This is part 2 of 2. Part 1 is here.

“Quo didicisse, nisi hoc fermentum et quae semel intus
innata est rupto iecore exierit caprificus?”
en pallor seniumque! o mores, usque adeone
scire tuum nihil est nisi te scire hoc sciat alter?
“at pulchrum est digito monstrari et dicier ‘hic est.’
ten cirratorum centum dictata fuisse
pro nihilo pendes?” ecce inter pocula quaerunt
Romulidae saturi quid dia poemata narrent.
hic aliquis, cui circum umeros hyacinthina laena est,
rancidulum quiddam balba de nare locutus
Phyllidas, Hypsipylas, vatum et plorabile siquid,
eliquat ac tenero subplantat verba palato.
adsensere viri: nunc non cinis ille poetae
felix? non levior cippus nunc inprimit ossa?
laudant convivae: nunc non e manibus illis,
nunc non e tumulo fortunataque favilla
nascentur violae? “rides” ait “et nimis uncis
naribus indulges. an erit qui velle recuset
os populi meruisse et cedro digna locutus
linquere nec scombros metuentia carmina nec tus?”
(Persius, Sat. 1.24-43)

[INTERLOCUTOR] What’s the point of studying, if this yeast, this wild fig tree*,  once it’s taken root inside, can’t rupture the liver and burst out?
[POET] So that’s why you are so pale and decrepit! Appalling! Is your knowledge so worthless unless someone else knows that you know it?
[INTERLOCUTOR] But it’s splendid to be pointed out and to hear people say: “That’s him!” Is it worth nothing to you to be the dictation text of a hundred curly-headed boys?
[POET] Look—the sons of Romulus, stuffed full, are enquiring over their cups what’s new from divine poesy. At this point, someone with a hyacinth wrap around his shoulders, snorting and lisping some nauseating stuff, filters his Phyllises and Hypsipyles**, the typical tear-jerking stuff of bards, tripping up the words on the roof of his delicate mouth. The great men nod in approval. Are your poet’s ashes not blissful now? Does the tombstone not rest more lightly on his bones now? The guests applaud: will violets not spring from those remains, from that tomb and from that blessed ash now?
[INTERLOCUTOR] You’re mocking me, he says, and letting your nostrils sneer too much. Is there anyone who would disown the desire to earn the praise of the people?—or, when he’s produced compositions good enough for cedar oil***, to leave behind him poetry which has nothing to fear from mackerels or incense****? 

* The wild fig tree was renowned for the power of its roots to dislodge stones.
** Two inconsolable heroines.
*** Cedar oil was used to preserve books.
**** A reference to the traditional fate of bad poetry (cf. Cat. 95.9, Hor. Ep. 2.1.269-270): to be used as wrapping paper by shopkeepers.

(tr. Susanna Morton Braund, with her notes)

One thought on “Monstrari”

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