Martial, Epigrams. Book 10. Bohn's Classical Library (1897)
If I seem to be a book of undue size, with my end too much delayed, read only a small portion of me; I shall then be to you but a little book. Each of my pages is occupied by but three or four short pieces; make me as short as you please for yourself.
The labour, which I bestowed upon this tenth book, being too hurried, made it necessary that the work, which had slipped from my hands, should be revised. You will read here some pieces which you have had before, but they are now repolished by the file; the new part will be the larger; but be favourable, reader, to both; for you are my true support; since, when Rome gave you to me, she said, "I have nothing greater to give you. By his means you will escape the sluggish waves of ungrateful Lethe, and will survive in the better part of yourself. The marble tomb of Messale is split by the wild fig, and the audacious muleteer laughs at the mutilated horses of the statue of Crispus.1 But as for writings, they are indestructible either by thieves or the ravages of time; such monuments alone are proof against death."
A certain anonymous poet is circulating the jargon of slaves, foul satires, and filthy turpitudes, such as are uttered only by low vagabonds; vulgarisms such as even a dealer in broken Vatinian glass would not purchase at the price of a sulphur match; and these he attempts to pass off as mine. Do you believe, Priscus, that the parrot can speak with the note of the quail, and that Canus 1 would wish to be a bagpiper? Far from my little books be such foul fame; books which the fairest reputation bears aloft on unsullied wing. Why should I labour to attain a disgraceful notoriety, when I can remain silent without loss?
You who read of Oedipus, of Thyestes deserted by the sun, of the Colchian princess (Medea), and of the Scyllas, of what do you read but fabulous wonders? Of what advantage to you is the story of the rape of Hylas, or of Parthenopaeus, or of Atys, or of the sleeper Endymion? Or of the youth Icarus despoiled of his falling wings? or of Hermaphroditus, who shuns the amorous waters? What do the empty tales of such frivolous writings profit you? Read in this book of mine of real life, of which you may say, "It is mine." You will not. find here Centaurs, or Gorgons, or Harpies; my pages savour of man. But if you have no wish, Mamurra, to study the manners of the times, or to know yourself you may read the myths of Callimachus.1
Whoever, despising the matron and the noble, whom he ought to respect, has injured them with impious verse; may he wander through town after town, an outcast on bridge and hill, and lowest among craving mendicants, may he entreat for mouthfuls of the spoilt bread reserved for the dogs. May December be dreary to him, and the dripping winter and close cell prolong the cheerless cold. May he call those blessed, and pronounce them happy, who are borne past him upon the funeral bier. And when the thread of his last hour is spun, and the day of death, which has seemed too slow, has arrived, may he hear around him the howling of dogs for his body, and have to drive off the birds of prey by shaking his rags. Nor may the punishment of the abject wretch end with his death; but, sometimes lashed with the thongs of the severe Aeacus, sometimes burdened with the mountain-stone of unresting Sisyphus, sometimes thirsting amid the waters of the babbling old Tantalus, may he exhaust all the fabled torments of the poets; and when the Furies shall have compelled him to confess the truth, may he exclaim, betrayed by his conscience, "I wrote those verses."
Happy are they whom Fortune has permitted to behold this leader beaming with the rays of northern suns and constellations! When will that day come, on which the fields, and the trees, and every window shall shine resplendent, adorned by the ladies of Rome? When shall be witnessed the delightful halts on the road, the distant clouds of dust telling of Caesar's approach, and the spectacle of all Rome assembled in the Flaminian Way? When will you, Knights, and you Moors clad in rich Egyptian tunics, go forth to meet him? And when will the unanimous voice of the people exclaim, "He comes"?
O Rhine, father of the nymphs and streams that drink the northern snows, so may your waters ever flow unconcealed, and no barbarous wheel of insolent rustic traverse or his foot trample your ice-hound surface; so may you pursue your way; receiving your golden tributaries, and owning the sway of Rome on either bank, as you shall send back Trajan to his people and to his city. This does our Tiber, your master, implore of you.
Paula wishes to be married to me; I am unwilling to marry Paula, because she is an old woman; but I should have no objection, if she were still older.
I am that Martial known to all nations and people by my verses of eleven feet,1 my hendecasyllables, and my jokes, which however are without malice. Why do you envy me? I am not better known than the horse Andraemon.
While you, who open the year with laurel-wreathed fasces, wear away a thousand door-steps with your morning calls, what remains for me to do? What do you leave to me, Paulus, who am sprung from Numa's people, and am simply one of the plebeian crowd? Shall I salute as lord and king every one who honours me with a look? This you do yourself; and oh! with what superior grace! Shall I follow somebody's litter, or chair? You are not above this office yourself and you even struggle for the distinction of walking foremost through the midst of the mud. Shall I frequently rise to applaud a poet who recites his verses? You remain standing all the time, with both hands stretched out towards the author. What is a poor man to do, when he cannot even be a client? Your purple has supplanted our plain togas.
You speak of nothing but Theseus and Pirithous, and you imagine yourself equal to Pylades. May I perish if you are worthy to hand a chamber-vessel to Pylades, or to feed Pirithous's pigs. "Yet I have given my friend," say you, "five thousand sesterces, and a toga (O bounty!), not more than three or four times scoured." Munificent gift! Pylades never gave anything to Orestes: a man who gives to his friend, however much, withholds still more.
