The Satires, Epistles & Art of Poetry of Horace/Sat2-8
HAT rich Nasidienus—let me hear
How yesterday you relished his good cheer:
For when I tried to get you, I was told
You'd been there since the day was six hours old.
F. O, 'twas the finest treat.
H.Inform me, pray,
What first was served your hunger to allay.
F. First a Lucanian boar; 'twas captured wild
(So the host told us) when the wind was mild;
Around it, turnips, lettuce, radishes,
By way of whet, with brine and Coan lees.
Then, when the board, a maple one, was cleared,
A high-girt slave with purple cloth appeared
And rubbed and wiped it clean: another boy
Removed the scraps, and all that might annoy:
"While dark Hydaspes, like an Attic maid
Who carries Ceres' basket, grave and staid,
Came in with Cæcuban, and, close behind,
Alcon with Chian, which had ne'er been brined.
Then said our host: "If Alban you'd prefer,
Mæcenas, or Falern, we have them, Sir."
H. What sorry riches! but I fail to glean
Who else was present at so rare a scene.
F. Myself at top, then Viscus, and below
Was Varius: after us came Balatro,
Vibidius also, present at the treat
Unasked, as members of Mæcenas' suite.
Porcius and Nomentanus last, and he,
Our host, who lay betwixt them, made the three:
Porcius the undermost, a witty droll,
Who makes you laugh by swallowing cheesecakes whole:
While Nomentanus' specialty was this,
To point things out that vulgar eyes might miss;
For fish and fowl, in fact whate'er was placed
Before us, had, we found, a novel taste,
As one experiment sufficed to show,
Made on a flounder and a turbot's roe.
Then, turning the discourse to fruit, he treats
Of the right time for gathering honey-sweets;
Plucked when the moon's on wane, it seems they're red;
For further details see the fountain-head.
When thus to Balatro Vibidius: "Fie!
Let's drink him out, or unrevenged we die;
Here, bigger cups." Our entertainer's cheek
Turned deadly white, as thus he heard him speak;
For of the nuisances that can befall
A man like him, your toper's worst of all,
Because, you know, hot wines do double wrong;
They dull the palate, and they edge the tongue.
On go Vibidius and his mate, and tilt
Whole flagons into cups Allifæ-built:
We follow suit: the host's two friends alone
Forbore to treat the wine-flask as their own.
A lamprey now appears, a sprawling fish,
With shrimps about it swimming in the dish.
Whereon our host remarks: "This fish was caught
While pregnant: after spawning it is naught.
We make our sauce with oil, of the best strain
Venafrum yields, and caviare from Spain,
Pour in Italian wine, five years in tun,
While yet 'tis boiling; when the boiling's done,
Chian suits best of all; white pepper add,
And vinegar, from Lesbian wine turned bad.
Rockets and elecampanes with this mess
To boil, is my invention, I profess:
To put sea-urchins in, unwashed as caught,
'Stead of made pickle, was Curtillus' thought."
Meantime the curtains o'er the table spread
Came tumbling in a heap from overhead,
Dragging withal black dust in whirlwinds, more
Than Boreas raises on Campania's floor:
We, when the shock is over, smile to see
The danger less than we had feared 'twould be,
And breathe again. Poor Rufus drooped his head
And wept so sore, you'd think his son was dead:
And things seemed hastening to a tragic end,
But Nomentanus thus consoled his friend:
"O Fortune, cruellest of heavenly powers,
Why make such game of this poor life of ours?"
Varius his napkin to his mouth applied,
A laugh to stifle, or at least to hide:
But Balatro, with his perpetual sneer,
Cries, "Such is life, capricious and severe,
And hence it comes that merit never gains
A meed of praise proportioned to its pains.
What gross injustice! just that I may get
A handsome dinner, you must fume and fret,
See that the bread's not burned, the sauce not spoiled,
The servants in their places, curled and oiled.
Then too the risks; the tapestry, as of late,
May fall; a stumbling groom may break a plate.
But gifts, concealed by sunshine, are displayed
In hosts, as in commanders, by the shade."
Rufus returned, "Heaven speed things to your mind!
Sure ne'er was guest so friendly and so kind;"
Then takes his slippers. Head to head draws near,
And each man's lips are at his neighbour's ear.
H. 'Tis better than a play: but please report
What further things occurred to make you sport.
F. Well, while Vibidius takes the slaves to task,
Enquiring if the tumble broke the flask,
And Balatro keeps starting some pretence
For mirth, that we may laugh without offence,
With altered brow returns our sumptuous friend,
Resolved, what chance has damaged, art shall mend.
More servants follow, staggering 'neath the load
Of a huge dish where limbs of crane were stowed,
Salted and floured; a goose's liver, crammed
To twice its bulk, so close the figs were jammed;
And wings of hares dressed separate, better so
Than eaten with the back, as gourmands know.
Then blackbirds with their breasts all burnt to coal,
And pigeons without rumps, not served up whole,
Dainties, no doubt, but then there came a speech
About the laws and properties of each;
At last the feeder and the food we quit,
Taking revenge by tasting ne'er a bit,
As if Canidia's mouth had breathed an air
Of viperous poison on the whole affair.