Sermones (Horatius)/Liber prior/Sermo III - Omnibus hoc vitium est cantoribus, inter amicos

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Liber I - Sermo III
ca. 41/40 a.Ch.n.
Fairytale left blue.png Sermo II Sermo IV Fairytale right blue.png

Omnibus hoc vitium est cantoribus, inter amicos
ut numquam inducant animum cantare rogati,
iniussi numquam desistant. Sardus habebat
ille Tigellius hoc. Caesar, qui cogere posset,
si peteret per amicitiam patris atque suam, non       5
quicquam proficeret; si conlibuisset, ab ovo
usque ad mala citaret 'io Bacchae' modo summa
voce, modo hac, resonat quae chordis quattuor ima.
nil aequale homini fuit illi: saepe velut qui
currebat fugiens hostem, persaepe velut qui       10
Iunonis sacra ferret; habebat saepe ducentos,
saepe decem servos; modo reges atque tetrarchas,
omnia magna loquens, modo 'sit mihi mensa tripes et
concha salis puri et toga, quae defendere frigus
quamvis crassa queat.' deciens centena dedisses       15
huic parco, paucis contento, quinque diebus
nil erat in loculis; noctes vigilabat ad ipsum
mane, diem totum stertebat; nil fuit unquam
sic inpar sibi. nunc aliquis dicat mihi 'quid tu?
nullane habes vitia?' immo alia et fortasse minora.       20
Maenius absentem Novium cum carperet, 'heus tu'
quidam ait 'ignoras te an ut ignotum dare nobis
verba putas?' 'egomet mi ignosco' Maenius inquit.
stultus et inprobus hic amor est dignusque notari.
cum tua pervideas oculis mala lippus inunctis,       25
cur in amicorum vitiis tam cernis acutum
quam aut aquila aut serpens Epidaurius? at tibi contra
evenit, inquirant vitia ut tua rursus et illi.
iracundior est paulo, minus aptus acutis
naribus horum hominum; rideri possit eo quod       30
rusticius tonso toga defluit et male laxus
in pede calceus haeret: at est bonus, ut melior vir
non alius quisquam, at tibi amicus, at ingenium ingens
inculto latet hoc sub corpore. denique te ipsum
concute, numqua tibi vitiorum inseverit olim       35
natura aut etiam consuetudo mala; namque
neglectis urenda filix innascitur agris.
illuc praevertamur, amatorem quod amicae
turpia decipiunt caecum vitia aut etiam ipsa haec
delectant, veluti Balbinum polypus Hagnae.       40
vellem in amicitia sic erraremus et isti
errori nomen virtus posuisset honestum.
ac pater ut gnati, sic nos debemus amici
siquod sit vitium non fastidire. strabonem
appellat paetum pater, et pullum, male parvos       45
sicui filius est, ut abortivus fuit olim
Sisyphus; hunc varum distortis cruribus, illum
balbutit scaurum pravis fultum male talis.
parcius hic vivit: frugi dicatur; ineptus
et iactantior hic paulo est: concinnus amicis       50
postulat ut videatur; at est truculentior atque
plus aequo liber: simplex fortisque habeatur;
caldior est: acris inter numeretur. opinor,
haec res et iungit iunctos et servat amicos.
at nos virtutes ipsas invertimus atque       55
sincerum furimus vas incrustare. probus quis
nobiscum vivit, multum demissus homo: illi
tardo cognomen, pingui damus. hic fugit omnis
insidias nullique malo latus obdit apertum,
cum genus hoc inter vitae versemur, ubi acris       60
invidia atque vigent ubi crimina: pro bene sano
ac non incauto fictum astutumque vocamus.
simplicior quis et est, qualem me saepe libenter
obtulerim tibi, Maecenas, ut forte legentem
aut tacitum inpellat quovis sermone: 'molestus,       65
communi sensu plane caret' inquimus. eheu,
quam temere in nosmet legem sancimus iniquam.
nam vitiis nemo sine nascitur; optimus ille est,
