Horace, Satires, book 1
That all, but especially the covetous, think their own condition the hardest.
How comes it to pass, Maecenas, that no one lives content with his condition, whether reason gave it him, or chance threw it in his way but praises those who follow different pursuits? "O happy merchants!" says the soldier, oppressed with years, and now broken down in his limbs through excess of labor. On the other side, the merchant, when the south winds toss his ship cries, "Warfare is preferable;" for why? the engagement is begun, and in an instant there comes a speedy death or a joyful victory. The lawyer praises the farmer's state when the client knocks at his door by cock-crow. He who, having entered into a legal proceeding, is dragged from the country into the city, cries, "Those only are happy who live in the city." The other instances of this kind (they are so numerous) would weary out the loquacious Fabius; not to keep you in suspense, hear to what an issue I will bring the matter. If any god should say, "Lo! I will effect what you desire: you, that were just now a soldier, shall be a merchant; you, lately a lawyer shall be a farmer. Do ye depart one way, and ye another, having exchanged the parts you are to act in life. How now! why do you stand?" They are unwilling; and yet it is in their power to be happy. What reason can be assigned, but that Jupiter should deservedly distend both his cheeks in indignation, and declare that for the future he will not be so indulgent as to lend an ear to their prayers? But further, that I may not run over this in a laughing manner, like those who treat on ludicrous subjects (though what hinders one being merry, while telling the truth? as good-natured teachers at first give cakes to their boys, that they may be willing to learn their first rudiments: railery, however, apart, let us investigate serious matters). He that turns the heavy glebe with the hard ploughshare, this fraudulent tavern-keeper, the soldier, and the sailors, who dauntless run through every sea, profess that they endure toil with this intention, that as old men they may retire into a secure resting place, when once they have gotten together a sufficient provision.
Thus the little ant (for she is an example), of great industry, carries in her mouth whatever she is able, and adds to the heap which she piles up, by no means ignorant and not careless for the future. Which ant, nevertheless, as soon, as Aquarius saddens the changed year, never creeps abroad, but wisely makes use of those stores which were provided beforehand: while neither sultry summer, nor winter, fire, ocean, sword, can drive you from gain. You surmount every obstacle, that no other man may be richer than yourself. What pleasure is it for you, trembling to deposit an immense weight of silver and gold in the earth dug up by stealth? Because if you lessen it, it may be reduced to a paltry farthing.
But unless that be the case, what beauty has an accumulated hoard? Though your thrashing-floor should yield a hundred thousand bushels of grain, your belly will not on that account contain more than mine: just as if it were your lot to carry on your loaded shoulder the basket of bread among slaves, you would receive no more for your own share than he who bore no part of the burden. Or tell me, what is it to the purpose of that man, who lives within the compass of nature, whether he plow a hundred or a thousand acres?
"But it is still delightful to take out of a great hoard."
While you leave us to take as much out of a moderate store, why should you extol your granaries, more than our grain-baskets? As if you had occasion for no more than a pitcher or glass of water, and should say, "I had rather draw so much from a great river, than the very same quantity from this little fountain." Hence it comes to pass, that the rapid Aufidus carries away, together with the bank, such men as an abundance more copious than what is just delights. But he who desires only so much as is sufficient, neither drinks water fouled with the mud, nor loses his life in the waves.
But a great majority of mankind, misled by a wrong desire cry, "No sum is enough; because you are esteemed in proportion to what you possess." What can one do to such a tribe as this? Why, bid them be wretched, since their inclination prompts them to it. As a certain person is recorded to have lived at Athens, covetous and rich, who was wont to despise the talk of the people in this manner: "The crowd hiss me; but I applaud myself at home, as soon as I contemplate my money in my chest." The thirsty Tantalus catches at the streams, which elude his lips. Why do you laugh? The name changed, the tale is told of you. You sleep upon your bags, heaped up on every side, gaping over them, and are obliged to abstain from them, as if they were consecrated things, or to amuse yourself with them as you would with pictures. Are you ignorant of what value money has, what use it can afford? Bread, herbs, a bottle of wine may be purchased; to which necessaries, add such others, as, being withheld, human nature would be uneasy with itself. What, to watch half dead with terror, night and day, to dread profligate thieves, fire, and your slaves, lest they should run away and plunder you; is this delightful? I should always wish to be very poor in possessions held upon these terms.
