Victus

Cena

Accipe nunc, victus tenuis quae quantaque secum
adferat. in primis valeas bene; nam variae res
ut noceant homini credas, memor illius escae,
quae simplex olim tibi sederit: at simul assis
miscueris elixa, simul conchylia turdis,
dulcia se in bilem vertent stomachoque tumultum
lenta feret pituita. vides, ut pallidus omnis
cena desurgat dubia? quin corpus onustum
hesternis vitiis animum quoque praegravat una
atque adfigit humo divinae particulam aurae.
alter ubi dicto citius curata sopori
membra dedit, vegetus praescripta ad munia surgit.
hic tamen ad melius poterit transcurrere quondam,
sive diem festum rediens advexerit annus,
seu recreare volet tenuatum corpus, ubique
accedent anni, tractari mollius aetas
imbecilla volet: tibi quidnam accedet ad istam
quam puer et validus praesumis mollitiem, seu
dura valetudo inciderit seu tarda senectus?
(Horace, Serm. 2.2.70-88)

Now listen to how simple eating brings
us all so many and such wondrous things!
First is good health because it’s manifest—
as you recall plain fare you could digest—
that it’s quite dangerous when foods collide.
Whenever you combine the boiled with fried,
or shellfish with a thrush, the sweet will turn
to bile, and clogging phlegm makes stomachs churn.
Don’t people at a ‘dinner served with doubt’
appear quite pale as they are coming out?
Moreover, overkill of yesterday
that drags a body down will also weigh
upon a soul and bury what’s divine
within the ground. If someone can combine
nursing his limbs and falling off to sleep
without delay, he’ll rise alert and keep
up with his obligations, even though
occasionally he may try to go
for something better if the passing year
brings feasting, or his wasting’s so severe
that he intends to fix his malnutrition,
or, as time flies by, his frail condition
in old age requires gentler care.
But as for you, if you are forced to bear
enfeeblement from aging and disease,
how will you bolster your infirmities
once you have blown your youthful, healthy days?
(tr. A.M. Juster)

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