Rixa

brawl

Ebrius ac petulans, qui nullum forte cecidit,
dat poenas, noctem patitur lugentis amicum
Pelidae, cubat in faciem, mox deinde supinus:
[ergo non aliter poterit dormire; quibusdam]
somnum rixa facit. sed quamvis improbus annis
atque mero fervens cavet hunc quem coccina laena
vitari iubet et comitum longissimus ordo,
multum praeterea flammarum et aënea lampas.
me, quem luna solet deducere vel breve lumen
candelae, cuius dispenso et tempero filum,
contemnit. miserae cognosce prohoemia rixae,
si rixa est, ubi tu pulsas, ego vapulo tantum.
stat contra starique iubet. parere necesse est;
nam quid agas, cum te furiosus cogat et idem
fortior? “unde venis?” exclamat, “cuius aceto,
cuius conche tumes? quis tecum sectile porrum
sutor et elixi vervecis labra comedit?
nil mihi respondes? aut dic aut accipe calcem.
ede ubi consistas: in qua te quaero proseucha?”
dicere si temptes aliquid tacitusve recedas,
tantumdem est: feriunt pariter, vadimonia deinde
irati faciunt. libertas pauperis haec est:
pulsatus rogat et pugnis concisus adorat
ut liceat paucis cum dentibus inde reverti.
(Juvenal, Sat. 6.278-301)

The drunken thug is in agony from failing, by some chance, to attack anyone. He’s going through a night like Pelides had when he was grieving for his friend, lying on his face and now on his back again. It takes a brawl to make him sleep. But however insolent he is, seething with youth and unmixed wine, he keeps clear of the man with the warning signs of scarlet cloak and long retinue of attendants plus plenty of torches and bronze lamps. But me he despises, as I go home escorted usually by the moon or by the short-lived light of a candle—its wick I regulate and tend. Here are the preliminaries to the pathetic brawl, if a brawl it is when you do the beating and I just take it. He stands facing me and tells me to stop. I’ve no choice but to obey. After all, what can you do when a lunatic forces you, and he’s stronger as well? ‘Where have you just been?’ he yells. ‘Whose sour wine and beans have blown you out? Which shoemaker has been eating spring onions and boiled sheep’s head with you? Nothing to say? Tell me or you’ll get a kicking! Say, where’s your pitch? Which synagogue shall I look for you in?’ Whether you try to say something or silently retreat, it’s all the same. They beat you up just the same and then, still angry, they sue for assault. This is a poor man’s freedom: when he’s been beaten and treated like a punchbag, he can beg and plead to be allowed to go home with a few teeth left. (tr. Susanna Morton Braund)

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