The Third Satire of Juvenal

John Dryden

Dryden's translation of Juvenal's third Satire appeared as part of his collection of the complete satires of Juvenal and Persius in 1693.


The story of this satire speaks itself. Umbritius, the supposed friend of Juvenal, and himself a poet, is leaving Rome, and retiring to Cumæ. Our author accompanies him out of town. Before they take leave of each other, Umbritius tells his friend the reasons which oblige him to lead a private life, in an obscure place. He complains, that an honest man cannot get his bread at Rome; that none but flatterers make their fortunes there; that Grecians, and other foreigners, raise themselves by those sordid arts which he describes, and against which he bitterly inveighs. He reckons up the several inconveniences which arise from a city life, and the many dangers which attend it; upbraids the noblemen with covetousness, for not rewarding good poets; and arraigns the government for starving them. The great art of this satire is particularly shown in common-places, and drawing in as many vices as could naturally fall into the compass of it.

Grieved though I am an ancient friend to lose,
I like the solitary seat he chose,
In quiet Cumæ 1  fixing his repose:
Where, far from noisy Rome, secure he lives,
And one more citizen to Sibyl gives; [5]
The road to Baiæ, and that soft recess
Which all the gods with all their bounty bless;
Though I in Prochyta with greater ease
Could live, than in a street of palaces.
What scene so desert or so full of fright, [10]
As towering houses, tumbling in the night,
And Rome on fire beheld by its own blazing light?
But worse than all the clattering tiles, and worse
Than thousand padders, is the poet's curse;
Rogues, that in dog-days cannot rhyme forbear, 2  [15]
But without mercy read, and make you hear.

   Now while my friend, just ready to depart,
Was packing all his goods in one poor cart,
He stopt a little at the Conduit-gate,
Where Numa modelled once the Roman State, [20]
In mighty councils with his nymph retired;
Though now the sacred shades and founts are hired
By banished Jews, who their whole wealth can lay
In a small basket, on a wisp of hay:
Yet such our avarice is, that every tree [25]
Pays for his head, nor sleep itself is free;
Nor place, nor persons, now are sacred held,
From their own grove the muses are expelled.
Into this lonely vale our steps we bend,
I and my sullen discontented friend; [30]
The marble caves and aqueducts we view;
But how adulterate now, and different from the true!
How much more beauteous had the fountain been
Embellished with her first created green,
Where crystal streams through living turf had run, [35]
Contented with an urn of native stone!

   Then thus Umbritius, with an angry frown,
And looking back on this degenerate town: —
"Since noble arts in Rome have no support,
And ragged virtue not a friend at court, [40]
No profit rises from the ungrateful stage,
My poverty increasing with my age;
'Tis time to give my just disdain a vent,
And, cursing, leave so base a government.
Where Dædalus his borrowed wings laid by, [45]
To that obscure retreat I choose to fly:
While yet few furrows on my face are seen,
While I walk upright, and old age is green,
And Lachesis has somewhat left to spin.
Now, now 'tis time to quit this cursed place, [50]
And hide from villains my too honest face:
Here let Arturius live, and such as he;
Such manners will with such a town agree.
Knaves, who in full assemblies have the knack
Of turning truth to lies, and white to black, [55]
Can hire large houses, and oppress the poor
By farmed excise; can cleanse the common-shore, 3 
And rent the fishery; can bear the dead,
And teach their eyes dissembled tears to shed;
All this for gain; for gain they sell their very head. [60]
These fellows (see what fortune's power can do!)
Were once the minstrels of a country show;
Followed the prizes through each paltry town,
By trumpet-cheeks and bloated faces known.
But now, grown rich, on drunken holidays, [65]
At their own costs exhibit public plays;
Where, influenced by the rabble's bloody will,
With thumbs bent back, they popularly kill.
From thence returned, their sordid avarice rakes
In excrements again, and hires the jakes. 4  [70]
Why hire they not the town, not every thing,
Since such as they have fortune in a string,
Who, for her pleasure, can her fools advance,
And toss them topmost on the wheel of chance?
What's Rome to me, what business have I there? [75]
I who can neither lie, nor falsely swear?
Nor praise my patron's undeserving rhymes,
Nor yet comply with him, nor with his times?
Unskilled in schemes by planets to foreshow,
Like canting 5  rascals, how the wars will go: [80]
I neither will, nor can, prognosticate
To the young gaping heir, his father's fate;
Nor in the entrails of a toad have pried, 6 
Nor carried bawdy presents to a bride:
For want of these town-virtues, thus alone [85]
I go, conducted on my way by none;
Like a dead member from the body rent,
Maimed, and unuseful to the government. 7 
Who now is loved, but he who loves the times,
Conscious of close intrigues, and dipt in crimes, [90]
Labouring with secrets which his bosom burn,
Yet never must to public light return?
They get reward alone, who can betray;
For keeping honest counsels none will pay.
He who can Verres when he will accuse, [95]
The purse of Verres may at pleasure use: 8 
But let not all the gold which Tagus hides,
And pays the sea in tributary tides,
Be bribe sufficient to corrupt thy breast,
Or violate with dreams thy peaceful rest. [100]
Great men with jealous eyes the friend behold,
Whose secrecy they purchase with their gold.

