Horace. The Works of Horace. Vol. II. Smart, Christopher, translator. Philadelphia: J. Whetham, 1836.
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?
Our ancestors praised a boar when it was stale: not because they had no noses; but with this view, I suppose, that a visitor coming later than ordinary [might partake of it], though a little musty, rather than the voracious master should devour it all himself while sweet. I wish that the primitive earth had produced me among such heroes as these.
Have you any regard for reputation, which affects the human ear more agreeably than music? Great turbots and dishes bring great disgrace along with them, together with expense. Add to this, that your relations and neighbors will be exasperated at you, while you will be at enmity with yourself and desirous of death in vain, since you will not in your poverty have three farthings left to purchase a rope withal. Trausius, you say, may with justice be called to account in such language as this; but I possess an ample revenue, and wealth sufficient for three potentates. Why then have you no better method of expending your superfluities? Why is any man, undeserving [of distressed circumstances], in want, while you abound? How comes it to pass, that the ancient temples of the gods are falling to ruin? Why do not you, wretch that you are, bestow something on your dear country, out of so vast a hoard? What, will matters always go well with you alone? 0 thou, that hereafter shalt be the great derision of thine enemies! which of the two shall depend upon himself in exigences with most certainty? He who has used his mind and high-swollen body to redundancies; or he who, contented with a little and provident for the future, like a wise man in time of peace, shall make the necessary preparations for war?
That you may the more readily give credit to these things: I myself, when a little boy, took notice that this Ofellus did not use his unencumbered estate more profusely, than he does now it is reduced. You may see the sturdy husbandman laboring for hire in the land [once his own, but now] assigned [to others],[*](Metato in agello. Ofellus was involved in the same disgrace and ruin as Virgil, Tibullus, and Propertius. Their estates were given by Octavius to the veterans who had served against Brutus and Cassius in the battle of Philippi. That of Ofellus was given to Umbrenus, who hired its former master to till the ground for him, mercede colonum. As each soldier had a certain number of acres, the land was measured, metato agello, before it was divided.) with his cattle and children, talking to this effect; I never ventured to eat any thing on a work-day except pot-herbs, with a hock of smoke-dried bacon. And when a friend came to visit me after a long absence, or a neighbor, an acceptable guest to me resting from work on account of the rain, we lived well; not on fishes fetched from the city, but on a pullet and a kid: then a dried grape, and a nut, with a large fig,[*](Duplice, a kind of large fig, called Marisca; or bifida; or figs were split into two parts, and when dried, served up mensis secundis. The last is proved to be the correct interpretation from Pallad. R. R. iv. 10, 36:Subinde ficus, sicut est divisa, vertatur, ut ficorum coria siccentur et pulpae tunc duplicate in cistellis serventur aut loculis.) set off our second course. After this, it was our diversion to have no other regulation in our cups, save that against drinking to excess:[*](It was customary with the Romans to appoint some person magister bibendi, who directed the number of cups to be taken, and the toasts, etc. Ofella says there was no such person appointed, but that the only president that they had at their table was culpa, i. e. "excess." Each person took as much as he pleased, restricted only by the feeling that excess was culpable. The ancients had a ludus, which was intended to prevent the intoxication that might arise from being obliged to obey the magister bibendi in taking the number of cups which he directed. The person who (aliqua in re peccarat) violated any of the convivial laws or customs, was punished by being obliged to drink a cupful, poculo multabatur, so that as no one drank but those who committed some breach of the laws, bibere poenae et dedecoris esset, non invitationis aut magisterii. Thus culpa was magistra bibendi.) then Ceres worshiped [with a libation], that the corn might arise in lofty stems, smoothed with wine the melancholy of the contracted brow. Let fortune rage, and stir up new tumults: what can she do more to impair my estate? How much more savingly have either I lived, or how much less neatly have you gone, my children, since this new possessor came? For nature has appointed to be lord of this earthly property, neither him, nor me, nor any one. He drove us out: either iniquity or ignorance in the quirks of the law shall [do the same by] him: certainly in the end his long-lived heir shall expel him. Now this field under the denomination of Umbrenus', lately it was Ofellus', the perpetual property of no man; for it turns to my use one while, and by and by to that of another. Wherefore, live undaunted; and oppose gallant breasts against the strokes of adversity.