Juvenal and Persius/The Satires of Juvenal/Satire 14

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SATIRE XIV

No Teaching like that of Example

There are many things of ill repute, friend Fuscinus,—things that would affix a lasting stain to the brightest of lives,[c 1]—which parents themselves point out and hand on to their sons. If the aged father delights in ruinous play, his heir too gambles in his teens, and rattles the selfsame weapons in a tiny dice-box. If a youth has learnt from the hoary gluttony of a spendthrift father to peel truffles, to preserve mushrooms, and to souse beccaficoes in their own juice, none of his relatives need expect better things of him when he grows up. As soon as he has passed his seventh year, before he has cut all his second teeth, though you put a thousand bearded preceptors on his right hand, and as many on his left, he will always long to fare sumptuously, and not fall below the high standard of "his cookery.

15When Rutilus delights in the sound of a cruel flogging, deeming it sweeter than any siren's song, and being himself a very Antiphates,[1] or a Polyphemus, to his trembling household, is he inculcating gentleness, and leniency to slight faults; does he hold that the bodies and souls of slaves are made of the same stuff and elements as our own; or is he inculcating cruelty, never happy until he has summoned a torturer, and he can brand some one with a hot iron for stealing a couple of towels? What counsel does the father give to his son when he revels in the clanking of a chain, and takes wondrous pleasure in branded slaves, in prisons and his country bridewell? Are you simple enough to suppose that Larga's daughter will remain virtuous when she cannot count over her mother's lovers so rapidly, or string their names together so quickly, as not to take breath full thirty times? She was her mother's confidante as a girl; at her dictation she now indites her own little love-notes, despatching them to her paramours by the hand of the self-same menials. So Nature ordains; no evil example corrupts us so soon and so rapidly as one that has been set at home, since it comes into the mind on high authority. Here and there perhaps a youth may decline to follow the bad example; one whose soul the Titan[2] has fashioned with kindlier skill and of a finer clay; but the rest are led on by the parental steps which they should avoid, and are dragged into the old track of vice which has so long been pointed out to them.

38Abstain therefore from things which you must condemn; for this there is at least one all-powerful motive, that our crimes be not copied by our children. For we are all of us teachable in what is base and wrong; you may find a Catiline among any people, and in any clime, but nowhere will you find a Brutus, or the uncle of a Brutus. Let no foul word or sight cross the threshold within which there is a father. Away with you, ye hireling damsels! Away with the songs of the night-revelling parasite! If you have any evil deed in mind, you owe the greatest reverence to the young; disregard not your boy's tender years, and let your infant son stand in the way of the sin that you propose. For if some day or other he shall do a deed deserving the censor's wrath, and shall show himself like to you, not in form and face only, but also your child in vice, and following in all your footsteps with sin deeper than your own, you will doubtless rebuke him and chide him angrily and thereafter prepare to change your will. But how can you assume the grave brow and the free tone of a father if you in your old age are doing things worse than he did, and your own empty pate has long been needing the windy cupping-glass?

59When you expect a guest, not one of your household will be idle. "Sweep the pavement! Polish up the pillars! Down with that dusty spider, web and all! One of you clean the plain silver, another the embossed vessels!" So shouts the master, standing over them whip in hand. And so you are afraid, poor fool, that the eyes of your expected guest may be offended by the sight of dog's filth in the hall or of a portico splashed with mud—things which one slave-boy can put right with half a peck of sawdust; and yet will you take no pains that your son may behold a stainless home, free from any stain and blemish? It is good that you have presented your country and your people with a citizen, if you make him serviceable to his country, useful for the land, useful for the things both of peace and war. For it will make all the difference in what practices, in what habits, you bring him up. The stork feeds her young upon the serpents and the lizards which she finds in the wilds; the young search for the same things when they have gotten to themselves wings. The vulture hurries from dead cattle and dogs and gibbets to bring some of the carrion to her offspring; so this becomes the food of the vulture when he is full-grown and feeds himself, making his nest in a tree of his own. The noble birds that wait on Jove hunt the hare or the roe in the woods, and from them serve up prey to their eyrie; so when their progeny are of full age and soar up from the nest, hunger bids them swoop down upon that same prey which they had first tasted when they chipped the shell.

86Cretonius was given to building; now on Caieta's winding shore, now on the heights of Tibur, now on the Praenestine hills, he would rear lofty mansions, with marbles fetched from Greece and distant lands, outdoing the temples of Fortune and of Hercules[3] by as much as the eunuch Posides[4] over-topped our own Capitol. Housed therefore in this manner, he impaired his fortune and frittered away his wealth; some goodly portion of it still remained, but it was all squandered by his madman of a son in building new mansions of still costlier marbles.

