Martial, Epigrams. Book 7. Bohn's Classical Library (1897)
Receive the terrible breastplate of the warlike Minerva, which even the anger of the snaky-locked Medusa dreads. When you do not wear it, Caesar, it may be called a breast-plate; when it sits upon your sacred breast, it will be an aegis.1
Breastplate of our lord and master, impenetrable to the arrows of the Sarmatians, and a greater defence than the hide worn by Mars among the Getae; breastplate formed of the polished hoofs of innumerable wild boars,2 which defies the blows even of an Aetolian spear; happy is your lot, to be permitted to touch that sacred breast, and to be warmed with the genius of our god. Go, accompany him, and may you, uninjured, earn noble triumphs, and soon restore our leader to the palm-decked toga.3
Why do I not send you my books, Pontilianus? Lest you should send me yours, Pontilianus.
Oppianus, having an unhealthy complexion,1 Castricus, began to write verses.
If, Caesar, you regard the wishes of your people and senate, and the real happiness of the inhabitants of Rome, restore our deity to our urgent prayers. Rome is envious of the foe that detains him, although many a laurelled letter reaches her. That foe beholds the lord of the earth nearer than we; and with your countenance, Caesar, the barbarian is as much delighted as awed.
Is there then any truth in the report that Caesar, quitting the northern climes, is at length preparing to return to Ausonia? Certain intelligence is wanting, but every tongue repeats this news. I believe you, Fame; you are wont to tell the truth. Letters announcing victory confirm the public joy; the javelins of Mars have their points green with laurel. Again, rejoice! Rome proclaims aloud your great triumphs; and your name, Caesar, even though it be against your will, resounds throughout your city. But now, that our joy may have greater grounds for certainty, come yourself; and be your own messenger of your victory over the Sarmatians.
Though the wintry Northern Bear, the barbarous Peuce,1 the Danube warmed by the trampling of horses' feet, and the Rhine, with its presumptuous horn already thrice broken, may withhold you from us, O sovereign ruler of the earth, and father of the world, whilst you are subduing the realms of a perfidious race, yet you canst not be absent from our prayers. Even there, Caesar, our eyes and minds are with you; and so fully do you occupy the thoughts of all, that the very crowd in the great Circus know not whether Passerinus is running or Tigris.2
Now, O Muses, now, if ever, give vent to joy. Our god is restored to us victorious from the plains of Thrace. You are the first, O December, to confirm the wishes of the people; how we may shout with loud voice, "He is coming." Happy are you, O December, in your lot; you might have assumed equality with January, had you given us the joy which he will give us. The crowned soldier will sport in festal railleries as he walks in procession amid the laurelled steeds. It is not unbecoming even in you, O Caesar, to listen to jests and trivial verses; since the triumphal celebration itself gives a license to amusement.
Cascellius numbers sixty years, and is a man of talent. When will he be a man of eloquence?
Eros has a Ganymede, Pinna is strangely fond of women; what is it to you, Olus, what either of them does with himself? Matho pays a hundred thousand sesterces to a mistress: what is it to you, Olus? It is not you, but Matho, who will thus be reduced to poverty. Sertorius sits at table till daylight: what is it to you, Olus, when you are at liberty to snore all night long? Lupus owes Titus seven hundred thousand sesterces: what is it to you, Olus? Do not give or lend Lupus a single penny. What really does concern you, Olus, and what ought more intimately to concern you, you keep out of sight. You are in debt for your paltry toga; that, Olus, concerns you. No one will any longer give you a farthing's credit; that, Olus, concerns you. Your wife plays the adulteress; that, Olus, concerns you. Your daughter is grown up, and demands a dowry; that, Olus, concerns you. I could mention some fifteen other things that concern you; but your affairs, Olus, concern me not at all.
You urge me, Pudens, to correct my books for you, with my own hand and pen. You are far too partial, and too kind, thus to wish to possess my trifles in autograph.
So may the lord of the world, Faustinus, read me with serene countenance, and receive my jests with his wonted attention, as my page injures not even those whom it justly hates, and as no portion of reputation, obtained at the expense of another, is pleasing in my eyes. To what purpose is it that certain versifiers wish publications which are but darts dipped in the blood of Lycambes 1 to be deemed mine, and that they vomit forth the poison of vipers under my name?----versifiers, who cannot endure the rays of the sun and the light of day? My sport is harmless; you know this well; I swear it by the genius of all-powerful Fame, and by the Castalian choir, as well as by the attention you grant me, reader, who, if you are free from the unmanly passion of envy, are to me as a great deity.
Lycoris the brunette, having heard that the ivory of an antiquated tooth recovered its whiteness by the action of the sun at Tivoli, betook herself to its hills, sacred to Hercules. How great is the efficacy of the air of the lofty Tivoli! In a short time she returned black.
A frightful misfortune, Aulus, has befallen a fair acquaintance of mine; she has lost her pet, her delight; not such as Lesbia, the mistress of the tender Catullus, bewailed, when she was bereaved of her amorous sparrow; nor such as the dove, sung by my friend Stella, which Ianthis lamented, and whose dark shade now flits in elysium. My fair one is not captivated by trifles, or objects of affection such as those; nor do such losses affect the heart of my mistress. She has lost a young friend numbering twice six years, whose powers had not yet reached maturity.
What boy is this that retreats from the sparkling waters of Ianthis, and flees from the Naiad their mistress? Is it Hylas? Well is it that Hercules is honoured in this wood, and that he so closely watches these waters. You may minister at these fountains, Argynnus, in security; the Nymphs will do you no harm; beware lest the guardian himself should wish to do so.
I have not a farthing in the house; one thing only remains for me to do, Regulus, and that is, to sell the presents which I have received from you; are you inclined to buy them?
Library of a charming country retreat, whence the reader can see the neighbouring town, if, amid more serious poems, there be any room for the sportive Thalia, you may place even upon the lowest shelf these seven books which I send you corrected by the pen of their author. This correction gives them their value. And do you, O library of Julius Martialis, to which I dedicate this little present, you that will be celebrated and renowned over the whole globe, guard this earnest of my affection!
This fragment, which you think a common and useless piece of wood, was a portion of the first ship that ventured on unknown seas, a ship which neither the Cyanean rocks, so fertile in shipwrecks, nor the still more dangerous rage of the Scythian ocean, could formerly destroy. Time has overcome it; but, though it has yielded to years, this little plank is more sacred than an entire ship.
No one is more pitiable, no one more gluttonous, than Santra, when he is invited and hurries off to a regular supper, to which he has fished for an invitation many days and nights: he asks three times for boar's neck, four times for the loin, and for the two hips and both shoulders of a hare nor does he blush at lying for a thrush, or filching even the livid beards of oysters. Sweet cheese-cakes stain his dirty napkin; in which also potted grapes are wrapped, with a few pomegranates, the unsightly skin of an excavated sow's udder, moist figs, and shrivelled mushrooms. And when, the napkin is bursting with a thousand thefts, he hides in the reeking fold of his dress gnawed fish-bones, and a turtle-dove deprived of its head. He thinks it not disgraceful, too, to gather up with greedy hand whatever the waiter and the dogs have left. Nor does solid booty alone satisfy his gluttony; at his feet he fills a flagon with mingled wines. These things he carries home with him, up some two hundred steps; and locks himself carefully in his garret and bars it; and the next day the rapacious fellow sells them.
This is the day which, witness of an illustrious birth, gave Lucan to the people and to you, Polla.1 Alas, cruel Nero, more detested on account of none of your victims than of this, such a crime at least should not have been permitted you.
The day returns, memorable for the illustrious birth of a bard inspired by Apollo; Aonian virgins, be propitious to our sacrifices. Baetis, when she gave you, Lucan, to the earth, deserved that her waters should be mingled with those of Castalia.
Phoebus, come great as you were when you gave the second quill of the Latin lyre to the singer of wars.1 What can I pray for worthy of so glorious a day? That you, Polla, may often venerate the shade of your husband, and that he may be sensible of your veneration.
Perfidious tongue, that would embroil me with my dear friend Juvenal, what will you not have the audacity to say? With you to coin scandalous stories, Orestes would have hated Pylades; the affectionate Pirithous would have shunned Theseus. You would have parted the Sicilian brothers, and the Atridae, still greater names, and the sons of Leda. This I imprecate upon you, O tongue, as a just reward for your doings and your audacious attempts, that you may continue to do what I believe you do already.2
Although the epigrams which you write are always sweetness itself and more spotless than a white-leaded skin, and although there is in them neither an atom of salt, nor a drop of bitter gall, yet you expect, foolish man, that they will be read. Why, not even food itself is pleasant, if it is wholly destitute of acid seasoning; nor is a face pleasing, which shows no dimples. Give children your honey-apples and luscious figs; the Chian fig, which has sharpness, pleases my taste.
Go, my Scazons, and pay your respects to Apollinaris; and, if he be disengaged (for you must not importune him), present him with this collection, whatever may be its worth, a collection in which he himself has a share.2 May his refined ear grant my verses an audience. If you find yourselves welcomed with open brow, you will ask him to support you with his usual favour. You know his passionate liking for my trifles; not even I myself could love them more. If you wish to be safe against detractors, go, my Scazons, and pay your respects to Apollinaris.
A wild boar, a devourer of Tuscan acorns, and heavy with the fruit of many an oak, second in fame only to the monster of Aetolia, a boar which my friend Dexter pierced with glittering spear, lies an envied prey for my kitchen fire. Let my Penates fatten and exude with the pleasing steam, and my kitchen, festally adorned, blaze with a whole mountain of felled wood. But, ah! my cook will consume a vast heap of pepper, and will have to add Falernian wine to the mysterious sauce. No; return to your master, ruinous wild-boar: my kitchen fire is not for such as you; I hunger for less costly delicacies.
So may your grove at Tivoli, consecrated to Diana, grow unceasingly, and your wood, though often cut, hasten to recruit itself; so may not your olives, fruit of Pallas, be excelled by the presses of Spain; so may your vast wine-coolers supply you with good wine; so may the courts of law admire and the palace praise you, and many a palm decorate your folding doors,1 as, while the middle of December affords you a short vacation, you correct with unerring judgment these trifles which you are now reading. "Do you wish to hear the truth?----it is a trying task." But you can say, Fuscus, what you would wish to be said to yourself.
Thestylus, sweet torment of Victor Voconius, you than whom no youth is better known in the whole city, so may you still, though your longhair has been cut, retain your beauty and the affection or your master, and so may no maiden find favour in the eyes of your poet-lord, as you now lay aside for a while his learned compositions, whilst I read to him a few humble verses. Even by Maecenas while Virgil sang of his Alexis, the brown Melaenis of Marsus was not disregarded.
You grant your favours, Caelia, to Parthians, to Germans, to Dacians; and despise not the homage of Cilicians and Cappadocians. To you journeys the Egyptian gallant from the city of Alexandria, and the swarthy Indian from the waters of the Eastern Ocean; nor do you shun the embraces of circumcised Jews; nor does the Alan, on his Sarmatic steed, pass by you. How comes it that, though a Roman girl, no attention on the part of a Roman citizen is agreeable to you?
These shrill-voiced denizens of the hen-coop, these eggs of the matron hens, these Chian figs made yellow by a moderate heat, this young offspring of a plaintive she-goat, these olives yet too tender to bear the cold, and these vegetables hoary with the cold frosts, do you imagine that they are sent from my country-house? Oh, how intentionally you mistake, Regulus! my fields bear nothing but myself. Whatever your Umbrian bailiff or husbandman, or the Etruscan, or the people at Tusculum, or your country-house three miles from Rome, send to you, is all produced for me in the middle of the Suburra.
O Atticus, who revives the fame of a family renowned for eloquence, and does not allow a mighty house to fall into oblivion, you are accompanied by the pious votaries of the Cecropian Minerva, you are pleased with calm retirement, and beloved by every philosopher, whilst other young men are instructed in boxing by a pugilist at the expense of wounded ears, and the greasy anointer carries off their money, which he little deserves. No ball, no bladder, no feather-stuffed plaything prepares you for the warm baths, nor the harmless blows dealt upon the defenceless wooden image.1 Neither do you square your arms drenched in stiff wrestler's oil; nor seize at full speed the dusty hand-ball. You only run near the glistening Virgin water,2 and where the bull shows his affection for the Sidonian maiden.3 For a young man who can run, to indulge in the various sports that every arena presents is mere idleness.
