Martial, Epigrams. Book 2. Bohn's Classical Library (1897)
TO HIS FRIEND, DECIANUS.
"What do I want," say you, "with a letter? Do I not show you sufficient indulgence by reading your epigrams? Besides, what have you to say in this letter, which you could not say in your verses? I see why tragic and comic writers admit a prologue,----because they are not allowed to speak for themselves. But epigrams have no need of a herald, and are contented with their own liberty of speech. In whatever page they please, they present an epistle. Do not, therefore, I pray, do a ridiculous thing, and clap a long dress on a person going to dance. Consider, too, whether you would choose a wand as a weapon against a retiarius. For myself, I take my seat amongst those who at once object to a contest so unequal" Indeed, Decianus, methinks you say what is just. Is it possible that you knew with what sort of an epistle, and how long a one, you were in danger of being occupied? Be it, then, as you desire. Whatever readers light upon this book, will owe it to you that they come to the first page without being tired.
You could, I admit, have contained three hundred epigrams ; but who, my book, would have contained himself at you, and read you through? Yet learn, what are the advantages of a short book. The first is, that I waste less paper. The next, that the copier finishes it in one hour, and his services will not be confined only to my trifles. A third advantage is, that if any one happens to read you, you will not, though ever so bad, be detested. A person at table will begin to read you with his wine mixed, and finish you before the cup set before him begins to grow warm.1 Do you imagine that by such brevity you are secure from all objection? Alas! to how many will you even thus be too long!
Crete gave a great name, Africa a greater, to their conquerors, Metellus and Scipio; a still nobler name did Germany confer on you, Caesar, from the subjugation of the Rhine; and even as a boy you were worthy of that name. Your brother 2 earned his triumphs over Idumaea, with the assistance of your father;3 the laurel which is given from the conquest of the Catti is all your own.
You owe nothing, Sextus; you owe nothing, Sextus, I admit; for he only owes, Sextus, who can pay.
Oh, how caressing, Ammianus, are you with your mother! how caressing, Ammianus, is your mother with you! She calls you brother; you call her sister. Why do such strange titles of affection delight you? Why are you not content to be what you are? Do you think this an amusement and a jest? It is not so. A mother, who desires to be a sister, is not satisfied with being either mother or sister.
May I perish, Decianus, if I should not like to be with you all day, and all night! But there are two miles that separate us; and these become four, when I have to return. You are often not at home: even when you are, you are often denied; or you have leisure only for your law business or your private concerns. To see you, however, I have no objection to go two miles; but I have great objection to go four miles not to see you.
Go now, and bid me publish my little books. When you have scarcely read a couple of pages, you look at the last page, Severus, and give long yawns. These are those epigrams which, when I was reciting them, you used to steal and write out in Vitellian tablets.1 These are they which you used to carry one by one in your pockets to every feast, and every theatre. These are they, or (if there are any among them that you do not know) better. Of what use is it for me to make my book so thin, as not to be thicker than a mere roller,2 if it takes you three days to read it through? Never were compositions intended to amuse more listlessly received You are fatigued, and lag so soon in your course; and when you ought to run to Bovillae, you want to unharness your cattle at the temple of the Muses. Go now, and bid me publish my little books.
You declaim prettily, Attalus; you plead causes prettily: you write pretty histories, pretty verses. You compose pantomimes prettily, epigrams prettily; you are a pretty grammarian, a pretty astrologer. You sing prettily, Attalus, and you dance prettily: you are a pretty hand with the lyre, a pretty hand with the ball Since you do nothing well, and yet everything prettily, shall I tell you what you are? You are a great busybody.
If in these pages of mine, reader, anything seem to you too obscure, or written in too homely language, the fault is not mine: the copier did the mischief in his over-anxiety to give you the full amount of verses. But if you shall deem, not him, but me to be the culprit, then I shall believe you to have no understanding. "But still those verses of yours are bad." As if I would deny what is evident! They are bad but you do not write better.
I wrote to Naevia; she has sent me no answer: She will not then grant me what I want. But I think that she had read what I wrote: she will then grant it.1
I commend you, Postumus, for kissing me with only half your lip: you may, however, if you please, withhold even the half of this half, Are you inclined to grant me a boon still greater, and even inexpressible? Keep this whole half entirely to yourself Postumus.