   "I haste to tell thee, — nor shall shame oppose, —
What confidents our wealthy Romans chose;
And whom I must abhor: to speak my mind, [105]
I hate, in Rome, a Grecian town to find;
To see the scum of Greece transplanted here,
Received like gods, is what I cannot bear.
Nor Greeks alone, but Syrians here abound;
Obscene Orontes, diving under ground, [110]
Conveys his wealth to Tiber's hungry shores,
And fattens Italy with foreign whores:
Hither their crooked harps and customs come;
All find receipt in hospitable Rome.
The barbarous harlots crowd the public place: — [115]
Go, fools, and purchase an unclean embrace;
The painted mitre court, and the more painted face.
Old Romulus, and father Mars, look down!
Your herdsman primitive, your homely clown, 9 
Is turned a beau in a loose tawdry gown. [120]
His once unkem'd and horrid locks, behold
'Stilling sweet oil; his neck enchained with gold;
Aping the foreigners in every dress,
Which, bought at greater cost, becomes him less.
Meantime they wisely leave their native land; [125]
From Sicyon, Samos, and from Alaband,
And Amydon, to Rome they swarm in shoals:
So sweet and easy is the gain from fools.
Poor refugees at first, they purchase here;
And, soon as denizened, they domineer; [130]
Grow to the great, a flattering, servile rout,
Work themselves inward, and their patrons out.
Quick-witted, brazen-faced, with fluent tongues,
Patient of labours, and dissembling wrongs.
Riddle me this, and guess him if you can, [135]
Who bears a nation in a single man?
A cook, a conjurer, a rhetorician,
A painter, pedant, a geometrician,
A dancer on the ropes, and a physician;
All things the hungry Greek exactly knows, [140]
And bid him go to heaven, to heaven he goes.

   "In short, no Scythian, Moor, or Thracian born,
But in that town which arms and arts adorn.
Shall he be placed above me at the board, 10 
In purple clothed, and lolling like a lord? [145]
Shall he before me sign, whom t'other day
A small-craft vessel hither did convey,
Where, stowed with prunes, and rotten figs, he lay?
How little is the privilege become
Of being born a citizen of Rome! [150]
The Greeks get all by fulsome flatteries;
A most peculiar stroke they have at lies.
They make a wit of their insipid friend,
His blubber-lips and beetle-brows commend,
His long crane-neck and narrow shoulders praise, — [155]
You'd think they were describing Hercules.
A creaking voice for a clear treble goes;
Though harsher than a cock, that treads and crows.
We can as grossly praise; but, to our grief,
No flattery but from Grecians gains belief. [160]
Besides these qualities, we must agree,
They mimic better on the stage than we:
The wife, the whore, the shepherdess, they play,
In such a free, and such a graceful way,
That we believe a very woman shown, [165]
And fancy something underneath the gown.
But not Antiochus, nor Stratocles,
Our ears and ravished eyes can only please;
The nation is composed of such as these.
All Greece is one comedian; laugh, and they [170]
Return it louder than an ass can bray;
Grieve, and they grieve; if you weep silently,
There seems a silent echo in their eye;
They cannot mourn like you, but they can cry.
Call for a fire, their winter clothes they take; [175]
Begin but you to shiver, and they shake;
In frost and snow, if you complain of heat,
They rub the unsweating brow, and swear they sweat.
We live not on the square with such as these;
Such are our betters who can better please; [180]
Who day and night are like a looking-glass,
Still ready to reflect their patron's face;
The panegyric 11  hand, and lifted eye,
Prepared for some new piece of flattery.
Even nastiness occasions will afford; [185]
They praise a belching, or well-pissing lord.
Besides, there's nothing sacred, nothing free
From bold attempts of their rank lechery.
Through the whole family their labours run;
The daughter is debauched, the wife is won; [190]
Nor 'scapes the bridegroom, or the blooming son.
If none they find for their lewd purpose fit,
They with the walls and very floors commit.
They search the secrets of the house, and so
Are worshipped there, and feared for what they know. [195]

