than I, the slave you bought for twenty pound?
Nay, nay, don’t scare me with that threatening eye:
Unclench your fist and lay your anger by,
While I retail the lessons which of late
The porter taught me at Crispinus’ gate.
You’re no adulterer:—nor a thief
When I see plate and wisely pass it by:
But take away the danger, in a trice
Nature unbridled plunges into vice.
What? you to be my master, who obey
More persons, nay, more things than words can say,
Whom not the praetor’s wand, though four times waved,
Could make less tyrant-ridden, less enslaved?
Press home the matter further: how d’ye call
The thrall who’s servant to another thrall?
An understrapper, say; the name will do;
Or fellow-servant: such am I to you:
For you, whose work I do, do others’ work,
And move as dolls move when their wires we jerk.
Who then is free? The sage, who keeps in check
His baser self, who lives at his own beck,
Whom neither poverty nor dungeon drear
Nor death itself can ever put in fear,
Who can reject life’s goods, resist desire,
Strong, firmly braced, and in himself entire,
A hard smooth ball that gives you ne’er a grip,
’Gainst whom when Fortune runs, she’s sure to trip.
Such are the marks of freedom: look them through,
And tell me, is there one belongs to you?
Your mistress begs for money, plagues you sore,
Ducks you with water, drives you from her door,
Then calls you back: break the vile bondage; cry
“I’m free, I’m free.”—Alas, you cannot. Why?
There’s one within you, armed with spur and stick,
Who turns and drives you, howsoe’er you kick.
On one of Pausias’ masterworks you pore,
As you were crazy: what does Davus more,
Standing agape and straining knees and eyes
At some rude sketch of fencers for a prize,
Where, drawn in charcoal or red ochre, just
As if alive, they parry and they thrust?
Davus gets called a loiterer and a scamp,
You (save the mark!) a critic of high stamp.
If hot sweet-cakes should tempt me, I am naught:
Do you say no to dainties as you ought?
Am I worse trounced than you when I obey
My stomach? true, my back is made to pay:
But when you let rich tit-bits pass your lip
That cost no trifle, do you ’scape the whip?
Indulging to excess, you loathe your meat,
And the bloat trunk betrays the gouty feet.
The lad’s a rogue who goes by night to chop
A stolen flesh-brush at a fruiterer’s shop:
The man who sells a farm to buy good fare,
Is there no slavery to the stomach there?
Then too you cannot spend an hour alone;
No company’s more hateful than your own;
You dodge and give yourself the slip; you seek
In bed or in your cups from care to sneak:
In vain: the black dog follows you, and hangs
Close on your flying skirts with hungry fangs.
H. Where’s there a stone?
D. Who wants it?
H. Or a pike?
D. Mere raving this, or verse-making belike.
H. Unless you’re off at once, you’ll join
Who do their digging down at my estate.
That rich Nasidienus—let me hear
How yesterday you relished his good cheer:
For when I tried to get you, I was told
You’d been there since the day was six hours old.
F. O, ’twas the finest treat.
H. Inform me, pray,
What first was served your hunger to allay.
F. First a Lucanian boar; ’twas captured wild
(So the host told us) when the wind was mild;
Around it, turnips, lettuce, radishes,
By way of whet, with brine and Coan lees.
Then, when the board, a maple one, was cleared,
A high-girt slave with purple cloth appeared
And rubbed and wiped it clean: another boy
Removed the scraps, and all that might annoy:
“While dark Hydaspes, like an Attic maid
Who carries Ceres’ basket, grave and staid,
Came in with Caecuban, and, close behind,
Alcon with Chian, which had ne’er been brined.
Then said our host: “If Alban you’d prefer,
Maecenas, or Falern, we have them, Sir.”
H. What sorry riches! but I fail to glean
Who else was present at so rare a scene.
F. Myself at top, then Viscus, and below
Was Varius: after us came Balatro,
Vibidius also, present at the treat
Unasked, as members of Maecenas’ suite.
Porcius and Nomentanus last, and he,
Our host, who lay betwixt them, made the three:
Porcius the undermost, a witty droll,
Who makes you laugh by swallowing cheesecakes whole:
While Nomentanus’ specialty was this,
To point things out that vulgar eyes might miss;
For fish and fowl, in fact whate’er was placed
Before us, had, we found, a novel taste,
As one experiment sufficed to show,
Made on a flounder and a turbot’s roe.
Then, turning the discourse to fruit, he treats
Of the right time for gathering honey-sweets;
Plucked when the moon’s on wane, it seems they’re red;
For further details see the fountain-head.
When thus to Balatro Vibidius: “Fie!
Let’s drink him out, or unrevenged we die;
Here, bigger cups.” Our entertainer’s cheek
Turned deadly white, as thus he heard him speak;
For of the nuisances that can befall
A man like him, your toper’s worst of all,
Because, you know, hot wines do double wrong;
They dull the palate, and they edge the tongue.
On go Vibidius and his mate, and tilt
Whole flagons into cups Allifae-built:
We follow suit: the host’s two friends alone
Forbore to treat the wine-flask as their own.
A lamprey now appears, a sprawling fish,
With shrimps about it swimming in the dish.
Whereon our host remarks: “This fish was caught
While pregnant: after spawning it is naught.
We make our sauce with oil, of the best strain
Venafrum yields, and caviare from Spain,
Pour in Italian wine, five years in tun,
While yet ’tis boiling; when the boiling’s done,
Chian suits best of all; white pepper add,
And vinegar, from Lesbian wine turned bad.
Rockets and elecampanes with this mess
To boil, is my invention, I profess:
To put sea-urchins in, unwashed as caught,
‘Stead of made pickle, was Curtillus’ thought.”
Meantime the curtains o’er the table spread
Came tumbling in a heap from overhead,
Dragging withal black dust in whirlwinds, more
Than Boreas raises on Campania’s floor:
We, when the shock is over, smile to see
The danger less than we had feared ’twould be,
And breathe again. Poor Rufus drooped his head
And wept so sore, you’d think his son was dead:
And things seemed hastening to a tragic end,
But Nomentanus thus consoled his friend:
“O Fortune, cruellest of heavenly powers,
Why make such game of this poor life of ours?”
Varius his napkin to his mouth applied,
A laugh to stifle, or at least to hide:
But Balatro, with his perpetual sneer,
Cries, “Such is life, capricious and severe,
And hence it comes that merit never gains
A meed of praise proportioned to its pains.
What gross injustice! just that I may get
H. ’Tis better than a play: but please
What further things occurred to make you sport.
F. Well, while Vibidius takes the slaves to task,
Enquiring if the tumble broke the flask,
And Balatro keeps starting some pretence
For mirth, that we may laugh without offence,
With altered brow returns our sumptuous friend,
Resolved, what chance has damaged, art shall mend.
More servants follow, staggering ’neath the load
Of a huge dish where limbs of crane were stowed,
Salted and floured; a goose’s liver, crammed
To twice its bulk, so close the figs were jammed;
And wings of hares dressed separate, better so
Than eaten with the back, as gourmands know.
Then blackbirds with their breasts all burnt to coal,
And pigeons without rumps, not served up whole,
Dainties, no doubt, but then there came a speech
About the laws and properties of each;
At last the feeder and the food we quit,
Taking revenge by tasting ne’er a bit,
As if Canidia’s mouth had breathed an air
Of viperous poison on the whole affair.
I. To Maecenas.
Prima DICTE MIHI.
Theme of my earliest Muse in days long past,
Theme that shall be hereafter of my last,
Why summon back, Maecenas, to the list
Your worn-out swordsman, pensioned and dismissed?
My age, my mind, no longer are the same
As when I first was ’prenticed to the game.
Veianius fastens to Alcides’ gate
His arms, then nestles in his snug estate:
Think you once more upon the arena’s marge
He’d care to stand and supplicate discharge?
No: I’ve a Mentor who, not once nor twice,
Breathes in my well-rinsed ear his sound advice,
“Give rest in time to that old horse, for fear
At last he founder ’mid the general jeer.”
So now I bid my idle songs adieu,
And turn my thoughts to what is right and true;
I search and search, and when I find, I lay
The wisdom up against a rainy day.
But what’s my sect? you ask me; I must be
A member sure of some fraternity:
Why no; I’ve taken no man’s shilling; none
Of all your fathers owns me for his son;
Just where the weather drives me, I invite
Myself to take up quarters for the night.
Now, all alert, I cope with life’s rough main,
A loyal follower in true virtue’s train:
Anon, to Aristippus’ camp I flit,
And say, the world’s for me, not I for it.
Long as the night to him whose love is gone,
Long as the day to slaves that must work on,
Slow as the year to the impatient ward
Who finds a mother’s tutelage too hard,
So long, so slow the moments that prevent
The execution of my high intent,
Of studying truths that rich and poor concern,
Which young and old are lost unless they learn.
Well, if I cannot be a student, yet
There’s good in spelling at the alphabet.
Your eyes will never see like Lynceus’; still
You rub them with an ointment when they’re ill:
You cannot hope for Glyco’s stalwart frame,
Yet you’d avoid the gout that makes you lame.
Some point of moral progress each may gain,
Though to aspire beyond it should prove vain.
Say, is your bosom fevered with the fire
Of sordid avarice or unchecked desire?
Know, there are spells will help you to allay
The pain, and put good part of it away.
You’re bloated by ambition? take advice;
Yon book will ease you if you read it thrice.
Run through the list of faults; whate’er you be,
Coward, pickthank, spitfire, drunkard, debauchee,
Submit to culture patiently, you’ll find
Her charms can humanize the rudest mind.
To fly from vice is virtue: to be free
From foolishness is wisdom’s first degree.
Think of some ill you feel a real disgrace,
The loss of money or the loss of place;
To keep yourself from these, how keen the strain!
How dire the sweat of body and of brain!
Through tropic heat, o’er rocks and seas you run
To furthest India, poverty to shun,
Yet scorn the sage who offers you release
From vagrant wishes that disturb your peace.
Take some provincial pugilist, who gains
A paltry cross-way prize for all his pains;
Place on his brow Olympia’s chaplet, earned
Without a struggle, would the gift be spurned?
Gold counts for more than silver, all men hold:
Why doubt that virtue counts for more than gold?
“Seek money first, good friends, and virtue next,”
Each Janus lectures on the well-worn text;
Lads learn it for their lessons; grey-haired men,
Like schoolboys, drawl the sing-song o’er again.
You lack, say, some six thousand of the rate
The law has settled as a knight’s estate;
Though soul, tongue, morals, credit, all the while
Are yours, you reckon with the rank and file.
But mark those children at their play; they sing,
“Deal fairly, youngster, and we’ll crown you king.”
Be this your wall of brass, your coat of mail,
A guileless heart, a cheek no crime turns pale.
“Which is the better teacher, tell me, pray,
The law of Roscius, or the children’s lay
That crowns fair dealing, by Camillus trolled,
And manly Curius, in the days of old;
The voice that says, “Make money, money, man;
Well, if so be,—if not, which way you can,”
That from a nearer distance you may gaze
At honest Pupius’ all too moving plays;
Or that which bids you meet with dauntless brow,
The frowns of Fortune, aye, and shows you how?
Suppose the world of Rome accosts me thus:
“You walk where we walk; why not think with us,
Be ours for better or for worse, pursue
The things we love, the things we hate eschew?”
I answer as sly Reynard answered, when
The ailing lion asked him to his den:
“I’m frightened at those footsteps: every track
Leads to your home, but ne’er a one leads back.”
Nay, you’re a perfect Hydra: who shall choose
Which view to follow out of all your views?
Some farm the taxes; some delight to see
Their money grow by usury, like a tree;
Some bait a widow-trap with fruits and cakes,
And net old men, to stock their private lakes.
But grant that folks have different hobbies; say,
Does one man ride one hobby one whole day?
“Baiae’s the place!” cries Croesus: all is haste;
The lake, the sea, soon feel their master’s taste:
A new whim prompts: ’tis “Pack your tools tonight!
Off for Teanum with the dawn of light!”
The nuptial bed is in his hall; he swears
None but a single life is free from cares:
Is he a bachelor? all human bliss,
He vows, is centred in a wedded kiss.
How shall I hold this Proteus in my gripe?
How fix him down in one enduring type?
Turn to the poor: their megrims are as strange;
Bath, cockloft, barber, eating-house, they change;
They hire a boat; your born aristocrat
Is not more squeamish, tossing in his yacht.
If, when we meet, I’m cropped in awkward style
By some uneven barber, then you smile;
You smile, if, as it haps, my gown’s askew,
If my shirt’s ragged while my tunic’s new:
How, if my mind’s inconsequent, rejects
What late it longed for, what it loathed affects,
Shifts every moment, with itself at strife,
And makes a chaos of an ordered life,
Builds castles up, then pulls them to the ground,
Keeps changing round for square and square for round?