96Some who have had a father who reveres the Sabbath, worship nothing but the clouds, and the divinity of the heavens,[5] and see no difference between eating swine's flesh, from which their father abstained, and that of man; and in time they take to circumcision. Having been wont to flout the laws of Rome, they learn and practise and revere the Jewish law, and all that Moses committed to his secret tome, forbidding to point out the way to any not worshipping the same rites, and conducting none but the circumcised to the desired fountain.[6] For all which the father was to blame, who gave up every seventh day to idleness, keeping it apart from all the concerns of life.[7]

107All vices but one the young imitate of their own free will; avarice alone is enjoined on them against the grain. For that vice has a deceptive appearance and semblance of virtue, being gloomy of mien, severe in face and garb. The miser is openly commended for his thrift, being deemed a saving man, who will be a surer guardian of his own wealth than if it were watched by the dragons of the Hesperides or of Colchis. Moreover, such a one is thought to be skilled in the art of money-getting; for it is under workers such as he that fortunes grow. And they grow bigger by every kind of means; the anvil is ever working, and the forge never ceases to glow.

119Thus the father deems the miser to be fortunate; and when he worships wealth, believing that no poor man was ever happy, he urges his sons to follow in the same path and to attach themselves to the same school. There are certain rudiments in vice; in these he imbues them from the beginning, compelling them to study its pettiest meannesses; after a while he instructs them in the inappeasable lust of money-getting. He pinches the bellies of his slaves with short rations, starving himself into the bargain; for he cannot bear to eat up all the mouldy fragments of stale bread. In the middle of September he will save up the hash of yesterday; in summer-time he will preserve under seal for to-morrow's dinner a dish of beans, with a bit of mackerel, or half a stinking sprat, counting the leaves of the cut leeks before he puts them away. No beggar from a bridge would accept an invitation to such a meal! But for what end do you pile up riches gathered through torments such as these, when it is plain madness and sheer lunacy to live in want that you may be wealthy when you die? Meantime, while your purse is full to bursting, your love of gain grows as much as the money itself has grown, and the man who has none of it covets it the least. And so when one country house is not enough for you, you buy a second; then you must extend your boundaries, because your neighbour's field seems bigger and better than your own; you must buy that too, and his vineyard, and the hill that is thick and grey with olive-trees. And if no price will persuade the owner to sell, you will send into his green corn by night a herd of lean and tarnished cattle, with wearied necks, who will not come home until they have put the whole crop into their ravenous bellies; no sickle, could make a cleaner job! How many bewail wrongs like these can scarce be told, nor how many fields have been brought to the hammer by such outrages.

152But what a talk there will be! How loud the blast of evil rumour! "What harm in that?" you will say: "better keep my peapods for myself than have the praises of the whole country-side if I am to have but a small farm and a miserable crop." Yes; and no doubt you will escape disease and weakness, you will have no sorrow, no trouble, you will have long and ever happier days, if only you are sole possessor of as many acres of good land as the Roman people tilled in the days of Tatius. In later times, Romans broken with old age, who had fought in the Punic battles or against the dread Pyrrhus or the swords of the Molossians, received at last, in return for all their wounds, a scanty two acres of land. None ever deemed such recompense too small for their service of toil and blood; none spoke of a shabby, thankless country. A little plot like that would feed the father himself and the crowd at the cottage where lay the wife in child-bed, with four little ones playing around—one slave-born, three the master's own; for their big brothers, on their return from ditch or furrow, a second and ampler supper of porridge would be smoking in a lordly dish. To-day we don't think such a plot of ground big enough for our garden!

173It is here mostly that lies the cause of crime. No human passion has mingled more poison-bowls, none has more often wielded the murderous dagger, than the fierce craving for unbounded wealth. For the man who wants wealth must have it at once; what respect for laws, what fear, what sense of shame is to be found in a miser hurrying to be rich? "Live content, my boys, with these cottages and hills of yours," said the Marsian or Hernican or Vestinian father in the days of yore; "let the plough win for us what bread shall suffice our table; such fare the rustic Gods approve, whose aid and bounty gave us the glad ear of corn, and taught man to disdain the acorn of ancient times. The man who is not ashamed to wear high boots in time of frost, and who keeps off the East wind with skins tm-ned inwards, will never wish to do a forbidden thing; it is purple raiment, whatever it be, foreign and unknown to us, that leads to crime and wickedness."

