from "SATURA X" from "SATIRE X"
Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenalis) trans. Arthur McHugh

Omnibus in terris, quae sunt a Gadibus usque
Auroram et Gangen, pauci dinoscere possunt
uera bona atque illis multum diuersa, remota
erroris nebula. quid enim ratione timemus
aut cupimus? quid tam dextro pede concipis ut te
conatus non paeniteat uotique peracti?

euertere domos totas optantibus ipsis
di faciles. nocitura toga, nocitura petuntur
militia; torrens dicendi copia multis
et sua mortifera est facundia; uiribus ille
confisus periit admirandisque lacertis;

sed pluris nimia congesta pecunia cura
strangulat et cuncta exuperans patrimonia census
quanto delphinis ballaena Britannica maior.

temporibus diris igitur iussuque Neronis
Longinum et magnos Senecae praediuitis hortos
clausit et egregias Lateranorum obsidet aedes
tota cohors: rarus uenit in cenacula miles.


No matter where you look, from east to west,
few people seem to know what's for the best.
We wander through this foggy vale of tears,
full of vain longing and well-founded fears.
Though many plans and projects start off well,
the planner often finishes in Hell.
The gods do what they're told by cruel Fate,
and when they act, what chaos they create!
Both soldier and civilian strive to find
ways they can ruin their own peace of mind;
and many who can speak with fluency
talk themselves into fearful misery.
Those who are strong but over-confident
find things turn out quite different from they meant.
But worst of all are those impelled by greed
to get their hands on far more than they need,
piling up cash and seizing tracts of land -
they then imagine that they're very grand.
These little sprats pretending to be whales
can come to grief. For instance, take the tales
we've heard of Nero and his ghastly reign:
this emperor, quite possibly insane,
sent troops to seize the houses, gardens, gold
of many wealthy Romans, so we're told.
The rich had armed men knocking at their door -
as usual, no-one bothered with the poor.
Trans. Copyright © Arthur McHugh 2008

translator's next