Translated by A. S. Kline
Though I’m disturbed by an old friend’s departure, still
I approve his decision to set up home in vacant Cumae
And devote at least one more citizen to the Sibyl.
It’s the gateway to Baiae, a beautiful coast, sweetly
Secluded. I prefer Prochyta’s isle to the noisy Subura.
After all, is there anywhere that’s so wretched and lonely
You wouldn’t rather be there than in constant danger of fire,
Of collapsing buildings, and all of the thousand perils
Of barbarous Rome, with poets reciting all during August!
Now, while his whole house was being loaded onto a cart,
He lingered there by the ancient arch of sodden Capena.
We walked down to Egeria’s vale with its synthetic grottos.
How much more effective the fountain’s power would be,
If its waters were enclosed by a margin of verdant grass,
And if marble had never desecrated the native tufa.
Here, where Numa established his night-time girlfriend,
The grove and shrine of the sacred fount are rented out
To the Jews, who’re equipped with straw-lined baskets;
Since the grove has been ordered to pay the nation rent,
The Muses have been ejected, and the trees go begging.
Here it was that Umbricius spoke: ‘There’s no joy in Rome
For honest ability, and no reward any more for hard work.
My means today are less than yesterday, and tomorrow
Will wear away a bit more, that’s why I’m resolved
To head for Cumae, where weary Daedalus doffed his wings.
While my white-hairs are new, while old age stands upright,
While Lachesis has thread left to spin, and I can still walk,
On my own two feet, without needing a staff in my hand,
I’ll leave the ancestral land. Let Arturius, let Catulus live
In Rome. Let the men who turn black into white remain,
Who find it easy to garner contracts for temples, and rivers,
Harbours, draining sewers, and carrying corpses to the pyre,
Who offer themselves for sale according to auctioneers’ rules.
Those erstwhile players of horns, those perpetual friends
Of public arenas, noted through all the towns for their
Rounded cheeks, now mount shows themselves, and kill
To please when the mob demand it with down-turned thumbs;
Then it’s back to deals for urinals, why not the whole works?
Since they’re the ones Fortune raises up to the highest sphere
Out of the lowest gutter, whenever she fancies a laugh.
What’s left for me in Rome? I can’t tell lies, I can’t praise
A book that’s bad, beg a copy; I’ve no notion of the motion
Of stars; I can’t and I won’t prophesy someone’s father’s
Death; I’ve never guessed a thing from the entrails of frogs;
Carrying to some adulterous wife whatever her lover sends,
Whatever his message, others know how to do; I’d never
Help out a thief; and that’s why I’m never one of the boys,
More like a cripple, with useless body and paralysed hand.
Who is esteemed now unless he’s someone’s accomplice,
His mind seething with things that should never be told.
There’s nothing they think they owe, they’ll give nothing,
To a person who’s only their partner in harmless secrets.
Verrus only cares for those who can make a case against
Verrus whenever they wish. May the sand of Tagus mean
Less to you, with all its gold that is washed down to the sea,
Than lost sleep, and the sadness of taking regular bribes,
And thus being forever afraid of some powerful friend.
That race most acceptable now to our wealthy Romans,
That race I principally wish to flee, I’ll swiftly reveal,
And without embarrassment. My friends, I can’t stand
A Rome full of Greeks, yet few of the dregs are Greek!
For the Syrian Orontes has long since polluted the Tiber,
Bringing its language and customs, pipes and harp-strings,
And even their native timbrels are dragged along too,
And the girls forced to offer themselves in the Circus.
Go there, if your taste’s a barbarous whore in a painted veil.
See, Romulus, those rustics of yours wearing Greek slippers,
Greek ointments, Greek prize medallions round their necks.
He’s from the heights of Sicyon, and he’s from Amydon,
From Andros, Samos, they come, from Tralles or Alabanda,
Seeking the Esquiline and the Viminal, named from its willows.
To become both the innards and masters of our great houses.
Quick witted, of shamelessly audacity, ready of speech, more
Lip than Isaeus, the rhetorician. Just say what you want them
To be. They’ll bring you, in one person, whatever you need:
The teacher of languages, orator, painter, geometer, trainer,
Augur, rope-dancer, physician, magician, they know it all,
Your hungry Greeks: tell them to buzz off to heaven, they’ll go.
That’s why it was no Moroccan, Sarmatian, or man from Thrace
Who donned wings, but one Daedalus, born in the heart of Athens.
