If, Phidyle, your hands you lift
To heaven, as each new moon is born,
Soothing your Lares with the gift
Of slaughter’d swine, and spice, and corn,
Ne’er shall Scirocco’s bane assail
Your vines, nor mildew blast your wheat,
Ne’er shall your tender younglings fail
In autumn, when the fruits are sweet.
The destined victim ’mid the snows
Of Algidus in oakwoods fed,
Or where the Alban herbage grows,
Shall dye the pontiff’s axes red;
No need of butcher’d sheep for you
To make your homely prayers prevail;
Give but your little gods their due,
The rosemary twined with myrtle frail.
The sprinkled salt, the votive meal,
As soon their favour will regain,
Let but the hand be pure and leal,
As all the pomp of heifers slain.
Though your buried wealth
The unsunn’d gold of Ind or Araby,
Though with many a ponderous mass
You crowd the Tuscan and Apulian sea,
Let Necessity but drive
Her wedge of adamant into that proud head,
Vainly battling will you strive
To ’scape Death’s noose, or rid your soul of dread.
Better life the Scythians lead,
Trailing on waggon wheels their wandering home,
Or the hardy Getan breed,
As o’er their vast unmeasured steppes they roam;
Free the crops that bless their soil;
Their tillage wearies after one year’s space;
Each in turn fulfils his toil;
His period o’er, another takes his place.
There the step-dame keeps her hand
From guilty plots, from blood of orphans clean;
There no dowried wives command
Their feeble lords, or on adulterers lean.
Theirs are dowries not of gold,
Their parents’ worth, their own pure chastity,
True to one, to others cold;
They dare not sin, or, if they dare, they die.
O, whoe’er has heart and head
To stay our plague of blood, our civic brawls,
Would he that his name be read
“Father of Rome” on lofty pedestals,
Let him chain this lawless will,
And be our children’s hero! cursed spite!
Living worth we envy still,
Then seek it with strain’d eyes, when snatch’d from sight.
What can sad laments avail
Unless sharp justice kill the taint of sin?
What can laws, that needs must fail
Shorn of the aid of manners form’d within,
If the merchant turns not back
From the fierce heats that round the tropic glow,
Turns not from the regions black
With northern winds, and hard with frozen snow;
Sailors override the wave,
While guilty poverty, more fear’d than vice,
Bids us crime and suffering brave,
And shuns the ascent of virtue’s precipice?
Let the Capitolian fane,
The favour’d goal of yon vociferous crowd,
Aye, or let the nearest main
Receive our gold, our jewels rich and proud:
Slay we thus the cause of crime,
If yet we would repent and choose the good: