Juvenal Satire 3: comparison with Dryden (1692)

In Juvenal's third satire, probably his most famous work, he attacks the squalor and indignity of life as a poor citizen in the bustling metropolis, comparing it unfavourably with the carefree village life.

You can read my version by itself, or compare my version with Juvenal's original or with the versions of Dryden (1692), Johnson (1738, in London: A Satire, an curtailed adaptation), or Gifford (1802), all of whom use heroic couplets like I do.

Jack Mitchell (2001)

Although depressed because my long-time friend
Means to depart, I no less praise his ends:
To find a spot ’mong Cumae’s vacant lots —
One citizen at least the Sibyll’s got!
It's Baiae’s gate, an idyll by the sea
(Though even bleak Prochyta’s misery
Is no Subura. What’s so wretched, then,
So drear that you’d prefer a regimen
Of fear of fires and roofs e’er poised to fall,
This savage city’s thousand possible
Perils, and poets’ rants as usual
In August?) Still meanwhile my friend was dragging
All his belongings on a single wagon;
Pausing beneath the dewy, mossy growth
Where Numa used to plight his nightly troth,
The ancient arch of the Capenan Gate
(Though now they lease the place by weekly rate,
The goddess’ shrine, the grove, the sacred spring,
To Jews, with hampered hay their furnishing:
For every tree is worth its weight in tax:
The Muses gone, the wood is crammed with packs
Of bums). Together down Egeria’s vale
We strolled, the caves where artifice prevails:
How much more tangible the water-god
Might be, were but his stream-bed rimmed with sod,
Nor limestone with outrageous marble shod.

There spake Umbricius: “Since honest trade
Can find no home and toil goes unpaid
In Rome, my budget’s less than yesterday
Today, and still tomorrow whisks away
Still more, I plan on thither journeying
Where Daedalus put off his weary wings,
While yet my greying hairs are far and few
Between, old age is still erect and new,
Lachesis still has something to spin out,
And staffless I can bear myself about.
Good-bye, my country! Be Artorius’ site,
Or Catulus’, or theirs who make black white;
Let those who’ll take the contracts here remain
For temples, rivers, harbours, scraping drains,
Cremation, auctioneering slaves for gain.
One used to play the horn at small-town shows:
His puffed-out cheeks were known not long ago
In every village; now his shows are free:
T’ indulge the mob, his thumb is referee:
They slay his choice most democratically.
He and his kind will oversee the cess:
Indeed why not? Their birthright’s nothing less:
They’re Fortune’s prototype of simpleton
From rags to riches boosted just for fun.

What should I do in Rome? I never learned
To lie, nor bury books with praise unearned,
Then beg an autograph — can’t analyse
The path of constellations through the skies,
Nor could nor would I deign to organise
Another’s father’s funeral in advance;
I’ve never studied the significance
Of frog-guts; there are better connoisseurs
Of making brides adulterers’ overtures;
I’m no lieutenant for a thief, and thus
No governor’s aide-de-camp, and so they cuss
And call my handless, useless, meaningless.
Who prospers now but he who keeps a secret
Which boils his soul, and death to him that speaks it?
You’re worth less than one favour, not a cent,
If all you know is something innocent.
Verres loves the one who, when he choose,
Can have his Verres dangling from the noose.
Let not all shaded Tagus’ sand be worth
So much, nor all the gold within the earth
It seaward rolls, that from your sleep you start
Some day, and by the crafty toady’s art
Receive your share, then play the traitor’s part!

And now it’s time to mention that one race
So welcome ’mongst our millionaires, the face
Of one of whom’s enough to chase me home:
I cannot stand, o Quirites, a Rome
Of Greeks! Yet what percentage of the scum
Is actually Greek? The dredges of the slum
Have long been pouring like the Syrian
Orontes into Father Tiber’s run:
Its speech, its customs, slanted harps and more:
The pipes and ethnic drums, the racetrack whore:
She’s yours, if you’d a shawled wog trollop score!
My Roman friend, that small-town pal of yours
Wears trechidipna, many a perfume pours
Upon a neck that’s decked with gems galore.
This one’s from hilly Sicyon, but the other
Left Amydon, that one Andros, and his brother
From Samos — Tralles — Alabanda rather?
They left, and now they swarm the Esqualine
Or climb the wickerworker’s steep incline,
Our masters’ household pets, and soon enough
Masters themselves, so smoothly witty, tough
And tried in insolence, easy of speech
As thunder-storms or e’er Isaeus preached.
Check out that guy — guess his profession, please —
He’s brought a bag of personalities:
Teacher, wrestling-master, rhet’ritician,
Painter, dancer, augur, math’matician,
Or e’en astrologer, or e’en physician.
The ravenous Greekling has it all by heart:
Just say “Take off!” — he’ll to the sky depart.
(You know it was no Thracian or Sarmatian,
No Moor who first attempted aviation
But one in Athens’ alleys born.) So then,

