The Satires, Epistles & Art of Poetry of Horace/Ep1-2

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II. To Lollius.

Trojani belli scriptorem.

WHILE you at Rome, dear Lollius, train your tongue,
I at Praeneste read what Homer sung:
What's good, what's bad, what helps, what hurts, he shows
Better in verse than Crantor does in prose.
The reason why I think so, if you'll spare
A moment from your business, I'll declare.
The tale that tells how Greece and Asia strove
In tedious battle all for Paris' love,
Talks of the passions that excite the brain
Of mad-cap kings and peoples not more sane.

Antenor moves to cut away the cause
Of all their sufferings: does he gain applause?
No; none shall force young Paris to enjoy
Life, power and riches in his own fair Troy.
Nestor takes pains the quarrel to compose
That makes Atrides and Achilles foes:
In vain; their passions are too strong to quell;
Both burn with wrath, and one with love as well.
Let kings go mad and blunder as they may,
The people in the end are sure to pay.
Strife, treachery, crime, lust, rage, 'tis error all,
One mass of faults within, without the wall.
Turn to the second tale: Ulysses shows
How worth and wisdom triumph over woes:
He, having conquered Troy, with sharp shrewd ken
Explores the manners and the towns of men;
On the broad ocean, while he strives to win
For him and his return to home and kin,
He braves untold calamities, borne down
By Fortune's waves, but never left to drown.
The Sirens' song you know, and Circe's bowl:
Had that sweet draught seduced his stupid soul
As it seduced his fellows, he had been
The senseless chattel of a wanton queen,
Sunk to the level of his brute desire,
An unclean dog, a swine that loves the mire.
But what are we? a mere consuming class,
Just fit for counting roughly in the mass,
Like to the suitors, or Alcinous' clan,
Who spent vast pains upon the husk of man,

Slept on till mid-day, and enticed their care
To rest by listening to a favourite air.
Robbers get up by night, men's throats to knive:
Will you not wake to keep yourself alive?
Well, if you will not stir when sound, at last,
When dropsical, you'll be for moving fast:
Unless you light your lamp ere dawn and read
Some wholesome book that high resolves may breed,
You'll find your sleep go from you, and will toss
Upon your pillow, envious, lovesick, cross.
You lose no time in taking out a fly,
Or straw, it may be, that torments your eye;
Why, when a thing devours your mind, adjourn
Till this day year all thought of the concern?
Come now, have courage to be wise: begin:
You're halfway over when you once plunge in:
He who puts off the time for mending, stands
A clodpoll by the stream with folded hands,
Waiting till all the water be gone past;
But it runs on, and will, while time shall last.
"Aye, but I must have money, and a bride
To bear me children, rich and well allied:
Those uncleared lands want tilling." Having got
What will suffice you, seek no happier lot.
Not house or grounds, not heaps of brass or gold
Will rid the frame of fever's heat and cold.
Or cleanse the heart of care. He needs good health,
Body and mind, who would enjoy his wealth:
Who fears or hankers, land and country-seat
Soothe just as much as tickling gouty feet,

As pictures charm an eye inflamed and blear,
As music gratifies an ulcered ear.
Unless the vessel whence we drink is pure,
Whate'er is poured therein turns foul, be sure.
Make light of pleasure: pleasure bought with pain
Yields little profit, but much more of bane.
The miser's always needy: draw a line
Within whose bound your wishes to confine.
His neighbour's fatness makes the envious lean:
No tyrant e'er devised a pang so keen.
Who governs not his wrath will wish undone
The deeds he did "when the rash mood was on."
Wrath is a short-lived madness: curb and bit
Your mind: 'twill rule you, if you rule not it
While the colt's mouth is soft, the trainer's skill
Moulds it to follow at the rider's will.
Soon as the whelp can bay the deer's stuffed skin,
He takes the woods, and swells the hunters' din.
Now, while your system's plastic, ope each pore;
Now seek wise friends, and drink in all their lore:
The smell that's first imparted will adhere
To seasoned jars through many an after year.
But if you lag behind or head me far,
Don't think I mean to mend my pace, or mar;
In my own jog-trot fashion on I go,
Not vying with the swift, not waiting for the slow.

 

Horace Satires etc tr Conington (1874) - tailpiece from page 105.jpg