Horace: The Satires

Book I: Satire IX

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

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BkISatIX:1-34 No Escape!

By chance I was strolling the Sacred Way, and musing,

As I do, on some piece of nonsense, wholly absorbed,

When up runs a man I know only by name, who grabs

Me by the hand, crying: ‘How do you do, dear old thing?’

‘Fine, as it happens,’ I answer, ‘and best wishes to you.’

As he follows me, I add: ‘You’re after something?

He: ‘You should get to know me better, I’m learned.

I: ‘I congratulate you on that.’ Desperately trying

To flee, now I walk fast, now halt, and whisper a word

In the ear of my boy, as the sweat’s drenching me

Head to foot. While the fellow rattles on, praising

Street after street, the whole city, I silently whisper,

‘Oh Bolanus, to have your quick temper! Since I’m not

Replying, he says: ‘You’re dreadfully eager to go:

I’ve seen that a while: but it’s no use: I’ll hold you fast:

I’ll follow you wherever you’re going.’ ‘No need

For you to be dragged around: I’m off to see someone

You don’t know: he’s ill on the far side of Tiber,

Near Caesar’s Garden.’ ‘I’ve nothing to do, I’m a walker:

I’ll follow.’ Down go my ears like a sulky donkey,

When the load’s too much for his back. Then he starts:

‘’If I know anything, you’d not find a superior friend

In Viscus or Varius: who can write more, who can write

Faster than me? Who can dance more delicately?

Even Hermogenes would envy me when I sing.’

Here was my chance to break in: ‘Haven’t you a mother,

Relations who need you at home?’ ‘No, no one: they’re all

At rest.’ Fortunate people! Only I’m left. Despatch me:

Now the sad fate approaches an old Sabine woman

Uttered when I was a child, rattling her diviner’s urn:

‘No deadly poison shall slay him, no enemy blade shall destroy him,

No pleurisy carry him off, no lingering gout or cough:

Garrulous the man who’ll consume him at last: the talkers

He’ll take good care to avoid if he’s wise, as he grows older.’

BkISatIX:35-78 Saved by Apollo!

If was well after nine when we reached Vesta’s temple,

The hour, as it happened, when he was due to answer

A charge: on pain of losing his case if he didn’t appear.

‘Give me some help for a while, as you love me,’ he says.

‘Slay me if I’ve the strength for it, and I don’t know the law:

And I’ve got to go, you know where.’ ‘I’m not sure,’ says he,

Whether to abandon you or my case.’ ‘Me, please.’ ‘No, no,’

Says he, and forges ahead. I follow, it’s hard to fight

When you’re beaten. ‘How do you get on with Maecenas?’

He starts in again; ‘a man of good judgement, few friends.

No one’s used opportunity better. You’d gain

A helper, a good number two, if you’d introduce

Yours truly to him: blow me, if you couldn’t have blown

Away all the rest!’ ‘The life up there’s not what you think:

No house is freer from taint or intrigue than that one:

It never troubles me, I can tell you, if someone

Is richer than me or more learned: everyone has

His own place.’ ‘What a tale, I can hardly believe that!’

‘Well, it’s true.’ ‘You inflame my desire to get closer

To him.’ ‘Only wish: with your virtues you’ll carry

The day: he’s a person who can be won, and that’s why

He makes the first entrance so hard.’ I’ll not fail:

I’ll bribe his servants with gifts: if I’m excluded

Today, I’ll persist: I’ll search out a suitable time,

Encounter him in the street, escort him home. Life grants

Nothing to mortals without a great effort.’ While he

Rabbits on, we meet Aristius Fuscus, a dear friend

Who knows the man well. We stop. ‘Where’ve you been,

Where are you going?’ He asks, he answers. I start to

Tug at his cloak, and press on his irresponsive arms,

Nodding and winking at him to save me, the joker

Cruelly laughing in non-comprehension: I grew

Heated with anger. ‘Wasn’t there something you needed

To say in private.’ Yes I remember, I’ll tell you

At some more convenient time: it’s the thirtieth,

Sabbath: do you want to offend the circumcised Jews?’

‘Nothing’s sacred to me.’ ‘It is to me: I’m one

Of the many, somewhat weaker. Pardon: another day.’

That so black a sun had risen for me! The rascal flees

Leaving me under the knife. Suddenly we’re faced

By the plaintiff. ‘Where are you off to, you scoundrel?’

A great voice shouts, then to me: ‘Will you be a witness?’

I offer my ear. He hurries him off: clamour ensures

People come running. And that’s how Apollo saved me.

The Waterfall at Tivoli

‘The Waterfall at Tivoli’
Abraham Teerlink (Dutch 1776 - 1857)
The Rijksmuseum

End of Book I Satire IX