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THE ORATOR'S FAME
As for song and verse to which Maternus wishes to devote his whole life (for this was the starting-point of his entire argument), they bring no dignity to the author, nor do they improve his circumstances. Although your ears, Maternus, may loathe what I am about to say, I ask what good it is if Agamemnon or Jason speaks eloquently in your composition. Who the more goes back to his home saved from danger and bound to you? Our friend Saleius is an admirable poet, or, if the phrase be more complimentary, a most illustrious bard; but who walks by his side or attends his receptions or follows in his train? Why, if his friend or relative or even he himself stumbles into some troublesome affair, he will run to Secundus here, or to you, Maternus, not because you are a poet or that you may make verses for him; for verses come naturally to Bassus in his own home, and pretty and charming they are, though the result of them is that when, with the labour of a whole year, through entire days and the best part of the nights, he has hammered out, with the midnight oil, a single book, he is forced actually to beg and canvass for people who will condescend to be his hearers, and not even this without cost to himself. He gets the loan of a house, fits up a room, hires benches, and scatters programmes. Even if his reading is followed by a complete success, all the glory is, so to say, cut short in the bloom and the flower, and does not come to any real and substantial fruit. He carries away with him not a single friendship, not a single client, not an obligation that will abide in anyone's mind, only idle applause, meaningless acclamations and a fleeting delight. We lately praised Vespasian's bounty, in giving Bassus four thousand pounds, as something marvellous and splendid. It is no doubt a fine thing to win an emperor's favour by talent; but how much finer, if domestic circumstances so require, to cultivate oneself, to make one's own genius propitious, to fall back on one's own bounty. Consider too that a poet, if he wishes to work out and accomplish a worthy result, must leave the society of his friends, and the attractions of the capital; he must relinquish every other duty, and must, as poets themselves say, retire to woods and groves, in fact, into solitude.

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