Horace: The Satires

Book II: Satire V

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

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Conditions and Exceptions apply.


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

For the man of cunning to sail home to Ithaca,

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.

BkIISatV:23-44 The path to riches

‘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.

Say to Quintus, maybe, or Publius (sensitive ears

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.’

BkIISatV:45-69 Will-hunting!

‘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,

Nasica the fortune-hunter’s duped by a Coranus.’

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.’

BkIISatV:70-88 Try every trick, but be careful!

‘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:’

Meeting of Odysseus and Penelope

‘Meeting of Odysseus and Penelope’
Francesco Bartolozzi, after John Francis Rigaud (Italian, 1727 – 1815)
The Rijksmuseum

BkIISatV:89-110 Be discrete even after inheriting

‘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