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In a humorous dialogue between Ulysses and Tiresias, he exposes those arts which the fortune hunters make use of, in order to be appointed the heirs of rich old men.

BESIDE what you have told me, O Tiresias, answer to this petition of mine: by what arts and expedients may I be able to repair my ruined fortunes-why do you laugh? Does it already seem little to you, who are practiced in deceit, to be brought back to Ithaca, and to behold [again] your family household gods? 0 you who never speak falsely to any one, you see how naked and destitute I return home, according to your prophecy: nor is either my cellar, or my cattle there, unembezzled by the suitors [of Penelope]. But birth and virtue, unless [attended] with substance, is viler than seaweed.

Since (circumlocutions apart) you are in dread of poverty, hear by what means you may grow wealthy. If a thrush, or any [nice] thing for your own private [eating], shall be given you; it must wing way to that place, where shines a great fortune, the possessor being an old man: delicious apples, and whatever dainties your well-cultivated ground brings forth for you, let the rich man, as more to be reverenced than your household god, taste before him: and, though he be perjured, of no family, stained with his brother's blood, a runaway; if he desire it, do not refuse to go along with him, his companion on the outer side.1 What, shall I walk cheek by jole with a filthy Damas? I did not behave myself in that manner at Troy, contending always with the best. You must then be poor. I will command my sturdy soul to bear this evil; I have formerly endured even greater. Do thou, O prophet, tell me forthwith how I may amass riches, and heaps of money. In troth I have told you, and tell you again. Use your craft to lie at catch for the last wills of old men: nor, if one or two cunning chaps escape by biting the bait off the hook, either lay aside hope, or quit the art, though disappointed in your aim. If an affair, either of little or great consequence, shall be contested at any time at the bar; whichever of the parties live wealthy without heirs, should he be a rogue, who daringly takes the law of a better man, be thou. his advocate: despise the citizen, who is superior in reputation, and [the justness of] his cause, if at home he has a son or a fruitful wife. [Address him thus:] "Quintus, for instance, or Publius2 (delicate ears delight in the prefixed name), your virtue has made me your friend. I am acquainted with the precarious quirks of the law; I can plead causes. Any one shall sooner snatch my eyes from me, than he shall despise or defraud you of an empty nut. This is my care, that you lose nothing, that you be not made a jest of." Bid him go home, and make much of himself. Be his solicitor yourself: persevere, and be steadfast: whether the glaring dog-star shall cleave the infant statues; or Furius, destined with his greasy paunch,3 shall spue white snow over the wintery Alps. Do not you see (shall some one say, jogging the person that stands next to him by the elbow) how indefatigable he is, how serviceable to his friends, how acute? [By this means] more tunnies shall swim in, and your fish-ponds will increase.

Further, if any one in affluent circumstances has reared4 an ailing son, lest a too open complaisance to a single man should detect you, creep gradually into the hope [of succeeding him], and that you may be set down as second heir; and, if any casualty should dispatch the boy to Hades, you may come into the vacancy. This die seldom fails. Whoever delivers his will to you to read, be mindful to decline it, and push the parchment from you: [do it] however in such a manner, that you may catch with an oblique glance, what the first page5 intimates to be in the second clause: run over with a quick eye, whether you are sole heir, or co-heir with many. Sometimes a well-seasoned lawyer, risen from a Quinquevir,6 shall delude the gaping raven; and the fortunehunter Nasica shall be laughed at by Coranus.

What, art thou in a [prophetic] raving; or dust thou play upon me designedly, by uttering obscurities? 0 son of Laertes, whatever I shall say will come to pass, or it will not:7 for the great Apollo gives me the power to divine. Then, if it is proper, relate what that tale means.

At that time when the youth dreaded by the Parthians, an offspring derived from the noble Aeneas, shall be mighty by land and sea; the tall daughter of Nasica, averse to pay the sum total of his debt, shall wed the stout Coranus. Then the son-in-law shall proceed thus: he shall deliver his will to his father-in-law, and entreat him to read it; Nasica will at length receive it, after it has been several times refused, and silently peruse it; and will find no other legacy left to him and his, except leave to lament.

To these [directions I have already given], I subjoin the [following]: if haply a cunning woman or a freedman have the management of an old driveler, join with them as an associate: praise them, that you may be praised in your absence. This too is of service; but to storm [the capital] itself excels this method by far. Shall he, a dotard, scribble wretched verses? Applaud them. Shall he be given to pleasure? Take care [you do not suffer him] to ask you: of your own accord complaisantly deliver up your Penelope to him, as preferable [to yourself]. What-do you think so sober and so chaste a woman can be brought over, whom [so many] wooers could not divert from the right course? Because, forsooth, a parcel of young fellows came,8 who were too parsimonious to give a great price, nor so much desirous of an amorous intercourse, as of the kitchen. So far your Penelope is a good woman: who, had she once tasted of one old [doting gallant], and shared with you the profit, like a hound, will never be frighted away from the reeking skin [of the new-killed game].

