Juvenal Satire 3: comparison with Gifford (1802)

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.

William Gifford (1802)

Grieved though I am to see the man depart
Who long has shared, and still must share, my heart,
Yet (when I call my better judgment home)
I praise his purpose: to retire from Rome
And give, on Cumae's solitary coast,
The Sibyl one inhabitant to boast!
Full ont he road to Baeae Cumae lies,
And many a sweet retreat her shore supplies;
Though I prefer ev'n Prochyta's bare strand
To the Suburra; for what desert land,
What wild, uncultured spot can more affright
Than fires wide blazing through the gloom of night,
Houses with ceaseless ruin thundering down,
and all the horrors of this hateful town
Where poets, while the dog-star glows, rehearse
To gasping multitudes their barbarous verse?
Now had my friend, impatient to depart,
Consigned his little all to one poor cart:
For this, without the town he chose to wait,
But stopped a moment at the Conduit-gate:
Here Numa erst his nightly visits paid
And hel high converse with th' Egerian maid;
Now the once-hallowed fountain, grove, and fain
Are let to Jews, a wretched, wandering train
Whose furniture's a basket filled with hay;
For every tree is forced a tax to pay,
And while the heaven-born Nine in exile rove
The beggar rents their consecrated grove.
Thence slowly winding down the vale, we view
Th' Egerian grots -- ah, how unlike the true!
Nymph of the Spring, more honoured hadst thou been
If, free from art, an edge of living green
Thy bubbling fount had circumscribed alone,
And marble ne'er profaned the native stone.

Umbricius here his sullen silence broke,
And turned on Rome, indignant, as he spoke.
"Since virtue droops," he cried, "without regard,
And honest toil scarce hopes a poor reward;
Since every morrow sees my means decay,
And still makes less the little of today;
I go where Daedalus, as poets sing,
First checked his flight and closed his weary wing,
While something yet of health and strength remains,
And yet no staff my faltering step sustains,
While few grey hairs upon my head are seen,
And my old age is vigorous still and green.
Here, then, I bid my much-loved home farewell:
Ah, mine no more! There let Arturius dwell
And Catulus, knaves who, in truth's despite,
Can white to black transform, and black to white,
Build temples, furnish funerals, auctions hold,
Farm rivers, ports, and scour the drains for gold!
Once they were trumpeters and always found
With strolling fencers in their annual round,
While their puffed cheeks, which every village knew,
Called to "high feats of arms" the rustic crew;
Now they give shows themselves and, at the will
Of the base rabble, raise the sign to kill,
Ambitious of their voice; then turn once more
To their vile gains, and farm the common shore!
And why not every thing, since Fortune throws
Her more peculiar smiles on such as those,
Whene'er, to wanton merriment inclined,
She lifts to thrones the dregs of humankind.

But why, my friend, should I at Rome remain?
I cannot teach my stubborn lips to feign,
Nor, when I hear a great man's verses, smile
And beg a copy, if I think them vile.
A sublunary wight, I have no skill
To read the stars: I neither can, nor will,
Presage a father's death; I never pried
In toads for poison, nor in aught beside.
Others may aid th' adulterer's vile design,
And bear th' insidious gift and melting line,
Seduction's agents! I such deeds detest
And, honest, let no thief partake my breast.
For this, without a friend the world I quit,
A palsied limb for every use unfit.
Who now is loved but he whose conscious breast
Swells with dark deeds, still, still to be suppressed?
He pays, he owes thee nothing (strictly just)
Who gives an honest secret to thy trust;
But, a dishonest! There he feels thy power,
And buys thy friendship high from hour to hour.
But let not all the wealth which Tagus pours
In Ocean's lap, not all his glittering stores
Be deemed a bribe sufficient to requite
The loss of peace by day, of sleep by night;
Oh, take not, take not what thy soul rejects,
Nor sell the faith which he who buys suspects!