But if your body should be disordered by being seized with a cold, or any other casualty should confine you to your bed, have you one that will abide by you, prepare medicines, entreat the physician that he would set you upon your feet, and restore you to your children and dear relations?
Neither your wife, nor your son, desires your recovery; all your neighbors, acquaintances, nay the very boys and girls hate you. Do you wonder that no one tenders you the affection which you do not merit, since you prefer your money to everything else? If you think to retain, and preserve as friends, the relations which nature gives you, without taking any pains; wretch that you are, you lose your labor equally, as if any one should train an ass to be obedient to the rein, and run in the Campus Martius. Finally, let there be some end to your search; and, as your riches increase, be in less dread of poverty; and begin to cease from your toil, that being acquired which you coveted: nor do as did one Umidius (it is no tedious story), who was so rich that he measured his money, so sordid that he never clothed him self any better than a slave; and, even to his last moments, was in dread lest want of bread should oppress him: but his freed-woman, the bravest of all the daughters of Tyndarus, cut him in two with a hatchet.
"What therefore do you persuade me to? That I should lead the life of Naevius, or in such a manner as a Nomentanus?"
You are going now to make things tally, that are contradictory in their natures. When I bid you not be a miser, I do not order you to become a debauchee or a prodigal. There is some difference between the case of Tanais and his son-in-law Visellius, there is a mean in things; finally, there are certain boundaries, on either side of which moral rectitude can not exist. I return now whence I digressed. Does no one, after the miser's example, like his own station, but rather praise those who have different pursuits; and pines, because his neighbor's she-goat bears a more distended udder: nor considers himself in relation to the greater multitude of poor; but labors to surpass, first one and then another? Thus the richer man is always an obstacle to one that is hastening to be rich: as when the courser whirls along the chariot dismissed from the place of starting; the charioteer presses upon those horses which outstrip his own, despising him that is left behind coming on among the last. Hence it is, that we rarely find a man who can say he has lived happy, and content with his past life, can retire from the world like a satisfied guest. Enough for the present: nor will I add one word more, lest you should suspect that I have plundered the writing desk of the blear-eyed Crispinus.
He apologizes for the liberties taken by satiric poets in general, and particularly by himself.
The poets Eupolis, and Cratinus, and Aristophanes, and others, who are authors of the ancient comedy, if there was any person deserving to be distinguished for being a rascal or a thief, an adulterer or a cut-throat, or in any shape an infamous fellow, branded him with great freedom. Upon these models Lucilius entirely depends, having imitated them, changing only their feet and numbers: a man of wit, of great keenness, inelegant in the composition of verse: for in this respect he was faulty; he would often, as a great feat, dictate two hundred verses in an hour, standing in the same position. As he flowed muddily, there was always something that one would wish to remove; he was verbose, and too lazy to endure the fatigue of writing - of writing accurately: for, with regard to the quantity of his works, I make no account of it. See! Crispinus challenges me even for ever so little a wager. Take, if you dare, take your tablets, and I will take mine; let there be a place, a time, and persons appointed to see fair play: let us see who can write the most. The gods have done a good part by me, since they have framed me of an humble and meek disposition, speaking but seldom, briefly: but do you, Crispinus, as much as you will, imitate air which is shut up in leathern bellows, perpetually puffing till the fire softens the iron. Fannius is a happy man, who, of his own accord, has presented his manuscripts and picture to the Palatine Apollo; when not a soul will peruse my writings, who am afraid to rehearse in public, on this account, because there are certain persons who can by no means relish this kind of satiric writing, as there are very many who deserve censure. Single any man out of the crowd; he either labors under a covetous disposition, or under wretched ambition. One is mad in love with married women, another with youths; a third the splendor of silver captivates: Albius is in raptures with brass; another exchanges his merchandize from the rising sun, even to that with which the western regions are warmed: but he is burried headlong through dangers, as dust wrapped up in a whirlwind; in dread lest he should lose anything out of the capital, or in hope that he may increase his store. All these are afraid of verses, they hate poets. "He has hay on his horn, they cry; avoid him at a great distance: if he can but raise a laugh for his own diversion, he will not spare any friend: and whatever he has once blotted upon his paper, he will take a pleasure in letting all the boys and old women know, as they return from the bakehouse or the lake." But, come on, attend to a few words on the other side of the question.