When your toga, Cinna, is dirtier than mud, and your shoe whiter than the new-born snow, why, foolish man, do you let your garment hang down over your feet? Gather up your toga, Cinna; or your shoe will be quite spoilt.
When in a sordid gown you love to go,
Do you ask, Severus, how it could come to pass that Charinus, the very worst of men, has done one thing well? I will tell you at once. Who was ever worse than Nero? Yet what can be better than Nero's warm baths? But hark, there is not wanting some ill-natured individual to say, immediately, in a sour tone, "What, do you prefer the baths of Nero to the munificent structures of Domitian, our lord and master?" I prefer the warm baths of Nero to the baths of the debauched Charinus.
When my crazy farm-house, unable to resist the rain and dropping skies, was inundated by the winter floods, there came to me, sent by your kindness, a supply of tiles, sufficient for a defence against any sudden shower. Hark! inclement December is roaring with the blast of Boreas; Stella, you cover the farm-house, and forget to cover the farmer.1
Do you know, Castricus, the quaestor's sign of condemnation to death? It is worth your while to learn the new Theta.2 He had given orders that every time he blew his nose dropping with cold, the act should be a fatal sign for death. One day, when furious December was blowing with dripping jaws, an unsightly icicle was hanging from his odious nose. His colleagues held his hands. What further do you ask? The wretched man, Castricus, was not allowed to blow his nose.
O Polyphemus, slave of my friend Severus, you are of such a size and such a form that the Cyclops himself might wonder at you. Nor is Scylla 3 inferior to you in these respects. If you bring face to face the awful monstrosities of the two, either will be a terror to the other.
Caelius, unable any longer to endure with patience the constant running from place to place, the morning calls, and the pride and cold salutations of the great, began to pretend that he had the gout. But, while he was over-eager to prove his disease real, and was plastering and bandaging his sound feet, and walking with laboured step (such is the efficacy of care and art in feigned pain) he ceased to feign.
Here lies that old man, well known at the court of the emperor, whose favour and whose anger he endured with no mean spirit. The affection of his children has laid him with the hallowed ashes of his consort; the Elysian grove holds both. She died first, defrauded of her youthful prime. He lived nearly eighteen Olympiads. But whoever beheld your tears, Etruscus, thought that he had been snatched from you prematurely.
You think yourself, Sempronius Tucca, a cosmopolite. Vices, Sempronius Tucca, are equally cosmopolitan with virtues.
If any person, Castricus, should wish to rival you in making presents, let him attempt to do so also in making verses. I am but of small resources in either way, and always ready to own myself beaten; hence ease and undisturbed quiet charm me. Do you ask, then, why I have offered you such bad verses? I ask you in return, do you imagine that no one ever offered apples to Alcinous?
The greatest favour that you can do me, Cinna, if I ask anything of you, is to give it me; the next, Cinna, to refuse it at once. I love one who gives, Cinna; I do not hate one who refuses; but you, Cinna, neither give, nor refuse.
This, Quintus Ovidius, is your friend Maximus Caesonius,1 whose lineaments the living wax still preserves. Him Nero condemned; but you dared to condemn Nero, and to follow the fortunes of the exile instead of your own. You went through the waters of Scylla, a noble companion of his exile; you who, but a little while before, were unwilling to go with him when he was consul. If names that I commit to paper are to live, and destiny wills that I should survive my tomb, present and future generations shall know that you were to turn what he was to his friend Seneca.2
This is that Maximus, the powerful friend of the eloquent Seneca, next in his affection to Carus, or more dear to him than Serenus, and whom he salutes with many a charming letter. You, Ovidius, in whose praise no tongue should be silent, followed him through the Sicilian waves, setting at nought the wrath of a furious tyrant. Let antiquity admire her Pylades, who adhered to one exiled by his mother's fury. Who could compare the dangers defied by the two? You adhered to one exiled by Nero.