Though, Rufus, you see Selius with clouded brow; though you see him walking late in the porticoes; though you see his heavy look conceal some mournful feeling, his ugly nose nearly touching the earth, his right hand striking his breast, and tearing his hair, he is not bewailing the loss of a friend or brother. Both his sons are alive,----and I pray they may continue to live! Safe and sound is his wife too, and his furniture, and his slaves; nor has his farmer or his bailiff wasted any part of his property. What then is the cause of his sadness? He dines at home.
What am I to understand from the circumstance, that your kisses always smell of myrrh, and that you never have about you an odour other than unnatural? That you always smell so agreeably, Postumus, makes me suspect that you have something to conceal. He does not smell pleasantly, Postumus, who always smells pleasantly.1
The judge wants money, and the counsel wants money. Pay your creditor, Sextus, I should advise.2
Nothing does Selius leave untried, nothing unattempted, whenever he sees that he must dine at home. He runs to the portico of Europa, and praises you, Paulinus, and your Achillean swiftness of foot, without ceasing. If Europa does nothing for him, he then goes to the enclosures, to see whether he can gain anything from the sons of Phillyra and Aeson.1 Disappointed here likewise, he next haunts the Memphitic temple of Isis,2 and seats himself near the seats of that sad heifer. From this place he goes to the palace suspended upon a hundred columns;3 thence to the monument of Pompeius' magnificence4 and his double grove. Nor does he disdain the baths of Fortunatus, or those of Faustus, or the confined and dark ones of Gryllus, or the windy ones of Lupus. As to the warm baths, he bathes in them again and again and again. After doing everything, but without the favour of heaven, he runs back, well washed, to the box-grove of the warm Europa, in case some belated friend may be taking his way there. By yourself, amorous Bull, and by your mistress, whom you carried off, do you, I implore, invite Selius to dinner.5
In offering to no one the cup from which you drink, you give a proof, Hormus, not of pride, but of kindness.1
Zoilus is ill: his gorgeous bed is the cause of this fever. If he were well, of what use would be these scarlet coverlets, this bed brought from the banks of the Nile, or this, steeped in the perfumes of Sidon? What but an illness displays such idle wealth? What have you to do with physicians? Dismiss all your Machaons. If you wish to get well, use my bed-clothes.
At the very entrance of the Suburra, where hang the bloodstained whips of the torturers,1 and where many a cobbler blocks up the Argiletum,2 sits a female hair-cutter. But that female cutter, Ammianus, does not cut hair. "Does not cut hair?" you say. "What does she then?" She shaves.3
I court your dinner; alas! I am ashamed of doing so, but, Maximus, I court your dinner: you court some one else's; so we are equal in this matter. I come in the morning to pay my respects to you; I am told that you are gone already to pay your respects elsewhere: again we are equal. I myself am of your escort, and walk before my proud patron; you are of the escort of the other, your patron: again we are equal. It is bad enough to be a servant; but I object to be the servant of a servant. One who is a patron himself Maximus, should not have a patron.
Do you think, Zoilus, that I am made happy by an invitation to dinner? Happy by an invitation to dinner, Zoilus, and that dinner yours? That guest deserves to be a guest at the Aricine Hill,1 who is made happy, Zoilus, by a dinner of yours.
Paulus buys verses: Paulus recites his own verses; and what you buy you may legally call your own.
To some, Postumus, you give kisses, to some your right hand. "Which do you prefer?" you say, "choose." I prefer your hand.
In what have I offended you, Apollo, and you nine Sisters? For, behold, the Muse of gaiety brings ill to her poet. Postumus before used to kiss me with half a lip. Now he has begun to kiss me with both lips.
I will not say, however closely you press me, who is the Postumus of my book. I will not say; for why should I give offence to these same kisses, which can so well avenge themselves?
"If harsh Fortune should overwhelm you with some terrible accusation; I will attend you in mourning habit, and more pale than a person accused. If she should order you to depart under condemnation from your native land, I will go, through seas, through mountains, your companion in exile." She gives you riches. "Are they the common property of us both?" Will you give me half? "It is a large sum." Candidus, will you give me anything? You will, then, share with me in misfortune only: but if heaven with smiling countenance shows you favour, you will enjoy your happiness, Candidus, alone.
