Bad men, when they avoid certain vices, fall into their opposite extremes.
The tribes of female flute-players,1
quacks, vagrants, mimics, blackguards;2
all this set is sorrowful and dejected on account of the death of the singer
Tigellius; for he was liberal [toward them]. On the other hand, this man, dreading to be
called a spendthrift, will not give a poor friend
wherewithal to keep off cold and pinching hunger. If you ask him why he wickedly consumes
the noble estate of his grandfather and father in tasteless gluttony, buying with borrowed
money all sorts of dainties; he answers,
because he is
unwilling to be reckoned sordid, or of a mean spirit: he is praised by some, condemned by
others. Fufidius, wealthy in lands, wealthy in money put out at interest, is afraid of having
the character of a rake and spendthrift. This fellow deducts 5 per cent. interest3
from the principal [at the time of lending];
and, the more desperate in his circumstances any one is, the more severely he pinches him:
he hunts out the names4
of young fellows that have just put on the toga virilis under rigid fathers. Who does
not cry out, O sovereign Jupiter
! when he has heard
[of such knavery]? But [you will say, perhaps,] this man expends upon himself in proportion to
his gain. You can hardly believe
how little a friend he
is to himself: insomuch that the father, whom Terence's comedy introduces as living miserable
after he had caused his son to run away from him, did not torment himself worse than he Now if
any one should ask, "To what does this matter tend?" To this: while fools shun [one sort of]
vices, they fall upon their opposite extremes.
walks with his garments trailing upon the ground; there is another droll fellow who [goes]
with them tucked up even to his middle; Rufillus smells like perfume itself, Gorgonius like a
he-goat. There is no mean. There are some who would not keep company with a lady, unless her
modest garment perfectly conceal her feet.
again, will only have such as take their station in a filthy brothel. When a certain noted
spark came out of a stew, the divine Cato [greeted] him with this sentence: "Proceed (says he)
in your virtuous course. For, when once foul lust has inflamed the veins, it is right for
young fellows to come hither, in comparison of their meddling with other men's wives."
I should not be willing to be commended on such terms,
says Cupiennius, an admirer of the silken vail.
Ye, that do not wish well to the proceedings of adulterers, it is worth your while to hear
how they are hampered on all sides;
and that their
pleasure, which happens to them but seldom, is interrupted with a great deal of pain, and
often in the midst of very great dangers. One has thrown himself long from the top of a house;
another has been whipped almost to death: a third, in his flight, has fallen into a merciless
gang of thieves: another has paid a fine, [to avoid] corporal [punishment]: the lowest
servants have treated another with the vilest indignities.
Moreover, this misfortune happened to a certain person, he entirely lost his
manhood. Every body said, it was with justice: Galba denied it.
But how much safer is the traffic among [women] of the second rate! I mean the freed-women:
after which Sallustius is not less mad, than he who commits adultery.
But if he had a mind to be good and generous, as far as his estate and reason
would direct him, and as far as a man might be liberal with moderation; he would give a
sufficiency, not what would bring upon himself ruin and infamy. However, he hugs himself in
this one [consideration]; this he delights in, this he extols: "I meddle with no matron."
Just as Marsaeus, the lover of Origo5
he who gives his paternal estate and seat to an actress, says, "I never meddle with
other men's wives." But you have with actresses, you have with common strumpets: whence your
reputation derives a greater perdition, than your estate.
What, is it abundantly sufficient to avoid the person, and not the [vice] which is
universally noxious? To lose one's good name, to squander a father's effects, is in all cases
an evil. What is the difference, [then, with regard to yourself,] whether you sin with the
person of a matron, a maiden, or a prostitute?6
Villius, the son-in-law of Sylla
(by this title alone
he was misled), suffered [for his commerce] with Fausta an adequate and more than adequate
punishment, by being drubbed and stabbed, while he was shut out, that Longarenus might enjoy
her within. Suppose this [young man's] mind had addressed him in the words of his appetite,
perceiving such evil consequences: "What would you have?
