This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Now, come on, arraign with me luxury and Nomentanus; for reason will evince that foolish spendthrifts are mad. This fellow, as soon as he received a thousand talents of patrimony, issues an order that the fishmonger, the fruiterer, the poulterer, the perfumer, and the impious gang of the Tuscan alley, sausage-maker, and buffoons, the whole shambles, together with [all] Velabrum, should come to his house in the morning. What was the consequence? They came in crowds. The pander makes a speech: "Whatever I, or whatever each of these has at home, believe it to be yours: and give your order for it either directly, or to-morrow." Hear what reply the considerate youth made: "You sleep booted in Lucanian snow, that I may feast on a boar: you sweep the wintery seas for fish: I am indolent, and unworthy to possess so much. Away with it: do you take for your share ten hundred thousand sesterces; you as much; you thrice the sum, from whose house your spouse runs, when called for, at midnight." The son of Aesopus, [the actor] (that he might, forsooth, swallow a million of sesterces at a draught), dissolved in vinegar a precious pearl, which he had taken from the ear of Metella: how much wiser was he [in doing this,] than if he had thrown the same into a rapid river, or the common sewer? The progeny of Quintius Arrius, an illustrious pair of brothers, twins in wickedness and trifling and the love of depravity, used to dine upon nightingales bought at a vast expense: to whom do these belong? Are they in their senses? Are they to be marked with chalk, or with charcoal?1 If an [aged person] with a long beard should take a delight to build baby-houses, to yoke mice to a go-cart, to play at odd and even, to ride upon a long cane, madness must be his motive. If reason shall evince, that to be in love is a more childish thing than these; and that there is no difference whether you play the same games in the dust as when three years old, or whine in anxiety for the love of a harlot: I beg to know, if you will act as the reformed Polemon2 did of old? Will you lay aside those ensigns of your disease, your rollers, your mantle, your mufflers; as he in his cups is said to have privately torn the chaplet from his neck, after he was corrected by the speech of his fasting master? When you offer apples to an angry boy, he refuses them: here, take them, you little dog; he denies you: if you don't give them, he wants them. In what does an excluded lover differ [from such a boy]; when he argues with himself whether he should go or not to that very place whither he was returning without being sent for, and cleaves to the hated doors? "What shall I not go to her now, when she invites me of her own accord? or shall I rather think of putting an end to my pains? She has excluded me; she recalls me: shall I return? No, not if she would implore me." Observe the servant, not a little wiser: "0 master, that which has neither moderation nor conduct, can not be guided by reason or method. In love these evils are inherent; war [one while], then peace again. If any one should endeavor to ascertain these things, that are various as the weather, and fluctuating by blind chance; he will make no more of it, than if he should set about raving by right reason and rule." Whatwhen, picking the pippins3 from the Picenian apples, you rejoice if haply you have hit the vaulted roof; are you yourself? What-when you strike out faltering accents from your antiquated palate, how much wiser are you than [a child] that builds little houses To the folly [of love] add bloodshed, and stir the fire with a sword.4 I ask you, when Marius lately, after he had stabbed Hellas, threw himself down a precipice, was he raving mad? Or will you absolve the man from the imputation of a disturbed mind, and condemn him for the crime, according to your custom, imposing on things names that have an affinity in signification?
1 A proverbial expression. Are they to be acquitted or condemned? Are they wise or foolish?
2 Polemon was a young Athenian, who, running one day through the streets, inflamed with wine, had the curiosity to go into the school of Xenocrates to hear him. The philosopher dexterously turned his discourse upon sobriety, and spoke with so much force, that Polemon from that moment renounced his intemperance, and pursued his studies with such application, as to succeed Xenocrates in his school. Thus, as Valerius Maximus remarks, being cured by the wholesome medicine of one oration, he became a celebrated philosopher, from an infamous prodigal.
3 The allusion is to a habit of determining the good or bad fortune of love by trying to strike the ceiling of a room with the pippins of apples. They were raised by pressing them between the first two fingers. If they struck the ceiling, it was considered a good omen.
4 “Ignum gladio scrutare” , a proverbial precept of Pythagoras, "Do not stir the fire with a sword." Our poet uses it. as an easy transition from the folly to the madness of lovers. We shall have another proverb in the same sense, “Oleum adde camino.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.