You who are going to visit the people of Aemilia, and of Vercellae dear to Apollo, and the fields of the Po, renowned for the death of Phaeton, may I perish, Domitius, if I do not cheerfully allow you to depart, although without your society no day is tolerable to me. But what I greatly desire is this; that, if for only one summer, you would relieve your neck of the yoke imposed upon it by a residence in town. Go, I pray you, and inhale the fervid rays of the sun at every pore. How handsome you will become during your journey! And when you return, you will be past recognition by your pale-faced friends, and the pallid crowd will envy the colour of your cheeks. But Rome will soon take away the colour which your journey gives you, even though you should return as black as an Ethiopian.
While a chariot carries your effeminate minions sitting at their ease, and African out-riders toil in your service along the dusty road; while your sumptuous couches surround your baths which rival those of Baiae, the waters whitened with perfumes; while measures of Setine wine sparkle in your brilliant glasses, and Venus sleeps not on a softer couch; you pass your nights upon the threshold of a proud harlot, and her deaf gate is wet, alas! with your tears; nor do sighs cease to rend your sad breast. Shall I tell you, Tucca, why matters go so ill with you? It is because they go too well.
You say, Crispus, that you yield to no one of my friends in affection for me; but what, I pray, do you do to prove the truth of this assertion? When I asked for a loan of five thousand sesterces, you refused me, though your overstocked cash-box could not contain your hoards. When did you give me a bushel of beans or grain, though you have lands ploughed by Egyptian husbandmen? When was even a scanty toga sent me in the cold winter season? When did half a pound of silver find its way to me? I see nothing to make me look upon you as a friend, Crispus, but your habit of putting yourself quite at ease in my presence.
Aper has pierced the heart of his richly-dowered wife with a sharp arrow. But it was in play. Aper is skilful at play.
If you call it making a present, Caius, to promise and not to give, I will far outdo you in gifts and presents. Receive from me all that the Asturian has extracted from the mines of Gallicia; all that the golden wave of the rich Tagus possesses ; all that the swarthy Indian finds in the seaweed of the Erythraean sea; all that the solitary bird amasses in its nest; all that industrious Tyre collects in her Phoenician coppers; all that the whole world possesses, receive from me,-----after your own manner of giving.
In vain, my Muse, would you defraud Macer of his tribute at the Saturnalia; you cannot, he himself asks you for it. He demands the customary jokes, and cheerful verses; and complains that he no longer hears my jests. But he is now engaged upon long computations of surveyors; and what will become of you, O Appian Way, if Macer reads my epigrams?
Marius neither asks any one to dinner, nor sends presents, nor becomes security for any one, nor is willing to lend; indeed he has nothing to lend. Nevertheless a crowd is found to court his barren friendship. Alas, how besotted, Rome, are the wearers of your toga!
Go, my Thalia, and present to the eloquent Pliny my little book, which though not learned enough or very grave, is not entirely devoid of elegance. When you have passed the Suburra, it is no long labour to ascend the steep pathway over the Esquiline hill. There you will see a glittering statue of Orpheus on the top of a perfume-sprinkled theatre, surrounded by beasts wondering at his music; and among them the royal bird which carried off Ganymede for the Thunderer. Near it is the humble house of your friend Pedo, surmounted by an eagle with smaller wings. But take care lest, in a moment of indiscretion, you knock at the learned Pliny's door at an inauspicious time. He devotes his whole days to the severe Minerva, while preparing for the ears of the centumviri that which our own age and posterity may compare even with the eloquent pages of Cicero. You will go with the best chance of success when the evening lamps are lighted. That hour is for you the best when the god or wine reigns, when the rose holds its sway, and the hair is moistened with perfumes. Then even rigid Catos read me.
That Celtiberian Salo draws me to its auriferous banks, that I am pleased again to visit the dwellings of my native land suspended amid rocks, you, Manius, are the cause; you who have been beloved of me from my infant years, and cherished with affection in the days of my youth; than whom there is no one in all Iberia dearer to me, or more worthy of real regard. With you I should delight even in a tent of the Libyan desert, or a hut of the savage Scythian. If your sentiments are the same, if our affections are mutual, every place will be a Rome to us both.
Why, I ask, Sextus, is it your delight to produce compositions which even Modestus himself, or Claranus, could scarcely understand? Your books require, not a reader, but an Apollo. In your judgment Cinna was a greater poet than Virgil. May your works receive similar praise! As for mine, I am content that they please the Grammarians, provided they please others without the aid of Grammarians.
Do you ask, Philaenis, why I often come abroad with plaster on my chin, or with my lips covered with salve when nothing ails them? I do not wish to kiss you.
The happy Antonius Primus now numbers fifteen Olympiads (75 years) passed in tranquillity; he looks back upon the days that are gone, and the whole of his past years, without fearing the waters of Lethe to which he daily draws nearer. Not one day of his brings remorse or an unpleasant reflection; there is none which he would be unwilling to recall. A good man lengthens his term of existence; to be able to enjoy our past life is to live twice.
O Kalends of March, anniversary of my birth, day more charming to me than any other kalends, day on which even maidens send me presents, I place upon the hearth, in honour of you, these cakes, and this censer, for the fifty-seventh time. To these years (provided it be for my good) add at my entreaty, I beseech you, twice nine more, so that I may descend to the groves of the Elysian queen while still undisabled with protracted old age, yet having accomplished the three stages of life. After such a Nestor's existence, I will not ask for a single day more.