Should I not flee these people in purple? Should I watch them sign
Ahead of me, then, and recline to eat on a better couch than mine,
Men propelled to Rome by the wind, with the plums and the figs?
Is it nothing that in my childhood I breathed the Aventine air,
Is it nothing that in my youth I was nurtured on Sabine olives?
And aren’t they the people most adept at flattery, praising
The illiterate speech of a friend, praising his ugly face,
Likening a weak, scrawny neck to that of brave Hercules,
When he lifted the massive Antaeus high above earth,
And lost in their admiration for a voice as high-pitched
As the cockerel when he pecks at his hen as they mate?
We too can offer praise in just the same way: but they
Are the ones believed. What comic actor’s better at playing
Thais, the whore, or the wife, or Doris, the slave-girl, out
Without her cloak? It’s as if a woman were speaking not
Merely a mask: you’d think all was smooth and lacking
Below the belly, and only split there by a slender crack.
Yet our comic turn, Antiochus, would be no great wonder
In Greece, Demetrius, Stratocles, or effeminate Haemus:
They’re a nation of comics. Laugh, and they’ll be shaken
With fits of laughter. They weep, without grief, if they see
A friend in tears; if you pine for a little warmth in the winter
They don a cloak; if you remark “it’s hot” they’ll start to sweat.
So we’re unequal: they’ve a head start who always, day or night,
Can adopt the expression they see on someone’s face,
Who’re always ready to throw up their hands and cheer
If their ‘friend’ belches deeply, or perhaps pisses straight,
Or gives a fart when the golden bowl’s turned upside down.
Besides, nothing’s sacred to them or safe from their cocks
Not the lady of the house, or the virgin daughter, not
Even her smooth-faced fiancé, or the unbroken son.
Failing that, they’ll have the friend’s grandma on her back.
They like to own the secrets of the house, and so be feared.
And since I’m mentioning the Greeks, then let’s pass on
From their gymnastics to a crime of a darker colour. Celer,
The old Stoic turned informer, brought about Barea’s death,
His friend and pupil; Celer, of Tarsus, raised by the Cydnus,
Where a feather from Pegasus, the Gorgon’s child, landed.
There’s no room here for the Romans; it’s some Greek;
Protogenes, or Diphilus, or Hermachus who reigns here,
Who never shares a friend, since that’s their race’s defect,
But monopolises him alone. For once they’ve dripped a drop
Of their country’s native poison in a ready ear, I’m driven
From the threshold, and my long years of slavery are lost.
Nowhere is the casting off of a client more casually done.
Then, not to flatter ourselves, what office or service is left
For a poor man here, even if he dons his toga and dashes
About in the dark, given the praetor’s hurrying his lictor
Already, to run on with a morning greeting to rich Albina,
Or childless, sleepless Modia, lest his colleague’s there first?
Here, a freeborn son is detailed to escort a rich man’s slave:
The latter can hand out gifts, worth as much as a military
Tribune earns, to aristocratic Calvina or Catiena, just
To writhe around on top of her once or twice; while you
In love with the look of Chione’s finery, halt in your tracks
Hesitant about helping a whore descend from her high horse.
Find me a knight in Rome as holy as Nasica, who escorted
The image of Cybele, let Numa advance, or Caecilius Metellus,
Who rescued Minerva’s fire-threatened statue, from Vesta’s temple:
His character would be the very last thing discussed: money first.
“How many slaves does he own? How many acres of farmland?
How extravagant are his banquets, how many courses served?”
The number of coins a man keeps in his treasure chest, that’s
All the credit he earns. Swear your oath on the altars of Rome
Or Samothrace, they’ll maintain, as you’re poor, you’ll just flout
The divine lightning bolt, with the gods themselves acquiescing.
And what of the fact that the same poor beggar provides them all
With matter and cause for amusement, if his cloak’s dirty and torn,
If his toga is weathered and stained, one shoe gaping open where
The leather has split, or when there’s more than one patch showing
Where a rent has been stitched, displaying the coarse new thread?
There’s nothing harder to bear about poverty’s wretchedness
Than how it leaves you open to ridicule. “Off you go” they’ll say,
“If you’ve any shame: don’t dare sit here on a knight’s cushion,
If you’ve insufficient wealth under the law”, but they’ll sit there
All those sons of pimps, born in some vile brothel or other,
Here the auctioneer’s slick son can sit to applaud the show,
Beside the well-dressed lads of the gladiators and trainers.’
