A smart description of a miser ridiculously acting the extravagant.

How did the entertainment of that happy fellow Nasidienus please you? for yesterday, as I was seeking to make you my guest, you were said to be drinking there from mid-day.1 [It pleased me so], that I never was happier in my life. Say (if it be not troublesome) what food first calmed your raging appetite.

In the first place, there was a Lucanian boar, taken when the gentle south wind blew,2 as the father of the entertainment affirmed; around it sharp rapes, lettuces, radishes; such things as provoke a languid appetite; skirrets, anchovies, dregs of Coan wine. These once removed, one slave, tucked high with a purple cloth,3 wiped the maple table, and a second gathered up whatever lay useless, and whatever could offend the guests;4 swarthy Hydaspes advances like an Attic maid with Ceres' sacred rites, bearing wines of Caecubum; Alcon brings those of Chios, undamaged by the sea.5 Here the master [cries], "Maecenas, if Alban or Falernian wine delight you more than those already brought, we have both."

Ill-fated riches! But, Fundanius, I am impatient to know, who were sharers-in this feast where you fared so well. I was highest, and next me was Viscus Thurinus, and below, if I remember, was Varius; with Servilius Balatro, Vibidius, whom Maecenas had brought along with him, unbidden guests. Above [Nasidienus] himself was Nomentanus, below him Porcius, ridiculous for swallowing whole cakes at once. Nomentanus [was present] for this purpose, that if any thing should chance to be unobserved, he might show it with his pointing finger. For the other company, we, I mean, eat [promiscuously] of fowls, oysters, fish, which had concealed in them a juice far different from the known: as presently appeared, when he reached to me the entrails of a plaice and of a turbot, such as had never been tasted before. After this he informed me that honey-apples were most ruddy when gathered under the waning moon. What difference this makes you will hear best from himself. Then [says] Vibidius to Balatro; "If we do not drink to his cost, we shall die in his debt;" and he calls for larger tumblers. A paleness changed the countenance of our host, who fears nothing so much as hard drinkers: either because they are more freely censorious; or because heating wines deafen the subtle [judgment of the] palate. Vibidius and Balatro, all following their example, pour whole casks into Alliphanians;6 the guests of the lowest couch did no hurt to the flagons. A lamprey is brought in, extended in a dish, in the midst of floating shrimps. Whereupon, "This," says the master, "was caught when pregnant; which, after having young, would have been less delicate in its flesh." For these a sauce is mixed up; with oil which the best cellar of Venafrum pressed, with pickle from the juices of the Iberian fish, with wine of five years old, but produced on this side the sea, while it is boiling (after it is boiled, the Chian wine suits it so well, that no other does better than it) with white pepper, and vinegar which, by being vitiated, turned sour the Methymnean grape.

I first showed the way to stew in it the green rockets and bitter elecampane: Curtillus, [to stew in it] the sea-urchins unwashed, as being better than the pickle which the sea shell-fish yields.

In the mean time the suspended tapestry made a heavy downfall upon the dish, bringing along with it more black dust than the north wind ever raises on the plains of Campania. Having been fearful of something worse, as soon as we perceive there was no danger, we rise up. Rufus, hanging his head, began to weep, as if his son had come to an untimely death: what would have been the end, had not the discreet Nomentanus thus raised his friend! "Alas! 0 fortune, what god is more cruel to us than thou? How dost thou always take pleasure in sporting with human affairs!" Varius could scarcely smother a laugh with his napkin. Balatro, sneering at every thing, observed: "This is the condition of human life, and therefore a suitable glory will never answer your labor. Must you be rent and tortured with all manner of anxiety, that I may be entertained sumptuously; lest burned bread, lest ill-seasoned soup should be set before us; that all your slaves should wait, properly attired and neat? Add, besides, these accidents; if the hangings should tumble down, as just now, if the groom slipping with his foot should break a dish. But adversity is wont to disclose, prosperity to conceal, the abilities of a host as well as of a general." To this Nasidienus: "May the gods give you all the blessings, whatever you can pray for, you are so good a man and so civil a guest;" and calls for his sandals.7 Then on every couch you might see divided whispers buzzing in each secret ear. I would not choose to have seen any theatrical entertainments sooner than these things. But come, recount what you laughed at next. While Vibidius is inquiring of the slaves, whether the flagon was also broken,8 because cups were not brought when he called for them; and while a laugh is continued on feigned pretences, Balatro seconding it; you, Nasidienus, return with an altered countenance, as if to repair your ill-fortune by art. Then followed the slaves, bearing on a large charger the several limbs of a crane besprinkled with much salt, not without flour, and the liver of a white goose fed with fattening figs, and the wings of hares torn off, as a much daintier dish than if one eats them with the loins. Then we saw blackbirds also set before us with scorched breasts, and ringdoves without the rumps: delicious morsels! did not the master give us the history of their causes and natures: whom we in revenge fled from, so as to taste nothing at all; as if Canidia, more venomous than African serpents, had poisoned them with her breath.

1 Nasidienus, to give himself an air of a rake, dines three or four hours before the usual time; or perhaps Fundanius would insinuate that this was too solemn a feast for vulgar hours.

2 Either by buying it cheap, or keeping it too long, the boar was tainted; but our host would insinuate that it had a particular flavor, by being taken when the wind was south, which made it delicate and tender.

3 The table was made of maple, a cheap and common wood; but Nasidienus, in an air of polite extravagance, makes the slaves wipe it with a purple napkin.

4 This was the pretense, that nothing might offend his guests, but his design was that nothing might be lost.

5 It was customary to mix sea-water with the strong wines of Greece; but Fundanius, when he tells us that the wine Alcon carried had not a drop of water in it, would have us understand that this wine had never crossed the seas, and that it was an Italian wine which Nasidienus recommended for Chian.

6 Large cups, so called from Allifae, a town of Samnium.

7 That he might rise from table. The guests laid their slippers at the end of the bed when they went to supper.

8 Vibidius asks whether the groom had broken the bottle at the same time that he broke the dish, for quoque certainly refers to “patinam lapsus frangat agaso . He seems to insinuate that Nasidienus had given orders to his slaves not to be in too much haste to supply the guests with wine, but to let them call for it more than once.

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