Epistles I.16

Latin English





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Ne perconteris, fundus meus, optime Quincti,
arvo pascat erum an bacis opulentet olivae,
pomisne et pratis an amicta vitibus ulmo,
scribetur tibi forma loquaciter et situs agri.

Continui montes, ni dissocientur opaca
valle, sed ut veniens dextrum latus aspiciat sol,
laevum discedens curru fugiente vaporet.
temperiem laudes. quid, si rubicunda benigni
corna vepres et pruna ferant? si quercus et ilex
multa fruge pecus, multa dominum iuvet umbra?
dicas adductum propius frondere Tarentum.
fons etiam rivo dare nomen idoneus, ut nec
frigidior Thracam nec purior ambiat Hebrus,
infirmo capiti fluit utilis, utilis alvo.
hae latebrae dulces, etiam, si credis, amoenae,
incolumem tibi me praestant Septembribus horis.

Tu recte vivis, si curas esse quod audis.
iactamus iam pridem omnis te Roma beatum;
sed vereor ne cui de te plus quam tibi credas,
neve putes alium sapiente bonoque beatum,
neu, si te populus sanum recteque valentem
dictitet, occultam febrem sub tempus edendi
dissimules, donec manibus tremor incidat unctis.
stultorum incurata pudor malus ulcera celat.

Si quis bella tibi terra pugnata marique
dicat et his verbis vacuas permulceat auris:
"tene magis salvum populus velit an populum tu,
servet in ambiguo qui consulit et tibi et urbi,
Iuppiter," Augusti laudes adgnoscere possis:
cum pateris sapiens emendatusque vocari,
respondesne tuo, dic sodes, nomine? "nempe
vir bonus et prudens dici delector ego ac tu."
qui dedit hoc hodie, cras, si volet, auferet, ut si
detulerit fasces indigno, detrahet idem.
"pone, meum est," inquit: pono tristisque recedo.
idem si clamet furem, neget esse pudicum,
contendat laqueo collum pressisse paternum,
mordear opprobriis falsis mutemque colores?
falsus honor iuvat et mendax infamia terret
quem nisi mendosum et medicandum?

Vir bonus est quis?
"qui consulta patrum, qui leges iuraque servat,
quo multae magnaeque secantur iudice lites,
quo res sponsore et quo causae teste tenentur."
sed videt hunc omnis domus et vicinia tota
introrsum turpem, speciosum pelle decora.
"nec furtum feci nec fugi," si mihi dicat
servus, "habes pretium, loris non ureris," aio.
"non hominem occidi:" "non pasces in cruce corvos."
"sum bonus et frugi:" renuit negitatque Sabellus.
cautus enim metuit foveam lupus accipiterque
suspectos laqueos et opertum miluus hamum.
oderunt peccare boni virtutis amore.
tu nihil admittes in te formidine poenae:
sit spes fallendi, miscebis sacra profanis.
nam de mille fabae modiis cum surripis unum,
damnum est, non facinus, mihi pacto lenius isto.
vir bonus, omne forum quem spectat et omne tribunal,
quandocumque deos vel porco vel bove placat,
"Iane pater!" clare, clare cum dixit, "Apollo!"
labra movet metuens audiri: "pulchra Laverna,
da mihi fallere, da iusto sanctoque videri,
noctem peccatis et fraudibus obice nubem."

Qui melior servo, qui liberior sit avarus,
in triviis fixum cum se demittit ob assem,
non video; nam qui cupiet, metuet quoque; porro,
qui metuens vivet, liber mihi non erit umquam.
perdidit arma, locum Virtutis deseruit, qui
semper in augenda festinat et obruitur re.
vendere cum possis captivum, occidere noli;
serviet utiliter; sine pascat durus aretque,
naviget ac mediis hiemet mercator in undis,
annonae prosit, portet frumenta penusque.

Vir bonus et sapiens audebit dicere: "Pentheu,
rector Thebarum, quid me perferre patique
indignum coges?" "Adimam bona." "Nempe pecus, rem,
lectos, argentum: tollas licet." "In manicis et
compedibus saevo te sub custode tenebo."
"Ipse deus, simul atque volam, me solvet." opinor,
hoc sentit: "moriar." mors ultima linea rerum est.

Lest you, my good Quinctius, should have to
ask me about my farm, whether it supports
its master with plough-land, or makes him rich
with olives, whether with apples or with
meadows or vine-clad elms, I will describe
for you in rambling style the nature and lie of
the land.