   "And, now we talk of Grecians, cast a view
On what, in schools, their men of morals do.
A rigid Stoic his own pupil slew;
A friend, against a friend of his own cloth,
Turned evidence, and murdered on his oath. [200]
What room is left for Romans in a town
Where Grecians rule, and cloaks control the gown?

   "Some Diphilus, or some Protogenes,
Look sharply out, our senators to seize;
Engross them wholly, by their native art, [205]
And fear no rivals in their bubbles' heart:
And drop of poison in my patron's ear,
One slight suggestion of a senseless fear,
Infused with cunning, serves to ruin me;
Disgraced, and banished from the family. [210]
In vain forgotten services I boast;
My long dependence in an hour is lost.
Look round the world, what country will appear,
Where friends are left with greater ease than here?
At Rome (nor think me partial to the poor) [215]
All offices of ours are out of door:
In vain we rise, and to their levees run;
My lord himself is up before, and gone:
The prætor bids his lictors mend their pace, 12 
Lest his colleague outstrip him in the race. [220]
The childless matrons are, long since, awake,
And for affronts the tardy visits take.

   "'Tis frequent here to see a free-born son
On the left hand of a rich hireling run;
Because the wealthy rogue can throw away, [225]
For half a brace of bouts, a tribune's pay;
But you, poor sinner, though you love the vice,
And like the whore, demur upon the price;
And, frighted with the wicked sum, forbear
To lend a hand, and help her from the chair. [230]

   "Produce a witness of unblemished life,
Holy as Numa, or as Numa's wife,
Or him who bid the unhallowed flames retire,
And snatched the trembling goddess from the fire;
The question is not put how far extends [235]
His piety, but what he yearly spends;
Quick, to the business; how he lives and eats;
How largely gives; how splendidly he treats;
How many thousand acres feed his sheep;
What are his rents; what servants does he keep? [240]
The account is soon cast up; the judges rate
Our credit in the court by our estate.
Swear by our gods, or those the Greeks adore,
Thou art as sure forsworn, as thou art poor:
The poor must gain their bread by perjury; [245]
And e'en the gods, that other means deny,
In conscience must absolve them, when they lie.

   "Add, that the rich have still a gibe in store,
And will be monstrous witty on the poor;
For the torn surtout 13  and the tattered vest, [250]
The wretch and all his wardrobe, are a jest;
The greasy gown, sullied with often turning,
Gives a good hint, to say, — 'The man's in mourning';
Or, if the shoe be ripped, or patches put, —
'He's wounded! see the plaister on his foot.' [255]
Want 14  is the scorn of every wealthy fool,
And wit in rags is turned to ridicule.
'Pack hence, and from the covered benches rise,'
(The master of the ceremonies cries,)
'This is no place for you, whose small estate [260]
Is not the value of the settled rate;
The sons of happy punks, the pander's heir, 15 
Are privileged to sit in triumph there,
To clap the first, and rule the theatre.
Up to the galleries, for shame, retreat; [265]
For, by the Roscian law, the poor can claim no seat.' —

