The Satires, Epistles & Art of Poetry of Horace/Ep1-18
XVIII. To Lollius.
Si bene te novi.
Yet think not flattery friendship's only curse:
A different vice there is, perhaps a worse,
A brutal boorishness, which fain would win
Regard by unbrushed teeth and close-shorn skin,
Yet all the while is anxious to be thought
Pure independence, acting as it ought.
Between these faults 'tis Virtue's place to stand,
At distance from the extreme on either hand.
The flatterer by profession, whom you see
At every feast among the lowest three,
Hangs on his patron's looks, takes up each word
Which, dropped by chance, might else expire unheard,
Like schoolboys echoing what their masters say
In sing-song drawl, or Gnatho in the play:
While your blunt fellow battles for a straw,
As though he'd knock you down or take the law:
"How now, good sir? you mean my word to doubt?
When I once think a thing, I mayn't speak out?
Though living on your terms were living twice,
Instead of once, 'twere dear at such a price."
And what's the question that brings on these fits?—
Does Dolichos or Castor make more hits?
Or, starting for Brundisium, will it pay
To take the Appian or Minucian way?
Him that gives in to dice or lewd excess,
Who apes rich folks in equipage and dress,
Who meanly covets to increase his store,
And shrinks as meanly from the name of poor,
That man his patron, though on all those heads
Perhaps a worse offender, hates and dreads,
Or says to him what tender parents say,
Who'd have their children better men than they:
"Don't vie with me," he says, and he says true;
"My wealth will bear the silly things I do;
Yours is a slender pittance at the best;
A wise man cuts his coat—you know the rest."
Eutrapelus, whene'er a grudge he owed
To any, gave him garments a la mode;
Because, said he, the wretch will feel inspired
With new conceptions when he's new attired;
He'll sleep through half the day, let business go
For pleasure, teach a usurer's cash to grow;
At last he'll turn a fencer, or will trudge
Beside a cart, a market-gardener's drudge.
Avoid all prying; what you're told, keep back,
Though wine or anger put you on the rack;
Nor puff your own, nor slight your friend's pursuits,
Nor court the Muses when he'd chase the brutes.
'Twas thus the Theban brethren jarred, until
The harp that vexed the stern one became still.
Amphion humoured his stern brother: well,
Your friend speaks gently; do not you rebel:
No; when he gives the summons, and prepares
To take the field with hounds, and darts, and snares,
Leave your dull Muse to sulkiness and sloth,
That both may feast on dainties earned by both.
'Tis a true Roman pastime, and your frame
Will gain thereby, no less than your good name:
Besides, you're strong; in running you can match
The dogs, and kill the fiercest boar you catch:
Who plays like you? you have but to appear
In Mars's field to raise a general cheer:
Remember too, you served a hard campaign,
When scarce past boyhood, in the wars of Spain,
Beneath his lead who brings our standards home,
And makes each nook of earth a prize for Rome.
Just one thing more, lest still you should refuse
And show caprice that nothing can excuse:
Safe as you are from doing aught unmeet,
You sometimes trifle at your father's seat;
The Actian fight in miniature you play,
With boats for ships, your lake for Hadria's bay,
Your brother for your foe, your slaves for crews,
And so you battle till you win or lose.
Let your friend see you share his taste, he'll vow
He never knew what sport was like till now.
Well, to proceed; beware, if there is room
For warning, what you mention, and to whom;
Avoid a ceaseless questioner; he burns
To tell the next he talks with what he learns;
Wide ears retain no secrets, and you know
You can't get back a word you once let go.
Look round and round the man you recommend,
For yours will be the shame should he offend.
Sometimes we're duped; a protegé dragged down
By his own fault must e'en be left to drown,
That you may help another known and tried,
And show yourself his champion if belied;
For when 'gainst him detraction forks her tongue,
Be sure she'll treat you to the same ere long.
No time for sleeping with a fire next door;
Neglect such things, they only blaze the more.
A patron's service is a strange career;
The tiros love it, but the experts fear.
You, while you're sailing on a prosperous tack,
Look out for squalls which yet may drive you back.
The gay dislike the grave, the staid the pert,
The quick the slow, the lazy the alert;
Hard drinkers hate the sober, though he swear
Those bouts at night are more than he can bear.
Unknit your brow; the silent man is sure
To pass for crabbed, the modest for obscure.
Meantime, while thoughts like these your mind engage,
Neglect not books nor converse with the sage;
Ply them with questions; lead them on to tell
What things make life go happily and well;
How cure desire, the soul's perpetual dearth?
How moderate care for things of trifling worth?
Is virtue raised by culture or self-sown?
What soothes annoy, and makes your heart your own?
Is peace procured by honours, pickings, gains,
Or, sought in highways, is she found in lanes?
For me, when freshened by my spring's pure cold
Which makes my villagers look pinched and old,
What prayers are mine? "O may I yet possess
The goods I have, or, if Heaven pleases, less!
Let the few years that Fate may grant me still
Be all my own, not held at others' will!
Let me have books, and stores for one year hence,
Nor make my life one flutter of suspense!"
But I forbear: sufficient 'tis to pray
To Jove for what he gives and takes away:
Grant life, grant fortune, for myself I'll find
That best of blessings, a contented mind.