Satires

Horace

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

But I said that he flowed muddily, frequently indeed bearing along more things which ought to be taken away than left. Be it so; do you, who are a scholar, find no fault with any thing in mighty Homer, I pray? Does the facetious Lucilius make no alterations in the tragedies of Accius? Does not he ridicule many of Ennius' verses, which are too light for the gravity [of the subject]? When he speaks of himself by no means as superior to what he blames. What should hinder me likewise, when I am reading the works of Lucilius, from inquiring whether it be his [genius], or the difficult nature of his subject, that will not suffer his verses to be more finished, and to run more smoothly than if some one, thinking it sufficient to conclude a something of six feet, be fond of writing two hundred verses before he eats, and as many after supper? Such was the genius of the Tuscan Cassius, more impetuous than a rapid river; who, as it is reported, was burned [at the funeral pile] with his own books[*](The funeral piles on which dead bodies were burned were made of wood. Cassius had written so much, that Horace sportively gives it as a rumor, that his books formed his funeral pile. MCCAUL.) and papers. Let it be allowed, I say, that Lucilius was a humorous and polite writer; that he was also more correct than [Ennius], the author[*](There is a great variation in the interpretation of this passage. They may be found collected in MCCAUL's notes. ) of a kind of poetry [not yet] well cultivated, nor attempted by the Greeks, and [more correct likewise] than the tribe of our old poets: but yet he, if he had been brought down by the Fates to this age of ours, would have retrenched a great deal from his writings: he would have pruned off every thing that transgressed the limits of perfection; and, in the composition of verses, would often have scratched his head, and bit his nails to the quick.

You that intend to write what is worthy to be read more than once, blot frequently: and take no pains to make the multitude admire you, content with a few [judicious] readers. What, would you be such a fool as to be ambitious that your verses should be taught in petty schools? That is not my case. It is enough for me, that the knight [Maecenas] applauds: as the courageous actress, Arbuscula, expressed herself, in contempt of the rest of the audience, when she was hissed [by the populace]. What, shall that grubworm Pantilius[*](Pantilius. A buffoon, and a great enemy of Horace, whom he calls Cimex, an insect, out of contempt. Fannius is the same of whom he speaks in Satire iv. ) have any effect upon me? Or can it vex me, that Demetrius carps at me behind my back? or because the trifler Fannius, that hanger-on to Hermogenes Tigellius, attempts to hurt me? May Plotius and Varius, Maecenas and Virgil, Valgius and Octavius[*](Octavius. An excellent poet and historian. The Visci were two brothers, and both senators. Bibulus was the son of him that had been consul in 695, and Servius the son of Servius Sulpicius, who corresponded with Cicero. Furnius was consul in the year 737, and equally master of the pen and the sword.) approve these Satires, and the excellent Fuscus likewise; and I could wish that both the Visci would join in their commendations: ambition apart, I may mention you, O Pollio: you also, Messala, together with your brother; and at the same time, you, Bibulus and Servius; and along with these you, candid Furnius; many others whom, though men of learning and my friends, I purposely omit — to whom I could wish these Satires, such as they are, may give satisfaction; and I should be chagrined, if they pleased in a degree below my expectation. You, Demetrius, and you, Tigellius, I bid lament among the forms of your female pupils.

Go, boy, and instantly annex this Satire to the end of my book.

THERE are some persons to whom I seem too severe in [the writing of] satire, and to carry it beyond proper bounds:[*](Ultra legem. The laws of the twelve tables punished these poetical slanderers with death; but they were grown obsolete, and had lost great part of their vigor, when they were renewed by Augustus.) another set are of opinion, that all I have written is nerveless, and that a thousand verses like mine may be spun out in a day. Trebatius,[*](Trebatius. This is C. Trebatius Testa, the most celebrated lawyer of that age, as is evident from the letters which Cicero wrote to him. He was greatly in favor both with Julius Caesar and Augustus. As he accompanied the first in his wars in Gaul, thirty years before this Satire was written, he must, by this time, have been of an advanced age. Horace applies to him as one of great authority, on account of his age and skill in the law. He was further a good judge of raillery, and had often used it with delicacy and success.) give me your advice, what I shall do. Be quiet. I should not make, you say, verses at all. I do say so. May I be hanged, if that would not be best: but I can not sleep. Let those, who want sound sleep, anointed swim thrice across the Tiber: and have their clay well moistened with wine over-night. Or, if such a great love of scribbling hurries you on, venture to celebrate the achievements of the invincible Caesar, certain of bearing off ample rewards for your pains.

