The Satires, Epistles & Art of Poetry of Horace/Ep1-20

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3195597The Satires, Epistles & Art of Poetry of Horace — Book I, Epistle XX. To his Book.John ConingtonQuintus Horatius Flaccus

XX. To his Book.

Vertumnum Janumque.

TO street and market-place I see you look
With wistful longing, my adventurous book,
That on the stalls for sale you may be seen,
Rubbed by the binder's pumice smooth and clean.
You chafe at look and key, and court the view
Of all the world, disdainful of the few.
Was this your breeding? go where you would go;
When once sent out, you won't come back, you know.
"What mischief have I done?" I hear you whine,
When some one hurts those feelings, now so fine;
For hurt you're sure to be; when people pall
Of reading you, they'll crush and fold you small.
If my prophetic soul be not at fault
From indignation at your rude revolt,
Your doom, methinks, is easy to foretell:
While you've your gloss on, Rome will like you well:
Then, when you're thumbed and soiled by vulgar hands,
You'll feed the moths, or go to distant lands.
Ah, then you'll mind your monitor too late,
While he looks on and chuckles at your fate,

Like him who, pestered by his donkey's vice,
Got off and pushed it down the precipice;
For who would lose his temper and his breath
To keep a brute alive that's bent on death?
Yet one thing more: your fate may be to teach
In some suburban school the parts of speech,
And, maundering over grammar day by day,
Lisp, prattle, drawl, grow childish, and decay.
Well, when in summer afternoons you see
Men fain to listen, tell them about me:
Tell them that, born a freedman's son, possessed
Of slender means, I soared beyond my nest,
That so whate'er's deducted for my birth
May count as assets on the score of worth;
Say that I pleased the greatest of my day:
Then draw my picture;—prematurely grey,
Of little person, fond of sunny ease,
Lightly provoked, but easy to appease.
Last, if my age they ask you, let them know
That I was forty-four not long ago,
In the December of last year, the same
That goes by Lepidus' and Lollius' name.