Horace, Satires 1.4

Horace, Satires 1.4

The poets Eupolis and Cratinus and Aristophanes
And others, of which men is ancient comedy,
If any was worthy to be written of because he was wicked,
A thief, because he was an adulterer or cut-throat
Or was otherwise infamous, noted with much liberty.
On such men Lucilius hangs entirely, having followed
With only feet and numbers changed. He is keen,
Of sharp nose, unyielding to pen verses:
For he was faulty in this: as it were, oft in an hour
Would he recite 200 verses, standing on one foot.
When he muddily flowed, there was that which you wished to remove:
He was lazy and chattersome to bear the labor of writing,
Of writing well: as for quantity, I’ll not delay. Behold,
Crispinus provokes me over so little: ‘Take, if you will,
Take now your tablets; let a place be given to us, a time,
Referees; let us see if one shall be able to write more.’
The gods did well that they shaped me of an idle and feeble
Mind, speaking only rarely and with few words:
And you, as you prefer, imitate the winds shut up
In goatskin bellows, always laboring until the fire
Softens iron. Blessed Fannius voluntarily put out his
Bookshelves and bust when none read my writings;
Because of this I was fearful to recite them to the public,
Because there are few whom this genre pleases, since the worth
Of many is damned. Choose any from the crowd’s midst:
He labors either from avarice or from miserable ambition:
He raves for loves of married women, he that of boys;
Awe of silver seizes him; Albius is  enraptured with bronze;
This one harks wares from the rising sum to that sun by which
Evening kingdom warms, though indeed he is carried headlong
Through dangers, just as dust collected in a tempest, fearing
That he lose all things or lest he profit for the work.

They fear all verses, they hate poets.
‘He has straw in a horn, flee far: as long as he
Gets a laugh for himself he’ll spare not a friend;
And whatever he once scribbled on papers, he shall desire
All, returning from the ovens and fountains to know,
Both boys and old women. Come! Take a little to the contrary:
First I should except myself from the number of those
Whom I give to be poets: for one ought not say it to be
Enough to produce a verse; nor if any, as I, wrote
Closer to conversation should you think him to be a poet,
To him, who has natural talent, whose mind more divine, and mouth
About to sound great things, should you give the honor of this name.
Therefore, some have asked whether comedy should be considered
Poetry, because sharp mind and vigor is present in neither
The words nor style, if it should differ only in a certain
Measure from prose, it is only prose. “And burning father
Rages, because his playboy son, mad with love for a whore,
Refuses a wife with a great dowry, and, drunk,
Which is so great a disgrace, wanders with torches before the night.’ 
Can it be that Pomponius should have heard words
Lighter than those if his father were alive? Thus
It is not enough to write out verses as pure speech,
Which, if you rearrange, anyone should rage in such a way
As the father, masked [as in a comedy]. If you take
If you take from these things, which I now write and Lucilius once wrote,
Certain rhythms and meters, and, because the word is first in order,
You make it later, placing the last before the first,
Indeed you will not come upon the limbs of a torn poet
As if you should rearrange, ‘After horrible Discord
Shattered the posts and iron doors of War.’

Things are such: at another time the poem may not be just.
Now I’ll consider that only, whether this genre of writing
Merits that it be suspect to you. Sharp Sulcius
And Caprius, hoarse with evil, walk with their notebooks
And each is great terror to swindlers; and if any lives
Well and with clean hands, he may condemn both.
Though you, Caelius and Burrus, are similar to thieves,
I am not similar to Caprus or Sulcus; why do you fear me?
No tavern or storefront holds my books which the hand
Of the vulgus and of Hermogenis Tigellus would dampen.
Nor do I recite to any friends, save when forced,
Not to whomever it pleases, anywhere and publicly. Those who
Recite writings in the middle of the forum or bathing are many:
A closed place resounds with his voice. This pleases
The foolish, not considering whether they do this without
Cause or whether at the wrong time. ‘You rejoice to annoy!’
He  says, ‘And, perverse, you do this with zeal.’ Whence do you
Throw this attack at me? Is the author any of those
With whom I have lived? He who carps at an absent friend,
Who does not defend him with another blaming, who snatches
Relaxed laughs of men and notoriety  of his wit,
Who can contrive things not seen, unable to keep quiet
A secret: this one is mean-spirited; you, Roman, beware this one.
Often you will see them eat four abreast on three couches,
Of whom one loves to sprinkle everyone with anything,
Save him who offers water–and after he has drunk, even this one
When truthful Bacchus has opened his closed heart.
This seems cultured and urbane and worthy to you,
Hostile to the mean-spirited. If I have laughed because inept
Rufillus smells of perfumes, Gorgonius a he-goat,
I seem livid and biting to you? If there was any
Mention of Petillus Capitolinus, hurled deceitfully
With you present, you should defend him as is your nature:
‘Capitolinus has hosted me and treated me as a friend
From boyhood, and, asked, has done much for my cause
And I rejoice because he lives safe in the city.
Nevertheless, I wonder why he has fled that judge
In such a way.’ This is the draught of black cuttlefish, this is
Pure bronze rust. Let vice be away be far from my writings
And mind as before; I promise, if I am able truly to promise
Anything further about muse. If I have spoken freely,
If perchance too jokingly, you will give me the favor
Of your indulgence in this; my great father accustomed me to this,
That I should flee [vice] by noting examples of vices.
When he encouraged me that I should live frugally, shrewdly,
And content to use that which he had provided for me,
‘Do you not see the son of Albius lives badly, and also
That Baius is indigent? It is a great lesson lest he wish to
Ruin his father’s wealth.’ When he deterred me from
Love of turpid whore, ‘May you be dissimilar to Scetanus.’
Should I not follow a whore when I may be able to enjoy
Sex favors, ‘The story of discovered Trebonus is not pleasant.’

He would say, ‘The philosopher may give you reasons
That it might be better for shunning this than by seeking it;
While you need a guardian, I am able to watch over your save
Life and reputation, and as soon as age has stiffened your
Mind and your limbs, you will swim without a float.’ Thus he
Formed me as a boy with his words, and if he decreed I should
Do a thing, he said, ‘You have the authority by which you may do this,’
And he cast out one of the selected judges;
Or if he forbid a thing, ‘But do you doubt that this is dishonest and
Useless to do, that he blazes with wicked rumor when he does
This or that?’ A neighbor’s death stuns sickly gluttons,
And from fear of death he compels himself to desist;
Thus often others’ scandals deter tender minds
From vices. From this teaching I am safe from these vices
Which also bear ruin. I am held by lighter vices, which
You might excuse. Perhaps long age, a frank friend,
And my own counsel shall have reduced muchly even these.
For indeed I am not apart from myself when bed or
Colonnade snatches me: ‘This is the more proper;
Doing this I might live the better; thus I should be found
Pleasing to my friends; such is not fetching; should I ever
Imprudently do something similar to that?’ For these things
I turn over in my mind with caught tongue. When anything of leisure
Is given, I play around with writings. This is one of those
Lighter foibles; if you do not wish to pardon any of this
A great band of poets shall come which should be to my
Aid, for we are many by the more, and we shall compel
You , just as the Jews did, to concede to this crowd.


2 responses to “Horace, Satires 1.4

  1. Quid desiisti hoc incepto?

  2. your translations are really helpful for other fellow undergraduates. thanks a bunch!

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