You smile not; ’tis an every-day affair;
I need no doctor’s, no, nor keeper’s care:
Yet you’re my patron, and would blush to fail
In taking notice of an ill-pared nail.
So, to sum up: the sage is half divine,
Rich, free, great, handsome, king of kings, in fine;
A miracle of health from toe to crown,
Mind, heart, and head, save when his nose runs down.
TROJANI Belli SCRIPTOREM.
While you at Rome, dear Lollius, train your tongue,
I at Praeneste read what Homer sung:
What’s good, what’s bad, what helps, what hurts, he shows
Better in verse than Crantor does in prose.
The reason why I think so, if you’ll spare
A moment from your business, I’ll declare.
The tale that tells how Greece and Asia strove
In tedious battle all for Paris’ love,
Talks of the passions that excite the brain
Of mad-cap kings and peoples not more sane.
Antenor moves to cut away the cause
Of all their sufferings: does he gain applause?
No; none shall force young Paris to enjoy
Life, power and riches in his own fair Troy.
Nestor takes pains the quarrel to compose
That makes Atrides and Achilles foes:
In vain; their passions are too strong to quell;
Both burn with wrath, and one with love as well.
Let kings go mad and blunder as they may,
The people in the end are sure to pay.
Strife, treachery, crime, lust, rage, ’tis error all,
One mass of faults within, without the wall.
Turn to the second tale: Ulysses shows
How worth and wisdom triumph over woes:
He, having conquered Troy, with sharp shrewd ken
Explores the manners and the towns of men;
On the broad ocean, while he strives to win
For him and his return to home and kin,
He braves untold calamities, borne down
By Fortune’s waves, but never left to drown.
The Sirens’ song you know, and Circe’s bowl:
Had that sweet draught seduced his stupid soul
As it seduced his fellows, he had been
The senseless chattel of a wanton queen,
Sunk to the level of his brute desire,
An unclean dog, a swine that loves the mire.
But what are we? a mere consuming class,
Just fit for counting roughly in the mass,
Like to the suitors, or Alcinous’ clan,
Who spent vast pains upon the husk of man,
Slept on till mid-day, and enticed their care
To rest by listening to a favourite air.
Robbers get up by night, men’s throats to knive:
Will you not wake to keep yourself alive?
Well, if you will not stir when sound, at last,
When dropsical, you’ll be for moving fast:
Unless you light your lamp ere dawn and read
Some wholesome book that high resolves may breed,
You’ll find your sleep go from you, and will toss
Upon your pillow, envious, lovesick, cross.
You lose no time in taking out a fly,
Or straw, it may be, that torments your eye;
Why, when a thing devours your mind, adjourn
Till this day year all thought of the concern?
Come now, have courage to be wise: begin:
You’re halfway over when you once plunge in:
He who puts off the time for mending, stands
A clodpoll by the stream with folded hands,
Waiting till all the water be gone past;
But it runs on, and will, while time shall last.
“Aye, but I must have money, and a bride
To bear me children, rich and well allied:
Those uncleared lands want tilling.” Having got
What will suffice you, seek no happier lot.
Not house or grounds, not heaps of brass or gold
Will rid the frame of fever’s heat and cold.
Or cleanse the heart of care. He needs good health,
Body and mind, who would enjoy his wealth:
Who fears or hankers, land and country-seat
Soothe just as much as tickling gouty feet,
As pictures charm an eye inflamed and blear,
As music gratifies an ulcered ear.
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.
This too concerns me: does Munatius hold
In Florus’ heart the place he held of old,
Or is that ugly breach in your good will
We hoped had closed unhealed and gaping still?
Well, be it youth or ignorance of life
That sets your hot ungoverned bloods at strife,
Where’er you bide, ’twere shame to break the ties
Which made you once sworn brethren and allies:
So, when your safe return shall come to pass,
I’ve got a votive heifer out at grass.
Albius, kind critic of my satires, say,
What do you down at Pedum far away?
Are you composing what will dim the shine
Of Cassius’ works, so delicately fine,
Or sauntering, calm and healthful, through the wood,
Bent on such thoughts as suit the wise and good?
No brainless trunk is yours: a form to please,
Wealth, wit to use it, Heaven vouchsafes you these.
What could fond nurse wish more for her sweet pet
Than friends, good looks, and health without a let,
A shrewd clear head, a tongue to speak his mind,
A seemly household, and a purse well-lined?
Let hopes and sorrows, fears and angers be,
And think each day that dawns the last you’ll see;
For so the hour that greets you unforeseen
Will bring with it enjoyment twice as keen.
Ask you of me? you’ll laugh to find me grown
A hog of Epicurus, full twelve stone.
Si Potes ARCHIACIS.
If you can lie, Torquatus, when you take
Your meal, upon a couch of Archias’ make,
And sup off potherbs, gathered as they come,
You’ll join me, please, by sunset at my home.
My wine, not far from Sinuessa grown,
Is but six years in bottle, I must own:
If you’ve a better vintage, send it here,
Or take your cue from him who finds the cheer.
My hearth is swept, my household looks its best,
And all my furniture expects a guest.
Forego your dreams of riches and applause,
Forget e’en Moschus’ memorable cause;
To-morrow’s Caesar’s birthday, which we keep
By taking, to begin with, extra sleep;
So, if with pleasant converse we prolong
This summer night, we scarcely shall do wrong.
Why should the Gods have put me at my ease,
If I mayn’t use my fortune as I please?
The man who stints and pinches for his heir
Is next-door neighbour to a fool, I’ll swear.
Here, give me flowers to strew, my goblet fill,
And let men call me mad-cap if they will.
O, drink is mighty! secrets it unlocks,
Turns hope to fact, sets cowards on to box,
Takes burdens from the careworn, finds out parts
In stupid folks, and teaches unknown arts.
What tongue hangs fire when quickened by the bowl?
What wretch so poor but wine expands his soul?
Meanwhile, I’m bound in duty, nothing both,
To see that nought in coverlet or cloth
May give you cause to sniff, that dish and cup
May serve you as a mirror while you sup;
To have my guests well-sorted, and take care
That none is present who’ll tell tales elsewhere.
You’ll find friend Butra and Septicius here,
Ditto Sabinus, failing better cheer:
And each might bring a friend or two as well,
But then, you know, close packing’s apt to smell.
Come, name your number, and elude the guard
Your client keeps by slipping through the yard.
Not to admire, Numicius, is the best,
The only way, to make and keep men blest.
The sun, the stars, the seasons of the year
That come and go, some gaze at without fear:
What think you of the gifts of earth and sea,
The untold wealth of Ind or Araby,
Or, to come nearer home, our games and shows,
The plaudits and the honours Rome bestows?
How should we view them? ought they to convulse
The well-strung frame and agitate the pulse?
Who fears the contrary, or who desires
The things themselves, in either case admires;
Each way there’s flutter; something unforeseen
Disturbs the mind that else had been serene.
Joy, grief, desire or fear, whate’er the name
The passion bears, its influence is the same;
Where things exceed your hope or fall below,
You stare, look blank, grow numb from top to toe.
E’en virtue’s self, if followed to excess,
Turns right to wrong, good sense to foolishness.
Go now, my friend, drink in with all your eyes
Bronze, silver, marble, gems, and Tyrian dyes,
Feel pride when speaking in the sight of Rome,
Go early out to ’Change and late come home,
For fear your income drop beneath the rate
That comes to Mutus from his wife’s estate,
And (shame and scandal!), though his line is new,
You give the pas to him, not he to you.
Whate’er is buried mounts at last to light,
While things get hid in turn that once looked bright.
So when Agrippa’s mall and Appius’ way
Have watched your well-known figure day by day,
At length the summons comes, and you must go
To Numa and to Ancus down below.
Your side’s in pain; a doctor hits the blot:
You wish to live aright (and who does not?);
If virtue holds the secret, don’t defer;
Be off with pleasure, and be on with her.
But no; you think all morals sophists’ tricks,
Bring virtue down to words, a grove to sticks;
Then hey for wealth! quick, quick, forestall the trade
With Phrygia and the East, your fortune’s made.
One thousand talents here—one thousand there—
A third—a fourth, to make the thing four-square.
A dowried wife, friends, beauty, birth, fair fame,
These are the gifts of money, heavenly dame:
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.
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.
Not like the coarse Calabrian boor, who pressed
His store of pears upon a sated guest,
Have you bestowed your favours. “Eat them, pray.”
“I’ve done.” “Then carry all you please away.”
“I thank you, no.” “Your boys won’t like you less
For taking home a sack of them, I guess.”
“I could not thank you more if I took all.”
“Ah well, if you won’t eat them, the pigs shall.”
’Tis silly prodigality, to throw
Those gifts broadcast whose value you don’t know:
Such tillage yields ingratitude, and will,
While human nature is the soil you till.
A wise good man has ears for merit’s claim,
Yet does not reckon brass and gold the same.
I also will “assume desert,” and prove
I value him whose bounty speaks his love.
If you would keep me always, give me back
My sturdy sides, my clustering locks of black,
My pleasant voice and laugh, the tears I shed
That night when Cinara from the table fled.
A poor pinched field-mouse chanced to make its way
Through a small rent in a wheat-sack one day,
And, having gorged and stuffed, essayed in vain
To squeeze its body through the hole again:
“Ah!” cried a weasel, “wait till you get thin;
Then, if you will, creep out as you crept in.”
Well, if to me the story folks apply,
I give up all I’ve got without a sigh:
Not mine to cram down guinea-fowls, and then
Heap praises on the sleep of labouring men;
Give me a country life and leave me free,
I would not choose the wealth of Araby.
I’ve called you Father, praised your royal grace
Behind your back as well as to your face;
You’ve owned I have a conscience: try me now
If I can quit your gifts with cheerful brow.
That was a prudent answer which, we’re told,
The son of wise Ulysses made of old:
“Our Ithaca is scarce the place for steeds;
It has no level plains, no grassy meads:
Atrides, if you’ll let me, I’ll decline
A gift that better meets your wants than mine.”
Small things become small folks: imperial Rome
Is all too large, too bustling for a home;
The empty heights of Tibur, or the bay
Of soft Tarentum, more are in my way.
Philip, the famous counsel, years ago,
Was moving home at two, sedate and slow,
Old, and fatigued with pleading at the bar,
And grumbling that he lived away so far,
When suddenly he chanced his eye to drop
On a spruce personage in a barber’s shop,
Who in the shopman’s absence lounged at ease,
Paring his nails as calmly as you please.
“Demetrius”—so was called the slave he kept
To do his errands, a well-trained adept—
“Find out about that man for me; enquire
His name and rank, his patron or his sire.”
He soon brings word that Mena is the name,
An auction-crier, poor, but without blame,
One who can work or idle, get or spend,
Who loves his home and likes to see a friend,
Enjoys the circus, and when work’s got through,
He that finds out he’s changed his lot for worse,
Let him betimes the untoward choice reverse:
For still, when all is said, the rule stands fast,
That each man’s shoe be made on his own last.
Health to friend Celsus—so, good Muse,
Who holds the pen in Nero’s little court!
If asked about me, say, I plan and plan,
Yet live a useless and unhappy man:
Sunstrokes have spared my olives, hail my vines;
No herd of mine in far-off pasture pines:
Yet ne’ertheless I suffer; hourly teased
Less by a body than a mind diseased,
No ear have I to hear, no heart to heed
The words of wisdom that might serve my need,
Frown on my doctors, with the friends am wroth
Who fain would rouse me from my fatal sloth,
Seek what has harmed me, shun what looks of use,
Town-bird at Tibur, and at Rome recluse.
Then ask him how his health is, how he fares,
How prospers with the prince and his confreres.
If he says Well, first tell him you rejoice,
Then add one little hint (but drop your voice),
“As Celsus bears his fortune well or ill,
So bear with Celsus his acquaintance will.”
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.
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.
The stag was wont to quarrel with the steed,
Nor let him graze in common on the mead:
The steed, who got the worst in each attack,
Asked help from man, and took him on his back:
But when his foe was quelled, he ne’er got rid
Of his new friend, still bridled and bestrid.
So he who, fearing penury, loses hold
Of independence, better far than gold,
Will toil, a hopeless drudge, till life is spent,
Because he’ll never, never learn content.
Means should, like shoes, be neither large nor small;
Too wide, they trip us up, too strait, they gall.
Then live contented, Fuscus, nor be slow
To give a friendly rap to one you know,
Whene’er you find me struggling to increase
My neat sufficiency, and ne’er at peace.
Gold will be slave or master: ’tis more fit
That it be led by us than we by it.
