Juvenal Satire 1: comparison with Dryden (1692)

In content, Juvenal's first satire is an indictment of the thousand nuisances of life in Rome; in purpose, it's a "programmatic" poem, i.e. it lays out the scope the author's endeavour and the purposes of satire.

You can read my version by itself, or compare my version with Juvenal's original or with the versions of Stapylton (1647), Dryden (1692), or Gifford (1802), all of whom use heroic couplets like I do.

Jack Mitchell (2001)

To listen ever, never settle scores—
Is that my fate, though croaking Cordus bores
The world with his
Theseids? Scot-free,
Therefore, must one recite me comedy
Another love-poems, ’til some Telephus
Destroys my day, his strength voluminous,
And dreads no retribution, only bested
By Orestes, whole-scroll, palimpsested
Margin-stuffed, to shut up oft requested?
No one knows his own house half as well
As I know Mars’s solitary dell,
Aeolus’ cliffs, or nearby Vulcan’s cave,
What the winds are up to, just which knave
Aeacus daily tortures, whence some dude
Is busy thieving fleeces golden-hued,
Just what Monychus’ ash-trees’ magnitude!
Fronto’s orchard echoes with such stuff
Forever, marble shudders, cries “Enough!”
And cracks, though still the reader will not stow it:
’T’s all the same, from least to greatest poet.

I’ve also dodged a teacher’s punishments
And freely offered Sulla my two cents’:
“It’s time to call it quits.” The bards are loose,
You meet them everywhere, so what’s the use
Of sparing paper sentenced to their noose?
Why ’cross this battlefield I’d rather run,
O’er which with fearsome steeds Arunca’s son
Once raced, I’ll now explain, if all here shall
Take time to calmly hear my rationale.
With supple eunuchs walking down the aisle,
With Maevia hunting gladiator-style
(Her tits exposed), with one whose rusty shear
Once trimmed my fledgling beard these days the peer
(Thanks to his cash) of each aristocrat;
And with Canopus’ servile kitty-cat,
Crispinus, chunk of the Egyptian slum,
Hitching the purple while the sweat runs from
That massive summer ring upon his knuckle
(Any heavier and he’d quickly buckle):
Satire’s the hard thing
not to write these days.
For who’s so patient with the loathsome ways
This city lives, whose iron will’s so strong
That he can bite his tongue when comes along
Matho’s new litter, bursting from each end
With Matho; then the one who sold his friend,
His high-placed patron, ready now to grab
Whatever crumb nobody else could nab
From our gnawed-down nobility, whose powers
E’en Massa fears, whom even Carus showers
With bribes, to whom Latinus trembling sent
Thymele to assure his kind intent!
You’re shoved aside by worthies such as these,
Who labour all night long for legacies,
Since nowadays to wealth there is no way as
Wide as rich old pussies. Proculeius
Gets but one part, Gillo gets eleven:
Heirs by length of cock raised up to heaven.
Let them take the price of swollen blood,
And turn as pale as he who steps unshod
Upon a snake, as he wh’ awaits the nod
To speak at Lugdunum. Shall I explain
With what dry rage, with what o’erwhelming pain
My liver seethes when flunkies break a way
Between the crowd for one who every day
Defrauds his helpless ward? For who’s abashed
About disgrace once that fat cheque is cashed?
God-censured, th’ exile Marius drinks deep
All night, while you, victorious province, weep.