While you are wishing to enhance your present to me by verses,1 Priscus, and endeavouring to speak more eloquently than the month of Homer ever spoke, you torture both me and yourself for many days, and still your muse says nothing about what concerns me. You may send poetry and sounding verse to the rich; to poor men give substantial presents.
O Licinius Sura, most celebrated of learned men, whose eloquence, savouring of antiquity, reminds us of our mighty ancestors, you are----(oh, by what kindness of the Fates!)----restored to us; sent back after having almost tasted the water of Lethe. Our prayers had lost their fear; 2 our sadness wept without relief; and it appeared from our tears that you were quite lost. But the ruler of the silent Avenue feared our displeasure, and has himself restored to the Fates the distaff already snatched from their hands. Thus you know, then, what lamentations the false report of your death caused amongst your fellow-creatures, and you enjoy what will be said of you by posterity. Live as though you were stolen from death, and seize fleeting joys, and thus your recovered life will not have lost a single day.
Annius has some two hundred tables, and servants for every table. Dishes run hither and thither, and plates fly about. Such entertainments as these keep to yourselves, you pompous; I am ill pleased with a supper that walks.
I send you, Severus, the small offerings of my suburban garden; eggs good for your throat, fruits to please your palate.
Fount of your Mistress, queen of the spot in which Ianthis delights, glory and delight of this splendid retreat, when your brink is adorned with so many snow-white attendants, and your waves reflect a troop of Ganymedes, what is the venerated Alcides doing in the wood near you? Why occupies the god a position so close to you? Is it that he keeps watch over the amorous nymphs, whose manners he so well knows, to prevent so many Hylases from being carried off at once?1
If you are unwilling, Urbicus, to purchase my trifles, and yet desire to have a knowledge of my sportive verses, go find Pompeius Auctus. Perhaps you know him; he sits in the porch of the temple of Mars the Avenger. Though deeply imbued with law, and versed in the various usages of civil life, he is not only my reader, Urbicus, but my book itself. He so faithfully remembers and repeats his absent friend's compositions, that not a single letter of my pages is lost. In a word, if he had chosen, he might have made himself appear the author; but he prefers to assist in spreading my reputation. You may apply to him after the tenth hour 2 of the day, for before that time he will not be sufficiently disengaged; his little dinner will accommodate two. He will read; you may drink; he will recite whether you like it or not: and after you have said "Hold, enough!" he will still continue to recite.
I am delighted, Auctus, that you read my effusions to Celer; I mean, if Celer is also pleased with what you read. He has been governor of my countrymen and the Celtic Iberians, and never was purer integrity seen in our region. The profound reverence I entertain for him fills me with awe; and I regard his ears as those not of an auditor, but of a judge.
You have sent me as a present for the Saturnalia, Umber, everything which you have received during the past five days; twelve note-books of three tablets each, seven tooth-picks; together with which came a sponge, a table-cloth, a wine-cup, a half-bushel of beans, a basket of Picenian olives, and a black jar of Laletanian wine. There came also some small Syrian figs, some candied plums, and a heavy pot of figs from Libya. They were a present worth, I believe, scarcely thirty small coins altogether; and they were brought by eight tall Syrian slaves. How much more convenient would it have been for one slave to have brought me, as he might without trouble, five pounds' weight of silver!
Every morning you recount to me your idle dreams about myself such as may move and alarm my mind. All my wine of last vintage has been exhausted to the dregs, and even that of the present is failing, while the wise woman is exorcising for me the effects of your nocturnal visions. I have consumed heaps of salted meal and mountains of frankincense; my flocks, by the frequent sacrifices of lambs, have altogether dwindled away. Not a pig, not a fowl of the hencoop, not an egg have I left. Either lie awake, Nasidienus, or sleep and dream for yourself.
You have embraced the stars and the skies in your pious mind, Rabirius; such is the wondrous art with which you are erecting the Parrhasian 1 edifice. If Pisa is still preparing to give the Jupiter of Phidias a temple worthy of him, she should request of our Jupiter the aid of your skilful hand.
Gabinia has made Achilles a Castor out of a Pollux; he was Pyxagathos, now he will be Hippodamus.2
Our friend Caecilianus, Titus, does not sup without a whole wild-boar on his table. A pretty table-companion Caecilianus has!