   "Who ever brought to his rich daughter's bed,
The man that polled but twelve pence for his head?
Who ever named a poor man for his heir,
Or called him to assist the judging chair? [270]
The poor were wise, who, by the rich oppressed,
Withdrew, and sought a sacred place of rest.
Once they did well, to free themselves from scorn;
But had done better, never to return.
Rarely they rise by virtue's aid, who lie [275]
Plunged in the depth of helpless poverty.
At Rome 'tis worse, where house-rent by the year,
And servants' bellies, cost so devilish dear,
And tavern-bills run high for hungry cheer.
To drink or eat in earthenware we scorn, [280]
Which cheaply country-cupboards does adorn,
And coarse blue hoods on holidays are worn.
Some distant parts of Italy are known,
Where none but only dead men wear a gown;
On theatres of turf, in homely state, [285]
Old plays they act, old feasts they celebrate;
The same rude 16  song returns upon the crowd,
And, by tradition, is for wit allowed. 17 
The mimic yearly gives the same delights;
And in the mother's arms the clownish infant frights. [290]

   "Their habits (undistinguished by degree)
Are plain, alike; the same simplicity,
Both on the stage, and in the pit, you see.
In his white cloak the magistrate appears;
The country bumpkin the same livery wears. 18  [295]
But here attired beyond our purse we go,
For useless ornament and flaunting show;
We take on trust, in purple robes to shine,
And poor, are yet ambitious to be fine.
This is a common vice, though all things here [300]
Are sold, and sold unconscionably dear.
What will you give that Cossus may but view
Your face, and in the crowd distinguish you;
May take your incense like a gracious God,
And answer only with a civil nod? [305]
To please our patrons, in this vicious age,
We make our entrance by the favourite page;
Shave his first down, and when he polls his hair,
The consecrated locks to temples bear;
Pay tributary cracknels, which he sells, [310]
And with our offerings help to raise his vails.

   "Who fears in country-towns a house's fall,
Or to be caught betwixt a riven wall?
But we inhabit a weak city here,
Which buttresses and props but scarcely bear; [315]
And 'tis the village-mason's daily calling,
To keep the world's metropolis from falling,
To cleanse the gutters, and the chinks to close,
And, for one night, secure his lord's repose.
At Cumæ we can sleep quite round the year, [320]
Nor falls, nor fires, nor nightly dangers fear;
While rolling flames from Roman turrets fly,
And the pale citizens for buckets cry.
Thy neighbour has removed his wretched store,
Few hands will rid the lumber 19  of the poor; [325]
Thy own third story smokes, while thou, supine, 20 
Art drenched in fumes of undigested wine.
For if the lowest floors already burn,
Cock-lofts and garrets 21  soon will take the turn,
Where thy tame pigeons next the tiles were bred, [330]
Which, in their nests unsafe, are timely fled.

   "Codrus had but one bed, so short to boot,
That his short wife's short legs hung dangling out;
His cupboard's head six earthen pitchers graced,
Beneath them was his trusty tankard placed; [335]
And, to support this noble plate, 22  there lay
A bending Chiron cast from honest clay;
His few Greek books a rotten chest contained,
Whose covers much of mouldiness complained;
Where mice and rats devoured poetic bread, [340]
And with heroic verse luxuriously were fed.
'Tis true, poor Codrus nothing had to boast,
And yet poor Codrus all that nothing lost;
Begged naked through the streets of wealthy Rome,
And found not one to feed, or take him home. [345]

   "But, if the palace of Arturius burn,
The nobles change their clothes, the matrons mourn;
The city-prætor will no pleadings hear;
The very name of fire we hate and fear,
And look aghast, as if the Gauls were here. [350]
While yet it burns, the officious nation flies,
Some to condole, and some to bring supplies.
One sends him marble to rebuild, and one
White naked statues of the Parian stone,
The work of Polyclete, that seem to live; [355]
While others images for altars give;
One books and screens, and Pallas to the breast;
Another bags of gold, and he gives best.
Childless Arturius, vastly rich before,
Thus, by his losses, multiplies his store; [360]
Suspected for accomplice to the fire,
That burnt his palace but to build it higher.