Are not such vices worth Venusia’s candle?
Shan’t I take them up? Not rather handle
Hercules or Diomede, the roar
Within some labyrinth, the ocean floor
Smacked by a boy, the flying contractor?
When such a troop of husband-pimps connives
To rent away their disenfranchised wives,
To watch the floor and snore though wide awake!
Yet he who seeks a cohort takes the cake,
Who blew his family fortune on a horse,
Who like Automedon now flies the course
Down the Flaminian Way with wheels awhirl
And grabs the reins, his ego to unfurl
Before his sweetheart, th’ army-coated girl!
You’ll fill thick notebooks where the alleys meet
When on six necks now marches down the street
The curtains open, naked as you please
(So reminiscent of Maecenas’ ease),
Some forgerer, whose signatory stealth
And moistened ring brought happiness and wealth;
And next a puissant dame, her wine accursed
With toad’s-blood for to quench her husband’s thirst:
She’ll teach the rustic girls next door to souse
And mourn and blithly bury every spouse,
More skillful than Locusta! Try your hand
At what they punish with Gyara’s strand
Or years in jail, if you would make a name:
The honest man will starve to death of fame.
Their gardens, rank, and furniture are due
To crime, the ostentatious silver too.
Who’ll sleep for thought of in-law daughters bought
By husbands’ fathers, wedding vows for nought
Or teenage years in womanising shot?
If talent fails me, wrath will write my verse,
Howbeit: mine, Cluvenius’, or worse.
From when Deucalion climbed the lofty mount
By tacking o’er the cloud-fed main, the fount
Of prophecy to seek, and rocks grew soft
And hot, and women with their clothing doffed
Were shown by Pyrrha to their husbands oft,
The doings of mankind, vows, fears, and rage,
Lusts, joy, and babblings — fodder for my page.














For when was vice more trouble to escape?
Whenever did the jaws of greed thus gape?
Whenever gambling thus so universal?
Leave your purse, but bring for quick dispersal
Treasure-chests indeed. What battles dire,
Each with his own accountant for a squire:
Pure madness, no, to drop a hundred thou’
And leave your shirtless servant shiv’ring now?
What sire of ours put all those houses up
On courses seven secretly to sup?
Yet nowadays the scanty dole is stuck
Before the door for toga’d mobs to pluck;
Though still the patron peers into your face
For fear that by deceit you make your case:
It’s you, alright; he bids the butler call
Forth first the Trojan-blooded founders all —
They too upon the doorstep meekly yearn:
“First it’s the Praetor, then the Tribune’s turn.”
But no, the freedling’s first. “I’m first in line,”
He says. “So what? Who cares? First place is mine!
Though born beside Euphrates’ lazy flow
(As glancing at my window’d ears you’d know
Though I’d deny it); still each year now I’ve
Four hundred thousand, since my shops are five.
Sure, what’s the point of that fat purple band
Now that Corvinus o’er Laurentian land
Herds flocks of sheep? For I’m more rich, more great
Than Pallas or Licinus.” Let the tribunes wait!
Let wealth prevail! Lest such a man give in
To sacred titles, whose chalk-whitened shin
Appeared just yesterday within this town,
For nowadays no god has such renown
As wealth in Rome, though yet, o hateful Cash,
To your new shrine no consul cut the sash,
Nor have we decked your holy altar’s block,
Nor with Good Faith and Virtue set your rock,
Alongside Peace, and Concord with its flock!
But when the highest office computates
Its yearly dole, then sums up its estates,
What of the rest, who from the same amount
Must reckon clothes and shoes into account
And bread and warmth? A vast array of litters
Hunts that hundred bucks, the counterfeiters
Thronged: a sickly or a pregnant wife
Will trace her husband’s steps; deceit is rife,
As with the well-known trick another louse
Points out the curtained chair wherein his spouse
Never existed. “Galla’s there,” says he.
“Let’s have it quick - you don’t have faith in me?
Come out, my dear! Oh, quiet, she’s asleep.”









The day we to a lovely schedule keep:
The dole, the forum, then well-schooled Apollo,
Vict’ry statues where (what’s hard to swallow)
Some Egyptian Arabarches dared
To set his titles: let no man be scared
Thereon to piss and more! Now from the laird
The tired clients wend their homeward way
(Though hope for dinner is the last to say
Goodnight) to buy their cabbage and their fuel;
Meanwhile their king o’er fish and fowl will drool,
Supping alone (though empty tables spread
About are wide, antique, unblemishèd),
His appetite his patrimony’s doom,
His parasites endangered; yet to whom,
Does luxury so miserly not stink?
Down what a gullet can a whole boar sink?
The beast was born for friendly cheer and drink!
And yet you’ll pay when to the bath you puff
With bloated belly, into which you’d stuff
That unchewed peacock meat; then in the buff
Alack! It’s death, without a testament:
The happy news around the room is sent,
Your funeral starts with cheers of ill-intent.