That’s how that fool Otho was pleased to dispose of us all.
What prospective son-in-law can pass the test, here, if his wealth
Is less, or his luggage worse than the girl’s? What pauper inherits?
When do aediles vote them onto the council? The indigent citizens
Should all have assembled, long ago, and migrated from the City.
It’s hard to climb the ladder when constricted private resources
Block your talents, but at Rome the effort is greater still:
They’re expensive, wretched lodgings; expensive, the bellies
Of slaves; and a meagre supper is just as expensive too.
You’re ashamed to dine off earthenware plates, though you
Would feel no disgust if suddenly spirited off to a Sabellan
Or Marsian table, content in a poor man’s coarse, blue hood.
To tell you the truth, in most of Italy, no one wears a toga
Unless they’re dead. Even on days of major festival when
The traditional farce returns once more to the wooden stage,
When the rustic infant cowers in its mother’s lap, at sight
Of a white gaping mask, even then you’ll see everyone,
There, still dressed the same, those in the senatorial seats
And those elsewhere. White tunics are quite sufficient for
The highest aediles, as a garb to adorn their glorious office.
Here our smart clothes are beyond our means, here at Rome
A little bit extra has to be borrowed from someone’s purse.
It’s a common fault; here we all live in pretentious poverty,
What more can I say? Everything in Rome comes at a price.
What do you not pay so you can say: “Good morning, Cossus”,
So Veiento will condescend to give you a tight-lipped glance?
This slave’s beard is clipped, that one’s lock of hair’s dedicated;
The house is full of celebratory cakes you’ve paid for: take one
And keep your frustration to yourself. Clients are forced to pay
Such tribute-money, and supplement the savings of sleek slaves.
Who fears, or ever feared, that their house might collapse,
In cool Praeneste, or in Volsinii among the wooded hills,
Or at unpretentious Gabii, or the sloping hills of Tibur?
We inhabit a Rome held up for the most part by slender
Props; since that’s the way management stop the buildings
Falling down; once they’ve covered some ancient yawning
Crack, they’ll tell us to sleep soundly at the edge of ruin.
The place to live is far from all these fires, and all these
Panics in the night. Ucalegon is already summoning a hose,
Moving his things, and your third floor’s already smoking:
You’re unaware; since if the alarm was raised downstairs,
The last to burn will be the one a bare tile protects from
The rain, up there where gentle doves coo over their eggs.
Cordus had a bed, too small for Procula, and six little jugs
Of earthenware to adorn his sideboard and, underneath it,
A little Chiron, a Centaur made of that very same ‘marble’
And a box somewhat aged now, to hold his Greek library,
So the barbarous mice gnawed away at immortal verse.
Cordus had nothing, who could demur? Yet, poor man,
He lost the whole of that nothing. And the ultimate peak
Of his misery, is that naked and begging for scraps, no one
Will give him a crust, or a hand, or a roof over his head.
If Assaracus’s great mansion is lost, his mother’s in mourning,
The nobles wear black, and the praetor adjourns his hearing.
Then we bewail the state of Rome, then we despair of its fires.
While it’s still burning, they’re rushing to offer marble, already,
Collect donations; one man contributes nude gleaming statues,
Another Euphranor’s master-works, or bronzes by Polyclitus,
Or antique ornaments that once belonged to some Asian god,
Here books and bookcases, a Minerva to set in their midst,
There a heap of silver. Persicus, wealthiest of the childless,
Is there to replace what’s lost with more, and better things.
He’s suspected, and rightly so, of setting fire to his house.
If you could tear yourself from the Games, you could buy
A most excellent place, at Sora, at Fabrateria or Frusino,
For the annual rent you pay now, for a tenement in Rome.
There you’d have a garden, and a well not deep enough
To demand a rope, so easy watering of your tender plants.
Live as a lover of the hoe, and the master of a vegetable bed,
From which a hundred vegetarian Pythagoreans could be fed.
You’d be somebody, whatever the place, however remote,
If only because you’d be the master of a solitary lizard.
Many an invalid dies from insomnia here, though the illness
Itself is caused by partially digested food, that clings tight
To the fevered stomach; for, where can you lodge and enjoy
A good night’s sleep? You have to be filthy rich to find rest
In Rome. That’s the source of our sickness. The endless traffic
In narrow twisting streets, and the swearing at stranded cattle,
Would deprive a Claudius of sleep, or the seals on the shore.
