Horace: The Epistles

Book I: Epistle XV

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2005 All Rights Reserved

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BkIEpXV:1-25 Delights of the cold-water cure!

What’s the winter climate like, Vala, at Velia and Salernum?

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, indignant

At patients who dare to subject head and stomach

To Clusium’s springs, or make for Gabii’s cold fields.

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.

BkIEpXV:26-46 I’m like Maenius

Maenius, having manfully spent all his mother

And father left him, began as a vagrant urban

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 wisely and well

Whose established wealth’s revealed in smart villas.

End of Book I Epistle XV