In the first place, I will except myself out of the number of those I would allow to be poets: for one must not call it sufficient to tag a verse: nor if any person, like me, writes in a style bordering on conversation, must you esteem him to be a poet. To him who has genius, who has a soul of a diviner cast, and a greatness of expression, give the honor of this appellation. On this account some have raised the question, whether comedy be a poem or not; because an animated spirit and force is neither in the style, nor the subject-matter: except that it differs from prose by a certain measure, it is mere prose. But one may object to this, that even in comedy an inflamed father rages, because his dissolute son, mad after a prostitute mistress, refuses a wife with a large portion; and (what is an egregious scandal) rambles about drunk, torch in hand by day-light. Yet could Pomponius, were his father alive, hear less severe reproofs! Wherefore it is not sufficient to write verses merely in proper language; which if you take to pieces, any person may storm in the same manner as the father in the play. If from these verses which I write at this present, or those that Lucilius did formerly, you take away certain pauses and measures, and make that word which was first in order hindermost, by placing the latter words before those that preceded in the verse; you will not discern the limbs of a poet, when pulled in pieces, in the same manner as you would were you to transpose ever so these lines of Ennius:
When discord dreadful bursts the brazen bars,
And shatters iron locks to thunder forth her wars.
So far of this matter; at another opportunity I may investigate whether a comedy be a true poem or not: now I shall only consider this point, whether this satiric kind of writing be deservedly an object of your suspicion. Sulcius the virulent, and Caprius hoarse with their malignancy, walk openly, and with their libels too in their hands; each of them a singular terror to robbers: but if a man lives honestly and with clean hands, he may despise them both. Though you be like highwaymen, Coelus and Byrrhus, I am not a common accuser, like Caprius and Sulcius; why should you be afraid of me? No shop nor stall holds my books, which the sweaty hands of the vulgar and of Hermogenes Tigellius may soil. I repeat to nobody, except my intimates, and that when I am pressed; nor any where, and before any body. There are many who recite their writings in the middle of the forum; and who do it while bathing: the closeness of the place, it seems, gives melody to the voice. This pleases coxcombs, who never consider whether they do this to no purpose, or at an unseasonable time. But you, says he, delight to hurt people, and this you do out of a mischievous disposition. From what source do you throw this calumny upon me? Is any one then your voucher, with whom I have lived? He who backbites his absent friend; nay more, who does not defend, at another's accusing him; who affects to raise loud laughs in company, and the reputation of a funny fellow, who can feign things he never saw; who cannot keep secrets; he is a dangerous man: be you, Roman, aware of him. You may often see it even in crowded companies, where twelve sup together on three couches; one of which shall delight at any rate to asperse the rest, except him who furnishes the bath; and him too afterward in his liquor, when truth-telling Bacchus opens the secrets of his heart. Yet this man seems entertaining, and well-bred, and frank to you, who are an enemy to the malignant: but do I, if I have laughed because the fop Rufillus smells all perfumes, and Gorgonius, like a he-goat, appear insidious and a snarler to you? If by any means mention happen to be made of the thefts of Petillius Capitolinus in your company, you defend him after your manner: as thus, Capitolinus has had me for a companion and a friend from childhood, and being applied to, has done many things on my account: and I am glad that he lives secure in the city; but I wonder, notwithstanding, how he evaded that sentence. This is the very essence of black malignity, this is mere malice itself: which crime, that it shall be far remote from my writings, and prior to them from my mind, I promise, if I can take upon me to promise any thing sincerely of myself. If I shall say any thing too freely, if perhaps too ludicrously, you must favor me by your indulgence with this allowance. For my excellent father inured me to this custom, that by noting each particular vice I might avoid it by the example of others. When he exhorted me that I should live thriftily, frugally, and content with what he had provided for me; don't you see, would he say, how wretchedly the son of Albius lives? and how miserably Barrus? A strong lesson to hinder any one from squandering away his patrimony. When he would deter me from filthy fondness for a light woman: take care, said he, that you do not resemble Sectanus. That I might not follow adulteresses, when I could enjoy a lawful amour: the character cried he, of Trobonius, who was caught in the fact, is by no means creditable. The philosopher may tell you the reasons for what