When duty calls, the crowd gives way as the rich man’s litter,
Rushes by, right in their faces, like some vast Liburnian galley,
While he reads, writes, sleeps inside, while sped on his way:
You know how a chair with shut windows makes you drowsy!
Yet, he gets there first: as I hasten, the tide ahead obstructs me,
And the huge massed ranks that follow behind crush my kidneys;
This man sticks out his elbow, that one flails with a solid pole,
This man strikes my head with a beam, that one with a barrel.
Legs caked with mud, I’m forever trampled by mighty feet
From every side, while a soldier’s hobnailed boot pierces my toe.
Do you see all the smoke that rises, to celebrate a hand-out?
There’s a hundred diners each followed by his portable kitchen.
Corbulo, that huge general, could scarce carry all those vast pots,
With all the rest that the poor little slave transports, on his head.
Fanning the oven, he runs along, his body held perfectly upright.
Recently-mended tunics are ripped, while a long fir log judders
As it looms near, while another cart’s bearing a whole pine-tree.
They teeter threateningly over the heads of those people below.
Now, if that axle breaks under the weight of Ligurian marble,
And spills an upturned mountain on top of the dense crowd,
What will be left of the bodies? What limbs, what bones will
Survive? Every man’s corpse wholly crushed will vanish along
With his soul. Meanwhile his household, oblivious, are scouring
The dishes; are puffing their cheeks at the embers; are clattering
The oily back-scrapers; by full oil-flasks, arranging the towels.
The slave-boys bustle about on various tasks, while their master,
Is now a newcomer on the banks of the Styx, shuddering there
At the hideous ferryman, without hope, poor wretch, of a ride
Over the muddy river, and no coin in his mouth for the fare.
And now let’s consider all the other varied dangers, at night:
What a long way it is for a tile from the highest roof to fall
On your head; how often a cracked and leaky pot plunges down
From a sill; what a crash when they strike the pavement, chipping
And cracking the stones. If you go out to dinner without making
A will, you’re thought of as simply careless, dismissive of those
Tragic events that occur: there are as many opportunities to die,
As there are open windows watching you, when you go by, at night.
So I’d make a wretched wish and a prayer, as you go, that they’ll
Rest content with simply emptying their brimming pots over you.
The impudent drunk’s annoyed if by chance there’s no one at all
To set upon, spending the whole night grieving, like Achilles for
His friend, lying now on his face, and then, turning onto his back:
Since it’s the only way he can tire himself; it takes a brawl or two
To send him to sleep. But however worked up he is, fired by youth
And neat wine, he steers clear of him in the scarlet cloak, who issues
A warning as he goes on his way, with his long retinue of attendants,
And plenty of torches besides and lamps of bronze. Yet despises me,
As I pass by, by the light of the moon, as usual, or the flickering light
Of a candle, whose wick I take great care off, and cautiously regulate.
Take note of the setting awaiting a wretched fight, if you call it a fight
Where one of us lashes out, and the other one, me, takes a beating.
He stands up, and he tells me to stop. I’ve no choice but to obey;
What can you do, when a madman is giving the orders, who’s stronger
Than you as well? “Where’ve you been?” he shouts, “Whose sour wine
And beans have you been downing? Which shoemaker’s were you at,
Filling your face with boiled sheep’s head, gorging it on fresh leeks?
Nothing to say? You’d better speak up fast, or get a good kicking!
Tell me where you’re staying: what far field are you praying in?”
If you try to say something, or try to retreat in silence, it’s all the same:
He’ll give you a thumping regardless, and then still full of anger, say
He’s suing you for assault. This is the freedom accorded to the poor:
When they’re beaten, knocked down by fists, they can beg and plead
To be allowed to make their way home afterwards with a few teeth left.
And that’s not all we need to fear; there’ll be no shortage of thieves
To rob you, when the houses are all locked up, when all the shutters
In front of the shops have been chained and fastened, everywhere silent.
And, ever so often, there’s a vagabond with a sudden knife at work:
Whenever the Pontine Marsh, or the Gallinarian Forest and its pines,
Are temporarily rendered safe by an armed patrol, the rogues skip
From there to here, heading for Rome as if to a game preserve.
Where is the furnace or anvil not employed for fashioning chains?
The bulk of our iron is turned into fetters; you should worry about
An imminent shortage of ploughshares, a lack of mattocks and hoes.
