The Satires

Satire IX – Patrons Again: A Dialogue

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved

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Satire IX: Patrons Again: A Dialogue

SatIX:1-47 Why so Wretched, Naevolus?

I’d like to know why I so often see you looking gloomy,

Naevolus, your brow all overcast, like Marsyas in defeat.

Why does your face look so like Ravola’s, when he was

Caught rubbing his wet beard between Rhodope’s thighs?

Crepereius Pollio’s expression was never more wretched,

He who goes around offering to pay triple interest rates,

And can’t find anyone foolish enough to accept. Where

Are those fresh furrows from? Happy with little, once

You were the young knight, born within Rome’s walls,

An elegant guest, with biting humour and forceful wit.

Now everything’s changed: your face is grave, your

Dry hair a bristling forest, your skin has lost that gloss

Produced by depilating it with heated Bruttian pitch,

And your legs too, neglected, dark with sprouting hair.

Why emaciated like a chronic invalid, long tormented

By a habitual fever, one that recurs every three days?

We detect the mind’s troubles lurking deep in the ailing

Body, as we detect its joys too; in either case the face

Reveals the mood. Thus it appears you’ve altered your

Direction, treading the opposite path to the one you trod.

It’s not so long ago, after all, as I recall, you used to be

Seen at Isis’ shrine, or by the Ganymede in the Temple

Of Peace, or at alien Cybele’s secret Palace, or that of

Ceres (is there any altar those whores don’t profane?);

An adulterer more notorious than Aufidius, quiet too

About how you also found favour with their husbands.

‘Lots of men may find that way of life makes a profit,

But I’ve no reward for all my efforts. Sometimes I’d

Receive a badly made cloak from the loom of a Gallic

Weaver, or some thin silver plate of inferior quality.

Fate rules human life, even those parts hidden beneath

The folds have their fate. Yet if the stars abandon you,

The immeasurable length of your mighty cock won’t

Help, even though Virro with drooling lips sees you

In the nude, and his host of flattering notes assails you

Endlessly: ‘men are always attracted to the catamite’.

For what’s more monstrous than a tight-fisted pervert?

“I paid you this, I gave you that, and later you had more.”

He adds it up as he wiggles about. Bring on the abacus,

And the slave-boys taking notes; count fifty in gold

Paid out in total, but then let’s add up all my efforts.

Or do you think it’s simple to drive an upright cock

Into the depths, only to come across yesterday’s meal?

That slave has the easier life who ploughs the field

Rather than its owner.’ Yet you surely felt yourself

Sweet and pretty enough to be the gods’ cupbearer?

SatIX:48-91 Indignation

‘Does your rich man ever indulge a humble hanger-on,

A follower; is he ready even now to spend money on

His sickness? Behold, him to whom one gives that green

Umbrella, those balls of amber, on his birthday, or when

Rainy spring commences, lounging on his chaise longue,

Fondling his secret gifts at the Matronalia. Tell me, you

Little love-bird, for whom are you keeping all those hills

And fields in Apulia, lands wide enough to weary a hawk?

Your fertile vineyards at Trifolinus, at hollow Gaurus, or

On the Cumeaean ridge, keep you well supplied; is there

Anyone who corks more casks of the long-lived vintage?

How much would it cost you to grant a few acres there,

To your client, and his weary loins! Is it better that your

Child in the country, its mother, toy cottage, and puppy

Playmate, be left to your cymbal-clashing eunuch friend?

“It’s shameful of you to beg,” he says. But my rent cries:

“Beg!” my slave-boy makes demands, the sole one, single

As Polyphemus’s great eye, cunning Ulysses escape plan.

Since one’s not enough I’ll buy another, but both will need

Feeding. What will I do when the cold winds blow? What,

I ask, what shall I say to the boys’ feet and shoulder-blades

In December’s northerlies? “Bear up, wait for the cicadas?”

Though you set aside, and ignore, my other services, how

Do you rate the fact that if it had not been for this loyal

And devoted client, your wife would have stayed a virgin?

