Horace (Q. Horatius Flaccus)tr. Niall Rudd

Flore, bono claroque fidelis amice Neroni,
siquis forte velit puerum tibi vendere natum
Tibure vel Gabiis et tecum sic agat, 'hic et
candidus et talos a vertice pulcher ad imos
fiet eritque tuus nummorum milibus octo,
verna ministeriis ad nutus aptus erilis,
litterulis Graecis imbutus, idoneus arti
cuilibet, argilla quidvis imitaberis uda;
quin etiam canet indoctum sed dulce bibenti.
Multa fidem promissa levant ubi plenius aequo
laudat venalis qui volt extrudere merces.
Res urguet me nulla; meo sum pauper in aere.
Nemo hoc mangonum faceret tibi: non temere a me
quivis ferret idem. Semel hic cessavit et, ut fit,
in scalis latuit metuens pendentis habenae:
des nummos, excepta nihil te si fuga laedit.'
ille ferat pretium poenae securus, opinor.
Prudens emisti vitiosum; dicta tibi est lex:
insequeris tamen hunc et lite moraris iniqua.
Dixi me pigrum proficiscenti tibi, dixi
talibus officiis prope mancum, ne mea saevus
iurgares ad te quod epistula nulla rediret.
Quid tum profeci, mecum facientia iura
si tamen attemptas? Quereris super hoc etiam, quod
exspectata tibi non mittam carmina mendax.
An apology for not writing lyric poetry

To Florus: loyal friend of the good and gallant Nero.
Suppose somebody wanted to sell you a slave who was born
at Tibur or Gabii, and said to you: 'Here's an attractive lad
with a fair skin, beautifully built from head to toe.
Eight thousand and he's yours, signed, sealed and delivered.
He's home bred, quick to obey his master's orders;
he has had a touch of basic Greek, and will turn his hand to
any skill that's required; wet day can be moulded;
he'll even sing you a simple song to go with your wine.
Too many claims reduce credibility. Only a salesman
who wants to get rid of his goods will praise them above their worth.
I'm not obliged to sell; I'm poor, but not in the red.
None of the dealers would make you this offer. I'll do it for you, sir -
but no one else. Once he dodged his work and, as usual,
hid under the stairs in fear of the strap on the wall.
So let's shake - if you're not put off by the lapse I mentioned.'
The man, I fancy, would be in the clear. The goods were faulty,
but you bought them with your eyes open; the terms were stated.
Will you still sue him and waste his time with false allegations?
I told you when you were leaving that I was lazy; I told you
I was almost physically incapable of such a commitment (I dreaded
your angry recriminations if your letters went unanswered).
I might have saved my breath: for altlhough the law's on my side
you still contest the case. On top of that you complain
I have let you down by failing to send the lyrics I promised.

Transl. Copyright © Niall Rudd, 1973, 1979, 1997 - publ. Penguin Classics

...buy this book
translator's next