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What's the winter like, my Vala, at Velia, what's the climate at Salernum, what sort of people live there, what kind of road is it—for Antonius Musa makes Baiae useless to me, and yet a puts me in ill favour there, now that in midwinter I drench myself in cold water. Of course the town murmurs at its myrtle-groves being deserted, and its sulphur baths despised, so famous for driving a lingering disorder from the sinews, and takes offence at invalids who dare to plunge head and stomach under the showers from Clusium's springs, or who repair to Gabii and its cold country-side. I must change my resort, and drive my horse past the familiar lodgings. Where are you going? I'm not bound for Cumae or Baiae”; so will the rider say as he tugs in anger at the left rein—but the horse's ear is in its bridled mouth -which town has the better supply of food, do they drink rain-water from tanks, or have they springwater, welling forth all the year—(for that region's wines I put out of court : in my country home I can stand and suffer anything ; but when I go to the seaside I need something generous and mellow, to drive care away, to flow with rich hope into veins and heart, to find me a flow of words, and to give me the grace of youth with the ladies of Lucania)
• The rider might have spared his words, for the horse is guided only by the bit.
tractus uter pluris lepores, uter educet apros ; utra magis piscis et echinos aequora celent, pinguis ut inde domum possim Phaeaxque reverti, scribere te nobis, tibi nos accredere par est. 25
1Maenius, ut rebus maternis atque paternis fortiter absumptis urbanus coepit haberi scurra vagus, non qui certum praesepe teneret, impransus non qui civem dinosceret hoste, quaelibet in quemvis opprobria fingere saevus,2 pernicies et tempestas barathrumque macelli, quidquid quaesierat, ventri donabat3 avaro. hic ubi nequitiae fautoribus et timidis nil aut paulum abstulerat, patinas cenabat omasi, vilis et agninae, 4 tribus ursis quod satis esset ; 35 scilicet ut ventres lamna candente nepotum diceret urendos correctus5 Bestius. idem, quidquid erat nactus praedae maioris, ubi omne verterati in fumum et cinerem, non hercule miror,” aiebat, “ si qui comedunt bona, cum sit obeso 40 nil melius turdo, nil vulva pulchrius ampla.”
Nimirum hic ego sum. nam tuta et parvola laudo, cum res deficiunt, satis inter vilia fortis? : verum ubi quid melius contingit et unctius, idem vos sapere et solos aio8 bene vivere, quorum 45 conspicitur nitidis fundata pecunia villis. Here a new Epistle begins in all important mss. except a.
2 certus two Bland. 3 donarat V, II : donaret Bentley.
agnini αλ. correptus ER: corrector Lambinus. 6 verteret E.
? In a ll. 43-44 follow 39 ; in a they follow 38.
8 alio py.
9 vallis oy.
a As if he were one of the Alcinoi iuventus of Epist. i. 2. 28.
• The language is Plautine. Where food was concerned, he swept everything before him.
which country rears more hares, which, more boars, which one's seas give more hiding to fish and seaurchins, so that I
return home from there a fat Phaeacian a—all this you must write us,
and we must credit
in full. 26 Maenius gallantly used up all his mother and father had left him, then came into note as a city wit, a parasite at large, with no fixed fold, a man who when dinnerless knew not friend apart from foe, but would savagely trump up scandal against anybody, the market's rùin, a cyclone and abyss b--and so, whatever he gained, he gave to his greedy maw. This fellow, whenever he got little or nothing from those who applauded or feared his wicked wit, would sup on plates of tripe and cheap lamb, enough to satisfy three bears, so as actually to proclaim that prodigals should have their bellies branded with white-hot iron-he, a Bestius reformed !c Yet the same man, if he ever got hold of some larger booty, would turn it into smoke and ashes, and then, “In faith, I don't wonder,” he would say,“ if some devour their substance, since there is nothing better than a fat thrush, nothing finer than a large sow's paunch."
42 Such a man, in truth, am I. When means fail, I cry up a safe and lowly lot, resolute enough where all is paltrybut when something better and richer comes my way I, the same man, say that only men like you are wise and live well d_whose invested wealth is displayed in garish villas.
· Nothing is known about Bestius, but he may well have been what Maenius was, a figure in Lucilius. According to Acron, he was severely frugal. Presumably he had been a spendthrift in earlier life. The corrector of Lambinus would give good sense, Bestius being an example of the rake in the pulpit. For bene vivere cf. Epist. i. 6. 56 ; i. 11. 29.
The Quinctius addressed may be Quinctius Hirpinus of Odes ii. 11. He is evidently a prominent man (1. 18), who is perhaps in public office (ll. 33. 34), but nothing definite is known about him. The Epistle is the poet's commentary on the second Stoic paradox, ότι αυτάρκης η αρετή προς ευδαιμονίαν (Cic. Parad. 2).
To save you the trouble of asking about the products of my estate, my dear Quinctius, let me describe it to you. It lies in a valley among the hills, gets plenty of sun, has a good climate, grows an abundance of wild fruit and foliage, and possesses a copious spring of fresh water. In this charming retreat I enjoy good health even in the worst season of the year (1-16).
And now about yourself. Are you really the good and happy man that people think you are ? Remember that popular applause is fickle, and often insincere, and that those who give titles can also take them away (17-40).
Well, who is the “good ? The world will answer that it is he who keeps the laws, whose word is a bond and whose testimony is trusted, but those who live near him may know better.
Such a man,
eager to seem good, but not to be good, may be no better than the slave, who refrains from stealing merely from fear of being found out (40-62).
The man who has set his heart on money is a creature of desires and fears. He is a deserter from the cause of Virtue. You might treat him as a prisoner or put him to death, yet he may make a useful slave (63-72).
No, the truly good and wise man will be as fearless and independent as Dionysus in the play, for no misfortunes-not death itself—can daunt him (73-79).