The nation -- by the Great admired, caressed --
And hated, shunned by me above the rest,
No longer now restrained by wounded pride
I haste to show (nor thou my warmth deride):
I cannot rule my spleen and calmly see
A Grecian capital in Italy!
Grecian? Oh no, with this vast sewer compared,
The dregs of Greece are scarcely worth regard:
Long since the stream that wanton Syria laves
Has disembogued its filth in Tiber's waves,
Its language, arts; o'erwhelmed us with the scum
Of Antioch's streets, its minstrel, harp, and drum.
Hie to the Circus, ye who pant to prove
A barbarous mistress, an outlandish love;
Hie to the Circus: there in crowds they stand,
Tires on their head, and timbrels in their hand.
Thy rustic, Mars, the trechedipna wears,
And on his breast smeared with ceroma bears
A paltry prize, well-pleased, while every land,
Sicyon and Amydos and Alaband,
Tralles and Samos and a thousand more,
Thrive on his indolence and daily pour
Their starving myriads forth: hither they come
And batten on the genial soil of Rome,
Minions, then lords, of every princely dome!
A flattering, cringing, treacherous, artful race,
Of torrent tongue and never-blushing face,
A Protean tribe one knows not what to call,
Which shifts to every form and shines in all:
Grammarian, painter, augur, rhetorician,
Rope-dancer, conjurer, fiddler, and physician,
All trades his own, your hungry Greekling counts;
And bid him mount the sky, the sky he mounts!
You smile; was 't a barbarian, then, that flew?
No, 'twas a Greek, 'twas an Athenian, too!

Bear with their state who will, for I disdain
To feed their upstart pride or swell their train:
Slaves that in Syrian lighters stowed so late
With figs and prunes (an inauspicious freight)
Already see their faith preferred to mine
And sit above me, and before me sign;
That on the Aventine I first drew air
And from the womb was nursed on Sabine fare
Avails me not: our birthright now is lost,
And all our privilege an empty boast.
For, lo, where versed in every soothing art,
The wily Greek assails his patron's heart;
Finds in each dull harangue an air, a grace,
And all Adonis in a Gorgon face;
Admires the voice that grates upon the ear
Like the shrill scream of amorous chanticleer;
And equals the crane neck and narrow chest
To Hercules when, straining to his breast
The giant son of Earth, his every vein
Swells with the toil, and more than mortal pain.
We too can cringe as low and praise as warm,
But flattery from the Greeks alone can charm.
See, they step forth, and figure to the life
The naked nymph, the mistress, or the wife:
So just, you view the very woman there
And fancy all beneath the girdle bare.
No longer now the favorites of the stage
Boast their exclusive power to charm the age:
The happy art with them a nation shares:
Greece is a theätre where all are players.
For lo, their patron smiles -- they burst with mirth;
He weeps -- they droop, the saddest souls on earth;
He calls for fire -- the court the mantle's heat;
'Tis warm, he cries -- and they dissovle in sweat.
Ill-matched, secure of victory, they start
Who, taught from youth to play a borrowed part,
Can with a glance the rising passion trace
And mould their own to suit their patron's face;

At deeds of shame their hands admiring raise
And mad debauchery's worst excesses praise.
Besides, no mound their raging lust restrains:
All ties it breaks, all sanctity profanes.
Wife, virgin daughter, son unstained before,
And, where these fail, they tempt the grandam hoar;
They notice every word, haunt every ear,
Your secrets learn, and fix you theirs from fear.
Turn to the schools: yon grey professor see,
Smeared with the sanguine stains of perfidy;
That tutor most accursed his pupil sold,
That Stoic sacrificed his friend to gold,
A true-born Grecian, littered on the coast
Where the Gorgonian hack a pinion lost.
Hence, Romans, hence! No place for you remains
Where Diphilus, where Erimanthus reigns,
Miscreants who, faithful to their native art,
Admit no rival in a patron's heart:
For let them fasten on his easy ear
And drop one hint, one secret slander there
Sucked from their country's venom, or their own:
That instant they possess the man alone,
While we are spurned, conptemptuous, from the door,
Our long, long slavery thought upon no more.
'Tis but a client lost; and that, we find,
Sits wondrous lightly on a patron's mind:

