I was accidentally going along the Via Sacra, meditating on some trifle or other, as is my custom, and totally intent upon it. A certain person, known to me by name only, runs up; and, having seized my hand, "How do you do, my dearest fellow?"
"Tolerably well," say I, "as times go; and I wish you every thing you can desire."
When he still followed me; "Would you any thing?"[*](Numquid vis. Donatus tells us in a remark upon a passage in Terence, that it was a polite customary manner of speaking among the Romans, that they might not seem to take their leave too abruptly, to say at parting, "numquid vis?" as in modern phrase, "have you any commands?" "Abituri, ne id dure facerent, ‘numquid vis’ dicebant his, quibuscum constitissent." ) said I to him.
But, "You know me," says he: "I am a man of learning."
"Upon that account," says I: "you will have more of my esteem." Wanting sadly to get away from him, sometimes I walked on apace, now and then I stopped, and I whispered something to my boy. When the sweat ran down to the bottom of my ankles. 0, said I to myself, Bolanus,[*](Bolanus was a very irritable person. Horace then pronounces him cerebri felicem; for were he but in this fellow's company, he would break out into a storm of passion that would drive him away. It appears more humorous to suppose him a heavy, stupid person, so apathetic that not even this fellow would annoy him. Similarly Demea in Terent. Adelph. v. 5, exclaims, fortunatus, qui istoc animo sies; | Ego sentio. Bolanus was a surname of the Vettii derived from Bola, a town of the AEqui.Celebri felicem. Thus μακαρίζω σε τῆς παρρησίας, and Virg. Geor. i 277,felices operum dies. ) how happy were you in a headpiece!
Meanwhile he kept prating on any thing that came uppermost, praised the streets, the city; and, when I made him no answer; "You want terribly," said he "to get away; I perceived it long ago; but you effect nothing. I shall still stick close to you; I shall follow you hence: where are you at present bound for?"
"There is no need for your being carried so much about: I want to see a person, who is unknown to you: he lives a great way off across the Tiber, just by Caesar's gardens."
"I have nothing to do, and I am not lazy; I will attend you thither." I hang down my ears like an ass of surly disposition, when a heavier load than ordinary is put upon his back.
He begins again: "If I am tolerably acquainted with myself, you will not esteem Viscus or Varius as a friend, more than me; for who can write more verses, or in a shorter time than I? Who can move his limbs with softer grace [in the dance]? And then I sing, so that even Hermogenes may envy."
Here there was an opportunity of interrupting him. "Have you a mother, [or any] relations that are interested in your welfare?"
"Not one have I; I have buried them all."
"Happy they! now I remain. Dispatch me: for the fatal moment is at hand, which an old Sabine sorceress, having shaken her divining urn,[*](The divination was performed in this manner. A number of letters and entire words were thrown into an urn and shaken together. When they were well mixed, they were poured out, and if any thing intelligible appeared in them, from thence the witch formed her divination and answers.) foretold when I was a boy; ‘This child, neither shall cruel poison, nor the hostile sword, nor pleurisy, nor cough, nor the crippling gout destroy: a babbler shall one day demolish him; if he be wise, let him avoid talkative people, as soon as he comes to man's estate.’"
One fourth[*](The first hour of the day among the Romans answered to our sixth. Martial says the courts were open at nine o'clock, "exercet raucos tertia causidicos;" it was, therefore, more than an hour after their opening, that Horace passed by the temple of Vesta.) of the day being now passed, we came to Vesta's temple; and, as good luck would have it, he was obliged to appear to his recognizance; which unless he did, he must have lost his cause.
"If you love me," said he, "step in here a little."
"May I die! if I be either able to stand it out,[*](Aut valeo stare.Horace uses the law terms, respondere, adesse, stare, rem relinquere. The first signifies to appear before a judge upon a summons; the second was properly to attend on the person who appeared, and to support his cause; the third marks the posture in which he stood, and relinquere causam to suffer himself to be non-suited for not appearing.) or have any knowledge of the civil laws: and besides, I am in a hurry, you know whither."
"I am in doubt what I shall do," said he; "whether desert you or my cause."
"Me, I beg of you."
"I will not do it," said he; and began to take the lead of me. I (as it is difficult to contend with one's master) follow him.
