Grammaticus

écoleromaine

Quis gremio Celadi doctique Palaemonis affert
quantum grammaticus meruit labor? et tamen ex hoc,
quodcumque est (minus est autem quam rhetoris aera),
discipuli custos praemordet acoenonoetus
et qui dispensat frangit sibi. cede, Palaemon,
et patere inde aliquid decrescere, non aliter quam
institor hibernae tegetis niveique cadurci,
dummodo non pereat mediae quod noctis ab hora
sedisti, qua nemo faber, qua nemo sederet
qui docet obliquo lanam deducere ferro,
dummodo non pereat totidem olfecisse lucernas
quot stabant pueri, cum totus decolor esset
Flaccus et haereret nigro fuligo Maroni.
rara tamen merces quae cognitione tribuni
non egeat. sed vos saevas imponite leges,
ut praeceptori verborum regula constet,
ut legat historias, auctores noverit omnes
tamquam ungues digitosque suos, ut forte rogatus,
dum petit aut thermas aut Phoebi balnea, dicat
nutricem Anchisae, nomen patriamque novercae
Anchemoli, dicat quot Acestes vixerit annis,
quot Siculi Phrygibus vini donaverit urnas.
exigite ut mores teneros ceu pollice ducat,
ut si quis cera vultum facit; exigite ut sit
et pater ipsius coetus, ne turpia ludant,
ne faciant vicibus. non est leve tot puerorum
observare manus oculosque in fine trementes.
‘haec’ inquit ‘cura; sed cum se verterit annus,
accipe, victori populus quod postulat, aurum.’
(Juvenal, Sat. 7.215-243)

What grammaticus, even the most learned, ever receives the salary which his hard work deserves? And then this amount, however small (certainly less than a rhetor earns), is further diminished by bribes to greedy paedagogues and fees to accountants. But give in, Palaemon, and resign yourself to losing a little money in this way, just as a salesman of winter clothing loses a little money during a summer discount sale. As long as you get some money for sitting in a classroom in the middle of the night when no laborer or wool worker would be on the job! As long as you get some money for enduring the stink of oillamps—one per student—whose black soot totally discolors the copy of Horace and whose sticky grime soils the copy of Vergil! And yet rarely do you get your money without a court case. But still the parents set impossible standards for you. You must know the rules of grammar perfectly, memorize history books, and have at your fingertips the contents of every textbook so that if by chance someone should question you while you are on your way to the baths, you can tell him who Anchises’ nurse was, the name and homeland of Anchemolus’s stepmother, how many years Acestes lived, and how many jars of Sicilian wine he gave to the Trojans. Parents insist that you mold the tender minds of their sons as a sculptor molds a face from wax. You are supposed to act like the father of this mob of boys and make sure they don’t get into trouble or develop bad habits. It’s not an easy task. Then the parents say, “Do your job well, and, when the end of the year comes, we’ll pay you for the twelve-month period the same amount that a chariot driver earns in one race.” (tr. Jo-Ann Shelton)

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