And (not to flatter our poor pride, my friend)
What merit with the great can we pretend,
Though in our duty we prevent the day
And darkling run our humble court to pay,
When the brisk praetor long before is gone
And hastening with stern voice his lictors on,
Lest his colleágues o'erpass him in the street
And first the rich and childless matrons greet,
Alba and Modia, who impatient wait,
And think the morning homage comes too late!
Here freeborn youths wait the rich servant's call,
And, if they walk beside him, yield the wall;
And wherefore? This, forsooth, can fling away
On one voluptuous night a legion's pay,
While those, when some Calvina sweeping by
Inflames the fancy, check their roving eye
And, frugal of their scanty means, forbear
To tempt the wanton from her splendid chair.
Produce, at Rome, your witness: let him boast
The sanctity of Berecynthia's host
Or Numa or of him whose zeal divine
Snatched pale Minerva from her blazing shrine:
To search his rent-roll first the bench prepares,
His honesty employs their latest cares:
What table does he keep, what slaves maintain,
And what, they ask, and where is his domain?
These weighty matters known, his faith they rate,
And square his probity to his estate.
The poor may swear by all th' immortal Powers,
By the Great Gods of Samothrace, and ours;
His oaths are false, they cry: he scoffs at heaven
And all its thunders; scoffs and is forgiven!
Add that the wretch is still the theme of scorn
If the soiled cloak be patched, the gown o'erworn,
If through the bursting shoe the foot be seen,
Or the coarse seam tell where the rent has been.
O Poverty, thy thousand ills combined
Sink not so deep into the gen'rous mind
As the contempt and laughter of mankind!
"Up, up! These cushioned benches," Lectius cries,
"Befit not your estates; for shame, arise!"
For "shame" -- but you say well: the pander's heir,
The spawn of bulks and stews is seated there,
The crier's spruce son, fresh from the fencer's school
And prompt the taste to settle and to rule --
So Otho fixed it, whose preposterous pride
First dared to chase us from their Honours' side.
In these cursed walls, devout alone to gain,
When do the poor a wealthy wife obtain?
When are they named in Wills, when called to share
The Aedile's council and assist the chair?
Long since they should have ris'n, thus slighted, spurned,
And left their home, but -- not to have returned.

Depressed by indigence, the good and wise
In every clime by painful efforts rise;
Here by more painful still, where scanty cheer,
Poor lodging, mean attendance -- all is dear.
In earthenware he scorns at Rome to eat
Who, called abruptly to the Marsian's seat,
From such well pleased would take his simple food,
Nor blush to wear the cheap Venetian hood.
There's many a part of Italy, 'tis said,
Where none assume the toga but the dead:
There, when the toil forgone and annual play
Mark from the rest some high and solemn day,
To theätres of turf the rustics throng,
Charmed with the farce that charmed their sires so long,
While the pale infant, of the mask in dread,
Hides in his mother's breast his little head;
No modes of dress high birth distinguish there:
All ranks, all orders the same habit wear,
And the dread Aedile's dignity is known
(O sacred badge!) by his white vest alone.
But here beyond our power arrayed we go
In all the gay varieties of show;
And when our purse supplies the charge no more
Borrow unblushing from our neighbour's store:
Such is the reigning vice, and so we flaunt,
Proud in distress, and prodigal in want!
Briefly, my friend, here all are slaves to gold,
And words, and smiles, and every thing is sold.
What will you give for Cossus' nod? How high
The silent notice of Veiento buy?
One favourite youth is shaved, another shorn,
And while to Jove the precious spoil is borne
Clients are taxed for offerings and (yet more
To gall their patience) from their little store
Constrained to swell the minion's ample hoard
And bribe the page for leave to bribe his lord.