Galla, you never grant, but always promise, favours to any one that asks them. If you always deceive, I beg you, Galla, for the future, to say "No."
Because Naevia breathes painfully, and has a severe cough, and often sputters out saliva on your breast, do you imagine, Bithynicus, that your fortune is already made? You are mistaken; Naevia is flirting, not dying.
Hark how Selius praises you, when spreading his nets for a dinner, whether you are reading your verses, or pleading at the bar. "Excellent! how sagacious! how ready! how clever! well done! how successful!" There, that is all I want; your supper is earned; be quiet.
Rufus, do you see you person who is, always sitting on the front benches, whose sardonyxed hand glistens even at this distance; whose cloak has so often drunk deep of the Tyrian dye, and whose toga is made to surpass unspotted snow; him, whose well-oiled hair smells of all the essences from Marcellus' shop, and whose arms look sleek and polished, with not a hair unextracted? A latchet of later than yesterday's make sits upon his crescent-adorned leg, a scarlet shoe decks his foot unhurt by its pressure, and numerous patches cover his forehead like stars. Are you ignorant what the thing is? Remove the patches, and you will read his name.1
I asked, by chance, a loan of twenty thousand sesterces,2 which would have been no serious matter even as a present. He whom I asked was an old acquaintance in good circumstances, whose money-chest finds difficulty in imprisoning his overflowing hoards. "You will enrich yourself, was his reply, "if you will go to the bar." Give me, Caius, what I ask: I do not ask advice.
I have often made love to Christina. Do you ask how she returns it? So well, that it is impossible for any one to go beyond her.
I have a lawsuit on hand with Balbus: you, Ponticus, are unwilling to offend Balbus: I have one on hand with Licinus; he also is a person of importance. My neighbour Patrobas often trespasses on my little field: you are afraid to oppose a freedman of Caesar. Laronia refuses to restore my slave, and keeps him for herself: you tell me "she is childless, rich, old, a widow." It is idle, believe me, to hope for service from a friend who is himself in service. Let him be a free man, who wishes to be my master.
Why do I not kiss you, Philaenis? you are bald. Why do I not kiss you, Philaenis? you are carrotty. Why do I not kiss you, Philaenis? you are one-eyed. He who kisses you, Philaenis, sins against nature.
In your love for Phileros, whom you have redeemed from slavery with your whole dower, you allow your three sons, Galla, to perish with hunger: so great indulgence do you show to your aged charms, no longer the due objects of even chaste pleasures. May the gods make you for ever the admirer of Phileros; you, a mother, than whom not even Pontia1 is worse.
Since your legs, Phoebus, resemble the horns of the moon, you might bathe your feet in a cornucopia.
I would not have you curl your hair, nor yet would I have you throw it into disorder. Your skin I would have neither over-sleek nor neglected. Your beard should be neither that of an effeminate Asiatic, nor that of an accused person.3 I alike detest, Pannicus, one who is more, and one who is less than a man. Your legs and breast bristle with shaggy hair; but your mind, Pannicus, shows no signs of manliness.
Whatever is placed upon table you sweep off right and left; breast of sow, chine of pork, a woodcock prepared for two guests, half a mullet, and a whole pike, the side of a lamprey, and the leg of a chicken, and a wood-pigeon dripping with its sauce. All these articles, wrapped up in your dripping napkin, are handed to your servant to carry home.1 We sit by with jaws unemployed. If you have any feeling of shame, replace the dinner on the table: it is not for tomorrow, Caecilianus, that I invited you.
Do you ask what profit my Nomentan estate brings me, Linus? My estate brings me this profit, that I do not see you, Linus.