From tumble-down Vacuna’s fane I write,
Wanting but you to make me happy quite.
Quid TIBI visa chios?
How like you Chios, good Bullatius? what
Think you of Lesbos, that world-famous spot?
What of the town of Samos, trim and neat,
And what of Sardis, Croesus’ royal seat?
Of Smyrna what and Colophon? are they
Greater or less than travellers’ stories say?
Do all look poor beside our scenes at home,
The field of Mars, the river of old Rome?
Say, is your fancy fixed upon some town
Which formed a gem in Attalus’s crown?
Or would you turn to Lebedus for ease
In mere disgust at weary roads and seas?
You know what Lebedus is like; so bare,
With Gabii or Fidenae ’twould compare;
Yet there, methinks, I would accept my lot,
My friends forgetting, by my friends forgot,
Stand on the cliff at distance, and survey
The stormy sea-god’s wild Titanic play.
Yet he that comes from Capua, dashing in
To Rome, all splashed and wetted to the skin,
Though in a tavern glad one night to bide,
Would not be pleased to live there till he died:
If he gets cold, he lets his fancy rove
In quest of bliss beyond a bath or stove:
And you, though tossed just now by a stiff breeze,
Don’t therefore sell your vessel beyond seas.
But what are Rhodes and Lesbos, and the rest,
E’en let a traveller rate them at their best?
No more the wants of healthy minds they meet
Than does a jersey in a driving sleet,
A cloak in summer, Tiber through the snow,
A chafing-dish in August’s midday glow.
So, while health lasts, and Fortune keeps her smiles,
We’ll pay our devoir to your Grecian isles,
Praise them on this condition—that we stay
In our own land, a thousand miles away.
Seize then each happy hour the gods dispense,
Nor fix enjoyment for a twelvemonth hence.
So may you testify with truth, where’er
You’re quartered, ’tis a pleasure to be there:
For if the cure of mental ills is due
To sense and wisdom, not a fine sea-view,
We come to this; when o’er the world we range
’Tis but our climate, not our mind we change.
What active inactivity is this,
To go in ships and cars to search for bliss!
No; what you seek, at Ulubrae you’ll find,
If to the quest you bring a balanced mind.
If, worthy Iccius, properly you use
What you collect, Agrippa’s revenues,
You’re well supplied: and Jove himself could tell
No way to make you better off than well.
A truce to murmuring: with another’s store
To use at pleasure, who shall call you poor?
Sides, stomach, feet, if these are all in health,
What more could man procure with princely wealth?
If, with a well-spread table, when you dine,
To plain green food your eating you confine,
Though some fine day a rich Pactolian rill
Should flood your house, you’d munch your pot-herbs still,
From habit or conviction, which o’er-ride
The power of gold, and league on virtue’s side.
No need to marvel at the stories told
Of simple-sage Democritus of old,
How, while his soul was soaring in the sky,
The sheep got in and nibbled down his rye,
When, spite of lucre’s strong contagion, yet
On lofty problems all your thoughts are set,—
What checks the sea, what heats and cools the year,
If law or impulse guides the starry sphere,
“What power presides o’er lunar wanderings,
What means the jarring harmony of things,
Which after all is wise, and which the fool,
Empedooles or the Stertinian school.
But whether you’re for taking fishes’
Or against leeks and onions whet your knife,
Let Grosphus be your friend, and should he plead
For aught he wants, anticipate his need:
He’ll never outstep reason; and you know,
When good men lack, the price of friends is low.
But what of Rome? Agrippa has increased
Her power in Spain, Tiberius in the East:
Phraates, humbly bending on his knee,
Submits himself to Csesar’s sovereignty:
While golden Plenty from her teeming horn
Pours down on Italy abundant corn.
As I have told you oft, deliver these,
My sealed-up volumes, to Augustus, please,
Friend Vinius, if he’s well and in good trim,
And (one proviso more) if asked by him:
Beware of over-zeal, nor discommend
My works, by playing the impetuous friend.
Suppose my budget, ere you get to town,
Should gall you, better straightway throw it down
Good bailiff of my farm, that snug domain
Which makes its master feel himself again,
Which, though you sniff at it, could once support
Five hearths, and send five statesmen to the court,
Let’s have a match in husbandry; we’ll try
Which can do weeding better, you or I,
And see if Horace more repays the hand
That clears him of his thistles, or his land.
Though here I’m kept administering relief
To my poor Lamia’s broken-hearted grief
For his lost brother, ne’ertheless my thought
Flies to my woods, and counts the distance nought.
You praise the townsman’s, I the rustic’s state:
Admiring others’ lots, our own we hate:
Each blames the place he lives in: but the mind
Is most in fault, which ne’er leaves self behind.
A town-house drudge, for farms you used to sigh;
Now towns and shows and baths are all your cry:
But I’m consistent with myself: you know
I grumble, when to Rome I’m forced to go.
Truth is, our standards differ: what your taste
Condemns, forsooth, as so much savage waste,
The man who thinks with Horace thinks divine,
And hates the things which you believe so fine.
I know your secret: ’tis the cook-shop breeds
That lively sense of what the country needs:
You grieve because this little nook of mine
Would bear Arabian spice as soon as wine;
Because no tavern happens to be nigh
Where you can go and tipple on the sly,
No saucy flute-girl, at whose jigging sound
You bring your feet down lumbering to the ground.
And yet, methinks, you’ve plenty on your hands
In breaking up these long unharrowed lands;
The ox, unyoked and resting from the plough,
Wants fodder, stripped from elm or poplar bough;
You’ve work too at the river, when there’s rain,
As, but for a strong bank,’twould flood the plain.
Now have a little patience, you shall see
What makes the gulf between yourself and me:
I, who once wore gay clothes and well-dressed hair,
I, who, though poor, could please a greedy fair,
QUAE sit HIEMS VELIAE.
If Velia and Salernum tell me, pray,
The climate, and the natives, and the way:
For Baiae now is lost on me, and I,
Once its staunch friend, am turned its enemy,
Through Musa’s fault, who makes me undergo
His cold-bath treatment, spite of frost and snow.
Good sooth, the town is filled with spleen, to see
Its myrtle-groves attract no company;
To find its sulphur-wells, which forced out pain
From joint and sinew, treated with disdain
By tender chests and heads, now grown so bold,
They brave cold water in the depth of cold,
And, finding down at Clusium what they want,
Or Gabii, say, make that their winter haunt.
Yes, I must change my quarters; my good horse
Must pass the inns where once he stopped of course.
“How now, you creature? I’m not bound to-day
For Cumae or for Baiae,” I shall say,
Pulling the left rein angrily, because
A horse when bridled listens through his jaws.
Which place is best supplied with corn, d’ye think?
Have they rain-water or fresh springs to drink?
Their wines I care not for: when at my farm
I can drink any sort without much harm;
But at the sea I need a generous kind
To warm my veins and pass into my mind,
Enrich me with new hopes, choice words supply,
And make me comely in a lady’s eye.
Which tract is best for game, on which sea-coast
Urchins and other fish abound the most,
That so, when I return, my friends may see
A sleek Phaeacian come to life in me:
These things you needs must tell me, Vala dear,
And I no less must act on what I hear.
When Maenius, after nobly gobbling down
His fortune, took to living on the town,
A social beast of prey, with no fixed home,
He ranged and ravened o’er the whole of Rome;
His maw unfilled, he’d turn on friend and foe;
None was too high for worrying, none too low;
The scourge and murrain of each butcher’s shop,
Whate’er he got, he stuffed into his crop.
So, when he’d failed in getting e’er a bit
From those who liked or feared his wicked wit,
Then down a throat of three-bear power he’d cram
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.
Whom call we good? The man who keeps intact
Each law, each right, each statute and each act,
Whose arbitration terminates dispute,
Whose word’s a bond, whose witness ends a suit.
Yet his whole house and all the neighbours know
He’s bad at heart, despite his decent show.
“I,” says a slave, “ne’er ran away nor stole:”
Well, what of that? say I: your skin is whole.
“I’ve shed no blood.” You shall not feed the orow.
“I’m good and true.” We Sabine folks say No:
The wolf avoids the pit, the hawk the snare,
And hidden hooks teach fishes to beware.
’Tis love of right that keeps the good from wrong;
You do no harm because you fear the thong;
Could you be sure that no one would detect,
E’en sacrilege might tempt you, I suspect.
Steal but one bean, although the loss be small,
The crime’s as great as if you stole them all.
See your good man, who oft as he appears
In court commands all judgments and all ears;
Observe him now, when to the gods he pays
His ox or swine, and listen what he says:
“Great Janus, Phoebus”—this he speaks aloud;
The rest is muttered all and unavowed—
“Divine Laverna, grant me safe disguise;
Let me seem just and upright in men’s eyes;
Shed night upon my crimes, a glamour o’er my lies.”
Say, what’s a miser but a slave complete
When he’d pick up a penny in the street?
Fearing’s a part of coveting, and he
Who lives in fear is no freeman for me.
The wretch whose thoughts by gain are all engrossed
Has flung away his sword, betrayed his post.
Don’t kill your captive: keep him: he will sell;
Some things there are the creature will do well:
He’ll plough and feed the cattle, cross the deep
And traffic, carry corn, make produce cheap.
The wise and good, like Bacchus in the play,
When Fortune threats, will have the nerve to say:
“Great king of Thebes, what pains can you devise
The man who will not serve you to chastise?”
“I’ll take your goods.” “My flocks, my land, to wit,
My plate, my couches: do, if you think fit.”
“I’ll keep you chained and guarded in close thrall.”
“A god will come to free me when I call.”
Yes, he will die; ’tis that the bard intends;
For when Death comes, the power of Fortune ends.
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.
Those who have tact their poverty to mask
Before their chief get more than those who ask;
It makes, you see, a difference, if you take
As modest people do, or snatch your cake;
Yet that’s the point from which our question starts,
By what way best to get at patrons’ hearts.
“My mother’s poor, my sister’s dower is due,
My farm won’t sell or yield us corn enow,”
What is all this but just the beggar’s cry,
“I’m starving; give me food for charity”?
“Ah!” whines another in a minor key,
“The loaf’s in out; pray spare a slice for me.”
But if in peace the raven would have fed,
He’d have had less of clawing, more of bread.
A poor companion whom his friend takes down
To fair Surrentum or Brundisium’s town,
If he makes much of cold, bad roads, and rain,
Or moans o’er cash-box forced and money ta’en,
Reminds us of a girl, some artful thing,
Who cries for a lost bracelet or a ring,
With this result, that when she comes to grieve
For real misfortunes, no one will believe.
So, hoaxed by one impostor, in the street
A man won’t set a cripple on his feet,
Though he invoke Osiris, and appeal
With streaming tears to hearts that will not feel,
“Lift up a poor lame man! I tell no lie;”
“Treat foreigners to that,” the neighbours cry.
Si Bene Te Novi.
You’d blush, good Lollius, if I judge you right,
To mix the parts of friend and parasite.
’Twixt parasite and friend a gulf is placed,
Wide as between the wanton and the chaste;
Yet think not flattery friendship’s only curse:
A different vice there is, perhaps a worse,
A brutal boorishness, which fain would win
Regard by unbrushed teeth and close-shorn skin,
Yet all the while is anxious to be thought
Pure independence, acting as it ought.
Between these faults ’tis Virtue’s place to stand,
At distance from the extreme on either hand.
The flatterer by profession, whom you see
At every feast among the lowest three,
Hangs on his patron’s looks, takes up each word
Which, dropped by chance, might else expire unheard,
Like schoolboys echoing what their masters say
In sing-song drawl, or Gnatho in the play:
While your blunt fellow battles for a straw,
As though he’d knock you down or take the law:
“How now, good sir? you mean my word to doubt?
When I once think a thing, I mayn’t speak out?
Though living on your terms were living twice,
Instead of once, ’twere dear at such a price.”
And what’s the question that brings on these fits?—
Does Dolichos or Castor make more hits?
Or, starting for Brundisium, will it pay
To take the Appian or Minucian way?
Him that gives in to dice or lewd excess,
Who apes rich folks in equipage and dress,
Who meanly covets to increase his store,
And shrinks as meanly from the name of poor,
That man his patron, though on all those heads
Perhaps a worse offender, hates and dreads,
Or says to him what tender parents say,
Who’d have their children better men than they:
“Don’t vie with me,” he says, and he says true;
“My wealth will bear the silly things I do;
Yours is a slender pittance at the best;
A wise man cuts his coat—you know the rest.”
Eutrapelus, whene’er a grudge he owed
To any, gave him garments a la mode;
Because, said he, the wretch will feel inspired
With new conceptions when he’s new attired;
He’ll sleep through half the day, let business go
For pleasure, teach a usurer’s cash to grow;
At last he’ll turn a fencer, or will trudge
Beside a cart, a market-gardener’s drudge.
