Satires

Horace

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

The school and sect of Chrysippus[*](Chrysippi porticus. The Porticus was a famous gallery at Athens, where Zeno held his school, which, from the Greek word στόα, Porticus, took the name of Stoic.) deem every man mad, whom vicious folly or the ignorance of truth drives blindly forward. This definition takes in whole nations, this even great kings, the wise man [alone] excepted. Now learn, why all those, who have fixed the name of madman upon you, are as senseless as yourself. As in the woods, where a mistake makes people wander about from the proper path; one goes out of the way to the right; another to the left; there is the same blunder on both sides, only the illusion is in different directions: in this manner imagine yourself mad; so that he, who derides you, hangs his tail,[*](Caudam trahat. A metaphor, as the old commentator well observes, taken from a custom among children, who tied a tail behind a person whom they had a mind to laugh at.) not one jot wiser than yourself. There is one species of folly, that dreads things not in the least formidable; insomuch that it will complain of fires, and rocks, and rivers opposing it in the open plain; there is another different from this, but not a whit more approaching to wisdom, that runs headlong through the midst of flames and floods. Let the loving mother, the virtuous sister, the father, the wife, together with all the relations [of a man possessed with this latter folly], cry out: "Here is a deep ditch; here is a prodigious rock; take care of yourself:" he would give no more attention, than did the drunken Fufius[*](Fufius was an actor who, playing the character of Ilione, was supposed to be asleep, when the ghost of her son Polydore called to her, "Dear mother, hear me." Fufius, having drunk too much, fell really asleep; and Catienus, who played Polydore, having called to him, without waking him, the whole house, as if each of them was a Catienus, cried out, "Dear mother, hear me," The number of twelve hundred is a pleasant exaggeration. Accius or Pacuvius wrote a tragedy on the story of Ilione, and the whole passage is preserved to us in Cicero: Mater, te adpello, tu quae somno curam suspensam levas,Neque te mei miseret, surge et sepeli natumPriusquam ferae volucresque. ) some time ago, when he overslept the character of Ilione, twelve hundred Catieni at the same time roaring out, O mother, I call you to my aid. I will demonstrate to you, that the generality of all mankind are mad in the commission of some folly similar to this.

Damasippus is mad for purchasing antique statues: but is Damasippus' creditor in his senses? Well, suppose I should say to you: receive this,[*](Stertinius goes on to prove, not only that Damasippus is not a fool, in buying statues, since he does not pay for them, but that he would be a fool indeed, to refuse the favor which Mercury offers him, in the credulity of Perillius.) which you can never repay: will you be a madman, if you receive it; or would you be more absurd for rejecting a booty, which propitious Mercury offers? Take bond,[*](Scribere is sometimes used in the sense "to acknowledge the receipt of a sum borrowed"; hence some have supposed that the meaning here is scribe te decem sestertia accepisse a Nerio, as said by Damasippus' creditor. Thus, Nerius is a banker, with whom Damasippus' creditor (Perillius) had lodged his money, and in whose books Damasippus, when drawing the ten sestertia, was required to acknowledge (scribere) the receipt of so much money. But I prefer Gesner's interpretation, scribe decem tabulas a Nerio, i.e. "draw out ten bonds with all the niceties of Nerius," a usurer, well known for his care in wording the bonds, so that there could be no evasion.) like the banker Nerius, for ten thousand sesterces; it will not signify: add the forms of Cicuta,[*](Cicuta was an old notary, who knew too well the practice of bonds, to neglect any clauses or forms, capable of finding these engagements. Such is the force of nodosus. Tabulae are the bonds or contracts, from whence notaries were called tabularii.) so versed in the knotty points of law: add a thousand obligations: yet this wicked Proteus will evade all these ties. When you shall drag him to justice, laughing as if his cheeks were none of his own;[*](People are not usually too careful of what belongs to others, from whence this kind of proverbial expression, "laughing with another man's cheeks." Dacier very well observes, that our poet hath translated it from Homer, when he says of Penelope's lovers, Οἴ δ' ἤδη γναθμοῖσι γελώων ἀλλορίοισιODYSS. lib. xx. v. 346. ) he will be transformed into a boar, sometimes into a bird, sometimes into a stone, and when he pleases into a tree. If to conduct one's affairs badly be the part of a the madman; and the reverse, that of a man well in his senses; brain of Perillius (believe me), who orders you [that sum of money], which you can never repay, is much more unsound [than yours].

Whoever grows pale with evil ambition, or the love of money: whoever is heated with luxury, or gloomy superstition, or any other disease of the mind, I command him to adjust his garment and attend: hither, all of ye, come near me in order, while I convince you that you are mad.

By far the largest portion of hellebore is to be administered to the covetous: I know not, whether reason does not consign all Anticyra to their use. The heirs of Staberius engraved the sum [which he left them] upon his tomb: unless they had acted in this manner, they were under an obligation[*](Damnati populo. Alluding to the form of the will, in which the testator required any thing of his heir, HERES DAMNAS ESTO. ) to exhibit a hundred pair of gladiators to the people, beside an entertainment according to the direction of Arrius; and as much corn as is cut in Africa. Whether I have willed this rightly or wrongly, it was my will; be not severe against me, [cries the testator]. I imagine the provident mind of Staberius foresaw this. What then did he mean, when he appointed by will that his heirs should engrave the sum of their patrimony upon his tomb-stone? As long as he lived, he deemed poverty a great vice, and nothing did he more industriously avoid: insomuch that, had he died less rich by one farthing, the more iniquitous would he have appeared to himself. For every thing, virtue, fame, glory, divine and human affairs, are subservient to the attraction of riches; which whoever shall have accumulated, shall be illustrious, brave, just — What, wise too? Ay, and a king, and whatever else he pleases. This he was in hopes would greatly redound to his praise, as if it had been an acquisition of his virtue. In what respect did the Grecian Aristippus[*](Aristippus was the chief of the Cyrenaic sect. He held that pleasure was the summum bonum, and virtue only valuable as it was a means of gaining that pleasure. Epicurus was perfectly rigid when compared to his master Aristippus, and by our author's manner of mentioning him in many parts of his works, we may believe he was no enemy to so convenient a philosophy. Staberius, who was a Stoic, has given an ill-natured turn to this story, which is much commended by Cicero; for Aristippus had only one slave, whom he commanded to throw away as much of his money as was too heavy to carry.) act like this; who ordered his slaves to throw away his gold in the midst of Libya; because, encumbered with the burden, they traveled too slowly? Which is the greater madman of these two? An example is nothing to the purpose, that decides one controversy by creating another. If any person were to buy lyres, and [when he had bought them] to stow them in one place, though neither addicted to the lyre nor to any one muse whatsoever: if a man were [to buy] paring-knives and lasts, and were no shoemaker; sails fit for navigation, and were averse to merchandising; he would every where deservedly be styled delirious, and out of his senses. How does he differ from these, who hoards up cash and gold [and] knows not how to use them when accumulated, and is afraid to touch them as if they were consecrated? If any person before a great heap of corn should keep perpetual watch with a long club, and, though the owner of it, and hungry, should not dare to take a single grain from it; and should rather feed upon bitter leaves: if, while a thousand hogsheads of Chian, or old Falernian, is stored up within (nay, that is nothing — three hundred thousand), he drink nothing, but what is mere sharp vinegar: again — if, wanting but one year of eighty, he should lie upon straw, who has bed-clothes rotting in his chest, the food of worms and moths; he would seem mad, belike, but to few persons: because the greatest part of mankind labors under the same malady.