Did I ever, when, my ardor was at the highest, demand a woman descended from a great consul,
and covered with robes of quality?" What could he answer? Why, "the girl was sprung from an
illustrious father." But how much better things, and how different from this, does nature,
abounding in stores of her own, recommend;
if you would
only make a proper use of them, and not confound what is to be avoided with that which is
desirable! Do you think it is of no consequence, whether your distresses arise from your own
fault or from [a real deficiency] of things? Wherefore, that you may not repent [when it is
too late], put a stop to your pursuit after matrons; whence more trouble is derived, than you
can obtain of enjoyment from success.
Nor has [this
particular matron], amid her pearls and emeralds, a softer thigh, or limbs more delicate than
yours, Cerinthus; nay, the prostitutes are frequently preferable. Add to this, that [the
prostitute] bears about her merchandize without any varnish, and openly shows what she has to
dispose of; nor, if she has aught more comely than ordinary,
does she boast and make an ostentation of it, while she is industrious to
conceal that which is offensive. This is the custom with men of fortune: when they buy horses,
thy inspect them covered: that, if a beautiful forehand (as often) be supported by a tender
hoof, it may not take in the buyer, eager for the bargain, because the back is handsome, the
head little, and the neck stately.
This they do
judiciously. Do not you, [therefore, in the same manner] contemplate the perfections of each
[fair one's] person with the eyes of Lynceus; but be blinder than Hypsaea, when you survey
such parts as are deformed. [You may cry out,] "0 what a leg! O, what delicate arms!" But [you
suppress] that she is low-hipped, short-waisted, with a long nose, and a splay foot. A man can
see nothing but the face of a matron,
conceals her other charms, unless it be a Catia. But if you will seek after forbidden charms
(for the [circumstance of their being forbidden] makes you mad after them), surrounded as they
are with a fortification, many obstacles will then be in your way: such as guardians, the
sedan, dressers, parasites, the long robe hanging down to the ankles, and covered with an
a multiplicity of circumstances, which
will hinder you from having a fair view. The other throws no obstacle in your way; through the
silken vest you may discern her, almost as well as if she was naked; that she has neither a
bad leg, nor a disagreeable foot, you may survey her form perfectly with your eye. Or would
you choose to have a trick put upon you, and your money extorted, before the goods are shown
[But perhaps you will sing to me these verses out
of Callimachus.] As the huntsman pursues the hare in the deep snow, but disdains to touch it
when it is placed before him: thus sings the rake, and applies it to himself; my love is like
to this, for it passes over an easy prey, and pursues what flies from it.
Do you hope that grief, and uneasiness, and bitter anxieties, will be
expelled from your breast by such verses as these? Would it not be more profitable to inquire
what boundary nature has affixed to the appetites, what she can patiently do without, and what
she would lament the deprivation of, and to separate what is solid from what is vain? What!
when thirst parches your jaws, are you solicitous for golden cups to drink out of?
What! when you are hungry, do you despise every thing but peacock
and turbot? When your passions are inflamed, and a common gratification is at hand, would you
rather be consumed with desire than possess it? I would not: for I love such pleasures as are
of easiest attainment.
But she whose language is, "By
and by," "But for a small matter more," "If my husband should be out of the way," [is only]
for petitmaitres: and for himself, Philodemus says, he chooses her, who neither stands for a
great price, nor delays to come when she is ordered. Let her be fair, and straight, and so far
decent as not to appear desirous of seeming fairer than nature has made her.
When I am in the company of such an one, she is my Ilia
and Aegeria; I give her any name. Nor am I apprehensive,
while I am in her company, lest her husband should return from the country; the door should be
broken open; the dog should bark; the house, shaken, should resound on all sides with a great
the woman, pale [with fear] should bound away
from me; lest the maid, conscious [of guilt], should cry out, she is undone; lest she should
be in apprehension for her limbs, the detected wife for her portion, I for myself; lest I must
run away with my clothes all loose, and bare-footed, for fear my money, or my person, or,
finally my character should be demolished. It is a dreadful thing to be caught: I could prove
this, even if Fabius were the judge.