You know how you asked for my help, how often and in

How many ways. The girl was actually walking out on you

When I grabbed and embraced her; she’d already torn up

The contract, applied for divorce; I spent a whole night

And barely remedied it, you crying outside the door, my

Witnesses the sounds you heard from bed and mistress.

There’s many a household where a fractured and shaky

Marriage that’s almost dissolved, is rescued by a lover.

Whom do you turn to? Whom do you set first, or last?

Ungrateful perfidious one, is it worth nothing to you,

Nothing at all, that your little son or daughter’s my doing?

You’re happy enough to accept them, and splash the news

Of your virility all over the papers. Garland your doors,

You’re a father, I’ve given you ammunition against gossip.

You’re a parent, in law, through me wills treat you as such,

You can garner bequests intact, and the sweet windfalls too.

And extra benefits will even accrue along with those gifts

If I add to the numbers, if I should make it a trio.’ You’ve just

Cause for resentment, Naevolus; but what do you say in reply?

SatIX:92-134 Advice and Reassurance

‘He ignores me, and seeks out some other two-legged donkey.

But remember to keep these complaints of mine to yourself,

Be silent, and lock these confidences away deep inside you;

For the enemy’s deadly who’s skin is smoothed with pumice.

He who’s committed his secret to me, he blazes with hatred,

Just as much now as if I’d told all I know. He’d not hesitate

To pick up a knife, break my head, light a fire at my door.

And with wealth like his, pure poison costs little or nothing.

So keep what’s secret close, like the Court of Mars at Athens.’

Ah Corydon, Corydon, do you really believe a rich man’s

Secrets can ever stay hidden? If the slaves are mute his horses

Will talk, his dog, his doorposts, his marble floors. Close the

Shutters, curtain the cracks, bar the doors, quench the light,

Make everyone leave the place, have no one sleep nearby;

By the second cock-crow what the man does will still be

Known to the nearest tradesman, well before dawn; the

Pastry-cook’s imaginings; the head-chef’s and the carvers’.

What crime do they ever refrain from attributing to their

Masters, extracting revenge by rumour if they’re beaten?

There’ll always be someone who’ll seek you out at the

Crossroads, and drunkenly fill your poor unwilling ear.

Ask them to be quiet, it’s from them you need to seek

The assurance you seek from me. They like betraying

Secrets, even more than swilling stolen Falernian wine,

In those quantities Saufeia imbibed at public sacrifices.

There are many reasons for living an upright life, this

One especially, you can treat your slave’s tongues lightly;

For the tongue’s the worst part of all of an ill-behaved slave.

‘The advice you’ve just given give is good, but it’s generic.

What do you suggest I do, after wasting all this time, all

My hopes deceived? For the swift blossom’s blowing by

And is gone, the briefest part of our sad constricted life;

While we drink, while we call for garlands, perfumes,

And girls, old age comes stealing upon us undetected.’

Don’t fret, you’ll never lack a catamite friend as long as

These hills stand proud; they’ll arrive in their carriages

And ships, all those who stroke their hair with effeminate

Fingers. Even better try rich old women, you’ll be more

Than welcome; just keep on chewing those rocket leaves!

SatIX:135-150 Fate’s Against Us

‘Keep your suggestions for the fortunate; my Clotho

And Lachesis are happy enough if my cock can feed

My belly. O my poor Household Gods, whom I always

Pray to with a little incense or corn or a simple garland,

When will I fix on something to rescue my old age from

The beggar’s stick and mat? I only need two hundred in

Gold as income from safe investments, and a few plain

Silver cups, the sort Fabricius banned as Censor, and two

Strongmen from the Moesian crew, to allow me to take

My place, in safety, in a hired litter at the noisy Circus;

And I’d like an engraver, bowed over his work, besides,

And another who can do lots of instant portraits; it would

Do. When will I even have enough to be called poor? A

Wretched prayer it is, without hope of success; for when

I summon Fortune, her ears are plugged with wax, purloined

From the ship whose unhearing crew fled the Sicilian Sirens.

End of Satire IX