Satires

Horace

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

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.

WHAT and how great is the virtue to live on a little (this is no doctrine of mine, but what Ofellus the peasant, a philosopher without rules[*](Abnormis. "A philosopher without rules." Ofellus was an Epicurean without knowing it, but his morality was in a medium between the very rigid and very dissolute followers of that sect.) and of a home-spun[*](Minerva presides over spinning, hence this proverbial expression for "of a thick thread," i. e. of a coarse texture. Thus Cic. Ep. Fam. ix. 12,Crasso filo.) wit, taught me), learn, my good friends, not among dishes and splendid tables; when the eye is dazzled with the vain glare, and the mind, intent upon false appearances, refuses [to admit] better things; but here, before dinner, discuss this point with me. Why so? I will inform you, if I can. Every corrupted judge examines badly the truth. After hunting the hare, or being wearied by an unruly horse, or (if the Roman exercise fatigues you, accustomed to act the Greek) whether the swift ball, while eagerness softens and prevents your perceiving the severity of the game, or quoits (smite the yielding air with the quoit) when exercise has worked off squeamishness, dry and hungry, [then let me see you] despise mean viands; and don't drink any thing but Hymettian honey qualified[*](Diluta. This mixture was called mulsum, mead. Ofella says: Don't drink any thing but mead made of the best honey and the best wine. Diluere is applied to those things which are melted by the addition of fluid. Thus Virg. Geor. i. 341,Cui tu lacte favos et miti dilue Baccho. And Sat. ii. 3, 214,aceto | Diluit insignem baccam. ) with Falernian wine. Your butler is abroad, and the tempestuous sea preserves the fish by its wintery storms: bread and salt will sufficiently appease an importunate stomach. Whence do you think this happens? and how is it obtained? The consummate pleasure is not in the costly flavor, but in yourself. Do you seek for sauce by sweating. Neither oysters, nor scar, nor the far-fetched lagois,[*](Lagois. We do not find this word in any other author. It was probably a foreign bird, whose flesh tasted and looked like that of a hare; a favorite dish among the Romans. Ostrea is of two syllables, as in Virgil, Bis patriae cecidere manus: quin protenus omnia.(Aen. 6.33) ) can give any pleasure to one bloated and pale through intemperance. Nevertheless, if a peacock[*](Quintus Hortensius was the first who gave the Romans a taste for peacocks, and it soon became so fashionable a dish, that all the people of fortune had it at their tables. Cicero very pleasantly says, he had the boldness to invite Hirtius to sup with him, even without a peacock. Sed vide audaciam, etiam Hirtio coenam dedi sine pavone.(Fam. 9.20) M. Aufidius Latro made a prodigious fortune by fattening them for sale.) were served up, I should hardly be able to prevent your gratifying the palate with that, rather than a pullet, since you are prejudiced by the vanities of things; because the scarce bird is bought with gold, and displays a fine sight with its painted tail: as if that were any thing to the purpose. What, do you eat that plumage, which you extol? or has the bird the same beauty when dressed? Since however there is no difference in the meat, in one preferably to the other; it is manifest that you are imposed upon by the disparity of their appearances. Be it so.