is better to be avoided, and what to be pursued. It is sufficient for me, if I can preserve the morality traditional from my forefathers, and keep your life and reputation inviolate, so long as you stand in need of a guardian: so soon as age shall have strengthened your limbs and mind, you will swim without cork. In this manner he formed me, as yet a boy: and whether he ordered me to do any particular thing: You have an authority for doing this: then he instanced some one of the select magistrates: or did he forbid me any thing; can you doubt, says he, whether this thing be dishonorable, and against your interest to be done, when this person and the other is become such a burning shame for his bad character on these accounts? As a neighboring funeral dispirits sick gluttons, and through fear of death forces them to have mercy upon themselves; so other men's disgraces often deter tender minds from vices. From this method of education I am clear from all such vices, as bring destruction along with them: by lighter foibles, and such as you may excuse, I am possessed. And even from these, perhaps, a maturer age, the sincerity of a friend, or my own judgment, may make great reductions. For neither when I am in bed, or in the piazzas, am I wanting to myself: this way of proceeding is better; by doing such a thing I shall live more comfortably; by this means I shall render myself agreeable to my friends; such a transaction was not clever; what, shall I, at any time, imprudently commit any thing like it? These things I resolve in silence by myself. When I have any leisure, I amuse myself with my papers. This is one of those lighter foibles I was speaking of: to which if you do not grant your indulgence, a numerous band of poets shall come, which will take my part (for we are many more in number), and, like the Jews, we will force you to come over to our numerous party.
He describes a certain journey of his from Rome to Brundusium with great pleasantry.
Having left mighty Rome, Aricia received me in but a middling inn: Heliodorus the rhetorician, most learned in the Greek language, was my fellow-traveller: thence we proceeded to Forum-Appi, stuffed with sailors and surly landlords. This stage, but one for better travellers than we, being laggard we divided into two; the Appian way is less tiresome to bad travelers. Here I, on account of the water, which was most vile, proclaim war against my belly, waiting not without impatience for my companions while at supper. Now the night was preparing to spread her shadows upon the earth, and to display the constellations in the heavens. Then our slaves began to be liberal of their abuse to the watermen, and the watermen to our slaves. "Here bring to." "You are stowing in hundreds; hold, now sure there is enough." Thus while the fare is paid, and the mule fastened a whole hour is passed away. The cursed gnats, and frogs of the fens, drive off repose. While the waterman and a passenger, well-soaked with plenty of thick wine, vie with one another in singing the praises of their absent mistresses: at length the passenger being fatigued, begins to sleep; and the lazy waterman ties the halter of the mule, turned out a-grazing, to a stone, and snores, lying flat on his back. And now the day approached, when we saw the boat made no way; until a choleric fellow, one of the passengers, leaps out of the boat, and drubs the head and sides of both mule and waterman with a willow cudgel. At last we were scarcely set ashore at the fourth hour. We wash our faces and hands in thy water, O Feronia. Then, having dined we crawled on three miles; and arrive under Anxur, which is built up on rocks that look white to a great distance. Maecenas was to come here, as was the excellent Cocceius. Both sent ambassadors on matters of great importance, having been accustomed to reconcile friends at variance. Here, having got sore eyes, I was obliged to use the black ointment. In the meantime came Maecenas, and Cocceius, and Fonteius Capito along with them, a man of perfect polish, and intimate with Mark Antony, no man more so.
Without regret we passed Fundi, where Aufidius Luscus was praetor, laughing at the honors of that crazy scribe, his praetexta, laticlave, and pan of incense. At our next stage, being weary, we tarry in the city of the Mamurrae, Murena complimenting us with his house, and Capito with his kitchen.
The next day arises, by much the most agreeable to all: for Plotius, and Varius, and Virgil met us at Sinuessa; souls more candid ones than which the world never produced, nor is there a person in the world more bound to them than myself. Oh what embraces, and what transports were there! While I am in my senses, nothing can I prefer to a pleasant friend. The village, which is next adjoining to the bridge of Campania, accommodated us with lodging at night; and the public officers with such a quantity of fuel and salt as they are obliged to by law. From this place the mules deposited their pack-saddles at Capua betimes in the morning. Maecenas goes to play paddle ball; but I and Virgil to our repose: for to play paddle ball is hurtful to weak eyes and feeble constitutions.