Venerable sovereign of the Tarpeian palace, whom we believe to exist as Lord of the thunder, from the care which you show for the preservation of our prince, when every one importunes you with prayers, and implores you to give what the gods alone can give, be not angry with me, O Jupiter, as though I were proud, because I ask you nothing. It is my duty to supplicate you for Domitian; to supplicate Domitian for myself.
The audacious shopkeepers had appropriated to themselves the whole city, and a man's own threshold was not his own. You, Germanicus,1 bade the narrow streets grow wide; and what but just before was a pathway became a highway. No column is now girt at the bottom with chained wine-flagons ; nor is the Praetor compelled to walk in the midst of the mud. Nor, again, is the barber's razor drawn blindly in the middle of a crowd, nor does the smutty cookshop project over every street. The barber, the vintner, the cook, the butcher, keep their own places. The city is now Rome; recently it was a great shop.
You, who read the imperishable volumes of the ever-living Silius and his verses, worthy of the Roman toga, do you think that Pierian retreats, and ivy chaplets, like those of Bacchus binding the hair of the Aonian Virgins, alone gave pleasure to the poet? No! he did not approach the mysteries of the lofty Virgil until he had accomplished the course pursued by the great Cicero. The grave centumviral court of the judges still remembers him with admiration; and many a client speaks of him with grateful lips. After ruling with the twelve fasces the ever-memorable-year which was consecrated by the liberation of the world,1 he devoted his remaining days to the Muses and Phoebus, and now, instead of the forum, cultivates Helicon.
You, Cinnamus, who were a barber well known over all the city, and afterwards, by the kindness of your mistress, made a knight, have taken refuge among the cities of Sicily and the regions of Aetna, fleeing from the stern justice of the forum. By what art will you now, useless log, sustain your years? How is your unhappy and fleeting tranquillity to employ itself? You cannot be a rhetorician, a grammarian, a school-master, a Cynic, or Stoic philosopher, nor can you sell your voice to the people of Sicily, or your applause to theatres of Some. All that remains for you, Cinnamus, is to become a barber again.
One suit carried through the three courts,1 Gargilianus, is wearing you out, now numbering, as you do, the colds of twenty winters since its commencement. Wretched, infatuated man! does any one continue at law for twenty years, Gargilianus, who has the option of losing his suit?
Fabius has left Labienus all his property: Labienus says, notwithstanding, that he deserved more.1
Be cautious, I pray you, Instantius Rufus, in commending the effusions of my muse to your father-in-law; perhaps he likes serious compositions. But should he welcome my sportive writings, I may then venture to read them even to Curius and Fabricius.
This is that Theophila, Canius, who is betrothed to you, and whose mind overflows with Attic learning. The Athenian garden of the great old man 1 might justly claim her for its own, and the Stoic sect would with equal pleasure call her theirs. Every work will live that you submit to her judgment before publication, so far is her taste above that of her sex, and of the common herd. Your favourite Pantaenis, however well known to the Pierian choir, should not claim too much precedence of her. The amorous Sappho would have praised her verses; Theophila is more chaste than Sappho, and Sappho had not more genius than Theophila.
The wife is affected with ficus; the husband is affected the daughter, the son-in-law, and the grandson are alike affected. Nor is the steward, or the farm bailiff free from the disgusting ulcer; nor even the sturdy digger or the ploughman. When thus young and old alike are affected with this disease, it is a marvellous circumstance that not a single plot of their land produces figs.1
So may December be pleasing to you, Paulas, and so may there come to you neither valueless tablets, nor table-cloths too short, nor half-pounds of incense light in weight: but may some influential client, or powerful friend, bring you chargers or goblets that belonged to his ancestors, or whatever delights and fascinates you most; so may you beat Novius and Publius at chess, shutting up their glass men in their squares; so may the impartial judgment of the well-oiled crowd of athletes award you the palm in the warm triangular game at ball, and not bestow greater praise on the left-handed strokes of Polybus: as, if any malignant person shall pronounce verses dripping with black venom to be mine, you lend your voice in my favour, and maintain, with all your might and without remission, "my friend Martial did not write those."
