Book II, Satire I Lyrics

Quintus Horatius Flaccus Lyrics

Some think in satire I'm too keen, and press
The spirit of invective to excess:
Some call my verses nerveless: once begin,
A thousand such per day a man might spin.
Trebatius, pray advise me.

T. Wipe your pen.

H. What, never write a single line again?

T. That's what I mean.

H. 'Twould suit me, I protest, Exactly: but at nights I get no rest.

T. First rub yourself three times with oil all o'er,
Then swim the Tiber through from shore to shore,
Taking good care, as night draws on, to steep
Your brain in liquor: then you'll have your sleep.
Or, if you still have such an itch to write,
Sing of some moving incident of fight;
Sing of great Caasar's victories: a bard
Who works at that is sure to win reward.

H. Would that I could, my worthy sire! but skill
And vigour lack, how great soe'er the will.
Not every one can paint in epic strain
The lances bristling on the embattled plain,
Tell how the Gauls by broken javelins bleed,
Or sing the Parthian tumbling from his steed.

T. But you can draw him just and brave, you know,
As sage Lucilius did for Scipio.

H. Trust me for that: my devoir I will pay,
Whene'er occasion comes to point the way.
Save at fit times, no words of mine can find
A way through Ca**ar's ear to Ca**ar's mind:
A mettled horse, if awkwardly you stroke,
Kicks out on all sides, and your leg is broke.
T. Better do this than gall with keen lampoon
Ca**ius the rake and Maenius the buffoon,
When each one, though with withers yet unwrung,
Fears for himself, and hates your bitter tongue.

H. What shall I do? Milonius, when the wine
Mounts to his head, and doubled lustres shine,
Falls dancing; horses are what Castor loves;
His twin yolk-fellow glories in the gloves:
Count all the folks in all the world, you'll find
A separate fancy for each separate mind.
To drill reluctant words into a line,
This was Lucilius' hobby, and 'tis mine.
Good man, he was our better: yet he took
Such pride in nought as in his darling book:
That was his friend, to whom he would confide
The secret thoughts he hid from all beside,
And, whether Fortune used him well or ill,
Thither for sympathy he turned him still:
So there, as in a votive tablet penned,
You see the veteran's life from end to end.

His footsteps now I follow as I may,
Lucanian or Apulian, who shall say?
For we Venusians live upon the line
Just where Lucania and Apulia join,
Planted,'tis said, there in the Samnites' place,
To guard for Rome the intermediate space,
Lest these or those some day should make a raid
In time of war, and Roman soil invade.
But this poor implement of mine, my pen,
Shall ne'er a**ault one soul of living men:
Like a sheathed sword, I'll carry it about,
Just to protect my life when I go out,
A weapon I shall never care to draw,
While my good neighbours keep within the law.
O grant, dread Father, grant my steel may rust!
Grant that no foe may play at cut and thrust
With my peace-loving self! but should one seek
To quarrel with me, yon shall hear him shriek:
Don't say I gave no warning: up and down
He shall be trolled and chorused through the town.

Cervius attacks his foes with writ and rule:
Albutius' henbane is Canidia's tool:
How threatens Turius? if he e'er should judge
A. cause of yours, he'll bear you an ill grudge.
Each has his natural weapon, you'll agree,
If you will work the problem out with me:
Wolves use their tooth against you, bulls their

Why, but that each is to the manner born?
Take worthy Scaeva now, the spendthrift heir,
And trust his long-lived mother to his care;
He'll lift no hand against her. No, forsooth!
Wolves do not use their heel, nor bulls their tooth:
But deadly hemlock, mingled in the bowl
With honey, will take off the poor old soul.
Well, to be brief: whether old age await
My years, or Death e'en now be at the gate,
Wealthy or poor, at home or banished, still,
Whate'er my life's complexion, write I will.

T. Poor child! your life is hanging on a thread:
Some noble friend one day will freeze you dead.

H. What? when Lucilius first with dauntless brow
Addressed him to his task, as I do now,
And from each hypocrite stripped off the skin
He flaunted to the world, though foul within,
Did Laelius, or the chief who took his name
Prom conquered Carthage, grudge him his fair game?

Felt they for Lupus or Metellus, when
Whole floods of satire drenched the wretched men?
He took no count of persons: man by man
He scourged the proudest chiefs of each proud clan,
Nor spared delinquents of a humbler birth,
Kind but to worth and to the friends of worth.
And yet, when Scipio brave and Laelius sage
Stepped down awhile like actors from the stage,
They would unbend with him, and laugh and joke
While his pot boiled, like other simple folk.
Well, rate me at my lowest, far below
Lucilius' rank and talent, yet e'en so
Envy herself shall own that to the end
I lived with men of mark as friend with friend,
And, when she fain on living flesh and bone
Would try her teeth, shall close them on a stone;
That is, if grave Trebatius will concur—

T. I don't quite see; I cannot well demur;
Yet you had best be cautioned, lest you draw
Some mischief down from ignorance of law;
If a man writes ill verses out of spite
'Gainst A or B, the sufferer may indict.

H. Ill verses? ay, I grant you: but suppose
Caesar should think them good ;
Suppose the man you bark at has a name
For every vice, while yours is free from blame.

T. O, then a laugh will cut the matter short:
The case breaks down, defendant leaves the court.

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