From this place the villa of Cocceius, situated above the Caudian inns, which abounds with plenty, receives us. Now, my muse, I beg of you briefly to relate the engagement between the buffoon Sarmentus and Messius Cicirrus; and from what ancestry descended each began the contest. The illustrious race of Messius-Oscan: Sarmentus's mistress is still alive. Sprung from such families as these, they came to the combat. First, Sarmentus: "I pronounce thee to have the look of a mad horse." We laugh; and Messius himself says, "I accept your challenge:" and wags his head. "O!" cries he, "if the horn were not cut off your forehead, what would you not do; since, maimed as you are, you bully at such a rate?" For a foul scar has disgraced the left part of Messius's bristly forehead. Cutting many jokes upon his Campanian disease, and upon his face, he desired him to exhibit Polyphemus's dance: that he had no occasion for a mask, or the tragic buskins. Cicirrus retorted largely to these: he asked, whether he had consecrated his chain to the household gods according to his vow; though he was a scribe, he told him his mistress's property in him was not the less. Lastly, he asked, how he ever came to run away; such a lank meager fellow, for whom a pound of grain a-day would be ample. We were so diverted, that we continued that supper to an unusual length.
Hence we proceed straight on for Beneventum; where the bustling landlord almost burned himself, in roasting some lean thrushes: for, the fire falling through the old kitchen wall, the spreading flame made a great progress toward the highest part of the roof. Then you might have seen the hungry guests and frightened slaves snatching their supper out of the flames, and everybody endeavoring to extinguish the fire.
After this Apulia began to discover to me her well-known mountains, which the Atabulus scorches with his blasts: and through which we should never have crept, unless the neighboring village of Trivicus had received us, not without a smoke that brought tears into our eyes; occasioned by a hearth's burning some green boughs with the leaves upon them. Here, like a great fool as I was, I wait till midnight for a deceitful mistress; sleep, however, overcomes me while meditating love; and disagreeable dreams make me ashamed of myself and every thing about me.
Hence we were bowled away in carrying-chairs twenty-four miles, intending to stop at a little town, which one cannot name in a verse, but it is easily enough known by description. For water is sold here, though the worst in the world; but their bread is exceeding fine, inasmuch that the weary traveler is used to carry it willingly on his shoulders; for the bread at Canusium is gritty; a pitcher of water is worth no more than it is here: which place was formerly built by the valiant Diomedes. Here Varius departs dejected from his weeping friends.
Hence we came to Rubi, fatigued: because we made a long journey, and it was rendered still more troublesome by the rains. Next day the weather was better, the road worse, even to the very walls of Barium that abounds in fish. In the next place Egnatia, which seems to have been built on troubled waters, gave us occasion for jests and laughter; for they wanted to persuade us, that at this sacred portal the incense melted without fire. The Jew Apella may believe this, not I. For I have learned from Epicurus, that the gods dwell in a state of tranquillity; nor, if nature effect any wonder, that the anxious gods send it from the high canopy of the heavens.
Brundusium ends both my long journey, and my paper.
Of true nobility.