   "But, could you be content to bid adieu
To the dear playhouse, and the players too,
Sweet country-seats are purchased everywhere, [365]
With lands and gardens, at less price than here
You hire a darksome dog-hole by the year.
A small convenience decently prepared,
A shallow well, that rises in your yard,
That spreads his easy crystal streams around, [370]
And waters all the pretty spot of ground.
There, love the fork, thy garden cultivate,
And give thy frugal friends a Pythagorean treat;
'Tis somewhat to be lord of some small ground,
In which a lizard may, at least, turn round. [375]

   "'Tis frequent here, for want of sleep, to die,
Which fumes of undigested feasts deny,
And, with imperfect heat, in languid stomachs fry.
What house secure from noise the poor can keep,
When even the rich can scarce afford to sleep? [380]
So dear it costs to purchase rest in Rome,
And hence the sources of diseases come.
The drover, 23  who his fellow-drover meets
In narrow passages of winding streets;
The wagoners, that curse their standing teams, [385]
Would wake even drowsy Drusus from his dreams.

   And yet the wealthy will not brook delay,
But sweep above our heads, and make their way,
In lofty litters borne, and read and write,
Or sleep at ease, the shutters make it night; [390]
Yet still he reaches first the public place.
The press before him stops the client's pace;
The crowd that follows crush his panting sides,
And trip his heels; he walks not, but he rides.
One elbows him, one jostles in the shole, [395]
A rafter breaks his head, or chairman's pole; 24 
Stockinged with loads of fat town-dirt he goes,
And some rogue-soldier, with his hobnailed shoes,
Indents his legs behind in bloody rows.

   See, with what smoke our doles we celebrate: [400]
A hundred guests, invited, walk in state;
A hundred hungry slaves, with their Dutch kitchens, wait.
Huge pans the wretches on their heads must bear,
Which scarce gigantic Corbulo could rear;
Yet they must walk upright beneath the load, [405]
Nay run, and, running, blow the sparkling flames abroad.
Their coats, from botching newly brought, are torn.
Unwieldy timber-trees, in wagons borne,
Stretched at their length, beyond their carriage lie,
That nod, and threaten ruin from on high; [410]
For, should their axle break, its overthrow
Would crush, and pound to dust, the crowd below;
Nor friends their friends, nor sires their sons could know;
Nor limbs, nor bones, nor carcase, would remain,
But a mashed heap, a hotchpotch of the slain; [415]
One vast destruction; not the soul alone,
But bodies, like the soul, invisible are flown.
Meantime, unknowing of their fellow's fate,
The servants wash the platter, scour the plate,
Then blow the fire, with puffing cheeks, and lay [420]
The rubbers, and the bathing-sheets display,
And oil them first; and each is handy in his way.
But he, for whom this busy care they take,
Poor ghost! is wandering by the Stygian lake;
Affrighted with the ferryman's grim face, [425]
New to the horrors of that uncouth place,
His passage begs, with unregarded prayer,
And wants two farthings to discharge his fare.

   Return we to the dangers of the night. —
And, first, behold our houses' dreadful height; [430]
From whence come broken potsherds tumbling down,
And leaky ware from garret-windows thrown;
Well may they break our heads, that mark the flinty stone.
'Tis want of sense to sup abroad too late,
Unless thou first hast settled thy estate; [435]
As many fates attend thy steps to meet,
As there are waking windows in the street.
Bless the good Gods, and think thy chance is rare,
To have a piss-pot only for thy share.
The scouring drunkard, if he does not fight [440]
Before his bed-time, takes no rest that night;
Passing the tedious hours in greater pain
Than stern Achilles, when his friend was slain;
'Tis so ridiculous, but so true withal,
A bully cannot sleep without a brawl. [445]
Yet, though his youthful blood be fired with wine,
He wants not wit the danger to decline;
Is cautious to avoid the coach and six, 25 
And on the lacqueys will no quarrel fix.
His train of flambeaux, 26  and embroidered coat, [450]
May privilege my lord to walk secure on foot;
But me, who must by moonlight homeward bend,
Or lighted only with a candle's end,
Poor me he fights, if that be fighting, where
He only cudgels, and I only bear. [455]
He stands, and bids me stand; I must abide,
For he's the stronger, and is drunk beside.

