The Satires, Epistles & Art of Poetry of Horace/Sat2-5

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SATIRE V.

Hoc quoque, tiresia.

Ulysses.Tiresias.

Ulysses


IOW, good Tiresias, add one favour more
To those your kindness has vouchsafed before,
And tell me by what ways I may redeem
My broken fortunes—You're amused, 'twould seem.

T. You get safe home, you see your native isle,
And yet it craves for more, that heart of guile!
U. O source of truth unerring, you're aware,
I reach my home impoverished and stripped bare
(So you predict), and find nor bit nor sup,
My flocks all slaughtered and my wines drunk up:
Yet family and worth, without the staff
Of wealth to lean on, are the veriest draff.
T. Since, in plain terms, 'tis poverty you fear,
And riches are your aim, attend and hear.
Suppose a thrush or other dainty placed
At your disposal, for your private taste,
Speed it to some great house, all gems and gold,
Where means are ample, and their master old:
Your choicest apples, ripe and full of juice,
And whatsoe'er your garden may produce,
Before they're offered at the Lares' shrine,
Give them to your rich friend, as more divine:
Be he a branded slave, forsworn, distained
With brother's blood, in short, a rogue ingrained,
Yet walk, if asked, beside him when you meet,
And (pray mind this) between him and the street.
U. What, give a slave the wall? in happier days,
At Troy, for instance, these were not my ways:
Then with the best I matched myself.
T. Indeed?
I'm sorry: then you'll always be in need.

U. Well, well, my heart shall bear it; 'tis inured
To dire adventure, and has worse endured.
Go on, most worthy augur, and unfold
The arts whereby to pile up heaps of gold.
T. Well, I have told you, and I tell you still:
Lay steady siege to a rich dotard's will;
Nor, should a fish or two gnaw round the bait,
And 'scape the hook, lose heart and give up straight.
A suit at law comes on: suppose you find
One party's old and childless, never mind
Though law with him's a weapon to oppress
An upright neighbour, take his part no less:
But spurn the juster cause and purer life,
If burdened with a child or teeming wife.
"Good Quintus," say, or "Publius" (nought endears
A speaker more than this to slavish ears),
"Your worth has raised you up a friend at court;
I know the law, and can a cause support;
I'd sooner lose an eye than aught should hurt,
In purse or name, a man of your desert:
Just leave the whole to me: I'll do my best
To make you no man's victim, no man's jest."
Bid him go home and nurse himself, while you
Act as his counsel and his agent too;
Hold on unflinching, never bate a jot,
Be it for wet or dry, for cold or hot,
Though "Sirius split dumb statues up," or though

Fat Furius "spatter the bleak Alps with snow."
"What steady nerve!" some bystander will cry,
Nudging a friend; "what zeal! what energy!
What rare devotion!" ay, the game goes well;
In flow the tunnies, and your fish-ponds swell.
Another plan: suppose a man of wealth
Has but one son, and that in weakly health;
Creep round the father, lest the court you pay
To childless widowers your game betray,
That he may put you second, and, in case
The poor youth die, insert you in his place,
And so you get the whole: a throw like this,
Discreetly hazarded, will seldom miss.
If offered by your friend his will to read,
Decline it with a "Thank you! no, indeed!"
Yet steal a side-long glance as you decline
At the first parchment and the second line,
Just to discover if he leaves you heir
All by yourself, or others have a share.
A constable turned notary oft will cheat
Your raven of the cheese he thought to eat;
And sly Nasica will become, you'll see,
Coranus' joke, but not his legatee.
U. What? are you mad, or do you mean to balk
My thirst for knowledge by this riddling talk?
T. O Lærtiades! what I foreshow
To mortals, either will take place or no;
For 'tis the voice of Phœbus from his shrine
That speaks in me and makes my words divine.

U. Forgive my vehemence, and kindly state
The meaning of the fable you narrate.
T. When he, the Parthian's dread, whose blood comes down
E'en from Æneas' veins, shall win renown
By land and sea, a marriage shall betide
Between Coranus, wight of courage tried,
And old Nasica's daughter, tall and large,
Whose sire owes sums he never will discharge.
The duteous son-in-law his will presents,
And begs the sire to study its contents:
At length Nasica, having long demurred,
Takes it and reads it through without a word;
And when the whole is done, perceives in fine
That he and his are simply left—to whine.
Suppose some freedman, or some crafty dame
Rules an old driveller, you may join their game:
Say all that's good of them to him, that they,
When your back's turned, the like of you may say
This plan has merits; but 'tis better far
To take the fort itself, and end the war.
A shrewd old crone at Thebes (the fact occurred
When I was old) was thus by will interred:
Her corpse was oiled all over, and her heir
Bore it to burial on his shoulders bare:
He'd stuck to her while living; so she said
She'd give him, if she could, the slip when dead.
Be cautious in attack; observe the mean,
And neither be too lukewarm, nor too keen.
Much talk annoys the testy and morose,

But 'tis not well to be reserved and close.
Act Davus in the drama: droop your head,
And use the gestures of a man in dread.
Be all attention: if the wind is brisk,
Say, "Wrap that precious head up! run no risk!"
Push shouldering through a crowd, the way to clear
Before him; when he maunders, prick your ear.
He craves for praise; administer the puff
Till, lifting up both hands, he cries "Enough."
But when, rewarded and released, at last
You gain the end of all your service past,
And, not in dreams but soberly awake,
Hear "One full quarter let Ulysses take,"
Say, once or twice, "And is good Dama dead?
Where shall I find his like for heart and head?"
If possible, shed tears: at least conceal
The tell-tale smiles that speak the joy you feel.
Then, for the funeral: with your hands untied,
Beware of erring upon meanness' side:
No; let your friend be handsomely interred,
And let the neighbourhood give you its good word.
Should one of your co-heirs be old, and vexed
With an inveterate cough, approach him next:
A house or lands he'd purchase that belong
To your estate: they're his for an old song.
But Proserpine commands me; I must fly;
Her will is law; I wish you health; good-bye.

 

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