Shall I not flee the glamour of such men?
Shall one such sign his name before my own,
At dinner sit before me, who was blown
Along with prunes and figs into this town?
Does no one care that as a babe I breathed
Th’ Aventine air, on Sabine berries teethed?
So what if these accomplished yes-men praise
An idiot’s wit, a friend’s deformèd face,
And say a sick man’s staulky neck is such
As Hercules’ own, when off the ground he clutched
Antaeus? Then they advertise delight
To hear a reedy voice just like a fight
’Twixt cock and hen! I too could try ’n ’ deceive,
The difference being, that they’re somehow believed.
Could any actor better play the schtick
Of Thais, of a wife or Doric chick
(Without a shawl, of course) — the very picture
Of womanhood — no thespian admixture —
You’d be astonished if below the belt
He had no cunt unplumbed, all tight and svelt!
For over there Antiochus fails to please,
Demetrius and even Stratocles
And supple Haemus find their fame can’t last:
Th’ entire nation’s one big slapstick cast.
You smile, at once he cackles and guffaws;
Without the slightest grief he weeps because
A friend’s in tears; if you in winter should
Suggest a fire, he dons his cloak and hood.
He starts to sweat if you declare it’s hot —
I can’t compare — what talent this guy’s got!
Anytime and anyplace to feign
Another’s mood, salute and praise th’ inane,
If e’er perchance a friend should belch concisely,
Or piss so far, so long, or so precisely,
Or someone’s golden ass should fart that nicely!

Moreover nothing’s sacred, nothing’s safe,
While yet his cock’s unleashed and free to strafe
The fam’ly: not the household matriarch,
Not virgin daughters — they’re the easy marks —
And not their future husbands, beardless still -
Then with the virtuous sons he’ll try his skill,
Or with his best friend’s grandma get a thrill
Or two, for lack of other darlings dear:
He wants the family secrets, then their fear.
And while we’re on the subject of the Greeks,
Turn to the schools, which heavier crimes bespeak:
As when the Stoic peached against his friend
And slew him, Barea, the reverend
Dottard’s own disciple, dottard nursed
Upon the river banks where the accursed
Gorgon’s winged stallion fell. Alas,
There’s no room for Romans, whilst this class
Of such Protogeneses tyrannous is,
All these Hermarchuses and Diphiluses,
Who by some national vice can never share
A friend; they hoard them, never can forbear
To drop into a ready ear an ounce
Of poison, theirs or Greece’s, and it counts:
I’m thrown out on my ass, with all the years
Of toadying down the drain at once; for ne’er
Were clients so disposable as here.

And anyway what’s the point if some poor man
Should bother hustling, dressed up spick and span
(We mustn’t spare ourselves), before the dawn,
When past the praetor drives the lictors on
And bids them run, since there’s so much at stake:
The widows twain have long been wide awake:
Lest Modia and Albina first be greeted
By his own august colleague, haste is needed!
The son of free-born folk must then give way
Before a rich man’s slave, who’ll gladly pay
A legion tribune’s salary to lay
Calvina or Catiena, though if you
Should fancy some well dressed-up whore you stew
And hesitate to help the Chio down
From her high seat — produce a man renowned
For piety to testify at Rome,
As pious as the host who ope’d his home
Unto th’ Idaean goddess — bring in Numa,
Or him who when the fire would consume a
Shine bore out Minerva safe and sound:
First of all they’ll ask him to expound
His fiscal status, last of all his morals:
How many slaves? His acreage senatoral?
The scale of silverware is paramount:
They don’t trust him, they trust his bank account.
Go on and swear by all the holy seats
Of Greece and Rome, they think a poor man cheats
Both thunderbolts and gods, who mercy mete
(The judges think) unto a laughing-stock
And butt for jokes, with torn and smudgèd smock,
A dirty toga, sandals gaping wide,
The leather torn apart on either side,
Where many a rent has oft been rectified
With stitches thick: for poverty in this
Is worst: it makes us look ridiculous.
“Get out,” he says, “for shame, this is the space
For Knights, you’re legally poor, so give this place
To sons of pimps, in any brothel bred:
The auctioneer’s best boy is billeted
Right here amidst the gladiator’s lads,
Beside the trainer’s sons”: for such was mad
Otho’s device, who classed us up ’mid ravings.