Desirous I am, my good father, [to do this,] but my strength fails me, nor can any one describe the troops bristled with spears, nor the Gauls[*](The Gauls of Aquitain having rebelled 726, Octavius sent Messala, with the title of governor of the province, to reduce them to his obedience. He conquered them in the year following, and had the honor of a triumph the 25th of September.) dying on their shivered darts, nor the wounded Parthian falling from his horse. Nevertheless you may describe him just and brave, as the wise Lucilius did Scipio. I will not be wanting to myself, when an opportunity presents itself: no verses of Horace's, unless well-timed, will gain the attention of Caesar; whom, [like a generous steed,] if you stroke awkwardly, he will kick back upon you, being at all quarters on his guard. How much better would this be, than to wound with severe satire Pantolabus the buffoon, and the rake Nomentanus! when every body is afraid for himself, [lest he should be the next,] and hates you, though he is not meddled with. What shall I do? Milonius falls a dancing the moment he becomes light-headed and warm, and the candles appear multiplied. Castor delights in horsemanship: and he, who sprang from the same egg, in boxing. As many thousands of people [as there are in the world], so many different inclinations are there. It delights me to combine words in meter, after the manner of Lucilius, a better man than both of us.[*](When the Romans mentioned a man of great reputation, and whose example had a sort of authority, their usual expression in conversation. was, Who is far better, and more valuable than you or me.) He long ago communicated his secrets to his books, as to faithful friends: never having recourse elsewhere, whether things went well or ill with him: whence it happens, that the whole life of this old [poet] is as open to the view, as if it had been painted on a votive tablet. His example I follow, though in doubt whether I am a Lucanian or an Apulian; for the Venusinian farmers plow upon the boundaries of both countries, who (as the ancient tradition has it) were sent, on the expulsion of the Samnites, for this purpose, that the enemy might not make incursions on the Romans, through a vacant [unguarded frontier]: or lest the Apulian nation, or the fierce Lucanian, should make an invasion. But this pen of mine shall not willfully attack any man breathing, and shall defend me like a sword that is sheathed in the scabbard: which why should I attempt to draw, [while I am] safe from hostile villains? 0 Jupiter, father and sovereign, may my weapon laid aside wear away with rust, and may no one injure me, who am desirous of peace? But that man who shall provoke me (I give notice, that it is better not to touch me) shall weep [his folly], and as a notorious character shall be sung through all the streets of Rome.

Cervius,[*](A criminal was acquitted or condemned by the number of votes, which the judges threw into a judiciary urn. Virgil tells us this custom was observed among the dead, quaesitor Minos urnam movet.(Aen. 6.432") ) when he is offended, threatens one with the laws and the [judiciary] urn; Canidia, Albutius' poison to those with whom she is at enmity; Turius [threatens] great damages, if you contest any thing while he is judge. How every animal[*](Horace's weapon is satire. This he will use against his enemies, just as every one, quo valet, suspectos terret, and according to the dictates of nature, which prompt her creatures to make use of the arms which she has given them, i. e. ne longum faciam, he will write.Mirum, etc. Ironically said, for it is not mirum ut neque calce lupus quemquam neque dente petat bos, for dente lupus, cornu taurus petit. Horace means that Scaeva's not polluting his right hand with the blood of his mother is no more wonderful than that a wolf does not attack a person calce, or an ox, dente. Bentley's conjecture mirum si is specious. Similarly we have Terent. Andr. iv. 4, 16;Mirum vero, impudentur mulier si facit meretrix. ) terrifies those whom he suspects, with that in which he is most powerful, and how strong natural instinct commands this, thus infer with me.—The wolf attacks with his teeth, the bull with his horns. From what principle is this, if not a suggestion from within? Intrust that debauchee Scaeva with the custody of his ancient mother; his pious hand will commit no outrage. A wonder indeed! just as the wolf does not attack any one with his hoof, nor the bull with his teeth; but the deadly hemlock in the poisoned honey will take off the old dame.