If that Mucius, whom we lately beheld in the arena in the morning, and who thrust his hand into the blaring fire, appears to you to be a man of patience, fortitude, and endurance, you have no more sense than the people of Abdera; for when a man is commanded, with the alternative of the pitched shirt before his eyes, to burn his hand, it would be more courageous to say, "I will not burn it!"
O Varus, you who were but lately a Roman officer of rank among the Paraetonian cities, and a distinguished leader of a hundred men, are now reposing, a strange shade, on the Egyptian shore; your return is vainly expected by the Ausonian Quirinus. It was not permitted us to moisten your parching lips with our tears, nor to place rich incense on your sad pyre. But an enduring tribute shall be given you in immortal verse. Would you, perfidious Nile, also deprive us of this?
On your birth-day, Diodorus, the senate and a great many knights sit as guests at your table; and your sportula is a largess of no less than thirty sesterces to each person. And yet, Diodorus, no one regard's you as a man of birth.
O most honoured father of years, and of this glorious universe, to whom first of all the gods the public vows and prayers are addressed, you were formerly wont to dwell in a small temple, open to all, and through which the busy crowd of Rome wore their constant way. Now your threshold is surrounded with tokens of the munificence of Caesar, and you number, Janus, as many forums as you have faces. But do you, venerable father, in gratitude for such a boon, secure your iron gates with a perpetual bolt.1
The dish which you were wont to present to me, Sextilianus, at the Saturnalia, you have bestowed on your mistress: and with the price of my toga, which you used to give me on the first of March, you have bought her a green dinner robe. Your mistresses now begin to cost you nothing; you enjoy them at my expense.
O delightful shore of salubrious Formiae; Apollinaris, when he flees from the city of stern Mars, and wearied lays aside his anxious cares, prefers you to every other spot. The charming Tivoli, the birth-place of his virtuous wife, is not to him so attractive, neither are the retreats of Tusculum, or Algidus, or Praeneste, or Antium. He pines not after the bland Circe, or Trojan Caieta, or Marica, or Liris, or the fountain of Salmacis, which feeds the Lucrine lake. At Formiae the surface of the ocean is but gently crisped by the breeze; and though tranquil, is ever in motion, and bears along the painted skiff under the influence of a gale as gentle as that wafted by a maiden's fan when she is distressed by heat. Nor has the fishing-line to seek its victim far out at sea; but the fish may be seen beneath the pellucid waters, seizing the line as it drops from the chamber or the couch. Were Aeolus ever to send a storm, the table, still sure of its provision, might laugh at his railings; for the native fish-pool protects the turbot and the pike; delicate lampreys swim up to their master; delicious mullet obey the call of the keeper, and the old carp come forth at the sound of his voice. But when does Rome permit him to partake of these enjoyments? How many days at Formiae does the year allot to him, closely chained as he is to the pursuits of the city? Happy gate-keepers and bailiffs! These gratifications provided for your masters, are enjoyed by you.
You sold a slave yesterday for the sum of thirteen hundred sesterces, in order, Calliodorus, that you might dine well once in your life. Nevertheless you did not dine well; a mullet of four pounds' weight, which you purchased, was the chief dish, the very crown of your repast. I feel inclined to exclaim, "It was not a fish, shameless fellow, it was a man, a veritable man, Calliodorus, that you ate."
Do you ask, Caedicianus, whose lineaments are traced in this picture, which I am adorning with roses and violets? Such was Marcus Antonius Primus in the prime of life; in this portrait the old man sees himself in his youth. Would that art could have painted his character and his mind There would then be no fairer portrait in the whole world.
Munatius Gallus, more simple in manners than the Sabines of old, more virtuous than the Athenian sage (Socrates), so may the chaste Venus bless your union, and give you to inherit the noble mansion of your father-in-law, as you exculpate me from having written any verses, tinged with foul malice, which malevolence may have attributed to me; and as you insist that no poet, who is read, composes such verses. In all my writings my rule has ever been to lash vices without attacking persons.
May the gods grant you, O Trajan our prince, whatsoever you deserve, and may they ratify in perpetuity whatsoever they grant; you who restores to the patron the right of which he had been deprived. He will no longer be regarded by his freedmen as an exile. You are worthy and able to protect the whole body of citizens, and if occasion serves you will prove the truth of my words.1
Let all maidens, who would please only one husband, read Sulpicia. Let all husbands, who would please only one wife, read Sulpicia. She does not describe the fury of Medea, or paint the feast of the accursed Thyestes; nor does she believe in the existence of Scylla or Byblis; but she tells of chaste and affectionate loves, of pure sports, gratifications, and amusements. He who shall properly estimate her poems, will say that no one is more modest, no one more loving. Such I should suppose were the endearments of Egeria in the cool grotto of Numa. With Sulpicia as fellow-student, or as an instructress, Sappho might have been more learned, and more chaste; and had cruel Phaon seen both at the same time, he would rather have fallen in love with Sulpicia. But in vain; for she would not sacrifice Calenus to become either the queen of the Thunderer, or the beloved of Bacchus or Apollo.
