"Sic raro scribis, ut toto non quater anno
membranam poscas, scriptorum quaeque retexens,
iratus tibi, quod vini somnique benignus
nil dignum sermone canas; quid fiet? at ipsis
Saturnalibus huc fugisti. sobrius ergo
dic aliquid dignum promissis: incipe. nil est:
culpantur frustra calami, inmeritusque laborat
iratis natus paries dis atque poetis.
atqui voltus erat multa et praeclara minantis,
si vacuum tepido cepisset villula tecto.
quorsum pertinuit stipare Platona Menandro,
Eupolin, Archilochum, comites educere tantos?
invidiam placare paras virtute relicta?
contemnere, miser. vitanda est improba Siren
desidia, aut quidquid vita meliore parasti
ponendum aequo animo." di te, Damasippe, deaeque
verum ob consilium donent tonsore. sed unde
tam bene me nosti? "Postquam omnis res mea Ianum
ad medium fracta est, aliena negotia curo,
excussus propriis. olim nam quaerere amabam,
quo vafer ille pedes lavisset Sisyphus aere,
quid sculptum infabre, quid fusum durius esset;
callidus huic signo ponebam milia centum;
hortos egregiasque domos mercarier unus
cum lucro noram; unde frequentia Mercuriale
imposuere mihi cognomen compita." novi
et miror morbi purgatum te illius. "atqui
emovit veterem mire novus, ut solet, in cor
traiecto lateris miseri capitisve dolore,
ut lethargicus hic cum fit pugil et medicum urget."
dum ne quid simile huic, esto ut libet. "o bone, ne te
frustrere, insanis et tu stultique prope omnes,
si quid Stertinius veri crepat, unde ego mira
descripsi docilis praecepta haec, tempore quo me
solatus iussit sapientem pascere barbam
atque a Fabricio non tristem ponte reverti.
nam male re gesta cum vellem mittere operto
me capite in flumen, dexter stetit et: 'Cave faxis
te quicquam indignum: pudor,' inquit, 'te malus angit,
insanos qui inter vereare insanus haberi.
primum nam inquiram, quid sit furere: hoc si erit in te
solo, nil verbi, pereas quin fortiter, addam.
'Quem mala stultitia et quemcumque inscitia veri
caecum agit, insanum Chrysippi porticus et grex
autumat. haec populos, haec magnos formula reges,
excepto sapiente, tenet. 'nunc accipe, quare
desipiant omnes aeque ac tu, qui tibi nomen
insano posuere. velut silvis, ubi passim
palantis error certo de tramite pellit,
ille sinistrorsum, hic dextrorsum abit, unus utrique
error, sed variis illudit partibus; hoc te
crede modo insanum, nihilo ut sapientior ille,
qui te deridet, caudam trahat. 'Est genus unum
stultitiae nihilum metuenda timentis, ut ignis,
ut rupes fluviosque in campo obstare queratur:
alterum et huic varum et nihilo sapientius ignis
per medios fluviosque ruentis. clamet amica
mater, honesta soror cum cognatis, pater, uxor:
"hic fossa est ingens, hic rupes maxima: serva!"
non magis audierit, quam Fufius ebrius olim,
cum Ilionam edormit, Catienis mille ducentis
"mater, te appello!" clamantibus. huic ego volgus
errori similem cunctum insanire docebo.
'Insanit veteres statuas Damasippus emendo:
integer est mentis Damasippi creditor? esto.
"accipe quod numquam reddas mihi," si tibi dicam,
tune insanus eris, si acceperis? an magis excors
reiecta praeda, quam praesens Mercurius fert?
scribe decem a Nerio: non est satis; adde Cicutae
nodosi tabulas centum, mille adde catenas:
effugiet tamen haec sceleratus vincula Proteus.
cum rapies in ius malis ridentem alienis,
fiet aper, modo avis, modo saxum et, cum volet, arbor
si male rem gerere insani est, contra bene sani,
putidius multo cerebrum est, mihi crede, Perelli
dictantis, quod tu numquam rescribere possis.
'Audire atque togam iubeo componere, quisquis
ambitione mala aut argenti pallet amore,
quisquis luxuria tristive superstitione
aut alio mentis morbo calet: huc propius me,
dum doceo insanire omnis vos ordine, adite.
'Danda est ellebori multo pars maxima avaris;
nescio an Anticyram ratio illis destinet omnem.
heredes Staberi summam incidere sepulcro,
ni sic fecissent, gladiatorum dare centum
damnati populo paria atque epulum arbitrio Arri,
frumenti quantum metit Africa. "sive ego prave
seu recte hoc volui, ne sis patruus mihi:" credo,
hoc Staberi prudentem animum vidisse. "quid ergo
sensit, cum summam patrimoni insculpere saxo
heredes voluit?" quoad vixit, credidit ingens
pauperiem vitium et cavit nihil acrius, ut, si
forte minus locuples uno quadrante perisset,
ipse videretur sibi nequior. omnis enim res,
virtus, fama, decus, divina humanaque pulchris
divitiis parent; quas qui construxerit, ille
clarus erit, fortis, iustus. "sapiensne?" etiam, et rex
et quidquid volet. hoc, veluti virtute paratum,
speravit magnae laudi fore. 'Quid simile isti
Graecus Aristippus, qui servos proicere aurum
in media iussit Libya, quia tardius irent
propter onus segnes? uter est insanior horum?
nil agit exemplum, litem quod lite resolvit.
si quis emat citharas, emptas comportet in unum,
nec studio citharae nec Musae deditus ulli,
si scalpra et formas non sutor, nautica vela
aversus mercaturis, delirus et amens
undique dicatur merito. qui discrepat istis,
qui nummos aurumque recondit, nescius uti
compositis metuensque velut contingere sacrum?
Stoice, post damnum sic vendas omnia pluris,
qua me stultitia, quoniam non est genus unum,
insanire putas? ego nam videor mihi sanus.
"Quid, caput abscisum manibus cum portat Agave
gnati infelicis, sibi tunc furiosa videtur?"
Stultum me fateor (liceat concedere veris)
atque etiam insanum: tantum hoc edissere, quo me
aegrotare putes animi vitio. "accipe: primum
aedificas, hoc est, longos imitaris, ab imo
ad summum totus moduli bipedalis, et idem
corpore maiorem rides Turbonis in armis
spiritum et incessum: qui ridiculus minus illo?
an quodcumque facit Maecenas, te quoque verum est,
tantum dissimilem et tanto certare minorem?
Absentis ranae pullis vituli pede pressis,
unus ubi effugit, matri denarrat, ut ingens
belua cognatos eliserit: illa rogare,
quantane? num tantum, sufflans se, magna fuisset?
'maior dimidio.' 'num tanto?' cum magis atque
se magis inflaret, 'non, si te ruperis,' inquit,
'par eris.' haec a te non multum abludit imago.
adde poemata nunc, hoc est, oleum adde camino,
quae si quis sanus fecit, sanus facis et tu.
non dico horrendam rabiem," iam desine! "cultum
maiorem censu," Teneas, Damasippe, tuis te!
"mille puellarum, puerorum mille furores."
O maior tandem parcas, insane, minori!
DAMASIPPUS. So seldom do you write, that not four
times in all the year do you call for the
parchment, while you unweave the web of all you
have written, and are angry with yourself because,
while so generous of wine and of sleep, you turn
out no poetry worth talking about. What will be
the end? Why, you say, even in the Saturnalia you
fled here for refuge. Well then, in your sober
mood, tell something worthy of your promises.
Begin. Nothing comes. In vain you blame the pen;
and the innocent wall, begotten when gods and
poets were angry, must suffer. Yet you had the
look of one who threatened great and glorious
things, if once you were care-free and your
country cottage welcomed you under its warm roof.
What was the use of packing Plato with Menander,
and of taking out of town Eupolis and Archilochus,
such weighty comrades? Think you to lay Envy low
by deserting Virtue? You will earn contempt, poor
wretch. You must shun the wicked Siren, Sloth, or
be content to drop whatever honour you have gained
in nobler hours.
HORACE. May the gods and goddesses give you,
Damasippus, for your sound advice -- a barber! But
how come you to know me so well ?
DAM. Ever since the wreck of all my fortunes at
the Central Arcade, I have looked after other
people's business, after being flung overboard
from my own. There was a time when my hobby was
to look out for the bronze in which shrewd old
Sisyphus had washed his feet, and to see what work
of art was crude in the carving, what was too
rough in the casting. As an expert, I valued this
or that statue at a hundred thousand. As to
gardens and fine houses, I was the one man that
knew how to buy them at a bargain; hence the
crowded streets gave me the nickname of
HOR. I know it, and am surprised to find you cured
of that disorder.
DAM. Nay, what is surprising is that a new
disorder drove out the old, as is the way when the
pain of aching side or head passes into the
stomach, or when the lethargic patient here turns
boxer and pummels the doctor.
HOR. As long as you do nothing of that sort. Be it
as you please.
DAM. My good sir, don't deceive yourself; you,
too, are mad, and so, I may say, are all fools, if
there is any truth in the preaching of Stertinius,
from whom I took down these wondrous lessons that
I learned, the very day that he consoled me, and
bade me grow a wise man's beard, and go home from
the Fabrician bridge, no longer sad. For after my
business failed, and I wanted to cover up my head
and fling myself into the river, he stood at my
right hand and said:
"Beware of doing anything unworthy of yourself.
'Tis a false shame that tortures you, for among
madmen you fear to be thought mad. For first of
all I will ask, What is madness ? If this is found
in you alone, I will not add another word to save
you from dying bravely.
"Every man whom perverse folly, whom ignorance of
the truth drives on in blindness, the Porch of
Chrysippus and his flock pronounce insane. This
definition takes in whole nations, this takes in
mighty kings, all save only the sage.
