Satire 2.1

He supposes himself to consult with Trebatius, whether he should desist from writing satires, or not.

Horace: There are some persons to whom I seem too severe in [the writing of] satire, and to carry it beyond proper bounds: another set are of opinion, that all I have written is nerveless, and that a thousand verses like mine may be spun out in a day. Trebatius, give me your advice, what shall I do.

Trebatius: Be quiet.

Horace: I should not make, you say, verses at all.

I do say so.

Horace: May I be hanged, if that would not be best: but I can not sleep.

Let those, who want sound sleep, anointed swim thrice across the Tiber: and have their clay well moistened with wine over-night. Or, if such a great love of scribbling hurries you on, venture to celebrate the achievements of the invincible Caesar, certain of bearing off ample rewards for your pains.

Horace: Desirous I am, my good father, [to do this,] but my strength fails me, nor can any one describe the troops bristled with spears, nor the Gauls dying on their shivered darts, nor the wounded Parthian falling from his horse. Nevertheless you may describe him just and brave, as the wise Lucilius did Scipio. I will not be wanting to myself, when an opportunity presents itself: no verses of Horace's, unless well-timed, will gain the attention of Caesar; whom, [like a generous steed,] if you stroke awkwardly, he will kick upon you, being at all quarters on his guard. How much better would this be, than to wound with severe satire Pantolabus the buffoon, and the rake Nomentanus! when every body is afraid for himself, [lest he should be the next,] and hates you, though he is not meddled with. What shall I do? Milonius falls a dancing the moment he becomes light-headed and warm, and the candles appear multiplied. Castor delights in horsemanship: and he, who sprang from the same egg, in boxing. As many thousands of people [as there are in the world], so many different inclinations are there. It delights me to combine words in meter, after the manner of Lucilius, a better man than both of us. He long ago communicated his secrets to his books, as to faithful friends; never having recourse elsewhere, whether things went well or ill with him: whence it happens, that the whole life of this old [poet] is as open to the view, as if it had been painted en a votive tablet. His example I follow, though in doubt whether I am a Lucanian or an Apulian; for the Venusinian farmers plow upon the boundaries of both countries, who (as the ancient tradition has it) were sent, on the expulsion of the Samnites, for this purpose, that the enemy might not make incursions on the Romans, through a vacant [unguarded frontier]: or lest the Apulian nation, or the fierce Lucanian, should make an invasion. But this pen of mine shall not willfully attack any man breathing, and shall defend me like a sword that is sheathed in the scabbard which why should I attempt to draw, [while I am] safe from hostile villains? O Jupiter, father and sovereign, may my weapon laid aside wear away with rust, and may no one injure me, who am desirous of peace? But that man shall provoke me (I give notice, that it is better not to touch me) shall weep [his folly], and as a notorious character shall be sung through all the streets of Rome.

Cervius, when he is offended, threatens one with the laws and the [judiciary] urn; Canidia, Albutius's poison to those with whom she is at enmity, Turius [threatens] great damages, if you contest any thing while he is judge. How every animal terrifies those whom he suspects, with that in which he is most powerful, and how strong natural instinct commands this, thus infer with me. — The wolf attacks with his teeth, the bull with his horns. From what principle is this, if not a suggestion from within? Intrust that debauchee Scaeva with the custody of his ancient mother; his pious hand will commit no outrage. A wonder indeed! just as the wolf does not attack any one with his hoof, nor the bull with his teeth; but the deadly hemlock in the poisoned honey will take off the old dame.

That I may not be tedious, whether a placid old age awaits me, or whether death now hovers about me with his sable wings; rich or poor, at Rome or (if fortune should so order it) an exile abroad; whatever be the complexion of my life, I will write. O my child, I fear you can not be long, lived; and that some creature of the great ones will strike you with the cold of death. What? when Lucilius had the courage to be the first in composing verses after this manner, and to pull off that mask, by means of which each man strutted in public view with a fair outside, though foul within; was Laelius, and he who derived a well deserved title from the destruction of Carthage, offended at his wit, or were they hurt at Metellus being lashed, or Lupus covered over with his lampoons? But he took to task the heads of the people, and the people themselves, class by class; in short, he spared none but virtue and her friends. Yet, when the valorous Scipio, and the mild philosophical Laelius, had withdrawn themselves from the crowd and the public scene, they used to divert themselves with him, and joke in a free manner, while a few vegetables were boiled [for supper]. Of whatever rank I am, though below the estate and wit of Lucilius, yet envy must be obliged to own that I have lived well with great men; and, wanting to fasten her tooth upon some weak part, will strike it against the solid: unless you, learned Trebatius, disapprove of any thing [I have said]. For my part, I can not make any objection to this. But however, that forewarned you may be upon your guard, lest in ignorance of our sacred laws should bring you into trouble, [be sure of this] if any person shall make scandalous verses against a particular man, an action lies, and a sentence. Granted, if they are scandalous: but if a man composes good ones, and is praised by such a judge as Caesar? If a man barks only at him who deserves his invectives, while he himself is unblamable? The process will be canceled with laughter: and you, being dismissed, may depart in peace.