You have a mansion on the Esquiline hill, and a mansion on the hill of Diana; and another rears its head in the Patricians' quarter.1 From one of your dwellings you behold the temple of the widowed Cybele,2 from another that of Vesta; from others you look on the old and the new Capitol. Tell me where I may meet you; tell me whereabouts I am to look for you: a man who lives everywhere, Maximus, lives nowhere.
O glory of Cyllene and of the skies, eloquent minister of Jove, whose golden wand is wreathed with twisted snakes, so may an opportunity for some fond intrigue never fail you, whether the Paphian goddess, or Ganymede, be the object of your affection; and so may your mother's Ides be adorned with sacred garlands, and your old grandfather be pressed with but a light burden, as Norbana shall ever joyfully keep with her husband Carpus the anniversary of this day on which they first came together in wedlock. He, as your pious votary, consecrates his gifts to wisdom; he invokes you with incense, but is faithful at the same time to our Jove.1
Though the great hurry you off to their banquets, and walks in the porticoes, and to the theatres; and though they are delighted, whenever you meet them, to make you share their litters, and to bathe with you, do not be too vain of such attentions. You entertain them, Philomusus; you are not an object of their regard.
You importune me, Tucca, to present you with my books, I shall not do so; for you want to sell, not to read them.
While upon your own table is placed only the tail of a poor Saxetan fish,1 and, when you dine luxuriously, cabbage drenched with oil; you make presents of sow's udders, wild boar, hare, mushrooms, oysters, mullets. You have neither sense, Fapilus, nor taste.
I have just drunk some consular wine. You ask how old and how generous? It was bottled in the consul's own year; and he who gave it me, Severus, was that consul himself.
Inasmuch as Rome now leaves in peace the Getic climes and the hoarse clarions are hushed, you will be able, Faustinas, to send this book to Marcellinus: now he has leisure for books and for amusement. And if you wish to enhance your friend's trifling present, let a young slave carry any verses; not such a one as, fed with the milk of a Getic heifer, plays with Sarmatian hoop upon frozen rivers, but a rosy youth, bought of a Mitylenean dealer, or one from Lacedaemon not yet whipped by his mother's order. My messenger to you will be a slave from the subdued Danube, only fit to tend sheep at Tivoli.
In this whole book there are thirty bad epigrams; if there are as many good ones, Lausus, the book is good.
Whilst the barber Eutrapelus is going the round of Lupercus's face, and carefully smoothing his cheeks, another beard springs up.
While my portrait is being taken for Caecilius Secundus,1 and the picture, painted by a skilful hand, seems to breathe, go, my book, to the Getic Peuce 2 and the submissive Danube; this is his post, among the conquered people. You will be a little gift to my dear friend, but acceptable: my countenance will be more truly read in my verse than in the picture. Here it will live, indestructible by accidents or lapse of years, when the work of Apelles shall be no more.
For sometimes writing quatrains which are not devoid of humour, Sabellus, and for composing a few distichs prettily, I commend you; but I am not astonished at you. It is easy to write a few epigrams prettily; but to write a book of them is difficult.
I used to be invited to your birth-day feasts, before I had become your intimate friend, Sextus. How has it come to pass, I ask, how has it so suddenly come to pass, that, after so many pledges of affection on my part, and after the lapse of so many years, I, old friend as I am, am not included in your invitations. But I know the reason; I have not sent you a pound of refined silver, or a fine toga, or a warm cloak. The sportula which is made a matter of traffic, is a sportula no longer.3 You feed presents, Sextus, and not friends. But you will now tell me, "I will punish the slave omitting to deliver my invitations."
If my friend Flaccus delights in a long-eared lagolopex; 1 if Canius likes a sad-coloured Aethiopian; if Publius is passionately fond of a little puppy; if Cronius loves an ape resembling himself; if a mischievous ichneumon forms the gratification of Marius; if a talkative magpie pleases you, Lausus; if Glaucilla twines an icy snake round her neck; if Tetania has bestowed a tomb on a nightingale; why should not the face of Labycas, worthy of Cupid himself be an object of love to him who sees that things so strange furnish pleasure to his betters?
