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There was a certain freedman, who, an old man, ran about the streets in a morning fasting, with his hands washed, and prayed thus: "Snatch me alone from death" (adding some solemn vow), "me alone, for it is an easy matter for the gods:" this man was sound in both his ears and eyes; but his master, when he sold him, would except his understanding, unless he were fond of law-suits.1 This crowd too Chrysippus places in the fruitful family of Menenius. O Jupiter, who givest and takest away great afflictions, (cries the mother of a boy, now lying sick a-bed for five months), if this cold quartan ague should leave the child, in the morning of that day on which you enjoin a fast,2 he shall stand naked in the Tiber. Should chance or the physician relieve the patient from his imminent danger, the infatuated mother will destroy [the boy] placed on the cold bank, and will bring back the fever. With what disorder of the mind is she stricken? Why, with a superstitious fear of the gods. These arms Stertinius, the eighth of the wise men, gave to me, as to a friend, that for the future I might not be roughly accosted without avenging myself. Whosoever shall call me madman, shall hear as much from me [in return]; and shall learn to look back upon the bag that hangs behind him.3 0 Stoic, so may you, after your damage, sell all your merchandise the better: what folly (for, it seems,] there are more kinds than one) do you think I am infatuated with? For to myself I seem sound. What-when mad Agave carries the amputated head of her unhappy son, does she then seem mad to herself? I allow myself a fool (let me yield to the truth) and a madman likewise: only declare this, with what distemper of mind you think me afflicted. Hear, then: in the first place you build; that is, though from top to bottom you are but of the two-foot size you imitate the tall: and you, the same person, laugh at the spirit and strut of Turbo in armor, too great for his [little] body: how are you less ridiculous than him? What-is it fitting that, in every thing Maecenas does, you, who are so very much unlike him and so much his inferior, should vie with him? The young ones of a frog being in her absence crushed by the foot of a calf, when one of them had made his escape, he told his mother what a huge beast had dashed his brethren to pieces. She began to ask, how big? Whether it were so great? puffing herself up. Greater by half. What, so big? when she had swelled herself more and more. If you should burst yourself, says he, you will not be equal to it. This image bears no great dissimilitude to you. Now add poems (that is, add oil to the fire), which if ever any man in his senses made, why so do you. I do not mention your horrid rage. At length, have done — your way of living beyond your fortune — confine yourself to your own affairs, Damasippus — those thousand passions for the fair, the young. Thou greater madman, at last, spare thy inferior.
1 For an action would lay against those who gave a false character to a slave.
2 The Romans had regular fasts in honor of Jupiter, which were usually celebrated on Thursday, which was consecrated to that god. They began on the eve; and the next morning, which was properly the fastday, was observed with great rigor and austerity. Aristophanes, in his Clouds, introduces the chorus, complaining that they had a fast, rather than a feast(Clouds 578); which was observed on the third day of the festival of Ceres.
3 “Respicere ignoto.” This passage may be explained by the fifty-third line, “caudam trahat” , or by the fable, which says that Jupiter threw over the shoulder of every mortal two bags; that the faults of his neighbor were put into the bag before him, and his own into that behind him.
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