   "Where did you whet your knife to-night?" he cries,
"And shred the leeks that in your stomach rise?
Whose windy beans have stuft your guts, and where [460]
Have your black thumbs been dipt in vinegar?
With what companion-cobbler have you fed,
On old ox-cheeks, or he-goat's tougher head?
What, are you dumb? Quick, with your answer, quick,
Before my foot salutes you with a kick. [465]
Say, in what nasty cellar, under ground,
Or what church-porch, your rogueship may be found?" —
Answer, or answer not, 'tis all the same,
He lays me on, and makes me bear the blame.
Before the bar for beating him you come; 27  [470]
This is a poor man's liberty in Rome.
You beg his pardon; happy to retreat
With some remaining teeth, to chew your meat.

   Nor is this all; for when, retired, you think
To sleep securely, when the candles wink, [475]
When every door with iron chains is barred,
And roaring taverns are no longer heard;
The ruffian robbers, by no justice awed,
And unpaid cut-throat soldiers, are abroad;
Those venal souls, who, hardened in each ill, [480]
To save complaints and prosecution, kill.
Chased from their woods and bogs, the padders come
To this vast city, as their native home,
To live at ease, and safely skulk in Rome.

   The forge in fetters only is employed; 28  [485]
Our iron mines exhausted and destroyed
In shackles; for these villains scarce allow
Goads for the teams, and ploughshares for the plough.
Oh, happy ages of our ancestors,
Beneath the kings and tribunitial powers! [490]
One jail did all their criminals restrain,
Which now the walls of Rome can scarce contain.

   More I could say, more causes I could show
For my departure, but the sun is low;
The wagoner grows weary of my stay, [495]
And whips his horses forwards on their way.
Farewell! and when, like me, o'erwhelmed with care,
You to your own Aquinum shall repair,
To take a mouthful of sweet country air,
Be mindful of your friend; and send me word, [500]
What joys your fountains and cool shades afford.
Then, to assist your satires, I will come,
And add new venom when you write of Rome.


1. The names of the places (Cumæ, Baiæ) and people (Umbritius, Numa) are taken directly from Juvenal's Satire 3.

2. The "dog-days" are the days at the end of August, when Sirius, the "dog-star," appears. In Juvenal's Rome, late August was the time associated with readings of poetry.

3. Common shore, "sewer."

4. Jakes, "outhouse" or "privy."

5. Cant, "A particular form of speaking peculiar to some certain class or body of men" and "A whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms" (Johnson).

6. In ancient Rome, a haruspex was a priest who foretold the future by inspecting the internal organs of animals.

7. Dryden probably felt the force of these lines personally. He was a Catholic and a supporter of King James II; after James was sent into exile, he lost his position as poet laureate and became a political outsider.

8. In other words, "He who can accuse Verres whenever he likes can use Verres' purse whenever he likes."

9. Clown, "A rustick; a country fellow; a churl" or "A coarse ill-bred man" (Johnson). It has no association with circuses.

10. In other words, "Shall he get a better place at the table than I do?"

11. Panegyric, "extravagant praise"; here, "praising extravagantly."

12. A prætor was a magistrate in ancient Rome; a lictor was an officer whose job was to carry the fasces, a bundle of rods that served as a symbol of authority.

13. Surtout, "A large coat worn over all the rest" (Johnson).

14. Want, "lack."

15. Punk, "A whore; a common prostitute; a strumpet"; pander, "A pimp; a male bawd; a procurer" (Johnson). He quotes this passage to illustrate the word pander.

16. Rude, "Rough; savage; coarse of manners; uncivil; brutal" (Johnson).

17. Allow, "To admit; as, to allow a position; not to contradict; not to oppose" (Johnson) — in other words, "The same rude song is admitted to be, or accepted as, wit."

18. Livery, "The cloaths given to servants" (Johnson).

19. Lumber, "Any thing useless or cumbersome; any thing of more bulk than value" (Johnson).

20. Supine, "lying on the back."

21. Garrets, "attics."

22. Plate, fancy dishes.

23. A drover is a driver of sheep or cattle.

24. Chairman, "One whose trade it is to carry a chair"; chair, "A vehicle born by men; a sedan" (Johnson). It was a leather box mounted on two long rods; the box was big enough to hold one person, who would be carried through the streets by two men.

25. That is, a coach driven by six horses — available only to the very rich.

26. Flambeaux, torches.

27. In other words, you're taken to court.

28. In other words, the only thing being made on the blacksmith's forge is chains for prisoners.