Horace: The Epistles
Book I: Epistle XV
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2005 All Rights Reserved
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What sort of people live there, how are the roads? Since I’m
Prescribed cold baths in winter, Antonius Musa
Makes visiting Baiae pointless, yet ensures I’m
Frowned on there. – Of course the town sighs, its myrtles
Are being abandoned, its sulphur baths scorned that
Rid the sinews of lingering disorders,
At patients who dare to subject head and stomach
I’ve to change my resort, and spur my horse past
Familiar inns. ‘Whoa, I’m not heading for Cumae
Or Baiae,’ cries the rider, testily giving
The left rein a tug: but the horse only ‘hears’ the bit. –
Which populace feeds on the better supply of grain?
Do they drink from rainwater butts, or perennial
Sweet water wells? – I don’t care for the regional wines:
I can endure anything in my rural retreat,
But by the sea I need something noble and mellow,
That drives away care, and lingers rich with hope
In my veins and heart, to conjure up words and commend
My youthfulness to Lucanian girls –
Which district rears more hares, which more boars,
Which one’s waves hide more sea-urchins and fish,
So I can travel back home, fat as a Phaeacian?
Write to me and say, and I’ll give you full credit.
Maenius, having manfully spent all his mother
And father left him, began as a vagrant
Scrounger, a creature with no permanent stable,
When dinnerless not distinguishing friend from foe,
Who’d savagely fabricate lies about anyone,
A tempest, a vortex, the food-markets’ ruin:
Whatever he found he gave to his greedy gut.
When he got little or nothing from those who feared
Or applauded his spite, he’d eat cheap lamb or plates
Of tripe, enough for a trio of bears, proclaiming
Of course that wastrels deserved to be branded
With red hot knives, he being Bestius reformed.
Yet when the same man secured a better prize,
He’d soon reduce it to smoke and ashes, saying:
‘By the gods, I don’t wonder some folks squander their all,
Since nothing beats a fat thrush, or a nice big sow’s womb.’
That’s me of course. Since I praise the safe and humble
When funds are lacking, resolute enough with what’s mean:
But when something better and finer appears, the same
‘I’ declares that only you live
Whose established wealth’s revealed in smart villas.
End of Book I Epistle XV
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