Satires

Horace

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

THIS is a fault common to all singers, that among their friends they never are inclined to sing when they are asked, [but] unasked, they never desist. Tigellius, that Sardinian, had this [fault]. Had Caesar, who could have forced him to compliance, besought him on account of his father's friendship and his own, he would have had no success; if he himself was disposed, he would chant Io Bacche over and over, from the beginning of an entertainment to the very conclusion of it;[*](Literally, "from the egg to the apples," for eggs were served first, and fruit last.) one while at the deepest pitch of his voice, at another time with that which answers to the highest string of the tetrachord.[*](The four strings of this instrument were called by the Greeks ὑπάτη (subsuma), παρυπάτη (subsuma), παρανήτη (pene ima), and νήτη (ima). Thus the summa vox, which answers to the highest string, summa chorda, must signify the bass, and ima vox, that strikes the same tone with ima chorda, must signify the treble. Summa should be joined with chorda, not voce.Citaret. Bentley remarks that this is a forensic word, and can not be put for recitaret, besides that citare Io Bacche is not Latin. He reads iteraret. The Librarians wrote ter, cer, and ler, in a compendious form thus ~ over its natural place, thus the word ÎTARET, with a circumflex over I, and hence CITARET.) There was nothing uniform in that fellow; frequently would he run along, as one flying from an enemy; more frequently [he walked], as if he bore [in procession] the sacrifice of Juno:[*](This grave and solemn march, although a religious ceremony in its place, yet, when improperly used, is affectation and impertinence. The solemnity of this procession became a proverb, ʽHραῖον βαδίζειν, to walk like Juno.) he had often two hundred slaves, often but ten: one while talking of kings and potentates, every thing that was magnificent; at another — "Let me have a three-legged table, and a cellar of clean salt, and a gown which, though coarse, may be sufficient to keep out the cold." Had you given ten hundred thousand sesterces[*](The sestertium among the Romans was about 7l. 16s. of our money, and contained a thousand sestertii. Their manner of reckoning was this: when a numeral noun agreed in gender and number with sestertius, it denoted precisely so many sestertii, as decem sestertii, just so many; but if the noun was joined to the genitive plural of sestertius, it signified so many thousands; as decem sestertium, ten thousand sestertii. If the adverb numeral was joined to the genitive plural, it denoted so many hundred thousand, as decies sestertium, ten hundred thousand sestertii. Sometimes they put the adverb by itself, and sometimes added the numeral noun to it; as in this place decies centena, ten hundred sestertia, or ten hundred thousand sestertii. WATSON.) to this moderate man who was content with such small matters, in five days' time there would be nothing in his bags. He sat up at nights, [even] to day-light; he snored out all the day. Never was there any thing so inconsistent with itself. Now some person may say to me, "What are you? Have you no faults?" Yes, others; but others, and perhaps of a less culpable nature.

When Maenius railed at Novius in his absence: "Hark ye," says a certain person, "are you ignorant of yourself? or do you think to impose yourself upon us a person we do not know?" "As for me, I forgive myself," quoth Maenius. This is a foolish and impious self-love, and worthy to be stigmatized. When you look over your own vices, winking at them, as it were, with sore eyes; why are you with regard to those of your friends as sharp-sighted as an eagle, or the Epidaurian serpent? But, on the other hand, it is your lot that your friends should inquire into your vices in turn. [A certain person] is a little too hasty in his temper; not well calculated for the sharp-witted sneers[*](Acutis naribus, is the direct opposition to naribus obesis, which the Latins used to signify a stupid person, who wants the natural quickness and sharpness of the senses.) of these men: he may be made a jest of because his gown hangs awkwardly, he [at the same time] being trimmed in a very rustic manner, and his wide shoe hardly sticks to his foot. But he is so good, that no man can be better; but he is your friend: but an immense genius is concealed under this unpolished person of his. Finally, sift yourself thoroughly, whether nature has originally sown the seeds of any vice in you, or even an ill habit [has done it]. For the fern, fit [only] to be burned, overruns the neglected fields.

Let us return from our digression. As his mistress's disagreeable failings escape the blinded lover, or even give him pleasure (as Hagna's wen does to Balbinus), I could wish that we erred in this manner with regard to friendship, and that virtue had affixed a reputable appellation to such an error. And as a father ought not to contemn his son, if he has any defect, in the same manner we ought not [to contemn] our friend. The father calls his squinting boy, a pretty leering rogue; and if any man has a little despicable brat, such as the abortive Sisyphus[*](Sisyphus. The dwarf of Mark Antony the triumvir. He was of a diminutive stature, scarcely two feet high, but of a very acute wit; whence he got the name of Sisyphus; for Sisyphus was so remarkable for his dexterity and cunning, that Sisyphi artes came to be a proverb.) formerly was, he calls it a sweet moppet: this [child] with distorted legs, [the father] in a fondling voice calls one of the Vari; and another, who is club-footed, he calls a Scaurus.[*](Balbutit Scaurum. Rutgersius informs us that all these names, Strabo, Paetus, Pullus, Varus, and Scaurus, are surnames of illustrious Roman families, from whence fathers gave them to their children, to cover their defornlties with names of dignity. This is one of many beauties in the original, which it is impossible to preserve in a translation.) [Thus, does] this friend of yours live more sparingly than ordinarily? Let him be styled a man of frugality. Is another impertinent, and apt to brag a little? He requires to be reckoned entertaining to his friends. But [another] is too rude, and takes greater liberties than are fitting. Let him be esteemed a man of sincerity and bravery. Is he too fiery, let him be numbered among persons of spirit.

This method, in my opinion, both unites friends, and preserves them in a state of union. But we invert the very virtues themselves, and are desirous of throwing dirt upon the untainted vessel. Does a man of probity live among us? he is a person of singular diffidence;[*](But Orelli interprets demissus to mean abjectus, pusilli animi. See his judicious note.) we give him the name of a dull and fat-headed fellow. Does this man avoid every snare, and lay himself open to no ill-designing villain; since we live amid such a race, where keen envy and accusations are flourishing? Instead of a sensible and wary man, we call him a disguised and subtle fellow. And is any one more open, [and less reserved] than usual in such a degree as I often have presented myself to you, Maecenas, so as perhaps impertinently to interrupt a person reading, or musing, with any kind of prate? We cry, "[this fellow] actually wants common sense."[*](Communi sensu plane caret. He wants an understanding that distinguishes the common decencies to be observed in addressing the great. Such was the Communis sensus among the Romans, for which we have no expression in English. Sit in beneficio sensus communis: tempus, locum, personas observer. Seneca. Quae versantur in consuetudine rei publicae; in sensu hominum communi, in natura, in moribus, comprehendenda esse oratori puto. Cicero de Oratore. Lord Shaftesbury explains the sensus communis in Juvenal, that sense which regards the common good, the public welfare. A sense, according to the ingenious author, seldom found among the great. Raro enim ferme sensus communis in illa | Fortuna.) Alas! how indiscreetly do we ordain a severe law against ourselves! For no one is born without vices: he is the best man who is encumbered with the least. When my dear friend, as is just, weighs my good qualities against my bad ones, let him, if he is willing to be beloved, turn the scale to the majority of the former (if I have indeed a majority of good qualities), on this condition, he shall be placed in the same balance. He who requires that his friend should not take offense at his own protuberances, will excuse his friend's little warts. It is fair that he who entreats a pardon for his own fault, should grant one in his turn.