from "SATIRE 10"from "THE VANITY OF HUMAN WISHES"
Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenalis)trans. Robert Lowell
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.
pauca licet portes argenti uascula puri
nocte iter ingressus, gladium contumque timebis
et mota ad lunam trepidabis harundinis umbra:
cantabit uacuus coram latrone uiator.
...........
...........
Quosdam praecipitat subiecta potentia magnae
inuidiae, mergit longa atque insignis honorum
pagina. descendunt statuae restemque sequuntur,
ipsas deinde rotas bigarum impacta securis
caedit et inmeritis franguntur crura caballis.
iam strident ignes, iam follibus atque caminis
ardet adoratum populo caput et crepat ingens
Seianus, deinde ex facie toto orbe secunda
fiunt urceoli, pelues, sartago, matellae.
pone domi laurus, duc in Capitolia magnum
cretatumque bouem: Seianus ducitur unco
spectandus, gaudent omnes. 'quae labra, quis illi
uultus erat! numquam, si quid mihi credis, amaui
hunc hominem. sed quo cecidit sub crimine? quisnam
delator? quibus indicibus, quo teste probauit?'
'nil horum; uerbosa et grandis epistula uenit
a Capreis.' 'bene habet, nil plus interrogo.' sed quid
turba Remi? sequitur fortunam, ut semper, et odit
damnatos. idem populus, si Nortia Tusco
fauisset, si oppressa foret secura senectus
principis, hac ipsa Seianum diceret hora
Augustum. iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli
uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim
imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se
continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat,
panem et circenses. 'perituros audio multos.'
...........
...........
In every land as far as man can go,
from Spain to the Aurora or the poles,
few know, and even fewer choose what's true.
What do we fear with reason, or desire?
Is a step made without regret? The gods
ruin whole households for a foolish prayer.
Devoured by peace, we seek devouring war,
the orator is drowned by his torrential speech,
the gladiator's murdered by his skill
at murder. Wealth is worse; how many pile
fortune on fortune - like the Atlantic whale,
they bulk above the lesser fish and die.
For this in the dark years and at the word
of Nero, Seneca's high gardens fell;
Longinus died; a cohort of praetorians
besieged the Laterani. No soldiers purge
a garret. If you take a walk at night,
carrying a little silver, be prepared
to think each shadow hides a knife or spear.
You'll fear each wavering of the moonlit reed,
while beggars whistle in the robber's face.




How many men are killed by Power, by Power
and Power's companion, Envy! Your long list
of honors breaks your neck. Statues follow
the rope and crash, the axe cuts down the two-
wheeled chariot's wheels and snaps the horse's legs.
Fierce hiss the fires, the bellows roar, the head,
all-popular and adored by all once, burns -
Sejanus crackles, and his crude bronze face,
the second in the world, melts down to jars,
frying pans, basins, platters, chamber pots.
Hang out your streamers, lead the great chalked bull
to the high altar at the Capitol -
men lead Sejanus on a hook, and all
rejoice. 'What flannel lips he has! No man,
I tell you, ever loved this man!' 'But tell us,
what was his crime, friend? Who were the informers?
What witness swore away his life?' 'No witness!
A wordy long epistle came from Capri.'
'Tiberius spoke, enough, I'll hear no more.'
But what about the Roman mob? Their rule
is always follow fortune and despise
the fallen. One thing's certain, if the gods
had spared Sejanus, if some accident
had choked Tiberius in his green old age,
the mob would hail Sejanus Caesar now.
...........
...........

Trans. Copyright © Heirs of Robert Lowell - publ. Penguin Classics


next
index
translator's next