There are hills, quite unbroken, were they not
cleft by one shady valley, yet such that the
rising sun looks on its right side, and when
departing in his flying car warms the left. The
climate would win your praise. What if you
knew that the bushes bear a rich crop of
ruddy cornels and plums, that oak and ilex
gladden the cattle with plenteous fruitage, and
their lord with plenteous shade? You would
say that Tarentum with its verdure was
brought nearer home. A spring, too, fit to
give its name to a river, so that not cooler nor
purer is Hebrus winding through Thrace,
flows with healing for sickly heads and sickly
stomachs. This retreat, so sweet -- yes, believe
me, so bewitching -- keeps me, my friend, in
sound health in September's heat.

And you -- you live the true life, if you
take care to be what people call you. All we in
Rome have long talked of you as happy; but I
fear, as touching yourself, that you may give
more credit to others than to your own
judgment, or that you may think someone
other than the wise and good man can be
happy; or that, if over and over men say you
are in sound and good health, you may,
toward the dinner-hour, disguise the hidden
fever, until a trembling falls upon your greasy
hands. Fools, through false shame, hide the
unhealed sore.

Suppose a man were to speak of wars
fought by you on land and sea, and with
words like these flatter your attentive ears:

May He, to whom both thou and Rome are dear,
Keep secret still, which is the fuller truth,
The love of Rome for thee, or thine for her!

you would see in them the praises of
Augustus. When you suffer yourself to be
called wise and flawless, do you answer, pray
tell me, in your own name? "To be sure, I
like to be called a good man and wise, even
as you do." But they who gave you this title
today will, if they so please, take it away
tomorrow; even as, if they bestow the lictor's
rods on one unworthy, they will likewise
wrest them from him. "Put that down, 'tis
ours," they say. I do so, and sadly withdraw.
If the same people were to cry after me
"Thief!", call me "Profligate," insist that I
strangled my father, ought I to be stung by
such lying charges, and change color? Whom
does false honor delight, whom does lying
calumny affright, save the man who is full of
flaws and needs the doctor?

Who is the "good man?" He who
observes the Senate's decrees, the statutes and
laws; whose judgment settles many grave
suits; whose surety means safety for
property; whose testimony wins suits at law."
Yet this very man all his household and all
his neighbors see to be foul within, though
fair without, under his comely skin. If a slave
were to say to me, "I never stole or ran away:"
my reply would be, "You have your reward;
you are not flogged." "I never killed anyone."
"You'll hang on no cross to feed crows." "I am
good and honest." Our Sabine friend shakes
his head and says, "No,no!" For the wolf is
wary and dreads the pit, the hawk the
suspected snare, the pike the covered hook.
The good hate vice because they love virtue;
you will commit no crime because you dread
punishment. Suppose there's a hope of
escaping detection; you will make no
difference between sacred and profane. For
when from a thousand bushels of beans you
steal one, my loss in that case is less, but not
your sin. This "good man," for forum and
tribunal the cynosure of every eye, whenever
with swine or ox he makes atonement to the
gods, cries with loud voice "Father Janus,"
with loud voice "Apollo," then moves his lips,
fearing to be heard: "Fair Laverna, grant me to
escape detection; grant me to pass as just and
upright, shroud my sins in night, my lies in
clouds!"

How the miser is better than a slave, or
is more free, when he stoops at the
cross-roads to pick up the copper fastened
there, I do not see: for he who covets will
also have fears; further, he who lives in fear,
will never, to my mind, be free. A man has
lost his weapons, has quitted his post with
Virtue, who is ever busied and lost in making
money. When you can sell a captive, don't
kill him: he will make a useful slave. If
hardy, let him be shepherd or plowman: let
him go to sea, and winter as a trader in the
midst of the waves: let him help the market:
let him carry food and fodder.

The truly good and wise man will have
courage to say: "Pentheus, lord of Thebes,
what shame will you compel me to stand and suffer?"
"I will take away your goods."
"You mean my cattle, my substance, couches,
plate? You may take them."
"I will keep you in handcuffs and fetters,
under a cruel jailer."
"God himself, the moment I choose, will set
me free." This, I take it, is his meaning: "I will
die." Death is the line that marks the end of all.


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Epistles: 1.7 | 1.10 | 1.14 | 1.16 | 1.18
Epode: 2
Odes: 1.17 | 1.20 | 1.22 | 2.13 | 2.17 | 2.18 | 3.1 | 3.4 | 3.8 | 3.13 | 3.18 | 3.22 | 3.23 | 3.29
Satires: 2.3 | 2.6 | 2.7
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