What son-in-law finds favour whose life-savings
Can’t match his girlfriend’s purse? What pauper named
An heir, or ever aedile-clerk acclaimed?
Rank on rank and file and row on row
Poor Romans should have left Rome long ago.
Of course advancement’s tough when energy
Suffers from impecuniosity,
But here at Rome it’s sheer futility.
Your wretched flat, your hungry slaves, and then
A frugal meal — you pay, you pay again,
You pay; you feel ashamed of your clay dishes,
Though actually your alter ego wishes
Nothing better at the Sabine table
Or Marsi, thanks the gods that he is able
T’ afford a rough blue cloak. If truth be told,
In most of Italy, ’tis only the stone cold
Corpses that wear the toga. Majesty
Itself! When holiday festivity
Brings people to the grassy theatre-glen,
With everybody’s favourite farce again
Taking the stage, and at the actor’s mask
The country baby cowers back aghast
T’ its mother’s lap — in such a place you’ll see
All dressed alike, cheap seats and V.I.P.,
Aediles themselves content with tunics white
To mark their sacred majesty and might.
But here by contrast Fashion reigns supreme:
The fashion-conscious person’s coffers teem
With heavy bills, the universal flaw:
For all ambitious poverty’s the law.
Yes, everything at Rome involves expense.
What’ll you pay to show your deference
To Cossus, or to get a second look
From old Veiento, with a smile crooked?
“It’s Beard- or Hair-Trim Day!” Come be regaled:
The house is teeming with hors d’oeurves - for sale;
The client wants a beer? Then suck on this:
We’re forced to subsidise the benefice,
Contribute to their cheeky servile chaps!

Whoever feared his building would collapse
At cool Praenest’, Volsinii’s woody site,
Or simple Gabii, or Tibur’s heights?
This town we call our home is mostly propped
With toothpicks: thus the landlord says he’s stopped
The toppling, tapes up cracks in th’ ancient wall,
And bids us never mind th’ impending fall.
Better from fire and nightly fear withdrawn
To live: already poor Ucalegon
Rescues his stuff and tries in vain to soak
The blaze; the third floor’s going up in smoke —
Meanwhile in ignorant bliss you’ve yet to learn —
Th’ alarm goes up from floor to floor in turn:
The topmost tenant’s soon the last to burn,
Whom from the wind and rain the rick’tiest
Clay tiles protect, where soft doves have their nest.
Codrus possessed a midget’s bed, six cups
To liven his poor marble shelving up,
A Chiron stretched beneath, a meagre jug,
And last of all a well-worn chest well snug
With little scrolls of Greek, though none too long:
For savage mice would gnaw th’ immortal songs.
Codrus had nothing — who’d deny it? Still,
He lost all that whole nothing, still downhill
His luck runs out: for though he beg and plead,
None will with food or shelter fill his need.
And yet should now Astoricus’ mansion tumble,
The princes mourn, the matron dresses humble,
And courts adjourn, and everybody mumbles
Against the city’s perils and hateful fire.
The place is still ablaze: some worthy sire
Arrives to offer marble by the cart;
Another will contribute works of art,
Bright likenesses; another something more
From Polyclitus’ hand or Euphranor’s,
Reserved for white-shoe’d deities heretofore;
The next provides a library complete
With wise Minerva’s bust, the next a neat
Sackful of silver; Persicus walks away
A rather richer man than yesterday:
The richest heirless man we’ve ever known,
Though ’bout himself he’s (true) suspicion sown
Of burning down the mansion on his own.

If you can bear to tear yourself away
From Circus-races, you might buy today
A villa near Frusino, even at
Fabrateria, Sora; here your flat
Your lightless hole, costs no less every year;
There you’ll have a garden, small and dear,
A shallow pool, its water simply drawn
Without a rope to wet the modest lawn:
Live there a hearty lover of the hoe,
Chief of a garden planted row on row,
With which you might a hundred feasts bestow
Upon the Pythagorians: for, you know,
Howe’er reclused, ’tis no minute reward
T’ have made yourself a single lizard’s lord.
Here many an invalid insomnia kills —
The undigested food will cause such ills
Itself, which up a heart-burned throat will leap -
What residence permits a good night’s sleep?
In town it costs a fortune just to snag an
Hour or two - hence sickness - with the wagons
Rumbling by through jammed up intersections,
The gridlocked shepherd’s foul-tongued interjections -
All told it’d plunder peace somniferous
From sea-cows, e’en from sleepy Claudius.
If he’s expected, then the rich man rides
Across the scrambling multitude, astride
His tall Liburnians, racing o’er our heads;
Inside, the curtains shut, it’s like a bed:
He reads, or writes, or sleeps, just as he likes,
And then arrives in time. Meanwhile we hike
Through seas of people in the way, amassed,
Crushing the heels of those ahead: one casts
His elbows to and fro, another swings
A solid cowlstaff back and forth while things
Are falling everywhere: one drops a plank
Upon my head, the next a teeming tank
Of wine, my shins are sloshed with mud that’s rank,
From every side they often crunch my foot,
The soldier’s hobnail ’pon my toe is put.
You understand the scale on which the dole
Is celebrated? Look how they’ll enroll
A hundred guests: a kitchen follows each,
And Corbulo himself might well beseech
You for a lightening of the load — such pots,
So huge, borne on the head, and fiery-hot,
Which some poor slave must, running by, contrive
To keep upright and puff the flame alive.
’Tis well-patched tunics which worse rents incur:
A wagon laden with the long-trunk’d fir
Rolls past, or with a pine-tree specimen
With teeters o’er the pale pedestrian;
If th’ axel with the Lunan marbl’ endowed
Should snap and dump its mountain on the crowd,
Whoever could distinguish corpse from corpse,
Produce a bone or limb, when th’ av’lanche warps
The poor man’s body like his soul? Still yet
At home the household, uninformed, will set
The table, light the stove, oil serviettes,
And have their bath; the slaves are occupied;
Meanwhile their master walks the riverside,
A stranger in the underworld, and quakes
To meet the dreadful boatman (he who takes
The souls across), can never rest among
His fellow dead, no coin beneath his tongue.

Now take the various other risks at night:
The pots which plummet from the giddy height
Of fourth-floor lodgings, blocked but by my brains —
With what deafening power a heavy rain
Of pitchers falls to gouge the sidewalk stones:
While you’ll be idly walking on your own
To dine, unmindful what the Fates have sown,
Your will unmade, you’ll face as many foes
As cops who walk the nightly beat: windows!
Select some good-luck charm, so that instead
Of pots mere bedpan crap may hit your head.
And if the drunken punk should somehow fail
To take somebody out, all night he’ll wail
Like Peleus’ son his friend; to no avail
He’ll toss and turn; for him no other kind
Of fun but fighting makes for peace of mind.
And yet however young and insolent
And raging drunk, he’s still obedient
If now a purple cloak should chance to pass
With lengthy train and flaming lamps of brass;
To me, who’s forced by candlelight to pick
My way, most careful with the del’cate wick,
Or yet to trust the moon, to me he’ll snarl:
Behold the opening battle of our quarrel,
battle’s an expression made to fit
A scene in which he punches me to bits.
H’ appears and bids me go my way no more;
I must obey (what else? How to ignore
A stronger man ferocious as a boar?):
“Where’ve you come from?” he growls. “Whose beans,
Whose wine have you been downing? Whose cuisine
Of boiled wether lips and leeks new sprung?
You and the cobbler? Eh? Cat got your tongue?
Talk or I’ll beat you up. Just where, you dog,
’S your spot for begging? Where’s your synagogue?”
You slink aside or find something to say;
It’s all the same, they’ll smash you anyway,
And then self-righteously demand their day
In court! For it’s the poor man’s legal right
Knocked black and blue, found guilty for the fight,
To swear he’s telling nothing but the truth
In vain, and plea deprived a many a tooth.
You’re still not safe: no lack of men to mug
You once the tavern doors are fastened snug
With heavy chains: the best of brigandhood
Will get to work, whene’er they purge the wood
Of Gallinaria, or sweep the marsh
Of Pomptina with armed policemen harsh:
Then all the vagabonds rush off to Rome
With sharpened knives, and make themselves at home;
So many fit for chains, you’d be afraid
We’d lack for wheelbarrows and hoes and spades;