It is reported (if fame says true) that the beautiful town of Vienna counts the perusal of my works among its pleasures. I am read there by every old man, every youth, and every boy, and by the chaste young matron in presence of her grave husband. This triumph affords me more pleasure than if my verses were recited by those who drink the Nile at its very source, or than if my own Tagus loaded me with Spanish gold, or Hybla and Hymettus fed my bees. I am then really something, and not deceived by the interested smoothness of flattery's tongue. I shall henceforth, I think, believe you, Lausus.1
Go, happy rose, and wreathe with a delicate chaplet the tresses of my Apollinaris. Remember, also, to wreathe them even after they are grown grey, but far distant be that time! So may Venus ever love you.
Matho exults that I have produced a book full of inequalities; if this be true, Matho only commends my verses. Books without inequalities are produced by Calvinus and Umber. A book that is all bad, Creticus, may be all equality.
I send you, eloquent Juvenal, some nuts from my little farm as a present for the Saturnalia. The libertine god who protects it, has given the rest of the fruits to amorous young ladies.
"If you want anything, you know it is not necessary to solicit my assistance," is what you tell me two or three times every day. The stern Secundus calls upon me with harsh voice to repay him. You hear, Baccara, but do not know what I want. My rent is demanded of me, loudly and openly, in your very presence: you hear, Baccara, but do not know what I want. I complain of my worn-out cloak, that will not protect me from the cold: you hear, Baccara, but do not know what I want. I will tell you then what I want; it is that you may become dumb by a sudden stroke of paralysis, and so be unable to talk to me of what I want.
Narnia, surrounded by the river Nar 1 with its sulphureous waters, you whom your double heights render almost inaccessible, why does it delight you so often to take from me, and detain with wearisome delay, my friend Quintus? Why do you lessen the attractions of my Nomentan farm. which was valued by me because he was my neighbour there? Have pity on me at length, Narnia, and abuse not your possession of Quintus: so may you enjoy your bridge for ever!
What the small onyx box contained was perfume; Papilus smelt it, and it is become a mass of corruption.
It is winter, and rude December is stiff with ice; vet you dare, Linus, to stop every one who meets you, on this side and on that, with your freezing kiss, and to kiss, indeed, the whole of Rome. What could you do more severe or more cruel, if you were assaulted and beaten? I would not have a wife kiss me in such cold as this, or the affectionate lips of an innocent daughter. But you are more polite, more refined, you, from whose dog-like nose depends a livid icicle, and whose beard is as stiff as that of a Cinyphian he-goat,1 which the Cilician barber clips with shears. I prefer meeting a hundred of the vilest characters, and I have less fear of a recently consecrated priest of Cybele. If, therefore, Linus, you have any sense or decency, defer, I pray you, your winter salutations till the month of April.
Here I, the child Urbicus, to whom the mighty city of Rome gave both birth and name, repose; an object of mourning to Bassus. Six months were wanting to complete my third year, when the stern goddesses broke my fatal thread. What did my beauty, my prattle, my tender years avail me? You who read the inscription before you, drop a tear upon my tomb. So may he, whom you shall desire to survive yourself be preserved from the waters of Lethe till he has reached an age greater than that of Nestor.
If my book, you are well acquainted with Camus Sabinus, the glory of the mountainous Umbria, the fellow-townsman of my friend Aulus Pudens, you will present these lines to him, even though he be engaged. Though a thousand cares may besiege and press upon him, he will still have leisure for my verses; for he loves me, and will read me next to the noble compositions of Turnus.1 Oh, what renown is in store for me! what glory! what numbers of admirers! You will be celebrated at feasts, at the bar, in the temples, the streets, the porticoes, the shops. You are sent to one, but you will be read by all.
You buy everything, Castor; the consequence will be, that you will sell everything.
So, Crispinus, may you always see the Thunderer's 2 face, looking serene, and so may Rome love you not less than your own Memphis, as my verses shall be read in the Parrhasian palace;3 (for the sacred ear of Caesar usually deigns to listen to them). Take courage to say of me, as a candid reader, "This poet adds something to the glory of your age, nor is he very much inferior to Marsus and the learned Catullus." That is sufficient; the rest I leave to the god himself.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2008. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
|Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts|