"Iamdudum ausculto et cupiens tibi dicere servus
pauca reformido." Davusne? "ita, Davus, amicum
mancipium domino et frugi quod sit satis, hoc est,
ut vitale putes." age, libertate Decembri,
quando ita maiores voluerunt, utere; narra.
"Pars hominum vitiis gaudet constanter et urget
propositum; pars multa natat, modo recta capessens,
interdum pravis obnoxia. saepe notatus
cum tribus anellis, modo laeva Priscus inani,
vixit inaequalis, clavum ut mutaret in horas,
aedibus ex magnis subito se conderet, unde
mundior exiret vix libertinus honeste;
iam moechus Romae, iam mallet doctus Athenis
vivere, Vertumnis, quotquot sunt, natus iniquis.
scurra Volanerius, postquam illi iusta cheragra
contudit articulos, qui pro se tolleret atque
mitteret in phimum talos, mercede diurna
conductum pavit; quanto constantior isdem
in vitiis, tanto levius miser ac prior illo,
qui iam contento, iam laxo fune laborat."
non dices hodie, quorsum haec tam putida tendant,
furcifer? "ad te, inquam." quo pacto, pessime? "laudas
fortunam et mores antiquae plebis, et idem,
si quis ad illa deus subito te agat, usque recuses,
aut quia non sentis, quod clamas rectius esse,
aut quia non firmus rectum defendis, et haeres
nequiquam caeno cupiens evellere plantam.
Romae rus optas; absentem rusticus urbem
tollis ad astra levis. si nusquam es forte vocatus
ad cenam, laudas securum holus ac, velut usquam
vinctus eas, ita te felicem dicis amasque,
quod nusquam tibi sit potandum. iusserit ad se
Maecenas serum sub lumina prima venire
convivam: 'nemon oleum fert ocius? ecquis
audit?' cum magno blateras clamore fugisque.
Mulvius et scurrae, tibi non referenda precati,
discedunt. 'etenim fateor me,' dixerit ille
'duci ventre levem, nasum nidore supinor,
inbecillus, iners, siquid vis, adde, popino.
tu cum sis quod ego et fortassis nequior, ultro
insectere velut melior verbisque decoris
obvolvas vitium?' quid, si me stultior ipso
quingentis empto drachmis deprenderis? aufer
me voltu terrere; manum stomachumque teneto,
dum quae Crispini docuit me ianitor edo.
"Te coniunx aliena capit, meretricula Davum.
peccat uter nostrum cruce dignius? acris ubi me
natura intendit, sub clara nuda lucerna
quaecumque excepit turgentis verbera caudae,
clunibus aut agitavit equum lasciva supinum,
dimittit neque famosum neque sollicitum ne
ditior aut formae melioris meiat eodem.
tu cum proiectis insignibus, anulo equestri
Romanoque habitu, prodis ex iudice Dama
turpis, odoratum caput obscurante lacerna,
non es quod simulas? metuens induceris atque
altercante libidinibus tremis ossa pavore.
quid refert, uri virgis ferroque necari
auctoratus eas, an turpi clausus in arca,
quo te demisit peccati conscia erilis,
contractum genibus tangas caput? estne marito
matronae peccantis in ambo iusta potestas,
in corruptorem vel iustior. illa tamen se
non habitu mutatve loco peccatve superne,
cum te formidet mulier neque credat amanti.
ibis sub furcam prudens, dominoque furenti
committes rem omnem et vitam et cum corpore famam.
"Evasti: credo, metues doctusque cavebis;
quaeres, quando iterum paveas iterumque perire
possis, o totiens servus! quae belua ruptis,
cum semel effugit, reddit se prava catenis?
"non sum moechus," ais: neque ego hercule, fur, ubi vasa
praetereo sapiens argentea. tolle periclum:
iam vaga prosiliet frenis Natura remotis.
tune mihi dominus, rerum imperiis hominumque
tot tantisque minor, quem ter vindicta quaterque
imposita haud umquam misera formidine privet?
adde super dictis quod non levius valeat: nam
sive vicarius est, qui servo paret, uti mos
vester ait, seu conservus, tibi quid sum ego? nempe
tu, mihi qui imperitas, alii servis miser atque
duceris ut nervis alienis mobile lignum.
"Quisnam igitur liber? sapiens sibi qui imperiosus,
quem neque pauperies neque mors neque vincula terrent,
responsare cupidinibus, contemnere honores
fortis, et in se ipso totus, teres atque rotundus,
externi ne quid valeat per leve morari,
in quem manca ruit semper Fortuna. Potesne
ex his ut proprium quid noscere? quinque talenta
poscit te mulier, vexat foribusque repulsum
perfundit gelida, rursus vocat: eripe turpi
colla iugi, 'liber, liber sum,' dic age! non quis:
urget enim dominus mentem non lenis et acris
subiectat lasso stimulos versatque negantem.
Vel cum Pausiaca torpes, insane, tabella,
qui peccas minus atque ego, cum Fulvi Rutubaeque
aut Pacideiani contento poplite miror
proelia rubrica picta aut carbone, velut si
re vera pugnent, feriant vitentque moventes
arma viri? nequam et cessator Davus; at ipse
subtilis veterum iudex et callidus audis.
"Nil ego, si ducor libo fumante: tibi ingens
virtus atque animus cenis responsat opimis?
obsequium ventris mihi perniciosius est cur?
tergo plector enim. qui tu impunitior illa,
quae parvo sumi nequeunt, obsonia captas?
nempe inamarescunt epulae sine fine petitae,
illusique pedes vitiosum ferre recusant
corpus. an hic peccat, sub noctem qui puer uvam
furtiva mutat strigili? qui praedia vendit,
nil servile gulae parens habet? adde, quod idem
non horam tecum esse potes, non otia recte
ponere, teque ipsum vitas fugitivus et erro,
iam vino quaerens, iam somno fallere Curam;
frustra: nam comes atra premit sequiturque fugacem."
Unde mihi lapidem? "quorsum est opus?" unde sagittas?
"aut insanit homo aut versus facit." ocius hinc te
ni rapis, accedes opera agro nona Sabino.
DAVUS. I've been listening some time, and wishing
to say a word to you, but as a slave I dare not.
HORACE. Is that Davus ?
DAV. Yes, Davus, a slave loyal to his master, and
fairly honest -- that is, so that you need not think
him too good to live.
HOR. Come, use the licence December allows, since
our fathers willed it so. Have your say.
DAV. Some men persist in their love of vice and
stick to their purpose; the greater number waver,
now aiming at the right, at times giving way to
evil. Thus Priscus, who often attracted notice by
wearing three rings, but once in a while by
wearing none, was so fickle in his life, that he
would change his stripe every hour. Passing from a
stately mansion, he would bury himself in a den,
from which a decent freedman could scarcely emerge
without shame. Now he would choose to live in Rome
as a rake, now as a sage in Athens -- a man born when
every single Vertumnus was out of sorts.
Volanerius, the jester, when the gout he had
earned crippled his finger joints, kept a man,
hired at a daily wage, to pick
up the dice for him and put them in the box. As he
was the more persistent in his vices, so he was
the less unhappy and the better man, than the one
who, with rope now taut, now loose, is in
HOR. Are you to take all day, you scape-gallows,
in telling me the point of such rot?
DAV. 'Tis you, I say.
HOR. How so, villain?
DAV. You praise the fortune and manners of the men
of old; and yet, if on a sudden some god were for
taking you back to those days, you would refuse
every time; either because you don't really think
that what you are ranting is sounder, or because
you are wobbly in defending the right, and, though
vainly longing to pull your foot from the filth,
yet stick fast in it. At Rome you long for the
country; in the country, you extol to the stars
the distant town, you fickle one! If so it be
that you are asked out nowhere to supper, you
praise your quiet dish of herbs, and, as though
you were in chains when you do go anywhere, you
call yourself lucky, and hug yourself, because you
have not to go out for some carousel. Let but
Maecenas bid you at a late hour come to him as a
guest, just at lamp-lighting time: "Won't someone
bring me oil this instant? Does nobody hear me?"
So you scream and bawl, then tear off. Mulvius
and his fellow-jesters sneak off with curses for
you that I cannot repeat. "Yes," he would say,
"'tis true that I'm a fickle creature, led by my
stomach. I curl up my nose for a savoury
smell. I am weak, lazy, and, if you like to add, a
toper. But you, since you are just the same and
maybe worse, would you presume to assail me, as
though you were a better man, and would you throw
over your own vices a cloak of seemly words?"