You give your mistress scarlet and violet-coloured dresses. If you wish to give her suitable presents, send her a toga.1
Tongilius is reported to be consumed with a semi-tertian fever. I know the cunning of the man; he has a hunger-and-thirst fever. He is now craftily spreading nets for fat thrushes, and throwing out a hook for mullet and pike. He wants strained Caecuban wine, and wine ripened in the year of Opimius; and dark Falernian which is stored in small flagons. All the doctors have ordered Tongilius to bathe. Fools! do they think it is a case of fever? It is disease of the throat.2
"Laugh if you are wise, girl, laugh," said, I believe, the poet of the Peligni.3 But he did not say this to all girls. Granting however, that he did say it to all girls, he did not say it to you: you are not a girl, Maximina, and you have but three teeth, and those plainly the colour of pitch and of boxwood. If, therefore, you believe your mirror and me, you should shrink from laughing as much as Spanius dreads the wind, Priscus a touch,1 Fabulla, with chalked face, a rain-cloud, or Sabella, painted with white-lead, the sun. Put on a countenance more severe than the consort of Priam, and his eldest daughter-in-law. Avoid the pantomimes of the amusing Philistion, and gay feasts, and whatever by its wit and mirth distends the lips with broad laughter. It befits you to sit by the side of an afflicted mother, of a wife lamenting for her husband, or a sister for her affectionate brother, and to seek your recreation only with the tragic Muse. Take my advice, and weep if you art wise, girl, weep.
Zoilus, why sully the bath by bathing in it your lower extremities? It could only be made more foul, Zoilus, by your plunging your head in it.
This is your community of goods among friends, Candidus; this is your community of goods which you talk about so grandiloquently day and night. You are clad in a toga washed in the waters of Lacedaemonian Galaesus, or one which Parma supplied from a select flock: but I, in one which the stuffed figure first exposed to the furious horns of the bull,1 would be unwilling should be called his. The land of Cadmus has provided you with coats dyed by the descendants of Agenor; for my scarlet vestments you would not get three sesterces. Your Libyan tables are supported on feet of Indian ivory; my beechen table is propped up with a potsherd. Immense mullets, on your board, cover dishes of yellow gold; with me, my earthen platter is ruddy with a crawfish of the same colour as itself Your crowd of attendants might vie with the Idaean Ganymede: my hand serves me for an attendant. From such a mass of wealth you give nothing to an old and faithful companion, and do you say, Candidus, that the goods of friends are common?
Whether it be a slave that I have bought, or a new toga, or something worth perhaps three or four pounds, Sextus, that usurer, who, you all know, is an old acquaintance of mine, is immediately afraid lest I should ask a loan, and takes his measures accordingly; whispering to himself, but so that I may hear: "I owe Secundus seven thousand sesterces, Phoebus four, Philetus eleven; and there is not a farthing in my cash-box." Profound stratagem of my old acquaintance! It is hard to refuse me a favour, Sextus, when you are asked; how much harder, before you are asked.
Like as flowery Hybla is variegated with many a colour, when the Sicilian bees are laying waste the fleeting gifts of spring, so your presses shine with piles of cloaks, your wardrobe glistens with uncounted robes. And your white garments, which the land of Apulia produced from more than one flock, would clothe a whole tribe. You look, unmoved, upon your ill-clad friend in the winter months, shame on you! while you yourself fear the cold which pierces my ragged side, What sacrifice would it have been, wretched mortal, to deprive of a couple of habits----(what do you fear?) ----not yourself Naevolus, but the moths?
A wine-merchant, a. butcher, a bath, a barber, a chessboard and men, and a few books (but give me the selection of them); one companion, not too unpolished; a tall servant, one who preserves his youthful bloom for a long time; a damsel beloved of my servant: secure me these things, Rufus, even though it were at Butunti,1 and you may keep to yourself the baths of Nero.
Dasius is a shrewd hand at counting his female bathers; he asked the bulky Spatale the price of three, and she gave it.1
Do you wish to become free? You lie, Maximus, you do not wish it. But if you should wish to become so, you can in this way. You will be free, if you give up dining out; if the Veientan grape assuages your thirst; if you can smile at the golden dishes of the querulous Cinna; if you can be content in a toga like mine; if a plebeian mistress becomes yours for a coupe of small coins; if you can submit to lower your head when you enter your house. If you have strength and force of mind such as this, you may live more free than the monarch of Parthia.
Yon wish to be treated with deference, Sextus: I wished to love you. I must obey you: you shall be treated with deference, as you desire. But if I treat you with deference, I shall not love you.
Among the nations of Libya 1 your wife, Gallus, is unhappily renowned for the disgraceful reproach of immoderate avarice. But what is said of her is pure falsehood; she is not in the habit of receiving always. What then is she in the habit of doing? Granting.