You’d envy the forefathers of our sires,
You’d envy ancient centuries entire
Which, ere the kings’ and tribunes’ power failed,
Saw Rome content to keep a single jail.
And that’s not all; I might go on and on;
But look! The sunset sinks — I must be gone;
The mules are restless, and the muleteer
Shows with his whip he wants us out of here.
And so farewell, my friend! Remember me
Whenever you should come down hurriedly
From Rome to visit your Aquinum dear
And Ceres and Diana to revere;
Just send me word at Cumae, I’ll appear
In gardening boots, amid the great outdoors,
And humbly hear those
Satires of yours.

John Dryden (1692)

Grieved though I am an ancient friend to lose,
I like the solitary seat he chose,
In quiet Cumæ fixing his repose,
Where, far from noisy Rome, secure he lives,
And one more citizen to Sibyl gives:
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
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,
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 stopped a little at the Conduit-gate,
Where Numa modelled once the Roman State,
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
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;
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,
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,
No profit rises from th' 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,
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,
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,
Can hire large houses, and oppress the poor
By farmed excise, can cleanse the common-shore
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.
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,
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.
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?
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 rascals, how the wars will go,
I neither will, nor can, prognosticate
To the young gaping heir his father's fate,
Nor in the entrails of a toad have pried,
Nor carried bawdy presents to a bride;
For want of these town-virtues, thus alone
I go, conducted on my way by none,
Like a dead member from the body rent,
Maimed, and unuseful to the government.
Who now is loved, but he who loves the times,
Conscious of close intrigues, and dipt in crimes,
Lab'ring 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,
The purse of Verres may at pleasure use.
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.
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,
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,
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:
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,
Is turned a beau in a loose tawdry gown.
His once unkempt 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;
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;
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,
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,
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,
In purple clothed, and lolling like a lord?
Shall he before me sign, whom th' 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!
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:
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.
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,
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
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;
Begin but you to shiver, and they shake;
In frost and snow, if you complain of heat,
They rub th' unsweating brow, and swear they sweat.
We live not on the square with such as these:
Such are our betters who can better please,
Who day and night are like a looking-glass,
Still ready to reflect their patron's face:
The panegyric hand, and lifted eye,
Prepared for some new piece of flattery;
Even nastiness occasions will afford:
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,
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.
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.
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,
And fear no rivals in their bubbles' heart:
One 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,
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)
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,
Lest his colleague outstrip him in the race;
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,
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.
Produce a witness of unblemished life
Holy as Numa, or as Numa's wife,
Or him who bid th' unhallowed flames retire
And snatched the trembling goddess from the fire:
The question is not put how far extends
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?
Th' 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;
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 and the tattered vest,
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 plaster on his foot.'
Want 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
Is not the value of the settled rate;
The sons of happy punks, the pander's heir,
Are privileged to sit in triumph there,
To clap the first, and rule the theatre.
Up to the galleries, for shame, retreat;
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?
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
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,
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,
Old plays they act, old feasts they celebrate;
The same rude song returns upon the crowd,
And, by tradition, is for wit allowed;
The mimic yearly gives the same delights,
And in the mother's arms the clownish infant frights;
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.
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
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?
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,
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;
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,
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 of the poor;
Thy own third story smokes, while thou, supine,
Art drenched in fumes of undigested wine;
For if the lowest floors already burn,
Cock-lofts and garrets soon will take the turn,
Where thy tame pigeons next the tiles were bred,
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;
And, to support this noble plate, 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
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.
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.
While yet it burns, th' 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,
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,
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,
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,
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.
'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?
So dear it costs to purchase rest in Rome,
And hence the sources of diseases come.
The drover, who his fellow-drover meets
In narrow passages of winding streets;
The wagoners, that curse their standing teams,
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,
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,
A rafter breaks his head, or chairman's pole;
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:
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,
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:
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,
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
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,
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
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:
As many fates attend thy steps to mee,
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
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.
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,
And on the lacqueys will no quarrel fix.
His train of flambeaux and embroidered coat
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.
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
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.
Say, in what nasty cellar, underground,
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:
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,
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,
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,
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!
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
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
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.