Not Maecenas, though of all the Lydians that ever inhabited the Tuscan territories, no one is of a nobler family than yourself; and though you have ancestors both on father's and mother's side, that in times past have had the command of mighty legions; do you, as the generality are wont, toss up your nose at obscure people, such as me, who has only a freed-man for my father: since you affirm that it is of no consequence of what parents any man is born, so that he be a man of merit. You persuade yourself, with truth, that before the dominions of Tullius, and the reign of one born a slave, frequently numbers of men descended from ancestors of no rank, have both lived as men of merit, and have been distinguished by the greatest honors: while on the other hand Laevinus, the descendant of that famous Valerius, by whose means Tarquinius Superbus was expelled from his kingdom, was not a farthing more esteemed on account of his family, even in the judgment of the people, with whose disposition you are well acquainted; who often foolishly bestow honors on the unworthy, and are from their stupidity slaves to a name: who are struck with admiration by inscriptions and statues. What is it fitting for us to do, who are far, very far removed from the vulgar in our sentiments? For grant it, that the people had rather confer a dignity on Laevinus than on Decius, who is a new man; and the censor Appius would expel me the senate-house, because I was not sprung from a sire of distinction: and that too deservedly, inasmuch as I rested not content in my own condition. But glory drags in her dazzling car the obscure as closely fettered as those of nobler birth. What did it profit you, O Tullius, to resume the robe that you were forced to lay aside, and become a tribune again? Envy increased upon you, which had been less, it you had remained in a private station. For when any crazy fellow has laced the middle of his leg with the sable buskins, and has let flow the purple robe from his breast, he immediately hears: "Who is this man? Whose son is he?" Just as if there be any one, who labors under the same distemper as Barrus does, so that he is ambitious of being reckoned handsome; let him go where he will, he excites curiosity among the girls of inquiring into particulars; as what sort of face, leg, foot, teeth, hair, he has. Thus he who engages to his citizens to take care of the city, the empire, and Italy, and the sanctuaries of the gods, forces every mortal to be solicitous, and to ask from what sire he is descended, or whether he is base by the obscurity of his mother. What? do you, the son of a Syrus, a Dana, or a Dionysius, dare to cast down the citizens of Rome from the Tarpeian rock, or deliver them up to Cadmus the executioner? But, you may say, my colleague Novius sits below me by one degree: for he is only what my father was. And therefore do you esteem yourself a Paulus or a Messala? But he (Novius), if two hundred carriages and three funerals were to meet in the forum, could make noise enough to drown all their horns and trumpets: this kind of merit at least has its weight with us.
Now I return to myself, who am descended from a freed-man; whom every body nibbles at, as being descended from a freed-man. Now, because, Maecenas, I am a constant guest of yours; but formerly, because a Roman legion was under my command, as being a military tribune. This latter case is different from the former: for, though any person perhaps might justly envy me that post of honor, yet could he not do so with regard to your being my friend! especially as you are cautious to admit such as are worthy; and are far from having any sinister ambitious views. I can not reckon myself a lucky fellow on this account, as if it were by accident that I got you for my friend; for no kind of accident threw you in my way. That best of men, Virgil, long ago, and after him, Varius, told you what I was. When first I came into your presence, I spoke a few words in a broken manner (for childish bashfulness hindered me from speaking more); I did not tell you that I was the issue of an illustrious father: I did not pretend that I rode about the country on a Satureian horse, but plainly what I really was; you answer (as your custom is) a few words: I depart: and you re-invite me after the ninth month, and command me to be in the number of your friends. I esteem it a great thing that I pleased you, who distinguish probity from baseness, not by the illustriousness of a father, but by the purity of heart and feelings.
And yet if my disposition be culpable for a few faults, and those small ones, otherwise perfect (as if you should condemn moles scattered over a beautiful skin), if no one can justly lay to my charge avarice, nor sordidness, nor impure haunts; if, in fine (to speak in my own praise), I live undefiled, and innocent, and dear to my friends; my father was the cause of all this: who though a poor man on a lean farm, was unwilling to send me to a school under the pedant Flavius, where great boys, sprung from great centurions, having their satchels and tablets swung over their left arm, used to go with money in their hands the very day it was due; but had the spirit to bring me a child to Rome, to be taught those arts which any Roman knight and senator can teach his own children. So that, if any person had considered my dress, and the slaves who attended me in so populous a city, he would have concluded that those expenses were supplied to me out of some hereditary estate. He himself, of all others the most faithful guardian, was constantly about every one of my preceptors. Why should I multiply words? He preserved me chaste (which is the first honor or virtue) not only from every actual guilt, but likewise from every foul imputation, nor was he afraid lest any should turn it to his reproach, if I should come to follow a business attended with small profits, in capacity of an auctioneer, or (what he was himself) a tax-gatherer. Nor had that been the case should I have complained. On this account the more praise is due to him, and from me a greater degree of gratitude. As long as I am in my senses, I can never be ashamed of such a father as this, and therefore shall not apologize for my birth, in the manner that numbers do, by affirming it to be no fault of theirs. My language and way of thinking is far different from such persons. For if nature were to make us from a certain term of years to go over our past time again, and suffer us to choose other parents, such as every man for ostentation's sake would wish for