He, whom you see walking slowly along with careless step, who takes his way, in violet-coloured robes, through the middle of the square; whom my friend Publius does not surpass in dress, nor even Cordus himself, the Alpha of Cloaks; he, I say, who is followed by a band of clients and slaves, and a litter with new curtains and girths, has but just now pawned his ring at Claudius' counter for barely eight sesterces, to get himself a dinner.
In your new and beautiful robes, Zoilus, you smile at my threadbare clothes. They are threadbare, Zoilus, I admit but they are my own.
I am called Mica: 1 what I am you see, a small dining-hall; from me, behold, you view the dome of the imperial Mausoleum. Press the couches; call for wine; crown yourself with roses; perfume yourself with odours: the god himself 2 bids you remember death.
Young Hyllus, you are the favoured gallant of the wife of a military tribune; do you fear, in consequence, merely the punishment of a child? Have a care; while thus diverting yourself, your flame will be suddenly extinguished. Will you tell me, "This is not lawful"? Well, and what you are doing, Hyllus, is that lawful?
You had but a hundred thousand sesterces, Milichus, and those were consumed in ransoming Leda from the Via Sacra. This, Milichus, would have been an act of great extravagance, had you loved at such a price, even though rich. You will at once tell me, "I am not in love." It is still an act of great extravagance.1
While you are thinking of becoming, sometimes a lawyer, sometimes a professor of eloquence, and cannot decide, Laurus, what you mean to be, the age of Peleus, and Priam, and Nestor, has passed by with you, and it would now be late enough for you even to retire from any profession. Begin; three professors of eloquence have died in one year, if you have courage, and any talent in that line. If you decide against the School, all the courts of law are in a perfect fever of litigation; Marsyas himself 2 might become a lawyer. Come, give over this delay; how much longer are we to await your decision? While thus hesitating what to be, you are becoming unfit for anything at all.
Why do we see Saleianus with a sadder air than usual?----Is the reason a trifling one? I have just buried my wife, says he. Oh great crime of destiny! oh heavy chance! Is she dead, she so wealthy, Secundilla, dead, who brought you a dower of a million sesterces? I would not have had this happen to you, Saleianus.
One ringlet of hair, in the whole circle of Lalage's tresses, was out of its place, haying been badly fixed by an erring pin. This crime she punished with the mirror,1 by means of which she discovered it, and Plecusa fell to the ground under her blows, in consequence of the cruel hair. Cease now, Lalage, to adorn your fatal locks; let no waiting-woman henceforth touch your outrageous head. Let the salamander 2 leave its venom on it, or the razor pitilessly denude it, that the image may be worthy of your mirror.
In whatever place you meet me, Postumus, you cry out immediately, and your very first words are, "How do you do?" You say this, even if you meet me ten times in one single hour: you, Postumus, have nothing, I suppose, to do.
Because I now address you by your name, when I used before to call you lord and master, do not regard me as presumptuous. At the price of all my chattels I have purchased my cap of liberty. He only wants lords and masters who cannot govern himself and who covets what lords and masters covet. If you can do without a servant, Olus, you can do without a master.
You say, Classicus, that it is against your will that you dine from home. May I perish, Classicus, if you do not lie. Even Apicius himself delighted in going out to dinner, and, when he dined at home, was rather out of spirits. If, however, you go against your will, why, Classicus, do you go at all? "I am obliged," you say. It is true; just as much as Selius 1 is obliged. See now, Melior invites you to a regular dinner, Classicus; where are your grand protestations? if you are a man, say "No."
No one is more ingenious than yourself Caecilianus; I have remarked it Whenever I read a few distichs from my own compositions, you forthwith recite some bits of Marsus or Catullus. Do you offer me these, as though what you read were inferior to mine, so that, when placed side by side, my compositions should gain by the comparison? I believe you do. Nevertheless I should prefer, Caecilianus, that you recite your own.
Lyris wishes to be told what it is she is doing. What? Why, she sullies her mouth even when not intoxicated.2
Do you notice, Maternus, that Saufeius accompanied in front and behind by a crowd of followers, a crowd as great as that by which Regulus is escorted home after sending off his shaven 1 client to the lofty temples of the gods? Do not envy him. May such an escort never, I pray, be yours. Fuficulenus and Faventinus 2 procure for him these friends and flocks of clients.
