Semper ego auditor tantum? numquamne reponam
vexatus totiens rauci Theseide Cordi?
impune ergo mihi recitaverit ille togatas,
hic elegos? impune diem consumpserit ingens
Telephus aut summi plena iam margine libri
scriptus et in tergo necdum finitus Orestes?
nota magis nulli domus est sua quam mihi lucus
Martis et Aeoliis vicinum rupibus antrum
Vulcani; quid agant venti, quas torqueat umbras
Aeacus, unde alius furtivae devehat aurum
pelliculae, quantas iaculetur Monychus ornos,
Frontonis platani convulsaque marmora clamant
semper et assiduo ruptae lectore columnae.
expectes eadem a summo minimoque poëta.
et nos ergo manum ferulae subduximus, et nos
consilium dedimus Sullae, privatus ut altum
dormiret. stulta est clementia, cum tot ubique
vatibus occurras, periturae parcere chartae.
(Juvenal, Sat. 1.1-18)
Shall I always be stuck in the audience? Never retaliate for being tortured so often by hoarse Cordus’ Song of Theseus? Let them get away with it, then?—this one reciting to me his Roman comedies and that one his love elegies? Let them get away with wasting my whole day on an enormous Telephus, or an Orestes written on the back when the margin at the end of the book is already full—and still not finished? No one knows his own house better than I know the grove of Mars and the cave of Vulcan near the Aeolian cliffs. What the winds are up to, which ghosts Aeacus is torturing, the origin of the other guy waltzing off with that filched golden mini-fleece, the size of the ash trees hurled by Monychus—this is the continual shriek from Fronto’s plane trees and his tormented marble and the columns shattered by the non-stop reciter. This is exactly what you can expect from the greatest and the least of poets. Well, I too have snatched my hand from under the cane. I too have given Sulla advice, to retire and enjoy a deep sleep. It’s a stupid act of mercy, when you run into so many bards everywhere, to spare paper that’s bound to be wasted anyway. (tr. Susanna Morton Braund)