“Satires” by Persius

The Dissolute

He is paralysed with vice, and thick fat has gown over his liver. He has no sense of guilt or of what he’s lost. He’s sunk so deep that he makes no more bubbles on the surface.

You’re still snoring and your lolling head with its joint unhinged is yawning yesterday’s yawn, with your jaws completely unstitched. Is there something you’re heading for, a target for your bow? Or are you taking pot shots at crows with bricks and clods of mud, not caring where your feet take you? Is your life an improvisation?

Friendship

Nay, indeed, it is no aim of mine that my page should swell with pretentious trifles, fit only to give solidity to smoke. To yourself alone, Cornutus, do I speak ; I now shake out my heart to you at the bidding of the Muse ; it is a joy to me to show you, beloved friend, how large a portion of my soul is yours. Strike it and note carefully what part of it rings true, what is but paint and plaster of the tongue. It is for this that I would ask for a hundred voices, that I may with clear voice proclaim how deeply I have planted you in the recesses of my heart, and that my words may render up all the love that lies deep and unutterable in my inmost soul.

At the age when the path of life is doubtful, and wanderings, ignorant of life, parted my trembling soul into the branching cross-ways, I placed myself in your hands, Cornutus; you took up my tender years in your Socratic bosom. Your rule, applied with unseen skill, straightened out the crooked ways; my soul, struggling to be mastered, was moulded by your reason, and took on its features, moulded by your thumb. With you, I remember, did I pass long days, with you pluck for feasting the early hours of night. We two were one in our work, we were one in our hours of rest, and unbent together over the modest board. Of this I would not have you doubt, that there is some firm bond of concord between our lives, and that both are drawn from a single star. Either a truth-abiding Fate hangs our destinies on the even-balanced Scales, or if the hour which dawned upon the faithful pair distributes between the Twins the accordant destinies of us twain, and a kindly Jupiter has vanquished for us the malignancy of Saturn, some star assuredly there is which links your lot with mine.

Man and Time

Men are of a thousand kinds, and diverse are the colours of their lives. Each has his own desires; no two men offer the same prayers. One under an Eastern sun barters Italian wares for shrivelled pepper, or for the blanching cumin-seed; another grows fat with good cheer and balmy slumbers. A third is all for field games; a fourth loses his all over the dice box; a fifth ruins himself by love. But when once the knotty gout has broken up their joints till they are like the boughs of an old beech tree, they lament that their days have been passed in grossness, that their light has been that of a mist, and bemoan too late the life which they have left behind them.

But your delight has been to grow pale over nightly study, to till the minds of the young, and to sow the seed of Cleanthes in their well-cleansed ears. Seek thence all of you, young men and old alike, a sure aim for your desires, and provisions for the sorrows of old age! “So I will, tomorrow,”you say, but tomorrow you will say the same as today.” …When tomorrow comes, yesterday’s morrow will have been already spent. And lo ! a fresh morrow will be for ever making away with our years, each just beyond our grasp. For though the tire is close to you, and revolves under the self-same pole, you will in vain pursue it, seeing that your wheel is the hind wheel, and that your axle is the second, not the first.

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