Satires

Horace

Horace. The Works of Horace. Vol. II. Smart, Christopher, translator. Philadelphia: J. Whetham, 1836.

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 every thing 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 himself 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,[*](As if she had been another Clytemnestra, the daughter of Tyndarus, who cut off her husband's head with an ax. Fortissima Tyndaridarum, from the accusative of Tyndaris, viz. Tyndarida, comes the noun Tyndarida, Tyndaridae etc.) 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.[*](Pugnantia frontibus adversis means what we express by "diametrically opposite." The allusion in frontibus adversis is to a fight between bulls or rams, who butt each other with their heads. ) 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.[*](Cf. Lucret. iii. 951,Cur non, ut plenus vitae conviva recedis? See Orelli. ) Enough for the present: nor will I add one word more, lest you should suspect that I have plundered the escrutoire of the blear-eyed Crispinus.

The tribes of female flute-players,[*](Ambubaiarum, "Women who played on the flute." It is derived from a Syrian word; for the people of that country usually excelled in this instrument. Pharmacopolae is a general name for all who deal in spices, essence, and perfumes.) quacks, vagrants, mimics, blackguards;[*](Mendici, mimae, balatrones. The priests of Isis and Cybele were beggars by profession, and under the vail of religion were often guilty of the most criminal excesses. Mimae were players of the most debauched and dissolute kind; and balatrones, in general, signifies all scoundrels, buffoons, and parasites, who had their name, according to the old commentator, from Servilius Balatro. Balatrones hoc genus omne, for omne hoc balatronum genus, is a remarkable sort of construction.) all this set is sorrowful and dejected on account of the death of the singer Tigellius; for he was liberal [toward them]. On the other hand, this man, dreading to be called a spendthrift, will not give a poor friend wherewithal to keep off cold and pinching hunger. If you ask him why he wickedly consumes the noble estate of his grandfather and father in tasteless gluttony, buying with borrowed money all sorts of dainties; he answers, because he is unwilling to be reckoned sordid, or of a mean spirit: he is praised by some, condemned by others. Fufidius, wealthy in lands, wealthy in money put out at interest, is afraid of having the character of a rake and spendthrift. This fellow deducts 5 per cent. interest[*](Quinas hic capiti mercedes exsecat. Caput is the principal; merces the interest; and exsecare is to deduct the interest before the money is lent. For instance, Fufidius lent a hundred pounds, and at the end of the month the borrower was to pay him a hundred and five, principal and interest. But he gives only ninety-five pounds, deducting his interest when he lends the money, which thus increases in twenty months equal to his principal. The laws allowed a usury called usura centesima, which doubled the capital sum in a hundred months, or eight years and four months.) from the principal [at the time of lending]; and, the more desperate in his circumstances any one is, the more severely he pinches him: he hunts out the names[*](Nomina sectatur. Nomen signifies a debt, because the borrower gave the lender a note of acknowledgment for the money, signed with his name. The laws forbade lending money to minors, or persons under the age of twenty-five years.) of young fellows that have just put on the toga virilis under rigid fathers. Who does not cry out, O sovereign Jupiter! when he has heard [of such knavery]? But [you will say, perhaps,] this man expends upon himself in proportion to his gain. You can hardly believe how little a friend he is to himself: insomuch that the father, whom Terence's comedy introduces as living miserable after he had caused his son to run away from him, did not torment himself worse than he Now if any one should ask, "To what does this matter tend?" To this: while fools shun [one sort of] vices, they fall upon their opposite extremes. Malthinus walks with his garments trailing upon the ground; there is another droll fellow who [goes] with them tucked up even to his middle; Rufillus smells like perfume itself, Gorgonius like a he-goat. There is no mean. There are some who would not keep company with a lady, unless her modest garment perfectly conceal her feet. Another, again, will only have such as take their station in a filthy brothel. When a certain noted spark came out of a stew, the divine Cato [greeted] him with this sentence: "Proceed (says he) in your virtuous course. For, when once foul lust has inflamed the veins, it is right for young fellows to come hither, in comparison of their meddling with other men's wives." I should not be willing to be commended on such terms, says Cupiennius, an admirer of the silken vail.

Ye, that do not wish well to the proceedings of adulterers, it is worth your while to hear how they are hampered on all sides; and that their pleasure, which happens to them but seldom, is interrupted with a great deal of pain, and often in the midst of very great dangers. One has thrown himself long from the top of a house; another has been whipped almost to death: a third, in his flight, has fallen into a merciless gang of thieves: another has paid a fine, [to avoid] corporal [punishment]: the lowest servants have treated another with the vilest indignities. Moreover, this misfortune happened to a certain person, he entirely lost his manhood. Every body said, it was with justice: Galba denied it.

