Horace, as imagined by Anton von Werner
Thou wilt go, my friend Mæcenas, with Liburian galleys among the towering forts of ships, ready at thine own [hazard] to undergo any of Cæsar’s dangers. What shall I do? To whom life may be agreeable, if you survive; but, if otherwise, burdensome. Whether shall I, at your command, pursue my ease, which can not be pleasing unless in your company? Or shall I endure this toil with such a courage, as becomes effeminate men to bear? I will bear it? and with an intrepid soul follow you, either through the summits of the Alps, and the inhospitable Caucus, or to the furthest western bay. You may ask how I, unwarlike and infirm, can assist your labors by mine? While I am your companion, I shall be in less anxiety, which takes possession of the absent in a greater measure. As the bird, that has unfledged young, is in a greater dread of serpents’ approaches, when they are left; — not that, if she should be present when they came, she could render more help. Not only this, but every other war, shall be cheerfully embraced by me for the hope of your favor; [and this,] not that my plows should labor, yoked to a greater number of mine own oxen; or that my cattle before the scorching dog-star should change the Calabrian for the Lucanian pastures: neither that my white country-box should equal the Circæan walls of lofty Tusculum. Your generosity has enriched me enough, and more than enough: I shall never wish to amass, what either, like the miser Chremes, I may bury in the earth, or luxuriously squander, like a prodigal.
Happy the man, who, remote from business, after the manner of the ancient race of mortals, cultivates his paternal lands with his own oxen, disengaged from every kind of usury; he is neither alarmed by the horrible trump, as a soldier, nor dreads he the angry sea; he shuns both the bar and the proud portals of citizens in power. Wherefore he either weds the lofty poplars to the mature branches of the vine; and, lopping off the useless boughs with his pruning-knife, he ingrafts more fruitful ones: or he takes a prospect of the herds of his lowing cattle, wandering about in a lonely vale; or stores his honey, pressed [from the combs], in clean vessels; or shears his tender sheep. Or, when autumn has lifted up in the fields his head adorned with mellow fruits, how does he rejoice, while he gathers the grafted pears, and the grape that vies with the purple, with which he may recompense thee, O Priapus, and thee, father Sylvanus, guardian of his boundaries! Sometimes he delights to lie under an aged holm, sometimes on the matted grass: meanwhile the waters glide along in their deep channels; the birds warble in the woods; and the fountains murmur with their purling streams, which invites gentle slumbers. But when the wintery season of the tempestuous air prepares rains and snows, he either drives the fierce boars, with many a dog, into the intercepting toils; or spreads his thin nets with the smooth pole, as a snare for the voracious thrushes; or catches in his gin the timorous hare, or that stranger the crane, pleasing rewards [for his labor]. Among such joys as these, who does not forget those mischievous anxieties, which are the property of love. But if a chaste wife, assisting on her part [in the management] of the house, and beloved children (such as is the Sabine, or the sun-burned spouse of the industrious Apulian), piles up the sacred hearth with old wood, just at the approach of her weary husband; and, shutting up the fruitful cattle in the woven hurdles, milks dry their distended udders: and, drawing this year’s wine out of a well-seasoned cask, prepares the unbought collation: not the Lucrine oysters could delight me more, nor the turbot, nor the scar, should the tempestuous winter drive any from the eastern floods to this sea: not the turkey, nor the Asiatic wild-fowl, can come into my stomach more agreeably, than the olive gathered from the richest branches from the trees, or the sorrel that loves the meadows, or mallows salubrious for a sickly body, or a lamb slain at the feast of Terminus, or a kid rescued from the wolf. Amid these dainties, how it pleases one to see the well-fed sheep hastening home! to see the weary oxen, with drooping neck, dragging the inverted ploughshare! and slaves, the test of a rich family, ranged about the smiling household gods! When Alfius, the usurer, now on the point of turning countryman, had said this, he collected in all his money on the Ides; and endeavors to put it out again at the Calends.
If any person at any time with an impious hand has broken his aged father’s neck, let him eat garlic, more baneful than hemlock. Oh! the hardy bowels of the mowers! What poison is this that rages in my entrails? Has viper’s blood, infused in these herbs, deceived me? Or has Canidia dressed this baleful food? When Medea, beyond all the [other] argonauts, admired their handsome leader, she anointed Jason with this, as he was going to tie the untried yoke on the bulls: and having revenged herself on [Jason’s] mistress, by making her presents besmeared with this, she flew away on her winged dragon. Never did the steaming influence of any constellation so raging as this rest upon the thirsty Appulia: neither did the gift [of Dejanira] burn hotter upon the shoulders of laborious Hercules. But if ever, facetious Mæcenas, you should have a desire for any such stuff again, I wish that your girl may oppose her hand to your kiss, and lie at the furthest part of the bed.