You might call our distant ancestors fortunate, fortunate those ages
Long ago, when lives were lived under the rule of kings and tribunes,
Those generations, that witnessed a Rome where a single prison sufficed.
I could add a host of other reasons to these, but the beasts of burden
Are braying, the sun is setting. It’s time for me to leave; the muleteer
Has been waving his whip, to signal he’s been ready to go for a while.
So farewell, keep me in your memory, and whenever Rome sends
You hastening back, for a rest in the country, to your own Aquinum,
Invite me from Cumae too, to visit the Ceres of Helvius, and your
Diana. I’ll come in my nail-shod boots, I’ll come and visit your chilly
Fields, and, if they’re not totally shameful, I’ll listen to your Satires.’
And here, the original Latin poem
Quamvis digressu veteris confusus amici
laudo tamen, vacuis quod sedem figere Cumis
destinet atque unum civem donare Sibyllae.
ianua Baiarum est et gratum litus amoeni
secessus. ego vel Prochytam praepono Suburae; 5
nam quid tam miserum, tam solum vidimus, ut non
deterius credas horrere incendia, lapsus
tectorum adsiduos ac mille pericula saevae
urbis et Augusto recitantes mense poetas?
Sed dum tota domus raeda componitur una, 10
substitit ad veteres arcus madidamque Capenam.
hic, ubi nocturnae Numa constituebat amicae
(nunc sacri fontis nemus et delubra locantur
Iudaeis, quorum cophinus fenumque supellex;
omnis enim populo mercedem pendere iussa est 15
arbor et eiectis mendicat silva Camenis),
in vallem Egeriae descendimus et speluncas
dissimiles veris. quanto praesentius esset
numen aquis, viridi si margine cluderet undas
herba nec ingenuum violarent marmora tofum. 20
Hic tunc Umbricius ‘quando artibus’ inquit ‘honestis
nullus in urbe locus, nulla emolumenta laborum,
res hodie minor est here quam fuit atque eadem cras
deteret exiguis aliquid, proponimus illuc
ire, fatigatas ubi Daedalus exuit alas, 25
dum nova canities, dum prima et recta senectus,
dum superest Lachesi quod torqueat et pedibus me
porto meis nullo dextram subeunte bacillo.
cedamus patria. vivant Artorius istic
et Catulus, maneant qui nigrum in candida vertunt, 30
quis facile est aedem conducere, flumina, portus,
siccandam eluviem, portandum ad busta cadaver,
et praebere caput domina venale sub hasta.
quondam hi cornicines et municipalis harenae
perpetui comites notaeque per oppida buccae 35
munera nunc edunt et, verso pollice vulgus
cum iubet, occidunt populariter; inde reversi
conducunt foricas, et cur non omnia? cum sint
quales ex humili magna ad fastigia rerum
extollit quotiens voluit Fortuna iocari. 40
Quid Romae faciam? mentiri nescio; librum,
si malus est, nequeo laudare et poscere; motus
astrorum ignoro; funus promittere patris
nec volo nec possum; ranarum viscera numquam
inspexi; ferre ad nuptam quae mittit adulter, 45
quae mandat, norunt alii; me nemo ministro
fur erit, atque ideo nulli comes exeo tamquam
mancus et extinctae corpus non utile dextrae.
quis nunc diligitur nisi conscius et cui fervens
aestuat occultis animus semperque tacendis? 50
nil tibi se debere putat, nil conferet umquam,
participem qui te secreti fecit honesti.
carus erit Verri qui Verrem tempore quo vult
accusare potest. tanti tibi non sit opaci
omnis harena Tagi quodque in mare volvitur aurum, 55
ut somno careas ponendaque praemia sumas
tristis et a magno semper timearis amico.
Quae nunc divitibus gens acceptissima nostris
et quos praecipue fugiam, properabo fateri,
nec pudor obstabit. non possum ferre, Quirites, 60
Graecam urbem. quamvis quota portio faecis Achaei?
iam pridem Syrus in Tiberim defluxit Orontes
et linguam et mores et cum tibicine chordas
obliquas nec non gentilia tympana secum
vexit et ad circum iussas prostare puellas. 65
ite, quibus grata est picta lupa barbara mitra.
rusticus ille tuus sumit trechedipna, Quirine,
et ceromatico fert niceteria collo.