Avoid all prying; what you’re told, keep back,
Though wine or anger put you on the rack;
Nor puff your own, nor slight your friend’s pursuits,
Nor court the Muses when he’d chase the brutes.
’Twas thus the Theban brethren jarred, until
The harp that vexed the stern one became still.
Amphion humoured his stern brother: well,
Your friend speaks gently; do not you rebel:
No; when he gives the summons, and prepares
To take the field with hounds, and darts, and snares,
Leave your dull Muse to sulkiness and sloth,
That both may feast on dainties earned by both.
’Tis a true Roman pastime, and your frame
Will gain thereby, no less than your good name:
Besides, you’re strong; in running you can match
The dogs, and kill the fiercest boar you catch:
Who plays like you? you have but to appear
In Mars’s field to raise a general cheer:
Remember too, you served a hard campaign,
When scarce past boyhood, in the wars of Spain,
Beneath his lead who brings our standards home,
And makes each nook of earth a prize for Rome.
Just one thing more, lest still you should refuse
And show caprice that nothing can excuse:
Safe as you are from doing aught unmeet,
You sometimes trifle at your father’s seat;
The Actian fight in miniature you play,
With boats for ships, your lake for Hadria’s bay,
Your brother for your foe, your slaves for crews,
And so you battle till you win or lose.
Let your friend see you share his taste, he’ll vow
He never knew what sport was like till now.
Well, to proceed; beware, if there is room
For warning, what you mention, and to whom;
Avoid a ceaseless questioner; he burns
To tell the next he talks with what he learns;
Wide ears retain no secrets, and you know
You can’t get back a word you once let go.
Look round and round the man you recommend,
For yours will be the shame should he offend.
Sometimes we’re duped; a protege dragged down
By his own fault must e’en be left to drown,
That you may help another known and tried,
And show yourself his champion if belied;
For when ’gainst him detraction forks her tongue,
Be sure she’ll treat you to the same ere long.
No time for sleeping with a fire next door;
Neglect such things, they only blaze the more.
A patron’s service is a strange career;
The tiros love it, but the experts fear.
You, while you’re sailing on a prosperous tack,
Look out for squalls which yet may drive you back.
The gay dislike the grave, the staid the pert,
The quick the slow, the lazy the alert;
Hard drinkers hate the sober, though he swear
Those bouts at night are more than he can bear.
Unknit your brow; the silent man is sure
To pass for crabbed, the modest for obscure.
Meantime, while thoughts like these your mind engage,
Neglect not books nor converse with the sage;
Ply them with questions; lead them on to tell
What things make life go happily and well;
How cure desire, the soul’s perpetual dearth?
How moderate care for things of trifling worth?
Is virtue raised by culture or self-sown?
What soothes annoy, and makes your heart your own?
Is peace procured by honours, pickings, gains,
Or, sought in highways, is she found in lanes?
For me, when freshened by my spring’s pure cold
Which makes my villagers look pinched and old,
What prayers are mine? “O may I yet possess
The goods I have, or, if Heaven pleases, less!
Let the few years that Fate may grant me still
Be all my own, not held at others’ will!
Let me have books, and stores for one year hence,
Nor make my life one flutter of suspense!”
But I forbear: sufficient ’tis to pray
To Jove for what he gives and takes away:
Grant life, grant fortune, for myself I’ll find
That best of blessings, a contented mind.
Prisco si CREDIS.
If truth there be in old Cratinus’ song,
No verse, you know, Maecenas, can live long
Writ by a water-drinker. Since the day
When Bacchus took us poets into pay
With fauns and satyrs, the celestial Nine
Have smelt each morning of last evening’s wine.
The praises heaped by Homer on the bowl
At once convict him as a thirsty soul:
And father Ennius ne’er could be provoked
To sing of battles till his lips were soaked.
“Let temperate folk write verses in the hall
Where bonds change hands, abstainers not at all;”
So ran my edict: now the clan drinks hard,
And vinous breath distinguishes a bard.
What if a man appeared with gown cut short,
Bare feet, grim visage, after Cato’s sort?
Would you respect him, hail him from henceforth
The heir of Cato’s mind, of Cato’s worth?
The wretched Moor, who matched himself in wit
With keen Timagenes, in sunder split.
Faults are soon copied: should my colour fail,
Our bards drink cummin, hoping to look pale.
Mean, miserable apes! the coil you make
Oft gives my heart, and oft my sides, an ache.
Erect and free I walk the virgin sod,
Too proud to tread the paths by others trod.
The man who trusts himself, and dares step out,
Soon sets the fashion to the inferior rout.
’Tis I who first to Italy have shown
Iambics, quarried from the Parian stone;
Following Archilochus in rhythm and stave,
But not the words that dug Lycambes’ grave.
Yet think not that I merit scantier bays,
Because in form I reproduce his lays:
Strong Sappho now and then adopts a tone
From that same lyre, to qualify her own;
So does Alcaeus, though in all beside,
Style, order, thought, the difference is wide;
’Gainst no false fair he turns his angry Muse,
Nor for her guilty father twists the noose.
Aye, and Alcaeus’ name, before unheard,
My Latian harp has made a household word.
Well may the bard feel proud, whose pen supplies
Unhackneyed strains to gentle hands and eyes.
Ask you what makes the uncourteous reader laud
My works at home, but run them down abroad?
I stoop not, I, to catch the rabble’s votes
By cheap refreshments or by cast-off coats,
Nor haunt the benches where your pedants swarm,
Prepared by turns to listen and perform.
That’s what this whimpering means. Suppose I say
“Your theatres have ne’er been in my way,
Nor I in theirs: large audiences require
Some heavier metal than my thin-drawn wire:”
“You put me off,” he answers, “with a sneer:
Your works are kept for Jove’s imperial ear:
Yes, you’re a paragon of bards, you think,
And no one else brews nectar fit to drink.”
What can I do? ’tis an unequal match;
For if my nose can sniff, his nails can scratch:
I say the place won’t snit me, and cry shame;
“E’en fencers get a break ’twixt game and game.”
Games oft have ugly issue: they beget
Unhealthy competition, fume and fret:
And fume and fret engender in their turn
Battles that bleed, and enmities that burn.
To street and market-place I see you look
With wistful longing, my adventurous book,
That on the stalls for sale you may be seen,
Rubbed by the binder’s pumice smooth and clean.
You chafe at look and key, and court the view
Of all the world, disdainful of the few.
Was this your breeding? go where you would go;
When once sent out, you won’t come back, you know.
“What mischief have I done?” I hear you whine,
When some one hurts those feelings, now so fine;
For hurt you’re sure to be; when people pall
Of reading you, they’ll crush and fold you small.
If my prophetic soul be not at fault
From indignation at your rude revolt,
Your doom, methinks, is easy to foretell:
While you’ve your gloss on, Rome will like you well:
Then, when you’re thumbed and soiled by vulgar hands,
You’ll feed the moths, or go to distant lands.
Well, when in summer afternoons you see
Men fain to listen, tell them about me:
Tell them that, born a freedman’s son, possessed
Of slender means, I soared beyond my nest,
That so whate’er’s deducted for my birth
May count as assets on the score of worth;
Say that I pleased the greatest of my day:
Then draw my picture;—prematurely grey,
Of little person, fond of sunny ease,
Lightly provoked, but easy to appease.
Last, if my age they ask you, let them know
That I was forty-four not long ago,
In the December of last year, the same
That goes by Lepidus’ and Lollius’ name.
I. TO AUGUSTUS.
Cum tot SUSTINEAS.
Since you, great Caesar, singly wield the charge
Of Rome’s concerns, so manifold and large,
With sword and shield the commonwealth protect,
With morals grace it, and with laws correct,
The bard, methinks, would do a public wrong
Who, having gained your ear, should keep it long.
Quirinus, Bacchus, and the Jove-born pair,
Though now invoked with in cense, gifts, and prayer,
While yet on earth they civilized their kind,
Tilled lands, built cities, properties assigned,
Oft mourned for man’s ingratitude, and found
The race they served less thankful than the ground.
The prince whose fated vassalage subdued
Fell Hydra’s power and all the monster brood,
Soon found that envy, worse than all beside,
Could only be extinguished when he died.
He that outshines his age is like a torch,
Which, when it blazes high, is apt to scorch:
Men hate him while he lives: at last, no doubt,
He wins affection—when his light is out.
You, while in life, are honoured as divine,
And vows and oaths are taken at your shrine;
So Rome pays homage to her man of men,
Ne’er seen on earth before, ne’er to be seen again.
But this wise nation, which for once thinks true,
That nought in Greece or here can rival you,
To all things else a different test applies,
And looks on living worth with jaundiced eyes:
While, as for ancient models, take the code
Which to the ten wise men our fathers owed,
The treaties made ’twixt Gabii’s kings and Home’s,
The pontiffs’ books, the bards’ forgotten tomes,
They’ll swear the Muses framed them every one
In close divan on Alba’s Helicon.
But what’s the argument? the bards of Greece
And those of Rome must needs be of a piece;
As there the oldest hold the foremost place,
So here, ’twould seem, the same will be the case.
Is this their reasoning? they may prove as well
An olive has no stone, a nut no shell.
Soon, flattered by such dexterous logic, we
Shall think we’ve gained the summit of the tree;
In art, in song our rivals we outdo,
And, spite of all their oil, in wrestling too.
Or is it said that poetry’s like wine
Which age, we know, will mellow and refine?
Well, let me grant the parallel, and ask
How many years a work must be in cask.
A bard who died a hundred years ago,
With whom should he be reckoned, I would know?
The priceless early or the worthless late?
Come, draw a line which may preclude debate.
“The bard who makes his century up has stood
The test: we call him sterling, old, and good.”
Well, here’s a poet now, whose dying day
Fell one month later, or a twelvemonth, say:
Whom does he count with? with the old, or them
Whom we and future times alike contemn?
“Aye, call him old, by favour of the court,
Who falls a month, or e’en a twelvemonth short.”
Thanks for the kind permission! I go on,
And pull out years, like horse-hairs, one by one,
While all forlorn the baffled critic stands,
Fumbling a naked stump between his hands,
Who looks for worth in registers, and knows
No inspiration but what death bestows.
Ennius, the stout and wise, in critic phrase
The analogue of Homer in these days,
Enjoys his ease, nor cares how he redeems
The gorgeous promise of his peacock dreams.
Who reads not Naevius? still he lives enshrined
A household god in every Roman mind.
So as we reckon o’er the heroic band
We call Pacuvius learned, Accius grand;
Afranius wears Menander’s robe with grace;
Plautus moves on at Epicharmus’ pace;
In force and weight Caecilius bears the palm;
While Terence—aye, refinement is his charm.
These are Rome’s classics; these to see and hear
She throngs the bursting playhouse year by year:
’Tis these she musters, counts, reviews, displays,
From Livius’ time to our degenerate days.
Sometimes the public sees like any lynx;
Sometimes, if ’tis not blind, at least it blinks.
If it extols the ancient sous of song
As though they were unrivalled, it goes wrong:
If it allows there’s much that’s obsolete,
Much hasty work, much rough and incomplete,
’Tis just my view; ’tis judging as one ought;
And Jove was present when that thought was thought.
Not that I’d act the zealot, and desire
To fling the works of Livius on the fire,
Which once Orbilius, old and not too mild,
Made me repeat by whipping when a child;
But when I find them deemed high art, and praised
As only not perfection, I’m amazed,
That here and there a thought not ill expressed,
A verse well turned, should carry off the rest;
Just as an unfair sample, set to catch
The heedless customer, will sell the batch.
I chafe to hear a poem called third-rate
Not as ill written, but as written late;
To hear your critics for their ancients claim
Not charity, but honour and high fame.
Suppose I doubt if Atta’s humorous show
Moves o’er the boards with best leg first or no,
The fathers of the city all declare
That shame has fled from Rome, and gone elsewhere;
“What! show no reverence to his sacred shade
Whose scenes great Roscius and Aesopus played?”
Perhaps with selfish prejudice they deem
That nought but what they like deserves esteem,
Or, jealous of their juniors, won’t allow
That what they learnt in youth is rubbish now.
As for the pedant whose preposterous whim
Finds poetry in Numa’s Salian hymn,
Who would be thought to have explored alone
A land to him and me alike unknown,
’Tis not that buried genius he regards:
No; ’tis mere spleen and spite to living bards.
Had Greece but been as carping and as cold
To new productions, what would now be old?
What standard works would there have been, to come
Beneath the public eye, the public thumb?
