Ye delight in the ode: one man is pleased with iambics; another with satires written in the manner of Bion, and virulent wit. Three guests scarcely can be found to agree, craving very different dishes with various palate. What shall I give? What shall I not give? You forbid, what another demands: what you desire, that truly is sour and disgustful to the [other] two.
Beside other [difficulties], do you think it practicable for me to write poems at Rome, amid so many solicitudes and so many fatigues? One calls me as his security, another to hear his works, all business else apart; one lives on the mount of Quirinus, the other in the extremity of the Aventine; both must be waited on. The distances between them, you see, are charmingly commodious. “But the streets are clear, so that there can be no obstacle to the thoughtful.”—A builder in heat hurries along with his mules and porters: the crane whirls aloft at one time a stone, at another a great piece of timber: the dismal funerals dispute the way with the unwieldy carriages: here runs a mad dog, there rushes a sow begrimed with mire. Go now, and meditate with yourself your harmonious verses. All the whole choir of poets love the grove, and avoid cities, due votaries to Bacchus delighting in repose and shade. Would you have me, amid so great noise both by night and day, [attempt] to sing, and trace the difficult footsteps of the poets? A genius who has chosen quiet Athens for his residence, and has devoted seven years to study, and has grown old in books and study, frequently walks forth more dumb than a statue, and shakes the people’s sides with laughter: here, in the midst of the billows and tempests of the city, can I be thought capable of connecting words likely to wake the sound of the lyre?
At Rome there was a rhetorician, brother to a lawyer: [so fond of each other were they,] that they would hear nothing but the mere praises of each other: insomuch, that the latter appeared a Gracchus to the former, the former a Mucius to
- These hills were at the extremities of Rome north and south, from whence the poet ironically says “humanè commoda, no unreasonable distance.” Ed. DUbl.
- The poets sacrificed to Bacchus every year in the month of March. His festival was called Liberalia, and Ovid tells us he bad frequently assisted at them. The summits of Parnassus were consecrated to that god.
- Commentators have caused some confusion here by not perceiving to what Mucius reference is made. There were three celebrated lawyers of this name, P. Mucius Scævola, and two Q. Mucii Scævolæ. P. Mucius Scævola, consul A. u. c. 620, the same year that Tiberius Gracchus was tribune, is the person here mentioned. Q. Mucius Scævola, son of that Publiua, and called by Crassus, Cic. de Orat. i. 39, “Jurisperitorum eloquentissimus, eloquentium jurisperitissimus,” was the colleague of Crassus in the consulship, A. u. c. 658, while tho Q. Mucius Scævola under whoso care Cicero was placed by his father on assuming the toga virilis, was the son-in-law of Lælius, and tho father-in-law of L. Crassua the orator. Bentley insists that he should read Crassus for Gracchus. Crassus and Scævola were contemporaries, and colleagues in tribunato, censorship, and consulship, A. U. C. 659. Gracchus was much senior to Mucius, and inferior to him in eloquence. Crassus and Mucius support the dialogue in the first book of Cic. de Orat. M‘Caul.