qui minimis urgetur. amicus dulcis, ut aequum est,
cum mea conpenset vitiis bona, pluribus hisce,       70
si modo plura mihi bona sunt, inclinet, amari
si volet: hac lege in trutina ponetur eadem.
qui, ne tuberibus propriis offendat amicum,
postulat, ignoscet verrucis illius: aequum est
peccatis veniam poscentem reddere rursus.       75
denique, quatenus excidi penitus vitium irae,
cetera item nequeunt stultis haerentia, cur non
ponderibus modulisque suis ratio utitur ac res
ut quaeque est, ita suppliciis delicta coercet?
siquis eum servum, patinam qui tollere iussus       80
semesos piscis tepidumque ligurrierit ius,
in cruce suffigat, Labeone insanior inter
sanos dicatur. quanto hoc furiosius atque
maius peccatum est: paulum deliquit amicus,
quod nisi concedas, habeare insuavis: acerbus       85
odisti et fugis ut Rusonem debitor aeris,
qui nisi, cum tristes misero venere kalendae,
mercedem aut nummos unde unde extricat, amaras
porrecto iugulo historias captivus ut audit.
conminxit lectum potus mensave catillum       90
Euandri manibus tritum deiecit: ob hanc rem,
aut positum ante mea quia pullum in parte catini
sustulit esuriens, minus hoc iucundus amicus
sit mihi? quid faciam, si furtum fecerit aut si
prodiderit conmissa fide sponsumve negarit?       95
quis paria esse fere placuit peccata, laborant,
cum ventum ad verum est: sensus moresque repugnant
atque ipsa utilitas, iusti prope mater et aequi.
cum prorepserunt primis animalia terris,
mutum et turpe pecus, glandem atque cubilia propter       100
unguibus et pugnis, dein fustibus atque ita porro
pugnabant armis, quae post fabricaverat usus,
donec verba, quibus voces sensusque notarent,
nominaque invenere; dehinc absistere bello,
oppida coeperunt munire et ponere leges,       105
ne quis fur esset neu latro neu quis adulter.
nam fuit ante Helenam cunnus taeterrima belli
causa, sed ignotis perierunt mortibus illi,
quos venerem incertam rapientis more ferarum
viribus editior caedebat ut in grege taurus.       110
iura inventa metu iniusti fateare necesse est,
tempora si fastosque velis evolvere mundi.
nec natura potest iusto secernere iniquum,
dividit ut bona diversis, fugienda petendis,
nec vincet ratio hoc, tantundem ut peccet idemque,       115
qui teneros caules alieni fregerit horti
et qui nocturnus sacra divum legerit. adsit
regula, peccatis quae poenas inroget aequas,
ne scutica dignum horribili sectere flagello.
nam ut ferula caedas meritum maiora subire       120
verbera, non vereor, cum dicas esse paris res
furta latrociniis et magnis parva mineris
falce recisurum simili te, si tibi regnum
permittant homines. si dives, qui sapiens est,
et sutor bonus et solus formosus et est rex,       125
cur optas quod habes? 'non nosti, quid pater' inquit
'Chrysippus dicat: sapiens crepidas sibi numquam
nec soleas fecit; sutor tamen est sapiens.' qui?
'ut quamvis tacet Hermogenes, cantor tamen atque
optumus est modulator; ut Alfenus vafer omni       130
abiecto instrumento artis clausaque taberna
sutor erat: sapiens operis sic optimus omnis
est opifex, solus sic rex.' vellunt tibi barbam
lascivi pueri, quos tu nisi fuste coerces,
urgeris turba circum te stante miserque       135
rumperis et latras, magnorum maxime regum.
ne longum faciam: dum tu quadrante lavatum
rex ibis neque te quisquam stipator ineptum
praeter Crispinum sectabitur, et mihi dulces
ignoscent, siquid peccaro stultus, amici       140
inque vicem illorum patiar delicta libenter
privatusque magis vivam te rege beatus.