" Now learn why all, who have given you the name
of madman, are quite as crazy as yourself. Just as
in a forest, where some error drives men to wander
to and fro from the proper path, and this one goes
off to the left and that one to the right: both
are under the same error, but are led astray in
different ways: so believe yourself to be insane
only so far that he who laughs at you drags a tail
behind him, no whit the wiser man.
" One class of fools fear where there is nothing
at all to fear, crying out that fires, that rocks
and rivers stop their course over an open plain.
Another class, diverging from this, but no whit
more wisely, would rush through the midst of fire
and flood. Though a fond mother, a noble sister,
father, wife and kindred, cry out: 'Here's a broad
ditch, here's a huge rock,
look out!' they would no more give ear than once
did drunken Fufius, as he over-slept the part of
Ilione, while twelve hundred Catieni shouted,
'Mother, on thee I call!' Like such folly is the
madness of all the world, as I shall prove.
"Damasippus is mad in buying old statues; the
creditor of Damasippus, is he sound of mind? Be
it so! But if I say to you, 'Take this sum which
you need never return to me,' will you be a madman
if you take it? Or will you be more senseless if
you spurn the booty which propitious Mercury
offers?' Write out ten bonds drawn up by
Nerius.' That's not enough; add a hundred of the
cunning Cicuta -- add a thousand fetters! yet your
scoundrelly Proteus will slip out from all these
ties. When you drag him to court, he will laugh at
your expense; he will turn into a boar, then
into a bird, then into a stone, or, if he likes, a
tree. If it be the mark of a madman to manage an
estate badly, but of a sane man to manage well,
then much more addled, believe me, is the brain of
a Perellius, who dictates the bond, which you can
"Now give heed, I bid you, arrange your robes,
and whoever of you is pale with sordid ambition or
avarice, whoever is feverish with extravagance or
gloomy superstition, or some other mental
disorder. Hither, come nearer to me, while I prove
that you are mad, all of you from first to last.
"To the covetous must we give far the largest
dose of hellebore: wisdom, I rather think, would
assign to them all Anticyra. The heirs of
Staberius had to engrave upon his tomb the sum of
his estate: should they fail to do so, they were
bound to provide for the people a hundred pairs of
gladiators, with such a feast as Arrius would
direct, and as much corn as Africa reaps.
'Whether I am right or wrong in willing this,' he
wrote,' don't play the uncle with me.' That, I
take it, is what Staberius in his wisdom foresaw.
'Well,' you ask, 'what was his intent when he
willed that his heirs should carve on stone the
sum of his estate?' All his life long he thought
poverty a monstrous evil, and shunned nothing more
earnestly, so that, if haply he had died less rich
by a single penny, so far would he have thought
himself the worse man. For all things -- worth,
repute, honour, things divine and human -- are slaves
to the beauty of wealth, and he who has made his
'pile' will be famous, brave and just. 'And wise
too ? 'Yes, wise, and a king and anything else he
pleases. His riches, as though won by worth, would
bring him, he hoped, great renown.
"What is the likeness between such a man and the
Greek Aristippus, who in mid Libya bade his slaves
throw away his gold, because, said he, freighted
with the burden, they journeyed too slowly? Which
of the two is the madder? Useless is an instance
solves puzzle by puzzle. If a man were to buy
harps, and soon as bought were to pile them
together, though feeling no interest in the harp
or any Muse; if, though no cobbler, he did the
same with shoe knives and lasts; with ships'
sails, though set against a trader's life -- everyone
would call him crazy and mad, and rightly too. How
differs from these the man who hoards up silver
and gold, though he knows not how to use his
store, and fears to touch it as though hallowed?
HORACE. Good Stoic -- as I pray that after your losses
you may sell all you have at a profit! -- in what
folly, since there are so many kinds, do you think
my madness appears? For to myself I seem sane.
DAMASIPPUS. What? When Agave is carrying in her
hands the head of her luckless son, which she has
cut off, does she even then think herself mad?
HOR. I confess my folly -- let me yield to the truth --
and my madness too. This only unfold: from what
mental failing do you think I suffer?
DAM. Listen. First, you are building, which
means, you try to ape big men, though from top to
toe your full height is but two feet; and yet
you laugh at the strut and spirit of Turbo in his
armour, as though they were too much for his body.
How are you less foolish than he? Is it right
that whatever Maecenas does, you also should do,
so unlike him as you are and such a poor match for
A mother frog was away from home when her young
brood were crushed under the foot of a calf. One
only escaped to tell the tale to his mother, how a
huge beast had dashed his brothers to death. "How
big was it?" she asks; "as big as this?"
puffing herself out. "Half as big again." "Was
it big like this?" as she swelled herself out
more and more.
"Though you burst yourself," said he, "you'll
never be as large." Not badly does this picture
hit you off. Now throw in your verses -- that is,
throw oil on the fire. If any man ever wrote
verses when sane, then you are sane in writing
yours. I say nothing of your awful temper--
HOR. Stop now!
DAM. Your style beyond your means--
HOR. Mind your own business, Damasippus.
DAM. Your thousand passions for lads and lasses.
HOR. O greater one, spare, I pray, the lesser