hic alta Sicyone, ast hic Amydone relicta,
hic Andro, ille Samo, hic Trallibus aut Alabandis, 70
Esquilias dictumque petunt a vimine collem,
viscera magnarum domuum dominique futuri.
ingenium velox, audacia perdita, sermo
promptus et Isaeo torrentior: ede quid illum
esse putes. quemvis hominem secum attulit ad nos: 75
grammaticus, rhetor, geometres, pictor, aliptes,
augur, schoenobates, medicus, magus, omnia novit
Graeculus esuriens: in caelum iusseris ibit.
in summa non Maurus erat neque Sarmata nec Thrax
qui sumpsit pinnas, mediis sed natus Athenis. 80
horum ego non fugiam conchylia? me prior ille
signabit fultusque toro meliore recumbet,
advectus Romam quo pruna et cottana vento?
usque adeo nihil est quod nostra infantia caelum
hausit Aventini baca nutrita Sabina? 85
Quid quod adulandi gens prudentissima laudat
sermonem indocti, faciem deformis amici,
et longum invalidi collum cervicibus aequat
Herculis Antaeum procul a tellure tenentis,
miratur vocem angustam, qua deterius nec 90
ille sonat quo mordetur gallina marito?
haec eadem licet et nobis laudare, sed illis
creditur. an melior cum Thaida sustinet aut cum
uxorem comoedus agit vel Dorida nullo
cultam palliolo? mulier nempe ipsa videtur, 95
non persona, loqui: vacua et plana omnia dicas
infra ventriculum et tenui distantia rima.
nec tamen Antiochus nec erit mirabilis illic
aut Stratocles aut cum molli Demetrius Haemo:
natio comoeda est. rides, maiore cachinno 100
concutitur; flet, si lacrimas conspexit amici,
nec dolet; igniculum brumae si tempore poscas,
accipit endromidem; si dixeris “aestuo,” sudat.
non sumus ergo pares: melior, qui semper et omni
nocte dieque potest aliena sumere vultum 105
a facie, iactare manus laudare paratus,
si bene ructavit, si rectum minxit amicus,
si trulla inverso crepitum dedit aurea fundo.
Praeterea sanctum nihil +aut+ ab inguine tutum,
non matrona laris, non filia virgo, nec ipse 110
sponsus levis adhuc, non filius ante pudicus.
horum si nihil est, aviam resupinat amici.
[scire volunt secreta domus atque inde timeri.] et quoniam coepit Graecorum mentio, transi
gymnasia atque audi facinus maioris abollae. 115
Stoicus occidit Baream delator amicum
discipulumque senex ripa nutritus in illa
ad quam Gorgonei delapsa est pinna caballi.
non est Romano cuiquam locus hic, ubi regnat
Protogenes aliquis vel Diphilus aut Hermarchus, 120
qui gentis vitio numquam partitur amicum,
solus habet. nam cum facilem stillavit in aurem
exiguum de naturae patriaeque veneno,
limine summoveor, perierunt tempora longi
servitii; nusquam minor est iactura clientis. 125
Quod porro officium, ne nobis blandiar, aut quod
pauperis hic meritum, si curet nocte togatus
currere, cum praetor lictorem inpellat et ire
praecipitem iubeat dudum vigilantibus orbis,
ne prior Albinam et Modiam collega salutet? 130
divitis hic servo cludit latus ingenuorum
filius; alter enim quantum in legione tribuni
accipiunt donat Calvinae vel Catienae,
ut semel aut iterum super illam palpitet; at tu,
cum tibi vestiti facies scorti placet, haeres 135
et dubitas alta Chionen deducere sella.
da testem Romae tam sanctum quam fuit hospes
numinis Idaei, procedat vel Numa vel qui
servavit trepidam flagranti ex aede Minervam:
protinus ad censum, de moribus ultima fiet 140
quaestio. “quot pascit servos? quot possidet agri
iugera? quam multa magnaque paropside cenat?”
quantum quisque sua nummorum servat in arca,
tantum habet et fidei. iures licet et Samothracum
et nostrorum aras, contemnere fulmina pauper 145
creditur atque deos dis ignoscentibus ipsis.