"How stands it with Maecenas and you?" Thus he begins his prate again. "He is one of few intimates,[*](Paucorum hominum. "A man of discernment, who does not converse with the multitude," as in Terence, "hic homo est perpaucorum hominum." Scipio having engaged three or four friends to sup with him, and intending to make some others, who came to see him, stay with him, Pontius whispered him, "Consider, Scipio, what you are doing; this is a delicate fish, paucorum hominum, and does not love a great deal of company.") and of a very wise way of thinking. No man ever made use of opportunity with more cleverness. You should have a powerful assistant,[*](Adiutor was a person who assisted a player either with his voice or action, but in what manner is to us inconceivable, as we have nothing like it in our stage. Ferre secundas may be somewhat better explained by a passage in Cicero: "He will not exert his utmost eloquence, but consult your honor and reputation, by lowering his own abilities and raising yours. Thus we see among the Grecian actors, that he who plays the second or third part, conceals his own power, that the principal player may appear to the best advantage."Our impertinent therefore promises Horace, that far from any design of supplanting him in the favor of Maecenas, he will be contented to play the second part, and use his utmost abilities to raise our poet's character, as a principal actor. The reader may turn to the note on the twelfth line in the eighteenth epistle.) who could play an underpart, if you were disposed to recommend this man; may I perish, if you should not supplant all the rest!"
"We do not live there in the manner you imagine; there is not a house that is freer or more remote from evils of this nature. It is never of any disservice to me, that any particular person is wealthier or a better scholar than I am: every individual has his proper place."
"You tell me a marvelous thing, scarcely credible."
"But it is even so."
"You the more inflame my desires to be near his person."
"You need only be inclined to it: such is your merit, you will accomplish it: and he is capable of being won;[*](The poet says Maecenas was naturally easy to be gained, but that a sense of his own weakness obligred him to guard himself against the first addresses of a stranger. Eo for ideo difficiles aditus primos habet, quia est qui vinci possit as in Terence, eo tibi videtur foedus, quia vestem illam non habet. ) and on that account the first access to him he makes difficult."
"I will not be wanting to myself; I will corrupt his servants with presents; if I am excluded to-day, I will not desist; I will seek opportunities; I will meet him in the public streets; I will wait upon him home. Life allows nothing to mortals without great labor."
While he was running on at this rate, lo! Fuscus Aristius comes up, a dear friend of mine, and one who knows the fellow well. We make a stop.
"Whence come you? whither are you going?" he asks and answers. I began to twitch him [by the elbow], and to take hold of his arms [that were affectedly] passive, nodding and distorting my eyes, that he might rescue me. Cruelly arch he laughs, and pretends not to take the hint: anger galled my liver.
"Certainly," [said I, "Fuscus,] you said that you wanted to communicate something to me in private."
"I remember it very well; but will tell it you at a better opportunity: to-day is the thirtieth sabbath.[*](The Jews began their year the first of September, and celebrated their paschal festival the fifteenth of April, in the thirtieth week, from whence Horace calls it tricesima sabbata. It continued eight days, of which the two first and two last were observed with so much solemnity, that it was not permitted even to talk of business. Augustus, in imitation of Julius Caesar, allowed the Jews uncommon privileges.) Would you affront the circumcised Jews?"
I reply, "I have no scruple [on that account]."
"But I have: I am something weaker, one of the multitude. You must forgive me: I will speak with you on another occasion." And has this sun arisen so disastrous upon me! The wicked rogue runs away, and leaves me under the knife.
But by luck his adversary met him: and, "Whither are you going, you infamous fellow?" roars he with a loud voice: and, "Do you witness the arrest?"[*](When a man had given bail in a court of justice, if he neglected the time of appearance, he might be taken by force before the praetor. But the person who would arrest him was obliged, before he used him with violence, to have a witness of his capture, antestari. This, however, could not be done without the consent of the witnesses; he, therefore, willingly offered the captor his ear to touch, who was liable, if these forms were not observed, to an action, iniuriarum actionem. But thieves and people of infamous characters were not treated with so much formality. When a fellow in Plautus cries out, "Will you not call a witness before you seize me?" nonne antestaris?(Persa 747-748) he is answered, "What, shall I touch an honest man's ear for such a scoundrel as you are?" Pliny tells us, the lowest part of the ear is the seat of memory, from whence came this form of their laws.)
I assent.[*](Oppono auriculam. Such was the law term, which our poet very willingly pronounced, to signify the consent of the witness.) He hurries him into court: there is a great clamor on both sides, a mob from all parts. Thus Apollo preserved me.[*](Horace ascribes his rescue from the intruder to Apollo, as the patron of poets. Perhaps he alludes to the statue of that god, which was in the forum, where the courts were held, and as it was a law proceeding that saved him from the garrulus, he ascribes his preservation to the god, that from his vicinity to the courts, was called iuris peritus. Juven. i. 113. Orellius considers reference to be made to Apollo, ἀλεξικάκος or ἀποτροπαῖος, and that the passage is founded on Il. 20. 443τὸν δ' ἐξήρπαξεν Ἀπόλλω )