What I am going to tell you happened when I was an old man. A wicked hag at Thebes was, according to her will, carried forth9 in this manner: her heir bore her corpse, anointed with a large quantity of oil, upon his naked shoulders; with the intent that, if possible, she might escape from him even when dead: because, I imagine, he had pressed upon her too much when living. Be cautious in your addresses: neither be wanting in your pains, nor immoderately exuberant. By garrulity you will offend the splenetic and morose. You must not, however, be too silent. Be Davus in the play; and stand with your head on one side, much like one who is in great awe. Attack him with complaisance: if the air freshens, advise him carefully to cover up his precious head: disengage him from the crowd by opposing your shoulders to it: closely attach your ear to him, if chatty. Is he immoderately fond of being praised? Pay him home, till he shall cry out, with his hands lifted up to heaven, "Enough:" and puff up the swelling bladder with tumid speeches. When he shall have [at last] released you from your long servitude and anxiety; and being certainly awake, you shall hear [this article in his will]? "Let Ulysses be heir to one fourth of my estate:" "is then my companion Damas now no more? Where shall I find one so brave and so faithful?" Throw out something of this kind] every now and then: and if you can a little, weep for him. It is fit to disguise your countenance, which [otherwise] would betray your joy. As for the monument, which is left to your own discretion, erect it without meanness. The neighborhood will commend the funeral handsomely performed. If haply any of your co-heirs, being advanced in years, should have a dangerous cough; whether he has a mind to be a purchaser of a farm or a house out of your share, tell him, you will [come to any terms he shall propose, and] make it over to him gladly for a trifling sum.10 But the imperious Proserpine drags me hence. Live, and prosper.

1Comes exterior. In walking with a companion, the side which is most exposed was called the outer side. When three people walk together, the middle is, for the same reason, the most honorable place, and is therefore always given to the person of most distinction, interior comes.

2Quinte, puta, aut Publi. A slave was no sooner made free, than he qualified himself with a surname, such as Marcus, Quintus, Publius, which carried a sort of dignity with it. The Romans saluted each other by their surnames.

3Pingui tentus omaso. Furius, in a poem on the Gallic war, had said, “Iupiter hibernas cana nivo conspuet Alpes.” Horace applies it to the author himself; adding “pingui tentus omaso” in ridicule of his appearance. “Furius poeta immanis ventris, qui nivem spumam (sputum) Iovis dixit. Ideo hoc ejus persona dedit, tanquam ipse spuat.”: Sch. Acr. Orelli considers three several passages of Furius to be referred to: “rubra canicula findit infantes statuas,” is a passage in which Furius describes a statuary, and thought he had a happy expression in infantes, since statues are ἀγλώττοι. By “pingui tentus omasi”, some general opposed to Caesar is described as a voracious barbarian. “Hibernas”, etc., formed the first line of his poetical history of Caesar.

4Sublatus . A word taken from a Roman custom of laying their new-born infants on the ground, and educating only those the father took up.

5Prima cera signifies the first page of the will, in which the testator's name was written. “Secundo versus” was the second line, which contained the names of the heirs and co-heirs.

6 The quinqueviri were a kind of tip-staff or bailiff, in the colonies and municipal towns. A man who had passed through these little offices may well be supposed to be sufficiently knowing in what we call the practice, and from this body public notaries and registers were chosen. Horace therefore means, by “scriba recoctus”, a notary sufficiently refined in tricks and cunning of the law. Recoctus is properly double-dyed, that hath fully taken its color.

7Quidquid dicam, aut erit, aut non. It is well disputed, whether these words be spoken in jest by Tiresias, to rally the monarch who consults him, or whether he too carelessly discovers his real opinion of his art. There is an acknowledged ambiguity and double meaning in his expression, under which, perhaps, the poet disguises his own sentiments of the skill of these diviners, and the frequent ambiguity of their answers.

8 Although Tiresias gives Ulysses no better reason for his wife's virtue than the avarice of her lovers, yet the monarch hears him patiently, since even this reason proves her sufficiently virtuous. Our poet probably took the hint of this passage from homer, who makes Penelope reproach her wooers with their want of generosity, and never having made her any presents. The next line is almost a translation from the Odyssey.

9Elata.” Carried out to the funeral pile. Ter. Andr. i.Effertur, Imus.

10Nummo addicere. When a counterfeit sale was made of any thing left by will, the forms of law were to be observed. The buyer and seller went to a public officer called Libripens, or keeper of the scales; and the purchaser, in the presence of witnesses, put a piece of money into the scales, which the seller took out, and the sale was afterward deemed legal. Nummo addicere means here "to sell for nothing."

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