Whatever the dishonest wine vaults of Marseilles contain, whatever cask has assumed age by the help of the flame, comes to us, Munna, from you: to your unfortunate friends you send, across seas and by circuitous paths, cruel poisons; nor do you supply them on moderate terms, but at a price for which wine from Falernum, or Setis, so esteemed for their cellars, would be sufficient. Your reason for not coming to Rome during so long a period is, I suspect, lest you should have to drink your own wine.
O Maternus, most scrupulous observer of law and equity, you who rule the Roman forum by your convincing eloquence, have you any commands for the Spanish sea to send by your fellow-townsman and old friend? Or do you imagine it better to catch hideous frogs on the shores of the Tiber, and to angle for poor stickle-backs, than to be able to throw back to its rocky bed the captured mullet because less than three pounds' weight? And to feast, at your principal meal, upon a stale crab or a dish of periwinkles, rather than upon oysters which may compare with those of Baiae, and which even the servants are permitted by their master to eat? At Rome you hunt with much ado a stinking fox into your toils, and the filthy captive wounds your dogs. There (at Bilbilis) the wet fishing nets scarcely drawn up from the depths full of fish, entangle the hares. While I am speaking, see, your fisherman returns with empty creel, and your huntsman comes home proud of having caught a badger; your every feast comes from the city market to the coast. Have you any commands for the Spanish sea?
Oh how delicious have been the fifteen years of married bliss, Calenus, which the deities have lavished, in full measure, on you and your Sulpicia! Oh happy nights and hours, how joyfully has each been marked with the precious pearls of the Indian shore! 1 Oh what contests, what voluptuous strife between you, has the happy couch, and the lamp dripping with Niceronian perfume, witnessed! You have lived, Calenus, three lustra, and the whole term is placed to your account, but you count only your days of married life. Were Atropos, at your urgent request, to bring back to you just one of those days, you would prefer it to the long life of Nestor quadrupled.
Why do you swear, Lesbia, that you were born in the consulship of Brutus? Yon say falsely, Lesbia, you were born in the reign of Numa. Should you even admit that, you would seem to say falsely; for, judging by your decrepitude, you must have been formed by the hand of Prometheus.
As I was constantly told that my mistress Polla indulged in improper connection with a young libertine, I surprised them, and found they were as proper as my own.
On the return of January you desert your old husband, Proculeia, and force him to consent to a separation of property. What, I ask, has happened? Why this sudden discontent? You answer not? I will tell you then: He was elected Praetor; his Megalesian purple robe would have cost you a hundred thousand sesterces, even if you had given shows of the most economical kind: and the public festivities would have cost twenty thousand more. This is not a divorce, Proculeia: it is an artifice to save money.
So light is the down upon your cheeks, and so soft, that a breath, or the heat of the sun, or a light breeze, would disperse it. They are clothed like young quinces which are deprived of their bloom, and become smooth by the touch of a maiden's thumb. Were I to kiss you rather eagerly five times or so, I should become bearded, Dindymus, from the spoil of your lips.
Your seventh wife, Phileros, is now being buried in your field. No man's field brings him greater profit than yours, Phileros.
You, Quintus Ovidius, who are about to visit the Caledonian Britons, and the green Tethys, and father Ocean; will you then resign Numa's hills, and the comfort of Nomentan retreats? and does the country, and your own fireside, fail to retain you in your old age? You defer enjoyment, but Atropos does not at the same time lay aside her spindle, and every passing hour is placed to your account. You show by performing a kindness to a dear friend (and who would not praise such conduct?) that a sacred regard to your word is clearer to you than life. But may you at length be restored to your Sabine estate, long to remain there, and remember yourself among your friends!
If my little books contain anything gentle and graceful, if my page teems with pleasing terms of eulogy, you think them insipid; and when I offer you the choicest bits of a Laurentian boar, you prefer to gnaw the bones. Drink Vatican wine, it you like something sour; my spread is not for your stomach.
You are always wishing, Matho, to speak finely; speak sometimes merely well; sometimes neutral; sometimes even ill.1
The things that make life happy, dearest Martial, are these: wealth not gained by labour, but inherited; lands that make no ill return; a hearth always warm; freedom from litigation; little need of business costume; a quiet mind; a vigorous frame; a healthy constitution; prudence without cunning; friends among our equals, and social intercourse; a table spread without luxury; nights, not of drunkenness, yet of freedom from care; a bed, not void of connubial pleasures, yet chaste; sleep, such as makes the darkness seem short; contentment with our lot, and no wish for change; and neither to fear death nor seek it.
The priesthood of the Pharian heifer 1 announce to her the eighth hour,2 and the guard armed with javelins now return to their quarters.3 Now the warm baths have acquired a proper temperature; at the preceding hour they exhaled an intolerable excess of steam; at the sixth the heat of the baths of Nero is unsupportable. Stella, Nepos, Canius, Cerealis, Flaccus, are you coming? The sigma (dinner-couch) holds seven: we are only six, add Lupus. My bailiff's wife has brought me mallows, to aid digestion, and other treasures of the garden; among them are lettuces and leeks for slicing; nor is mint, the antidote to flatulence, or stimulant elecampane, wanting. Slices of egg shall crown anchovies dressed with rue; and there shall be sow's teats swimming in tunny-sauce. These will serve as whets for the appetite. My little dinner will all be placed on table at once; there will be a kid snatched from the jaws of the rapacious wolf; there will be tid-bits such as have no need of a carver; there will be haricot beans, and young cabbage sprouts. To these will be added a chicken; and a ham which has already appeared at table three times. For dessert I will give ripe fruits; wine from a Nomentan flagon which was filled in the second consulship of Frontinus. All shall be seasoned with pleasantry free from bitterness; there shall be no licence of speech that brings repentance on the morrow, and nothing said that we should wish unsaid. But my guests may speak of the rival factions in the circus, and my cups shall make no man guilty.