By what gift are you able to distinguish, whether this lupus, that now opens its jaws before us, was taken in the Tiber, or in the sea? whether it was tossed between the bridges, or at the mouth of the Tuscan river? Fool, you praise a mullet, that weighs three pounds; which you are obliged to cut into small pieces. Outward appearances lead you, I see. To what intent then do you contemn large lupuses? Because truly these are by nature bulky, and those very light. A hungry stomach seldom loathes common victuals. O that I could see a swingeing mullet extended on a swingeing dish! cries that gullet, which is fit for the voracious harpies themselves. But O [say I] ye southern blasts, be present to taint the delicacies of the [gluttons]: though the boar and turbot newly taken are rank, when surfeiting abundance provokes the sick stomach; and when the sated guttler prefers turnips and sharp elecampane. However, all [appearance of] poverty is not quite banished from the banquets of our nobles; for there is, even at this day, a place for paltry eggs and black olives.[*](Olives, intended for the table, were gathered when they began to ripen and turn black.) And it was not long ago, since the table of Gallonius, the auctioneer, was rendered infamous, by having a sturgeon [served up whole upon it]. What? was the sea at that time less nutritive of turbots?[*](The fanciful, fashionable taste is but of short continuance; that of nature is unalterable. You are now as fond of turbot as Gallonius was of sturgeon. But were there no turbots in his time ? Certainly there were; but no coxcomb had made them fashionable, and the praetor decided in favor of sturgeon. Another glutton brought turbots and storks into vogue, and perhaps we only wait for a third man of taste to assure us, that a roasted cormorant is infinitely more delicious than sturgeons, turbots, or storks.) The turbot was secure and the stork unmolested in her nest; till the praetorian [Sempronius], the inventor,[*](The storks built their nests in safety until the time of Augustus, when your praetor taught you to eat them. Asinius Sempronius, or, according to others, Rutilius Rufus, when candidate for the praetorship, entertained the people with a dish of storks. But the people, according to an ancient epigram, revenged the death of the poor birds by refusing the praetorship to their murderer. From this refusal the poet pleasantly calls him praetor.) first taught you [to eat them]. Therefore, if any one were to give it out that roasted cormorants are delicious, the Roman youth, teachable in depravity, would acquiesce in it.

In the judgment of Ofellus, a sordid way of living will differ widely from frugal simplicity. For it is to no purpose for you to shun that vice [of luxury]; if you perversely fly to the contrary extreme. Avidienus, to whom the nickname of Dog is applied with propriety, eats olives of five years old, and wild cornels, and can not bear to rack off his wine unless it be turned sour, and the smell of his oil you can not endure: which (though clothed in white he celebrates the wedding festival,[*](Repotia was a festival the day after the nuptials, when they drank and ate whatever remained of yesterday's entertainment, quia iterum potaretur. The construction is remarkable, alios dierum festos, for alios qui ex diebus festi sunt. Albatus, white, was usually the color of the Roman robe even at funeral feasts. Ipse is a circumstance that strongly marks the avarice of Avidienus. Afraid that his guests or his servants should be too profuse of his oil, he pours it himself. The poet tells us, his bottle was of two pounds weight, as if it were his whole store, although he was extremely rich; and the vessel was of horn, that it might last a long time. All these particulars are in character.) his birth-day, or any other festal days) he pours out himself by little and little from a horn cruet, that holds two pounds, upon his cabbage, [but at the same time] is lavish enough of his old vinegar.

What manner of living therefore shall the wise man put in practice, and which of these examples shall he copy? On one side the wolf presses on, and the dog on the other, as the saying is. A person will be accounted decent, if he offends not by sordidness, and is not despicable through either extreme of conduct. Such a man will not, after the example of old Albutius, be savage while he assigns to his servants their respective offices; nor, like simple Naevius, will he offer greasy water to his company: for this too is a great fault.

Now learn what and how great benefits a temperate diet will bring along with it. In the first place, you will enjoy good health; for you may believe how detrimental a diversity of things is to any man, when you recollect that sort of food, which by its simplicity sat so well upon your stomach some time ago. But, when you have once mixed boiled and roast together, thrushes and shell-fish; the sweet juices will turn to bile, and the thick phlegm will bring a jarring upon the stomach. Do not you see, how pale each guest rises from a perplexing variety of dishes at an entertainment. Beside this, the body, overloaded with the debauch of yesterday, depresses the mind along with it, and dashes to the earth that portion of the divine spirit.[*](Divinae particulam aurae. To raise the nobleness of the mind, Horace has borrowed the language of Plato; who says, that it is a portion of the universal soul of the world, that is, of the divinity himself.) Another man, as soon as he has taken a quick repast, and rendered up his limbs to repose, rises vigorous to the duties of his calling. However, he may sometimes have recourse to better cheer; whether the returning year shall bring on a festival, or if he have a mind to refresh his impaired body; and when years shall approach, and feeble age require to be used more tenderly. But as for you, if a troublesome habit of body, or creeping old age, should come upon you, what addition can be made to that soft indulgence, which you, now in youth and in health, anticipate?