himself; I, content with my own, would not assume those that are honored with the ensigns and seats of state; for which I should seem a madman in the opinion of the mob, but in yours, I hope a man of sense; because I should be unwilling to sustain a troublesome burden, being by no means used to it. For I must then immediately set about acquiring a larger fortune, and more people must be complimented; and this and that companion must be taken along, so that I could neither take a jaunt into the country, or a journey by myself; more attendants and more horses must be fed; coaches must be drawn. Now, if I please, I can go as far as Tarentum on my bob-tail mule, whose loins the portmanteau galls with his weight, as does the horseman his shoulders. No one will lay to my charge such sordidness as he may, Tullius, to you, when five slaves follow you, a praetor, along the Tiburtian way, carrying a traveling kitchen, and a vessel of wine. Thus I live more comfortably, O illustrious senator, than you, and than thousands of others. Wherever I have a fancy, I walk by myself: I inquire the price of herbs and bread; I traverse the tricking circus, and the forum often in the evening: I stand listening among the fortune-tellers: thence I take myself home to a plate of onions, pulse, and pancakes. My supper is served up by three slaves; and a white stone slab supports two cups and a brimmer: near the salt-cellar stands a homely cruet with a little bowl, earthen-ware from Campania. Then I go to rest; by no means concerned that I must rise in the morning, and pay a visit to the statue of Marsyas, who denies that he is able to bear the look of the younger Novius. I lie a-bed to the fourth hour; after that I take a ramble, or having read or written what may amuse me in my privacy, I am anointed with oil, but not with such as the nasty Nacca, when he robs the lamps. But when the sun, become more violent, has reminded me to go to bathe, I avoid the Campus Martius and the game of hand-ball. Having dined in a temperate manner, just enough to hinder me from having an empty stomach, during the rest of the day I trifle in my own house. This is the life of those who are free from wretched and burdensome ambition: with such things as these I comfort myself, in a way to live more delightfully than if my grandfather had been a quaestor, and father and uncle too.
He sets the conveniences of a country retirement in opposition to the troubles of a life in town.
This was ever among the number of my wishes: a portion of ground not over large, in which was a garden, and a fountain with a continual stream close to my house, and a little woodland besides. The gods have done more abundantly, and better, for me than this. It is well: O son of Maia, I ask nothing more save that you would render these donations lasting to me. If I have neither made my estate larger by bad means, nor am in a way to make it less by vice or misconduct; if I do not foolishly make any petition of this sort - "Oh that that neighboring angle, which now spoils the; regularity of my field, could be added! Oh that some accident would discover to me a buried urn full of money! as it did to him, who having found a treasure, bought that very ground he before tilled in the capacity of an hired servant, enriched by Hercules' being his friend;" if what I have at present satisfies me grateful, I supplicate you with this prayer: make my cattle fat for the use of their master, and every thing else, except my genius: and, as you are wont, be present as my chief guardian. Wherefore, when I have removed myself from the city to the mountains and my castle, (what can I polish, preferably to my satires and prosaic muse?) neither evil ambition destroys me, nor the heavy south wind, nor the sickly autumn, the gain of baleful Libitina, goddess of funerals.
Father of the morning, or Janus, if with more pleasure thou hearest thyself called by that name, from whom men commence the toils of business, and of life (such is the will of the gods), be thou the beginning of my song. At Rome you hurry me away to provide bail; "Away, dispatch, you cry, lest any one should be beforehand with you in doing that friendly office:" I must go, at all events, whether the north wind sweep the earth, or winter contracts the snowy day into a narrower circle. After this, having uttered in a clear and determinate manner the legal form, which may be a detriment to me, I must bustle through the crowd; and must disoblige the tardy. "What is your will, madman, and what are you about, impudent fellow?" So one accosts me with his passionate curses. "You jostle every thing that is in your way, if with an appointment full in your mind you are away to Maecenas." This pleases me, and is like honey: I will not tell a lie. But by the time I reached the gloomy Esquiliae, a hundred affairs of other people's encompass me on every side: "Roscius begged that you would be with him at the court-house to-morrow before the second hour." "The secretaries requested you would remember, Quintus, to return to-day about an affair of public concern, and of great consequence." "Get Maecenas to put his signet to these tablets." Should one say, "I will endeavor at it:" "If you will, you can," adds he; and is more earnest. The seventh year approaching to the eighth is now elapsed, from the time that Maecenas began to reckon me in the number of his friends; only thus far, as one he would like to take along with him in his chariot, when he went a journey, and to whom he would trust such kind of trifles as these: "What is the hour?" "Is Gallina, the Thracian, a match for the gladiator Syrus?" "The cold morning air begins to pinch those that are ill provided against it;" - and such things-as are well enough intrusted to a leaky ear. For all this time, every day and hour, I have been more subjected to envy. "Our son of fortune here, says everybody, witnessed the shows in company with Maecenas, and played with him in the Campus Martius." Does any disheartening report spread from the rostrum through the streets, whoever comes in my way consults me concerning it: "Good sir, have you (for you must know, since you approach nearer the gods) heard any thing relating to the Dacians?" "Nothing at all for my part," I reply. "How you ever are a sneerer!" "But may all the gods torture me, if I know any thing of the matter." "What? will Caesar give the lands he promised the soldiers, in Sicily, or in Italy?" As I am swearing I know nothing about it, they wonder at me, thinking me, to be sure, a creature of profound and extraordinary secrecy.
