Horace: The Satires
Book II: Satire V
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2005 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Answer this, too, Tiresias, add to what you’ve told me:
By what methods and arts can I hope to recover
My lost fortune? Why do you laugh? ‘So it’s not enough
And gaze on his household gods?’ O you, who
To any man, see how I return, naked and needy,
As you foretold, to stores and herds stripped by the Suitors:
Birth and ability are less than sea-wrack, without wealth.
‘Since, not to beat about the bush, then, you dread poverty,
Hear a way by which you can grow rich. If a thrush
Or something is given you for your own, let it fly
To where a great fortune gleams, to an old master:
Let some rich man taste your sweetest apples
Or whatever tributes your tidy farm bears you,
Before your Lar does, he’s worthier of your respect.
However great a liar he is, of no family, stained
By a brother’s blood, or a runaway, don’t refuse
If he asks you to go for a walk, take the outside.’
What, walk with some filthy slave? Not thus did I show
Myself at Troy, matched always with my betters. ‘Then,
It’s poor you’ll be.’ I can command my noble spirit
To bear it, I’ve suffered worse. Tell me, now, Prophet,
Though, how I can root out wealth and piles of money.
‘I’ve told you already, I’ll tell you again: fish
About slyly for old men’s wills, and if one or two
After swallowing the bait, escape your wiles,
Don’t give up hope, or abandon the art in scorn.
If a case, great or small’s debated in the Forum,
Whoever’s the rich, childless crook who summons
The better man boldly to court, you be his lawyer:
Spurn the citizen with the better reputation
Or cause, if he’s a fertile wife or an heir at home.
Enjoy their first name): “Worth makes me your friend:
I know the law’s pitfalls, I can defend a case:
I’d sooner have someone pluck out my eyes than let him
Insult you or cheat you of a nutshell: my concern’s
That you lose nothing, invite no ridicule.” Tell him
To go home and take care of his health: you be his
Lawyer: persist and adhere, even if “the glowing
Dog-star shatters dumb statues,” or Furius stuffed
With thick tripe “Spews hoar-frost on the wintry Alps.”
“Can’t you see,” someone says nudging his neighbour,
“How patient he is, how willing, a help to his friends?”
And more tunny-fish will swim up, to stock your ponds.’
‘In case too close attention to a childless man
Betrays you, try one whose rearing a sickly boy
He’s adopted, in noble style: creep softly towards
Your goal of being named second heir, and if fate
Sends the lad to Orcus you can usurp his place:
It’s very unusual for such a gamble to fail.
If someone hands you his will to read, decline,
And remember to push the thing far from you,
But snatch a sidelong glance at the second line
Of page one: run your eye over it quickly to see
If you’re one of many. Often a clerk cooked up
From a minor official fools your gaping raven,
Are you mad? Or teasing, versed in obscure utterance?
‘O Laertes’ son, what I speak will prove true or not,
Fine, but say what your nonsense means, if you would.
‘When a young hero, terror of Parthia, born of
Aeneas’ noble line, is mighty on land and sea,
Manly Coranus shall wed the stately daughter
Of Nasica, he who dreads paying debts in full.
The son-in-law will hand his will to his father-in-law
To read: After many a refusal Nasica
Will take it at last and scan it silently, finding
That nothing’s left to him and his, except lament.’
‘I’ll suggest this too: if perhaps a scheming woman
Or freedman controls some old idiot, be their ally.
Commend them, so you’ll be commended in absentia:
That helps too. But it’s best to storm the prime objective
Yourself. Does the fool scribble atrocious verses:
Praise them. Is he a lecher: don’t wait to be asked:
Hand Penelope over swiftly to your better.’
Do you think she could be
So honest, no Suitor tempted her from the right course?
‘Why, yes: the young men who came were sparing of gifts,
They were more eager for the cooking than the loving.
That’s why your Penelope’s chaste: but once she scents
Profit from some old man, in company with you, she’ll
Be like a bitch that won’t be scared from a juicy bone.
I’ll tell you something that happened in my old age.
A foul Theban crone willed to be carried to the grave
Like this: her body well-oiled on her heir’s bare shoulders.
Surely to see if dead she could give him the slip: I guess
He’d pressed her too hard while she was alive. Take care:’
‘Don’t be casual, but don’t show excessive zeal.
The garrulous offend those who are dour and moody:
Yet don’t be overly quiet. Act Davus in Comedy,
Stand there head bowed, like one with a lot to fear.
Proceed attentively: if the breeze stiffens, warn him
To cover his blessed head carefully, use your shoulder
To make a way for him through the crowd: give ear
When he chatters. Is his desire for praise a nuisance?
Praise, till he lifts his arms skywards crying: “Enough!”
Inflate the swollen bladder with overblown language.
And when he frees you from long and careful service
And, awake for sure, you hear the words: “One fourth
Shall Ulysses inherit,” let fall now and then: “Is my
Friend Dama no more?”, “Where’s one so firm and loyal?”
And weep for him a little if you can. You can hide
Any joy your face betrays. If the tomb should be left
To your discretion, don’t be mean with its construction:
Let the neighbours praise the handsome funeral. And if
An older co-heir happens to give a grave-yard cough
Say if he’d like to buy any inherited house or land
You’d be happy to knock it down to him for cash.
But Queen Proserpina calls me: live long, and farewell!’
End of Book II Satire V
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