While you yourself Cotta, drink out of Amethystine cups, and regale yourself with the rich wine of Opimius, you offer me new Sabine wine, and say to me, "Will you have it in a cup of gold?" Who would have leaden wine in a golden cup?
Let Victory in sadness break her Idumaean palms; O Favour, strike your bare breast with unsparing hand. Let Honour change her garb for that of mourning; and make your crowned locks, O disconsolate Glory, an offering to the cruel flames. Oh! sad misfortune! that you, Scorpus, should be cut off in the flower of your youth, and be called so prematurely to harness the dusky steeds of Pluto. The chariot-race was always shortened by your rapid driving; but O why should your own race have been so speedily run?
The Tyrian bull 1 now looks back on the constellation of the ram of Phryxus,2 and the winter flees from Castor, visible alternately with his brother.3 The country smiles; the earth resumes its verdure, the trees their foliage; and plaintive Philomel renews her strain. Of what bright days at Ravenna does Rome deprive you, Faustinus! O you suns! O retired ease in the simple tunic! O groves! O fountains! O sandy shores moist but firm! O rocky Anxur, towering in splendour above the azure surface! and the couch, which commands the view of more than one water, beholding on one side the ships of the river, on the other those of the sea! But there are no theatres of Marcellus or of Pompey, no triple baths, no four forums; nor the lofty temple or Capitoline Jove; nor other glittering temples that almost reach the heaven to which they are consecrated. How often do I imagine I hear you, when thoroughly wearied, saying to the Founder of Rome: "Keep what is yours, and restore me what is mine."
Numa, one day, saw the eunuch Thelys dressed in a toga. He remarked that it was a convicted adultress.
O Rome, I am Scorpus, the glory of your noisy circus, the object of your applause, your short-lived favourite. The envious Lachesis, when she cut me off in my twenty-seventh year, accounted me, in judging by the number of my victories, to be an old man.
You put fine dishes on your table, Olus, but you always put them on covered. This is ridiculous; in the same way I could put fine dishes on my table.
You expect me, Gallus, to be always at your service, and trudge up and down the Aventine mount three or four times a day. Cascellius extracts or repairs an aching tooth; Hyginus burns away the hairs that disfigure the eye; Fannius relieves, without cutting, the relaxed uvula; Eros effaces the degrading brand-marks from slaves' foreheads; Hermes is a very Podalirius in curing hernia; but tell me, Gallus, where is he that can cure the ruptured?
You used to send me a pound weight of silver; it has dwindled to half a pound of pepper! I cannot afford to buy my pepper, Sextus, so dear.
Whilst I frequented, Frontinus, the calm retreats of Anxur on the sea, and the neighbouring Baiae, with its villas on the shore, the groves free from the troublesome cicadae in the heats of July, and the freshwater lakes, I then was at leisure, in company with you, to cultivate the learned muses; but now mighty Rome exhausts me. Here, when is a day my own? I am tossed about in the vortex of the city; and my life is wasted in laborious nothingness; meantime I cultivate some wretched acres of a suburban farm, and keep my homestead near your temple, O sacred Romulus. But love is not testified solely by day and night attendance on a patron; nor does such waste of time become a poet. By the sacred Muses and by all the gods I swear that I love you, though I fail to exercise the officiousness of a mere client.
If one subject occupies a whole page, you pass over it; short epigrams, rather than good ones, seem to please you. A rich repast, consisting of every species of dish, is set before you, out only dainty bits gratify your taste. I do not covet a reader with such an over-nice palate; I want one that is not content to make a meal without bread.
Munna solicited Caesar for the rights of a teacher of three scholars; though he had always been accustomed to teach only two1.
Here reposes Erotion in the shade of the tomb that too early dosed around her, snatched away by relentless Fate in her sixth winter. Whoever you are that, after me, shall rule over these lands, render annual presents to her gentle shade. So, with undisturbed possession, so, with your family ever in health, may this stone be the only one of a mournful description on your domain.
Schoolmaster, be indulgent to your simple scholars; if you would have many a long-haired youth resort to your lectures, and the class seated round your critical table love you. So may no teacher of arithmetic, or of swift writing, be surrounded by a greater ring of pupils. The days are bright, and glow under the flaming constellation of the Lion, and fervid July is ripening the teeming harvest. Let the Scythian scourge with its formidable thongs, such as flogged Marsyas of Celaenae, and the terrible cane, the schoolmaster's sceptre, be laid aside, and sleep until the Ides of October. In summer, if boys preserve their health, they do enough.
Small though the tomb, traveller, on which you read these lines, it yields not in interest to the sepulchres of Mausolus or the Pyramids. I have lived long enough to be twice a spectator of the Secular Games; and my life lost nothing of happiness before my funeral pyre. Juno gave me five sons, and as many daughters; and their hands closed my dying eyes. Rare conjugal glory, too, was mine; my chaste love knew but one husband.
Polla, my queen, if you light upon any of my little books, do not regard my sportive sallies with knitted brow. Your own great bard, the glory of our Helicon, while he was sounding fierce wars with his Pierian trumpet, was yet not ashamed to say in sportive verse, "If I am not to play the part of Ganymede, what, Cotta, am I doing here?"1
Whilst you vaunt yourself Carmenion, a citizen of Corinth, and no one questions your assertion, why do you call me brother; I, who was born amongst the Iberians and Celts, a native of the banks of the Tagus? Is it that we seem alike in countenance? You walk about with shining wavy tresses; I with my Spanish crop stubborn and bristling. You are perfectly smooth from the daily use of depilatories; I am rough-haired both in limb and face. You have lisping lips and a feeble tongue; my infant daughter speaks with more force than you. Not more unlike is the dove to the eagle, the timid gazelle to the fierce lion, than you to me. Cease then, Carmenion, to call me brother, lest I call you sister.
Who, I ask, was so unfeeling, who so barbarous as to make you, Theopompus, a cook? Has any one the heart to defile a face such as this with the smut of a kitchen? Can any one pollute such locks with greasy soot? Who could better present cups, or crystal goblets? Out of what hand would the Falernian come with more relish? If this is the destiny of youth of such brilliant beauty, let Jupiter at once make a cook of Ganymede.
Plotia, the daughter of Pyrrha, the stepmother of Nestor, she whom Niobe, in her youth, saw grey-headed, she whom the aged Laertes called his grandmother, Priam his nurse, Thyestes his mother-in-law; Plotia, older than any crow, is at last laid lusting in this tomb along with bald Melanthion.
Though, Laelia, your home is not Ephesus, or Rhodes, or Mitylene, but a house in a patrician street at Rome; and though you had a mother from the swarthy Etruscans, who never painted her face in her life, and a sturdy father from the plains of Aricia; yet you (oh shame!) a countrywoman of Hersilia and Egeria, are perpetually repeating, in voluptuous Greek phrase, "My life, my soul." Such expressions should be reserved for the couch, and not even for every couch, but only that which is prepared by a mistress for a wanton lover. You pretend forsooth a wish to know how to speak as a chaste matron, but your lascivious movements would betray you. Though you were to learn all that Corinth can teach, Laelia, and practise it, you would never become a perfect Lais.
You set a watch upon your husband, Polla: you refuse to have any set upon yourself! This, Polla, is making a wife of your husband.
Because I produce scarcely one book in a whole year, I incur from you, learned Potitus, the censure of idleness. But with how much more justice might you wonder that I produce even one, seeing how fluently my whole day is frittered away! Sometimes I receive friends in the evening, to return my morning calls; others I have to congratulate on preferments, though no one has to congratulate me. Sometimes I am required to seal some document at the temple of the lustrous Diana on Mount Aventine; sometimes the first, sometimes the fifth hour, claims me for its occupations. Sometimes the consul detains me, or the praetor, or the dancers as they return; frequently, listening to a poet's recitation occupies the entire day. Nor can I fairly refuse a few minutes to a pleader, or a rhetorician, or a grammarian, should they make the request. After the tenth hour, I go fatigued to the bath, and to get my hundred farthings.1 What time have I, Potitus, for writing a book?
Whoever you are that desire for your parents a long and happy life, regard with sympathy the short inscription upon this marble tomb:----" Here Rabirius consigned two dear departed ones to the earth; no aged couple ever died under happier circumstances. Sixty years of married life were gently closed in one and the same night; a single pyre sufficed for both funerals." Yet Rabirius mourns them as though they had been snatched from him in the flower of their youth; nothing can be more unjustifiable than such lamentations.
Flatteries, in vain do you come to me, miserable objects, with prostituted lips! I am not about to celebrate a Lord or a God; there is now no longer any abode for you in this city. Go far away to the turbaned Parthians, and, with base and servile supplications, kiss the feet of their pageant kings. Here there is no lord, but an emperor; as senator, the most just of all the senate; one through whose efforts Truth, simple and unadorned, has been recovered from the Stygian realm. Under this prince, Rome, if you are discreet, beware of speaking in the language used to his predecessors.
A letter from my eloquent friend has brought with it a pleasing token of his friendship, an imposing present of a Roman toga; a toga not such as Fabricius, but as Apicius, would have been glad to wear; or as the knight Maecenas, the friend of Augustus, might have chosen, it would have been of less value in my estimation had any other person been the giver; it is not by every hand that a propitious sacrifice may be offered. Coming from you it is grateful to me; but even had I not loved your gift, Marcus, I must naturally love my own name.1 But more valuable than the gift, and more pleasing than even the name, is the kind attention and favour of so learned a man.
Have pity at length, Rome, upon the weary congratulatory the weary client: How long shall I be a dangler at levees, among crowds of anxious clients and toga-clad dependents, earning a hundred paltry coins 2 with a whole day's work, while Scorpus 3 triumphantly carries off in a single hour fifteen heavy bags of shining gold? I ask not as the reward of my little books (for what indeed are they worth?) the plains of Apulia, or Hybla, or the spice-bearing Nile, or the tender vines which, from the brow of the Setian hill, look down on the Pomptine marshes. What then do I desire, you ask?----To sleep.