Who fears the crash of houses in retreat
At simple Gabii, bleak Praeneste's seat,
Volsinium's craggy heights, embowered in wood,
Or Tibur, beetling o'er prone Anio's flood?
While half the city here by shores is stayed,
And feeble cramps that lend a treacherous aid:
For thus the stewards patch the riven wall,
Thus prop the mansion tottering to its fall,
Then bid the tenant court secure repose
While the pile nods to every blast that blows.
Oh, may I live where no such fears molest,
No midnight fires burst on my hour of rest!
For here 'tis terror all: mid the loud cry
Of "Water! Water!" the scared neighbours fly
With all their haste can seize; the flames aspire
And the third floor is wrapped in smoke and fire
While you, unconscious, doze: Up, ho! and know
Th' impetuous blaze which spreads dismay below
By swift degrees will reach th' aerial cell
Where, crouching, underneath the tiles you dwell,
Where your tame doves their golden couplets rear,
"And you could no mischance but drowning fear!"
"Codrus had but one bed, and that too short
For his short wife"; his goods, of every sort,
Were else but few: six little pimpkins graced
His cupboard head, a little can was placed
On a snug shelf beneath, and near it lay
A Chiron of the same cheap marble -- clay.
And was this all? Oh, no: he yet possessed
A few Greek books, shrined in an ancient chest
Where barbarous mice through many an inlet crept
And fed on heavenly numbers while he slept.
"Codrus, in short, had nothing." You say true;
And yet poor Codrus lost that nothing too!
One curse alone was wanting to complete
His woes, that, cold and hungry, through the street
The wretch should beg and, in the hour of need,
Find none to lodge, to clothe him, or to feed!
But should the raging flames on grandeur prey,
And low in dust Asturius' palace lay,
The squalid matron signs, the senate mourns,
The pleaders cease, the judge the court adjourns,
All join to wail the cit's hapless fate
And rail at fire with more than common hate.
Lo, while it burns, th' obsequious courtiers haste
With rich materials to repair the waste:
This brings him marble, that a finished piece,
The far-famed boast of Polyclete and Greece;
This ornaments which graced of old the fane
Of Asia's gods; that figured plate and plain;
This cases, books, and busts the shelves to grace,
And piles of coin his specie to replace --
So much the childless Persian swells his store
(Though deemed the richest of the rich before)
That all ascribe the flames to thirst of pelf
And swear Asturius fired his house himself.

Oh, had you from the Circus power to fly,
In many a halcyon village might you buy
Some elegant retreat for what will here
Scarce hire a gloomy dungeon through the year;
There wells, by nature formed, which need no rope,
No labouring arm to crane their waters up,
Around your lawn their facile streams shall shower
And cheer the springing plant and opening flower.
There live delighted with the rustic's lot,
And till with your own hands the little spot:
The little spot shall yield you large amends
And glad with many a feast your Samian friends;
And, sure, in any corner we can get
To call one lizard ours, is something yet!
Flushed with a mass of indigested food
Which clogs the stomach and inflames the blood,
What crowds, with watching wearied and o'erpressed,
Curse the slow hours, and die for want of rest!
For who can hope his languid lids to close
Where brawling taverns banish all repose?
Sleep to the rich alone "his visit pays,"
And hence the seeds of many a dire disease:
The carts loud rumbling through the narrow way,
The drivers' clamours at each casual stay
From drowsy Drusus would his slumber take
And keep the calves of Proteus broad awake!
If business calls, obsequious crowds divide
While o'er their heads the rich securely ride,
By tall Illyrians borne, and read, or write,
Or (should the early hour to rest invite)
Clost the soft litter and enjoy the night;
Yet reach they first the goal while, by the throng
Elbowed and jostled, scarce we creep along:
Sharp strokes from poles, tubs, rafters doomed to feel,
And plastered o'er with mud from head to heel
While the rude soldier gores us as he goes
Or marks in blood his progress on our toes.
See from the Dole a vast tumultuous throng,
Each followed by his kitchen, pours along:
Huge pans, which Corbulo could scarce uprear,
With steady neck a puny slave must bear
And, lest amid the way the flames expire,
Glide nimbly on and, gliding, fan the fire,
Through the close press with sinuous efforts wind
And, piece by piece, leave his botched rags behind.
Hark! Groaning on, th' unwieldy wagon spreads
Its cumbrous load, tremendous, o'er our heads,
Projecting elm or pine, that nods on high
And threatens death to every passer-by.
Heavens, should the axle crack which bears a weight
Of huge Ligurian stone and pour the frieght
On the pale crowd beneath, what would remain,
What joing, what bone, what atom of the slain?
The body with the soul would vanish quite,
Invisible as air to mortal sight!
Meanwhile, unconscious of their fellow's fate,
At home they heat the water, scour the plate,
Arrange the strigils, fill the cruse with oil,
And ply their several tasks with fruitless toil:
For he who bore the dole, poor mangled ghost,
Sits pale and trembling on the Stygian coast,
Scared at the horrors of the novel scene,
At Charon's threatening voice and scowling mien,
Nor hopes a passage, thus abruptly hurled
Without his farthing to the nether world.