No further vice the future knows to add
To life these days; our children ape the fad,
They act like us; vice is the slippery slope.
So now, full speed, o good ship Misanthrope!
Yet “How,” perhaps you wonder, “can you cope
With satirising evil of such scope?
Will you be free to write a single page
Like our forefathers wrote in simple rage?
“What man do you suppose I dare not name?
Who cares if Mucius read and rant and blame?”
Just try the same with Tigellinus, friend,
And as a human torch you’ll make an end
Like those who hang and sizzle to applause
’Til each his furrow ’cross th’ arena draws.”
So he who’s poisoned uncles shall ride free,
From cushioned seat look down his nose at me?
“Yes: when he passes, check your accusation:
Don’t denounce him; that’s called defamation.
Better write of Turnus’ bravery
Or of Aeneas; there’s no obloquy
In how Achilles died, or Hylas slipped
Though much sought-for, and down that well got dipped.
But when like some hot blade Lucilius clashes,
Frigid teeth the guilty listener gnashes,
Breaking out in spiritual rashes.
Think it through, then, ere the trumpets sound;
The helmet donned, your foes you must confound.”
I’ll guess I’ll treat of men of olden days,
Guests of the Latin and Flaminian Ways.

John Dryden (1692)

Still shall I hear, and never quit the score,
Stunned with hoarse Codrus'
Theseid o'er and o'er?
Shall this man's elegies and th' other's play
Unpunished murder a long summer's day?
Huge Telephus, a formidable page,
Cries
Vengeance; and Orestes' bulky rage
Unsatisfied with margins closely writ
Foams o'er the covers, and not finished yet.
No man can take a more familiar note
Of his own home than I of Vulcan's grot,
Or Mars's grove, or hollow winds that blow
From Aetna's top, or tortured ghosts below.
I know by rote the famed exploits of Greece,
The Centaurs' fury, and the Golden Fleece;
Through the thick shades th' eternal scribbler bawls
And shakes the statues on their pedestals:
The best and worst on the same theme employs
His Muse and plagues us with an equal noise.



Provoked by these incorrigible fools
I left declaiming in pedantic schools
Where with Men-Boys I strove to get renown
Advising Sulla to a private gown.
But, since the world with writing is possessed,
I'll versify in spite, and do my best
To make as much waste paper as the rest.
But why I lift aloft the satyr's rod
And tread the path which famed Lucilius trod,
Attend the causes which my Muse have led:
When sapless eunuchs mount the marriage-bed,
When mannish Maevia, that two-handed whore,
Astride on horseback hunts the Tuscan boar,
When all our lords are by his wealth outvied
Whose razor on my callow-beard was tried,
When I behold the spawn of conquered Nile,
Crispinus, both in birth and manners vile,
Pacing in pomp, with cloak of Tyrian dye,
Changed oft a day for needless luxury,
And finding oft occasion to be fanned,
Ambitious to produce his lady-hand,
Charged with light summer-rings his fingers sweat,
Unable to support a gem of weight:
Such fulsome objects meeting everywhere,
'Tis hard to write, but harder to forbear:
To view so lewd a town and to refrain!
What hoops of iron could my spleen contain
When pleading Matho, borne abroad for air,
With his fat paunch fills his new-fashioned chair;
And after him the wretch in pomp conveyed
Whose evidence his lord and friend betrayed;
And but the wished occasion does attend
From the poor nobles the last spoils to rend,
Whom e'en spies dread as their superior fiend
And bribe with presents or (when presents fail)
They send their prostituted wives for bail;
When night-performance holds the place of merit,
And Brawn and Back the next of kin disherit,
For such good parts are in preferment's way:
The rich old madam never fails to pay,
Her legacies by nature's standard giv'n:
One gains an ounce, another gains eleven,
A dear-bought bargain, all things duly weighed,
For which their thrice-concocted blood is paid
With looks as wan as he who in the brake
At unawares has trod upon a snake
Or played at Lyons a declaiming prize
For which the vanquished rhetorician dies—
What indignation boils within my veins
When perjured guardians, proud with impious gains,
Choke up the streets (too narrow for their trains!)
Whose wards, by want betrayed, to crimes are led
Too foul to name, too fulsome to be read!
When he who pilled his province scapes the laws
And keeps his money though he lost the cause,
(His fine begged off) contemns his infamy,
Can rise at twelve, and get him drunk ere three,
Enjoys his exile, and, condemned in vain,
Leaves thee, prevailing Province, to complain!