Once upon a time Galla's demand was twenty thousand sesterces; and I admit she was not much too dear at the price. A year passed by: "I am yours," she said, "for ten thousand sesterces." This seemed to me more than she had asked before. Six months afterwards, when she came down to two thousand, I offered one thousand, which she refused. About two or three months later, so far from refusing this sum, she herself lowered her demand to four gold pieces. I declined to give it, and then she asked me to gave her a hundred sesterces; but even this sum seemed greatly too much. A miserable sportula of a hundred farthings would then have brought us together; that is, she proposed to accept it; but I told her I had bestowed it on my slave. Could she descend lower than this? She did; she now offers herself for nothing; but I decline.
Does this seem just to you, Fortune? A man who is not a native of Syria or of Parthia, not a knight from Cappadocian slave-cages, but one of the people of Remus, and a born subject of Numa, a man of agreeable manners, upright, and virtuous, a trustworthy friend, learned in the Greek and Roman languages, a man whose only fault (but that a great one) is, that he is a poet;----Maevius, I say, shivers in a faded black hood; while the mule-driver Incitatus glitters in purple.
Never did Carus do anything worse, Maximus, than to die of fever; the fever, too, was much in the wrong. The cruel destroyer should at least have been a quartan, so that he might have become his own doctor.
Yon are going, Macer, to the shores of Salona. Rare integrity and the love of justice will accompany you, and modesty follow in the train. A just governor always returns poorer than he went. O happy husbandman of the gold-producing country, you will send back your ruler with his purse empty; you will deplore his return, O Dalmatian, and escort him on his departure with mixed feelings of gratitude and sorrow. I, Macer, shall go among the Celts and the fierce Iberians, with deep regret for the loss of your companionship. But every page of mine that shall be circulated there, written with a pen made from the reeds of the fish-abounding Tagus, will record the name of Macer. So may I be read among old poets, and rank in your esteem as inferior to none but Catullus.
Near the fourth milestone from the city, Torquatus has a princely mansion: near the fourth milestone, Otacilius purchases a little country-house. Torquatus has built splendid warm baths of variegated marble; Otacilius erects a basin. Torquatus has laid out a plantation of laurels on his land; Otacilius sows a hundred chestnuts. When Torquatus was consul, Otacilius was chief magistrate of the village, and, proud of such a dignity, did not imagine himself a less personage than Torquatus. As, of old, the large ox made the small frog burst, so, I suspect, Torquatus will burst Otacilius.
Eros weeps whenever he casts his eye on beautiful vases of mottled myrrha, or on young slaves, or choice specimens of citron-wood; and he sighs from the very bottom of his heart, because, unhappy mortal, he cannot buy them all and carry them home with him. How many persons do the same as Eros, but with dry eyes! The greater portion of mankind laugh at such tears, and yet at heart are like him.
If discomfort to me is of any advantage to you, I will put on my toga to attend you at dawn, or even at midnight: I will endure the whistling blasts of the keen north wind; I will bear showers of rain, and brave storms of snow. But if you are not a fraction the better for all my sufferings, all these tortures inflicted on a free man, show some indulgence, I pray, to your fatigued client, and excuse him from such pointless toils, which are of no advantage to you, Gallus, and are painful to me.
You collect your straggling hairs on each side, Marinus, endeavouring to conceal the vast expanse of your shining bald pate by the locks which still grow on your temples. But the hairs disperse, and return to their own place with every gust of wind; flanking your bare pole on either side with crude tufts. We might imagine we saw Hermeros of Cydas standing between Spendophorus and Telesphorus. Why not confess yourself an old man? Be content to seem what you really are, and let the barber shave off the rest of your hair. There is nothing more contemptible than a bald man who pretends to have hair.
Do you wonder, Caedicianus, why Afer does not retire to rest? You see with whom he has to share his couch.
Ladon, a boatman on the Tiber, bought himself when grown old, a bit of land on the banks of his beloved stream. But as the overflowing Tiber often invaded it with raging floods, breaking into his ploughed fields, converting them in winter into a lake, he filled his worn-out boat, which was drawn up on the beach, with stones, making it a barrier against the floods. By this means he repelled the inundation. who would have believed it? An unseaworthy boat was the safe-guard of the boatman.
No one was ever so inflamed with ardour for a new mistress, as Laurus with love for the game of ball. But he who, in his prime, was the best of players, is now, after having ceased to play, the best of balls.1
Let Rome gratefully celebrate the first of October, the natal day of the eloquent Restitutus. Let us all join in solemn and pious orisons to celebrate your anniversary. A truce to litigation; let wax tapers, cheap tablets, and little table-napkins, propitatory gifts of the poor client, be deferred until the saturnalia of icy December. Let rich men now vie in the munificence of their offerings. Let the swelling merchant of the portico of Agrippa bring cloaks from the city of Cadmus. Let him who has been charged with drunkenness and midnight brawling present a dinner-robe to his defender. Has a maiden triumphed over the slanderer of her fair fame, let her, with her own hands, bring pure sardonyxes. Let the antiquary present you with a work from the chisel of Phidias. Let the hunter bring a hare, the farmer a kid, the fisherman a prey from the waters. If every one sends you his own peculiar gift, what do you think, Restitutus, that a poet ought to send you?
You are eager to take charge of all the praetors' bags, and ready to carry their tablets. You really are a very handy man.
This Juno, Polycletus, your happy workmanship and masterpiece, which would do honour to the hand of Phidias, displays such beauty, that, had she thus appeared on Mount Ida, the Judge would have felt no hesitation in preferring her to the other goddesses. If Jupiter had not loved his sister Juno, he might, Polycletus, have fallen in love with your Juno.