189Such were the maxims which those ancients taught the young; but now, when autumn days are over, the father houses his sleeping son after midnight with a shout; "Awake, boy, and take your tablets; scribble away and get up your cases; read through the red-lettered laws of our forefathers, or send in a petition for a centurion's vine-staff. See that Laelius notes your uncombed head and hairy nostrils, and admires your broad shoulders; destroy the huts of the Moors and the forts of the Brigantes,[8] that your sixtieth year may bring you the eagle[9] that will make you rich. Or if you are too lazy to endure the weary labours of the camp, if the sound of horn and trumpet melts your soul within you, buy something that you can sell at half as much again; feel no disgust at a trade that must be banished to the other side of the Tiber; make no distinction between hides and unguents; the smell of gain is good whatever the thing from which it comes. Let this maxim be ever on your lips, a saying worthy of the Gods, and of Jove himself if he turned poet; 'No matter whence the money comes, but money you must have.' " These are the lessons taught by skinny old nurses to little boys before they can walk; this is what every girl learns before her A B C!

210To any father urging precepts such as these I would say this; "Tell me, O emptiest of men, who bids you hurry? The disciple, I warrant you, will outstrip his master. You may leave him with an easy mind; you will be outdone as surely as Telamon was beaten by Ajax, or Peleus by Achilles. Be gentle with the young; their bones are not yet filled up with the marrow of ripe wickedness. When the lad begins to comb a beard, and apply to its length the razor's edge, he will give false testimony, he will sell his perjuries for a trifling sum, touching the altar and the foot of Ceres all the time. If your daughter-in-law brings a deadly dowry into the house, you may count her as already dead and buried. What a grip of fingers will throttle her in her sleep! For the wealth which you think should be hunted for over land and sea, your son will acquire by a shorter road; great crimes demand no labour. Some day you will say, 'I never taught these things, I never advised them'; no, but you are yourself the cause and origin of your son's depravity; for whosoever teaches the love of wealth turns his sons into misers by his ill-omened instruction. When he shows him how to double his patrimony by fraud,[c 2] he gives him his head, and throws a free rein over the car; try to call him back, and he cannot stop; he will pay no heed to you, he will rush on, leaving the turning-post far behind. No man is satisfied with sinning just as far as you permit; so much greater is the license which they allow themselves!

235"When you tell a youth that a man is a fool who makes a present to a friend, or relieves and lightens the poverty of a kinsman, you teach him to plunder and to cheat and to commit any kind of crime for money's sake, the love of which is as great in you as was love of their country in the hearts of the Decii, or in that of Menoeceus,[10] if Greece speaks true for Thebes—that country in whose furrows armed legions sprang into life out of dragons' teeth, taking straightway to grim battle as though a bugler had also risen up along with them. Thus you will see the fire, whose sparks you yourself have kindled, blazing far and wide and carrying all before them. Nor will you yourself, poor wretch, meet with any mercy; the pupil lion, with a loud roar, will devour the trembling instructor in his den. Your nativity, you say, is known to the astrologers; but it is a tedious thing to wait for the slow-running spindle, and you will die before your thread is snapped. You are already in your son's way; you are delaying his prayers; your long and stag-like old age is a torment to the young man. Seek out Archigenes at once; buy some of the mixture of Mithridates; if you wish to pluck one more fig, and gather roses once again, you should have some medicament to be swallowed before dinner by one who is both a father and a king."

256I am showing you the choicest of diversions, one with which no theatre, no show of a grand Praetor can compare, if you will observe at what a risk to life men increase their fortunes, become possessors of full brass-bound treasure-chests, or of the cash which must be deposited with watchful Castor,[11] ever since Mars the Avenger lost his helmet and failed to protect his own effects.[12] So you may give up all the performances of Flora, of Ceres, and of Cybele[13]; so much finer are the games of human life. Is there more pleasure to be got from gazing at men hurled from a spring-board, or tripping down a tight rope, than from yourself—you who spend your whole life in a Corycian[14] ship, ever tossed by the wind from North or South, a poor contemptible trafficker in stinking wares, finding your joy in importing sweet wine from the shores of ancient Crete, or flagons that were fellow-citizens of Jove?[15] Yet the man who plants his steps with balanced foot gains his livelihood thereby; that rope keeps him from cold and hunger; while you run the risk for the sake of a thousand talents or a hundred mansions. Look at our ports, our seas, crowded with big ships! The men at sea now outnumber those on shore. Whithersoever hope of gain shall call, thither fleets will come; not content with bounding over the Carpathian and Gaetulian seas, they will leave Calpe[16] far behind, and hear the sun hissing in the Herculean main. It is well worth while, no doubt, to have beheld the monsters of the deep and the young mermen of the Ocean that you may return home with tight-stuffed purse, and exult in your swollen money-bags!

