Horace: The Satires
Book II: Satire V
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2005 All Rights Reserved
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- BkIISatV:1-22 Ulysses questions Tiresias
- BkIISatV:23-44 The path to riches
- BkIISatV:45-69 Will-hunting!
- BkIISatV:70-88 Try every trick, but be careful!
- BkIISatV:89-110 Be discrete even after inheriting
BkIISatV:1-22 Ulysses questions Tiresias
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 never lie
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,
Great Apollo gave me that gift of prophecy indeed.’
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 induced to, she so chaste,
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