Quid quod materiam praebet causasque iocorum
omnibus hic idem, si foeda et scissa lacerna,
si toga sordidula est et rupta calceus alter
pelle patet, vel si consuto volnere crassum 150
atque recens linum ostendit non una cicatrix?
nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se
quam quod ridiculos homines facit. “exeat” inquit,
“si pudor est, et de pulvino surgat equestri,
cuius res legi non sufficit, et sedeant hic 155
lenonum pueri quocumque ex fornice nati,
hic plaudat nitidus praeconis filius inter
pinnirapi cultos iuvenes iuvenesque lanistae.”
sic libitum vano, qui nos distinxit, Othoni.
quis gener hic placuit censu minor atque puellae 160
sarcinulis inpar? quis pauper scribitur heres?
quando in consilio est aedilibus? agmine facto
debuerant olim tenues migrasse Quirites.
Haut facile emergunt quorum virtutibus obstat
res angusta domi, sed Romae durior illis 165
conatus: magno hospitium miserabile, magno
servorum ventres, et frugi cenula magno.
fictilibus cenare pudet, quod turpe negabis
translatus subito ad Marsos mensamque Sabellam
contentusque illic Veneto duroque cucullo. 170
Pars magna Italiae est, si verum admittimus, in qua
nemo togam sumit nisi mortuus. ipsa dierum
festorum herboso colitur si quando theatro
maiestas tandemque redit ad pulpita notum
exodium, cum personae pallentis hiatum 175
in gremio matris formidat rusticus infans,
aequales habitus illic similesque videbis
orchestram et populum; clari velamen honoris
sufficiunt tunicae summis aedilibus albae.
hic ultra vires habitus nitor, hic aliquid plus 180
quam satis est interdum aliena sumitur arca.
commune id vitium est: hic vivimus ambitiosa
paupertate omnes. quid te moror? omnia Romae
cum pretio. quid das, ut Cossum aliquando salutes,
ut te respiciat clauso Veiento labello? 185
ille metit barbam, crinem hic deponit amati;
plena domus libis venalibus: accipe et istud
fermentum tibi habe. praestare tributa clientes
cogimur et cultis augere peculia servis.
Quis timet aut timuit gelida Praeneste ruinam 190
aut positis nemorosa inter iuga Volsiniis aut
simplicibus Gabiis aut proni Tiburis arce?
nos urbem colimus tenui tibicine fultam
magna parte sui; nam sic labentibus obstat
vilicus et, veteris rimae cum texit hiatum, 195
securos pendente iubet dormire ruina.
vivendum est illic, ubi nulla incendia, nulli
nocte metus. iam poscit aquam, iam frivola transfert
Ucalegon, tabulata tibi iam tertia fumant:
tu nescis; nam si gradibus trepidatur ab imis, 200
ultimus ardebit quem tegula sola tuetur
a pluvia, molles ubi reddunt ova columbae.
lectus erat Cordo Procula minor, urceoli sex
ornamentum abaci, nec non et parvulus infra
cantharus et recubans sub eodem marmore Chiron, 205
iamque vetus Graecos servabat cista libellos
et divina opici rodebant carmina mures.
nil habuit Cordus, quis enim negat? et tamen illud
perdidit infelix totum nihil. ultimus autem
aerumnae cumulus, quod nudum et frusta rogantem 210
nemo cibo, nemo hospitio tectoque iuvabit.
Si magna Asturici cecidit domus, horrida mater,
pullati proceres, differt vadimonia praetor.
tum gemimus casus urbis, tunc odimus ignem.
ardet adhuc, et iam accurrit qui marmora donet, 215
conferat inpensas; hic nuda et candida signa,
hic aliquid praeclarum Euphranoris et Polycliti,
haec Asianorum vetera ornamenta deorum,
hic libros dabit et forulos mediamque Minervam,
hic modium argenti. meliora ac plura reponit 220
Persicus orborum lautissimus et merito iam
suspectus tamquam ipse suas incenderit aedes.
Si potes avelli circensibus, optima Sorae
aut Fabrateriae domus aut Frusinone paratur
quanti nunc tenebras unum conducis in annum. 225
hortulus hic puteusque brevis nec reste movendus
in tenuis plantas facili diffunditur haustu.
vive bidentis amans et culti vilicus horti
unde epulum possis centum dare Pythagoreis.
est aliquid, quocumque loco, quocumque recessu, 230
unius sese dominum fecisse lacertae.