When, having done with fighting, Greece began
To care for trifles that refine the man,
And, borne aloft on Fortune’s full flood-tide,
Went drifting on to luxury and pride,
Of athletes and of steeds by turns she raved,
Loved ivory, bronze, and marble deftly graved,
Hung raptured on a painting, mind and eye,
Now leant to music, now to tragedy,
Like a young child that hankers for a toy,
Then throws it down when it begins to cloy.
With change of fortune nations change their minds:
So much for happy peace and prosperous winds.
At Rome erewhile men rose by day-break, saw
Their clients at their homes, laid down the law,
Put money at good interest out to loan
Secured by names responsible and known,
Explained to younger folk, or learned from old,
How wealth might be increased, expense controlled.
Now our good town has taken a new fit:
Each man you meet by poetry is bit;
Pert boys, prim fathers dine in, wreaths of bay,
And ’twixt the courses warble out their lay.
E’en I, who vow I never write a verse,
Am found as false as Parthia, maybe worse;
Before the dawn I rouse myself, and call
For pens and parchment, writing-desk and all.
None dares be pilot who ne’er steered a craft;
No untrained nurse administers a draught;
None but skilled workmen handle workmen’s tools:
But verses all men scribble, wise or fools.
And yet this scribbling is a harmless craze,
And boasts in fact some few redeeming traits.
Avarice will scarce find lodging in a heart
Whose every thought is centred on its art;
He lays no subtle schemes, your dreamy bard,
To circumvent his partner or his ward;
Content with pulse and bread of ration corn,
Mres, losses, runaways he laughs to scorn;
Useless in camp, at home he serves the state,
Our rustic forefathers in days of yore,
Robust though frugal, and content though poor,
When, after harvest done, they sought repair
From toils which hope of respite made them bear,
Were wont their hard-earned leisure to enjoy
With those who shared their labour, wife and boy;
With porker’s blood the Earth they would appease,
With milk Silvanus, guardian of their trees,
With flowers and wine the Genius, who repeats
That life is short, and so should have its sweets.
’Twas hence Fescennia’s privilege began,
Where wit had licence, and man bantered man;
And the wild sport, though countrified and rough,
Passed off each year acceptably enough;
Till jokes grew virulent, and rabid spite
Ran loose through houses, free to bark and bite.
The wounded shrieked; the unwounded came to feel
That things looked serious for the general weal:
So laws were passed with penalties and pains
To guard the lieges from abusive strains,
And poets sang thenceforth in sweeter tones,
Compelled to please by terror for their bones.
Greece, conquered Greece, her conqueror subdued,
And Rome grew polished, who till then was rude;
The rough Saturnian measure had its day,
And gentler arts made savagery give way:
Yet traces of the uncouth past lived on
For many a year, nor are they wholly gone,
For ’twas not till the Punic wars were o’er
That Rome found time Greek authors to explore,
And try, by digging in that virgin field,
What Sophocles and Aeschylus could yield.
Nay, she essayed a venture of her own,
And liked to think she’d caught the tragic tone;
And so she has:—the afflatus comes on hot;
But out, alas! she deems it shame to blot.
’Tis thought that comedy, because its source
Is common life, must be a thing of course,
Whereas there’s nought so difficult, because
There’s nowhere less allowance made for flaws.
See Plautus now: what ill-sustained affairs
Are his close fathers and his love-sick heirs!
How farcical his parasites! how loose
And down at heel he wears his comic shoes!
For, so he fills his pockets, nought he heeds
Whether the play’s a failure or succeeds.
Drawn to the house in glory’s car, the bard
Is made by interest, by indifference marred:
So slight the cause that prostrates or restores
A mind that lives for plaudits and encores.
Nay, I forswear the drama, if to win
Or lose the prize can make me plump or thin.
Then too it tries an author’s nerve, to find
The class in numbers strong, though weak in mind,
The brutal brainless mob, who, if a knight
Disputes their judgment, bluster and show fight,
Call in the middle of a play for bears
Or boxers;—’tis for such the rabble cares.
But e’en the knights have changed, and now they prize
Delighted ears far less than dazzled eyes.
The curtain is kept down four hours or more,
While horse and foot go hurrying o’er the floor,
While crownless majesty is dragged in chains,
Chariots succeed to chariots, wains to wains,
Whole fleets of ships in long procession pass,
And captive ivory follows captive brass.
O, could Democritus return to earth,
In truth ’twould wake his wildest peals of mirth,
To see a milkwhite elephant, or shape
Half pard, half camel, set the crowd agape!
He’d eye the mob more keenly than the shows,
And find less food for sport in these than those;
While the poor authors—he’d suppose their play
Addressed to a deaf ass that can but bray.
For where’s the voice so strong as to o’ercome
A Roman theatre’s discordant hum?
You’d think you heard the Gargan forest roar
Or Tuscan billows break upon the shore,
So loud the tumult waxes, when they see
The show, the pomp, the foreign finery.
Soon as the actor, thus bedizened, stands
In public view, clap go ten thousand hands.
“What said he?” Nought. “Then what’s the attraction? “Why,
That woollen mantle with the violet dye.
But lest you think ’tis niggard praise I fling
To bards who soar where I ne’er stretched a wing,
That man I hold true master of his art
Who with fictitious woes can wring my heart,
Can rouse me, soothe me, pierce me with the thrill
Of vain alarm, and, as by magic skill,
Bear me to Thebes, to Athens, where he will.
Now turn to us shy mortals, who, instead
Of being hissed and acted, would be read:
We claim your favour, if with worthy gear
You’d fill the temple Phoebus holds so dear,
And give poor bards the stimulus of hope
To aid their progress up Parnassus’ slope.
Poor bards! much harm to our own cause we do
(It tells against myself, but yet ’tis true),
When, wanting you to read us, we intrude
On times of business or of lassitude,
When we lose temper if a friend thinks fit
To find a fault or two with what we’ve writ,
When, unrequested, we again go o’er
A passage we recited once, before,
When we complain, forsooth, our laboured strokes,
Our dexterous turns, are lost on careless folks,
When we expect, so soon as you’re informed
That ours are hearts by would-be genius warmed,
You’ll send for us instanter, end our woes
With a high hand, and make us all compose.
Yet greatness, proved in war and peace divine,
Had best be jealous who should keep its shrine:
The sacred functions of the temple-ward
Were ill conferred on an inferior bard.
A blunderer was Choerilus; and yet
This blunderer was Alexander’s pet,
And for the ill-stamped lines that left his mint
Received good money with the royal print.
Ink spoils what touches it: indifferent lays
Blot out the exploits they pretend to praise.
Yet the same king who bought bad verse so dear
In other walks of art saw true and clear;
None but Lysippus, so he willed by law,
Might model him, none but Apelles draw.
But take this mind, in paintings and in bronze
So ready to distinguish geese from swans,
And bid it judge of poetry, you’d swear
“Twas born and nurtured in Boeotian air.
Still, bards there are whose excellence commends
The sovereign judgment that esteems them friends,
Virgil and Varius; when your hand confers
Its princely bounty, all the world concurs.
And, trust me, human features never shone
With livelier truth through brass or breathing stone
Than the great genius of a hero shines
Through the clear mirror of a poet’s lines.
Nor is it choice (ah, would that choice were all!)
Makes my dull Muse in prose-like numbers crawl,
When she might sing of rivers and strange towns,
Of mountain fastnesses and barbarous crowns,
Of battles through the world compelled to cease,
Of bolts that guard the God who guards the peace,
And haughty Parthia through defeat and shame
By Caesar taught to fear the Roman name:
’Tis strength that lacks: your dignity disdains
The mean support of ineffectual strains,
And modesty forbids me to essay
A theme whose weight would make my powers give way.
Officious zeal is apt to be a curse
To those it loves, especially in verse;
For easier ’tis to learn and recollect
What moves derision than what claims respect.
He’s not my friend who hawks in every place
A waxwork parody of my poor face;
Nor were I flattered if some silly wight
A stupid poem in my praise should write:
The gift would make me blush, and I should dread
To travel with my poet, all unread,
Down to the street where spice and pepper’s sold,
And all the wares waste paper’s used to fold.
Flore Bono CLAROQUE.
Dear Florus, justly high in the good grace
Of noble Nero, let’s suppose a case;
A man accosts you with a slave for sale,
Born, say, at Gabii, and begins his tale:
“See, here’s a lad who’s comely, fair, and sound;
I’ll sell him, if you will, for sixty pound.
He’s quick, and answers to his master’s look,
Knows Greek enough to read a simple book
Set him to what you like, he’ll learn with ease;
Soft clay, you know, takes any form you please;
’Tis so with me; before you left, I said
That correspondence was my rock ahead,
Lest, when you found that ne’er an answer came
To all your letters, you should call it shame.
But where’s my vantage if you won’t agree
To go by law, because the law’s with me?
Nay more, you say I’m faithless to my vow
In sending you no verses. Listen now:
A soldier of Lucullus’s, they say,
Worn out at night by marching all the day,
Lay down to sleep, and, while at ease he snored,
Lost to a farthing all his little hoard.
This woke the wolf in him;—’tis strange how keen
The teeth will grow with but the tongue between;—
Mad with the foe and with himself, off-hand
He stormed a treasure-city, walled and manned,
Destroys the garrison, becomes renowned,
Gets decorations and two hundred pound.
Soon after this the general had in view
To take some fortress, where I never knew;
He singles out our friend, and makes a speech
That e’en might drive a coward to the breach:
“Go, my fine fellow! go where valour calls!
There’s fame and money too inside those walls.”
“I’m not your man,” returned the rustic wit:
“He makes a hero who has lost his kit.”
At Rome I had my schooling, and was taught
Achilles’ wrath, and all the woes it brought;
At classic Athens, where I went erelong,
I learnt to draw the line ’twixt right and wrong,
And search for truth, if so she might be seen,
In academic groves of blissful green;
But soon the stress of civil strife removed
My adolescence from the scenes it loved,
And ranged me with a force that could not stand
Before the might of Caesar’s conquering hand.
Then when Philippi turned me all adrift
A poor plucked fledgeling, for myself to shift,
Bereft of property, impaired in purse,
Sheer penury drove me into scribbling verse:
But now, when times are altered, having got
Enough, thank heaven, at least to boil my pot,
I were the veriest madman if I chose
To write a poem rather than to doze.
Our years keep taking toll as they move on;
My feasts, my frolics are already gone,
And now, it seems, my verses must go too:
Bestead so sorely, what’s a man to do?
Aye, and besides, my friends who’d have me chant
Are not agreed upon the thing they want:
You like an ode; for epodes others cry,
While some love satire spiced and seasoned high.
Three guests, I find, for different dishes call,
And how’s one host to satisfy them all?
I bring your neighbour what he asks, you glower:
Obliging you, I turn two stomachs sour.
Think too of Rome: can I write verses here,
Where there’s so much to tease and interfere?
One wants me for his surety; one, still worse,
Bids me leave work to hear him just rehearse;
One’s ill on Aventine, the farthest end,
One on Quirinal; both must see their friend.
Observe the distance. “What of that?” you say,
“The streets are clear; make verses by the way.”
There goes a builder’s gang, all haste and steam;
Yon crane lifts granite, or perhaps a beam;
Waggons and funerals jostle; a mad dog
Ran by just now; that splash was from a hog:
Go now, abstract yourself from outward things,
And “hearken what the inner spirit sings.”
Bards fly from town and haunt the wood and glade;
Bacchus, their chief, likes sleeping in the shade;
And how should I, with noises all about,
Tread where they tread and make their footprints out?
Take idle Athens now; a wit who’s spent
Seven years in studying there, on books intent,
Turns out as stupid as a stone, and shakes
The crowd with laughter at his odd mistakes:
Here, in this roaring, tossing, weltering sea,
To tune sweet lyrics, is that work for me?
Two brothers, counsellor and pleader, went
Through life on terms of mutual compliment;
That thought the other Gracchus, this supposed
His brother Mucius; so they praised and prosed.
Our tuneful race the selfsame madness goads:
My friend writes elegies, and I write odes:
O how we puff each other! “’Tis divine;
The Muses had a hand in every line.”
Remark our swagger as we pass the dome
Built to receive the future bards of Rome;
Then follow us and listen what we say,
How each by turns awards and takes the bay.
Like Samnite fencers, with elaborate art
We hit in tierce to be hit back in quart.
I’m dubbed Alcaeus, and retire in force:
And who is he? Callimachus of course:
Or, if ’tis not enough, I bid him rise
Mimnermus, and he swells to twice his size.
Writing myself, I’m tortured to appease
Those wasp-like creatures, our poetic bees:
But when my pen’s laid down, my sense restored,
I rest from boring, rest from being bored.
Bad poets are our jest: yet they delight,
Just like their betters, in whate’er they write,
Hug their fool’s paradise, and if you’re slack
To give them praise, themselves supply the lack.
