It’s a story I think that’s well-known to every
Chemist’s and barber’s shop, how Graeco-Roman
Persius, repaid vile, venomous ‘King’ Rupilius.
This wealthy Persius had big business interests
In Clazomenae, and a tricky lawsuit with Rex.
He was a tough, who outdid the ‘King’ in rudeness,
Arrogant, loud, his abuse so scorching it outran a Barrus
Or a Sisenna, and flashed by as swift as white lightning.
Back to Rex. When they’d failed to reach an agreement
(Since those who quarrel are all quite rightly like heroes
Who meet in battle face to face: the hostility
Between Priam’s son Hector, and angry Achilles
Was so fierce, that only death could divide them,
And for no other reason than that the courage
Of each was supreme: while if two cowards quarrel
Or ill-matched opponents fight in war, like Diomed
And Lycian Glaucus, the lesser man gives way, even
Sends gifts), while Brutus was praetor then for rich Asia,
Persius and Rupilius fought as equals, no worse matched
Than Bacchius and Bithus the gladiators, rushing
Fiercely to court, both of them wonderful sights to see.
Persius made his case: laughter from all the gathering:
He praises Brutus, he praises his staff, calls Brutus
The Sun of Asia, and all his suite health-giving stars,
Except for Rex: he’s arrived as Sirius the Dog-star,
A star that’s hated by countrymen. On he rushes
Like a wintry torrent, where an axe is never heard.
Then the ‘King’ of Praeneste, faced with that outpour
Of wit, hurled back abuse they squeeze from the vineyard,
Like a tough and indomitable vine-cutter, routing
A passer-by who shouts ‘Cuckoo, you’re pruning late!’
But Persius the Greek, drenched now with Italian vinegar,
Shouts: Brutus, by all the gods, you and your clan
Are used to finishing kings, can’t you slit this one’s throat?
Believe me, this is a task that’s perfect for you!’