284Not all men are possessed with one form of madness. One[17] madman in his sister's arms is terrified by the faces and fire of the Furies; another,[18] when he strikes down an ox, believes that it is Agamemnon or the Ithacan[19] that is bellowing. The man who loads his ship up to the gunwale with goods, with only a plank between him and the deep, is in need of a keeper, though he keep his hands off his shirt and his cloak, seeing that he endures all that misery and all that danger for the sake of bits of silver cut up into little images and inscriptions! Should clouds and thunder threaten, "Let go!" cries the merchant who has bought up corn or pepper, "that black sky, this dark wrack, are nought—it is but summer lightning." Poor wretch! on this very night perchance he will be cast out amid broken timbers and engulfed by the waves, clutching his purse with his left hand or his teeth. The man for whose desires yesterday not all the gold which Tagus and the ruddy Pactolus[20] rolls along would have sufficed, must now content himself with a rag to cover his cold and nakedness, and a poor morsel of food, while he begs for pennies as a shipwrecked mariner, and supports himself by a painted storm!

303Wealth gotten with such woes is preserved by fears and troubles that are greater still; it is misery to have the guardianship of a great fortune. The millionaire Licinus orders a troop of slaves to be on the watch all night with fire buckets in their places, being anxious for his amber, his statues and Phrygian marbles, his ivory and plaques of tortoise-shell. The nude Cynic[21] fears no fire for his tub; if broken, he will make himself a new house to-morrow, or repair it with clamps of lead. When Alexander beheld in that tub its mighty occupant, he felt how much happier was the man who had no desires than he who claimed for himself the entire world, with perils before him as great as his achievements. Had we but wisdom, thou wouldst have no Divinity, O Fortune; it is we that make thee into a Goddess![c 3]

316Yet if any should ask of me what measure of fortune is enough, I will tell him; as much as thirst, cold and hunger demand; as much as sufficed you, Epicurus, in your little garden; as much as in earlier days was to be found in the house of Socrates. Never does Nature say one thing and Wisdom another. Do the limits within which I confine you seem too severe? Then throw in something from our own manners; make up a sum as big as that which Otho's law[22] deems worthy of the fourteen rows. If that also knits your brow, and makes you thrust out your lip, take a couple of knights, or make up thrice four hundred thousand sesterces! If your lap is not yet full, if it is still opening for more, then neither the wealth of Croesus, nor that of the Persian Monarchs, will suffice you, nor yet that of Narcissus,[23] on whom Claudius Caesar lavished everything, and whose orders he obeyed when bidden to slay his wife.[24]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. A cruel tyrant, king of the Laestrygones.
  2. Prometheus, who made men out of clay.
  3. There were great temples of Fortuna at Praeneste, of Hercules at Tibur.
  4. A freedman of Claudius.
  5. The phrase caeli numen is hard to translate. What Juvenal means is that the Jews worshipped no concrete deity, such as could be pourtrayed, but only some impalpable mysterious spirit. They did not worship the sky or the heavens, but only the numen of the heavens. This is what Tacitus means when he says (Hist. v. 5) "The Jews worship with the mind alone." So Lucan. ii. 592-3 dedita sacris Incerti Judaea dei.
  6. It is possible that this refers to the practice of baptism which had become usual among the Jews in the time of our Lord, as we see from the case of John the Baptist.
  7. Tacitus also attributed the Sabbath to laziness; and adds dein blandiente inertia septimum quoque annum iqnaviae datum (Hist. v. 4).
  8. A powerful British tribe, occupying the greater part of England north of the Humber.
  9. i.e. the post of Senior Centurion (centurio primi pili), who had charge of the eagle of the legion.
  10. Slew himself to save Thebes.
  11. Money was deposited in the temple of Castor, in the Forum.
  12. The temple of Mars Ultor, in the Forum Augusti, seems to have been burgled.
  13. i.e. the games.
  14. Corycus. a town in Cilicia.
  15. Because Zeus was born in Crete.
  16. The rock of Gibraltar.
  17. i.e. Orestes.
  18. i.e. Ajax, who went mad, slaughtering a flock of sheep in the belief that he was slaying Agamemnon and Ulysses.
  19. Ulysses.
  20. The gold-bearing river of Lydia.
  21. Diogenes.
  22. See note on iii. 155.
  23. The most powerful and wealthiest of Claudius' freedmen.
  24. For the part played by Narcissus in securing the punishment of Messalina, see Tac. Ann. xi. 33-37.

Select critical notes[edit]

  1. Büch. (1910) inserts within brackets the following line found in ψ between 1 and 2; et quod maiorum vitia sequiturque minores. AG read vitio for vitia.
  2. After 229 Housm. inserts a conj. line, cum videant, cupiant sic et sua conduplicari.
  3. The sentence nullumdeam, is repeated from x. 365, quite irrelevantly.