But he who meditates a work of art,
Oft as he writes, will act the censor’s part:
Is there a word wants nobleness and grace,
Devoid of weight, unworthy of high place?
He bids it go, though stiffly it decline,
And cling and cling, like suppliant to a shrine:
Choice terms, long hidden from the general view,
He brings to day and dignifies anew,
Which, once on Cato’s and Cethegus’ lips,
Now pale their light and suffer dim eclipse;
New phrases, in the world of books unknown,
So use but father them, he makes his own:
Fluent and limpid, like a crystal stream,
He makes Rome’s soil with genial produce teem:
He checks redundance, harshnesses improves
By wise refinement, idle weeds removes;
Like an accomplished dancer, he will seem
By turns a Satyr and a Polypheme;
Yet all the while ’twill be a game of skill,
Where sport means toil, and muscle bends to will.
Yet, after all, I’d rather far be blind
To my own faults, though patent to mankind,
Nay, live in the belief that foul is fair,
Than see and grin in impotent despair.
There was an Argive nobleman, ’tis said,
Who all day long had acting in his head:
Great characters on shadowy boards appeared,
While he looked on and listened, clapped and cheered:
In all things else he fairly filled his post,
Friendly as neighbour, amiable as host;
Kind to his wife, indulgent to his slave,
He’d find a bottle sweated and not rave;
He’d scorn to run his head against a wall;
Show him a pit, and he’d avoid the fall.
At last, when quarts of hellebore drunk neat,
Thanks to his kin, had wrought a cure complete,
Brought to himself again, “Good friends,” quoth he,
“Call you this saving? why, ’tis murdering me;
Your stupid zeal has spoilt my golden days,
And robbed me of a most delicious craze.”
Wise men betimes will bid adieu to toys,
And give up idle games to idle boys;
Not now to string the Latian lyre, but learn
The harmony of life, is my concern.
So, when I commune with myself, I state
In words like these my side in the debate:
“If no amount of water quenched your thirst,
You’d tell the doctor, not go on and burst:
Experience shows you, as your riches swell
Your wants increase; have you no friend to tell?
A healing simple for a wound you try;
It does no good; you put the simple by:
You’re told that silly folk whom heaven may bless
With ample means get rid of silliness;
You test it, find ’tis not the case with you:
Then why not change your Mentor for a new?
Did riches make you wiser, set you free
From idle fear, insane cupidity,
You’d blush, and rightly too, if earth contained
“Gems, marbles, ivory, Tuscan statuettes,
Pictures, gold plate, Gaetulian coverlets,
There are who have not; one there is, I trow,
Who cares not greatly if he has or no.
This brother loves soft couches, perfumes, wine,
More than the groves of palmy Palestine;
That toils all day, ambitious to reclaim
A rugged wilderness with axe and flame;
And none but he who watches them from birth,
The Genius, guardian of each child of earth,
Born when we’re born and dying when we die,
Now storm, now sunshine, knows the reason why
I will not hoard, but, though my heap be scant,
Will take on each occasion what I want,
Nor fear what my next heir may think, to find
There’s less than he expected left behind;
While, ne’ertheless, I draw a line between
Mirth and excess, the frugal and the mean.
’Tis not extravagance, but plain good sense,
To cease from getting, grudge no fair expense,
And, like a schoolboy out on holiday,
Take pleasure as it comes, and snatch one’s play.
“So ’twill not sink, what matter if my
Be big or little? still I keep afloat,
And voyage on contented, with the wind
Not always contrary, nor always kind,
In strength, wit, worth, rank, prestige, money-bags,
Behind the first, yet not among the lags.
“You’re not a miser: has all other
Departed in the train of avarice,
Or do ambitious longings, angry fret,
The terror of the grave, torment you yet?
Can you make sport of portents, gipsy crones,
Hobgoblins, dreams, raw head and bloody bones?
Do you count up your birthdays year by year,
And thank the gods with gladness and blithe cheer,
O’erlook the failings of your friends, and grow
Gentler and better as your sand runs low?
Where is the gain in pulling from the mind
One thorn, if all the rest remain behind?
If live you cannot as befits a man,
Make room, at least, you may for those that can.
You’ve frolicked, eaten, drunk to the content
Of human appetite; ’tis time you went,
Lest, when you’ve tippled freely, youth, that wears
Its motley better, hustle you down stairs.”
To the Pisos, father and sons.
Suppose some painter, as a tour de force,
Should couple head of man with neck of horse,
Invest them both with feathers, ’stead of hair,
And tack on limbs picked up from here and there,
So that the figure, when complete, should show
A maid above, a hideous fish below:
Should you be favoured with a private view,
You’d laugh, my friends, I know, and rightly too.
Yet trust me, Pisos, not less strange would look,
To a discerning eye, the foolish book
Where dream-like forms in sick delirium blend,
And nought is of a piece from end to end.
“Poets and painters (sure you know the plea)
Have always been allowed their fancy free.”
I own it; ’tis a fair excuse to plead;
By turns we claim it, and by turns concede;
But ’twill not screen the unnatural and absurd,
Unions of lamb with tiger, snake with bird.
When poets would be lofty, they commence
With some gay patch of cheap magnificence:
Of Dian’s altar and her grove we read,
Or rapid streams meandering through the mead;
Or grand descriptions of the river Rhine,
Or watery bow, will take up many a line.
All in their way good things, but not just now:
You’re happy at a cypress, we’ll allow;
But what of that? you’re painting by command
A shipwrecked sailor, striking out for land:
That crockery was a jar when you began;
It ends a pitcher: you an artist, man!
Make what you will, in short, so, when ’tis done,
’Tis but consistent, homogeneous, one.
Ye worthy trio! we poor sons of song
Oft find ’tis fancied right that leads us wrong.
I prove obscure in trying to be terse;
Attempts at ease emasculate my verse;
Who aims at grandeur into bombast falls;
Who fears to stretch his pinions creeps and crawls;
Who hopes by strange variety to please
Puts dolphins among forests, boars in seas.
Thus zeal to ’scape from error, if unchecked
By sense of art, creates a new defect.
Fix on some casual sculptor; he shall know
How to give nails their sharpness, hair its flow;
Yet he shall fail, because he lacks the soul
To comprehend and reproduce the whole.
I’d not be he; the blackest hair and eye
Lose all their beauty with the nose awry.
Good authors, take a brother bard’s advice:
Ponder your subject o’er not once nor twice,
And oft and oft consider, if the weight
You hope to lift be or be not too great.
Let but our theme be equal to our powers,
Choice language, clear arrangement, both are ours.
Would you be told how best your pearls to thread?
Why, say just now what should just now be said,
But put off other matter for to-day,
To introduce it later by the way.
In words again be cautious and select,
And duly pick out this, and that reject.
High praise and honour to the bard is due
Whose dexterous setting makes an old word new.
Nay more, should some recondite subject need
Fresh signs to make it clear to those who read,
A power of issuing terms till now unused,
If claimed with modesty, is ne’er refused.
New words will find acceptance, if they flow
Forth from the Greek, with just a twist or so.
But why should Rome capriciously forbid
Our bards from doing what their fathers did?
Or why should Plautus and Caecilius gain
What Virgil or what Varius asks in vain?
Nay, I myself, if with my scanty wit
I coin a word or two, why grudge me it,
When Ennius and old Cato boldly flung
Their terms broadcast, and amplified our tongue?
To utter words stamped current by the mill
Has always been thought right and always will.
When forests shed their foliage at the fall,
The earliest born still drops the first of all:
So fades the elder race of words, and so
The younger generations bloom and grow.
Death claims humanity and human things,
Aye, e’en “imperial works and worthy kings:”
What though the ocean, girdled by the shore,
Gives shelter to the ships it tossed before?
What though the marsh, once waste and watery, now
Feeds neighbour towns, and groans beneath the plough?
What though the river, late the corn-field’s dread,
Rolls fruit and blessing down its altered bed?
Man’s works must perish: how should words evade
The general doom, and flourish undecayed?
Yes, words long faded may again revive,
And words may fade now blooming and alive,
If usage wills it so, to whom belongs
The rule, the law, the government of tongues.
For metres, Homer shows you how to write
Heroic deeds and incidents of fight.
Complaint was once the Elegiac’s theme;
From thence ’twas used to sing of love’s young dream:
But who that dainty measure first put out,
Grammarians differ, and ’tis still in doubt.
Archilochus, inspired by fiery rage,
Called forth Iambics: now they tread the stage
In buskin or in sock, conduct discourse,
Lead action on, and awe the mob perforce.
The glorious gods, the gods’ heroic seed,
The conquering boxer, the victorious steed,
The joys of wine, the lover’s fond desire,
Such themes the Muse appropriates to the lyre.
Why hail me poet, if I fail to seize
The shades of style, its fixed proprieties?
Why should false shame compel me to endure
An ignorance which common pains would cure?
A comic subject steadily declines
To be related in high tragic lines.
The Thyestean feast no less disdains
The vulgar vehicle of comic strains.
Each has its place allotted; each is bound
To keep it, nor invade its neighbour’s ground.
Yet Comedy sometimes will raise her note:
See Chremes, how he swells his angry throat!
And when a tragic hero tells his woes,
The terms he chooses are akin to prose.
Peleus or Telephus, suppose him poor
Or driven to exile, talks in tropes no more;
His yard-long words desert him, when he tries
To draw forth tears from sympathetic eyes.
Mere grace is not enough: a play should thrill
The hearer’s soul, and move it at its will.
Smiles are contagious; so are tears; to see
Another sobbing, brings a sob from me.
No, no, good Peleus; set the example, pray,
And weep yourself; then weep perhaps I may:
But if no sorrow in your speech appear,
I nod or laugh; I cannot squeeze a tear.
Words follow looks: wry faces are expressed
By wailing, scowls by bluster, smiles by jest,
Grave airs by saws, and so of all the rest.
For nature forms our spirits to receive
Each bent that outward circumstance can give:
She kindles pleasure, bids resentment glow,
Or bows the soul to earth in hopeless woe;
Then, as the tide of feeling waxes strong,
She vents it through her conduit-pipe, the tongue.
Unless the speaker’s words and fortune suit,
All Rome will join to jeer him, horse and foot.
Gods should not talk like heroes, nor again
Impetuous youth like grave and reverend men;
Lady and nurse a different language crave,
Sons of the soil and rovers o’er the wave;
Assyrian, Colchian, Theban, Argive, each
Has his own style, his proper cast of speech.
In painting characters, adhere to fame,
Or study keeping in the type you frame:
If great Achilles figure in the scene,
Make him impatient, fiery, ruthless, keen;
All laws, all covenants let him still disown,
And test his quarrel by the sword alone.
Still be Medea all revenge and scorn,
Ino still sad, Ixion still forsworn,
Io a wanderer still, Orestes still forlorn.
If you would be original, and seek
To frame some character ne’er seen in Greek,
See it be wrought on one consistent plan,
And end the same creation it began.
’Tis hard, I grant, to treat a subject known
And hackneyed so that it may look one’s own;
Far better turn the Iliad to a play
And carve out acts and scenes the readiest way,
Than alter facts and characters, and tell
In a strange form the tale men know so well.
But, with some few precautions, you may set
Your private mark on public chattels yet:
Avoid careering and careering still
In the old round, like carthorse in a mill;
Nor, bound too closely to the Grecian Muse,
Translate the words whose soul you should transfuse,
Nor act the copyist’s part, and work in chains
Which, once put on by rashness, shame retains.
Don’t open like the cyclic, with a burst:
“Troy’s war and Priam’s fate are here rehearsed.”
What’s coming, pray, that thus he winds his horn?
The mountain labours, and a mouse is born.
Far better he who enters at his ease,
Nor takes your breath with empty nourishes:
“Sing, Muse, the man who, after Troy was burned,
Saw divers cities, and their manners learned.”
Not smoke from fire his object is to bring,
But fire from smoke, a very different thing;
Yet has he dazzling miracles in store,
Cyclops, and Laestrygons, and fifty more.
He sings not, he, of Diomed’s return,
Starting from Meleager’s funeral urn,
Nor when he tells the Trojan story, begs
Attention first for Leda and her eggs.
He hurries to the crisis, lets you fall
Where facts crowd thick, as though you knew them all,
And what he judges will not turn to gold
Beneath his touch, he passes by untold.
And all this glamour, all this glorious dream,
Truth blent with fiction in one motley scheme,
He so contrives, that, when ’tis o’er, you see
Beginning, middle, end alike agree.
Now listen, dramatists, and I will tell
What I expect, and all the world as well.
If you would have your auditors to stay
Till curtain-rise and plaudit end the play,
Observe each age’s temper, and impart
To each the grace and finish of your art.