Pass we these fearful dangers and survey
What other evils threat our nightly way.
At first, behold the mansion's towering size,
Where floors on floors to the tenth storey rise,
Whence heedless garreteers their potsherds throw
And crush th' unwary wretch that walks below:
Clattering the storm descends from heights unknown,
Plows up the stret, and wounds the flinty stone:
'Tis madness, dire improvidence of ill,
To sup abroad before you sign your Will,
Since fate in ambush lies, and marks his prety
From every wakeful window in the way;
Pray then, and count your humble prayer well sped,
If pots be only emptied on your head.
The drunken bully, ere his man be slain,
Frets through the night and courts repose in vain;
And, while the thirst of blood his bosom burns,
From side to side in restless anguish turns
Like Peleus' son when, quelled by Hector's hand,
His loved Patroclus pressed the Phrygian strand.
There are who murder as an opiate take
And only when no brawls await them wake:
Yet even these heroes, flushed with youth and wine,
All contest with the purple robe decline,
Securely give the lengthened train to pass,
The sun-bright flambeaux and the lamps of brass.
Me, whom the moon, or candle's paler gleam,
Whose wick I husband to the last extreme,
Guides through the gloom, he braves, devoid of fear:
The prelude to our doughty quarrel hear,
If that be deemed a quarrel where, heaven knows,
He only gives, and I receive, the blows:
Across my path he strides, and bids me Stand;
I bow, obsequious to the dread command;
What else remains where madness, rage combine
With youth, and strength superior to mine?
"Whence come you, rogue?" he cries; "whose beans tonight
Have stuffed you thus? What cobbler clubbed his mite
For leeks and sheep's-head porridge? Dumb, quite dumb!
Speak or be kicked. Yet, once again, your home?
Where shall I find you, at what beggar's stand
(Temple or bridge) whimp'ring with outstretched hand?"
Whether I strive some humble plea to frame
Or steal in silence by, 'tis all the same:
I'm beaten first, then dragged in rage away,
Bound to the peace, or punished for the fray;
Mark here the boasted freedom of the poor:
Beaten and bruised, that goodness to adore
Which, at their humble prayer, suspends his ire
And sends them home with yet a bone entire.
Nor this the worst: for when deep midnight reigns,
And bolts secure our doors, and massy chains,
When noisy inns a transient silence keep
And harassed nature woos the balm of sleep,
Then thieves and murderers ply their dreadful trade,
With stealthy steps our secret couch invade:
Roused from the treacherous calm, aghast we start,
And the fleshed sword is buried in our heart;
Hither from bogs, from rocks and caves pursued,
The Pontine marsh and Gallinarian wood,
The dark assassins flock as to their home
And fill with dire alarms the streets of Rome:
Such countless multitudes our peace annoy
That bolts and shackles every forge emply
And cause so wide a waste the country fears
A want of ore for mattocks, rakes, and shares.

Oh, happy were our sires, estranged from crimes,
And happy, happy were the good old times
Which saw, beneath their kings', their tribunes' reign,
One cell the nation's criminals contain.
Much could I add, more reasons could I cite,
If time were ours, to justify my flight;
But see! Th' impatient team is moving on,
The sun declining; and I must be gone:
Long since, the driver murmured at my stay
And jerked his whip to beckon me away.
Farewell, my friend! With this embrace we part!
Cherish my memory ever in your heart;
And when from crowds and business you repair
To breathe at your Aquinum freer air,
Fail not to draw me from my loved retreat
To Elvine Ceres and Diana's seat:
For your bleak hills my Cumae I'll resign
And (if you blush not at such aid as mine)
Come well equipped to wage, in angry rhymes,
Fierce war, with you, on follies and on crimes.