What if you are found to be a greater fool than
even I, who cost you five hundred drachmas?
Don't try to scare me by your looks. Hold back
your hand and temper, while I set forth the
lessons taught me by the porter of Crispinus.
You are the slave of another man's wife; Davus of
a poor harlot. Which of us commits a sin more
deserving of the cross? When vehement nature
drives me, she who satisfies my passion sends me
away neither disgraced nor anxious lest some
richer or more handsome man possess her. You, when
you have cast aside your badges, the ring of
knighthood and your Roman dress, and step forth,
no longer a judge, but a low Dama, with a cape
hiding your perfumed head, are you not what you
pretend to be? Full of fear, you are let into the
house, and you tremble with a terror that clashes
with your passions. What matters it, whether you
go off in bondage, to be scourged and slain with
the sword, or whether, shut up in a shameful
chest, where the maid, conscious of her mistress's
sin, has stowed you away, you touch your crouching
head with your knees? Has not the husband of the
erring matron a just power over both? Over the
seducer a still juster? Yet she
does not change either garb or position, and she
is not the chief sinner, since she is in dread of
you and does not trust her lover. You with eyes
open will pass under the yoke, and hand over to a
furious master your fortune, your life, your
person and repute.
Suppose you have escaped: then, I take it, you
will be afraid and cautious after your lesson. No,
you will seek occasion so as again to be in
terror, again to face ruin, O you slave many times
over! But what beast, having once burst its bonds
and escaped, perversely returns to them again?
"I am no adulterer," you say. And, in faith, I am
no thief either, when I wisely pass by your silver
plate. Take away the risk, set aside restraint,
and Nature will spring forward, to roam at will.
Are you my master, you, a slave to the dominion of
so many men and things -- you, whom the praetor's
rod, though placed on your head three or four
times over, never frees from base terror? And
over and above what I have said, add something of
no less weight: whether one who obeys a slave is
an underslave, as the custom of your class names
him, or a fellow-slave, what am I in respect of
you? Why, you, who lord it over me, are the
wretched slave of another master, and you are
moved like a wooden puppet by wires that others
Who then is free? The wise man, who is lord over
himself, whom neither poverty nor death nor bonds
affright, who bravely defies his passions, and
scorns ambition, who in himself is a whole,
smoothed and rounded, so that nothing from outside
on the polished surface, and against whom Fortune
in her onset is ever maimed.
Of these traits can you recognize any one as your
own? A woman asks of you five talents, worries
you, shuts her door in your face, drenches you in
cold water, then -- calls you back. Rescue your neck
from the yoke of shame; come, say, "I am free, am
free." You cannot; for you have a master, and no
gentle one, plaguing your soul, pricking your
weary side with the sharp spur, and driving you on
against your will.
Or when, madman, you stand dazed before a picture
of Pausias, how do you offend less than I, when I
marvel at the contests of Fulvius, Rutuba, or
Pacideianus, with their straining legs, drawn in
red chalk or charcoal, just as lifelike as if the
heroes were really waving their weapons, and
fighting, striking, and parrying? Davus is a
"rascal and dawdler," but you are called a "fine
and expert critic of antiques."
If I'm tempted by a smoking pasty, I'm a good-for-
naught: but you> -- does your heroic virtue and spirit
defy rich suppers? Why is it more ruinous for me
to obey the stomach's call? My back, to be sure,
pays for it. But how do you escape punishment more
than I, when you hanker for those dainties which
cannot be bought at small cost? Why, that
feasting, endlessly indulged, turns to gall, and
the feet you've duped refuse to bear up your
sickly body. Is the slave guilty, who at fall of
night swaps for grapes the flesh-brush he has
stolen? Is there
nothing of the slave about one who sells his
estates at his belly's bidding? And again, you
cannot yourself bear to be in your own company,
you cannot employ your leisure aright, you shun
yourself, a runaway and vagabond, seeking now with
wine, and now with sleep, to baffle Care. In vain:
that black consort dogs and follows your flight.
HOR Where can I find a stone?
DAVUS. What's it
HOR. Or where arrows?
DAVUS. The man's
raving, or else verse-making.
HOR. If you don't take yourself off in a jiffy,
you'll make the ninth labourer on my Sabine farm.