Note first the boy who just knows how to talk
And feels his feet beneath him in his walk:
He likes his young companions, loves a game,
Soon vexed, soon soothed, and not two hours the same.
The beardless youth, at last from tutor freed,
Loves playing-field and tennis, dog and steed:
Pliant as wax to those who lead him wrong,
But all impatience with a faithful tongue;
Imprudent, lavish, hankering for the moon,
He takes things up and lays them down as soon.
His nature revolutionized, the man
Makes friends and money when and how he can:
Keen-eyed and cool, though on ambition bent,
He shuns all acts of which he may repent.
Grey hairs have many evils: without end
The old man gathers what he dares not spend,
While, as for action, do he what he will,
’Tis all half-hearted, spiritless, and chill:
Inert, irresolute, his neck he cranes
Into the future, grumbles, and complains,
Extols his own young years with peevish praise,
But rates and censures these degenerate days.
Years, as they come, bring blessings in their train;
Years, as they go, take blessings back again:
Yet haste or chance may blink the obvious truth,
Make youth discourse like age, and age like youth:
Attention fixed on life alone can teach
The traits and adjuncts which pertain to each.
Sometimes an action on the stage is shown,
Sometimes ’tis done elsewhere, and there made known.
A thing when heard, remember, strikes less keen
On the spectator’s mind than when ’tis seen.
Yet ’twere not well in public to display
A business best transacted far away,
And much may be secluded from the eye
For well-graced tongues to tell of by and by.
Medea must not shed her children’s blood,
Nor savage Atreus cook man’s flesh for food,
Nor Philomel turn bird or Cadmus snake,
With people looking on and wide awake.
If scenes like these before my eyes be thrust,
They shock belief and generate disgust.
Would you your play should prosper and endure?
Then let it have five acts, nor more nor fewer.
Bring in no god save as a last resource,
Nor make four speakers join in the discourse.
An actor’s part the chorus should sustain
And do their best to get the plot in train:
And whatsoe’er between the acts they chant
Should all be apt, appropriate, relevant.
Still let them give sage counsel, back the good,
Attemper wrath, and cool impetuous blood,
Praise the spare meal that pleases but not sates,
Justice, and law, and peace with unbarred gates,
Conceal all secrets, and the gods implore
To crush the proud and elevate the poor.
Not trumpet-tongued, as now, nor brass-belayed,
The flute was used to lend the chorus aid:
Simple and slight and moderately loud,
It charmed the ears of not too large a crowd,
Which, frugal, rustic, primitive, severe,
Flocked in those early days to see and hear.
Then, when the city gained increase of land,
And wider walls its waxing greatness spanned,
When the good Genius, frolicsome and gay,
Was soothed at festivals with cups by day,
Change spread to scenic measures: breadth, and ease,
And freedom unrestrained were found in these:
For what (said men) should jovial rustic, placed
At random ’mid his betters, know of taste?
So graceful dance went hand in hand with song,
And robes of kingly splendour trailed along:
So by the side of music words upgrew,
And eloquence came rolling, prompt and new:
Shrewd in things mundane, wise in things divine,
Its voice was like the voice of Delphi’s shrine.
The aspiring bard who served the tragic muse,
A paltry goat the summit of his views,
Soon brought in Satyrs from the woods, and tried
If grave and gay could nourish side by side,
That the spectator, feasted to his fill,
Noisy and drunk, might ne’ertheless sit still.
Yet, though loud laugh and frolic jest commend
Your Satyr folk, and mirth and morals blend,
Let not your heroes doff their robes of red
To talk low language in a homely shed,
Nor, in their fear of crawling, mount too high,
Catching at clouds and aiming at the sky.
Melpomene, when bidden to be gay,
Like matron dancing on a festal day,
Deals not in idle banter, nor consorts
Without reserve with Satyrs and their sports.
In plays like these I would not deal alone
In words and phrases trite and too well known,
Nor, stooping from the tragic height, drop down
To the low level of buffoon and clown,
As though pert Davus, or the saucy jade
Who sacks the gold and jeers the gull she made,
Were like Silenus, who, though quaint and odd,
Is yet the guide and tutor of a god.
A hackneyed subject I would take and treat
So deftly, all should hope to do the feat,
Then, having strained and struggled, should concede
To do the feat were difficult indeed.
So much may order and arrangement do
To make the cheap seem choice, the threadbare new.
Your rustic Fauns, methinks, should have a care
Lest people deem them bred in city air;
Should shun the cant of exquisites, and shun
Coarse ribaldry no less and blackguard fun.
For those who have a father or a horse
Or an estate will take offence of course,
Nor think they’re bound in duty to admire
What gratifies the vetch-and-chestnut-buyer
The Iambic foot is briefly thus defined:
Two syllables, a short with long behind:
Repeat it six times o’er, so quick its beat,
’Tis trimeter, three measures for six feet:
At first it ran straight on; but, years ago,
Its hearers begged that it would move more slow;
On which it took, with a good-natured air,
Stout spondees in, its native rights to share,
Yet so that none should ask it to resign
The sixth, fourth, second places in the line.
But search through Attius’ trimeters, or those
Which Ennius took such pleasure to compose,
You’ll rarely find it: on the boards they groan,
Laden with spondees, like a cart with stone,
And brand our tragedy with want of skill
Or want of labour, call it which you will.
What then? false rhythm few judges can detect,
And Roman bards of course are all correct.
What shall a poet do? make rules his sport,
And dash through thick and thin, through long and short?
Or pick his steps, endeavour to walk clean,
And fancy every mud-stain will be seen?
What good were that, if though I mind my ways
And shun all blame, I do not merit praise?
My friends, make Greece your model when you write,
And turn her volumes over day and night.
“But Plautus pleased our sires, the good old
They praised his numbers, and they praised his jokes.”
They did: ’twas mighty tolerant in them
To praise where wisdom would perhaps condemn;
That is, if you and I and our compeers
Can trust our tastes, our fingers, and our ears,
Know polished wit from horse-play, and can tell
What verses do, and what do not, run well.
Thespis began the drama: rumour says
In travelling carts he carried round his plays,
Where actors, smeared with lees, before the throng
Performed their parts with gesture and with song.
Then AEschylus brought in the mask and pall,
Put buskins on his men to make them tall,
Turned boards into a platform, not too great,
And taught high monologue and grand debate.
The elder Comedy had next its turn,
Nor small the glory it contrived to earn:
But freedom passed into unbridled spite,
And law was soon invoked to set things right:
Law spoke: the chorus lost the power to sting,
And (shame to say) thenceforth refused to sing.
Our poets have tried all things; nor do they
Deserve least praise, who follow their own way,
And tell in comedy or history-piece
Some story of home growth, not drawn from Greece.
Nor would the land we love be now more strong
In warrior’s prowess than in poet’s song,
Did not her bards with one consent decline
The tedious task, to alter and refine.
Dear Pisos! as you prize old Numa’s blood,
Set down that work, and that alone, as good,
Which, blurred and blotted, checked and counter-
Has stood all tests, and issued forth correct.
Because Democritus thinks fit to say,
That wretched art to genius must give way,
Stands at the gate of Helicon, and guards
Its precinct against all but crazy bards,
Our witlings keep long nails and untrimmed hair,
Much in brown studies, in the bath-room rare.
For things are come to this; the merest dunce,
So but he choose, may start up bard at once,
Whose head, too hot for hellebore to cool,
Was ne’er submitted to a barber’s tool.
What ails me now, to dose myself each spring?
Else had I been a very swan to sing.
Well, never mind: mine be the whetstone’s lot,
Which makes steel sharp, though cut itself will not.
Although no writer, I may yet impart
To writing folk the precepts of their art,
Whence come its stores, what trains and forms a bard,
And how a work is made, and how ’tis marred.
Of writing well, be sure, the secret lies
In wisdom: therefore study to be wise.
The page of Plato may suggest the thought,
Which found, the words will come as soon as sought.
The man who once has learned to comprehend
His duty to his country and his friend,
The love that parent, brother, guest may claim.
The judge’s, senator’s, or general’s aim,
That man, when need occurs, will soon invent
For every part its proper sentiment.
Look too to life and manners, as they lie
Before you: these will living words supply.
A play, devoid of beauty, strength, and art,
So but the thoughts and morals suit each part,
Will catch men’s minds and rivet them when caught
More than the clink of verses without thought.
To Greece, fair Greece, ambitious but of praise,
The Muse gave ready wit, and rounded phrase.
Our Roman boys, by puzzling days and nights,
Bring down a shilling to a hundred mites.
Come, young Albinus, tell us, if you take
A penny from a sixpence, what ’twill make.
Fivepence. Good boy! you’ll come to wealth one day.
Now add a penny. Sevenpence, he will say.
O, when this cankering rust, this greed of gain,
Has touched the soul and wrought into its grain,
What hope that poets will produce such lines
As cedar-oil embalms and cypress shrines?
A bard will wish to profit or to please,
Or, as a tertium quid, do both of these.
Whene’er you lecture, be concise: the soul
Takes in short maxims, and retains them whole:
But pour in water when the vessel’s filled,
It simply dribbles over and is spilled.
Keep near to truth in a fictitious piece,
Nor treat belief as matter of caprice.
If on a child you make a vampire sup,
It must not be alive when she’s ripped up.
Dry seniors scout an uninstructive strain;
Young lordlings treat grave verse with tall disdain:
But he who, mixing grave and gay, can teach
And yet give pleasure, gains a vote from each:
His works enrich the vendor, cross the sea,
And hand the author down to late posterity.
Some faults may claim forgiveness: for the lyre
Not always gives the note that we desire;
We ask a flat; a sharp is its reply;
And the best bow will sometimes shoot awry.
But when I meet with beauties thickly sown,
A blot or two I readily condone,
Such as may trickle from a careless pen,
Or pass unwatched: for authors are but men.
What then? the copyist who keeps stumbling still
At the same word had best lay down his quill:
The harp-player, who for ever wounds the ear
With the same discord, makes the audience jeer:
So the poor dolt who’s often in the wrong
I rank with Choerilus, that dunce of song,
Who, should he ever “deviate into sense,”
Moves but fresh laughter at his own expense:
While e’en good Homer may deserve a tap,
If, as he does, he drop his head and nap.
Yet, when a work is long, ’twere somewhat hard
To blame a drowsy moment in a bard.
Some poems, like some paintings, take the eye
Best at a distance, some when looked at nigh.
One loves the shade; one would be seen in light,
And boldly challenges the keenest sight:
One pleases straightway; one, when it has passed
Ten times before the mind, will please at last.
Hope of the Pisos! trained by such a sire,
And wise yourself, small schooling you require;
Yet take this lesson home; some things admit
A moderate point of merit, e’en in wit.
There’s yonder counsellor; he cannot reach
Messala’s stately altitudes of speech,
He cannot plumb Cascellius’ depth of lore,
Yet he’s employed, and makes a decent score:
He who knows nought of games abstains from all,
Nor tries his hand at quoit, or hoop, or ball,
Lest the thronged circle, witnessing the play,
Should laugh outright, with none to say them nay:
He who knows nought of verses needs must try
To write them ne’ertheless. “Why not?” men cry:
“Free, gently born, unblemished and correct,
His means a knight’s, what more can folks expect?”
But you, my friend, at least have sense and grace;
You will not fly in queen Minerva’s face
In action or in word. Suppose some day
You should take courage and compose a lay,
Entrust it first to Maecius’ critic ears,
Your sire’s and mine, and keep it back nine years.
What’s kept at home you cancel by a stroke:
What’s sent abroad you never can revoke.
Orpheus, the priest and harper, pure and good,
Weaned savage tribes from deeds and feasts of blood,
Whence he was said to tame the monsters of the wood.
Amphion too, men said, at his desire
Moved massy stones, obedient to the lyre,
And Thebes arose. ’Twas wisdom’s province then
To judge ’twixt states and subjects, gods and men,
Check vagrant lust, give rules to wedded folk,
Build cities up, and grave a code in oak.
So came great honour and abundant praise,
As to the gods, to poets and their lays.
Then Homer and Tyrtaeus, armed with song,
Made manly spirits for the combat strong:
Verse taught life’s duties, showed the future clear,
And won a monarch’s favour through his ear:
Verse gave relief from labour, and supplied
Light mirth for holiday and festal tide.
Then blush not for the lyre: Apollo sings
In unison with her who sweeps its strings.
But here occurs a question some men start,
If good verse comes from nature or from art.
For me, I cannot see how native wit
Can e’er dispense with art, or art with it.
Set them to pull together, they’re agreed,
And each supplies what each is found to need.
The youth who suns for prizes wisely trains,
Bears cold and heat, is patient and abstains:
The flute-player at a festival, before
He plays in public, has to learn his lore.