Fairytale left blue.png Sermo II Sermo IV Fairytale right blue.png

All singers have a fault: if asked to use
Their talent among friends, they never choose;
Unask'd, they ne'er leave off. Just such a one
Tigellius was, Sardinia's famous son.
Caesar, who could have forced him to obey,
By his sire's friendship and his own might pray,
Yet not draw forth a note: then, if the whim
Took him, he'd troll a Bacchanalian hymn,
From top to bottom of the tetrachord,
Till the last course was set upon the board.
One mass of inconsistence, oft he'd fly
As if the foe were following in full cry,
While oft he'd stalk with a majestic gait,
Like Juno's priest in ceremonial-state.
Now, he would keep two hundred serving-men,
And now, a bare establishment of ten.
Of kings and tetrarchs with an equal's air
He'd talk: next day he'd breathe the hermit's prayer:
"A table with three legs, a shell to hold
My salt, and clothes, though coarse, to keep out cold."
Yet give this man, so frugal, so content,
A thousand, in a week 'twould all be spent.
All night he would sit up, all day would snore:
So strange a jumble ne'er was seen before.


"Hold!" some one cries, "have you no failings?" Yes;
Failings enough, but different, maybe less.
One day when Maenius happened to attack
Novius the usurer behind his back,
"Do you not know yourself?" said one, "or think
That if you play the stranger, we shall wink?"
"Not know myself!" he answered, "you say true:
I do not: so I take a stranger's due."
Self-love like this is knavish and absurd,
And well deserves a damnatory word.
You glance at your own faults; your eyes are blear:
You eye your neighbour's; straightway you see clear,
Like hawk or basilisk: your neighbours pry
Into your frailties with as keen an eye.
A man is passionate, perhaps misplaced
In social circles of fastidious taste;
His ill-trimmed beard, his dress of uncouth style,
His shoes ill-fitting, may provoke a smile:
But he's the soul of virtue; but he's kind;
But that coarse body hides a mighty mind.
Now, having scanned his breast, inspect your own,
And see if there no failings have been sown
By Nature or by habit, as the fern
Springs in neglected fields, for men to burn.


True love, we know, is blind: defects that blight
The loved one's charms escape the lover's sight,
Nay, pass for beauties, as Balbinus glows
With admiration of his Hagna's nose.
Ah, if in friendship we e'en did the same,
And virtue cloaked the error with her name!
Come, let us learn how friends at friends should look
By a leaf taken from a father's book.
Has the dear child a squint? at home he's classed
With Venus' self; "her eyes have just that cast:"
Is he a dwarf like Sisyphus? his sire
Calls him "sweet pet," and would not have him higher,
Gives Varus' name to knock-kneed boys, and dubs
His club-foot youngster Scaurus, king of clubs.
E'en so let us our neighbours' frailties scan:
A friend is close; call him a careful man:
Another's vain and fond of boasting; say,
He talks in an engaging, friendly way:
A third is a barbarian, rude and free;
Straightforward and courageous let him be:
A fourth is apt to break into a flame;
An ardent spirit—make we that his name.
This is the sovereign recipe, be sure,
To win men's hearts, and having won, secure.


But we put virtue down to vice's score,
And foul the vessel that was clean before:
See, here's a modest man, who ranks too low
In his own judgment; him we nickname slow:
Another, ever on his guard, takes care
No enemy shall catch him unaware,
(Small wonder, truly, in a world like this,
Beset with dogs that growl and snakes that hiss);
We turn his merit to a fault, and style
His prudence mere disguise, his caution guile.
Or take some honest soul, who, full of glee,
Breaks on a patron's solitude, like me,
Finds his Maecenas book in hand or dumb,
And pokes him with remarks, the first that come;
We cry "He lacks e'en common tact." Alas!
What hasty laws against ourselves we pass!
For none is born without his faults: the best
But bears a lighter wallet than the rest.
A man of genial nature, as is fair,
My virtues with my vices will compare,
And, as with good or bad he fills the scale,
Lean to the better side, should that prevail:
So, when he seeks my friendship, I will trim
The wavering balance in my turn for him.
He that has fears his blotches may offend
Speaks gently of the pimples of his friend:
For reciprocity exacts her dues,
And they that need excuse must needs excuse.


