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29.

But the man of whom I am speaking is excessively accomplished, not in philosophy alone, but also in general literature, which they say that the rest of the Epicureans commonly neglect. He composes a poem, so witty, so neat, so elegant, that nothing can be cleverer. In respect of which any one may find fault with him who pleases, provided he does so good-humouredly, treating him not as a profligate, or a rascal, or a desperado, but merely as a Greekling, as a flatterer, as a poet. He comes to, or rather, I should say, he falls in with him, deceived by the same rigid brow of his (being, too, a Greek and a stranger) as this wise and great city was beguiled by. He could not withdraw when he had once become entangled in his intimacy, and he was afraid also of getting the character of being fickle. Being entreated, and invited, and compelled, he wrote so many things which he addressed to him, so many things too about him, that he has described in the most delicate poetry possible all the lusts of the man, all his debaucheries, all his different suppers and revels, and even all his adulteries. [71] And, in that poetry, any one who pleases can see that fellow's way of life reflected as in a mirror. And I would recite you much of it, which many men have read or heard, if I were not afraid that even the kind of speech which I am indulging in at this moment is at variance with the general usages of this place; and at the same time, I do not wish to do any injury to the character of the man who wrote it.

For if he had had better fortune in getting a pupil, perhaps he might have turned out a more strict and dignified man himself; but chance has led him into a habit of writing in this manner, very unworthy of a philosopher; if at least philosophy does, as is reported, comprehend the whole system of virtue, and duty, and living properly; and a man who professes it appears to me to have taken on himself a very serious and difficult character. [72] But the same chance has polluted the man, who was quite ignorant of what he was professing when he called himself a philosopher, with the mud and filth of that fellow's most obscene and intemperate flock.

And when he had praised the achievements of my consulship, (and I feel that the panegyric of that basest of men was almost a discredit to me myself,) “it was not,” says he, “any odium that you incurred by your conduct then, which injured you, but your verses.” It was too great a punishment that was established, I trust, by you when you were consul, for a poet, whether he were a bad one, or too free an one. For you wrote—“ Arms to the gown must yield.
” What then?—“This was what excited all that storm against you.” But I imagine that never was written in that panegyric, which, while you were consul was engraved on the sepulchre of the republic—“May it please you, that because Marcus Cicero has written a verse,...” but because he punished the guilty.


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