Among things of this nature the day is wasted by me, mortified as I am, not without such wishes as these: O rural retirement, when shall I behold thee? and when shall it be in my power to pass through the pleasing oblivion of a life full of solicitude, one while with the books of the ancients, another while in sleep and leisure? O when shall the bean related to Pythagoras, and at the same time herbs well larded with fat bacon, be set before me? O evenings, and suppers fit for gods! with which I and my friends regale ourselves in the presence of my household gods; and feed my saucy slaves with viands, of which libations have been made. The guest, according to every one's inclination, takes off the glasses of different sizes, free from mad laws: whether one of a strong constitution chooses hearty bumpers; or another more joyously gets mellow with moderate ones. Then conversation arises, not concerning other people's villas and houses, nor whether Lepos dances well or not; but we debate on what is more to our purpose, and what it is pernicious not to know - whether men are made happier by riches or by virtue; or what leads us into close friendships, self-interest or moral rectitude; and what is the nature of good, and what its perfection.
Meanwhile, my neighbor Cervius prates away old stories relative to the subject. For, if any one ignorantly commends the troublesome riches of Aurelius, he thus begins: "On a time a country-mouse is reported to have received a city-mouse into his poor cave, an old host, his old acquaintance; a blunt fellow and attentive to his acquisitions, yet so as he could on occasion enlarge his narrow soul in acts of hospitality. What need of many words? He neither grudged him the hoarded vetches, nor the long oats; and bringing in his mouth a dry plum, and nibbled scraps of bacon, presented them to him, being desirous by the variety of the supper to get the better of the daintiness of his guest, who hardly touched with his delicate tooth the several things: while the father of the family himself, extended on fresh straw, ate a spelt and darnel leaving that which was better for his guest. At length the citizen addressing him, 'Friend,' says he, 'what delight have you to live laboriously on the ridge of a rugged thicket? Will you not prefer men and the city to the savage woods? Take my advice, and go along with me: since mortal lives are allotted to all terrestrial animals, nor is there any escape from death, either for the great or the small. Wherefore, my good friend, while it is in your power, live happy in joyous circumstances: live mindful of how brief an existence you are.' Soon as these speeches had wrought upon the peasant, he leaps nimbly from his cave: thence they both pursue their intended journey, being desirous to steal under the city walls by night. And now the night possessed the middle region of the heavens, when each of them set foot in a gorgeous palace, where carpets dyed with crimson grain glittered upon ivory couches, and many baskets of a magnificent entertainment remained, which had yesterday been set by in baskets piled upon one another. After he had placed the peasant then, stretched at ease upon a splendid carpet; he bustles about like an adroit host, and keeps bringing up one dish close upon another, and with an affected civility performs all the ceremonies, first tasting of every thing he serves up. He, reclined, rejoices in the change of his situation, and acts the part of a boon companion in the good cheer: when on a sudden a prodigious rattling of the folding doors shook them both from their couches. Terrified they began to scamper all about the room, and more and more heartless to be in confusion, while the lofty house resounded with the barking of mastiff dogs; upon which, says the country-mouse, 'I have no desire for a life like this; and so farewell: my wood and cave, secure from surprises, shall with homely tares comfort me.'"