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Nor again do even reputation and fame, the only ob- ject of their devotion, the sole reward of their labours, by their own confession, cling to the poet as much as to the orator; for indifferent poets are known to none, and the good but to a few. When does the rumour of the very choicest readings penetrate every part of Rome, much less is talked of throughout our numerous provinces? How few, when they visit the capital from Spain or Asia, to say nothing of our Gallic neighbours, ask after Saleius Bassus! And indeed, if any one does ask after him, having once seen him, he passes on, and is satisfied, as if he had seen a picture or a statue. I do not wish my remarks to be taken as implying that I would deter from poetry those to whom nature has denied the orator's talent, if only they can amuse their leisure and push themselves into fame by this branch of culture. For my part I hold all eloquence in its every variety something sacred and venerable, and I regard as preferable to all studies of other arts not merely your tragedian's buskin or the measures of heroic verse, but even the sweetness of the lyric ode, the playfulness of the elegy, the satire of the iambic, the wit of the epigram, and indeed any other form of eloquence. But it is with you, Maternus, that I am dealing; for, when your genius might carry you to the summit of eloquence, you prefer to wander from the path, and though sure to win the highest prize you stop short at meaner things. Just as, if you had been born in Greece, where it is an honour to practise even the arts of the arena, and if the gods had given you the vigour and strength of Nicostratus, I should not suffer those giant arms meant by nature for combat to waste themselves on the light javelin or the throwing of the quoit, so now I summon you from the lecture-room and the theatre to the law court with its pleadings and its real battles. I do this the more because you cannot even fall back on the refuge which shelters many, the plea that the poet's pursuit is less liable to give offence than that of the orator. In truth, with you the ardour of a peculiarly noble nature bursts forth, and the offence you give is not for the sake of a friend, but, what is more dangerous, for the sake of Cato. Nor is this offending excused by the obligation of duty, or by the fidelity of an advocate, or by the impulse of a casual and sudden speech.
You have, it seems, prepared your part in having chosen a character of note who would speak with authority. I foresee your possible answer. Hence, you will say, came the decisive approval; this is the style which the lecture-room chiefly praises, and which next becomes the world's talk. Away then with the excuse of quiet and safety, when you are deliberately choosing a more doughty adversary. For myself, let it be enough to take a side in the private disputes of our own time. In these, if at any time necessity has compelled us on behalf of an imperilled friend to offend the ears of the powerful, our loyalty must be approved, our liberty of speech condoned.

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