‘In case too close attention to a childless man
Betrays you, try one whose rearing a sickly boy
He’s adopted, in noble style: creep softly towards
Your goal of being named second heir, and if fate
Sends the lad to Orcus you can usurp his place:
It’s very unusual for such a gamble to fail.
If someone hands you his will to read, decline,
And remember to push the thing far from you,
But snatch a sidelong glance at the second line
Of page one: run your eye over it quickly to see
If you’re one of many. Often a clerk cooked up
From a minor official fools your gaping raven,
Nasica the fortune-hunter’s duped by a Coranus.’
Are you mad? Or teasing, versed in obscure utterance?
‘O Laertes’ son, what I speak will prove true or not,
Great Apollo gave me that gift of prophecy indeed.’
Fine, but say what your nonsense means, if you would.
‘When a young hero, terror of Parthia, born of
Aeneas’ noble line, is mighty on land and sea,
Manly Coranus shall wed the stately daughter
Of Nasica, he who dreads paying debts in full.
The son-in-law will hand his will to his father-in-law
To read: After many a refusal Nasica
Will take it at last and scan it silently, finding
That nothing’s left to him and his, except lament.’