A lion who had been accustomed to put up with the blows of his unsuspecting master, and quietly to suffer a hand to be inserted in his mouth, has unlearned his peaceful habits, his fierceness having suddenly returned, greater even than it ought to have been on the Libyan mountains. For, cruel and malicious, he slew with furious tooth two boys of that young band whose duty it was to put a new face on the ensanguined arena with their rakes. Never did the theatre of Mars behold a greater atrocity. We may exclaim: "Savage, faithless robber! learn from Rome's sacred wolf to spare children."
Marius has left you a legacy of five pounds of silver. He, to whom you gave nothing, has given you----words.1
You, Cosconius, who think my epigrams long, may possibly be expert at greasing carriage-wheels. With like judgment, you would think the Colossus too tall, and might call Brutus's boy2 too short. Learn something which you do not know: two pages of Marsus and the learned Pedo often contain only one epigram. Those compositions are not long, in which there is nothing to retrench: but you, Cosconius, write even distichs that are too long.
Do you ask where to keep your fish in the summer-time? Keep it in your warm baths, Caecilianus.
You invite me then, and then only, Nasica, when you know I am engaged. Excuse me, I pray: I dine at home.
Fannius, as he was fleeing from the enemy, put himself to death. Is not this, I ask, madness,----to die for fear of dying?
Your litter may, if you please, be larger than an hexaphoros, Zoilus; but as it is your litter, it should be called a bier.1
Why do you maim your slave, Ponticus, by cutting out his tongue? Do you not know that the public says what he cannot?
Husband, you have disfigured the wretched gallant, and his countenance, deprived of nose and ears, regrets the loss of its original form. Do you think that you are sufficiently avenged? You are mistaken: something still remains.
A bottle of iced water,3 bound with light basket-work, shall be my offering to you at the present Saturnalia. If you complain, that I sent you in the month of December a gift more suited to the summer, send me in return a light toga.
Because I neither delight in verse that may be read backwards, nor reverse the effeminate Sotades;5 because nowhere in my writings, as in those of the Greeks, are to be found echoing verses,1 and the handsome Attis does not dictate to me a soft and enervated Galliambic strain;2 I am not on that account, Classicus, so very bad a poet. What if you were to order Ladas against his will to mount the narrow ridge of the petaurum?3 It is absurd to make one's amusements difficult; and labour expended on follies is childish. Let Palaemon4 write verses for admiring crowds. I would rather please select ears.
You say, Sextus, that fair damsels are burning with love for you-----for you, who have the face of a man swimming under water!1
You recite nothing, and you wish, Mamercus, to be thought a poet. Be whatever you will, only do not recite.
For delighting to lengthen out the night over too many cups, I pardon you, Gaurus; you have the weakness of Cato. For writing verses without help from Apollo and the Muses, you deserve to be praised; this weakness was that of Cicero. You vomit; that was Antonius' failing; your luxury, that of Apicius. But as to your abominable debauchery, tell me, from whom do you derive that?
Quintilian, supreme ruler over our unsteady youth,----Quintilian, glory of the Roman toga, do not blame me, that I, though poor yet not useless to my generation, hasten to enjoy life: no one hastens enough to do so. Let him delay doing so, who desires to have a greater estate than his father, and who crowds his lofty halls with countless busts. A quiet hearth delights me, and a house which disdains not the blackness of smoke,1 a running spring, and a natural piece of turf. May these be mine; a well-fed attendant, a wife not over-learned, nights with sleep, days without strife.
Caesar, you who are the certain safety of the empire, the glory of the universe, from whose preservation we derive our belief in the existence of the gods; if my verses, so often read by you in my hastily composed books, have succeeded in fixing your attention, permit that to seem to be which fortune forbids to be in reality, namely, that I maybe regarded as the father of three children.1 This boon, if I have failed to please you, will be some consolation to me; if I have succeeded in pleasing you, will be some reward.
He, who alone had the power, has granted to my prayer the rights of a father of three children, as a reward for the efforts of my Muse. Goodbye to you, madam wife. The munificence of our lord and master must not be rendered valueless.2
"Where is the first book," you ask, "since this is the second?" What am I to do, if the first book has more modesty than this? If you, however, Regulus, prefer this to be made the first, you can take away "one" from its title.
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