Translations
by permission
of the

Harvard
University
Press

Epistles I.7



Latin English




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Quinque dies tibi pollicitus me rure futurum,
Sextilem totum mendax desideror. atque,
si me vivere vis sanum recteque valentem,
quam mihi das aegro, dabis aegrotare timenti,
Maecenas, veniam, dum ficus prima calorque
dissignatorem decorat lictoribus atris,
dum pueris omnis pater et matercula pallet.
officiosaque sedulitas et opella forensis
adducit febris et testamenta resignat.
quod si bruma nives Albanis illinet agris,
ad mare descendet vates tuus et sibi parcet
contractusque leget; te, dulcis amice, reviset
cum Zephyris, si concedes, et hirundine prima.
Non quo more piris vesci Calaber iubet hospes
tu me fecisti locupletem. "vescere, sodes."
"iam satis est." "at tu quantum vis tolle." "Benigne."
"non invisa feres pueris munuscula parvis."
"tam teneor dono, quam si dimittar onustus."
"ut libet; haec porcis hodie comedenda relinques."
prodigus et stultus donat quae spernit et odit;
haec seges ingratos tulit et feret omnibus annis.
vir bonus et sapiens dignis ait esse paratus,
nec tamen ignorat quid distent aera lupinis.
dignum praestabo me etiam pro laude merentis.
quod si me noles usquam discedere, reddes
forte latus, nigros angusta fronte capillos,
reddes dulce loqui, reddes ridere decorum et
inter vina fugam Cinarae maerere protervae.
Forte per angustam tenuis volpecula rimam
repserat in cumeram frumenti, pastaque rursus
ire foras pleno tendebat corpore frustra;
cui mustela procul: "si vis," ait, "effugere istinc,
macra cavum repetes artum, quem macra subisti."
hac ego si compellor imagine, cuncta resigno;
nec somnum plebis laudo satur altilium nec
otia divitiis Arabum liberrima muto.
saepe verecundum laudasti, rexque paterque
audisti coram nec verbo parcius absens:
inspice si possum donata reponere laetus.
haud male Telemachus, proles patientis Ulixei:
"non est aptus equis Ithace locus, ut neque planis
porrectus spatiis nec multae prodigus herbae:
Atride, magis apta tibi tua dona relinquam."
parvum parva decent; mihi iam non regia Roma,
sed vacuum Tibur placet aut imbelle Tarentum.
Strenuus et fortis causisque Philippus agendis
clarus, ab officiis octavam circiter horam
dum redit atque Foro nimium distare Carinas
iam grandis natu queritur, conspexit, ut aiunt,
adrasum quendam vacua tonsoris in umbra
cultello proprios purgantem leniter unguis.
"Demetri," (puer hic non laeve iussa Philippi
accipiebat) "abi, quaere et refer, unde domo, quis,
cuius fortunae, quo sit patre quove patrono."
it, redit et narrat Volteium nomine Menam,
praeconem, tenui censu, sine crimine, notum
et properare loco et cessare et quaerere et uti,
gaudentem parvisque sodalibus et lare certo
et ludis et post decisa negotia Campo.
"scitari libet ex ipso quodcumque refers: dic
ad cenam veniat." non sane credere Mena,
mirari secum tacitus. quid multa? "benigne,"
respondet. "neget ille mihi?" "negat improbus et te
neglegit aut horret." Volteium mane Philippus
vilia vendentem tunicato scruta popello
occupat et salvere iubet prior. ille Philippo
excusare laborem et mercennaria vincla,
quod non mane domum venisset, denique quod non
providisset eum. "sic ignovisse putato
me tibi, si cenas hodie mecum." "ut libet." "ergo
post nonam venies: nunc i, rem strenuus auge."
ut ventum ad cenam est, dicenda tacenda locutus
tandem dormitum dimittitur. Hic ubi saepe
occultum visus decurrere piscis ad hamum,
mane cliens et iam certus conviva, iubetur
rura suburbana indictis comes ire Latinis.
impositus mannis arvum caelumque Sabinum
non cessat laudare. videt ridetque Philippus,
et sibi dum requiem, dum risus undique quaerit,
dum septem donat sestertia, mutua septem
promittit, persuadet uti mercetur agellum.
mercatur. ne te longis ambagibus ultra
quam satis est morer, ex nitido fit rusticus atque
sulcos et vineta crepat mera, praeparat ulmos,
immoritur studiis et amore senescit habendi.
verum ubi oves furto, morbo periere capellae,
spem mentita seges, bos est enectus arando,
offensus damnis media de nocte caballum
arripit iratusque Philippi tendit ad aedis.
quem simul aspexit scabrum intonsumque Philippus:
"durus," ait, "Voltei, nimis attentusque videris
esse mihi." "pol, me miserum, patrone, vocares,
si velles," inquit "verum mihi ponere nomen.
quod te per Genium dextramque deosque Penatis
obsecro et obtestor, vitae me redde priori!"
Qui semel aspexit quantum dimissa petitis
praestent, mature redeat repetatque relicta.
metiri se quemque suo modulo ac pede verum est.