Such villanies roused Horace into wrath,
And 'tis more noble to pursue his path
Than an old tale of Diomede to repeat
Or lab'ring after Hercules to sweat
Or wand'ring in the winding maze of Crete
Or with the winged smith aloft to fly
Or flutt'ring perish with his foolish boy.
With what impatience must the Muse behold
The wife by her procuring husband sold?
For though the law makes null th' adulterer's deed
Of lands to her, the cuckold may succeed,
Who his taught eyes up to the ceiling throws
And sleeps all over by his wakeful nose.
When he dares hope a colonel's command,
Whose coursers kept ran out his father's land,
Who yet a stripling Nero's chariot drove,
Whirled o'er the stsreets while his vain master strove
With boasted art to please his eunuch-love.
Would it not make a modest author dare
To draw his table-book within the square
And fill his notes, when lolling at his ease,
Maecenas-like, the happy rogue he sees
Borne by six wearied slaves in open view
Who cancelled an old will and forged a new,
Made wealthy at the small expense of signing
With a wet seal and a fresh interlining?
The lady, next, requires a lashing line,
Who squeezed a toad into her husband's wine:
So well the fasionable med'cine thrives
That now 'tis practiced e'en by country wives,
Pois'ning without regard of fame or fear,
And spotted corps are frequent on the bier.
Wouldst thou to honours and preferments climb,
Be bold in mischief, dare some mighty crime
Which dungeons, death, or banishment deserves,
For virtue is but dryly praised and starves.
Great men to great crimes owe their plate embossed,
Fair palaces, and furniture of cost,
And high commands: a sneaking sin is lost.
Who can behold that rank old lecher keep
His son's corrupted wife and hope to sleep?
Or that male harlot, or that unfledged boy,
Eager to sin, before he can enjoy?
If nature could not, anger would indict
Such woeful stuff as I or S——ll write.
Count from the time since old Deucalion's boat,
Raised by the flood, did on Parnassus float,
And scarcely mooring on the cliff implored
An oracle how Man might be restored:
When softened stones and vital breath ensued,
And virgins naked were by lovers viewed,
Whatever since that Golden Age was done,
What human kind desires, and what they shun,
Rage, passions, pleasures, impotence of will,
Shall this satyrical collection fill.

What age so large a crop of vices bore,
Or when was avarice extended more?
When were the dice with more profusion thrown?
The well filled fob not emptied now alone,
But gamesters for whole patrimonies play:
The steward brings the deeds which must convey
The lost estate: what more than madness reigns
When one short sitting many hundreds drains,
And not enough is left him to supply
Board-wages or a footman's livery?
What age so many summer-seats did see?
Or which of our forefathers fared so well
As on seven dishes, at a private meal?
Clients of old were feasted; now a poor
Divided dole is dealt at th' outward door,
Which by the hungry rout is soon dispatched,
The paltry largesse, too, severely watched
Ere giv'n, and every face observed with care
That no intruding guest usurp a share.
Known, you receive: the crier calls aloud
Our old nobility of Trojan blood
Who gape among the crowd for their precarious food:
The Praetor's and the Tribune's voice is heard;
The freedman jostles and will be prefered:
"First come, first served," he cries, "and I in spite
Of your great Lordships will maintain my right.
Though born a slave, though my torn ears are bored,
'Tis not the birth, 'tis money makes the lord.
The rents of five fair houses I receive;
What greater honours can the People give?
The poor patrician is reduced to keep
In melancholy walks a grazier's sheep;
Not Pallas or Licinius had my treasure;
Then let the sacred Tribunes wait my leisure.
Once a poor rogue, 'tis true, I trod the street,
And trudged to Rome upon my naked feet:
Gold is the greatest god" — though yet we see
No temples raised to Money's majesty,
No altars fuming to her power divine,
Such as to Valour, Peace, and Virtue shine,
And Faith and Concord, where the stork on high
Seems to salute her infant progeny,
Presaging pious love with her auspicious cry.
But since our Knights and Senators account
To what their sordid begging vails amount,
Judge what a wretched share the poor attends,
Whose whole subsistence on those alms depends!
Their household-fire, their raiment, and their food
Prevented by those Harpies, when a wood
Of litters thick besiege the donor's gate,
And begging lords and teeming ladies wait
The promised dole; nay, some have learned the trick
To beg for absent persons, feign them sick,
Close-mewed in their sedans, for fear of air,
And for their wives produce an empty chair.
"This is my spouse: dispatch her with her share,
'Tis Galla." Let her ladyship but peep.
"No, sir, 'tis pity to disturb her sleep."

Such fine employments our whole days divide:
The salutations of the morning-tide
Call up the sun; those ended, to the hall
We wait the patron, hear the lawyers bawl;
Then to the statues, where, amidst the race
Of conquering Rome, some Arab shows his face
Inscribed with titles and profanes the place,
Fit to be pissed against, and somewhat more;
The great man, home conducted, shuts the door;
Old clients, wearied out with fruitless care,
Dismiss their hopes of eating and despair,
Though much against the grain, forced to retire,
Buy roots for supper, and provide a fire.
Meantime his Lordship lolls within at ease,
Pamp'ring his paunch with foreign rarities:
Both sea and land are ransacked for the feast,
And his own gut the sole invited guest.
Such plate, such tables, dishes dressed so well
That whole estates are swallowed at a meal,
E'en parasites are banished from his board
(At once a sordid and luxurious lord).
Prodigious throat, for which whole boars are dressed,
A creature formed to furnish out a feast!
But present punishment pursues his maw:
When surfeited and swelled, the peacock raw
He bears into the bath, whence want of breath,
Repletions, apoplex, intestate death.
His fate makes table-talk, divulged with scorn,
And he a jest into his grave is borne.

No age can go beyond us: future times
Can add no farther to the present crimes;
Our sons but the same things can wish and do;
Vice is at stand, and at the highest flow;
Then, Satire, spread thy sails, take all the winds that blow.
Some may, perhaps, demand what Muse can yield
Sufficient strength for such a spacious field?
From whence can be derived so large a vein,
Bold truths to speak, ans spoken to maintain,
When godlike Freedom is so far bereft
The noble mind that scarce the name be left?
"Ere
Scandalum Magnatum was begot,
No matter if the Great forgave or not;
But if that honest license now you take,
If into rogues omnipotent you rake,
Death is your doom, impaled upon a stake,
Smeared o'er with wax and set on fire to light
The streets and make a dreadful blaze by night."
Shall they, who drenched three uncles in a draught
Of pois'nous juice, be then in triumph brought,
Make lanes among the People where they go,
And, mounted high on downy chariots, throw
Disdainful glances on the crowd below?
Be silent and beware if such you see:
'Tis defamation but to say, That's he!
Against bold Turnus the great Trojan arm:
Amidst their strokes the poet gets no harm;
Achilles may in epic verse be slain
And none of all his Myrmidons complain;
Hylas may drop his pitcher, none will cry,
Not if he drown himself for company;
But when Lucilius brandishes his pen
And flashes in the face of guilty men,
A cold sweat stands in drops on every part,
And rage succeeds to tears, revenge to smart.
Muse, be advised: 'tis past consid'ring time
When entered once the dangerous lists of rhyme;
Since none the living villains dare implead,
Arraign them in the persons of the dead.