Not so our bardlings: they come bouncing in—
“I’m your true poet: let them laugh that win:
Plague take the last! although I ne’er was taught,
Is that a cause for owning I know nought?”
As puffing auctioneers collect a throng,
Rich poets bribe false friends to hear their song:
Who can resist the lord of so much rent,
Of so much money at so much per cent.?
Is there a wight can give a grand regale,
Act as a poor man’s counsel or his bail?
Blest though he be, his wealth will cloud his view,
Nor suffer him to know false friends from true.
Don’t ask a man whose feelings overflow
For kindness that you’ve shown or mean to show
To listen to your verse: each line you read,
He’ll cry, “Good! bravo! exquisite indeed!”
He’ll change his colour, let his eyes run o’er
With tears of joy, dance, beat upon the floor.
Hired mourners at a funeral say and do
A little more than they whose grief is true:
’Tis just so here: false flattery displays
More show of sympathy than honest praise.
’Tis said when kings a would-be friend will try,
With wine they rack him and with bumpers ply:
If you write poems, look beyond the skin
Of the smooth fox, and search the heart within.
Read verses to Quintilius, he would say,
“I don’t like this and that: improve it, pray:”
Tell him you found it hopeless to correct;
You’d tried it twice or thrice without effect:
He’d calmly bid you make the three times four,
And take the unlicked cub in hand once more.
But if you chose to vindicate the crime,
Not mend it, he would waste no further time,
But let you live, untroubled by advice,
Sole tenant of your own fool’s paradise.
A wise and faithful counsellor will blame
Weak verses, note the rough, condemn the lame,
Retrench luxuriance, make obscureness plain,
Cross-question this, bid that be writ again:
A second Aristarch, he will not ask,
“Why for such trifles take my friend to task?”
Such trifles bring to serious grief ere long
A hapless bard, once flattered and led wrong.
See the mad poet! never wight, though sick
Of itch or jaundice, moon-struck, fanatic,
Was half so dangerous: men whose mind is sound
Avoid him; fools pursue him, children hound.
Suppose, while spluttering verses, head on high,
Like fowler watching blackbirds in the sky,
He falls into a pit; though loud he shout
“Help, neighbours, help!” let no man pull him out:
Should some one seem disposed a rope to fling,
I will strike in with, “Pray do no such thing:
I’ll warrant you he meant it,” and relate
His brother bard Empedocles’s fate,
Who, wishing to be thought a god, poor fool,
Leapt down hot AEtna’s crater, calm and cool.
“Leave poets free to perish as they will:
Save them by violence, you as good as kill.
’Tis not his first attempt: if saved to-day,
He’s sure to die in some outrageous way.
Beside, none knows the reason why this curse
Was sent on him, this love of making verse,
By what offence heaven’s anger he incurred,
A grave denied, a sacred boundary stirred:
So much is plain, he’s mad: like bear that beats
His prison down and ranges through the streets,
This terrible reciter puts to flight
The learned and unlearned left and right:
Let him catch one, he keeps him till he kills,
As leeches stick till they have sucked their fills.”
think I’ve rifled the scrutore
Of blind Crispinus, if I prose on more.
Howes has a very similar couplet:—
But hold! you’ll think
I’ve pillaged the scrutore
Of blear Crispinus: not one word then more!
I believe it however to be a mere coincidence on my part. The word “scrutore” is an uncommon one; but it was the recollection of an altogether different passage which suggested it to me here. At any rate, Howes is not the first who has used it in translating the present lines.
Now ’tis enough: lest you should think
I’ve dipt in blear-eyed Crispin’s ink,
And stolen my work from his scrutore,
I will not add a sentence more.
Gives Varus’ name to knock-kneed
boys, and dubs
His club-foot youngster Scaurus, king of clubs.
This is, of course, in no sense a translation: it is simply an attempt (a desperate one, I fear) to give point to a sentence which otherwise to an English reader would have no point at all.
Heal to your majesty!
Rude boys are pulling at your beard, I guess.
Those commentators are clearly right who understand “vellunt,” not of what the boys are apt to do, but of what they are actually doing, while the Stoic is talking and making himself out to be a king.
Say, you’re first
cousin to that goodly pair,
Caelius and Birrius, and their foibles share.
Caelius and Birrius were a couple of robbers, a fact distinctly mentioned in the Latin, and, I hope, capable of being inferred from the context of the English.
After life’s endless babble they sleep well.
I need hardly refer to the well-known line in Macbeth.
Cassius the rake, and Maenius the buffoon.
This is nearly identical with a line in Howes, of which it may very possibly be an unconscious remembrance. Here and in other places I have called Nomentanus, metri gratia, by his family name Cassius, though it is nowhere, I believe, applied to him by Horace. Pantolabus is supposed to be the same as Maenius, whom Horace mentions elsewhere, and I have been only too glad to take the supposition for granted. Generally, where a Horatian personage is known to have had two names, I have used that one which the exigences of the verse recommended.
O heaven-abandoned wretch!
is all this care.
O inconsistent wretch! is all this coil.
Gifford’s Juvenal, Sat. xiv.
And each man’s lips are at his neighbour’s ear.
Perhaps a recollection of Pope’s line (Satires of Dr. Donne), “When half his nose is in his prince’s ear.”
Of studying truths that
rick and poor concern,
Which young and old are lost unless they learn.
This may seem borrowed from Cowper’s “Tirocinium,”
—truths on which depend our main concern,
That ’tis our shame and misery not to learn;
but I believe the resemblance to be purely accidental. It may serve however to show that the more serious passages in Horace, as well as the lighter ones, are not unlike Cowper.
That makes Atrides and Achilles foes.
Almost verbatim from a line in Pope’s “Odyssey,” which is itself probably from one in Maynwaring’s First Book of the “Iliad.”
Not to admire, Numicius,
is the best,
The only way, to make and keep men blest.
Slightly altered from the later editions of Francis:
Not to admire is of all means the best,
The only means, to make and keep us blest.
Ten lines lower down I have a couplet nearly coincident
with one in Howes, but not intentionally so.
But what are Rhodes and Lesbos, and the rest.
This and the nine following lines are a considerable expansion of the Latin: but I was apprehensive of not bringing out the connexion, if I translated more closely.
Empedocles or the Stertinian school.
As Horace has chosen to take Stertinius here as a type of the Stoics, I thought I might avail myself of a similar licence, and call the Stoics as a school by his name.
The ox, unyoked and
resting from the plough,
Wants fodder, stripped from elm or poplar bough.
Horace merely has “strictis frondibus:” but the writers De Re Rustica, quoted by the commentators, tell us what the leaves in use were.
When Maenius, after
nobly gobbling down
His fortune, took to living on the town.
“Took to living on the town” is not meant as a version of “urbanus coepit haberi,” but rather as an equivalent suggested by the context.
Each law, each right, each statute and each act.
Horace’s object is evidently to give an exhaustive notion of the various parts of the law: and I have tried to produce the same impression by accumulating terms, without caring how far they can severally be discriminated.
I’ve shed no blood. You shall not feed the crow.
I’ll have thee hanged to
feed the crow.
Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel.
The wise and good, like Bacchus in the play.
Borrowed from Francis, with a slight change in the order of the words.
In sing-song drawl, or Gnatho in the play.
“Partes mimum tractare secundas” seems to mean “to act the stage parasite,” who, according to Festus, wag the second character in almost every mime. I thought therefore that I might substitute for the general description the name of a particular parasite in Roman comedy.
Let temperate folk write
verses in the hall
Where bonds change hands.
Strictly speaking, there does not seem to have been a hall of exchange at the Puteal, which was apparently open to the sky: but the inaccuracy is not a serious one.
While all forlorn the
baffled critic stands,
Fumbling a naked stump between his hands.
I had originally written
By the old puzzle of the dwindling mound
Bringing at last the critic to the ground,
which of course represents the Latin better: but it occurred to me that the allusion to the sophism of the heap, following immediately on the similar figure of the horse’s tail, could only embarrass an English reader, and would therefore be out of place in a passage intended to be idiomatic. Howes has got over the difficulty neatly:—
Till my opponent, by fair logic beat,
Shall find the ground sink fast beneath his feet.
Enjoys his ease, nor
cares how he redeems
The gorgeous promise of his peacock dreams.
I suppose the meaning to be this: Ennius, as appears from his own remains and the notices of him in other writers, began his Annals with a dream in which the spirit of Homer appeared to him, and told him that, after passing through various other bodies, including those of Pythagoras and a peacock, it was now animating that of the Roman poet himself. How this was connected with the subject of the Annals we do not know; probably not very artificially: Horace, as I understand him, means to ridicule this want of connexion, while he says that the critics are so indiscriminate in their praises that Ennius may well repose on his laurels, and not trouble himself as to whether there is any real connexion or no.
Just as an unfair sample,
set to catch
The heedless customer, mil sell the batch.
I believe I have given the exact force of the original, though the metaphor there is from a gang of slaves, where the best-looking is placed in front to carry off the rest. This interpretation, which the phrase “ducere familiam” seems to place beyond doubt, is as old as Torrentius: but the commentators in general reject or ignore it.
For, so he fills his
pockets, nought he heeds
Whether the play’s a failure or succeeds.
Modern readers may wonder how the poet comes to fill his pockets if the play does not succeed. The answer is that he sold his play to the aediles before its performance. For the benefit of the same persons it may be mentioned, with reference to a passage a few lines lower down, that in a Roman theatre the curtain was kept down during the representation, raised when the play was over.
New phrases, in the
world of books unknown,
So use but father them, he makes his own.
I understand “quae genitor produxerit usus” not, with Orelli, “which shall be adopted into use at once, so that people shall fancy that they have been in use long before,” but, with Ritter, “which shall have been already sanctioned by usage,” the distinction being between words not only in common use but used in literature, and words in use, but not yet adopted into literature, and so relatively “nova.” “Father” of course I use less strictly than Pope uses it in his well-known imitation of the passage, “For use will father what’s begot by sense.”
Attempts at ease emasculate my verse.
I find Dean Bagot has a line, “A want of nerve effeminates my speech.”
In words again be cautious
And duly pick out this, and that reject.
I have adopted Bentley’s transposition, simply because it happened to be convenient in translating.
Than alter facts and
characters, and tell
In a strange form the tale men know so well.
Many years ago I proposed this solution of a passage of admitted difficulty in the Classical Museum. I take “Difficile est proprie communia dicere” in its ordinary sense, “It is hard to treat hackneyed subjects with originality.” Horace then goes on to say that it is better to give up the attempt altogether and simply copy (say) Homer, than to run the risk of outraging popular feeling by a new treatment of (say) the Trojan story, or a new view of the chief characters: but that if a writer still wishes to make the attempt, he may succeed by attending to certain rules, “si nec circa vilem,” &c. &c. Thus I make “publica materies” identical with “communia,” and “privati juris” with “proprie,” contrary to Orelli’s opinion.
Yet haste and chance may blink the obvious truth.
I am not sure whether this was the connecting link in Horace’s mind; but I felt that the absence of any link would make the transition between the two sentences intolerably abrupt in English, and go I supplied a link as I best could. Macleane seems right in remarking that the remark “multa ferunt” &c. seems to be drawn forth by the dark picture of old age contained in the preceding verses, and has not much otherwise to do with the subject. Horace doubtless felt that he was passing middle life himself.
Yet so that none should
ask it to resign
The sixth, fourth, second places in the line.
Horace does not mention the sixth place: I have introduced it for the benefit of persons who, as actually happened to me when very young, may attempt to write Iambic trimeters with no guide but this passage, and may be in consequence in danger of making them scazons, as I actually did.
Entrust it first to
Maecius’ critic ears,
Your sire’s, and mine, and keep it back nine years.
Almost a verbal coincidence with Howes, but a coincidence only.
Then blush not for the
lyre: Apollo sings
In unison with her who sweeps its strings.
It is difficult to say whether the paragraph of which these lines are the conclusion is a sketch of the history of poetry in general or of lyric poetry in particular. The former would be rather inartistic after the other historical notices of poetry that have occurred in the poem: the latter is not easily reconciled with the mention of Homer. On the other hand, Horace’s inexactness elsewhere makes either supposition quite possible. I have translated so as to leave the ground open to either.
A second Aristarch.
Before them marched that awful Aristarch.
Pope, Dunciad, Book iv.
Leave poets free to perish as they will.
Following Mr. Howes and probably others who have written on the Ars Poetica, though apparently not the latest editors, I regard all the words from “Deus immortalis haberi” to the end as part of Horace’s speech to the man who thinks of rescuing the mad poet. Much of the humour of what follows, e. g. “Nec semel hoc fecit,” “Nec satis apparet,” &c. would, it seems to me, be lost on any other supposition.