Only a week was I to stay in the country -- such
was my promise -- but, false to my word, I am
missed the whole of August. And yet, if you
would have me live sound and in good health,
the indulgence which you grant me when ill you
will grant me when I fear to become ill, while
the first figs and the heat adorn the undertaker
with his black attendants, while every father and
fond mother turns pale with fear for the children,
and while diligence in courtesies and the Forum's
petty business bring on fevers and unseal wills.
But if winter shall strew the Alban fields with
snow, your poet will go down to the sea, will be
careful of himself and, huddled up, will take to
his reading: you, dear friend, he will -- if you
permit -- revisit along with the zephyrs and the
first swallow.

'Twas not in the way a Calabrian host invites
you to eat his pears that you have made me rich.
"Eat some, pray." "I've had enough." "Well,
take away all you please." "No, thanks." "Your
tiny tots will love the little gifts you take
them." "I'm as much obliged for your offer as
if you sent me away loaded down." "As you
please; you'll be leaving them for the swine
to gobble up to-day."

The foolish prodigal gives away what he despises
and dislikes: the field thus sown has always
yielded, and always will yield, a crop of
ingratitude. Your good and wise man claims to be
ready to help the worthy, and yet he knows well
how coins and counters differ. Worthy I, too,
will show myself, as the glory of your good deed
demands. But if you will never suffer me to leave
you, you must give me back strength of lung, and
black locks on a narrow brow; you must give
back a pleasant prattle, give back graceful
laughter and laments amid our cups o'er saucy
Cinara's flight.

Once it chanced that a pinched little fox had
crept through a narrow chink into a bin of corn,
and when well fed was trying with stuffed stomach
to get out again, but in vain. To him quoth a
weasel hard by: "If you wish to escape from
there, you must go back lean to the narrow gap
which you entered when lean." If challenged by
this fable, I give up all. I neither praise the
poor man's sleep, when I am fed full on capons,
nor would I barter my ease and my freedom for all
the wealth of Araby. Often have you praised my
modesty, and have been called "king" and
"father" to your face, nor do I stint my words
behind your back. Try me, whether I can restore
your gifts, and cheerfully too. 'Twas no poor
answer of Telemachus, son of enduring Ulysses:
"Ithaca is no land meet for steeds, for it has no
level courses outspread, nor is it lavish of much
herbage. Son of Atreus, I will leave you your
gifts, as being more meet for you." Small things
befit small folk; my own delight to-day is not
queenly Rome, but quiet Tibur or peaceful
Tarentum.

Philippus, the famous pleader, a man of vigour and
courage, was returning home from work about two
o'clock. Being now somewhat on in years, he was
grumbling at the Carinae being too far from the
Forum, when (so the story goes) he caught sight of
a man close- shaven, sitting in a barber's empty
booth, and with pocket-knife quietly cleaning his
nails for himself. "Demetrius" (this lad was not
slow to catch his master's orders), "go, ask, and
bring me word, where that man's from, who he is,
and what's his standing, who is his father, or who
his patron." He goes, and comes back with the tale
that his name is Volteius Mena, a crier at
auctions, of modest fortune and blameless record,
known to work hard and idle in season, to make
money and spend it, taking pleasure in his humble
friends and a home of his own and, when business
is over, in the games and in the field of Mars
"I'd like to hear from his own lips all you tell
me. Bid him come to supper." Mena cannot really
believe it; he marvels in thoughtful silence. To
be brief, "No, thank you," he answers. "Would he
refuse me?" "He does, the rascal, and either
slights or dreads you."

Next morning Philippus comes on Volteius
selling cheap odds and ends to the common folk in
tunics and is first to give a greeting. The other
makes work and the ties of his trade an excuse to

Philippus for not having come to his house that
morning, in fine for not seeing him first.
"You're to take it that I've pardoned you only if
you sup with me to-day." "As you please." "You
will come then after three o'clock. Now go, set to
and add to your wealth!" On coming to supper, he
chatted about anything and everything, and then at
last was sent off to bed.

When he had often been seen to run like a fish to
the hidden hook, in the morning a client and now a
constant guest, he was invited to come as
companion, when the Latin games were proclaimed,
to a country estate near Rome. Mounted behind the
ponies, he is ever praising the Sabine soil and
climate. Philippus notes and smiles, and what with
looking for his own relief and amusement from any
source, and what with giving him seven thousand
sesterces, and offering him a loan of seven
thousand more, he persuades him to buy a little
farm. He does so. Not to hold you too long with a
rambling tale, our spruce cit becomes a rustic and
chatters about nothing but furrows and vineyards,
makes ready his elms, nearly kills himself over
his hobbies, and grows old with his passion for
getting. But when he has lost his sheep by theft
and his goats by disease, when his crops have
fooled his hopes and his ox is worn to death with
ploughing, fretting over his losses, in the middle
of the night he seizes his nag and in a rage makes
straight for the house of Philippus. He, soon as
he saw him, rough and unshorn, "Volteius," cries
he, "you seem to me too hard-worked and
over-strained." "Egad! my patron," said he,
"you would call me miserable wretch, if you could
give me my true name. But by your genius, by your
right hand and household gods, I implore and
entreat you, put me back in my former life."

Let him, who once has seen how far what he has
given up excels what he has sought, go back in
time and seek again the things he has left. 'Tis
right that each should measure himself by his own
rule and standard.


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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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