But how much safer is the traffic among [women] of the second rate! I mean the freed-women: after which Sallustius is not less mad, than he who commits adultery. But if he had a mind to be good and generous, as far as his estate and reason would direct him, and as far as a man might be liberal with moderation; he would give a sufficiency, not what would bring upon himself ruin and infamy. However, he hugs himself in this one [consideration]; this he delights in, this he extols: "I meddle with no matron." Just as Marsaeus, the lover of Origo[*](Origo. There lived in Horace's time three famous courtesans at Rome; Origo, Cytheris, and Arbuscala, all comedians. The poet was probably acquainted with them all. We are at a loss to know who Marsaeus was.) he who gives his paternal estate and seat to an actress, says, "I never meddle with other men's wives." But you have with actresses, you have with common strumpets: whence your reputation derives a greater perdition, than your estate. What, is it abundantly sufficient to avoid the person, and not the [vice] which is universally noxious? To lose one's good name, to squander a father's effects, is in all cases an evil. What is the difference, [then, with regard to yourself,] whether you sin with the person of a matron, a maiden, or a prostitute?[*](Togata. A prostitute. Women of this kind were obliged, when they went abroad, to wear a robe, called toga. The resemblance of it to the robe worn by men, made it a mark of infamy.)

Villius, the son-in-law of Sylla (by this title alone he was misled), suffered [for his commerce] with Fausta an adequate and more than adequate punishment, by being drubbed and stabbed, while he was shut out, that Longarenus might enjoy her within. Suppose this [young man's] mind had addressed him in the words of his appetite, perceiving such evil consequences: "What would you have? Did I ever, when, my ardor was at the highest, demand a woman descended from a great consul, and covered with robes of quality?" What could he answer? Why, "the girl was sprung from an illustrious father." But how much better things, and how different from this, does nature, abounding in stores of her own, recommend; if you would only make a proper use of them, and not confound what is to be avoided with that which is desirable! Do you think it is of no consequence, whether your distresses arise from your own fault or from [a real deficiency] of things? Wherefore, that you may not repent [when it is too late], put a stop to your pursuit after matrons; whence more trouble is derived, than you can obtain of enjoyment from success. Nor has [this particular matron], amid her pearls and emeralds, a softer thigh, or limbs more delicate than yours, Cerinthus; nay, the prostitutes are frequently preferable. Add to this, that [the prostitute] bears about her merchandize without any varnish, and openly shows what she has to dispose of; nor, if she has aught more comely than ordinary, does she boast and make an ostentation of it, while she is industrious to conceal that which is offensive. This is the custom with men of fortune: when they buy horses, thy inspect them covered: that, if a beautiful forehand (as often) be supported by a tender hoof, it may not take in the buyer, eager for the bargain, because the back is handsome, the head little, and the neck stately. This they do judiciously. Do not you, [therefore, in the same manner] contemplate the perfections of each [fair one's] person with the eyes of Lynceus; but be blinder than Hypsaea, when you survey such parts as are deformed. [You may cry out,] "0 what a leg! O, what delicate arms!" But [you suppress] that she is low-hipped, short-waisted, with a long nose, and a splay foot. A man can see nothing but the face of a matron, who carefully conceals her other charms, unless it be a Catia. But if you will seek after forbidden charms (for the [circumstance of their being forbidden] makes you mad after them), surrounded as they are with a fortification, many obstacles will then be in your way: such as guardians, the sedan, dressers, parasites, the long robe hanging down to the ankles, and covered with an upper garment; a multiplicity of circumstances, which will hinder you from having a fair view. The other throws no obstacle in your way; through the silken vest you may discern her, almost as well as if she was naked; that she has neither a bad leg, nor a disagreeable foot, you may survey her form perfectly with your eye. Or would you choose to have a trick put upon you, and your money extorted, before the goods are shown you? [But perhaps you will sing to me these verses out of Callimachus.] As the huntsman pursues the hare in the deep snow, but disdains to touch it when it is placed before him: thus sings the rake, and applies it to himself; my love is like to this, for it passes over an easy prey, and pursues what flies from it. Do you hope that grief, and uneasiness, and bitter anxieties, will be expelled from your breast by such verses as these? Would it not be more profitable to inquire what boundary nature has affixed to the appetites, what she can patiently do without, and what she would lament the deprivation of, and to separate what is solid from what is vain? What! when thirst parches your jaws, are you solicitous for golden cups to drink out of? What! when you are hungry, do you despise every thing but peacock and turbot? When your passions are inflamed, and a common gratification is at hand, would you rather be consumed with desire than possess it? I would not: for I love such pleasures as are of easiest attainment. But she whose language is, "By and by," "But for a small matter more," "If my husband should be out of the way," [is only] for petitmaitres: and for himself, Philodemus says, he chooses her, who neither stands for a great price, nor delays to come when she is ordered. Let her be fair, and straight, and so far decent as not to appear desirous of seeming fairer than nature has made her. When I am in the company of such an one, she is my Ilia and Aegeria; I give her any name. Nor am I apprehensive, while I am in her company, lest her husband should return from the country; the door should be broken open; the dog should bark; the house, shaken, should resound on all sides with a great noise; the woman, pale [with fear] should bound away from me; lest the maid, conscious [of guilt], should cry out, she is undone; lest she should be in apprehension for her limbs, the detected wife for her portion, I for myself; lest I must run away with my clothes all loose, and bare-footed, for fear my money, or my person, or, finally my character should be demolished. It is a dreadful thing to be caught: I could prove this, even if Fabius were the judge.