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Cervius,1 when he is offended, threatens one with the laws and the [judiciary] urn; Canidia, Albutius' poison to those with whom she is at enmity; Turius [threatens] great damages, if you contest any thing while he is judge. How every animal2 terrifies those whom he suspects, with that in which he is most powerful, and how strong natural instinct commands this, thus infer with me.—The wolf attacks with his teeth, the bull with his horns. From what principle is this, if not a suggestion from within? Intrust that debauchee Scaeva with the custody of his ancient mother; his pious hand will commit no outrage. A wonder indeed! just as the wolf does not attack any one with his hoof, nor the bull with his teeth; but the deadly hemlock in the poisoned honey will take off the old dame. That I may not be tedious, whether a placid old age awaits me, or whether death now hovers about me with his sable wings; rich or poor, at Rome or (if fortune should so order it) an exile abroad; whatever be the complexion of my life, I will write. O my child, I fear you can not be long-lived; and that some creature of the great ones will strike you with the cold of death.3 What? when Lucilius had the courage to be the first in composing verses after this manner, and to pull off that mask,4 by means of which each man strutted in public view with a fair outside, though foul within; was Laelius, and he who derived a well-deserved title from the destruction of Carthage, offended at his wit, or were they hurt at Metellus being lashed, or Lupus covered over with his lampoons? But he took to task the heads of the people, and the people themselves, class by class;5 in short, he spared none but virtue and her friends. Yet, when the valorous Scipio, and the mild philosophical Laelius, had withdrawn themselves from the crowd and the public scene, they used to divert themselves with him, and joke in a free manner, while a few vegetables were boiled [for supper]. Of whatever rank I am, though below the estate and wit of Lucilius, yet envy must be obliged to own that I have lived well with great men; and, wanting to fasten her tooth upon some weak part, will strike it against the solid:6 unless you, learned Trebatius, disapprove of any thing [I have said]. For my part, I can not make any objection to this. But however, that forewarned you may be upon your guard, lest an ignorance of our sacred laws should bring you into trouble, [be sure of this:] if any person7 shall make scandalous verses against a particular man, an action lies, and a sentence. Granted, if they are scandalous: but if a man composes good ones, and is praised by such a judge as Caesar If a man barks only at him who deserves his invectives, while he himself is unblamable? The process will be canceled8 with laughter: and you, being dismissed, may depart in peace.
1 A criminal was acquitted or condemned by the number of votes, which the judges threw into a judiciary urn. Virgil tells us this custom was observed among the dead, “quaesitor Minos urnam movet.” (Aen. 6.432")
2 Horace's weapon is satire. This he will use against his enemies, just as every one, “quo valet, suspectos terret” , and according to the dictates of nature, which prompt her creatures to make use of the arms which she has given them, i. e. “ne longum faciam”, he will write.“Mirum”, etc. Ironically said, for it is not “mirum ut neque calce lupus quemquam neque dente petat bos” , for “dente lupus, cornu taurus petit” . Horace means that Scaeva's not polluting his right hand with the blood of his mother is no more wonderful than that a wolf does not attack a person calce, or an ox, dente. Bentley's conjecture mirum si is specious. Similarly we have Terent. Andr. iv. 4, 16; “Mirum vero, impudentur mulier si facit meretrix.”
3 i. e. "lest some one of your powerful friends conceive a coldness toward you, and deprive you of his friendship." So
5 The great men, and people of whatever tribe. It is plain from what remains to us of Lucilius, that he did not spare the great. Besides Metellus and Lupus already mentioned, he attacked also Mutius Scaevola, Titus Albutius, Torquatus, Marcus Carbo, Lucius Tubulus, Publius Gallonins, Caius Cassius, Lucius Cotta, Clodius Asellus, Quintus Opimius, Nomentanus, Caius Cecilius Index, Trebellius, Publius Pavus Tuditanus. And not satisfied with this, he run through all the thirty-five tribes. one after another.
6 In allusion to the fable of the serpent and the file.
7 “Si mala condiderit.” Trebatius with much solemnity cites the laws of the twelve tables as his last argument. A lawyer could produce nothing more strong, and Horace being unable to defend himself by a direct answer, finds a way of getting out of the difficulty by playing on the words malum carmen, and giving them a different sense from what they had in the text of the law..
8 Tabulae are the process and information laid before the judge, which, says the poet, shall be torn in pieces. Dacier observes, that this line is an imitation of Aristophanes, where a father dissuades his son from an excess of wine, by representing to him a thousand disorders which it occasions; quarreling, breaking houses open. No, says the son, this never happens when we converse with men of honor; for either they will satisfy the people whom they have offended, or turn the affair into ridicule, and by some happy jest make the judges, and even the prosecutors, laugh. The process is dismissed, and you escape without being punished.(Wasps 1251ff)
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