Plurimus hic aeger moritur vigilando (sed ipsum
languorem peperit cibus inperfectus et haerens
ardenti stomacho); nam quae meritoria somnum
admittunt? magnis opibus dormitur in urbe. 235
inde caput morbi. raedarum transitus arto
vicorum in flexu et stantis convicia mandrae
eripient somnum Druso vitulisque marinis.
si vocat officium, turba cedente vehetur
dives et ingenti curret super ora Liburna 240
atque obiter leget aut scribet vel dormiet intus;
namque facit somnum clausa lectica fenestra.
ante tamen veniet: nobis properantibus obstat
unda prior, magno populus premit agmine lumbos
qui sequitur; ferit hic cubito, ferit assere duro 245
alter, at hic tignum capiti incutit, ille metretam.
pinguia crura luto, planta mox undique magna
calcor, et in digito clavus mihi militis haeret.
Nonne vides quanto celebretur sportula fumo?
centum convivae, sequitur sua quemque culina. 250
Corbulo vix ferret tot vasa ingentia, tot res
inpositas capiti, quas recto vertice portat
servulus infelix et cursu ventilat ignem.
scinduntur tunicae sartae modo, longa coruscat
serraco veniente abies, atque altera pinum 255
plaustra vehunt; nutant alte populoque minantur.
nam si procubuit qui saxa Ligustica portat
axis et eversum fudit super agmina montem,
quid superest de corporibus? quis membra, quis ossa
invenit? obtritum volgi perit omne cadaver 260
more animae. domus interea secura patellas
iam lavat et bucca foculum excitat et sonat unctis
striglibus et pleno componit lintea guto.
haec inter pueros varie properantur, at ille
iam sedet in ripa taetrumque novicius horret 265
porthmea nec sperat caenosi gurgitis alnum
infelix nec habet quem porrigat ore trientem.
Respice nunc alia ac diversa pericula noctis:
quod spatium tectis sublimibus unde cerebrum
testa ferit, quotiens rimosa et curta fenestris 270
vasa cadant, quanto percussum pondere signent
et laedant silicem. possis ignavus haberi
et subiti casus inprovidus, ad cenam si
intestatus eas: adeo tot fata, quot illa
nocte patent vigiles te praetereunte fenestrae. 275
ergo optes votumque feras miserabile tecum,
ut sint contentae patulas defundere pelves.
Ebrius ac petulans, qui nullum forte cecidit,
dat poenas, noctem patitur lugentis amicum
Pelidae, cubat in faciem, mox deinde supinus: 280
[ergo non aliter poterit dormire; quibusdam] somnum rixa facit. sed quamvis inprobus annis
atque mero fervens cavet hunc quem coccina laena
vitari iubet et comitum longissimus ordo,
multum praeterea flammarum et aenea lampas. 285
me, quem luna solet deducere vel breve lumen
candelae, cuius dispenso et tempero filum,
contemnit. miserae cognosce prohoemia rixae,
si rixa est, ubi tu pulsas, ego vapulo tantum.
stat contra starique iubet. parere necesse est; 290
nam quid agas, cum te furiosus cogat et idem
fortior? “unde venis” exclamat, “cuius aceto,
cuius conche tumes? quis tecum sectile porrum
sutor et elixi verecis labra comedit?
nil mihi respondes? aut dic aut accipe calcem. 295
ede ubi consistas: in qua te quaero proseucha?”
dicere si temptes aliquid tacitusve recedas,
tantumdem est: feriunt pariter, vadimonia deinde
irati faciunt. libertas pauperis haec est:
pulsatus rogat et pugnis concisus adorat 300
ut liceat paucis cum dentibus inde reverti.
Nec tamen haec tantum metuas; nam qui spoliet te
non derit clausis domibus postquam omnis ubique
fixa catenatae siluit compago tabernae.
interdum et ferro subitus grassator agit rem: 305
armato quotiens tutae custode tenentur
et Pomptina palus et Gallinaria pinus,
sic inde huc omnes tamquam ad vivaria currunt.
qua fornace graves, qua non incude catenae?
maximus in vinclis ferri modus, ut timeas ne 310
vomer deficiat, ne marra et sarcula desint.
felices proavorum atavos, felicia dicas
saecula quae quondam sub regibus atque tribunis
viderunt uno contentam carcere Romam.
His alias poteram et pluris subnectere causas, 315
sed iumenta vocant et sol inclinat. eundum est;
nam mihi commota iamdudum mulio virga
adnuit. ergo vale nostri memor, et quotiens te
Roma tuo refici properantem reddet Aquino,
me quoque ad Helvinam Cererem vestramque Dianam 320
converte a Cumis. saturarum ego, ni pudet illas,
auditor gelidos veniam caligatus in agros.’