Almo has none but eunuchs about him, and is himself impotent; yet he complains that his wife Polla produces him nothing.
To you, Marius, the admirer of a tranquil life, you who shared mine with me, you the glory of the ancient town of Atina, I commend these twin pines, the pride of a rustic grove, these holm oaks sacred to the Fauns, and these altars dedicated to the Thunderer and the shaggy Silvanus, erected by the unpractised hand of my bailiff; altars which the blood of a lamb or a kid has frequently stained. I entrust to you also the virgin goddess, the patroness of this sacred temple; him, too, whom you see the guest of his chaste sister, Mars, my patron deity; and the laurel grove of the tender Flora, into which she fled for refuse from the pursuit of Priapus. Whenever you propitiate these kind divinities of my little property, whether with blood or with incense, you will remember to say to them, "Behold the right hand of your absent votary, wherever he may be, unites with mine in offering this sacrifice. Imagine him present, and grant to both whatsoever either shall pray for."
If, Clemens, you see the Euganean coast of Helicaon, and the fields varied with vine-clad hills, before me, present to your wife Sabina, to whom Atesta gave birth, these verses not yet published, but just stitched up in a purple cover. As a rose which is newly plucked delights us, so a new book, not yet soiled with the beards of readers, gives us pleasure.
No Libyan dragon guards my orchards, no royal plantations of Alcinous serve me; but my garden flourishes in security with Nomentan trees, and my common fruits do not tempt the robber. I send you here, therefore, some of my rosy autumnal apples, gathered in the midst of the Suburra.
Your husband and your gallant alike refuse, Galla, to acknowledge your infant: thus, I consider, they plainly declare that they have done nothing to render you a mother.
You are astonished, Avitus, that I, who have grown old in the capital of Latium, should so often speak of countries afar off; that I should thirst for the gold-bearing Tagus, and my native Salo; and that I should long to return to the rude fields around my well-furnished cottage. But that land wins my affection, in which a small income is sufficient for happiness, and a slender estate affords even luxuries. Here we must nourish our fields: there the fields nourish us. Here the hearth is warmed by a half-starved fire; there it burns with unstinted brilliancy. Here to be hungry is an expensive gratification, and the market ruins us; there the table is covered with the riches of its own neighbourhood. Here four togas or more are worn out in a summer; there one suffices for four autumns. Go then and pay your court to patrons, while a spot exists which offers you everything that a protector refuses you.
While the lightly-piled funeral pyre was being supplied with paper to kindle it; while the desolate wife was buying myrrh and lavender; when the grave, the bier, the corpse-anointer, were all ready, Numa made me his heir, and forthwith recovered.
When my Caecuban wine is poured out for me by an attendant of yours, more delicate than the Idaean Ganymede, than whom neither your daughter, nor your wife, nor; your mother, nor your sister, recline more elegantly attired at table, would you have me rather look at your dress, and your old citron-wood furniture, and your Indian ivories? However that I may not, while your guest, incur your suspicions, let me be served by the son of some rank swineherd, or coarse fellow from a mean village, with bristling hair, rough, rude, and ill-grown. Your pretended modesty will betray you; you cannot have at the same time, Publius, such morals as you wish us to suppose, and such beautiful minions.
If these lineaments of Socrates could be supposed to represent a Roman, it would be Julius Rufus among the Satyrs(? Satirists).
Why, simpleton, do you mix your verses with mine? What have you to do, foolish man, with writings that convict you of theft? Why do you attempt to associate foxes with lions, and make owls pass for eagles? Though you had one of Laedas's legs, you would not be able, blockhead, to run with the other leg of wood.
If it were possible for Gabba, who owed so much to the patronage of Augustus, to return to earth from the Elysian plains, he who should hear Capitolinus and Gabba engage in a combat of wit, would say, "Dull Gabba, be silent"
You ask me, Avitus, how Philenus became a father, he who never did anything to gain the name? Gaditanus can tell you, he who, without writing anything, claims to be a poet.
Fellow townsmen, born upon the steep slope of Augustan Bilbilis, which Salo encompasses with its rapid waters, does the poetical glory of your bard afford you any pleasure? For my honour, and renown, and fame, are yours; nor does Verona, who would willingly number me among her sons, owe more to her tender Catullus. It is now thirty-four years that you have presented your rural offerings to Ceres without me; meanwhile I have been dwelling within the beautiful walls of imperial Rome, and the Italian clime has changed the colour of my hair. If you will receive me cordially, I come to join you; if your hearts are frigid, I shall quickly leave you.
Go, my little book, go; accompany my Flaccus across the wide, but propitious, waters of the deep, and with unobstructed course, and favouring winds, reach the towers of Hispanian Tarragona. Thence a chariot will take you, and, carried swiftly along, you will see the lofty Bilbilis, and your dear Salo, after the fifth change of carriages. Do you ask what are my commissions for you? That, the moment you arrive, you offer my respects to a few but old friends, whom I have not seen for four and thirty years, and that you then request my friend Flaccus to procure me a retreat, pleasant and commodious, at a moderate price; a retreat in which your author may enjoy his ease. That is all; now the master of the vessel is bawling loudly, and chiding your delay, and a fair wind favours the way out of the harbour. Farewell, my book. A single passenger, as I suppose you know, must not keep a vessel waiting.
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.
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