The Odes and Carmen Saeculare/Book 3/Part 24
THOUGH your buried wealth surpass
The unsunn'd gold of Ind or Araby,
Though with many a ponderous mass
You crowd the Tuscan and Apulian sea,
Let Necessity but drive
Her wedge of adamant into that proud head,
Vainly battling will you strive
To 'scape Death's noose, or rid your soul of dread.
Better life the Scythians lead,
Trailing on waggon wheels their wandering home,
Or the hardy Getan breed,
As o'er their vast unmeasured steppes they roam;
Free the crops that bless their soil;
Their tillage wearies after one year's space;
Each in turn fulfils his toil;
His period o'er, another takes his place.
There the step-dame keeps her hand
From guilty plots, from blood of orphans clean;
There no downed wives command
Their feeble lords, or on adulterers lean.
Theirs are dowries not of gold,
Their parents' worth, their own pure chastity,
True to one, to others cold;
They dare not sin, or, if they dare, they die.
O, whoe'er has heart and head
To stay our plague of blood, our civic brawls,
Would he that his name be read
"Father of Rome" on lofty pedestals,
Let him chain this lawless will,
And be our children's hero! cursed spite!
Living worth we envy still,
Then seek it with strain'd eyes, when snatch'd from sight.
What can sad laments avail
Unless sharp justice kill the taint of sin?
What can laws, that needs must fail
Shorn of the aid of manners form'd within,
If the merchant turns not back
From the fierce heats that round the tropic glow,
Turns not from the regions black
With northern winds, and hard with frozen snow;
Sailors override the wave,
While guilty poverty, more fear'd than vice.
Bids us crime and suffering brave,
And shuns the ascent of virtue's precipice?
Let the Capitolian fane,
The favour'd goal of yon vociferous crowd,
Aye, or let the nearest main
Receive our gold, our jewels rich and proud:
Slay we thus the cause of crime,
If yet we would repent and choose the good:
Ours the task to take in time
This baleful lust, and crush it in the bud.
Ours to mould our weakling sons
To nobler sentiment and manlier deed:
How the noble's first-born shuns
The perilous chase, nor learns to sit his steed:
Set him to the unlawful dice,
Or Grecian hoop, how skilfully he plays!
While his sire, mature in vice,
A friend, a partner, or a guest betrays,
Hurrying, for an heir so base,
To gather riches. Money, root of ill,
Doubt it not, still grows apace:
Yet the scant heap has somewhat lacking still.