Now, since resentment, spite of all we do,
Will haunt us fools, and other vices too,
Why should not reason use her own just sense,
And square her punishments to each offence?
Suppose a slave, as he removes the dish,
Licks the warm gravy or remains of fish,
Should his vexed master gibbet the poor lad,
He'd be a second Labeo, staring mad.
Now take another instance, and remark
A case of madness, grosser and more stark.
A friend has crossed you:—'tis a slight affair;
Not to forgive it writes you down a bear:—
You hate the man and his acquaintance fly,
As Ruso's debtors hide from Ruso's eye;
Poor victims, doomed, when that black pay-day's come,
Unless by hook or crook they raise the sum,
To stretch their necks, like captives to the knife,
And listen to dull histories for dear life.
Say, he has drunk too much, or smashed some ware,
Evander's once, inestimably rare,
Or stretched before me, in his zeal to dine,
To snatch a chicken I had meant for mine;
What then? is that a reason he should seem
Less pleasant, less deserving my esteem?
How could I treat him worse, were he to thieve,
Betray a secret, or a trust deceive?


Your men of words, who rate all crimes alike,
Collapse and founder, when on fact they strike:
Sense, custom, all, cry out against the thing,
And high expedience, right's perennial spring.
When men first crept from out earth's womb, like worms,
Dumb speechless creatures, with scarce human forms,
With nails or doubled fists they used to fight
For acorns or for sleeping-holes at night;
Clubs followed next; at last to arms they came,
Which growing practice taught them how to frame,
Till words and names were found, wherewith to mould
The sounds they uttered, and their thoughts unfold;
Thenceforth they left off fighting, and began
To build them cities, guarding man from man,
And set up laws as barriers against strife
That threatened person, property, or wife.
'Twas fear of wrong gave birth to right, you'll find,
If you but search the records of mankind.
Nature knows good and evil, joy and grief,
But just and unjust are beyond her brief:
Nor can philosophy, though finely spun,
By stress of logic prove the two things one,
To strip your neighbour's garden of a flower
And rob a shrine at midnight's solemn hour.
A rule is needed, to apportion pain,
Nor let you scourge when you should only cane.
For that you're likely to be overmild,
And treat a ruffian like a naughty child,
Of this there seems small danger, when you say
That theft's as bad as robbery in its way,
And vow all villains, great and small, shall swing
From the same tree, if men will make you king.


But tell me, Stoic, if the wise, you teach,
Is king, Adonis, cobbler, all and each,
Why wish for what you've got? "Tou fail to see
What great Chrysippus means by that," says he.
"What though the wise ne'er shoe nor slipper made,
The wise is still a brother of the trade.
Just as Hennogenes, when silent, still
Remains a singer of consummate skill,
As sly Alfenius, when he had let drop
His implements of art and shut up shop,
Was still a barber, so the wise is best
In every craft, a king's among the rest."
Hail to your majesty! yet, ne'ertheless,
Rude boys are pulling at your beard, I guess;
And now, unless your cudgel keeps them off,
The mob begins to hustle, push, and scoff;
You, all forlorn, attempt to stand at bay,
And roar till your imperial lungs give way.
Well, so we part: each takes his separate path:
You make your progress to your farthing bath,
A king, with ne'er a follower in your train,
Except Crispinus, that distempered brain;
While I find pleasant friends to screen me, when
I chance to err, like other foolish men;
Bearing and borne with, so the change we ring,
More blest as private folks than you as king.