That I may not be tedious, whether a placid old age awaits me, or whether death now hovers about me with his sable wings; rich or poor, at Rome or (if fortune should so order it) an exile abroad; whatever be the complexion of my life, I will write. O my child, I fear you can not be long-lived; and that some creature of the great ones will strike you with the cold of death.[*](i. e. "lest some one of your powerful friends conceive a coldness toward you, and deprive you of his friendship." So Persius i. 107,Sed quid opus teneras mordaci radere veroAuriculas? Vide sis ne maiorum tibi forteLimina et rigescunt. ) What? when Lucilius had the courage to be the first in composing verses after this manner, and to pull off that mask,[*](Detrahere pellem. A figurative expression taken from the stage. The ancient masks were of skins.) by means of which each man strutted in public view with a fair outside, though foul within; was Laelius, and he who derived a well-deserved title from the destruction of Carthage, offended at his wit, or were they hurt at Metellus being lashed, or Lupus covered over with his lampoons? But he took to task the heads of the people, and the people themselves, class by class;[*](The great men, and people of whatever tribe. It is plain from what remains to us of Lucilius, that he did not spare the great. Besides Metellus and Lupus already mentioned, he attacked also Mutius Scaevola, Titus Albutius, Torquatus, Marcus Carbo, Lucius Tubulus, Publius Gallonins, Caius Cassius, Lucius Cotta, Clodius Asellus, Quintus Opimius, Nomentanus, Caius Cecilius Index, Trebellius, Publius Pavus Tuditanus. And not satisfied with this, he run through all the thirty-five tribes. one after another.) in short, he spared none but virtue and her friends. Yet, when the valorous Scipio, and the mild philosophical Laelius, had withdrawn themselves from the crowd and the public scene, they used to divert themselves with him, and joke in a free manner, while a few vegetables were boiled [for supper]. Of whatever rank I am, though below the estate and wit of Lucilius, yet envy must be obliged to own that I have lived well with great men; and, wanting to fasten her tooth upon some weak part, will strike it against the solid:[*](In allusion to the fable of the serpent and the file.) unless you, learned Trebatius, disapprove of any thing [I have said]. For my part, I can not make any objection to this. But however, that forewarned you may be upon your guard, lest an ignorance of our sacred laws should bring you into trouble, [be sure of this:] if any person[*](Si mala condiderit. Trebatius with much solemnity cites the laws of the twelve tables as his last argument. A lawyer could produce nothing more strong, and Horace being unable to defend himself by a direct answer, finds a way of getting out of the difficulty by playing on the words malum carmen, and giving them a different sense from what they had in the text of the law..) shall make scandalous verses against a particular man, an action lies, and a sentence. Granted, if they are scandalous: but if a man composes good ones, and is praised by such a judge as Caesar If a man barks only at him who deserves his invectives, while he himself is unblamable? The process will be canceled[*](Tabulae are the process and information laid before the judge, which, says the poet, shall be torn in pieces. Dacier observes, that this line is an imitation of Aristophanes, where a father dissuades his son from an excess of wine, by representing to him a thousand disorders which it occasions; quarreling, breaking houses open. No, says the son, this never happens when we converse with men of honor; for either they will satisfy the people whom they have offended, or turn the affair into ridicule, and by some happy jest make the judges, and even the prosecutors, laugh. The process is dismissed, and you escape without being punished.(Wasps 1251ff) ) with laughter: and you, being dismissed, may depart in peace.